Thursday, May 22, 2008

May 22, 2008

Shortly after our last blog entry, strange, fascinating and positive things began to happen within our Makassar experience. People came out of the woodwork to support and defend us. Friendly faces appeared all around – in coffee shops, grocery stores and our regular haunts. It is clear that removing ourselves from the negative expat culture we had been in for 9 months was one of the healthiest and most refreshing decisions we have made this year. (Yes, the decision was made for me, but Peter has no regrets that he walked out in protest. :) )

Late last week, I went to the gym for my daily workout. (I spend 5 mornings a week at a fitness center located in the basement of the only 5-star hotel in Makassar. It’s my sanity check.) Apparently they were in the process of auditioning for a new aerobics instructor. The hotel’s general manager, his wife, the fitness center manager and a couple of other regulars had appeared in the center and “aerobics-style” music had begun to play. I continued on the Stairmaster while watching what was sure to be an amusing class. One of the guys from the fitness center counter took his place at the front of the room and began to move – not really finding any beat to speak of but moving nonetheless. After 10 minutes, he looked around and stopped – he was stuck.

I jumped in… I just couldn’t help myself. After teaching the remainder of the class, I had acquired quite a crowd. The general manager and the fitness center manager were wondering why they hadn’t hired me earlier and other students were commenting on how much they enjoyed the class. These were some of the first positive comments I had heard in a while. As it is, I am now teaching aerobics classes 4 times a week while training a new instructor to take over in early June when I leave Makassar. (Due to visa constraints, I am being paid in food vouchers – the irony is terribly funny.)

Fitness is my first love – after teaching my first class, I came home happier than I had been in a long time. In the midst of such a strange place and in the middle of a stressful and difficult situation, the opportunity arose to do the thing I love most – teach others how to make healthy choices. It has been such fun. Each day, the fitness center guy teaches a little more and I teach a little less. It’s like a month-long fitness teaching bootcamp where your trainee doesn’t speak any English and hasn’t ever taken an aerobics class before much less has any idea of how to teach one.

Indeed, Makassar has been a weird place. Yet, when we leave in just a few short weeks, we will remember some very good times as well as the difficult and strange ones. There will always be the day I was threatened with deportation and invited to teach an Indonesian aerobics class -- May 8th will be remembered as one of the strangest days of my life.

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