Back Fat

Trip Start Jan 10, 2007
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Costa Rica  ,
Saturday, October 13, 2007

Well, I finally decided that I've had enough of people telling me that I look "mas guapa" now that I'm "gordita" and that I was "muy flaca" when I arrived, but now I look better. Yes, I know that these are compliments. And yes, I know that us western women have a skewed vision of the perfect body and a warped idea of what the correct weight is. I know that the ideal Tica beauty with big boobs, big butt, and a little extra meat all around is way healthier than the slim waif who only ever orders side salads with water. I was a women's studies major; I know the theories behind western society wanting women to take up as little space as possible in the world, thus robbing us of our strength, beauty, and inner power. I know all this.

And I keep telling myself this as I examine my new...squishier...self. I tell myself to love my body and enjoy the fabulous cooking of my host mother. But then I think of what I looked like when I returned from my last year-long trip abroad, I think of going home to the Christmas season in two short months, but most of all I think of what I will look like in a swimsuit at my end-of-year WorldTeach party in Tamarindo. And thinking of this finally did it. After trying so hard to see the beauty in a couple extra pounds and allowing myself to loose the internal battles over whether to eat that last tortilla and queso, I have finally been overpowered by that evil little inner voice that every American woman seems to develop by age thirteen telling her to drop the pounds. And it sounded a little like this: Do you really want jiggly thighs at the beach? Hasn't your butt gotten a little too ghetto booty-ish? Love handles may be lovely on babies, but sweetie, you're 24! And have you taken a look at that stomach?! Time to lay off the Imperial, honey!

So I've given in, or come around depending on how you look at it I guess. I've made a stand and, once again, consume only salads for lunch. My rice consumption has drastically dropped from heaping platefuls to only a few spoonfuls. I've started walking up the mountain in the mornings before the rains begin. And, I've started doing dance aerobics. Yes, that's right, dance aerobics. Tico style. Which is way more fun, and probably way weirder than dance aerobics in the States. At least I assume so, never having actually done dance aerobics before. But there's a first for everything, right?

So. Three times a week I don my new three quarter length yoga pants and grungy tank top and head over to my friend Seida's house where I meet my other friend Adriana for our workout. I should mention that Seida no longer joins us because she has to work in her just-opened panaderia selling melt-in-your-mouth breads that give off a torturously yummy smell while baking. "Remember your thighs!" yells that little voice in my head every time I enter the house. So, with those thighs in mind, Adriana and I determinedly move the TV and DVD player from the bedroom into the larger back room in a very systematic way that we have developed over the past couple weeks. She disconnects the plugs while I handle the cable, and we both manhandle the TV into place. Once all is set up, usually the sound or picture or both aren't working. So then Adriana gets a wooden brush and bangs the front of the set for the sound and I use my palm to hit the side of it for the picture.

Pretty soon when everything is in working order, we get in our self-assigned places, ready to begin. Of course by now we are not alone. Emily, Adriana's adorable redheaded nine-year-old, has been a faithful workout companion since the beginning. And more recently, we have also been joined by Glen and Kendall, Seida's 7-year-old twins, who love to jump and wiggle to the music. Even Kiki, Seida's two-year-old, joins in with amazingly accurate imitations of my movements. I'm not really sure whether to be deeply disturbed or charmed and flattered by her mimicry, but I decide just to go with it.

On the TV, the picture shows a group of attractive, toned Latinos speaking in both English and Spanish. "This is Zumba, baby!" they tell us, and we're off. They show us the moves slowly for about five seconds and then it's up to full speed for 45 minutes of ass-shaking dance aerobics! As we shake our hips and skip along to salsa, meringue, cumbia, and a weird sort of belly dancing, I glance over at my students in amazement. Even at this young age, they definitely know how to shake it! No wonder this is a country of dancers; just look at the way little Kendall is moving his hips! And then I can't help but to contemplate if this whole thing is ok, shaking it with the kids. It's definitely not something that would be likely to happen in the States, that's for sure. But then again, Dorothy, we're not exactly in the States anymore!

Every once in awhile the action is interrupted when the sound or picture go again, causing us all to run up and bang on the TV while dancing in place, trying to keep the momentum going. I like to think that it breaks the monotony of the continuous hip swiveling...because what we're doing is monotonous... During the course of a workout I will step on Kiki a couple times and Glen will run into me while Emily giggles and Adriana quickly mops up water leaking from the ceiling because of too much "aguacero". It's crazy with about as much focus on just keeping the whole activity going as on the actual dance moves themselves. But by the end of forty-five minutes my legs are feeling it, my abs seems a little bit tighter, and the sweat is streaming down my back.

"Good work out," I say while drinking my water out of a coffee mug before moving the TV back to the bedroom in another beautifully synchronized routine with Adriana. "Cafecito?" says Seida with a plate of perfectly golden brown, freshly baked French bread chunks topped by thick slabs of my favorite cheese. My little inner voice starts to say something about thighs and back fat, but I silence it before it can begin. I do have some strength left in me after all, though I guess some would call it weakness. "What the hell?" I say as I grab a hunk of bread and sit down for a gab session with my curvy friends. In the end, this is Costa Rica and back fat is SEXY in Costa Rica!!!
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dadofdivaboots on

Back fat is...
...very cool now in the States. Just look at Brittney!

semi-backpacker on

You've inspired me to go to El Salvador!
I've read a few entries from your blog and really enjoyed them! I am also in Costa Rica and on the fence about whether to visit El Salvador, you know Salvatruches and all. Your blog was very helpful!

Judy (The link to my blog is below)

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