Looking back on childhood summertimes it seems as though I was either jumping in the water, or it was falling on me. Ireland, my home country, is synonymous with rain and surrounded by the sea. I grew up outside a metropolis on the river Lee which the national census records as having 26 inhabitants. A five-hundred-year-old castle rests on a rock in the middle of the river. It’s the axis for the stone spans which give the village its name: Carrigadrohid, meaning “the rock of the bridge” in English.
The second youngest of six children, I lucked into a ready-made playgroup at home; the river was the focal point for a wider spread gang of kids. In a depopulated, rural area, school friends live miles apart; traipsing to halfway landmarks to play hide-and-seek or chase was a daily ritual. On the hottest afternoons our family would gather with our neighbors to cool down in the icy river water. For both safety and pleasures’ sakes, learning to swim early on was a priority.
So, like my older siblings and generations of O’Briens before me, I first swam in the river. In the shadow of the castle, red mud and
slippery black stones underfoot, I waded waist deep then fell forward to rest my belly flat on my father’s outstretched palm. Patient and forbearing, he caught me and righted me when I thrashed and sank, until finally I thrashed and swam. Those first frenetic strokes unlocked summers of drifting on inner tubes, racing to the rock and back, and canon-balling from the highest rock-ledges.
July in Beijing is the period of expat exodus, but for those remaining we’ve collected the ultimate list of places to go and things to do. As temperatures continue to rise, go cool off, chill out, and make memories with your families at the best fountains, water parks, pools, beaches, and fresh water swimming holes inside and outside the city.
This article originally appeared on page 7 of the beijingkids July 2015 issue. Click here to read the issue for free on Issuu.com. To find out how you can get your own copy, email email@example.com.
Photos: Aisling O’Brien