There are many advantages and disadvantages to living abroad as you have read so far in this series, and most of them can be rather humorous. One such example is staying active and working out, which can sometimes present interesting challenges and unforeseen difficulties in third world countries.
As I’ve mentioned before, teaching ESL in South Korea ran like a Swiss clock. The school not only provided housing and healthcare, but also gave their teachers memberships to a local gym. I could work out to my heart’s content (typically about 3 times a week when I lived there – before Jen started forcing me to do it every day). The club was within walking distance of both the school and the apartment building where the teachers were housed. Since leaving Korea, however, keeping fit has been something of a hassle, in spite of my wife’s prodding.
While in Turkiye, Jen and I had to walk down (and then up) hill for 15 – 20 minutes just to get to the park with the outdoor track so we could run. Unfortunately, the track wasn’t only used for running. We had to play Frogger with the other pedestrians and their strollers and toddlers and wheelchairs and senior citizens – not to mention the actual cars that would cross over the track on their way to the parking lot nestled on the other side. I actually ran into a toddler once and inadvertently knocked him down. I didn’t look back but could hear him crying as I continued along my way.
In China, we ran through the rural village in the countryside near our school campus. In Taoyuan, the people had never seen anyone white before so we’d get our photo taken countless times during shopping trips to the market. You can imagine what running must have looked like. People began to expect to see us (as far as I can tell) since they would cheer when we went by and even offer high fives or butt slaps on occasion (okay, okay, I’m exaggerating about the butt slaps). Yes, they would’ve been sitting on their front porches anyway, but it is truly hard to run when you’re laughing so hard because you just got punched in the shoulder by some old Chinese woman as you ran past her house.
And in Spain, Jen was such a drill sergeant that she made me (and our friend Alicia) run through all weather conditions including rain, snow, sleet, and hail. I felt like a postal carrier. On a more positive note, we did our first international 5k while in Pamplona, last October for breast cancer awareness. On a negative note to that positive note, most of the Spaniards walked instead of ran, you can just guess how well that went over with Sergeant Jen. But it was practice for her, at any rate, to run with the bulls in July.
Here, in Nepal, we can’t even run at or around the monastery because there just isn’t a place to do it. There aren’t any paved roads on the side of the mountain for us to run up and down (not that we’d want to run up and down a mountain), so that’s not an option. And while the gompa sits in the center of the grounds and a stone path circumnavigates it, because of last year’s earthquake, it’s covered with rubble and construction equipment as the contractors rebuild and repair the damaged structures (if we ran that loop, we would also have to deal with stairs and stray dogs).
Oh, you want to hear a dog story? Back in Ankara, Jen was attacked by a pack of the wild beasts when she tried to run one evening. They were jumping all over her. And if you don’t know Jen very well, let me tell you she just loves dogs. Loves them. All animals really, especially the strays. Not.
But running isn’t the only thing we like to do to be healthy. We also enjoy yoga from time to time. Since coming to Nepal we’ve been doing it on the roof of our building (the only place with enough flat space and some amazing Himalayan views) every morning between 5:30-6:30am. We’ve tried to do yoga other places though with some hardships. In Spain, for instance, we didn’t have wifi in our apartment and since we were streaming episodes from the internet, it was difficult. Since then, we have had to download episodes and then save them all, knowing we were coming here with limited internet access. When we run out, we’ll have to just repeat the same couple dozen that I’ve saved over and over again.
Wherever we go, we do our best to make the best of the situation. There’s always time and a place to work out and take care of your body. You just have to look for those options. You can’t shortcut health and fitness. Make a schedule and stick to it. Don’t let weather or laziness or bad internet or even unpaved mountain roads get in your way. The moral of the story: Just Do It!
Until Next Time…