Jonna had warned me that there really were no “gyms” in Gorontalo as I know them, so I didn’t try very hard to find any. But on Monday night there I was at the Atlantik Fitnes Centre because Ike comes for an aerobics class every Monday, Wednesday and Friday and besides, it turned out to only be a short bentor ride from my house. Now, I generally try to avoid activities that have me imitating an instructor through a series of ridiculous and strenuous motions that I can never keep up with, so I checked out the cardio machines and the weights while Ike hopped and stretched to obscenely loud pulsating techno music punctuated with the occasional whoop from the instructor.
The entire gym, from the “elliptical” with no computer and a broken handle bar to the old school weight machines, couldn’t have been more different from the clean and modern (and air-conditioned!) New York Sports Clubs back home. This gym felt several decades behind the times and I half expected Richard Simmons to pop out at any moment to take over the aerobics class. In fact, it sort of reminded me of the make-shift “gym” on the container ship I traveled on a couple of years ago on my way back home from Europe. There, in a hot windowless room, was a sole exercise bike with a broken computer, a somewhat broken but still useable rowing machine, a ping-pong table and two barbells. This gym was maybe just one or two steps above that. At least it had free water.
After 15 minutes on the one useable treadmill, I ventured behind a big blue curtain to the weights room. Right away, an eager young man who spoke English well enough came bounding over to show me how the machines work. We spent about half an hour doing various reps and sets on the different machines. It was nice to have all this individual attention and to have him count my reps and set the weights for me. It was just like having a personal trainer. At one point we were chatting a little bit and I mentioned that I was teaching English at the university. Then he really surprised me by asking, “Do you know Miss Maura Phelan?” It turns out that he is one of my friend Maura’s former students from the Police Language School in Jakarta. He’s a Gorontalo cop by day and a trainer at the gym by night. What a small world!