Saturday, October 31, 2009

Zumba Zumba

What could be better than starting the weekend bright and early with a Saturday morning zumba dance class? For me, the thought is a bit intimidating given my lack of co-ordination and rhythm (hence my frequent running). Maybe I'm being harsh on myself, but if you know me, you probably understand the extent to which I've never been good at dancing, no matter what type. Still, I am always up for experiencing new things, so I decided to test myself with the zumba challenge.

On Pointe dance studio, in the heart of downtown Annapolis on the corner of Maryland Avenue, opened its doors last March. It's run by a young, lively woman, who seems to be one of those people always laughing or smiling about something. She makes anyone who walks through the door of her cozy studio feel truly welcome.

My friend Jennie and I arrived early for the 9:30am class, and took our places in front of the wall-sized mirrors. As more dancers lined up, we were somehow scooted to the first row, not by choice, I can assure you. And being next to Jennie, who's practically a professional, didn't make me look any better.

The music started, immediately igniting the room with a contagious energy. The steps were fast, and I struggled to follow the teacher's lead. Feet, hips, arms in sychronized motion. I just didn't have it. Zumba is described as a dance "set to Latin rhythms" and incorporates the salsa and chacha. There's a lot of hip swaying and intricate foot tapping, nothing like the three years of plies and pirouettes I did so long ago in ballet class (I can still recall the day I quit ballet because I was too hot to put on the tights). As soon as I got the hang of a certain zumba step, we'd be moving on to the next, and so it went for an hour.

Despite my ungainly lumbering, which likely threw off the people behind me, I actually enjoyed myself. And was really sweating by the end. Maybe next time I'll actually be able to follow the steps. Or at least do a better job of making it look like I know what I'm doing.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


The restaurant chain Brio recently opened here in Annapolis, and I guess the hype over it hasn't died down yet.  Or perhaps the long list of happy hour 'Tuscan Tasters' for $2.95 has something to do with it.  Last night I met two of my favorite people there, and arrived to find every seat in the bar and patio taken.  While weaving between tables in hopes something would open up, a man in a smart red sweater approached us.

"What the hell is going on here?" he joked of our hunt before rushing off to find us somewhere to sit.  It turns out he - I'm pretty sure his name is Dave - works there and for some reason, sympathized with our wait.  Next thing you know, we were perched on three enormous leather armchairs in Brio's lobby area with a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc and appetizers galore.  It was a wonderful evening, complete with savory Italian food (the spicy shrimp and eggplant was amaaaaazing - who would have thought?) and true VIP treatment.  Thank you Dave in the red sweater!

Thursday, October 22, 2009


I love to run.  I love the fact that I can run anywhere at anytime.  I love that I only need a pair of running shoes and I'm set to go.  No equipment, no field, no one else required.  When I run and how is completely up to me. 

I started running before my first year of high school when I tried out for the cross country team.  I had just been cut from volleyball, and figured I would experiment with another sport before surrendering myself to dull afternoons of homework.  I could barely finish a mile at try outs, but somehow I made the team, and haven't stopped since. 

When I come home to Annapolis, one of my favorite runs is along the perimeter of the Naval Academy.  My team used to run this route on Thursdays, our LSD - long, slow distance - day of cross country, encircling the Yard, then crossing over and back on the Severn River Bridge and ending up at the St. John's hill - 11 miles in all.  It was tough, but so beautiful that no one complained. 

The Naval Academy sits right on the river, and running around it puts you along the water's edge the whole way.  I pass the sea wall, a row of huge rocks on the river's banks next to Farragut Field.  There's usually a game or practice on the field, whether football, lacrosse or soccer.  And the row of pull-up bars on the sidelines always presents a daunting challenge.  I struggle to finish even one real pull-up.

Then I run by the navy blue sailboats, perfectly aligned in a long row, their masts reaching high into the blue abyss of sky.  Pass the track, cross the narrow, wooden foot bridge that arches over Dorsey Creek, and then around Hospital Point.  Back over on Hill Bridge, go around Worden Field, the parade grounds, where at certain times of year the berries fallen from the trees smell just like puke - why is that?  And out of Gate 3 to Maryland Avenue.  Walking along the right side of the brick-layered street there, I always find myself re-enacting the scene from Patriot Games where Harrison Ford is nearly gunned down while getting into his car in that exact spot.  Patriot Games is probably one of my top 20, maybe top 15 movies of all time.   

In the past, I've made it my mission not to let any of the midshipmen - or anyone else for that matter - pass me on my runs.  These days, though, I run for myself.  On good days, I'll hold my gaze on whoever is ahead of me, and eventually catch up to them.  Other times, I just go at my own pace, and let that blur of pink or blue or whatever it may be go ahead.  Tomorrow I'll reach them, I'll be the blur.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Home Again

Being back in the US after over a year abroad has brought forth a wide range of emotions for me.  For the last 12 months, I've essentially been living in a dorm, London style.  The dorm, i.e. tall, narrow row house in a posh neighborhood a few blocks from Abbey Road, was packed with American interns, two in every room, basement to 4th floor.  Ants invaded, our heating broke, the boiler shrieked, the stove fell apart (on Thanksgiving, of course) - I'll admit the situation had its ups and downs for sure.  But overall, I had a great time, met some amazing people, and saw things I'd never otherwise know even existed.

Which brings me to the present moment: living at home with my parents.  The contrasts are stark.  I get my own bathroom.  My own bedroom.  My own bed that is not the size of a 10-year old's.  And the joy of re-discovering all those things I forgot I'd left behind.  I also don't fall asleep laughing over a ridiculous story my roommate just told.  Or come home to 15 people hanging out on the back patio.  Or stroll a block down the road to The Prince Alfred pub for a pint on Tuesday Quiz Night. 

Being back reminds me that what I once took for granted is not necessarily the norm outside of the US.  Those enormous tubs of butter-like spreads now seem big enough for a city, not a family.  A Sunday night at the grocery store is possible.  And when I cross the street these days, I have to conciously think to myself "look left!" so as not to get run over.  It will take me some time to get a handle on that one...

Being home is wonderful- reuniting with friends and family, going to my old favorite places.  And the foods I craved - Chick-fil-A, P.F.Changs, soft shell crabs- are no longer an ocean away.  So now I just have to figure out what's next.  More easily said than done.