Yesterday evening I took the last bus out to the swim center (about 4 miles away and kind of in the middle of nowhere). I had an hour to kill as the last bus arrived an hour before the swim practice started, but I hung out in the McDo that's over there and just used facebook and email for a while.
It was finally time for me to head over to the swim center (and by time I mean still about 30 minuntes early, but I had nothing better to do.) I asked the lady at the counter about the swim club, the adult swim team, the team that was meeting tonight, and finally she helped me with the proper name which is “Montlucon Natation” because none of the other ways I said it where comprehensible apparently. In any case she told me to wait around since it was still too early to go in.
In the meanwhile I chatted with some guys who had a table set up. In fact it looked like maybe they were doing swim team registration so I talked to them. However they actually run a (snorkeling?) class. Actually it seemed as if the class was just to use flippers and I wasn't quite sure why they needed a class for it but whatever. They were trying to convince me to join with such phrases as “The ladies love it for the thighs” to which I responded “I'll pass mine are already fantastic.”
I would be really impressed with my oh so witty reply except then they corrected the gender agreement in my witty remark. Oh well, can't win them all.
After some slightly perturbing dressing rooms ( co-ed but with individual changing cabins, always giving you the impression that you're just about to walk in on a naked person) I made my way out to the general pool area. The place was filled! There was the flippers group, a water aerobics class and the swim team. I finally made my way over to the swim team and chatted with one of the coaches basically saying “I'm an American, I'm here as an assistant and I like swimming. I want to join the team.”
The coaches were actually huge sweethearts and really helpful. I had too much leave in conditioner in my hair and my swim cap wasn't staying on, so one of the coaches just went to the back and got me a team one. He helped me put it on too (just the same way we do with the campers at Glen Spey!)
I joined the lanes and started swimming. The workout was on a white board but between the French handwriting and the exercise names I had lots of questions. The coaches kept checking in with me and explaining all the moves. The funnier part would be when I would pop up for a question and a French person would have the same one! Also, I'm not sure which, but one of the them kept stopping me so that he could show me videos of the when the American Olympic team was in Vichy and he got to meet some and watch them swim!
Afterward I started talking to two women, one, Charlotte is about my age. I asked them both if they were heading back towards centre-ville by any chance and if they could give me a ride. ZUT, neither was heading in that direction. I asked a few more people as I left the changing area, but once again, no luck. There's only so many times you can ask people you don't know in a foreign language before you get emotionally exhausted. I decided that I should have planned better and I would just be stuck walking the four miles home (on a path I only kind of know. At night. In the middle of nowhere.)
As I started down the side of the highway, a car pulled over and rolled down it's window- “Anna! Viens-ici!” It was Charlotte, my savior. She said that I was crazy for walking and she was going to give me a ride, no protests allowed.
I wasn't protesting that much- trust me.
As we headed to my place she told me how she was a nurse and working in Montlucon. It's her third year on the swim team and I think she's around my age. She's also now my favorite person in the town. As she dropped me off it turns out there was a van dropping off someone else from the swim team just ahead of me. I jumped out and talked to the guy who was dropped off to hopefully get in on that carpool as well. I won't be back to swim until next Monday (I have an orientation tomorrow at Clermont- Ferrand), but I'm a lot more excited of the prospect now that I have a ride.
I can't explain the range that my emotions went through as I was turned down by multiple people for rides through when Charlotte pulled the car over to pick me up. If you know someone who has just moved to the area, is trying a different language or just making an effort to reach out, please let them in, just for a moment. You probably don't realize that quick drop off you have them meant, but it meant a lot.
Because of the wonderful internet, it's even easier to find people these days. Couchsurfing is a favorite of mine as it connects people in an region and had meet ups available as well. Also look into welcome groups for your town as a few have them.
Sorry this post ran way longer than expected! I'll post tomorrow about my first few introductory lessons.