Chinese people don't like water

Over Labor Day weekend, our church went on a retreat to Camp Sierra, south of Yosemite and an hour northeast of Fresno. We were surrounded by lakes – Millerton Lake, Shaver Lake, and Huntington Lake. There were boats and water craft (jet skis, wave runners) everywhere.

Where you find boats, you find white people. Boatloads of them. White people love water. They like playing in it, riding on it, camping on it, swimming in it, jumping in it, whatever.

Not Chinese people. They don’t like water. Sure, they drink it and all. They just don’t enjoy being in the water. And when I say Chinese people, I don’t mean me. I mean real Chinese people – as in FOB immigrants (I actually do see myself as “real” Chinese but I’m always amused when people say I’m not “real”).

See, most Chinese immigrants don’t know how to swim. They may have grown up near water but being a member of the intelligentsia demanded time away from the water and in the classroom.

I think that’s why Chinese immigrants have their kids join the swim team. Its because they don’t want them to be water-ignorant like themselves. But even though I grew up on the swim team, I still haven’t cultivated the same love of water as white people. I have absolutely no desire to own a boat.

During free time on Sunday, a group of families (FOB Chinese) went to Huntington Lake. I was not interesting in accompanying them because I knew exactly what this would entail. A big group of jabbering Chinese people would climb out of their cars, stand around wearing pants and long-sleeve shirts, take a bunch of pictures, stare at their reflections in the lake, tell their kids not to get too dirty/wet/fill-in-the-blank and then climb back into their cars. That’s how Chinese people do the outdoors. It drives me crazy.

I went with a group of families to a famous area near Camp Sierra called the Potholes. Its beautiful and an incredible natural water play area. In this section of granite, the creek has shaped water slides that feed into these huge, deep pools. The slides are punctuated by holes (hence the name) that you can slide into. Surrounding the pools are large rock outcroppings that are perfect for jumping off. We had a great time. And of course the Chinese parents who accompanied us stood around bone dry, taking pictures, and telling their kids not to do anything dangerous.

There is hope though. It was a big step for our church to go out to Camp Sierra. Its pretty far out there for a church retreat (its at least a 3.5 hour drive, some people got lost and took them 6+ hours). We didn’t see other people of color. And there was no Chinese food (or Starbucks) for miles.

Next year if we go back, I’m taking another group to the Potholes and I will require everyone wear a swimsuit and be ready to get wet. We can learn to do water like white people.


  1. this white girl LOVES water, and i'm so glad you and the kids got to have fun in the potholes!! next year, calleigh, kenn and i will be joining in instead of napping! :)


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