When I lived in Baltimore I used to swim all the time. It is by far my favorite exercise, and it keeps me happy and healthy (well, not all by itself, but you get the point....) When we arrived, I was excited that there is a pool on the kibbutz, but the pool basically closes when school starts. I guess they figure it is mostly for the kids, plus all the lifeguards are school teachers.
I have asked around, but was worried that swimming elsewhere would be too pricey. When we lived in Jerusalem it cost 50 shekel a pop to go swimming. Not even per day-- after you spent the 50 to get in, if you left for lunch or something you'd have to pay again for reentry. And that's at a pool that is swimming with food wrappers and cigarette butts, and the lanes are so close together that you rub against people on both sides as you swim! (It used to remind me of the Simpsons episode when Bart got up in the middle of the night and erased all the lines in the parking lot at school and repainted them a little too close together so when people drove up in the morning and parked no one could open their car door...) There was a yearly membership rate, but it was something insane-- thousands of dollars if I recall.
I was told there is a kibbutz nearby with an indoor pool, and I was also told that people swim at Sachne. For those of you really avid readers, you may remember the big touristy place we accidentally went to twice in one week, that is actually a stunningly beautiful natural spring that is humungous and beautifully tended, with an assortment of waterfalls and all sorts of death traps for children, and packed with tourists--- especially in the summer. Well, expensive as it is for a day (though slightly more than half of the price of the garbage and cigarette infested Jerusalem pool...), it turns out they have very reasonable yearly membership rates. And while they are outdoors, they are open year round, and the water stays at a stable 28 degrees C (82 point something F) all year. AND the kibbutz has a group membership that makes it substantially cheaper.
I kept putting off looking into it. I guess something about driving down the big mountain and trying to swim my way around all the tourists didn't seem so appealing. But I was feeling desperate for a swim, so I started looking into it last week.
I tried calling, but no one answers the phone and there is a machine that is full. I tried that for a few days. Then when I was going to be down the mountain anyway last Sunday I thought I'd just drive over there (it is right at the bottom of the mountain, making it a 10 minute drive). Unfortunately, I had Abaye with me (long story), so I couldn't actually go for a swim, but I thought I'd go inquire.
The woman informed me that a family membership would be 440 shekels for the year. The whole year! That sounded good! That's what, like a little more than 100 dollars. BUT...... First of all, the membership is only goes from January to January, so if I get it now, I'm paying all that for less than 3 months. Which honestly is about what I paid in Baltimore to swim (and that was only because we got a big rabbinic discount), but you just kind of feel ripped off, if you know what I mean. AND second of all, the woman said it would be really ashame to pay all that and not be part of the kibbutz package, though it is too late to join the kibbutz group now. So it seemed her advice was to not swim for 3 months in order to not be missing a bargain. I respect that.
I couldn't swim that day anyway, so I decided to see what the group price was, figuring maybe I could bargain with the manager. I asked the secretary in the kibbutz office, and for a FAMILY from our kibbutz to use Sachne for a YEAR costs FIFTY SHEKEL!!!! That is to say, like, TWELVE DOLLARS. FOR THE YEAR! FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY!!!!
So NOW how can I possible pay 440?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?! (Jodi-- I know YOU understand me!)
I said to the secretary that maybe I could tell the guy what members pay and explain that I am a new immigrant and so I wasn't here for the membership, and maybe he would make me some kind of deal.
She responded, "NO! You can't tell them what we pay individually!! That might make them raise our rates!" We pay one group fee, and as many families as want to go in split that cost. I guess she is worried that if they know how many people are chipping in they would charge more.
So I went back down there today, and I asked to speak to the manager. He was very short (in the sense of not patient or responsive), and said that the rate is the rate, but I can pay as an individual 170 shekel. This seemed much better and totally outrageous at the same time. But what am I gonna do, so off I went to pay.
