A Simple Sunday Afternoon Swim

I wake up from my Sunday afternoon nap and look at the long boring afternoon ahead of me and decide to spice it up a little. There's a pool less than a mile down the road from my apartment. I decide to go try it.
I got out my cute little swimsuit. Let me just say, thanks to Weight Watchers, I am really excited to wear it for the first time. I had found one that was sophisticated and elegant and covered me in the right places. It's beautiful, really. And I was ready to show it off.
I cover it with my T-shirt and jogging pants, grab my flip-flops and pack my bag. I hop on my bike and in five minutes I'm there.
This is where the trials begin. I stand looking at the sign holding my traveling Italian dictionary. When does it close on Sundays? Well, 2:30 on normal days but not until 9 on holiday days. It's 2:15 now. Is today a holiday day or a normal day? And what about the price? Finally, I take a deep breath and go in. In Italian I ask what type of day it is - it is a holiday day, so they're open all afternoon. I'm trying to ask about prices, should I just go ahead and get a pass or pay for one day at a time? After looking at the fliers and digging through the dictionary, someone trys a little English. Tries. A little. Which, was more than my trying my little Italian. (I do know the Italian words for swim and for pool but don't know the words for things like "season pass" or even "How does this season pass work?") Anyway, after about ten minutes, and a growing head ache, I decide to just pay for today straight up. And then I go into the woman's locker room. Which is nice that it is separate from the men's. They have little stalls that you can change in. However, there are no doors.
I find my way out to the pool, but I can't get to the pool itself. All the turnstiles are for exiting. I'm looking, looking. How do people get in? I walk all around the pools. Actually, there are two outside - a kiddy pool and a big old Olympic size pool with lanes. I keep walking until I find a grassy area behind another building. This is where everyone is laying out. Umm... let's just say, that Italians are way less modest than Americans. Way less. So, from that park area, there is a little place leading to the big pool. But, again, the turnstile only leads out of the pool. I figure out that the little area that looks like a fountain is what you're supposed to walk through to get to the pool. OK. I guess I didn't figure it out - I just was tired of looking for any more options. So, I walked through it - and I'm finally at the pool.
I want to swim laps. But, all the lanes have someone in them. Some lanes have several people in them. Do you just jump in a lane? Do you have to ask someone? I see some people waiting on the end. Is there a system? I watch and watch and wait and wait. No one's getting in. But, I've already wasted half an hour just trying to get here. I sit my bag and towel down on a bench. It's the only bag and towel around. And I go to the end of the lane. And I jump in.
And the whistle blows.
I am not allowed to swim without a cap.
I have to wait by the side of the pool for this young buck of a life-guard to go find me a cap. He comes back with a bright orange one with bears on it and is so amused with himself he can't even stand it.
I have no idea how to put it on. I'm looking around checking to see how everyone else is wearing their caps (which, yes, everyone is. And goggles. Do I have to wear goggles? He didn't bring me a pair.). I'm hanging on to the rope trying to put this thing on my head. I'm trying not to watch the lifeguard laughing at me. I just want to go for a swim.
I finally get it on. And I swim. And I watch him go to every other lifeguard and point out the bright orange cap on the American idiot's head.
I swim and it's nice. A good workout.
Finally, I get out and wrap my towel around me. No one else has a towel. Are they going to try to take it away from me? Now, I'm entertainment for all the lifeguards. Crazy American.
At least I know four ways of exiting the pool area. Seriously.
So, I make my way back through the dressing room and back through the front desk area where the lady tells me that next time I need to speak all in Italian. Yes, thank you for the advice.
I am so happy to get on my bike and I'm so happy to walk in my front door.

Writing it doesn't seem as traumatic as it felt. And I can see the humor in it all now. But, during it I was exhausted. I didn't know anything that was expected of me. I just had to jump in and be the idiot. So, now I know the hours, and to not take a towel into the pool area, and to buy and then wear my own swimming cap, and I did see how everyone else got to the pool.

Sometimes, when you're learning a new culture you've got to sink a little so that you'll be able to swim.


MariaManges said…
i just caught up on your july blogs and i'm smiling, chuckling... can see you there! in your bear cap, wishing you could hibernate. i'm still huggin'
Katy Smelser said…
Oh, April, I really enjoyed your account of your first trip to the pool. Been there, done that. Not to scare you, but I think every pool has its own "culture." You have to always figure out the system before you can hit the water! Bathing cap or no?Mixed locker rooms and or separate dressing rooms? Shower first? Where do I put my towel and what coin do I need for the locker. Not to mention the payment plan.....

When I first came to Germany over 20 years ago I met two women from the church twice a week to swim. Germans swim like they drive: they don't budge out of their lane, especially if they are regulars, then they have THEIR LANE. ANd there was the man with only one leg, who tended to drift diagonally across the pool....

As I read your story I remembered one of the Mallorys' interns in Berlin. He went to the indoor pool at 16.45, saw a sign that said "FKK Swimming at 17.00", didn't know what it meant, paid his money and got ready to swim. He was in the pool less than 5 minutes when he realized that FKK stands for "Friekörperkultur", in English nudist club. He had a very short but expensive swim.

I really enjoy reading about your new beginning and adventures in Verona. Thanks for sharing.

God bless,
Brandy said…
I admire your ability to laugh at this experience and your desire to learn this new culture and love the people well. I can TOTALLY relate to being exhausted. I felt that way when we lived in Germany many times I went out and it really made me just want to stay in my house a lot. You are going with God and embracing the adventure. I love it!

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