I should be sleeping. Or cleaning my apartment. Or planning lessons for next week. But I had a kinda interesting day, so I figure, maybe the random person in New Zealand who visit my blog the other day would be eager to read about what happened.

Too tired to read this through, so perhaps there are some typos and/or Freudian slips. Enjoy:

The Columbia and Friends dragon boat racing team!
The Columbia and Friends dragon boat racing team!

I joined a dragon boat racing team. It’s a Columbia University Alumni and Friends team, but it’s mostly just friends. Everyone on the team speaks Chinese (many speak excellent English too, but Chinese is the default) and so interactions are limited. The whole time I was playing the opening riff to Big Black’s “Kerosene” in my head and feeling very self-reflective.

I had a dinner to go to at 7pm in the south part of Taipei, meaning 2 hours between the end of dragon boat practice in the north and dinner. I learned of a swimming pool nearby that I figured I’d give a try. Fifty meter outdoor pool. Sixty NTD (~$2USD) entry. I plunged into the lukewarm water and felt an immediate relax in the muscle of my body. I took several smooth strokes that felt great. I compared this to the running I’d been doing and began smiling underwater at how easier it is to swim. Just because I’ve done it so much in the past, to me, it’s exponentially easier. Even as I kept swimming 200, then 400, then 800 meters and my triceps began to get sore. It’s still easier than running, because you’re floating!

I stopped at the wall and heard a man in a thick accent say: “My sister!” I turned and it was a Middle Eastern looking man. “I’m from Egypt,” he said. “I see you’re swimming well. I figure you must be a swimmer.”

“Yes,” I smiled wide. I always enjoy when I have these random one-off interactions with people.

“My sister, where are you from?”


“Very nice. I swim the breastroke.”

“Cool! What’s your name?


I swam a few more laps and so did Mahmoud. Then we spoke again. He said I should visit Egypt. I wanted to ask him a question about the politics there because I know Morsi was just sentenced to death. I also wanted to ask him how long he’d been in Taiwan. But I didn’t want to get so heavy, especially not knowing much about the situation in Egypt. I told him he should visit Chicago.

“Yes, maybe! What time you swim for 50 meters freestyle?”

“I don’t remember.” I honestly don’t remember. I remember my 50 yards short course time, but the last time I swam 50 meters was probably 2009. In fact, the last time I did laps in an outdoor pool was 4 years ago. I forgot how awesome it is to swim outdoors. “Under 30 seconds for sure. I think maybe 28 probably.”

“Oh that’s good. That’s very good for a woman.”

I mentally rolled my eyes. I swam a few more laps and so did he.

As I swam I was thinking about how ridiculous my life is. Why am I doing dragon boat racing? Why did I sign up to swim an open water race at the end of June when I legit think anything over 200 meters is too long? Is this going to be my life? Just a string of random things? I thought about how when you introduce yourself to a group, you often say your interests or hobbies or things that you do.

“Hi, I’m Erisa. I do things I’ve never done before.”

This new attitude of mine is very instantaneous (in physics, when you want to find the instantaneous velocity, you take the derivative of the position vs. time graph). I feel like I do things in this instantaneous realm without necessarily thinking about future paths. Perhaps I should have more solid goals, but no. These days I’m short time scales.

But then – and I don’t really know how I got on this topic – I started thinking about how in elementary school I used to make all these videos with my friends. Like, on the weekends when we’d have sleepovers we’d make up sketches and record them. Like, EVERY WEEKEND. How prolific. I mean, yes, they were mostly really dumb and we were horrible actors and we laughed a lot during the recordings, but still that’s amazing.

I was backstroking and looking up at the blue and grey sky and thought: what would elementary school Erisa think of Erisa now? Partly, she’d think: Yo, what happened? Somewhere along the way I stopped making things because I thought they were dumb and horrible and there were other things that I could do that would actually be successful and not be so dumb and horrible and I didn’t realize that sometimes it’s just fun to make things even if they are dumb and horrible.

I probably swam at least 1500 meters. The pool was nice, but on one wall, there was this insane water jet that created a lot of resistance going into the turn.

Before I got out of the pool, I said goodbye to Mahmoud.

I didn’t realize how exhausted I was (not just from swimming, it had been a long day on little sleep. I’m not that out-of-shape…hopefully…) until I was standing in my shower stall unmoving. I turned the shower off but was just standing there, partly letting the water drip off me before I pulled out my towel and partly too tired to move. I let my mind wander instead and I thought: I wish I could just walk around naked. I guess I was so tired I didn’t want to put on clothes? I thought about this nude run I had heard about in San Francisco and maybe doing that.

The curtain to my shower stall pulled back halfway and a boy and his mom stood looking at me for a moment.

My first thought wasn’t embarrassment or shock or fear. I treated it like if someone knocked on my toilet stall. “Occupied,” I said in a monotonous voice. Maybe it was a delay in my brain, like, it took my brain a while to realize: yo, these people just saw your naked body. Well, once my brain processed the information, I still didn’t really care. I said, in true female fashion, “sorry,” but it was halfhearted. Maybe this happens with age? Like how when I was younger and swimming, sometimes in locker rooms there would be older women who would just let it all hang out NBD and I was always surprised that they were so free with their bodies, but maybe you get to a point where you’re like “this is nothing special, who cares.”

The mom said sorry and closed the shower curtain, and I said: “no problem. Don’t worry about it.” So chill. I began holding back laughter. I just thought it was funny that I was thinking about how nudity should be no big deal, and then these randos get a glimpse of my naked body and I reacted as if it was no big deal. I know this is not the same as parading around nude, but it’s a step in the right direction.