Work Out, Dar es Salaam Style
Over the past few weeks, I have slowly settled into life in Dar. I have found a favourite grocery store, made some new friends, joined a book club, and am able to find my way home from almost anywhere in the city.
Two weeks ago, haunted by the fear of being left alone at the bottom of Mount Kilimanjaro by AB when we attempt our ascent in early January, I decided that I needed to find a gym.
This was more difficult than it sounds. I tried Google, but the only result was the Colosseum Hotel and Fitness Club, a monstrous building on the peninsula that looks like it belongs in Las Vegas and that charges $140 USD per month for the use of its facilities. A friend recommended another gym, much closer to my house, but its monthly fees were also over $100 USD. This is much more than I have ever paid for a gym in Vancouver, and I began to contemplate the logistics of long runs outside on traffic congested roads in 35 degree heat.
On my way home from work that Friday, I stopped at the grocery store near our house and noticed that there was a gym on the upper level. A gym perched above the neighbourhood grocery store. It is called Genesis Health Club, and in addition to fitness equipment it also offers pedicures, manicures, and facials. I took a quick look around, asked to see the prices (much more reasonable than the other two gyms), and signed up for a monthly membership. I was proud of myself for having found such a seemingly good deal.
On Saturday morning, I decided to walk to the gym, which is about half an hour away. The Kilimanjaro fitness guides recommend lots of walking, based on the reasoning that the trek is really just a very long walk rather than a technical climb. I am highly skeptical of this — surely scrambling up 19,341 feet of rock cannot accurately be characterized as a long walk — but have decided to try to walk as much as possible anyway.
By 10:30 am the sun was bright and the temperature was high. When I arrived at the gym, sweat was running in rivers down my arms and legs. This is when I discovered that, unlike the expensive gyms, the Genesis Health Club does not have an air conditioner. Undaunted, I tried to convince myself that the extreme heat would lead to a better workout. There has to be a reason people do hot yoga, right?
The gym was quiet for a Saturday morning. I looked a bit out of place, as the most popular workout outfit appeared to be knee high socks and very short shorts. But I had my choice of machines and, although the treadmill was a little rusty, it worked fine. As I ran, I thought to myself that it was almost like I was running in a gym back in Vancouver. Except for the fact that I could see the chaos of Bagamoyo Road reflected in the mirror in front of me. And the fact that there was a small bird flying around above my head.
Things did not go as smoothly the following Monday.
By Monday evening, only five-and-a-half of the 17 cardio machines still functioned (one machine squealed so loudly that I cannot count it amongst the machines in working order). The small gym was packed with the after-work crowd, and there were approximately 50 people trying to get on one of the machines that still functioned. I waited and waited and finally it was my turn for the treadmill. Once on the coveted machine, I was interrupted every few minutes by people who wanted to inform me that they were next in line and could I please promise to give the machine to them when I was finished?
Although the staff at Genesis are exceptionally friendly, there is no indication that any of the broken machines are going to be fixed anytime soon. Alas, my daily visits to the gym mean at least a half-hour wait for a machine in a small room crammed with sweaty and impatient people. The small ceiling fan moves so slowly that I think it is mocking me. While I wait, I daydream about air conditioning.
If I wasn’t so afraid of Mount Kilimanjaro, I think I would spend the rest of my membership time getting pedicures, manicures, and facials.