Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The National Park: keeping fit in the Caribbean

I love the Georgetown cityline, and its absence of skyscrapers

I woke up one morning noting that the city outside my window was unusually quiet and calm. And still. Something was missing. Also, it was really hot.

I realized that what I was hearing was the absence of electricity. The power was out. This isn't too unusual here. This meant, unfortunately, that my fan was dead.

Since it also meant that I wasn't going to be able to get work done on my computer until my power went back on, I decided to go for a run to the local gym in my neighbouhood that I'd been meaning to check out.

Getting to the gym was an adventure on its own. First, I almost got hit by a mini-bus because I'm still not used to the fact that cars drive on the left side of the road here, and, more importantly, there aren't any sidewalks so pedestrians generally trudge along the shoulder of the road, where there is one.  Then, somehow despite the multi-storey building with the giant neon sign BUDDY'S, I completely ran passed the gym without noticing it (maybe because I was dodging the oncoming mini-vans), and had to turn back.

Also, I ran into a stray dog. There are lots of stray dogs roaming the streets here, and most of them are kind of scared of humans, but I guess this one was caught off guard by me, because immediately upon sight of me, he bared his teeth and began to snarl. At first my instinct was to continue running my route, but as it chased after me, I realized that it was a mistake to turn my back on the dog, and look like I was running away. It began to run after me. I confronted the dog again, straightened my back and raised my arm, putting on my best impression of a growling polar bear.  I don't know why I instinctively thought to imitate a polar bear. I don't know that it was very impressive because I doubt that dogs around here have ever encountered a polar bear.  Luckily, the dog saw that I wasn't actually a giant steak so he tucked his tail in and ran away.  Yay, big win for me. Gloria versus the sad dog.

This is not the angry dog that confronted me. This dog likes to hang out in my yard. Not sure if he is a stray or if he belongs to someone, but he doesn't chase me around so I like him.

I eventually made it to Buddy's gym, which was an impressive complex, featuring multiple exercise rooms and classes. It didn't have air conditioning, but curiously, it did feature a steam room? I kind of feel like Georgetown is one big steam room, but that's because I'm stereotypically Canadian. They also feature an abs class at 7AM, but since I was the only person to show up for it, I basically got my own personal trainer, which was pretty awesome.

I love the health-loving attitude of Guyanese folks. People love their fresh fruit smoothies here. Unlike other places where I've lived, nobody makes fun of you for wanting to go out for a run. There are gyms everywhere, and nearly everyone I've talked to has a recommendation for their favourite spot. It's normal to see folks out jogging or walking with their family or playing football (soccer). There's a capoeira group, yoga offered by the Indian embassy, as well as a CrossFit gym that multiple people have told me about.  Last Friday night, my roommate and I checked out the soca aerobics class at Space Gym, where I made a discovery: it's fun to do aerobics to cheesy 80s music, but it's even better to do aerobics to soca music.

I also love the cityline view from the Space Gym
 But my favourite fitness spot by far is the National Park.

 It's such a lovely oasis. Unfortunately, getting there can be a bit of a pain. I like to jog there, but generally the safest time to go is right after work, which is the hottest part of the day, so I work up quite the sweat.  And despite looking like a disgusting sweaty mess, I still get no shortage of racial/sexual harassment. Street harassment in form of cat-calling and kissing noises are a common part of life in Georgetown, although local activists are trying to raise awareness about the problem. Some white folks have told me to just shrug it off as harmless, but the comments that are made to me as a person of Asian descent are sometimes racially-based and quite uniquely offensively obscene. It's rather off-putting and makes me reluctant to walk the streets.

Once I get to the National Park, however, it all washes away.  Here, no one is looking to make a date; people are here to enjoy a healthy walk or run with their friends or children. The park features a mile long track loop that you can run around until you're exhausted. I've seen people running it wearing plastic sweatsuits which make me ache just looking at them.  Inside the loop, there are several soccer games happening, as well as street vendors selling refreshments. There are also nice little picnic spots to rest.  The park just feels safe and refreshing.

Oh, also, there are manatees in the pond!

I haven't been able to get a good photo of the manatees yet - they mostly hang out under the water with just their noses poking out.  But I will get one eventually, because I'll definitely be going back to the park again. And again and again and again.