I’ve already written about my Chinese sister, Li Xiaolian (Cathy) who is an administrator at the Luzhou Police College.
Her college is a specialty school that trains young people who are wanting to go into police work, whether that’s a basic cop on the beat or a specialized investigator. It’s a 4-year college, with students from all over China, and demands strict physical requirements from those enrolled. Formal dress uniform is required at all times during their education at the school, a bit like being in the military. Even Cathy, as an administrator, has to wear a police uniform while on campus. She’s even been trained in firing a gun, although she is not a police officer herself nor does her major (English education) have the slightest connection to such actions. That’s just a school requirement for all staff, instructors and admininstrators alike.
Moving on: News from her school has shocked the entire city of 3 million for the past 2 weeks.
A death at their swimming pool.
What Happened? Still Unclear
The Police College opens their campus and pool doors to the public after students have left for their summer break. It’s an outdoor, 50 meter Olympic sized pool, one used for training the future officers how to swim as part of their training course. In the winter, it’s closed and is only in use during warmer weather. The last time I saw it was in December, an empty pit filled with leaves but still a very impressive sports’ venue to behold.
A few weeks ago, after a majority of the students had taken off for home, the pool opened for their yearly public swimming times. In our roasting heat, the place was packed full, I heard.
Then tragedy struck–a drowning.
Before I left for America last Thursday, Cathy still didn’t have all the details, although her involvement in this has been meeting after meeting held by school officials discussing the severity of the situation. The sketchy story is that one of their Police College students, age 19 and quite tall, was found on the bottom of the pool right before closing time at the shallow end. The pool staff tried to resuscitate him but to no avail.,
The school officials have begged the parents for an autopsy but they have refused. Autopsies are not customary in China. No Chinese parent wants their child cut into and the body desecrated. That is just not the Chinese way.
Without evidence of exactly what happened, this places the school in a very precarious position. Was the boy physically fit or not? Did he hit his head and drowned? Did something else happen to him?
Without anything solid, the school is fully at fault. Compensation will be paid to the parents, which is again a Chinese custom in a death of this sort. How much will be paid is another thing, to be discussed by leaders and negotiators on the parents’ side.
All of Luzhou Buzzing
Such tragic news for a small city, where this is the first pool death they’ve ever had. It would be for any community, even my own. I am, however, a little surprised why more water deaths haven’t happened here.
Professional lifeguards are not required at many pools. Mostly, the pool manager and his staff (some of which might not be able to swim well) just sit around on the deck, smoking cigarettes, talking and playing with their cellphones. Carefully watching the hundreds of people in the pool is not a top priority.
And in some instances, even seeing the people in the pool is a problem.
Quite a few Chinese pools are just water without any chlorine or chemicals for sanitation. After the initial fill, the water slowly turns a dark, muddy, green and brown after a weeks of use. It remains like that for the rest of the summer. Seeing the bottom of the pool, must less your hand in front of your face when underwater, is impossible.
Granted, every city has a government sanctioned sanitation detail that goes around and inspects public-frequented areas. This includes hotels, restaurants and other community used places, such as pools. They are given an inspection and a sign which states the cleanliness. This sign must then be prominently displayed for all patrons to see.
My Number 6 Middle School Pool has an “A” rank and a smiley face, meaning they are in good standing. Many other pools don’t get such a report and still others aren’t even inspected.
Just depends on the city you are living in how diligently followed such requirements are.
My guess is that after this recent tragedy, which was on everyone’s number one conversation list, even up to my flight out of Luzhou, the city government will start to crack down more on pool inspections and safety. I noticed before leaving the city for my home country, our Number 6 Middle School staff increased their attentiveness, circulating more about the deck to make sure people were still afloat.
No, they aren’t professional lifeguards, either, but at least they became more watchful than before.
Back In the States
After landing yesterday in the States, I’m looking forward to my own swims early morning at our local outdoor pool. No concerns about sanitation or drownings here for the summer, especially as our temps have been so cool, with rainstorms at every turn. The staff told me few have come to enjoy the water. Mostly, the pool has remained closed and quiet, unlike last summer when daily 90-degrees and bright sunshine had us all sweltering and gleefully diving into our recreational facility with gratitude.
And on that note, I’ll close this entry. When I fully recuperate from jetlag, I’ll post more stories and pictures to keep everyone updated on happenings from this end.
Here’s sending you Ping An (Peace) for your week!