by Hannah Bowermaster, Greenheart Travel English Teacher in the Republic of Georgia
When I come through the small metal door that leads into Elie’s host family’s living room, I always have to stop a moment, allowing my eyes adjust to the dim lighting of the cave-like room. It has a low ceiling, small windows, and walls paneled in dark wood. Elie is sitting at the computer just inside the door, but I’m on a mission and head straight for the bathroom at the back of the house (Elie’s host family’s house has two bathrooms. If you will recall, my first host family didn’t even have one).
When I come back, Elie is sitting with one side of his host family’s overlarge headphones pulled behind his ear as he watches a video on the computer. On the screen, a young man in a sleeveless t-shirt is lifting a cement block over his head and placing it back on the ground over and over again.
“I’m gonna start working out with cinder blocks,” He says with an excited smile, “it’s happening.”
Georgians do not put a lot of stock into being physically fit. Or perhaps it’s that Americans are over fixated with their fitness and physical abilities; I couldn’t say. All I know is that, in this country, they eat a lot of cheese bread and they don’t get a lot of exercise. There aren’t even really any sports you can play. The schools don’t offer any and, though I have heard of a few local teams, I have only once seen any actual evidence that they exist, when I walked by the Zugdidi football (soccer) stadium during a game (said stadium has since been torn down).
When I first began running down the one road through my village, in the fall, I was besieged with open mouth stares and shouts of “Ra saketeb, Hannah!” (“What are you doing!”).
To which I always wanted to reply, “What the hell does it look I’m doing?”
The point being, almost all of the food I eat here is drenched in oil, filled with cheese, or dripping with butter. Combine a fatty, salty diet with the lethargy of the locals and you have a dangerous recipe for muffin-top (and the waist lines of every Georgian man over 30 stand as testament to this). The situation is further exacerbated by their embarrassing fascination with me when I do work out. “I don’t want any Khachupuri while I’m doing crunches, and unless you are a lot faster than you look, I can’t have a conversation with you while I’m running.” I want to tell them.
So, how then, one may wonder, have I managed to go from a 29’ to 27’ waist since I arrived in January? Well, I work out, and I have achieved the promise of every weight loss infomercial in a country were the two primary food groups are milk fat and refined starch. The most crucial step was finding a reliable exercise routine. This step was actually completed for me by Elie