New Gym Old Gym
It was over a year ago that we renewed out gym membership. Faithful readers will remember the renewal process involved quite a lot of exercise. Our membership expired a short while before we headed to the UK for our summer break, and on our return we decided to research a different gym – largely because at Laphto pretty much everything was broken.
During our 5 months here in 2007 we had been members of “Ker Fitness and Spa” - a relatively short drive from Bingham down the ring road and closer than Laphto. It was quite good back then – fairly new with new equipment and a very interesting view from a high vantage point over a river, and Addis rivers are never dull. Back then Ker had a lot of machines, seriously awful showers and was pretty cheap. We had enquired about it when we returned in 2013 but it had closed. Well it’s open again, so we decided to investigate.
Ker Fitness is signposted off the ring road and is in a compound, with steps up to the main entrance covered in seemingly constantly wet artificial grass. We were met by an enthusiastic young man keen to sell us a membership. He described the various packages in moderately good English. “This one – gym, sauna, massage, exercise class, bottle of water” he beamed, obviously very proud of the inclusive bottled water. It was more than we wanted. “Just the gym” we said. “This one” he replied pointing to another line on the list of packages, “Gym, sauna, bottle of water”. Although we didn’t want (nor, in Ethiopia, would we trust) a sauna, this was the best one for us. “We’ll do that for three months” we agreed. “Includes bottle of water” he confirmed, to our delight and satisfaction.
a few days later We returned with the requisite bundle of bank notes and were directed to a young girl behind a desk marked “Casher” (I’ve not spelled it wrong…) who had extraordinary trouble adding it up, generating a receipt and then couldn’t give us a few Birr in change. We sorted that out I can’t remember how, and then Mr Enthusiasm showed us around. It looked pretty much as it had been in 2007, although I think they have shoehorned a few more machines into what little floor space was unoccupied and they have certainly made sure that however many people are in there, no-one will ever run out of weights.
We said we’d like to get changed and do some exercise. “Bottle of water” he said, heading off to get us one each, in addition to a numbered padlock for me to use to secure a locker. It turns out we also get donated a new bar of soap every time we attend, along with a much laundered off-white towel. Seble may find she gets quite a lot of soap now.
Many of the modern machines are the same ones as were in there in 2007. Back then we marvelled at the fact that the thin plastic film that covered the screens hadn’t been peeled off – something we had noticed in all sorts of Addis places and we suspect it is left on to demonstrate that something is new. Well guess what – the plastic film, nine years later, is still there. The temptation to peel it off is almost overwhelming.
Finishing exercise and heading to the changing room we were presented with the soap and towel. The showers have been improved, although in the men’s it is a bit difficult to see what you are doing as the fluorescent lights are ultraviolet which lights up white things but little else, although I did notice a socket hanging out of the wall. In the ladies the cleaner insisted Chris used the shower she had just cleaned, despite the absence of a tap on the cold supply. Good job Chris likes hot showers. Chris finished first and, drinking her free water, waited for me whilst relaxing on an incongruously opulent sofa, obviously there to enhance the atmosphere of peace and relaxation. (If I remember correctly, there used to be a furniture showroom upstairs through which we had to walk to get to the gym. Maybe not all the furniture was sold…)
Fewer things are broken at Ker compared to Laphto; it’s quite a bit cheaper, it has super-friendly staff and a view of a busy river valley to look down on (including cows, donkeys, farmers, Orthodox priests, games of football, that sort of thing) so it’s a good decision. Then there’s free soap, and bottles of water.
Completely unrelated, here’s a photo of a lorry (one of the ubiquitous Isuzus) Haile and I were driving behind recently, on our way to work. Check out the sticker on the left side of the back. I wondered what would happen if I phoned the number and mentioned the guy sticking out of the top?
And finally, here’s what happens half an hour into a torrential downpour if you build roads with no drainage (apologies for the advert – I used copyrighted audio):