In a day that the water was out, the internet and power are still out as I type this in a word document, I decided to go to an "African" gym. Mind you, those aren't my words. They actually call them African gyms. (No, I wasn't bench pressing a lion or running from a baboon on a treadmill or squatting a hippo).
First off getting there:
I was told by Stanley that the gym is behind the police station (the same one that I played 2-Ball-Football). He neglected to tell me that "behind" actually meant up a hill, through people's yards, and up behind God's back and then some.
Anywho, we finally get to this "gym". For any of you Youtubers out there, search "African Gym" and see what I'm talking about. Go now. Now. I mean it.
Now that you've stopped laughing, imagine what you've just saw and this gym was even Africaner.
It wasn't in the backyard, but the side of someone's house. There was a two sided bench where you could, and did, literally hand off the bar to the next guy; another carpenter sized bench from grade 8 woodshop; and a bar. Wait wait. They weren't weight bars, but steel pipes. And the weights were car wheels (not the tires) from WWII era jeeps (I just made that last part up, but those plates were from vehicles I've never seen before in my life).
There were about 15 guys sharing three pieces of equipment. We were like the GM assembly line of weightlifting. By time you had a 3 minute break, 6 guys already went through and it's your turn to go again. And all jokes aside, anyone that knows me knows I'm a gym rat and would pretty much lift big rocks and buckets of water for a workout, I'll admit that I was feeling it.
A few key points:
Some of those dudes were big. Like for real big.
Now I know why men wear jeans and pants all the time in Mwanza (I'll save that observation on a serious level about modesty for another post), they don't work out their legs. Not at all. Imagine Black Johnny Bravos.
We lifted in the dark. Yes, the power was out, but it seemed like this was the norm for these guys.
They lift everyday (kila siku). I was told "tutaonana kesho" - see you tomorrow - and it seems like they lift the same body parts everyday. That probably goes against every Western training methodology, but hey, whatever works for them.
But all in all, it was really nice to just jump in and be one of the guys working out. I didn't get any funny stares or comments, nothing. I just jumped right in and lifted like I was in my basement at home, or at a 60,000 TSH gym or Western's Recreation and Wellness Centrre. Testosterone sees no colour or nationality and there was a genuine respect shown to me and I showed to them. I'm not trying to save the world with this trip, nor do I take pity or look down on anyone for what they do or don't have.
It's all about seeing the common bonds between people and treating them with respect and equality as human beings regardless of their circumstance. Be cautious, but be open. In this case, it was all about coming together by lifting some heavy weights.
Moral of the story (besides meeting some cool people and lifting African-style):
Sport - in all its forms - is an international language.