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Pearl River swim a Chinese baptism for expats (2)

By  Xu Jingxi  (China Daily)

08:17, August 03, 2012

"I'm 'tattooed' as a real Guangzhou resident now," said Sanchez.

"It's like one should climb up the Great Wall if he visits Beijing. Pearl River is an important part of culture here," he said.

The swimming fan could not think of similar swimming events in the US. "Americans just jump in a river individually to enjoy swimming when we want to, while Chinese tend to do things in groups," Sanchez said.

"But it's great that I could share the fun of swimming with so many local people. It makes me feel that I'm part of the city and its people.

"It's also a great honor for me to swim together with the mayor," Sanchez added.

Sanchez's colleague, consul Brian Timm-Brock, also felt closer to the city after the swim.

"I have walked along the Pearl River, and then took boat trips on it and now swam in it. I feel that I'm getting to know Guangzhou better," Timm-Brock said.

He was excited and moved when recalling the cheers from local supporters on the riverbank.

"I heard people shouting 'Come on, foreign friends' in Cantonese when I was swimming in the river. It was encouraging," said Timm-Brock, who said he was a little worried at the start of the race as the distance was longer than he had expected.

"I've got a great sense of accomplishment to have swum across the Pearl River. I'm looking forward to participating in the event again next year," he said.

Zhou Yongqiang, a local resident among the swimmers crossing the Pearl River on Thursday, said he welcomed foreigners to take part in the event.

"Long ago Guangzhou was known the world over as a trading port. Now the swimming event can promote the city's water culture to foreigners and display the improvement in the river's water quality to them," the 49-year-old said.

Zhou recalled his childhood memories of swimming together with fish and shrimps in the clear water of Pearl River's creeks.

"The water today is not as clear as what it was when I was 7 years old. But it's much better than what it was 10 years ago," said Zhou, who has been living in a riverside apartment by the Pearl River for the past decade.

"I often saw a lot of duckweed and rubbish in the river 10 years ago. I even once saw a wrecking crew pull out a sofa from the river," Zhou recalled.

"But now, the water is clear. I am able to see things about three meters below when I am in the water."

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