9 January 2022
The struggle makes the reward all that much sweeter.
My family and I came to Panama over the last week of 2021 and early 2022. In addition to just looking for some great family time and a vacation, my wife, as we approach our mid-50s, are starting to "audition" places where we'd like to spend more time in our retirement. Panama is a really popular place for North Americans to retire, thanks to some generous incentives and its consistent climate, stable economy, great healthcare, and more. So, we thought we'd check it out.
For me, any place I will spend a significant amount of time in retirement has to have access to good pools. During our first bit of time in Panama City, we stayed in the old town, Casco Viejo. While that area, also known as Casco Antiguo, is full of old-world charm, some excellent hotels, a wonderful coffee shop (but generally over-priced restaurants with absolutely abysmal service), the one pool in the area, Piscina Muncipal de Plaza Amador, was off-limits due to COVID restrictions.
After spending some time on the Atlantic/Caribbean side in Bocas del Toro, we returned to the more modern, metropolitan part of Panama City, staying in the Calidonia neighborhood, both because there was a very reasonably priced Marriott Apartment Hotel with an outdoor pool where I could do ~20 yard laps at the edges ...
... and because I really hoped I'd be able to figure out a way to get into the nearby 50 meter, Piscina Olimpica Adan Gordon, named after a pioneer in Panamanian swimming who was Panama's "solitary Olympian" at the 1928 Olympic Games:
This pool dates to 1938, but had undergone a renovation in 2019, the announcement of which indicated there are general public hours. But, with no recent information I could find online other than Google saying it was open at 7:00am, I decided to walk over one morning to see what the deal was. When I arrived, I found a club team working out, a team I later found out was the Club de Natacion Aquatigers.
The coaches were warm and welcoming, but my Spanish is practically non-existent: I already knew that butterfly was marisposa and quickly memorized reves, braza de pecho, and estilo libre, but not much more. I applaud the coaches' patience with me as I fumbled between my Google Translate app and what I recalled from Steve Martin, my only prior Spanish tutor! Somehow, we managed to communicate and they offered me a fantastic deal: as long as I showed up at 5:30am when their main coach, Francisco, was on deck, I could pay a nominal amount and swim to my heart's content.
I came back each of the next three mornings, to find Francisco's smiling face, an offer of a kickboard, pull buoy and paddles, and lane 8 wide open for my soliatry use ...
I've had many magical swimming experiences over these last almost 15 years of pursuing this 1,001 pool goal, but this was certainly amongst the best. The universal language of swimming delivers joy again!