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Empi's Pregnancy Journal

Week 33
~ Swim Team

So I've been really good and have been swimming every day since I've been back in Beijing. The gym at our new apartment is huge and positively luxe, and the pool is great when it's not overrun with kids and other loungers. It's deserted on weekdays, and initially I thought I could count on a fairly solitary experience each time. But heading over there on Saturday afternoon at 4 pm, I arrived to find four other ladies in each of the three lap lanes. I've swum in crowded pools before, but not one in which no one seems to have a rudimentary knowledge of lap swimming etiquette. Actually it's pretty puzzling to me since once you get past etiquette, you should fairly quickly stumble into common sense, which seems to dictate that a lane can't reasonably be divided into five mini-lanes for everyone to swim abreast. Yet, that seemed to be the expectation. I tried to set an example, trying to get the group into a counter-clockwise up-and-down route, at the same time fretting: "Is this horribly ethnocentric of me, coming in here and trying to impose my Western lap swim norms?" But nah, it just makes sense… Anyway it didn't work: my neighbors' stroke of choice was a slooow bobby breaststroke, scary to pass because of the wide frog kick, plus I got some mean looks because I was straying out of my allotted six inches of lane space.

After I'd run the gauntlet a couple of times, a tall man in a tiny Speedo added himself to the mix, and I trailed behind him, horrified, as he ineptly egg-beatered his way down the lane right next to me. At that moment I knew it just wasn't worth it, and that it was just a matter of time before I got kicked or otherwise mangled, so I just hoisted myself out and went to hit the shower. Just in time, too, since on my way out I had to wade through a waist-high stream of half a dozen little kids, half blinded by their swim goggles and already inserted into giant swim rings and floaty armbands, trying to make their way through the locker room door.

Saturday afternoon madness at the pool aside, I love our new place. Of course, it's always an added plus when you don't have to do any of the actual moving, just leave one day and come back two weeks later to a completely furnished, mostly-unpacked, mostly-clean new apartment. It was a really nice homecoming, though a bit dampened by Mik's confession that, being in a bind as to how to transport our last two surviving fish, he had opted to "liberate" them down the toilet. If he had told me before I arrived, I may have been able to regulate my reaction a little better, but as it was, I was pretty stunned, then couldn't hold back the tears. On one hand, they're just fish… but on the other, they were our PETS! For sure this revelation took my attention away from the roses and the candles he'd lit all over the apartment, and the poor guy wasn't showered with the many kisses and hugs he was expecting as would befit an apartment-moving-furniture-buying hero.

More than a week later, I still can't decide if this was a reasonable thing for a stressed-out person in the middle of a move to do, or if I should be watching Mik for signs of sprouting horns or cloven hooves. Since then he's been trying to convince me that they're much happier now, roaming free in the Beijing septic system ("Just think, they can eat all they want now!"). I imagine them sitting terrified in a U-bend somewhere, slowly absorbing the sewage and chemicals that'll eventually mutate them into black, bug-eyed, snaggle-toothed monsters. They'll emerge years from now from a manhole a la Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, to seek revenge on their former owners who callously abandoned them. With any luck, we'll have left China by then, though.

Speaking of mutant fish in sewage, the big China news this week was a benzene spill and resulting 5-day public water cutoff in Harbin. Although that's in a different water and river system than Beijing entirely, it just reminds me of how little we actually know about the deplorable state of the environment here. Chinese news TV calls it a "blue sky day" even on mornings when we can't see the next building down the block through the smog, and that's in addition to everything else we don't know about the spread of bird flu and the Discovery Channel's repeated assertion that the next pandemic will likely originate in China. In the meantime, I got my flu shot, wash my hands every chance I get, and stay away from live or recently live birds. Really, what else can you do?

The kid's in good shape, sometimes more active than I'd like him/her to be, since I'm consistently woken up or kept awake now by the intrabelly calisthenics. It's true that it's infinitely reassuring to feel so much movement, though parts of my belly actually feel bruised and tenderized by the incessant assaults. It'll probably get too crowded in there pretty soon, but in the meantime it's fun to grab and rub the little knees/elbows/feet as they go rolling by. At my appointment on my second day back, they did another ultrasound, and baby's in the vertex (head down) position and measuring right on schedule (well, a week ahead, but Dr. F says that's well within standard +/- error). I'm actually moving around pretty well again; I guess, as with everything else in life, you can get used to anything, even carrying around an extra 15 kilos 24/7. You still couldn't pay me to get on a treadmill even for five minutes, but a 25 minute roundtrip walk down to the corner smoothie place is no longer out of the question. Obviously my back and abdominal muscles have gotten with the program and are finally pitching in, taking up the slack while my lazy-butt ligaments, drunk on hormones, are snoozing on the job. It's about time, too… I mean, go, team, go!

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