Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Dubai stone

I had another one of those: "You know, this is a rather strange place" moments when I was arthritically lumbering around the gym this morning.

Gyms are not my natural habitat. Tapping away on a computer while slurping six cups of a tea in a row, that's more my usual comfort zone, but you learn pretty quick that the combination of home delivery takeaways, being within walking distance of every variety of restaurant under the sun and it being too hot to set foot outside for more than five minutes means that you'd better do something quick if you still want your buttocks to be able to cram into your plane seat on your trip home. It's known as the Dubai stone. 

So, several days a week I am to be found clad in lycra and ancient running shoes pounding away on the treadmill and lifting really quite pitifully small weights while being bemused by screens showing Animal Planet, CNN, MTV and the like.

After attempting some pathetic situps and staggering to my feet with my usual head rush (low blood pressure, it's a family thing) I spotted a gardener wondering past one of the building's glass doors pushing a wheelbarrow.

This is not unusual as the gym building, like many, is surrounded by lush green foliage which is tended by teams of gardeners who work for the property company Emaar.  The "this is a rather strange place" moment came when I clocked the fact that he had some kind of scarf or cloth draped over his head to protect him from the heat and he was painfully thin, as are many of the manual workers from the sub continent that you see tending gardens or working on construction sites.

"Bizarre," I thought to myself.  "Here I am, having paid for the privelege of trying to burn off my excess calories in this air conditioned environment when I could save myself a lot of hassle if I ate fewer pies and made the effort to brave the heat and go for a walk.  That chap probably gets paid in a month what my three-month gym membership cost, if he's lucky.  The last thing on his mind would be trying to burn calories, just getting enough fluids onboard to survive the heat and enough food in his belly later so he has the strength to lift that wheelbarrow and enough money left over to send a bit home to his family. I am, in fact, a ridiculous person."

I've said it before and I'll say it again. Life here is strange, people. It can be really very nice and easy thanks to the cheap labour represented by my wheelbarrow pushing chum but you're constantly reminded of what a priveleged position you're in as a  European ex-pat as opposed to a poor migrant worker.  I do worry that I will stop noticing people like that gardener if I stay here too long. I hope not.

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