© 2006 Catherine. All rights reserved.

The scourge of Fulong beach (and fun with a waterproof camera)

I am a girl who grew up seeing the sea every day. The only exceptions to this would be my 6 month stint in Bolivia in 2000/2001… and of course my time here in Taipei.
If I don’t see the ocean every once and awhile I get edgy. It’s hard to explain unless you’ve grown up in a sea-side city. My mom always used to tell me she could never live in a city not by the ocean. I thought she was silly until I lived in Bolivia.

So anyway, Han and I headed to Fulong beach which used to be on my top five places to go into Taiwan. It’s probably now on my bottom five thanks to bloated self-important lifeguards and evil jellyfish larvae.

When I go swimming, I go to swim. When I go swimming, I do not go to stand in water waist deep (note: I am 158 cm/5′ 2″). But the less than friendly staff at Fulong beach did not care to abide by “Catherine’s rules of swimming”. See, when you go to Fulong there is a roped in square where most people swim. The water probably doesn’t go higher than the chest of a typical sized Taiwanese male and the beach is littered with beach umbrellas and people.

When I go to Fulong I like to go as far away as possible from that area…. which usually leads me to where the surfers are. Surfers=good swimming area. However, this time, the lifeguards at Fulong were going to make sure that I had a miserable day.

Now typically I am not annoyed by what regular non-assimilated ex-pats get annoyed with. It doesn’t bother me as bad as in Canada if I get poor food service, if someone cuts in line (even in the bathroom), if someone tries to mow me down on their scooter. It’s just the way life is here. Once in awhile… I loose it… this was one of those days. I’ve been having a rough spot, I’d gone to do what I love most, at one of my favourite places to do it…. I wasn’t going to be bossed around!

Because we weren’t swimming in the sanctioned area bloated leathery life-guards kept driving up on jet-skis to tell us to go back to the beach. I told Han that next time they came they could physically remove me from the ocean if they chose to. And they kept coming. 3 or 4, maybe 5 times. Poor Han was caught in the middle as translator and peacekeeper.

Han: They want us to go back to the beach
me: (scowling at the lifeguard) WHY??
Han: They say it’s too dangerous.
Me: Because it’s gone from no waves to some???
Han: They say it’s their beach, their rules.
Me: So I paid them to give me rules?? Why aren’t they bugging the surfers over there????
(chinese)
Han: They didn’t pay to come to Fulong, they’re swimming at the beach in front of the temple.
Me: Well, how much does that beach cost? I’d like to swim where the lifeguards don’t bully me about swimming where I want to swim.
(more chinese)
Han: It’s free.
Me: So I can go over there, and not give them my money and swim wherever I want?
Han: Let’s go.
Me: Tell them that I’ll be happy to swim there from now on and not give them my money.
Han: Let’s go.
Me: TELL THEM!!! TELL THEM!! THIS IS SUCH BAD CUSTOMER SERVICE (insert rant).

Of course Han didn’t tell them and was as polite as possible, I’m sure my face said everything and I’m sure the life guards felt sorry for the poor taiwanese boy who ended up with the crazy foreigner but geez, come on, I’m a paying customer not a kid. I’ll swim at my own risk. I’ve been swimming since I was 3!

So we went over to the other beach and it was great.

All day we were feeling these little stings. I’d felt them before in the ocean so I didn’t really make much of it. Sunday I woke up covered in nasty sore itchy blisters. Stomach, legs, arms, chest, etc. I was so convinced I was dying I didn’t take pictures of them. I actually still have little brown marks all over from where they were but for the most part they’re gone.

I was sure I had measles, rubella, the plague, or ocean madness. OK I made that last one up.

Han and I tried hard to find a doctor’s office that was open but had no luck Sunday night. He tried to convince me to go to a hospital but I was pretty convinced that was just going to involve me getting an unnecessary shot and staying unnecessarily overnight which I wasn’t willing to do until I was sure I was dying.

I decided to go online after to do a search… which I really don’t recommend doing if you’re already scared and freaked out. I think it worsened my paranoia….however eventually I did find out that from May – August on certain beaches there are jellyfish larvae that when trapped on the skin between a bathing suit will sting and cause a bad reaction known as sea bather’s itch. They’re about the size of a grain of pepper…so not really visible.I google image searched it and sure enough the same nasty blistery bumps I had I saw on the back of some poor man.

So because I cuddled in the ocean, I distressed little jellyfish larvae, who in turn decided to make me pay with a vengeance! Han felt the same stings but got away without a mark. Ever since I turned 20 my body is against me and I have reactions to everything.

So the lessons learned:
1) Don’t swim at Fulong unless you don’t actually want to swim.
2) Don’t swim at Fulong unless you want to look like you have a flesh-eating virus.

My new co-teacher has been telling me about a “Dashi” or “Dazhi” beach. I think I’ll scope it out next. I’ll let you know how that works out.

Ps- I’m in love

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