Swimming in the 4th Driest Country in the World

It’s kind of nice being good at swimming here because it’s something that I can say I’m better at than a vast, vast majority of Jordanians. I should try out for the Olympic team or something. It’s not very surprising considering that Jordan is the 4th driest country in the world and has about the same amount of coastline as my home state New Hampshire (like 20 km). They do have quite a bit of shore front property on the Dead Sea, but unfortunately, more than a third of that “sea” is actually salt, so “swimming” is non-existent (but Jordanians sure get good at bobbing in the salty saltwater instead). Needless to say, swimming is not an integral part of childhood here.

I’ve had two great experiences with swimming with the students so far:

1. Puking at the Swim Meet. The swim coach jetted off to India for a week a while back and I was left with the rag-tag bunch of King’s students that calls themselves the swim team. Conveniently enough, this was also the week of the first swim meet, so I had the pleasure of coaching the crew in the first meet. I was nervous we would embarrass ourselves because there are very few swimmers who can dive, do flip turns and do all four strokes, or even do two of those. The swim meet day came along and the competition strolled in – eight feisty 8-12 year olds to take on our high school swim team. Why did they bring little kids? I have no clue, but we had to make do with what we had. At first I was a little relieved – at least we can beat little kids! And then, I realized, well… perhaps not. A few of the races went well, but the little people ended up beating out swimmers more than once, which was incredibly embarrassing for our high schoolers (some of the kids were so little they had to be lifted out of the pool). To top things off, one of the swimmers pushed himself so hard to try to beat the little kids that he puked all over the deck after his race, then tried to run to the bathroom but didn’t make it, puking and falling in his own vomit. After he did make it into the bathroom, he eventually puked what was left all over the bathroom. A successful start to an illustrious swim coaching career.

2. Swimming for the First Time – On Friday, my weekend duty was to supervise free swim. Three kids strolled in and one of them said “I’ve never swam before – it’s easy, right?” Well, I took that as a cue that I wouldn’t be watching from the sidelines, so immediately disrobed and hopped in the pool right away. Glad I did too. Even though he was tall enough to stand in the shallow end (though not by much, puny little 5 ft tall, 90 pound freshman), he immediately started sinking and drowning the second he got in the pool. I lifted him up while he squirmed and freaked out, calmed him down, and eventually set him on his feet. No, buddy, it’s not easy. It was fascinating watching him be in water for the first time – I had never seen someone so old experience swimming for the first time, and it kind of blows my mind that it’s not an intuitive thing for humans. He definitely didn’t get the hang of it, but maybe I’ll be able to teach him some skills throughout the year.

Wish me luck as I continue my quest to be one of the best swimmers in the country.

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Posted on November 16, 2009, in Jordan, Living Abroad. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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