All the books on expatriation say it. When you find yourself in a “challenging duty station” (I like the diplomatic flavor of that), you need to find your niche, something to do that makes you feel good, whether it’s knitting, baking, volunteering with street children, spending all your time at your kids’ school or the spa, organizing coffee mornings, lunches, or afternoon teas, playing bridge or golf, whatever…
For me, filling my days with things to do is never an issue. I have novels to translate, stories to write, a blog… In fact, I’d need more hours in a day. The problem is that I work from home, which means my social life is basically nonexistent (my VIRTUAL social life, now, that one is thriving, but as retired but not forgotten expat guru Robin Pascoe might tell you, you gotta beware of having only a virtual social life – very unhealthy, that.) Of course, I could never figure out whether my poor social life is a result of my working from home, of if I never really tried to work outside of home because I’m socially challenged. No matter. The bottom line is, when living in dump places like Dhaka (good-bye diplomacy), one needs to find things to do that make us feel good. In my case, it is imperative that said thing takes me out of my house.
Well, I found it : Zumba.
Nothing fancy, mind you. A handful of fanatics (OK, maybe I’m the only fanatic) get together and we all shake our bums (and everything else) in front of a TV screen blaring a fusion of musics. Yep ! No live instructor. But who needs one when you have those DVDs ?
A little backstory, because it’s the kind of story I love : according to the official website, Zumba is the baby of a Columbian Aerobics instructor, Alberto “Beto” Perez, who one day forgot his tapes and decided to use the latin music he had in his backpack to improvise a dancing work-out for his class – and they loved it ! A happy stroke of fate. In 1999, he took the concept to the US, and the rest is history. Today, Zumba is the largest dance fitness program in the world.
His last DVD series has music and dance styles that include cumbia, salsa, merengue, mambo, flamenco, reggaeton, soca, samba, belly dancing, bhangra, african, hip hop music and tango. The DVDs went from having him with two young women who did most of the talking, to a much more professional series with four different work-outs including a Zumba party that had about 6 to 8 people on stage, and what looked like a few hundred in the room, to the last one we were watching tonight. The Zumba Concert has a revolving double stage going up and down, giant screens, and what looks like thousands of people dancing along, every single one of them looking as if they’re in a kind of happy trance. Of course, in all of them, Beto is very much the Presence ! I mean, just looking at him dancing is enough to lift your mood. Picture a Latin version of Shahruck Khan – dark good looks, strong features, gorgeous body. Are you there ? And Goodness me, can he move.
As I was happily dancing, last evening, in a small school room, with a small TV screen, I was thinking how Beto didn’t only seize an opportunity, he also turned it into gold because he knew how to ride a global music and dance wave. Zumba is not only about exercising, and I’m tempted to say that’s precisely the reason it is such a huge success across the world. Call me French, but I could never understand people who sweat on machines. And I did try. Spinning ? You mean people actually do that without someone holding a gun to their heads ? Beats me. But Zumba ! Now we’re talking. I get to sweat and somewhat shape up and tone my drooping pre-menopause body, but those are secondary (if most welcome) side effects. Most of all, I get to dance to musics that lift my spirit, and connect me to Columbia, Mexico, the Caribbean, Puerto Rico, Cuba, India, and other countries around the world. I learn new moves and steps. Oh, and I get to watch Beto’s bare torso while I’m at it.
Is it any wonder I come out of each session feeling so light on my feet, and, yeah ! Happy ?!
Note to self: when feeling the blues in Dhaka, get out of the hole, and go Zumba !