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  • In the face of familial insanity, my sister used to whisper to me right before we would grounded for this that and the other, “You better learn to laugh or you is going to go loco.” This nugget of dysfunctional brilliance has stayed with me over the years and saved me from sinking into the pits of insanity that life can pull me into. This little nugget has never been so important to remember as it has while I sail through this sealess land known as Bolivia, which I suspect is some indigenous word for “Crazy, Crazy, Really Freakin’ Crazy.” Case in point…the gym yesterday.

    You see, I run. I don’t know why I run because I smoke. I have always smoked, but I am quitting. I am always quitting. Why? Because I like to run. It’s ridiculous but it is my own gerbil wheel. So, excuse. Because of this, though, I need to be a member of a gym. It is not safe to run on the roads plus that, for me, is too official. I am not a jogger; I am nothing fancy like that; I am more like a Labrador; I just likes to run; It is something I need to do or I start chewing shoes.

    To meet this need since I have been in Bolivia, I have been a member of a gym who lets me run. I was a member for over a year but I recently found a gym closer to my home (Gimnasio Body Club to be exact and if you see this gym, run the other way) and it is a 100 Bs ($16) less a month, a no brainer. So, I decided to join last night. After a much shorter walk than I am used to, there I was paying my fee when the lady informs me that there is a class upstairs; I have no interest in the class, I try to tell her, I just want to run. She doesn’t seem to hear this because after I pay my fee, she instructs one of her employees to take me upstairs. I don’t want to go upstairs, I inform the employee, I just want to trotar, which means run in these parts. Yet, the employee walks me upstairs anyway; I follow; I don’t want to be rude. I act like I am going to take the class until the employee leaves. Then, I walk back downstairs and get on a treadmill.

    Okay, now I run. I like to run; however, for the first 10 minutes, I walk; I always walk. I like to walk, yet I also like to run. After 10 minutes walking, I begin to run. I always run; I like to run; I am thinking this when the women that took my money approaches me; she speaks a different language than me and I don’t always understand especially because I think I hear,

    “No puede trotar.”

    Which means you can’t run.

    This is a gym, so I must understand her wrong.

    I don’t break my stride instead I smile and nod at her and then turn back my head, so that I can run. She touches my arm this time and again she says something like,

    “No puede trotar.”

    She can’t mean that, so again I smile, nod and turn my head. This is when I see them, the signs taped to every treadmill in front of me,

    “No trotar.”

    What? I mean,

    “Que?” I continue to run, “No trotar?”

    The woman shakes her head; she agrees that yes, no run.

    But this is a gym, I try to say. She doesn’t understand, I try to say that a gym in any other place in the universe usually means there is a place to run. She doesn’t understand instead she points her finger at another treadmill with a woman occupying it and says something like “There, that machine you can run.” I am irritated now. In a gym with over 10 treadmills, there is only one on which members can run. I say,

    “Pero mujer busy en machina”

    Whatever that means.

    But the lady understands and somehow explains to me that I can trade with the woman. She can walk on this machine and I can run on hers. Fair deal. I stop my treadmill, climb off, continue to job to keep that heart up and job over to my promised machine. The lady talks to the woman in the tongue I don’t understand. But I do understand this, body language and the woman’s body language says, “No, no I am not getting off.” After a few minutes of the lady begging the woman, she looks at me and shrugs.

    What does that mean? Which comes out as,

    “No trotar. I can’t freakin run. I just joined a gym and you won’t let me run?”

    The woman doesn’t understand me but she can see I am angry. She points upstairs as if to ask,

    “Want to take a class?”

    I don’t need Buns of Steel; I just want to run.

    I say again, “No, quiero trotar.”

    I want to run. This is a gym.

    She shrugs again. I can’t run at Body Club in Bolivia and the woman acts like that is a normal thing. Yet, I am not stranger to dysfunction like this…where there is reality but everyone insists there is not…and in environments like this, I can feel the crazy come on because Geez, Louise, WTF, a gym where you can’t run? Only in Bolivia which has to mean “Crazy! Crazy! Really Freakin’ Crazy!” in some tongue.
    What can I do?

    Laugh.

    Or else I is going to go NUTS!!!

    Bolivian Mind Trick #3,881,931,873,187
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