What possessed me to sign up for a Zumba trip to Zihuatanejo, Mexico with 28 virtual strangers? Perhaps it was the endorphin high that kicks in every time I take a class with Luglio—a handsome Costa Rican whose body moves with gorgeous fluidity. Maybe it was because even on a gloomy Vancouver day, a Zumba session transports me to a steamy nightclub in Havana.
In Zumba class I’m no longer a 50-something mom from the ‘burbs. I dance with wild abandon, huge smile plastered on my face. I am young, and sexy, and stress-free. Who cares if I’m offbeat or going left when I should be going right. I’m a dancing legend in my own mind. Zumba in Zihua here I come!
As the days get closer to our departure, I start to wonder what the hell I’d gotten myself into. I’m not a group travel kind of person. I don’t know these people. I’m not particularly good at small talk or mingling. I’m not used to having my travel plans made for me. My introvert tendencies call for plenty of alone time. Crap, what have I done!
It’s a Sunday evening, and locals crowd the stands of Zihua’s town square to watch Zihuaton Zumba— a fundraiser for a local orphanage. The giant amps blast out samba, salsa, and other heart-pumping, spicy stuff. Kate, one of our Zumba Vancouver instructors, is giving it all she’s got up on stage. I’m dancing with our gang of Vancouver women and several groups of Mexican “zumbanistas”. Rivers of sweat run down my face. My feet are in agony on the concrete floor. I’m on a rock star high!
There’s a lot of spontaneous hugging going on—at breakfast, before Zumba class, after class, at the pool… The ladies are fun and friendly and welcoming. I think that I should be liking this. But it feels weird. I’m not demonstrative; I barely hug my sister, who I’m very fond of. It goes against my Germanic DNA. They probably think I’m a standoffish snob.
We’re dancing twice a day, everyday. Denise, the founder of Zumba Vancouver, has us shaking our booties to African rhythms. It’s sizzling in our open-air studio overlooking beautiful Playa La Ropa. I’ve ditched the Lululemon gear for a bikini top and loose shorts. I’m feeling wonderfully unencumbered and pleasantly intoxicated, and I haven’t even had my first margarita. The sun is just about to set after our late afternoon session. I make a beeline for the beach and soak in the warm water. Life doesn’t get any better!
“Wait, just one more…could you take one with me in it…” Can we ever have a dinner or a Zumba session without the incessant group photo taking! Then, there’s the constant female chitchat. I’m usually complaining about the lack of communication in my male dominated household, now I’m kind of missing my tight-lipped guys.
I’m draped over a bolster, there’s a cool eucalyptus-scented cloth around my neck, there’s a girl with magic hands soothing my verklempt shoulders. We’re in a restorative yoga session, something we do every morning following Zumba. Paty is our yoga instructor and the owner of the studio. She’s a feisty Mexican lady who runs the place like a drill sergeant. She’s abrasive and endearing at the same time. She orders around “her girls” (the ones with the hands), and inspects our feet for sand before granting entry. Water bottles in her studio are strictly verboten. She’s an intriguing character, her pride is evident, and her restaurant makes kick-ass tiritas (ceviche).
There’s a lot of together time: breakfast, morning Zumba, lunch at Paty’s, afternoon Zumba, evening parties and excursions. It’s all fun, most of it anyway, but a little much for an introvert who needs some quiet re-charging time. I skip out on one of the parties. It’s what I need. Then, I obsess about how it will be perceived.
We’re on an excursion to do aqua Zumba in Ixtapa at the Club Med’s big swimming pool. Ixtapa is a sterile place of big box resorts, and the Club Med, well, let’s just say it ain’t me. Aqua Zumba is a laugh, but I’m ready to get back to charming Zihua and the Hotel Irma—our refreshingly authentic digs where the friendliness of the staff cancels out a few service glitches. But, not so fast, first we sing: “Hands up, baby hands up, gimme your heart, gimme, gimme your heart…” I cringe!
Our final day is a free one. I aimlessly and happily wander through the pretty town. I eat yummy enchiladas verdes at a little family-run place that I’ve been itching to try all week. I sneak in one more ridiculously inexpensive beach massage at the Rosario “Spa”. In the evening, I hook up with a few ladies for an enchanting dinner overlooking the beach. The pendulum is definitively in the “I’m glad I came” zone.
A few months have elapsed since our trip. I’m “zumbaing” in a school gym back in dark, damp Vancouver. It continues to bring on an amazing euphoria and a goofy smile, which I now share with my Zumba in Zihua friends. I’m sheepishly grateful to the iPhone-wielding ladies who snapped all those group photos and shared them on Facebook. We all look so darn happy. Hey gals, I might be ready for a hug now!
PS: Many of the photos on this blog were taken by the snap-happy Zumba gals. I’m sorry I can’t give individual credit because I have lost track of who took the photos. A big thank you to all!