Sunday, March 8, 2009

Whirlwind Warsaw!

Woooosh! That's how I felt about these past 4 days (two of which were spent traveling). I had an amazing time in Warsaw with my swimmers. Wednesday, the day before we left, was suspenseful. Florian, who was supposed to go with us as the other coach, wasn't able to get a visa from the Polish embassy. We kept hoping and wondering.... Wednesday night brought the news that our director would go instead. Thursday morning brought the news that Florian was approved.... Our director, Mark, ended up going, because by then, it was too late. (This was a good thing too since he got to see his daughter swim and he was an excellent tour guide!). I was a little apprehensive because of the rough start to the trip. Luckily, God taught me again not to "worry about tomorrow."

Thursday, we arrived at the luxurious Hyatt Hotel! I must confess that this was the best hotel that I've ever stayed. The bed was the most comfortable that I've slept in since last summer! The breakfast was amazing... omelets, yummy baked goods, fresh fruit salad, roasted tomatoes. When can I move in???? I made use of the underground pool on Friday. To. Die. For. It was like floating in a very well lit cave . One of my new coaching buddies from Budapest was down using the sauna. Wish I could have squeezed the sauna in too!

Friday and Saturday were all day pool events. Think 8:30 am to 5:30 pm. I was so intimidated and nervous by the caliber of swimmers that Warsaw, Budapest and Moscow brought. I tried to hide that from my 10 and really talked to them about swimming for a personal best. We also discussed encouraging each other and cheering each other on. They really listened! (The exception was my 6th grade boy "R" who said to one of the other kids after the 100 IM, "You know D, you're the only one has who disqualified." This was right before D was to swim his 100 meters backstroke... "I said, "You know, R, that wasn't exactly encouraging." R's response, "But it's the truth Miss DeKorte!" Maybe R's comment was just the thing D needed to hear. Not only did he qualify for the finals, but he then went on to get a bronze metal!!!!!!!) Anyhow, back to the point. ALL of the kids swam a personal best in EVERY event that they entered. For anyone who knows swimming at all, this is a miracle. B and D (two of my boys) shaved TWO MINUTES off of their 400 free times! K (one of my girls) took 30 seconds off of her 400 time! We had FIVE kids qualify for finals!!! (Another would have, except he DQed on Saturday during the 100 breast. H, one of my girls, DQed during the 50 fly finals... She was so sad, but I was so proud. She couldn't swim fly when she started on the swim team.) Friday, we were in 4th place out of 7 teams, but moved to 5th place by Saturday. Unfortunately, I didn't have enough strategy. Prague beat us out because the coaches had their girls swim 2 relays... more points. Dumb Holly. You live and learn. Yes, this is my very competitive side that many of you never knew existed. I'm so glad that it was a positive first experience for us all. (One of the Warsaw coaches was shocked that not only was it my first time coaching, and most of the kids' first time on a team, but it was actually the first year that we've had a team at all).

"D" swimming his award winning backstroke!

"B" getting his bronze for 50 meters butterfly.

Socially? I had fun. Friday night, we all went to the director's house for a coaches dinner. The catered dinner was fabulous. The ribs literally fell off the bone. I got to meet a ton of coaches from around Eastern Europe. It was amazing to hear where these people have taught and their life stories (one lady was actually on the Romanian National Swim Team in the early 80s. She was moved from her family when she was only 8 years old.) One of the P.E. teachers from Warsaw was at the dinner. He's also the drama teacher and a Poland native. He kept talking about how two gyms weren't enough for the school. Mark and I started laughing madly. We don't have a gym... or a pool... or a theater. We have Mosher Building. That coach/ drama teacher was a little bit flirtatious. He kept making and holding eye contact with me, but was talking to a group of people. That's always fun. Now, I don't even remember his name....

Saturday, Mark, Linda (from Budapest... the sweetest person ever!), Jeff (Canadian teacher at the Kiev QSI school), Olga (another Kiev teacher) and I walked around the old city center. The architecture was amazing and had charm by night. Mark had been there before so he was able to point out castles and statues of people. He also led us to the best place for hot chocolate outside of San Francisco! Linda and I shared a delicious chocolate crepe stuffed with delicious fresh fruit.
I was trying to get a picture of the cool buildings behind. Night pictures are very tricky. Any suggestions?

Honestly, I don't know what this building is. I just liked the lions, out front, and all of the beautiful lights.
Will I coach again? You had better believe it! This was a draining winter, but so, so worth it. Plus, next year the meet might be in Budapest. Another place to explore!
I finally got a snow day...


Jennifer said...

Your kids did so well!! I am so happy for you.

Philip said...

Go swimmers!

As for your night photos, I have a few suggestions for you.

1) Open your overly dark photos in some photo editing software. Try and play with the brightness/fill light settings. Here are a couple samples I tweaked with Google Picasa:

2) The SD750 has a "Night Portrait" mode. Might try that out.

3) Many digicams have a "Slow Sync" flash option. This will fire the flash, but also keep the shutter open for a longer period of time to let more background light in. This is great for pictures where you want to light up the people in the foreground but still get the nighttime background.

4) Read your camera manual and experiment before you actually want to get a good shot! Digital pics are free, so have at it :)


Melinda aka Passionfruit said...

too cool, you world traveler, you! Seriously, you another once-in-a-lifetime experience. I am totally living vicariously thru you!