Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Let's Go Swimming !!!!

Last Saturday on the 15th December, we went or rather Ilham went for his first swimming lesson of the year. Ilham received his Diploma A certificate in June last year at the ISA and we wished for him to continue with diploma B (more for exercise rather than the certificate). But then... when we moved here to Den Haag, he didn't want to join swimming classes anymore because he said it was tiring. After almost 6 months of not swimming, suddenly he missed the pool and wanted to go for B Diploma. Happily... I searched around and managed to get him registered at De Driesprong in Zoetermeer. In the Netherlands, normally there is a waiting list so we were lucky to get a place at the last minute.

Water is an integral part of Dutch landscape. Everywhere there are canals, ponds and rivers. Every now and then, a young curious child would escape the supervision of the parents and wanders to the exciting rippling of water and a sad tragedy occurs. So it is imperative that children learn proper swimming at a young age. Swimming Education Netherlands (ZON) recommends children to start lesson at four and a half years of age. However, due to waiting list most children start lessons when they are five years. Dutch schools do have swimming programs in the curriculum, but normally they start at age 8 and this is quite late for most parents. Therefore parents would rather send their children for swim lessons at the local pool.

Swimming requirement in Netherlands is more towards safety and survival, it is not meant for competitive swimming. Children have to undergo strenuous exercises and will be tested to get the diplomas. They have to swim fully clothed with shoes on for a minimum distance. Depends on the A,B or C diplomas, they have to wear t-shirts & shorts, long-sleeved shirt & long pants and finally long-sleeved shirt, vest, socks, trainers & jacket(raincoat). The reason for this is if a child is to fall in the water, it is most likely that he is fully clothed. In B and C diplomas, they have to pull a friend for 10 meters with both of them fully clothed. They also have to swim underwater and go through a hole (3 to 6 meters), swim for 50 meters and dive under a raft (1.5 meter wide) and continue swimming on the other side and a few more other exercises. It sounds tiring even for me... Most children stop after they get Diploma B.

Maybe there is a reason for this strenuous activities.

On the cold night of 31 st January 1953, the combination of a storm surge in the North Sea and the high spring tide forced the sea level to rise to an abnormally high level exceeding 5/6 meters. The strong waves bashed against the sea walls, breakwaters and barriers and the high waters went right over the top. The weaker dikes which broke approximately three hours after midnight and the collapse of many sea walls caused a massive flooding in the provinces of Zeeland, South Holland and Noord-Brabant. Officially, 1835 people died, mostly in Zeeland and 70,000 more had to be evacuated. Netherlands had a history of floods but the North Sea flood of 1953 must be the worst ever.

Flood areas

On that night, none of the local radio stations broadcast at night, and many of the smaller weather stations operated only during the day, as a result the warnings did not penetrate the flood-threatened areas in time and consequently people were unable to prepare for the impending flood. Telephone and telegraph networks were disrupted, and to make it worst, the disaster struck on a Saturday night and many emergency related offices were unstaffed.

The flood put a large parts of South Holland, Zeeland and Noord-Brabant under water and covered 9% of Dutch farmland and sea water inundated 1,365 km² of land. An estimated of 30,000 livestocks drowned, and 47,300 buildings were damaged of which 10,000 were totally destroyed. The salt water contaminated the farmland for many years to come.

The Schielandse Hoge Zeedijk dike along the river Hollandse Ijssel was all that protected three million people in the provinces of South and North Holland from flooding. A section of this dike, known as the Groenendijk, was not reinforced with stone revetments. The waterlevel was just below the crest and the seaside slope was weak. Volunteers worked to reinforce this stretch. Nevertheless, the Groenendijk collapsed under the pressure around 5:30 am on 1 February. Seawater flooded into the deep polder. In desperation, the mayor of Nieuwerkerk commanded the river ship de Twee Gebroeders (The Two Brothers) and ordered the owner to plug the hole in the dike by navigating the ship into it. Fearing that the ship might break through and dive into the polder, captain Arie Evegroen took a row boat with him. The mayor's plan turned out to be successful, as the ship lodged itself firmly into the dike, saving many lives.

The storm surge did not only affect Netherlands, but it caused many fatalities in other countries as well. 307 people were killed in the United Kingdom, in the counties of Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex, meanwhile 28 were killed in West Flanders, Belgium. Further loss of life exceeding 230 occurred on watercraft along Northern European coasts as well as in deeper waters of the North Sea; the ferry MV Princess Victoria was lost at sea in the North Channel east of Belfast with 133 fatalities, and many fishing trawlers sank.

In total, approximately 2,400 people were killed.

A beautiful Dutch movie "De Storm", a fictional story based on the tragedy was released at the cinema in 2009. We bought the Dvd, but I have yet to see it.

We think it is imperative Ilham learns swimming because the lessons require him to swim in deeper water and helps building the stamina. Here is some of the videos of Ilham and children at ISA getting their respective diplomas, taken in June 2010.

This is the start of the diploma A testing. They had to jump in fully clothed withs socks & shoes, float for 15 seconds (I think) and swim breaststroke for about 18 meters, dive and turn under the rope and swim on the back to the end of the pool.

In the video above, they had to dive in, swim underwater for 3 meters, go through the hole, resurface and continue swimming 50 meters of breaststroke and then 50 meters backstroke.

Jumped in straight like a pencil and swam backstroke for 10 meters.

Celebrations !!! After receiving their diplomas, the children celebrated by dancing around the pool. The colourful banners were placed there just for the occassion. Some parents bought flowers and little presents to give to their children. We bought AJAX ball for Ilham :D


Cat-in-Sydney said...

Mother of Ilham,
As a rule, cats don't swim. We hate being wet, you know.... purrrr....meow!

Cheqna said...

sometimes it takes a tragedy before a precaution measure is taken..but hopefully with it, loss of lives can be lessen.

good luck to Ilham!


i amsterdam said...

Dear Angelina,

I bet your graceful feline body will be spectacular in a wet-look... so don't be shy shy cat!

i amsterdam said...

Dear Cheqna,

Let's hope similar tragedy will never happen here or in m'sia. I do think with the no of drowning cases during the rainy season, we should hv similar training.

Nana said...

Great swimming lessons! I love the idea that they train the kids in our daily wear. It's a logical approach. I know it's not easy to float wearing t-shirts cause I have tried. Malaysian need this kind of training, very badly! And congrats to Ilham! All the best in the next challenge!

Ein Auzai'y said...

good for children to learn swim...some more a diploma....bagusnyer...salam perkenalan dari saya di ampang selangor.....singgah kembali....

i amsterdam said...

Hi Nana..

I do think children should learn swimming, it's a good execise too :D

i amsterdam said...

Hello Ein,

Welcome to our worlds!!

TK said...

Terengganu pun selalu banjir tau. The whole family knows how to swim except for me, hehe..I sorang je la berisiko lemas.
Good Luck to Ilham for his next diploma in swimming!

i amsterdam said...

Haahh TK that's why you should learn to swim!!

I too was the only person in the family who couldn't swim, even my mum could swim accross the river to the other side! I was determined to learn, finally after registering for 3 times & never completed my lessons, i did it in the 4th attempt!! Huhh.. berjaya juga...


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