Saturday, January 10, 2015

Joining the gimnasio

On my first Sunday morning walk here, I had to laugh to see a resourceful guy pumping iron with a barbell he'd created with a broomstick between two milk jugs full of rocks.  A few days later, I was excited to learn that I didn't need to be quite as resourceful, because there's a little neighborhood gym that sits above the corner grocery store about a 2-minute walk from home.

The day I went to sign up for a membership, I took my cellphone with me so when the owner told me the prices, I could type the numbers on the phone to confirm I had understood correctly (I find numbers hard, especially when people say them fast and when the numbers are large because of the exchange rate...$1 is about 500 colones, so they use lots of big numbers).  Typing the numbers on the phone, we were able to communicate that a monthly membership would cost me $30 per month, plus an $8 startup fee.

"Do you understand me?" Juan (the owner) asked after he had explained the rules, and unfortunately I didn't.  So he gave me this English translation of the rules, which I thought were downright cute--I'm going to compare them against the spanish version as part of my studies.  (You can click on the photo to see a bigger version).

Down here not too far from the equator, the sun rises at 6 a.m. and sets around 6 p.m. through the entire year.  For me, having a gym membership has been a great way to decompress in the evenings without the danger of exercising outside in the dark.  The gym is kind of small, has only one elliptical which is so popular that it has a 15-minute time limit, and has some machines that are held together with packing tape, but that gives it character.  The gym is perfect for my needs.  Close and cheap.

Plus, it's been really fun to talk to people there.  Sometimes the guys there yell at the TV when something exciting happens in the futbol game on the flatscreen TV at the front.  At this point, I still don't understand what they are saying (and maybe I shouldn't be learning to say those words myself), but I'll know I've "arrived" once I can understand them talking smack.

Today I met Eric, who told me about his awesome tattoo.  About 4 years ago he was in a fight in a bar and ripped up his hand and arm.  After two years of recovery and a metal bar in his arm, now he's stronger than ever, and got a tattoo of a machine on his "bionic" arm.  He does Mixed Martial Arts fighting now, and is headed to Panama to fight in a tournament there soon.  He speaks a little English, so that's why I could understand so much of his story.

My 16-year old host nephew, Luis Fernando goes to the gym too, so I ask him about his day when we see each other.  My classmate Tony goes there too, and Juan made up a rule for us, which is "no speaking English in the gym".

And little by little, I'm starting to understand what Juan the owner says.  The other day when I told him I liked his choice of 80's music (hearing "Message in a Bottle" was a blast from the past!), I had to ask him to repeat himself and even then wasn't exactly sure what he said (something about people complaining if the music is too loud, I think).  The next day, I understood him when he asked if I liked to watch the WWF championship wrestling that was on tv at the moment, and I'm pretty sure I told him (I hope I told him) I hadn't watched it much so really didn't know whether I liked it or not.  So I watched the WWF wrestlers while I pedaled the stationery bicycle and found their showmanship and choreography very entertaining and amusing (muy c√≥mico), but he might be offended if I tell him that, so I'm not going to bring it up!.

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