During my long-term mission in India 10 years ago, I developed very good social relations with Indians thanks to my favorite sport, swimming. I did it all the more easily because everything was in English.
For this new mission abroad, in China more specifically, I renewed the experience and the weekend of 23 and 24 September 2017 was again proof that it is possible.
But to get there, it took me perseverance and a lucky finger …
- Long hours of unsuccessful research
Between May and mid-July 2017 (date of my departure in China), I looked for many times on the internet to find information about the “Masters” clubs in Shanghai (this is the usual term for people over 25 who are competing). I found websites where everything was written in Chinese. Even with the help of Chinese friends in France, it was not easy to find a track.
- An intermediate solution
Arrived in Shanghai, I let go and decided to join a gym center that had a 20m pool. It was better than nothing! I could continue to swim.
- Beautiful coincidences
Mid-August 2017 friends took part in the Masters World Swimming Championships in Budapest. By checking the lists of participants, I discovered that Chinese people were registered. Luckily for me, 5 people came from Shanghai.
Through the Chinese club’s website, a co-worker put me in touch with a member of the team. We discussed through WeChat (the equivalent of Whatsapp and I will say the 06) and from there everything went smoothly and quickly. I appreciate these moments where everything is fluid. The manager spoke English and in a few minutes, I had all the details: the day and the hours of training, the place with the nearest metro station and the map to access the pool, the price. From the following Sunday, I participated in the first training with the club.
- Immediate integration
I was warmly welcomed by all the members of the team with a nice helping hand. The trainer speaking only Chinese, I always had 1 or 2 swimmers who took the time to give me the instructions in English.
At the end of this first training, I asked if there were scheduled competitions. They told me that the next one was on September 23 and 24, 2017 and that you had to register before the next day. Again in a few minutes, I was registered. I had no idea of the level of competition I was going to participate in, but I knew I was going into the adventure.
- A beautiful moment of sharing
The day before the weekend I discovered that I was going to participate in the National Annual Swimming Championships gathering all the clubs of China including Macao and Hong Kong. More than 1,200 swimmers were expected. Even though we were there for a competition, I had a great moment of integration. First of all, sportily: in addition to my 2 individual races, I made a relay with 3 other swimmers. Although only French, I felt part of this Shanghai team.
Then personally: I was part of a big family. We were about fifty from the Shanghai club. I had some discussions with those who spoke English, but especially many exchanges based on the nonverbal: thumbs shaped Bravo, pats on the shoulder, simple gestures to explain to me what they wanted that I understand, requests for photos and especially smiles, smiles of joy and communication. The dinner on Saturday night was a moment of celebration of this growing friendship.
- Being tenacious
Every day I try to apply the values that I recommend, especially those of the sport: perseverance, commitment, pleasure. This experience has once again proved their importance. It allows me to find a balance between personal and professional life.
That each reader can identify what is important to him to improve his quality of life and hold on.