Sunday, July 15, 2007

WHO NEEDS LANGUAGE?

“You……swim…..verry…..well….” Compliment Hot Tub Lady smiles shyly over at PP, blinking and nodding.
PP grins, thanks her. CHTL has no clue what PP has just said—PP’s not sure where she’s from. China? Korea? Japan? Damn. You’d think it’d be easier to tell, but just like when PP was in China teaching, and her colleague, who was 20 years PP’s junior and a brunette rather than a blonde had team taught a class, everyone in the class thought the two of them were twins.
All Westerners look alike to Asians.
And all Asians look alike to Westerners?
Oh well, everyone at the Y today is good humored about it.
“Where are you from?” PP continues gently.
CHTL nods, smiles….”Korea.”
”Ah…..how do you say ‘Pool’ in Korean?”
CHTL continues to smile and nod at PP. Obviously she has no idea what PP’s saying.
“IN THE KOREAN LANGUAGE….. “Another woman, of Asian descent tries to help out. “HOW DO YOU SAY POOL?”
CHTL continues to smile, then glances over at her friend who’s been silently taking it all in. “First time.” CHTL points to her friend.
“Ah…,” all exclaim. “How lovely.” PP smiles. It is. Today. She’d gotten her own lane. Something that rarely happens, esp. on a Saturday afternoon. Initially she’d thought it was gonna be the circle swim lapping from hell. She’d split the lane with Mask Shower Cap woman, who with all her accoutrements looked like an Inspector for a Nuclear Power Plant in Iraq. With her clear shower cap covering her head. Her huge mask and snorkel covering her entire face. It was hard to tell what was underneath it all. But she’d been nice enough when PP asked if she could split the lane. Then Super Swimmer had gotten in. Young. Fit. Young. Young. Fast. Okay, you get the picture. Even when Nuclear Inspector Woman put on her Big Fins, SS outpaced both of them. It was a circle swim nightmare. But then, the lane next door opened up and PP gleefully dove into it. With each lap her breathing becoming easier. Was it possible that she’d get an entire lane to herself?

Swimming Heaven. That’s what your own lane is!

And it was. Heaven. Why PP’s Stupid Mask didn’t even leak very much. And when she paused at the end of her first 1000 yards, and noticed Nuclear Inspector Woman climbing out of the pool, taking off her mask apparatus to reveal a striking African American Princess, PP grinned.

Sometimes, the Y was so delightfully surprising. But then so was Oakland. That’s a part of why she’s lived here for so long. The surprise. The diversity. (PP hates that word—it’s so overused now), but it’s true, she thought as the Hot Tub conversation continued in its stilted hilarity.

“You…..swim……” CHTL paused, glancing over at her friend who was now blissfully ignoring the whole conversation. “…..1…” she held up one finger. “Hour?”

PP nodded. “Yes. I swim for 1 (also holding up one finger) hour. Do you?” PP had noticed the two friends in the Lap/Swim lane walking, hopping, and doing spastic moves with the noodles. It was a form of water exercise. Not PP’s variety. But still. It was in the Pool and it was therapeutic. PP could tell from their serious faces while in the pool and their contented smiles now in the Hot Tub.
CHTL blushed. “Yes. 1 hour.”

Now, they all smile at each other. “How do you say ‘How are you in Korean?” PP asks. More blank stares. Then Helpful Woman volunteers an idea. They all nod and smile. PP has no clue what they’re saying. She doesn’t know Korean, obviously, or Chinese, which is evidently where the Helpful Woman is from. So PP tries out her one phrase of Chinese, “Ni Hao Ma?” is Chinese for how are you, right?”
She frowns, shakes her head. “No. that is Mandarin.”
”Oh….” PP shrugs. She thought Mandarin was Chinese. Evidently she was mistaken. “How do you say it in Chinese?”
”You mean in Cantonese?”
“Yeah…”
Helpful Asian woman rattles off a phrase. PP doesn’t catch even one syllable of it. But the Korean women smile and nod. They know Cantonese? Maybe Cantonese and Korean are similar?

PP doesn’t think so, but no matter. They are all communicating even without the same language. It’s the language of the water. They’re all blissed out in the bubbly water after their hour swims. Relaxed. Content. Those endorphins doing their job. PP still surprises herself about what a difference swimming makes to her State of Being. She can be totally cranky, emotional, depressed and then she goes swimming. And Voila! She’s blissed out.
It’s a miracle. Really it is.

And she knows this is a common theme that she’s written about before, but she keeps coming back to the Miracle of Swimming. And thinks, who the hell needs Language when you’ve got swimming?

“Bye Bye” she calls out to the gang in the Hot Tub. “That’s English for good-bye.”
They all giggle and wave as PP languidly makes her way outta the Hot Tub and heads for the Sauna, relishing in the lack of language that can make swimming such a restorative respite from her workaday langaugy world!

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