I have been searching for a public swimming pool since I arrived, but had a lot of trouble because I don't speak Korean. Finally I found one at a Sports Complex near our home. I biked there a couple of times to check it out but always found it closed. Finally I decided to tear down the sign on the door and bring it to a Korean at work who could translate. Once I figured out the pool's wacky hours, I was ready for my first dip in chlorinated Korean waters.
I entered, paid my 3,000 won, and it was at that point that I stopped knowing what was going on. I needed someone to hold my hand and guide me through a turnstile, into the women's locker room. In the locker room I found literally 200 naked old Korean women getting dressed. I wandered around for a while, looking for the pool (after all, I already had my swimsuit on...I didn't need the dressing room) until a woman came up to me and took me to the mass showering area (more naked old Korean women) and started taking my swimsuit off of me. Apparently you need to scrub yourself down..or have a kind Korean woman scrub you...before you enter the pool.
So after I scrubbed down with the locals, I thought I was sufficiently horrified and embarrassed, so I put my swimsuit back on and searched for the swimming pool. I couldn't find it. I was wandering aimlessly through a sea of naked old Korean women..obviously standing out as a 6ft bright white chick in a pink swimsuit.
Finally someone held my hand and guided me to the stairs where the pool was. Then I was for sure I wouldn't mess up anymore... all I needed to do was get in the water and swim, right? That's easy. But before I made it, two ladies stopped me on the stairs and started yelling at me and pointing to their swim caps and pointing to my lack of a swim cap. I guess I missed the sign about swim caps being mandatory. So after more yelling, one of the women graciously gave me her swim cap and I headed to the pool.
The pool was amazing--Olympic-sized and packed with people..probably about 300 or so doing aerobics or laps. Six or seven to a lane. I hopped in and swam for about 25 minutes until I heard some faint yelling...I stopped and looked around to see that I was the ONLY person still swimming. All 299 people had evacuated the pool for what I assume was break time, and were yelling at me to get out of the pool.
I wish this story was an out-of-the-ordinary fluke where I just happened to do every single thing wrong and look like a doofus, but it happens everyday and with every thing that we do. Still, I accomplished my goal of swimming laps at a public pool, and I feel pretty good about that.