Getting along swimmingly

I had plans for today ... I was going to get up early, go to the swimming pool around 9:30 AM, do a couple of errands and then head to campus in the afternoon to grade, do some class prep, and administrative work. Well ... I've always said the best way to make the gods laugh is tell them your plans.

I got up late. Read and sent e-mail. Putzed around the apartment for a while. Finally got ready to go swimming at about 11. I went through my mental list of what I needed to take with me ... swimsuit, check. Goggles. Check. Swim cap. Check. Purse, hair brush, toiletries ... all set. Grabbed my hat and left the apartment. And then, about three quarters of the way to the sports complex, I remembered ... Towel. Nope. Not in my bag. I had a brief moment of "Oh ****. Should I go back and get one?" then remembered. This is Japan. I'm sure I can buy a towel at the club. Yep. Only 200 Yen. (~$1.85) Now, it wasn't a very big towel, so I actually got two. One for the before swim shower, and one for the after swim shower.

The Pool is wonderful. 25M long, 8 lanes ... 2 of which are dedicated to "walkers", 3 to lap swimmers, and 3 "open lanes" for whatever people wanted to do. When I had come to the pool last Sunday, it was utter chaos. Must have been 100+ people there. People were backed up for the lap lanes, the open area was full of parents and children so you swam at your own risk. The noise level was very high. I spent my 30 minutes in the pool in the walking area.

Today, a weekday, at noon ... the pool was a delight. Probably no more than 20 people total. I warmed up in the walking lanes for about 5 minutes then actually got to swim laps in the open area, even a few backstroke laps (my preferred stroke) without running in to anyone. What a pleasure. No matter what I feel like when I get to the pool, I always feel better after I get out of the pool!

At one point when I popped up at the end of the pool to take a brief breather, the man standing next to me said, "Hello" in perfect English with an accent that wasn't American. We starting talking. He and his wife are from South Africa, she's here working for Accenture for at least a year. We chatted a bit then went back to swimming our laps. I finished my 30 minutes of laps, added another 10 minutes in the walking lanes, then headed to the spa.

While I was soaking there, my new South African friend, Derrick, came over. We talked about the English translation on the sign telling us not to bring foreign objects into the pool area or they "might call us." We discussed the benefits of the jacuzzi jets on tired feet. Then he suggested we grab a coffee somewhere. Well, why not? I thought. I could do my errands later and do my school work tonight.

We walked to the station near the club where there are at least 4 coffee shops. We had a hysterical exchange with the cashier at Tully'S. Derrick was trying to order "off menu" ... He wanted a dish of ice cream that was half vanilla and half chocolate. The cashier was very confused. Sorry. Dekinai. You can't do that. You either get vanilla ice cream OR chocolate ice cream. Not half a scoop of each. He finally decided he'd take the chocolate, which, after all that, turned out to be coffee flavored ice cream. We had a good laugh over that. It reminded me of my first visit to Japan when my colleagues and I were trying to order one carafe of sake with two glasses. We just couldn't do it. Had to order two carafes of sake to get two glasses.

Then we sat for a couple hours and had a wonderful far reaching and funny conversation about Japan, the world, culture, education, etc, etc, etc. It was a delightful encounter. And he gave me a fabulous idea. He said that while they are in Japan, he and his wife "have dinner" with friends in South Africa ... via Skype. They plan a common menu, set up their Skype connection, and sit down to eat together. He said that after a few minutes it's just like they are sitting at the same table. Any body want to try it?



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