Saturday, February 16, 2008
Die Hard Polar Bears
On Chinese New Year Eve I took a friend from out of town to see one of my favourite haunts, Hou Hai, or Back Lakes.
It was a crisp cold morning and the lake had frozen over. Many people were already out skating, or chair skating. The ones who weren't brave enough to skate sat in chairs with mini skis on them and used poles to push themselves around. Little kids sat on chairs shaped like seals or ducks that their parents pushed from behind.
There was even a game of ice hockey going, with players in a mish-mash of padding, some with helmets, some complete with jerseys. The area they were playing in was hardly regulation size, but suited the purpose of shooting the puck around for fun.
We walked further along, just past Soong Ching-Ling's house, when we saw a man in his swimming trunks rubbing down his red skin after a dip.
Could it be? Even with the lake frozen over?
We rushed over to the side of the lake and sure enough there was a small watery area the size of a kiddie pool.
And there was another elderly man about to take a dip. He wore old school swimming trunks that were brown complete with buttons.
Another woman and the two of us shivered as we watched him calmly take his flip flops off by the water and climb down as if it was over 20 degrees in the water. Then he fell into the lake and did a brisk breaststroke in the small circular area.
He splashed around for a few more minutes and then got up and didn't even need a towel to keep himself warm.
He explained he'd been doing this everyday for the past 18 years after he retired. He explained the cold water was good for blood circulation, and after doing it everyday your body gets used to it. Not only that, he hasn't had any problems with his joints, pointing to his elbows and knees.
Then he wandered to where his partner was to towel off and change, while we continued on our walk, and my friend vowed not to complain about being cold anymore.