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Thursday, 28 February 2013

Lessons of Hip Shaking in Morocco - Page 2

Written by Ashley E. Williams
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These spirited women came and left in groups, chatting and laughing with markedly more gusto than they applied to their high kicks, convening in the corner, sharing stories and eating gateaux looz.  One morning I was pounding away at the stationary bicycle, rivulets of sweat dripping off my nose. A regular fluttered over and offered me a muffin. I tried to wheeze a polite refusal, but she pried my hand off the handle bar and stuffed the muffin into it, crying in Arabic, "You've become too skinny! Eat! Eat!" 

Snacking and pumping your cardio rate to 160 turned out to go hand in hand. And as time went on I was offered (read: forced fed) cookies, dates from the King's palace, and even glasses of mint tea mid-work out.

That first day, I discovered that an unexpected perk of my gym experience was having Rachida as my pseudo-personal trainer. She made her rounds, encouraging each of us and commanding, "More reps! More crunches! Faster! Go!" And as we became friends, she pushed me harder. She even convinced me to join in the belly dancing aerobics classes despite my emphatic protestations. I have never been a good a dancer, but in the end I let her push me out onto the floor, which is how I ended up in the opening scene flailing around in a spandex-clad herd of estrogen.

What the gym gave me, more than my fitness, was a community of women that grounded and inspired me. Women like Rachida, who always welcomed me with a friendly smile and a good story. And as I became physically stronger, I felt less vulnerable out on the street. I, after all, had been doing my high kicks with enthusiasm, imagining my target as the faces of the men that bothered me on my way to work in the mornings. I walked with confidence, focusing less on their comments, and more on the beautifully crimson cherries for sale, the brilliant rainbow of bougainvillea spilling over someone's courtyard wall.

In the end, the hours spent sweating left me joyful and ready for anything the hot Moroccan sun could toss my way. And let's not forget, I also learned to how to shake my hips.


© Ashley E. Williams





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Last modified on Friday, 01 March 2013

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