Welcome to my blog. I write about fitting in, sticking out, and missing the motherland as a serial foreigner.

Working out in Sharjah

Never in my whole life have I ever taken a class at a gym. It's just not how I roll. In general, I prefer to exercise alone. It's a time to reflect and think and ponder and maybe even listen to some music. But when I found out that the university offers free fitness classes for faculty and their families, I thought maybe I would give it a try. You know, step outside my comfort zone and meet new people and get some exercise in the bargain.

The first class I went to was a spinning class. I was a little afraid at first because I've heard spinning is brutal. And dear goodness, it really was. The worst part was that the sorest part of me was my butt from sitting on that seat for an hour. Yeesh. But the BEST part was that the spinning instructor is from northern England. She kept barking out commands like "Yuv got ta feeel it in yer lehgs!" and "Pooooosh!!!" It was brilliant. And a great workout.

A few days later, I took an aerobics class. It was for women only, in a separate part of the gym with no windows. I showed up a little early so I got to see how one by one, the veiled and abaya-d women walked in the room and stripped down to their exercise attire. And wow, did they ever know how to move it. I could hardly keep up with them. The aerobics instructor is the most unlikely creature - a Syrian lady from Homs. I never imagined a Homsi teaching aerobics in the UAE. Her instructions were a mix of phrases in Arabic and English and yelling "Yalla!"

And the music! Did you know that you can re-mix Omm Kolthoum, Kazim as-Saher, and Fairouz into really intense aerobics music? YOU CAN.

When class was over, the veiled women slipped their hijabs on over their sweat-drenched hair, wrapped their abayas around their hot pink tank tops and tight pants, and stepped back out into the world, with only their athletic shoes visible to give any hint of what they'd been up to.

I may still be a solitary exerciser at heart, but I can definitely get used to this.

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