perjantai 24. kesäkuuta 2011

Pooling around

I promised a post about international indoor pool hunting about... Well, ages ago. But now, halfway down the road, there's actually a lot to blog about on that subject.

I love swimming but there are always some exciting challenges to the first time you enter a new pool, even back home. Where do you get in, which areas can you be naked in and which lanes can YOU swim on? Believe me, it's not as obvious everywhere as you'd think. Or hope.

In Hong Kong I thought they've got this thing thought through when I realised I can use my Octopus transit card to pay for my entrance to the sports center. No ticket hassle! I had used the pool for a week when one day trying to enter and beep the card in the reader the supervisor all of a sudden jumped from behind his desk and shouted: "No no!" He didn't let me go through the turnstile I'd chosen and made me take another one - beeping the card again and thus charging me twice. He didn't speak English so of course the reason for why I couldn't enter the first turnstile remained a mystery.

In Crystal Palace National Sports Center in London I got a bad case of locker room confusion. I wasn't sure but I remembered the Brits being a little conservative when it comes to being naked in front of other people so the large open space dressing room with lockers on one side of the room and dressing stalls on the other produced a bit of a challenge. How am I supposed to carry all my stuff with a towel wrapped around me (bound to fall off) from the dressing stalls' side to the lockers, open the locker, put the 20p in, shove my stuff in, turn the key and lock the thing? 

When I tried that the towel did fall off, I locked my iPhone out and had to open the locker again, lost the 20p because the locker ate the money, put in another 20p and locked out my wallet, ran out of 20p's so had to go to the front desk in my swimsuit to change money and finally got in the pool 15 min later than I thought.

In Cologne, Germany there was a school class having a swimming lesson when I started doing laps on bahn drei, minding my own business. I'd done about 200m when all of a sudden between breast strokes I heard screaming from one end of the pool. When I get up to look there's a 10-year-old kid yelling face all red: "Bahn zwei, bahn zwei!" The teachers were clearing lane three for the kids and this guy seemed eager to get in so he participated in giving orders. So me and the two others finished our swim, oh yes, on bahn zwei.

In Seoul I've taken my dips in the 1988 Olympic Swimming Pool. It's a wonderful venue with great facilites (saunas, too!) but everything is in Korean there. I mean everything, not even the "woman" and "man" images to point out the dressing rooms. Of course I first tried to enter the guys' side. Good thing there's a staff member there to hand you the keys - he pointed me to the right direction.

They have a swimming cap rule here in Seoul, like they did in Hiroshima, so I had to borrow one again and while I stood by the pool waiting one of the lifeguards stepped into a storage room to get me one and when I got it I noticed it was purple with Winnie the Pooh on it. A cap of champions! Serves me right for forgetting my own cap home.

The thing is you'll always be an ass the first time you go to a public swimming pool anywhere. But after that first time of total embarassment it's the most wonderful thing to dive in the pool, do the laps and then take a sauna and sit with the locals there. Even if I don't always understand the language, the tone and the tempo is the same everywhere, so probably the topics are, too: life and the men in it.

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