Thursday, November 16, 2006


Yesterday I went swimming at Dom Sportova (it is in Trg Sportova, which you can find on a map here). First, I must tell you that I swam about 1,600 to 1,800 yards daily for the last two years. I even won a race across the Ohio River at Paducah, KY, where I grew up. I love to swim. But I haven't been in the pool since August, when I left Champaign. I arrived here and found out where the pool is and when I can go, but somehow I thought it would be too hard to find, too far from my apartment, and too complicated to go there. I did play tennis in the meantime, thinking that the courts down the street would be a good substitute. I did like tennis, but it isn't so great in the rain or cold, and partners are not always available. Yesterday, after finally feeling settled into my new apartment after living here for three weeks, after finishing up some aspects of my work, and feeling like I needed something interesting to do in the day, I walked to Dom Sportova with a backpack full of equipment: swimsuit, goggles, cap, shapoo, soap, comb ...

The walk on a sunny day through a leafy neighborhood took me about 20 minutes and I found my way easily and actually enjoyed it (I have to note that my cousin works across the street from Dom Sportova so I had been to that area once or twice before). First hurdle passed fine.
At Dom Sportova, I made my way to the mali bazin, the small pool, that is used just for training. At the cashier's desk, I paid for my entrance of 15 hrk (kindly discounted from 25 hrk because I came at the last 45 mintues of the 11.30-13.00 session), and I asked for information about how to proceed with changing etc. The cashier took me to the changing cabins for women and introduced me to the woman working at the garderrobe. I like the changing cabins because of the privacy, which I didn't have at the UIUC swimming pool. I like the garderrobe lady because she took my things and gave me a number for them. She also told me that I had to shower before I could enter the pool, which is great because it means that the water is really kept clean since she is probably making everyone do this.

When I walked into the pool area, I noticed that the people in the pool were almost all men. I also noticed that the light from outside came in, giving the place a nice resonance with summer, even though this is Novemeber (studeni click here for the names of months in Croatian and their origin). There were two lanes of swimmers listening to a man tell them what to do (I guess this is a swim club) and three lanes of swimmers. Two of those lanes were slow and one was more fast, so I went into the fast lane.

As I was swimming in the fast lane, I found a metaphor to describe how the pace was. It was like driving a car on the expressway here in Croatia. There are some cars that are going too slow and holding up the traffic, frustrating the other drivers. It was hard to find my timing as I am used to swimming in my own lane, or sharing it with one other person. I like to swim at a consistent pace and to lose my thoughts in that pace, so it is annoying to be slowed down. After about ten mintues, the swim club left, and my lane was less full, I guess some people migrated over, and some left. I was trying to push them out, so fine with me. And then I had a really nice swim for about 10 mintues. It was a really nice experience. Then I was exhausted and finished for the day.

In the shower room was an old woman who was there on my way into the pool-now she was washing her feet, with great lather. When I left, she was still there. The shower heads turn on automatically and the water temperature is comfortable. The garderroba lady is outside the glass door, monitoring. When you walk out of the shower room, she brings you your things, and you proceed to the cabins to get ready for the outside world. Much more comfortable than I can say for UIUC.

I was thinking about drying my hair, but as it wasn't really cold, and I was hungry and wanted to go home and eat, I skipped it. But I have to next time. No, not because of the cold. Because these are the coolest dryers I have ever seen. The way this works is that you sit on a wooden bench, with your back to a wall and your head under a hood (it looks like the hood over a fireplace) that is an extension of the heating system-all of this is easy to figure out because the pipes are exposed. The color is yellow. It is really super cool. Women are using this. It is great. It is exciting because I don't know what it will be like. Will let you know.

As I said, I was hungry and I wanted to go home and eat. So, I thought about walking but I also knew I would need to cross the train tracks by the Zapadni Kolodvor (click here for tram map) and take tram 1 to my place. And it was a thrill to walk out the door, cross Magazninska street, up the embankment, through the opening (it looked like it wasn't the result of vanzalism, but part of the design so that people could pass there) in the 6 ft tall cement barrier, covered with grafiti, across the train tracks (just after a local train passed) to the the other side, then walking across some grass to Hanuseva street (here is a map), where tram 1 was waiting for me. I wasn't alone in this, there was a young woman carrying folders of the type I see lots of students carry around town. Then a nice tram ride home. It was all about 15 mintues. The great thing is that I can take this route if the weather is wet or cold.