May 24, 2014
It just got hot. Really hot. And with the kind of shriveling sunshine that only 1,900-metre altitude could dole out.
But truthfully, I haven’t really minded the heat all that much. After this year’s harsh winter, I have found it a refreshing change to be battling. It has also been a bit helpful for me professionally, as it is much easier to sit tight with my looming mountain-o’-library-inventory when the usually tugging outdoors has a not quite so appealing tug anymore.
No, the heat war is a much more natural one for me. So long as I can take swimming breaks in the midst of it. Swimming. Ah, swimming. Sweet swimming! There was a time. Once upon that time . . .
The beginning of this school year brought a revelation from one of my local friends that she was about to head out for a 2-year service venture on the seas. As is common in this country, she had never learned to swim. She and another friend, consequently, decided they needed to learn, and so they asked me if I would be willing to instruct them. This was an easy “yes” for me. Sure, I felt like I had too much to do on any given day, but this would be one of those outlets that makes the rest of the duties manageable. They began to search for a pool for us. Finally they found one that was clean and pleasant, and not too far from our homes. It took some doing, but they succeeded in securing us a swim card that would last for the year. However, with the onset of the rains, and then the snow, we never ended up using our card until this spring. There were times I would have gone regardless, but it’s not culturally appropriate to swim when the weather is bad, even if the pool is safely secured against the elements. Finally, in April, the sun had returned steadily enough for us to begin our swims. We were in swimming heaven for the next month, snagging evening and weekend trips as much as we could manage. I did my best as a dutiful instructor, and also managed plenty of my own fun in the process: who knew I could manage two full-length laps of butterfly, in a row!?! And who could have predicted that my usual breaststroke-freestyle routine could so quickly morph into a discovery of the pleasant peace of backstroke? I mean, I didn’t even know I could do backstroke!
But then came the day, the fateful day. M received a phone call. “We are so sorry to inform you that, as of this day, our pool can no longer allow foreigners to enter . . .” Simple as that. It seems my suntan and swim-capped hair did nothing to hide my glaring foreignness. It’s the nose that gave it away :-)
In all seriousness, however, I must admit to being a bit stunned. And humbled, as I realized that I have never before felt anything remotely like true discrimination. I have lived a privileged, golden life of access. And suddenly, I can do nothing to change the lack thereof. I am grateful for the lesson. And, incidentally, hugely grateful for an early wedding present of a humidifier.
**So the next day, at the close of a sweltering afternoon, the skies caved in. As we cleaned up from the graduation ceremony, a loud clap of thunder sounded. Minutes later, the rains came. People began to take shelter and look for umbrellas. I went outside with the little ones.