American K-Pop Star (For An Hour)



Exercise Monotony

Today I stepped on the treadmill, ready, if not devoid of any excitement to run for 45 to 60 minutes. Are you a treadmill person? I am definitely not. I barely finished my warm-up when I abandoned the treadmill for the aerobic class that was about to start around the corner.
I walk by that studio every morning on my way to the treadmills and elliptical machines in my apartment complex gym. Sometimes I stop and watch for a minute because they seem to be having so much fun. Bless their hearts they try so hard, BUT let’s face it the ladies, most of them my age or older, aren’t going to win any dance competitions any time soon.
I resisted the urge to join them because the memory of swinging that door open to the sauna a few months earlier and having 20 sets of eyes and 20 sets of bare breasts (among other things) staring at my every move was still too familiar a memory for me. I wasn’t in a hurry to repeat that experience, while also dispelling the rumor that all black people are fabulous dancers too.
I stopped at the door, peered into the crowded room and practically hurled myself across the threshold trying not to look too afraid or intimidated by the room full of strangers. I don’t know if it worked, but I found a space on the back row, directly behind the instructor so I could follow her actions if not her words.
The room was sandwiched between two full walls of mirror, so no matter where I stood, I’d be able to see how bad I looked. And I know I looked bad because no matter how well you dance or how quickly you’re able to follow instruction, the first aerobic class you attend may or may not determine if there will be a second one. And that’s not even taking into consideration that I knew that class would not be taught in English.

K-Pop Wannabee

Hi!! All of sudden all eyes were on me–again. Hi, I returned. I am glad you are here, what is your name? I’m Stacey and I am happy to be here too. Everyone clapped, whispers of Stacey echoed throughout the studio.
She dimmed the lights and the whispers stopped almost instantaneously those ladies personas changed (into video vixens) and the room took on the appearance of a night club. It was 9am and the neon lights flooded down from the ceiling in geometric shapes that danced on the wooden floor. Meghan Trainor’s All About That Bass filtered down from the speakers on the forever cementing that song into memory as the first song I danced to in a “Korean nightclub”.
Those aujumas got serious, instantly turning into wannabee K-pop stars. It was surreal. The songs were non-stop, less than a few seconds between them and that went on for a solid hour.


Flashdance or Dirty Dancing

The only break we received were the few times the drill sergeant like instructor stopped to adjust form or technique. I couldn’t understand a lot of what she said except, hana, dul set (1,2,3). I did understand her chastisement in the lack of enthusiasm shown for some of her choreography. Which, btw, wasn’t too bad. Except for the floor work, which unfortunately was an unpleasant flashback to Flashdance or Dirty Dancing.
And then it was over. The instructor turned up the lights and the everyone stretched their arms over their hand once, bowed and started filing out of the room. Someone handed me a plastic bottle of room temperature tomato juice and we took a few pictures of this article. I don’t know if I’ll make it a routine, but it sure broke up the monotony of running on that stupid treadmill. Besides, it may be my only chance to channel the inner k-pop star I didn’t know I wanted to be.

How to have a better expat experience:

  1. Broaden your comfort zone, jump right in there, commit to it, laugh at yourself when appropriate and have fun.
  2. Ask questions, don’t assume anything. You’re likely to get more help than you really need.
  3. Go where the locals go, even if they have that activity on post.
  4. Connect through social media, they want to know about your culture too.
  5. Keep an open mind, don’t project your American-ness where it doesn’t belong. That’s the whole point of travel, isn’t it?
  6. Know that there are going to be times when you can’t do any of the above. Find a place to go where you can re-energize, eat a good burger or just zone out completely. This too shall pass!!
What do you think… what are your tips for making your expat experience better?
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