Monday, 26 August 2013

Aachen Chronicles: The time I went ice-skating

This one time, when I was living in Aachen, I saw an advertisement at the student center - Ice skating this Saturday. I saw the paper, I had a pen, I realized I could figure out a German ad - so I took the next logical step - I signed up.
Now this is not a big thing, except for the fact that I had never really been on ice before. There is an ice-skating rink in my hometown of Kolkata. I go there quite frequently actually. But it has not served as an ice skating rink since I don't know when. It hosts all sorts of exhibition and fairs instead.

"How difficult can it be?", I figured. Very difficult, as it turned out.

I met up with the other students who had signed up at the scheduled time and place. They were all super excited to go ice skating, some even brought along their own skates.
Up on the bus we went and reached the SportPark where the indoor rink was. A deposit later, I had my own pair of skates. Next we headed to the locker rooms, locked our bags, put on warm jackets (inside the rink, it is very very chilly) and off we went into the rink. Off they went I mean. I could not even stand up. I was upset and angry at myself for signing up without a second thought. I was still new to the city and did not know the place well enough to go back on my own. Also, I had paid the deposit and entry fee and on my student budget, I was not willing to see the money go to waste.

Have you ever seen a pair of ice-skates? They are essentially knives wedges under shoes. Who came up with that idea? I can't even walk in a pair of heels, how was I going to make it to the ice from the locker room?
The skates

At the locker room
I waddled around the empty locker room a bit and five minutes later, I was thinking to myself, hey this is not too bad... I can do this. I waddled all the way over to the rink, holding on to walls for support.

Stepping onto the ice, all my years as a student of Physics came rushing back at me. How do I walk on a wet smooth glassy surface in my knife-wedged boots. In all my life, I have never been on a more slippery slope, literally. I stood insider the rink, right at the edge, white knuckled, grasping at the low wall that bordered the rink. All around me, people glided by, dancing and swirling and laughing - weightless and elegant on ice. Little kids did little pirouettes on ice in front of me, showing off. I guess no body told them how you needed friction to walk ... I figured, the knowledge of Physics is inversely proportional to one's ice-skating skills.

People gliding by

The kids unafraid and so excited to be on ice
Suddenly, one of the girls I met on the bus noticed me standing in the corner and came up to me. The moment I let go of the wall, I fell flat on my back. After she helped me up, I wouldn't let go of the wall any more, not trusting her. Then a few others came over and started talking to me, promising me how much fun it would be. Two took me by the hands, and slowly, I was skating - not on my own though, pulled by my new friends.
Learning to skate
Once they let me go near the edge of the rink, I managed to drag myself along the wall without falling. Although I couldn't let go of the wall, at least I was moving. I began to enjoy myself.
Then came a whistle and every one cleared out of the rink. A Zamboni came on the ice and polished it and rink was once again open for skating.

The Zamboni polishing the surface

The Zamboni - my nemesis

You see, by the time I had started moving, the ice had already been cut up by skates of others and hence was rough enough to provide me with ample friction. Once the ice was polished, I had to grab on to the wall with all my strength to keep myself upright. To the credit of my newly made friends, they did not abandon me and by the time the rink closed, I could manage to do a version of ice-skating that would be respectable for a five-year old. 

On my own on ice
I left the rink and headed to the locker room with my group of mentors, my achievement shared by them - we hi-fived and laughed and headed to the bus stop sore and tired and hungry.

On the ice

In the locker room, after a tiring day of skating

Hi-fives all around

At the bus stop: My friends from Spain, Greece, Indonesia, Turkey, Korea and Poland


At lunch post ice-skating
Then somebody suggested lunch and all of a sudden, I found myself sitting at a truly international table chatting away like old friends with people I met by chance on a cold morning on a bus to an event which I had no sane reasons to attend - people who willingly gave up their morning of fun on ice to give a lesson on Ice-skating 101 to a girl who was out-of-place and miserable. With some of them, I stayed in touch even after that day and had many other adventures. But those are stories for some other time.

Sometimes, you have to go out and try things out of your comfort zone. The reward for sore body-parts and looking stupid is often fun experiences and happy memories. And often, you just might find yourself becoming friends with total strangers whom you otherwise never would have met.

Do you like ice-skating? Have you ever tried something you had no idea how to do? DO share your comments below.