Beijing’s Nirvana and Jillian Michaels

Woah it’s been a long time since I wrote something here. I started out the summer with the goal of posting once a week, but as it is the time for travel and workloads, and I’ve been familiarizing myself with the latter, time has passed me by. So far, summer in Beijing has been hot and humid with a sprinkle of out-of-this-world thunderstorms and choking pollution. I’ve spent the majority of my time saying bye to friends, eating out far too much and searching for pools and outside spaces to populate my hours free of the above debilitating weather. I’ve also finally joined a gym.

Up until two weeks ago, I’ve been biking part of the way to and from work, and rocking out with Jillian Michaels in the comfort of my living room for exercise. Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. Seriously, her workout videos are tough. Nevertheless, they also bring out the loner exerciser in me, so I decided I was ready to share my workout experience and joined a gym earlier this month. Perfect timing, as it turns out, since my building has decided to shut off our hot water for twelve days straight with no explanation. Not a minute of hot water for almost two weeks.

The gym I chose is so welcomingly called Nirvana, which may inspire a satisfied feeling of accomplishment, but in reality this place channels more of the 90s hard rock band’s vibe. It blasts music 24-7 that reverberates across the block, and the employee who guided me through a tour can be characterized as a quasi Chinese Stalone – a short, built Chinese almost-stud named Rambo. (This type of name choice is quite popular among Chinese gym staff; my friend Maggie noted one of the workout gurus at her gym is named “Ahhnold”.) Although Rambo’s English is quite limited and my Chinese sports vocabulary is pretty pathetic, we got along quite well, minus when he unsuccessfully tried to persuade me into buying a Lifetime Membership Card. I love Beijing, but dedicating my Life to it at 24 is not part of the larger plan.

A highlight of Rambo’s tour was the locker room. As I stepped past the plastic curtain little did I know I was stepping into a portal where I would be granted a big gaping window into the world of Chinese women. There’s one thing you need to know about me before I continue – I didn’t grow up in a “naked house”. The combination of WASP and Irish Catholic ancestry is not conducive to being comfortable flaunting your naked body among strangers. I am now convinced, however, every Chinese woman with a Nirvana membership did. Putting on clothes is apparently the last thing to address in the after-shower routine. You may be saying you’ve had a similar experience in the States; however, do not be fooled, literally everyone is naked. So naked, you feel pressured into joining their freedom, out of fear you will be judged for wearing clothing. For now, I’ve been able to avoid the judgments by biking home to shower.

Jillian Michaels never posed this dilemma; however, I think it’ll be some time before she and I spend quality time together again.


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