Expat life can be boring at times. You live in an exotic country in Africa or maybe Asia where they’ve got scrumptious food, interesting customs and fabulous festivals, and what do you do? You wake up in the morning and you eat your cornflakes, you go shopping for light bulbs, you go to the gym. Really, how exotic is that? In Armenia, a small country in the Caucasus Mountains, I spent many sweaty hours in a gym, hours that did not give me much pleasure as I’m missing the gene for enjoying exercise. However, there was one day I found myself entertained while dragging myself through my routine.
ON BEING PERFECT
In a rickety elevator, up to the gym we go for another hour of exercise. As usual, my enthusiasm is lacking, but I know I’ve got to do it, my body being a temple and all. The gym is in a tall building, on the fifth floor. Unfortunately the machines suffer from lack of maintenance and are in varying stages of deterioration, but we make do. We arrive at the same time as two young Armenian women who are dressed up as if going to a glitzy party in skin-tight clothes and stiletto heels, make-up and hair extensively attended to. Girls like these two are often referred to as Armenian princesses.
My mate goes off to the men’s locker room and I find myself alone with the two Armenian fashionistas in the small women’s dressing room. They ignore me completely and I change into my old shorts and baggy T-shirt and hurry out. They don’t make an appearance on the gym floor until I’ve been pumping away on the bike for ten entire whole minutes. They’re jazzed up in the sexiest of designer work-out clothes, ready to make an impression. And an impression they make. Every male and female eye is upon them. They elegantly position themselves on two adjoining bikes and begin a leisurely pedal while they discuss the latest research in biochemistry or some such thing. I must admit I am intrigued and keep watching while I steam away with sweat gushing in unladylike rivers down my face and back. Apparently our two sex kittens have no such ambitions and their slim bodies perched gracefully on the bikes do not produce any sweat whatsoever.
My twenty minutes of cycling torture over, I get a drink of water, gulp it down, then fill the cup again from the dispenser and take it to one of the mats with me. I put it on the floor right next to it and proceed with the joy of abdominals.
The fabulous femmes have finished their biking and wander out of sight. I am now heaving away doing crunches. My face feels like it’s ready to explode and my scalp is sweating and my heart is pounding and my muscles are screaming and if this is so good for me why does it feel so bad?
I collapse in a heap of trembling muscles and take a rest. Next thing I know, one of the princesses passes by my mat and steps right on my plastic cup, spilling the water. I look at her. She apologizes in Armenian, or I imagine that is what she is doing, because that is what I would be doing. She glides away elegantly, doesn’t pick up the cup, doesn’t bring me another one with water. Royalty doesn’t work, of course.
I finish with the abdominals and butt exercises. There is always hope it might do some good, but I’ll never look like those gorgeous girls. Then I get up for more water and to see if the one functioning arm-shoulder-chest machine is free. It’s not. A beefy oligarch-type with a hairy chest is panting away on it. So instead I select a heavy weight and do some side bends while watching the Barbie dolls who are now on the mats, lying next to each other, while slowly, carefully doing their abdominal exercises, making sure not to put too much effort into it, just sort of lying there looking lovely. They talk, rest, do some more, talk some more, all the while not breaking a sweat. I am so impressed. I always sweat. Very un-sexy, I’m sure. Then again, what do they need to exercise for? They’re skinny. A British friend told me that the Armenian girls in his office drink hot water all day to shrink their stomachs. I’ve also heard that skinny Armenian girls don’t drink water at all because water makes you fat. So, there you have it, straight from the southern Caucasus.
I do some more side bends and look outside, where the traffic five stories down in Hyastan Circle is chaotic. Last week a nice Armenian girl came up to me and said in English that I should do my exercises in front of the mirror. I laughed and said, no, that was boring. I pointed at the street scene and said that it was more interesting there with all the traffic and people to-ing and fro-ing. More interesting than watching myself, that’s for sure. She probably didn’t get it. Doing exercises in front of the mirror has of course a useful purpose, but here it appears to be a favorite activity, especially for slinky girls and hunky men. I can’t wait to see the glamor pusses posing and admiring themselves.
Unfortunately, we leave before we get to see that spectacle. We’ve finished gymming and must go shopping for a light bulb.
Do you have a story about unusual or funny experiences while at the gym or doing sports in a foreign country? Please tell!