Anyway after a large lunch of leftover Indian food, my mischievous host sister Coline peered over the table at her father and brought up the idea of going to the pool. Well, not just any pool. The pool with the great big slides and wave pools and many such activities. And of course, when I lied and said I liked swimming in pools (which I do not like one bit) the plan was set. We got dressed and headed off for the pool complex on the edge of Dijon. The ride was not quite as scenic as the other journeys throughout this local area, in fact I was quite grossed out.
After we arrived, unloaded; and entered the pool complex, I knew right away that I was in for a mind-baffling experience.
Before I go into it I should probably explain a little bit about my avoidance of chlorinated swimming pools. I have grown up in a town with a wonderful community pool, in which I attended for the majority of my childhood summer vacations. I used to swim for HOURS before I would exit the water, my hands pruned to the point where I could just flick my skin off painlessly. By then I could never understand why my Mom and the other adults would jump in the water and then quickly get out. But as of recent, I refuse to into public swimming pools unless I have no choice. I babysit quite often and summertime illnesses can always be attributed to the pool. And no matter what they say about the safety of chlorine, with how many kids pee in the pool, are we not just swimming in pee? And so with the French pool that I was going to be swimming has less to do with the fact that it is French and more with my disgust for pools in general.
The first and probably most prominent thing I noticed in the pool was the bathing suits. The women wore tiny bikinis, which were quite appropriate considering mostly everyone is skinny. However, do not be fooled because there are a few fat French woman, and they wear tiny bikinis as well. But then there were the men- oh god the men! I could not help but let go of a little chuckle when I say my host father, Jean-Francois is an extremely tight set of shorts that squeezed his legs uncomfortably. Yet he was dressed quite conservatively by standards of the other men at the pool. In fact, all the other men wore those ridiculous ball-crusher suits. Okay, fine, I'll call them by their proper polite name of Speedos. I could not believe that I was surrounded by hundreds of Frenchmen in Ball-crushers... eh... Speedos. On top of that I was wearing a bikini top and short nylon shorts. I have never felt comfortable in a plain bikini bottom.
Well, in America and Japan, at least.
Now as everyone- men, women, children -- stared at the stupid girl in shorts that were more conservative than even most of the mens ball crushers, I felt utterly embarrassed. It was truly horrifying. But it had happened before, just over 2 years ago in Kochi, Japan. That time the locals were staring at me for the opposite reason, wondering, "look at that big weird foreigner dressed in a tiny bikini! She should not be wearing that bathing suit here in Japan!"
Coline and I ventured through the big disgusting pool searching for the entrance to the waterslides. There were so many people in the water and no lifeguards. Everywhere I turned I bumped into someone and then quickly apologized. This was not the case for the other way around. I was kicked, punched, and swum into and never received so much as an excuse me.
While Coline and I waited on line for the slides, I was appalled at the dozens of children who cut us in line for a quicker turn at the slide. Coline was too small and quiet to say anything, and I was too not French to even try. That was until I broke out my secret weapon, "Hey kid! Do not cut in line; That is very rude." The victim child peered up at me, and said, "Je ne parle anglais (I do not speak English)" To which I said, "Okay I don't care! DO NOT CUT!" He and the other little kids decided not to try and cut the big scary English speaker again. On another occasion on the line, a group of teenage boys asked me in French why I was wearing boy swim trunks in the water. I directed the question to Coline, who told them, 'she is American!' They seemed to understand right away. Though I was not sure that I quite understood it.
There were two water slides at the park, a blue and yellow one. Coline liked the yellow best because it had a 90 degree drop and gave you whip lash, while her father enjoyed the slow and steady blue slide. I think I preferred neither, however. I was too big for the yellow one, because when I exited the tunnel, I was always on my head with my feet in the air. Every time I popped my head above the water after coming down, Coline was roaring in laughter, and Jean-Francois described me as a hurricane exiting the tunnel. While the blue one was far too slow and old for my taste.
The rest of the time at the pool was spent fending off ball-crushers, defending my shorts, keeping Coline afloat, and enriching myself in an entire different culture via the pool.