When I was in primary school, every summer, there was a series of mandatory swimming lessons. Like many typical public schools in Japan, there was an outdoor swimming pool on the school premises, and whenever the water temperature was above the certain degree, we were called to the poolside for the lesson.
While most people looked forward to the swimming lessons, I dreaded them, since I didn’t know how to swim, and for somebody who had almost zero swimming experience outside school, these swimming lessons were hard to catch up with. Nonetheless, there was one swimming lesson that I did look forward to each year. It was hosted at the end of each swimming season and called a survival floating practice, where everybody wore clothes on top of their bathing suit and practiced floating in preparation for an emergency.
The reason I liked this lesson was that unlike the regular class, it was very simple and peaceful. As the name suggested, all we had to do was to float in the water. We were provided with empty plastic bottles and taught how to float in the water in different positions. Usually, I rarely managed to follow what others were doing in the water, but in this class, I perfectly synced with everybody else, following the teachers’ whistles and floating in the water with a plastic bottle. Looking up at the blue sky from the water, I felt as if I were a sea lion, completely relaxed, and wished every swimming lesson could be as enjoyable as this one.
One summer, after the annual survival floating practice, we were told to remove our wet clothes and stand on the poolside in our regular bathing suits. As I stood, I saw something shining in the water.
“We have put some surprise for you in the water!” One teacher said to us. “They are cans of juice! There are many different kinds, so go and grab one that you like!”
My eyes quickly scanned the water and spotted the yellow container of my all time favourite juice – sparkling lemon juice. The moment the whistle blew to signal the beginning of the game, I dived into the water faster than anybody else, grabbed the can of sparkling lemon juice and came back to the poolside. As I sat down with my treat, watching others swim in the water collecting juice cans, a sense of satisfaction filled my heart.
The memory of annual survival floating practice provides special warmth and sentiment in my otherwise struggling and lonely swimming season at school.