Friday, October 23, 2009

Caged at the Gym

As I worked out on the "stepper" at the gym -- a half dozen kids stared at me through the bars as if I was nuts -- a bit further away -- their parents and probably 30 other people -- did the same. It was as if they were thinking: "why would anyone want to work himself into a sweat like that."

Two cultures colliding at the gym the other night.

A half dozen or so "foreigners" like me inside the gym -- raising our heart rates and pumping iron -- while dozens of Timorese stood just outside -- raising their eyebrows and gazing through the iron bars of the front floor-to-ceiling glass-less windows. It felt like being at the zoo and being one of the attractions.

They were there to celebrate an engagement -- the party brought together the two families. One of whom lived in the same compound as our gym -- hence the takeover of the gym parking lot.

The party music was almost ear-piercing -- seemingly a conversation stopper -- but somehow people managed to make themselves heard. Many were seated in cheap plastic chairs -- waiting. Some ten minutes into my "stepper" routine, the wait ended as the feast was brought to the long table under the white tent in the parking lot. Heaps and heaps of fresh fruits, chicken, potatoes and other root vegetables -- fresh salads and beef.

It made me want to give up the stepper and get in line for the food.

A colleague who was a friend of the family told me the next day that I should have stuck around -- the dancing started around 10 p.m. and went on until the wee hours of the morning.

Now that's an engagement party!