Before I get to the story today, I would just like to mention that it's been two whole days and almost no one has asked me for the recording of me reciting a Chinese poem. My pronunciation is bad, but not that bad. All I've gotten is one request, and one unsolicited offer for online Chinese lessons. To make my inbox problems worse, I still have not heard back on my application to the summer Chinese program I want to do. I'm thinking more and more about a sentence that said roughly "CET reserves the right to withhold a decision on borderline applicants."
Last night coming out of my stifling Chinese literature in translation class I learned that half of USAC was going to the gym. I'm generally not into that kind of thing, but on their way out, all that talk about releasing endorphins made me really want to run. It was a cold, rainy night, and if I tried to go running I'd be more worried about being nailed by a taxi than I would be about my pace, so the safety of a gym sounded appealing.
The only problem, I realized vaguely when I headed out, was that I didn't know where I was going. In fact, I didn't know how to say "gym." All I knew is that everyone was headed to a place "really close to Carrefour." When I got to Carrefour and started looking at all the buildings, I understood how insufficient this description was. Carrefour itself, as a mega-sized Super Walmart (yes, it gets bigger than Super Walmart. Carrefour has two stories: everything non-edible on the top, any food in the world on the bottom), took five minutes just to walk around. I decided that I would ask someone.
I picked out a guy who was selling knick-knacks and looked like he could handle a foreigner. Our conversation was more like a game of Taboo: "Excuse me," I said to him in Chinese. "I'm looking for a place... I want to go running..." No response. "And--" here I lifted imaginary weights. "If you want to go on a diet, you go to a..." I went back to my simulation of bench pressing, feeling totally ridiculous as this guy stared at me with a blank face, until finally he must have figured out what I was talking about. He said some name for "gym" in Chinese, which I repeated the best I could in case I needed to ask other people, and then said "third floor" and "Carrefour" and pointed. I thought that wasn't a bad start, thanked him, and started walking in the direction of his finger.
I got to the plaza that I thought likely held the gym and asked a worker. Armed with the word I almost knew from my first encounter, it took less acting to get directions this time, but when I got to the third floor I was on a terrace that only had restaurants. I asked another person, who said he couldn't help me, and as I wandered back to the stairs, I saw a sign with a woman working out. That looked promising, but the closer I got, the more pictures of women I saw, until I was at the entrance and convinced that I had come to a place that was only for women. When I asked the woman working there if she knew of a gym (For men? she asked. Yes, for men.) she told me the third floor of a different building really close by.
I only had to ask two more people before I found the elevator for that building and arrived. And I was worried about not using my Chinese enough recently. The people at the gym wanted 80 kuai, but when I showed interest in a membership plan and said I wanted to try it out first, they lowered the cost to 50 and introduced me to my personal Chinese trainer for the evening.
Zhang Hong let me run on the treadmill for a while, then started me on a full body workout, and my language skills were not up to refusing. We had a surprisingly good conversation for me concentrating on doing the exercises. I tried to tell him that I was just a skinny guy who couldn't gain muscle, but his wrists were about the same size mine were and he was buff. In fact, by the end of the workout I had him ask how much a membership would be, but compared to UF's free gym (that I never use), I couldn't justify spending a lot of money.
I felt so hot afterward that I actually went home in my shorts. I didn't mention it before, but going there I was wearing long underwear with bright light blue sports shorts over, and looked absolutely ridiculous, so letting my legs cool off while I took the bus home wasn't as crazy as it sounds.
I enjoyed my endorphins for the rest of the night and went to bed early.