Written by: Anna Hergt
Can you imagine living in a hot, dry town right on the ocean, but never going past the palm trees to get into the water? Me neither. I’m writing this with salty skin and sandy toes. Potrero is dreamy for someone who grew up spending summers turning into a prune and being called “little fish.” I started swimming when I was still a baby, and could barely move my chubby legs enough to get from the couch to the coffee table. Regardless, I plopped into every body of water that proved big enough to fit those chubby legs. Most likely because of this upbringing, one of the biggest shocks I encountered coming to this sleepy ocean town was that a vast majority of the women and children couldn’t swim.
I always associate swimming with some of the best times in my life. The first day of (hopefully!) a series of monthly swimming lessons with the kids at Abriendo Mentes was no exception, from the very beginning. We started off the day by walking together to the pool space so graciously donated to us by Villas Estival. We were fortunate to be close enough to not need transportation, but we sang wheels on the bus as we walked along anyways.
When we arrived the kids were asked if they knew some pool rules, which elicited some perfect responses; no peeing in the pool, no running, and no biting. Such wisdom! That was good enough for me, so one-by-one we slid into the pool along the wall, each pairing up with a volunteer and getting ready to swim. Altogether on the wall we practiced kicking, putting our ear into the water to “listen to the fishes,” blowing bubbles, BBBBBBBBBBB, and bobbing under.
After a quick break from all that excitement, we spread out into the pool for some more exercises. Most of the kids clung tight to their partner, but a few took off underwater and surprised us! Going back and forth from one side of the pool to the other, we practiced kicking, arm strokes, floating, and bobbing to “pop goes the weasel.” I had the pleasure of working with Leyci, a tough, sassy little girl I never expected to be so afraid of the water. Letting her cling tight when she wanted to, it was incredible to see over the course of an hour that she could finally loosen her grip, laugh, and have fun!
We ended the lesson with the kids on our backs as we all played sharks and minnows across the pool, having our little sharks yell “ONE, TWO, THREE, MINNOWS GO!” Though this was not the primary aim of the activity, as their teacher I couldn’t help but get excited that they were learning English words too! It gave us the chance to teach and reiterate words like kick, swim, under, other side, fish, shark, and more! To top it all off, during the five minutes of free time in the shallow children’s pool after the lesson, I heard them giggling as they yelled the English words out and practiced swimming some more on their own.
Stay tuned, as we are hoping to expand this program by offering additional lessons for the children and adults, and by teaching more about ocean safety and avoiding riptides.