Despite having an English name, (and what seem to be randomly selected 'inspirational quotes' in English - complete with spelling and grammatical errors on the walls) When in Dobut, Go Workout has an almost entirely Bosnian, female, membership. Most of the classes follow a model of group exercise called Les Mills (originiating from New Zealand I've been told). They are high intensity workouts set to the most horrifying techno/pop music possible. This however, as the model proves, is indeed motivational, increasing ones strength by encouraging one to lift the weights higher and then to imagine hurling them at the speakers.
Although I've been going to the gym for other classes for months, I've only recently discovered that a zumba class is offerred for a full hour on Wednesday and Sunday nights. Zumba class, although not part of the Les Mills workouts, is equally popular. Women arrive early and gather in the small locker room chatting in Bosnian and adjusting their spandex. One curious difference I've noticed here is that gym clothing is ONLY appropriate inside the gym. I.e. wearing workout clothes en route or departing from the gym is not appropriate. Most people exert some effort to eliminate evidence that they were at the gym. The small room is packed after class as people use the hair dryer not for their hair but rather to dry off sweat, before changing back into normal clothes, reapplying makeup, and then departing. Clearly the lazy foreigner, I both arrive and leave in my workout tights. One woman told me she thought I had to be German 'because they don't wear a lot of makeup.'
The zumba instructor is a young guy, 20, 24 at most. It's amazing how some information really does not require language. This young instructor is one of those rare people who emanates pure, warm, positive energy. He finishes each short routine with a deep gratitude-filled yogi bow towards the 20 females panting and sweating in front of him, before erupting into his own enthusiastic applause, yelling 'Bravo! Bravo!!' and then rushing over to change the music.
Since I'm a newbie to the class, I tend to stay towards the back. Arms high in the air, salsa steps forward and back, I find myself grinning widely from ear to ear, sometimes nearly laughing, attempting to syncronize with the group, and at the blissful absurdity of the entire scene. We start with a little hip-hop, move into some Latin rhythms, and finally, end the hour with a high energy zumba-inspired interpretation of classic Slavic folk dance movements. This is zumba in Bosnia.
In the style of my heart-rate raising dance class, I will attempt in the next posts to bring you up to speed on the happenings of the last month. (Uh, where did it go??) I've been really busy, in much better spirits, and the longer days have brought sunshine and new energy to the city that is clearly palpable. "It's like Sarajevo is literally... (pause for dramatic affect) a completely different city now that the weather is warm," I explained incredulously to an American who's been living here for six years. My friend and I were sitting on a bench in Veliki Park, behind the unpopular memorial to the children killed in the last war (unpopular because people think the monument is ugly) when she walked past pushing her toddler in a stroller. She replied rather non-chalantly before leaving us. "Yep. That's Sarajevo for you. You hate it and then you love it."
Čujemo se. (A common farewell greeting, literally meaning 'we will hear each other.')