I packed my boxing gear on this trip. My friends were confused: I’m on vacation. I should enjoy myself. I should take advantage of what the city has to offer and do new things.
Exactly! I enjoy boxing and I have never trained at a boxing gym in Beirut before- what better way than to experience Beirut than by meeting the people there, and seeing how they train?
I asked the hotel concierge if he knew of any boxing/MMA gyms in a safe area of town that I could go to, alone. He recommended one that one of the employees of the hotel used to attend. Perfect! I asked for the name, address and directions.
Cultural difference #1: in Beirut, there are no street addresses. There are streets, and districts, but no street numbers and no postal codes. For example:
Very yummy place , if you can find it.
I got the district, the street and the name of the building (bonus!) of the boxing gym. I was also given the owner’s name and his number, and the schedule for the boxing classes.Yesterday evening was my first free evening to go train. My Uber driver knew the street and the district, but not the building, but hey! 2 out of 3 ain’t bad. Off I went. My driver brought me to an area of town that was poorer than what I had previously seen, and had very little English in its signage. It was dark at night. The trip was longer than I expected. I started to fret about where I was going, alone, female, with no man to translate and protect me (it took me all of 72 hours to master the helpless female mindset). Then, I got distracted by the haphazard parking on the streets:
As we got closer to my destination, my driver stopped (in the middle of a street), rolled down the window and asked a passerby for directions.Cultural difference #2: it is a matter of pride, for Arabs, to give directions, even if they do not know the place you are seeking to access. They will not say, “sorry, I do not know it”, no! They will say, “it might be this place, in which case drive to the end of the street and then turn on the street that is in the other direction, OR, it might be this place that is near the restaurant. Yes yes, the restaurant.” (Translated Verbatim. Red flag. There are restaurants everywhere!!! Most generic description ever!!! Code red!)Miraculously, my uber driver found the street and the general area of the gym, by noticing a tiny tiny sign with the name of the gym and the owner on a street lamppost. We were in a residential area full of apartment buildings, no gym-like edifice in sight. I got out of the Uber, and did breathing exercises on the sidewalk, to convince myself I wouldn’t get raped and die, all for the sake of boxing. Then I searched for an entrance that looked like it belonged to a gym. I found it, tucked between two huge apartment blocks. Swallowing my anxiety, I walked in.
The facilities were unusual (it appeared to be a small bungalow, converted into a MMA gym). There was an ongoing Tae Kwon Do class in the largest room, and it was full of little munchkins running around doing cute kid version of fighting, while their parents looked on. I could hear the instructor, teaching in Arabic: he sounded stern and patient. Waiting patiently were a bunch of guys with wraps on. I started to relax at these familiar cues. I got ready for class.
Within 15 seconds I was at ease. In a group of about 20 students, 6 were female (30% vs 30-40% at my Mtl gym). There was none of the gender weirdness that I had noticed during my trip. At this gym, a everyone was a fighter: some just happened to be female. Like my Mtl gym, the owner/coach was friendly, strict and technical. Like my Mtl gym, his students were welcoming, hardworking, focussed and hilarious. Like my Mtl gym, I was a pool of sweat after training. No cultural shock here. A punch is a punch, regardless of the language used to describe it. MMA Academy Lebanon is a fine gym.
I should have known – boxing is awesome. Borders and cultures can’t negatively impact this sport. It brings together the coolest and funnest people. For the rest of my stay in Beirut, that gym will be my happy place.
Recap of all previous posts related to the Trip To See Dynamo Lawfully Wedded: Who’d Have Ever Guessed He’d Find A Woman Crazy Enough To Marry Him.
- Day 1: Turkish culture shock
- Day 2: Justified panic attacks and beautiful weather
- Day 3: White girls are slutty, obvi