Sunday, November 13, 2011

To Feel A Part

So many things have kept my attention these last few days that I, A) haven't had time to share them and, B) don't even know where to begin!

The Paralympic Village is a pretty fascinating place. Hundreds of athletes from all over this continent, all gearing up for the same thing. There is so much pride and strength here. There are flags of each country hung over balconies of appropriate assigned apartments. The US has two assigned apartments that sit adjacent to each other and, even though they are not the tallest nor largest of buildings here, they seem to tower over most.

In the US building next door there is an althlete lounge and clinic, both of which I have been spending a lot of time. In the clinic, my arms have made a new best friend, Brian, who is our Team trainer for this trip. He has been diligent about making sure that my muscles and all surrounding components are up to par leading up to my first race. The Athlete Lounge is a haven of technology in this little village in which I have no cell phone coverage. There in the lounge you can chat it up with friends on the couch will chowing on 'Nilla Wafers, or call home free of charge--thanks to AT&T, catch up on Facebook status updates, or even witness a heated game of poker amongst 4 visually impaired athletes. It's a trip.

We have been traveling to the pool every morning to finish up our taper training. DAY 1 of competition was today; however, I don't swim until Wednesday. We successfully brought home 2 gold medals for tieing an event! The pool is beautiful with subtle reminders of strength and courage hidden within the finely-chiseled walls. The water feels good and it is so awe-inspiring to take a breathe and let your gaze rest somewhere high up in the spectator bleachers.

Last night, we attended Opening Ceremonies where I felt overrun with emotion for this entire experience. My words won't even be able to touch you here. Between surrounding yourself with the cultures and traditions of the other countries; parading into a crowd of thousands cheering, "USA! USA!); being inches away from traditonal Mexican dance and song; and for the first time ever feeling like I had really deserved to be there and really be a part of it all-- it was utterly astounding and brilliant in every sense. I'm just not quite sure how to relay the amount of energy and positivity that came out of being a part of the parade, cheering on Team USA all the while being cheered for as well. There were so many cultural connections that were made among teams-- dancing and photos with the Guatamalans and Brazilians, receiving a Mexican flag during their own procession becoming a part of it all, singing and laughing and cheering with everyone.

Along the same lines, my absolute new obsession for this trip has become the exchange of countries pins--flags and symbols that display cultures and traditions in a little gold-plated pin. It helps to have a swim buddy and roommate that is Latin by birth, and it also helped to have her do your makeup before Opening Ceremonies! As of right now I am currently the proud owner of pins from: Mexico, Brazil, El Salvador, Peru, and Columbia. I'm hoping to hit up the Argentinians and Cubans tomorrow!

That's what I've got for now. Buenas noches amigos.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

I Swim Because...

"Why do you swim?" I was asked bluntly the other day.

One would suspect that I had a myriad of colorful answers complete with grandiose hand gestures... but the truth was, I didn't. Perhaps it has become such a part of me that I have trouble recognizing its friendship with me; but whatever the case, I decided that it is probably something very important to answer. So here it is...

I swim because it gives me a sense of my old self.
I swim because I don't have to rely on anything or anyone to do it.
I swim because my legs are free to move any which way they'd like.
I swim because it's the only time I always know what I am doing.
I swim because otherwise it would over take my dreams.
I swim because the dancing water all around me calms my soul.
I swim because I enjoy working my heart out at the wee hours of the morning.
I swim because I have always done it better than any other sport.
I swim because it is the only physical way of projecting my true spirit.
I swim because I owe it to myself to.
I swim because I am too clumsy for land.
I swim because my brain only knows how to breathe in the form of bubbles.
I swim because it's the only way I've ever been able to meditate.
I swim because it reminds me of being 8 years old. 
I swim because the world is silent underwater.
I swim because it makes me feel powerful and full of life.
I swim because I made a promise to myself to try.

In less than two days I part for the biggest swim of my life to date--the ParaPan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico. Fingers crossed for internet access to document this journey...