You would think going to the gym would be sort of the same everywhere you go. Sure, far off exotic lands don’t even have gyms, but you would think any place that has a gym that you can join as a tourist must be about the same. But, there are some things at my gym that are different.
The first thing is the name. I just don’t think a gym in the US would be called XX anything.
The second thing that is different is that in the US, I don’t kiss anyone at the gym. Here, there is a lot of kissing. First chance to kiss is when you enter. You go and check in at the front desk. The woman behind the desk always greets me with a very welcoming “Hola Sherillllll.” Some people lean over and kiss her, but I opt out.
Then I sort of stall while I wait for Maximo to come over. Maximo is the “on duty” gym trainer. He’s a really sweet, very ripped Argentinian that doesn’t speak any English. He comes over, kisses me on the cheek, gives me a half hug then asks me how I am. I always say fine. I then forget how to ask him how he is, so I just sort of nod. Then he asks if I’m “tranquila.” I always say yes which is a lie. I’m never ever calm because I’m always trying to remember the Spanish words for things and who and when I should kiss.
There’s only one elliptical trainer at the gym, and no one but me ever uses it. It may be an antique. I feel like if I ever got my heart rate up to 150 on it the entire thing would collapse.
Another thing that is different, there is a picture of Jesus in the corner.
In between helping people, Maximo drinks yerba mate from a gourd. If I am doing something really incorrectly he helps me with my form, usually in a series of complicated pantomimes and grunts and nods from me.
The first time I worked out I thought Maximo had the best job ever. All the women at the gym come in and kiss and hug him. All the men shake his hand, ever single of of them.
By the end of my first workout I realized the down side to Maximo’s job. He also has to kiss every woman goodbye at the end, or shake every man’s sweaty hand.
I try to wipe my face off as much as possible at the end of each workout, but I can tell you there have been times when the poor guy has had to cheek kiss me while I was dripping sweat.
If I’m unusually sweaty, I wait until I see him busy helping someone, I run to the middle of the gym shout, “Ciao” then bolt out before anyone can kiss me. I’m sure it’s considered completely rude, but that is the good thing about being a foreigner. No one expects you to do it completely right every time.