When I got to the woman at the front, she asked what he offered me, and I told her 170. She said that's not bad. I said, yeah, I suppose, unless you consider that it is probably 3 times what I could have paid for the whole year. She said, "Nah, they pay around a hundred each." Bite tongue.
I asked if I could pay for the day to make sure I like it, and then upgrade to a membership on my way out. She said no, but that I could go in for free today and pay next time. That works.
I went in and gave myself a tour of the place (I asked her if she would, and she said she can't but I should take a map. The map, incidentally, only shows how to get to the place from outside, and how pretty it is. It includes NO information about the facilities about which I was asking...). I checked out the showers and walked around the entire perimiter of the water (which is big, including 3 large pools and at least 4 waterfalls) so I'd know what all the possibilites are. I scoped out picnic tables (thought I'd do a little writing after my swim-- Jodi - you inspired me!), and chose a spot to put my stuff. My stuff was not much, since the place is notorious for having things stolen. I asked the woman at the front if she thought my clothes were safe and she said yes. So I left everything in the car except my clothes and sandals, and I tied the car key around my wrist and went in.
People had recommended swimming between the big water fall and the bridge (it's like 200 or 400 meters). That seemed like a good idea. There were mind of a lot of people there, but nothing at all like the summer (mostly European tourists-- apparently Time magazine rated it the most beautiful place in Israel, and one of the 20 most beautiful places in the world), and the spring is HUUUUUGE, so I really didn't have to worry too much about swimming into people. So I left my clothes and sandals on a picnic table bench, and went to down to jump in among the fishies. Literally. The place is teeming with them. They reluctantly scootch a little as I lower myself into the water (the water is all deep, so not much gradual entry except holdng onto the rock as you slide in). I swim all the way down to the waterfall. I am about to go back, and I think, wouldn't it be refreshing to stand under the waterfall (we are in the middle of a heat wave here). I go under, and the waterfall is pounding on my back, giving me the most extraordinary massage (and I happen to have a crick in my neck from the last couple of days, so it was awesome!). I am moving my shoulders back and forth to maximize the massage, and taking it all in, when I suddenly notice the gentle nibbling on my feet, as I have become a brunch buffet to a school of fish. It doesn't actually particularly hurt, but for reasons I can't explain but I bet you can understand, I don't want the fish nibbling on my feet. But I don't want to leave the waterfall either. So my shoulders and back and head are relaxing into the waterfall, while with my feet I start doing a mad dance to frighten away the fearless fish. This works for a little while, but it gets annoying and I head back. On my next round I do the water fall again, but head right back when fishy lunchtime starts.
I also tread for awhile in the deep end, something I wasn't so into before, but when it means watching the stunning view and being a part of this natural amazing wonder all around you, it's pretty nice.
Eventually I get out. No towel necessary around here. I throw on my clothes (which have been neatly placed on the tippiest corner of the bench of the picnic table, which is now inhabited by a big party from some place whose language I have never heard (I actually think they are from Miami and were faking it so I wouldn't take them on for moving my stuff).
I head to the car for my laptop, and find a new table to start writing. This goes well for awhile, until another party decides that my table is perfect for them, and they start crowding around like we are all sitting down for lunch in middle school and we just sit wherever there are empty spots at tables. There is a very similar empty table with the same shade literally one tree away, but I figure that resettling is going to buy me limited time around here, and my concentration is waning. At this point I was already bone dry and dripping with sweat (had it been ever a half hour?), so I decide it is time to head home for the air conditioning.
BTW, When I told Ross about the cost, he said, "Hey, can we get a family membership so I can go too?" So we'll have to see what happens next. Will the Singers buy a family membership? Will Emily keep asking to go in once to try it out hoping the lady won't notice? Will Ross shave really well before and go in on Emily's membership? Stay tuned for the next episode of "The Mundane Adventures of the Singers in Israel, when Adin eats shwarma and says "That was yummy!"
Till next time,