Tuesday, February 11, 2014


Tori and I just returned from a swim meet in Warsaw. While we had a great time with the team and enjoyed watching some fast swimming, I could not get over the fact that I had last been in Poland 16 years ago. I kept wandering around Warsaw’s old town, spying cafes and restaurants that I had been to during previous visits. Much remains the same, particularly in the Old Town; the crumbling town wall, the many beautiful churches, and the cozy bohemian feel of the many restaurants, bakeries, and shops surrounding the main plaza. In previous visits, we sought out Eastern Europe’s only Taco Bell restaurant but now I was told it was long gone. Times change but not the American expat’s desire for Mexican food of any kind.
The short flight from Munich to Warsaw was smooth though there was a touch of the old Eastern European craziness as we were exiting the plane. Police were stationed at the plane’s doors checking everyone’s passports. I was holding some of the girl swimmers’ passports and stood by the police to pass them out. They said not to worry, they were only checking for a male criminal. The airport itself looked great, so clean and bright. I felt like I was in a different century until we left baggage area. Only then did I see a glimpse of the old airport, slightly darker, more smoking but even then the glimpse was fleeting.
The school hosting our swim meet took us to a large mall, where the kids walked around until the school day was over and they could be picked up by the families that would be housing them. I suggested we walk around the Old Town but this was immediately shot down by the teenagers. I did manage to hand out fact sheets about Poland before they all dispersed into the maze of commercialism. Truth be told, the mall was very pleasant, very Western.  I realized that Munich doesn’t have malls and the allure of this mall was not so much the buying but the being.
The meet itself was nicely run and our kids turned in some fast times. There too I was feeling my age. Many of the kids now wear “fast skins,” a type of elite swim suit that goes down to the knee and is made of a special fabric for compression and aerodynamics. Despite Tori swimming on teams for the past 8 years, I had never thought of getting her a fast suit. I just didn’t really understand them because I didn’t grow up with them. And then for the meet itself, I wrote down the splits of all the kids on the hard copy of the program; what coaches and parents have been doing for the past fifty plus years. Well, I discovered an app, downloaded to my phone, that gave me all the swimmer’s times, splits and placing. It was shockingly useful though I still had to put on my reading glasses to see what it was telling me.
For the first time ever, Tori made the finals in her three individual events. This was her goal and I was very proud of her. An added benefit was that the finals were shown via a live feed. So when Tori was announced and called to the blocks, everyone watching at home could see her. With the Olympics just kicking off in Sochi, Royce confided to me that Tori’s swimming on the computer screen was just like the Olympics. It wasn’t but it was so fun and made even more so with the help of technology.


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