“Stick your butt out! Don’t be shy!” Leandro often demands this from you in his spunky Brazilian accent. The way he speaks makes me think of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Brazilian style. One night last week I found myself in the yoga studio with Kristin, the owner of Om (the yoga hostel I am doing a work trade at), giggling while Leandro commanded us to stick out our rear ends like a cat that really likes the base her spine to be scratched. We were working out to a video called Brazilian Bum Bum, which is pronounced “boom boom” in Portuguese, with some famous guy in the fitness biz named Leandro who kept reminding us that after this workout we would have fabulous and beach worthy boom booms.
When Kristin mentioned to me she wanted to start working out to some DVDs she owned my ears perked up. You see, for many years in my life, I have worked out to videos in my living room. This dates all the way back to when I was in high school, I’m talking VHS days. To list a few real good ones; Tami Lee Webb’s “Buns of Steel,” Cindy Crawford’s “Shape Your Body,” and Elle MacPherson’s “Your Personal Best.” All circa early 90’s. I daresay the hair and outfits have probably come back into style at this point. The Elle MacPherson video tape was passed between me, my sister and my mom so much that it finally bit the dust one day. A rather disappointing day, I might add, as I stood in front of the TV crestfallen that I wouldn’t be able to work out with Elle. Although, at that point, I had exercised with that tape so many times I didn’t really need to watch it to do it. I could probably even voice all of Elle’s commentary while I did my crunches and bicep curls.
Since last week, workouts with Leandro happen almost every second night. One humid and jungle humming night we were sculpting our thighs and posteriors with multiple types of squats and lunges. The bi-nightly workouts had gone from just me and Kristin to several other ladies and that night in particular there were six or seven of us. It’s hard to take the Schwarzenegger of Brazil too seriously when he is oohing and aahing his work out team and preaching about the fit boom boom. Think of a dance instructor teaching moves to kindergardeners with the attention spans of squirrels. In between gulps of laughter, I imagine this is what we may have looked like.
The yoga studio where we were working out is on the second floor and all open air. You can see the ocean through the trees on the opposite side of the road. People passing on the road can look up and see you in your downward dog during the day or fine tuning your gluteus maximus at night. I’m not sure if it was because it was a larger group of us upstairs laughing and moving about but several times cars pulled into the little parking lot and peered up at us possibly wondering if some event was going on. The thing about Puerto Viejo is that if you need a party, there is one somewhere. It’s what gives this place perhaps the bad rep of being a party town. In my two months here I have come to realize I was drawn to this place more for a resting point on my journey to practice yoga every day and work on my writing. I couldn’t be farther removed from partying if I tried. Making dinner with a new friend or staying in and reading and writing sounds far more entertaining to me than copious shots at a local watering hole rendering me useless for the following 24 to 48 hours.
About 20 minutes into our thigh and butt shaping workout, four people on bikes rolled up and started hooting and hollering at us. They parked their bikes and ran upstairs with their beer cans in hand. They were very clearly inebriated. It was 6:30 PM.
“Yeah dance party!” One of them yelled in drunken delight.
“Well, actually, we’re working out and this isn’t something the yoga studio offers, we are just doing this on our own. And you also can’t have your beer up here,” Kristin kindly told them. Without asking if they could join, two of them scurried to different parts of the studio and started working out with us. The drunkest and loudest girl there was wearing a sea captain’s hat.
“Wooo hooo!! Work it out girls!” She kept yelling as we all squatted and lunged, Leandro’s commentary being drowned out by her intoxicated ruckus. The other two stood by the stairs as it slowly dawned on them that this wasn’t a dance party in the least, but a bunch of friends doing a work out DVD together.
Sea Captain in the back kept up her jolly yet slightly obnoxious drunken encouragement for less than five minutes while the rest of us basically ignored her. I wondered if she had any sobering moments in those few minutes where she realized that we were not on the same wavelength as her at all and that perhaps she was annoying rather than entertaining us. Eventually, they all caught the drift and filed back down the stairs like little penguins plunging back into the boozy waters of their bike ride.
It made me sad. It made me wonder if tourists come here thinking that all of Puerto Viejo is just a party. After knocking back a few rounds, they can barge in wherever and assume that anywhere they go they will be welcomed by other drunk people. It wasn’t a dance party, for god sakes, we were working out. No wonder so many locals are under the impression that North Americans just want to get annihilated when they are here. Now I’m no saint, but I would never barge in somewhere that looked like it was having a party and then assume it was just ok to join in. It was disheartening to say the least. In no way am I trying to stand on my soap box and claim that I am so great because I’m here and not partying and practicing yoga everyday, oh and then I work out to Brazilian Bum Bum at night, blah blah blah. I’m simply saying that it was disappointing to witness tourists wasted by 6:30 PM assuming that the rest of Puerto Viejo is also just as wasted and that it’s ok to bust in anywhere and partake in what you think is a party but in reality is a bunch of chicks trying to exercise together. Try and meet me on a deeper level here. It’s about having respect for the place you are visiting, for the people who live there and the culture. It’s about going to a place that’s rumored to be a party town and finding a more committed community underneath the booze and grime trying to better the image. Finally, it’s about realizing that Leandro is a serious guy and can’t have drunken tourists raining on his boom boom parade.