The first wave of the 800 attendees to the summer swimming classes.

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"Uncle Mehdi... [inaudible squeal of a young child]?", asked one of the unruly children while another four stood beside also squealing for my attention. "No, I'm Uncle Daveed", I corrected before attempting to decipher the words from the squeal. It was just before this that Uncle Abraheim, one of the many instructors, had palmed-off half of the two-dozen 4-6-year old non-swimmers, as I sat in on the first of the season's swimming lessons in the sport complex I work. Initially I had been asked to "help out" both the instructors and lifeguards (essentially meaning observe, take notes and report back – quality-control or spying by another name) during this one-month period where just over 800-attendees were to sit through the 12-sessions. Although "help out" didn't necessarily indicate my direct involvement, it was when I observed Uncle Abraheim's division that I mucked-in – partly by request – yet to also cool down by taking to the water.

During the initial stages, Uncle Abraheim had asked the children to stand in a circle and hold hands. I saw a crying child – yet to be linked – took his hand and we joined the circle where I then asked him what was wrong. "I cannot", he repeatedly whimpered referring to his reluctance to put his face in the water. My overly animated examples and possibly reassuring words didn't seem to help, nor those of the equally as young child holding his other hand. The circle later broke and chaos ensued, Uncle Abraheim's most unified moment had passed as the children took matters into there own hands. Some carried on the techniques, yet most desolved into playtime as Uncle Abraheim chose to individually attend to his students. The many attempts to later regain control failed and my limited Farsi was unable to stop Uncle Abraheim's mutiny, yet in the anarchic conversion I saw light, "Uncle Mehdi?", requested the child who formerly couldn't put his face in the water, "Uncle Daveed!", I corrected as he placed his full face under the water to blow a fart-noise before lifting it with a grin.

Uncle Abraheim was alone in his difficulties as other instructors nearby confidently led their classes. I pondered the errors of his technique and felt an amount of responsibility in the disorder. Was it maybe the age-range I reasoned or his abnormally large class size, maybe the lack of preparation – either way my debrief with him seemed to raise no concerns as he shrugged and chuckled out, "Kids aren't they?".

circled by his various showering lotions that were one-by-one attended to with a special shower-glove

"Hurry up and get out the shower", screamed a lifeguard to a child, circled by his various showering lotions that were one-by-one attended to with a special shower-glove. The children – although staggered – exited the pool and cramped into the undersized changing rooms, battling for space and struggling to remember where they'd left their belongings. The younger children stood shivering in silence, seemingly incapable of clothing themselves in the absence of their parents before one of our team assumed the role mum. "Dry yourself and put on your clothes, your parents are waiting", I informed one child who stared back at me with no response. "Have you got a towel?" I followed up – partly joking, "no", he replied.

As I tidied up after the children who slowly exited to waiting families I placed baskets and sandals back by the entrance for the second of the three sessions. "Mr., is my son in there?", asked one of the three women inside of the doorway. I dropped a sandal or two in surprise and took a moment to answer. It is strictly forbidden for men to enter when women are in session and vice versa, yet other staff members, also at the entrance, seemed nonplussed. I stood stunned, overly conscious of my legs on display below my shorts as the need to run for cover gradually subsided to a realisation of cultural conditioning.

I chose to take my observations to the ticket office that unfortunately was still buzzing with late-comers hoping to make the next session. My decision for Uncle Daveed to "help out" in a more peaceful environment had led to further chaos as the bulk of parents, in no known order, shouted similar queries. They were as unruly as their children I considered, feeling the need to shrug and repeat the words of Uncle Abraheim, "Kids aren't they?".


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