The first rains have fallen in Pretoria. Not much, but the thunder was impressive. Seems it’s getting back on track for the bright season of spring even if the temperatures soared right back to summer style without much ado in the past week. Our students posted their relief: “Thank God it’s cooled off!” They sure didn’t take long to forget the winter’s chill. Well, I am glad that I don’t have to leave the house dressed for nippy frost any longer – and at Seminary windows are wide open getting fresh air in and making us all bouncy and glad to be alive.
Even while spinning at the gym Thabang Sekiba – one of the personal trainer – couldn’t stop himself from jumping and skipping up those steps in a flurry. He flashes his gold tooth in a wide grin and while passing on hasty greetings, he’s already bounding along to get rid of at least some of that boundless energy of his. There are literally hundreds more of his kind – cycling, skipping, running, rowing, swimming, stretching, balancing, pushing weights or stepping up and down to get those hearts pumping and the blood flowing.
I’m impressed by the old and cronky doing their thing too – half-blind, arthritic and far from being as flexible as they used too be, still they keep moving as they’ve been doing for years already – more by sheer willpower than that of their waning muscles. So I salute them as they do step-ups or slow down in the steam room – lifting my hand in greeting and bowing in respectful acknowledgement: Bayete Nkosi! They’ll be the ones, who also reply readily to such friendly address. Giving room, biding their turn and never slow to smile. They’ve learnt over the years that tokens of sociable decorum go a long way to make life more bearable.
I appreciate the many younger ones eager to fill the shoes of their esteemed forerunners. They work out hard, working up a sweat – even outside the sauna – yet go out of their way to make way, give room and right of way to others, while patiently waiting their turn. They speak all sorts of languages – even Chinese (or is it Japanese? I don’t know the difference) – but most are Afrikaans or other kinds of Africans . Most of those, who can still hear without hearing aides, wear headphones to listen to own choice and blocking out the constant drone of the public system sighing, moaning and grunting to mind numbing thumping. That’s why speaking no real option. So most personal communication goes via eye contact and body language. That spans the cultural divide quite easily as most are willing to please and accommodate the fellow athletes – the movers and shakers of this world in the literal sense. Even the ever running DSTV goes without words/sounds as it flashes global images from the cricket, rugby or golfing arenas into our small world – if its not tennis, soccer or F1.
There are others of course too – not programs, but types at the gym. Rash, brawny and rather pushy. Not much patience, no overdose of respect and not so willing to budge even a single inch: It’s my right, right now – so push over or I’ll force you! Don’t like it, but its there. Always lurking just under the surface. So don’t scratch, otherwise the ugly underground comes to the surface far too easily and rashly: “Move over!” “Wait. I’m nearly finished.” “No. I won’t wait. I’ve got my rights too.” “Hey – there’s just not room for two. Why should I move over for you, who came later?” “Don’t talk to me like that.” “Grow up!” Rumble, grumble and the friction is just waiting to explode into full-blown conflict. Too much chauvinism? Testosterone? Racism? Perhaps latently, but I’d rather blame just too little social skills – never mind etiquette or cross-cultural competencies.
Still I fancy going to the gym regularly. I meet lot’s of people that I never see in Church or at my regular work place. It’s nearly as sociable as the farmer’s market – even if I don’t get half as much talking or listening done, but then I do get more than my fair share of thinking and even sweating besides building up credit with my medical aid.
There are the group workouts too: Pilates and Yoga are my first choices to balance the standard workouts – and I can do that with Angelika now and again. That’s where you meet the same people regularly – and you get talking too as the studios shut out the blaring of the public sound system. Mostly small talk, but still a good alteration in my daily business and life as pastor & bishop, which does involve both life and death really.