February 28, 2010

Cambodia's answer to Michael Phelps

Thinking back to my initial assessment of the Phnom Penh Sport Club as a major status symbol for the foreign, wealthy and beautiful, today I had an interesting experience at the pool. Saturday evening must be a good time to show off your gym membership because the pool was very crowded with Cambodians. After asking permission, I slipped into the fast lane with the older Khmer gentlemen. A few hundred yards later, the old men were gone, and I stopped to chat with some of the new volunteers who had accompanied me. Surveying the patrons, we gawked a moment at the chiseled, tanned Khmer man in a black Speedo and Cambodia swim cap (I do miss swim team). He dove into the fast lane and swam with an expert stroke—an absolute oddity in Cambodia. I took it upon myself to judge if he was fast or not, so I ducked back into the lane to see if I could catch up to him—A few years ago, I would've had no problem, but in my current three-years-off-season, my pace isn't what it should be! I was exhausted after several lengths at that pace, and I stopped at the wall. In true swimmer fashion, he did a flip turn right in my face. That was my cue to try to keep up.

When he stopped to rest, I started a conversation. Turns out that he was on the Cambodian national swim team (hence the cap, but who knew Cambodia had a swim team?), and now he is a coach at the international school. He also teaches swimming lessons at the Sport Club and is training for the triathlon in Siem Riep. In our caps and goggles, we had a nice chat. Swimmers are universally agreeable--it's some by-product of inhaling chlorine gas all day.

It's amazing who you can meet at the Sport Club!