Symbolic Swimming Pools In Shanghai Today’s adventure in gay and lesbian travel was to find a swimming pool. It would have been a goodtime, had I been the only person in the pool. A little local info for China: cities are crowded and pools are exactly the same, but with water. It all began with my entrance ticket. It was big. It looked like I was going to the movies, or a concert or something. Then there was the locker key – big, clunky, and needing to be kept around my wrist. I can already tell that the people frequenting this venue are not the most “serious” swimmers. I proceed down the red carpet (literally, it’s red) with walls covered in pictures of Chinese Olympians wearing their medals and holding flowers in the air. How inspiring for a gay and lesbian travel afficionado! At the end of the red carpet is a ticket taker. She looks so happy to be welcoming me to the “Shanghai Olympic Aquatic Center.” I enter the locker room and after throwing my clothes in the correct unit, I proceed to shower (required, obviously). Then it’s time to trudge through a sunken pool called the “decontamination pit.” How inviting! Finally, I surface on the pool deck! The pool is 50 meters long, 8 lanes across. 5 lanes, however, have no lane-lines and are instead filled with people floating on rafts, cruising in snorkel gear, and playing that “dive for the rings” game. Only three lanes are reserved for lap swimming. As usual, I am already a spectacle. I thought it would be real lap swimming, with people doing freestyle, etc. Nope. They all do breaststroke, but not real breaststroke instead they are doing the I’ve-never-swam-beforebreaststroke. Their kicks fill the lane, which leaves no room to pass. Apparently though, passing is a major faux pas. Everyone swims one lap in order, stops, rests, then pushes off in order again to start the next lap. Essentially, we were doing the same thing as all the people in the unorganized lanes, only we were doing it in a row…while running into each other. At this point, I realized that this wasn’t for me. It wasn’t the crowds or the throng of “fans” that turned me off. It was the lack of ability to move ahead and go faster. This gay and lesbian travel freak has a need for speed. It was the orderliness of the “swimming” that instead made the entire thing totally impossible. Swimming was going to be my escape from the noise and frustration of the busy city and instead, it was just a wetter version of the same stuff. The mid-pool crashes were so reminiscent of the city streets, that I was waiting for the men to blow whistles to replace their honking horns. It looks like a treadmill and regular yoga classes will have to do. Hopefully I can find my inner peace there, because there is no peace for this gay and lesbian travel maven in the pool!