It's a brisk 15-minute walk for me to In Shape (which means that it's for people in any shape), where I spend the best hour of my Tuesdays and Thursdays trying to get half as much movement out of my ever-increasing belly (thanks Lebanese food!). I'm always on time, 19:30 on the dot. The other women (all Lebanese) come strolling in one at a time, as if they're arriving at a friend's tea party, all excited to see each other, greeting one another with the mandatory three kisses (I was initiated into the kissers today, after a month of classes).
Before any shaking can begin, it's essential to swap beach stories from the weekend (on a Tuesday) or beauty tips, diet tips and general tips on how to do things better. What I have learned so far from this introductory chit-chat is that I need to do crunches to make my bum bigger ('It's too small,' said Zoezoe), my eyebrows are out of proportion and I need to regrow the inner sides (advice also kindly dispensed by Zoezoe, the mother of two who once studied beauty therapy but is now a housewife), and the trend of the season is to paint all your nails the same colour, except for your ring finger, which should be in another contrasting bright colour. Oh, then there's the 'you've lost weight' comment that gets given to a different person every week.
If I were looking for the ideal location for learning about Lebanese women, I've found the spot!
Rita turns on the Arabian beat and the clicking begins. Everyone is in the mood - until the phones start ringing and beeping. It's not unusual for Michu to answer her call, walk out of the class during mid session, and not return until we're doing our cool-down stretches.
Today we had a new girl with no rhythm whatsoever joining with her aunt who didn't seem to realise she was in a class and just continued doing her own movements. It's all so brilliant. No one cares, and no one has to care. It's all for the fun of it - the point being to give us some moves to use when we're at a party or dinner and the Arabic music begins. My short-term aim is to have some of these moves committed to memory by the time the big wedding arrives in August, while the long-term goal is to dance half as well as the gorgeous Rita by the time I leave Lebanon next year.
'Bravo ya sabaaya!'