Let me start by offering an apology that there will be exactly zero photos in this entry; I know I tend to get unnecessarily wordy and that a lot of you are the more media-oriented type (I read somewhere the Internet has shortened everyone’s attention spans and is making us all stup– hey look! Something shiny!). But try to bear with me as I paint you a picture of my first aerobics class in Thailand (not to be confused with that time I exercised in China) with my words. If I had known it was going to be such a spectacle I would have had the camera rolling the entire time. And that being said, I sincerely hope that at some point in the coming week I can tactfully capture a few moments for all you lovely people, because it really was a sight to behold.
Having a motorbike is chock full of advantages, especially when you live on the other side of the tracks, so to speak (Like we do. Infinite thanks to David!). However it also cuts down on that whole “walking” thing, which means I’ve been feeling deficient of that whole “exercise” thing (please just let me know if the “air quotes” are becoming “too much”… it’s just been feeling so right lately).
We’d gotten wind of some free yoga lessons held at the hospital thrice a week; one of which I attended on Monday with Jack and Grace, a British/American (respectively) couple we’ve been fortunate enough to have made the acquaintance of. Despite nearly killing Grace on the motorbike on the way over (Have you heard they drive on the left side of the road in Thailand? Weird, right?) the class was pretty much business as usual and I was able to get a feel for the routine fairly easily.
In addition, our soon-to-be former roommate Kung attends 5 Baht (read: practically free) aerobics classes every day, and I’d mentioned that I’d like to go with her sometime. And today was the day! I’ve decided that this would be best accomplished play-by-play style, so here goes:
5:05 pm: Kung and I leave the office. While I’d made sure to change into proper exercise attire after painting the house a bit this afternoon, I’d forgotten to bring a change of shoes. Kung raises her eyebrows and points at my bright red Toms. I decided they’d do, but there’s nothing like drawing a little more attention to yourself as a foreigner in Asia.
5:15 pm: Kung and I arrive at the gym. She sets two keys on the ground about a meter apart to mark our places near the front, which is a large stage with an ornate red and gold border, whose centerpiece is a praying Buddha figure. We go wait for class to start along the wall with everyone else. The floor is soon littered with such keys, and kind of reminds me of that scene in the first Harry Potter when the three heroes are in their final pursuit of the Sorcerer’s Stone (except the keys aren’t flying, of course). A man in a bright yellow Adidas top with an orange handkerchief tied around his neck begins parading around with a miniature Rottweiler, which I think is cute until the dog decides to mark his territory at the base of the stage not far from our feet. No one else seems fazed by this.
5:25 pm: Kung and I move into position. We’re the first to do so and I can tell she means business. I hope I don’t let her down. Suddenly a woman bursts through the door. Everything about her is shiny, from her dark purple ice-dancing leotard to her headband tightly secured in front of an 80s side-ponytail. I’d asked Kung earlier if some other drab woman collecting money was the teacher, and was so obviously wrong. THIS was an aerobics instructor! She and her entourage (which included bright yellow Adidas man, another man not nearly as impressively dressed, and a handful of women) take the stage, and a few enthusiastic screams erupt from the 100-or-so women in the room, Beatle-mania style.
5:30 pm: Right on time (incredibly!), the music begins. It has a BPM of roughly 300, and Shiny Lady wastes no time with formalities. She’s moving and hopping and kicking and arm-flailing, and I begin to wonder if I’ve missed the intro class because everyone seems to know exactly what they’re doing and I decidedly do not. My only ray of hope is that the only man in the class appears to be about 60, he’s positioned right in front of me, and he seems to be as lost as I am. This ray becomes considerably less radiant when I realize I probably look as ridiculous as he does.
5:40 pm: I look at the clock in disbelief that it’s only 5:40 pm. I’ve come to identify lateral series as my strong point, but unfortunately these are always interspersed with series that require considerably more geometry. I can’t figure out the rhyme or reason of much of the footwork and order of events, so I simply try to match directional movement of those around me while doing an ambiguous, shuffling, Twinkle-Toes action with my feet in between the more obvious high-knees and grapevines. Even these come about a beat behind everyone else, and I’m reminded of that home video we have of my ballet recital when I was 4 years old. Ladies have been issuing sporadic whoops like we’re in a Southern Baptist church. Could it be they’re really having fun?! 60-Year-Old-Man is floating around and reminds me of the people I’ve seen on hallucinogenics at music festivals, which comes as a tiny source of joy
5:45 pm: 15-minute-mark cooldown? Suddenly we’re doing some yoga poses and momentarily I feel like I kind of blend.
5:50 pm: We’re back at it. Unlike at American aerobics classes there’s nothing in the way of directions being shouted (and no Thai equivalent of, “That’s it! Keep it going! Lookin’ great ladies… and! 5, 6, 7, 8!”), which I suppose I can consider to my advantage, since the last thing I need is a language barrier. She is, however, making lots of hand motions, none of which seem to be of any assistance of me. It’s like there’s an intricate system of gestures built into the Thai culture, similar to those seen on a baseball field, but I am not privy. She’s hitting her forearms together but what does that mean?! (It doesn’t mean ‘hit your forearms together.’ Tried it!) Sometimes she points, which is useful in that I know in which direction to aim my bewilderment, but at times it’s not a point at all but a “one” signaling the end of a countdown. Or the beginning. I swear her countdowns go in both directions.
6:10 pm: The sequences have gotten more and more complicated (pseudo cha-chas? Baby leaps? Run in one direction, fake-out change, keep running in original direction? Leg lifts on what I swear are arbitrary beat-counts?) but I’m becoming comfortable in my faking. I’m not whooping, but I might be having a tiny bit of fun. 60-Year-Old-Man is still floating. I count six geckos positioned around the top of the stage, certainly enjoying the show.
6:20 pm: Final cooldown and instructor change-up! Shiny Lady steps back, and a woman whose shirt resembles a Scandinavian flag (should a Scandinavian nation have chosen to base its colors along the trend of hot pink and black I noticed was popular in the UK in the late-90s) comes front and center. And happy day! We’re back to simple linear sequences again. Even when she gets tricky with one-to-the-left, one-to-the-right, two-to-the-left, I am all over it! I realize it’s the kind of joy one might derive from being moved from the 9th grade to, say, the 3rd, but I’ll take it! Until… one-one-two progresses into something Fibonacci inspired, and it’s back to Twinkle-Toes-ville (my spellcheck is informing me that that’s not a word. Hahaha!)
6:30 pm: We’ve done some end-of-class yoga poses (I’m almost positive I heard the whoops give way to, “Ooooh, sexyyyyy!”s during a few of them?) and I’ve survived my hour of Thairobics. Barely, but I did. I expected a giggle or implied elbow-to-the-ribs from Kung, but she was very mature about the whole thing and didn’t point and laugh or anything. And in spite of everything, I’m sure I’ll go back. Hear me now, Aerobics: I shall best thee!
And I couldn’t bring myself to leave you completely devoid of media so here’s to you, First Year at UVA:
(For those of you unfamiliar with the Eric Prydz “Call on Me” video it’s pretty much aerobics+thongs so if that’s not something you care to watch at work or with your 5-year-old maybe give it a skip.)