About a week ago I arrived for in Lima for my two month stay with my brother and his girlfriend. One of the first things I did was join a gym. This is partly because I hate the thought of two months without proper excercise and partly because I'm a boring creature of habit. My brother lives in a part of Lima that isn't at all touristy. Being a pasty looking Brit is actually something of a rarity and you do get quite a lot of stares for being the only gringo on the street. Yes, I do like the attention. When I joined the gym I therefore knew it was going to be very local. My brothers girlfriend Amy took me to the tiny gym to explain that I couldn't speak a word of Spanish before signing me up and leaving me there. Since then, I have gone four or five times.
The gym itself is probably the smallest I have ever seen but around half of it is dedicated to free weights. The equipment is all rusted and anything you use makes unhealthy sounding clanging and squeeking sounds. I am literally the only pale foreigner that seems to go there (apart from my brother who has gone once) so I do get a lot of curious stares. There is a large, hairy guy called 'Oki' who works there and shakes my hand everytime I walk past him and another guy who's arm is about as thick as my waist who can speak some broken English, usually to tell me "don't drop weights".
I haven't actually dropped any weights since going there but the dumbbells are so loose that if you put them down at all quickly they make a loud "clang!". Everytime this happens someone rushes over to explain to explain to me using simple Spanish and universal hand gestures that I musn't drop the weights. This means that I now put weights down after each set with extreme gentleness and precision. Easing them down this slowly with aching arms whilst lying on a bench is actually an excercise in itself but the approving smiles from the locals at the gym assures me that this silly gringo has learnt his lesson.
It is an absolute cliche for somebody to say this when they go abroad but Peruvians generally do seem to be very kind and polite, especially to someone who speaks no Spanish and has already made a few embarrassing mistakes when out and about. Definitely more patient than I imagine Brits would be to somebody that was bumbling around, not knowing any of the language and ordering three plates of food from a cafe before explaining I only ordered it because I thought it was part of the supermarket deli so I don't actually want any of it. Another cliche would be to say that the women are especially beautiful. When they stare at me in the gym I smile back and pretend they are admiring my perfectly sculpted physique rather than wondering 'where did that little gringo appear from?'