Friday, October 10, 2008

My night at the Sportivny Zall

I’ve adopted a routine for eating. I pack myself a lunch while eating breakfast at home and then I go back to school before the cafeteria closes at 7:00 to eat dinner. I only get about 20 minutes to eat lunch, so I don’t go far with my sandwich and apple. Dinner is my favorite meal because it’s reasonably nutritious and often quite tasty. And I’ve never managed to spend more than about $8.50 regardless of how much stuff I pile onto my tray.

Last night I brought my workout clothes when I returned for dinner. I was hoping to lift weights afterwards, and I did manage to find the Sportivny Zall (Hall of Sport) but I was unable to find the weight room. Finally I found a faculty member who spoke some English and learned that we were just outside the weight room but that nobody was allowed to use it without training and supervision. We talked for a long time, and I assured him that I’m healthy enough to use his weight room in spite of my supposedly advanced age and that I do so three times a week at home. He finally decided that my story held up and so he told me the times when the bodybuilding coach would be in the room. Let’s just say that the windows of opportunity were limited and inconvenient.

As we talked the janitor came to clean the weight room, and it certainly is the nicest I’ve seen in Belarus. I’d love to use it, but it’s just not to be on this trip.

Still, I fell upon an excellent Plan B. I asked about volleyball, and the coach told me that there are volleyball classes three evenings each week and that I could possibly play. As we were discussing this, the volleyball coach happened by and he gave me an official invitation to go upstairs an hour and a half later to play. Hot dawg!

So, I took my homework to a quiet place and puzzled over verb conjugations until time to suit up for Volleyball. I walked into the gym and found the soccer group cleaning up and the volleyball group stretching out. I stretched too. Nobody said a word to me at first, but then a guy named Alex came over and took me in. He’s been in the USA twice and he speaks flawless English. That made things a whole lot easier.

First we warmed up the way I’d read about but had never really convinced my volleyball-playing friends to do quite so rigorously. Having played no volleyball since 1994, this time proved crucial for me and I got the ball under control before entering a game. Fear #1 allayed. I wasn’t smart enough to realize the proper scale for Fear #2, about whether these guys would be a lot better than me. Honestly, I’ve never seen a volleyball go so fast, and certainly not on a routine basis. Especially the one that hit me in the face when I went up to block a spike. Ouch! I’m just glad it hit me in the eye and not on the nose.

The coach didn’t offer any intervention this evening, but these guys obviously know a lot more theory than I do. Mostly they were nice about having me slow down their game, and I had a great time and a great workout. I asked if I could come back and Alex said yes before his friends had a chance to think about it. I will.

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