In the spirit of September being housewives New Year (i.e. children finally back to school after the long holidays), the aerobics lesson I try to go to was suddenly packed. In September we housewives scurry about clearing out cupboards, at long last putting photographs in albums and try to lose weight and/or get fit after two months of long lie-ins, holidays and late nights. Generally expats gravitate toward the gym to get fit as our daily lives in Nairobi are devoid of exercise. We don’t walk, don’t climb many stairs, don’t do gardening etc. we have big cars to bounce over potholes and use them because practically everywhere you go you can park right outside. Shops and kids schools are too far to walk to. Nairobi is a city of shopping centres or malls that you drive into, shop then drive out. The City Council seems to have overlooked the provision of pavements for pedestrians or cycle paths so walking means getting covered in dust, negotiating past hawkers and twisting your ankle in deep gullies. I noticed in the summer that in England shoes are important because you really do have to walk in them. Flat leather flip flops and flimsy ballet pumps just don’t cut it. In London you always end up walking for miles and in my parent’s home town it is pleasant to walk peacefully to the supermarket or into the town centre on proper wide pavements amongst pretty buildings.
Anyway, back to the gym and imagine my surprise when in the midst of our very female mixed Kenyan and expat 9am aerobic class there was a man! He danced around the centre of the studio keeping up with the routine fantastically which was just as well because as a broad shouldered, over six footer with shaved head, he dwarfed us all and the prospect of him stumbling then treading on someone’s toe was to be dreaded. This man’s presence reminded me of when I used to drag my husband to Taebo and Step in the evenings. There were a couple of men around at that time of day, but I think it is safe to say that he hated every minute of it. It’s the routines that get everyone and there is nothing worse that careering off in the wrong direction as you get lost mid dance – I should know!
The giant in our midst was actually an old hand at aerobics classes which would explain his skill at keeping up with the grapevines in a packed studio. He told us he usually went to the 7am classes before work but liked to do a 9am one every now and then as they tended to be more ‘high impact’. I was a little worried by his very short, loose fit running shorts and I could tell (without looking) that he was struggling to keep his dignity during the ‘floor work’ leg raises etc. While flattered that the 9am class might be tougher in spite of following the same formula with the same teacher as the earlier classes, I also felt a little depressed. It told me that the 9am housewife gym bunnies with no job to go (as they do not have local work permits) do not have enough of a life and spend to much time working out.