There's nothing too late to learn
We were supposed to leave home by 8:45 to give ourselves enough time to make it for the 10am public session at the Dubai Mall ice rink. But as it often happens, we started only at 9:30. The route was to go to Airport Terminal 3 and then take the metro to dubai mall. After 15 minutes and asking 3 bus drivers we discovered that most of the buses went to Terminal 1 and from there we could go to number 3. It took a 10 minute ride to reach the airport and there we found a free shuttle service to Terminal 3; we hopped onto the metro and off we went. It took exactly 22 minutes to reach Dubai mall metro station. From there we have to take a free feeder bus to the Mall - the time we reached was 10:50! It didn't seem a good idea to pay for two hours and use the rink for less than an hour.
But since we had come so far we didn't want to return back home. It took another 10 minutes to navigate through the mall to reach the ice rink. The next slot was from 12:15 – I observed the few skaters who were practicing and learning ice skating - there was a young girl who was holding on to the railing of the ice rink - it wasn't exactly a railing but it was something you could hold onto with your fingers. She was finding it hard and was gingerly walking on the ice. Another elderly lady was skating slowly with the help of the railing. She fell over when she dug the toe of her skate into the ice - a mistake that will topple you head-first. I had read about it in the morning while browsing through websites about ice skating. Don't land on your knees - try to slide over and fall on the side they would say. I was still impressed by that lady; even at that age she was eager to learn something new and even after the fall she continued skating.
It was around 11:45 when we returned to the ice rink after buying a bottle of water. We saw some new faces on the ice; a group of locals were also inside skiing - the next time slot was obviously open now. We dropped our bag in the locker and there was a Japanese lady at the counter who helped us with our skating shoes. Fortunately I didn't have shoe size problem here - they had sizes even bigger than mine! We gave our sports shoes and took skating shoes.
The lady explained to us how to strap the shoe securely; it had an odd locking mechanism. The safety cushion in ice skating is that the skating shoe is like a boot with a long collar - the collar is rock solid and ensures that you can never twist your ankle; it is one of the fears you have before you step onto the rink, "If I can't balance will I twist and break my ankle?" We tried walking on the rubber floor a few times to get comfortable in our new shoes - it felt odd each time we took a step because you kept feeling that perhaps the ankle might still twist! Mind games, really!
The ice rink was closed for ten minutes for resurfacing - they drove a huge machine (called a Zamboni) to smoothen the Olympic sized rink. At 12:15 the rink was reopened. The best part was that there weren't many people since it was a weekday. A couple of staff were inside the rink wearing a black and white vertical striped shirt with a black pant.
My nephew stepped in first and I followed. First step - grab the railing! Holding on to that, we tried to walk. My nephew pushed a little and started sliding slowly. I was just trying to get comfortable standing still - the surface was so smooth that I felt like slipping - widen out a little like duck feet I told myself and slowly started walking. My nephew in his enthusiasm had already left the railing and was walking without support. I tried pushing myself a little and slid quickly - the railing helped me avoid falling and I was scared of letting go! The local guys were now skating pretty comfortably - they were even racing with one and another. After 10 minutes or so, I reached the stage where I could skate by holding the railing by my right hand; after another 20 mins. or so my right hand ached and I switched to my left hand but the staff told me that we should skate around the ring in anti-clockwise direction. So back I was to using my right hand - I was now able to pick up some speed as well but i feared leaving the railing. I practiced braking - turn your heels outward and toes inward to brake is what I had read; i initially didn't get it but after a few attempts it came - I had to put a little pressure on my legs when doing that braking manoeuvre.
The atmosphere was great - there was a large led screen way above the arena that we could see; there was music being played that added to the atmosphere; all English songs and only one I knew - "Show me the meaning of being lonely"
It’s all in the mind
I slowly tried to leave my right hand while skating for a few seconds and finally I was able to avoid holding it. But I still stayed close to the railing while skating because it gave me a sense of comfort. With more confidence I picked up speed. There was a little boy standing outside the rink watching us keenly through the glass; each time I went past him I'd smile and wave and he'd respond back. Later it was a little girl who took his spot and she also responded happily.
After a few laps I ventured to the centre of the rink - walking first and then skating slowly. When I increased my pace I fell while trying to stop but fortunately I didn't fall on my knees. My nephew fell a couple of times when he came close to the railings. A middle aged lady fell in her first few minutes and went off the field while another guy who was skating pretty well bumped someone, fell down head first and hurt his mouth - he started bleeding and the staff immediately rushed to his aid. He was taken off the rink for treatment. With 20 minutes to go and me trying to speed faster I made the cardinal mistake - i didn't lift my right shoe fully off the ice and the toe portion dug into the ice; the first point of impact was my left knee and I slid across on my knees over the ice; the staff came racing towards me but i was quickly up. My left knee hurt a little and I didn't attempt to speed skate after that - I don't think my knee would have liked to have another knock today!
While returning the skates, the Japanese lady asked how it was and I said it was great. She complemented us saying that for a first time skater, we did pretty good. We were the only ones who made use of the full two hours.