Volume One wasn’t strictly a swimming lesson, but there was a pool involved … well … sort of. This lesson wasn’t a lesson at all, but again, there was a pool and bathing suits involved.
My princess and I love swimming. When we lived in Dar, we hit the pool every week, and sometimes, we’d even go to the beach. The downside of swimming in the ocean is it has tiny little creatures … like urchins … and crabs … and some microscopic things that bite like needles. So while the current makes for great exercise, the living things sometimes cause injuries. Then, you have to get home and try shaking out the sand. There’s also the chance of having your clothes … or your baby … stolen, so I could never quite relax while swimming at the beach.
Pools, on the other hand, rule. Except, of course, for the chlorine.
We’ve been back in Nairobi for a year now, but somehow we haven’t gotten to the pool. Sadili Oval is just a short walk from my house, but I imagined it was quite expensive. Turns out it’s only a sock per head, making it a very viable option.
So, some Saturdays ago, we decided to have a swimming treat. I like to hit the water in the morning, to make full use of what I paid to enter. The system in Dar was to reach the pool at 9 when it was opening. I’d swim for maybe an hour, before the crowds arrived. We’d have the whole place to ourselves, and it was pretty fun. Great bonding.
By 10 or 11, the world would arrive. It was pretty small pool, so I’d get out, wrap up in some shukas … um … khangas … [lesos?], find a seat in the sun, plug in my headphones, and get lost in a book while princess played up to the crowds. She’s totally a people-person and I totally am … not. It’s not that I’m bad with crowds. I get along with humans really, really well. I just prefer not to, that’s all. So I’d sit and read for hours and she’d attend to her subjects. At 5 or 6 o’clock, we’d leave and take a tuktuk home. The pool had the best fries and samosas, so there’d be a food break in between.
Anyway, the game plan for Sadili was to leave the house at 9, but the aerial went rogue on us. The TV had been showing rice for weeks and the resident aerial guy was in shags for Christmas. He came back that Friday and spent hours on the roof with no luck. So we had to wait for him to do his thing, and princess was in a hurry. After several hours of tweaking, the TV was still showing rice, but at least now it was coloured rice – with sound.
We left for the pool at 1.00. Princess wanted to take a matatu, but I suggested we stroll instead. It was a nice walk, though we had to ask for directions. Civil Servants Estate has grown, apparently.
We arrived at Sadili to be told we couldn’t swim. Something about a broken pump and chemicals. Crap. We walked back to the stage looking miserable and decided to hit Lang’ata Hyper for the bouncy castle. I toyed with the idea of Nyayo Stadium, but I was a bit worried. The reason I was hesitant is because the pool is public and the water is green. Plus, we often swam there as kids, and the water always went over our heads. So, princess and I got into a 15 planning to get off at Uchumi, but then decided to just check out Nyayo. If it was too deep, we could always leave.
The Stadium is larger than I remember, and we spent 15 minutes just walking round in circles. For some strange reason, I couldn’t trace my way into the pool. Eventually, we found it and paid 150/= for the pair of us. The changing rooms were just as I remembered, but the seating stones were empty. Yay! There was a guard at the gate, so there were no idlers ogling the swimmers. There were even a few lifeguards giving lessons.
We changed and put our bag down, then I grabbed a wooden floater for my baby. The lifeguard roughly made me take it back, which I did with a lot of *russumfussums*. I slid into the water first, just to see how deep it was. Princess followed me, and the water came as far up as her chest. She’s taller than I thought!
And then the trouble began.
Nyayo Stadium has an Olympic pool. That’s 25 by 50 metres. By comparison, her school pool is a bathtub. The volume of the pool meant the water was c-c-c-c-coooooold. I didn’t mind this, since it felt awesome to be in a real pool again, but my poor baby was suffering. She jumped out of the pool every few seconds and eventually decided to just sit and bask.
I didn’t want to leave her all alone, especially since the basking spot was far. The edges of the pool were raised, so if I was swimming and she was basking, I couldn’t see her. I kept getting these flashes of that nightmare scene from Minority Report. Plus, I couldn’t see that many people sunning, so I half expected the lifeguard to make us stop.
I did a few more laps, 6 widths and 4 lengths. It felt awesome to be swimming again – actually swimming not just splashing around in a bathtub. Then I stepped out to join her. We didn’t lie down, because I was still afraid of the lifeguard. He had been rather brusque with me earlier. Princess had wanted a kickboard, so she made me ask for one.
At first, I wanted her to ask. After all, she wanted it, and she needs to learn to do stuff for herself. But I guess she reads people better than me. She took one look at the lifeguard guy and chickened out. I sulked for a bit then asked on her behalf … and nearly had my head chewed off. Apparently, kickboards aren’t for kids. They’re strictly for training … which you have to pay for … at 5,000/= per session. *russumfussum*
Anyway, we sat with our legs crossed on the concrete, enjoying the sun and watching people. After a while, princess started to giggle, because apparently, a puddle was forming around me.
‘Mum, is that really water or … something else?’
For the record, she didn’t censor *something else*.
I looked at the puddle and was puzzled myself. Where could all that water be coming from?! I decided to blame the hair.
We’d been sitting for a while when the girls showed up. Well, three girls and a guy, all ice cream and make up. The guy sat on the stone seats while the girls went into the water. Mr Lifeguard stopped them because one of them had a boobtop and black tights which, apparently, is not swimwear. He made her get one from the office – for a fee I guess. The process took half an hour, since someone had lost the keys, but the rented suit was really pretty hot, halter neck and beads. Very sexy.
Then the guys showed up. They must have come in turns, but all I know is suudenly there were hot bodies all over the pool. I was probably ovulating, because there can’t be that many hot men in one spot at the same time. This is Nairobi, not Baywatch.
There was this one pair of guys, one had dreads. They swam maybe two lengths, then stretched themselves out next to us. The first thing I noticed was the dreads, and the fact that he was lying on a bright pink kikoi. I mean … really?
Then I noticed the other girls were staring at him, and that they all suddenly came to lie around him. He had this loose circumference of girls pretending not to see him, but obviously drooling. A few of them did orchestrated stretches, probably flaunting their assets, but all I could see was the guy. I don’t even remember what his friend looked like.
For some reason, I looked over at Princess, and noticed that she was staring too, and she’s only eight!! She looked back at me and we both smiled, then turned to look at something else. Seems we have common taste in men. Hehehe.
There was another guy in the pool. Nice abs, but he had a swimming cap. There’s something very wrong with dudes in swimming caps. Next, I noticed this white girl walking round the pool. She kept going back and forth for like an hour. I don’t know what she wanted, but in the end, she changed and got into the pool. None of the lifeguards approached her.
Some kids arrived, but it was getting late and princess clearly didn’t want to swim, so we got up and left. We’d only spent an hour – maybe two, but we were both pretty happy until the makanga saga. I still wonder about the dreaded boy with pink. I wonder if he knew the girls were ogling him, or if he cared. If he did, he sure knows how to hide it. But then again, he was lying on pink with a man …