This weekend, I decided to decline classmates’ requests that I go with them to the beach or this hiking place, because, well, I have been thinking lately about why it is (or was) that I wanted to come to Costa Rica in the first place, and I remembered that I felt it important to do some stuff on my own and was excited about venturing out in a new place. So that is just what I did. Saturday I informed Sonia and Tia Julita at 7am that I was going out walking to Cartago. “What, mi hijo?” they responded, “you are going to do what?” Cartago is 17 km away along a busy road. “Don’t worry, I am going to take the bus back.” After giving me a look of worry and disapproval, Sonia opened up the door for me, blessed me “Que dios te lo acompana,” and sent me out. I ended up in Tres Rios instead, which could have been the same thing to me, but I was happy just to be out walking, observing things that I can’t observe with other people around. Along the way, only about two miles from my house, is the Gymnastics Club/Parkour. I had passed it once before, but was apprehensive. Now that I was intent on trying new things here, I decided it was time. Luckily, there was a class on Sunday at 9 am.
La hora Tica—I shouldn’t have worried that I was the first one there and the building locked. Upon entering, I knew that this place was my dream of a giant playground for adults come true—a trampoline, springy floor, a vault like a diving board into a foam pit, rings dangling way above my head like I imagine it would feel like to fly, parallel bars (again I imagined flying like a trapeze artist from bar to bar), lots and lots and lots of squishy pad things, perfect for Lynne and my yet to be fulfilled obstacle course.
After coming back from my spell of awe, I observed for cues as to what I should do, filing into a jogging line. Warm-up kicked my ass, (what is the rest going to be like?), but it felt so good to feel my body working, every part of me, pushing it to limits again, something I haven’t really done since high school.
There were about 20 teenage-adult guys, one badass pre-teenage girl, and a few other teenage-adult girls. At first we were all just jogging (bouncing) in a circle on the bouncy gymnast floor, and doing a little sprinting, and then we were doing jumping, and then a break for stretching for literally 30 seconds, and then push-ups and mountain climbers and push-up jumps and more jumps and abs and ab-jumps and at this point I was sweating thoroughly through my shirt and out of breath and that’s just when we got to handstands where we were supposed to walk on our hands forward and backward and side to side, (which consisted of me springing upside down, moving my hands eagerly forward like a toddler trying to run, and tumbling, legs splaying one way or another, and bouncing up to try again) and then we were doing head-stand push-ups and before I could stop to take a drink, people were doing repetitions and routines of back flips and front handsprings across the floor, like you see in the Olympics and stuff and I think this was still warm-up but I must have missed the point when different levels separate off, in my excitement to try everything I could—that, and watching in awe at the others, when finally the instructor guy came over to me and I was like “So, I haven’t done much gymnastics before,” and he was like “You’re just beginning. Go over to the bar with the muchachas.”
Thankfully, I joined two probably 15 year old girls, slender with braces, who were very nice and were like “Yeah, the first time I showed up, I was like oh my god,” jaw dropping, in reference to the warm-up routine. We all laughed nervously and they showed me how to do beginner bar exercises, the three of us side by side on the bar, jumping up from pad blocks to hold ourselves on the bar in unison, as others did flips and vaults into the pit of big squishy foam blocks, which reminded me of a McDonalds playground’s ball pit. Others ran up padded walls and flipped upside down in order to jump off the wall (parkour). And still others did balance beam work and floor routines. It was like a zoo of a playground. We practiced handstand forward rolls next, and then (as I had been eyeing the trampoline the whole time) the instructor was like you can do beam exercises or the trampoline and I almost interrupted him to state, “I love the trampoline,” and so off we went, spending the last 45 minutes on the trampoline, which afforded us each like a million turns, at least ten times the number of turns we got each day at camp. The two girls hadn’t even done trampoline before, and couldn’t do a seat drop at first, so I got to teach them how to do seat drops and seat to belly and swivel hips, trying to explain it all in Spanish, and then they just started imitating my moves and out of nowhere, (I guess they were sick of the easy stuff) just bounced into a front flip.
It made me so happy to feel like I was at camp again and that I was around girls and not boys and I felt my girls’ camp pride return and I even really liked that the instructor referred to the three of us as “muchachas” (the feminine form) which no one here except for a few people saying ella but then correcting themselves, has done. (Of course, no one has bothered to ask). I was the happiest (and the most tired and exhilarated and thirsty all at the same time).
I watched parkour practice for a bit after class (and stretched necessarily), and then I practically bounced out of the gym, beaming, light-headed, and free, walking a few miles to the farmers’ market where I bought lots of papaya and jocote and pejiballe and I was so happy that I bought a bouquet of flowers for Sonia and Julita and then as I am walking home with my full backpack and really sweaty t-shirt, holding my bright pink and yellow flower bouquet in front of me with both hands, this guy approached me and was like excuse me, do you have 200 colones (40 cents) to spare for the bus, and he just looked so genuine and I was so happy and I was just looking at him, and he was looking at me in the eye and I couldn’t just walk away (despite being chided again and again about tricks people use to take your wallet), so I gave him the change I had, which was not 200 colones, but he thanked me and walked off and I knew that the situation was going to be fine anyway because how could anything go wrong when you feel like you are all light all over spilling over with happiness and besides, you are carrying bright flowers home for your mom like you have just won them and how could someone steal those because they know and they feel like you have just won them and your energy is so strong that nothing can break it. Next time I am going to ask to play in the foam pit (or I guess I should say vault).