Last time I went to the states, everyone was wearing one of those little fitness bracelets that counts your steps – the daily goal being 10,000. I’m not sure how in the world you can get in 10,000 steps in a North American day, but here in Oaxaca it’s all in a day’s walk.
So like the television commercials I wish I could ignore back in el norte, I got caught up in the fit bracelet obsession. I wanted one. Only I didn’t really need to measure my fat-burning calories, check my REM sleep patterns or sync information with data-sucking features on my smart phone or tablet. I just wanted to count my steps.
Cheapskate that I am, I also didn’t want to shell out $99 for the name-brand bracelet that everybody in back home seems to have, in stylish colors no less. So I googled a substitute brand and ordered a $39 version on Amazon. My first clue to possibly sub-standard quality was the set of instructions that came with it. “Do not swimming with me, but I can shower with you,” it instructed. Other pleadings included “do not bent powerfully, you may break my nerves and you would hurt me;” and “I am not harmful at all, I am your friend soon.”
(This inexplicably reminded me of a business trip that my former husband, an attorney, took many years ago to South Korea, where a huge welcome sign hung in the lecture hall where he was to address a group of lawyers. “Dear Our Friend Sandy Lawyer,” it said.) Possibly someone’s brother-in-law did a volunteer translation job on both of these deals.
I’m afraid that reading instructions is not one of my better skills sets in the best of conditions, but even so, it went downhill from there. The bracelet had no discernible battery and was supposed to plug into a USB port, but evidently not with my Mac. I took it to my techno-savvy son while still in the states to see if he could figure it out; no luck there either.
He and I went to a Target in Waco, Texas, to buy a regular, old-fashioned step counter, which they sell in the sports equipment section – unlike the fit bracelets, which are in the electronics section. Unable to choose between two versions, I bought two: one for $12, the other for $15. That was the day before I came back to Mexico, so I just stuck both in my suitcase to figure out them later even though I was curious to see just how many pitiful steps I took in a normal Texas day.
Back in Oaxaca, it took me a week to work up the nerve to get out the instructions. I actually had my gringo neighbor Randy (a former IT guy) come over to help me set it up – but fortunately, it only had two display windows: the number of steps and exercise time.
Here’s the thing: getting in a whole bunch of steps and lots of exercise time is relatively easy in Mexico. I walk to the market and back nearly every day. I walk to all of my errands, including the laundromat, bakery, library and bank. I walk to my friends’ houses and to cafes and restaurants. You just walk here, though with eyes trained on your feet to make sure you don’t fall in the many holes in the sidewalks and streets. I have five friends who have fallen walking over the past year, but that’s another story.
The first day with the step counter, I logged in 9,238 steps – almost the magic 10,000! The second day I knocked the top off with 12,145 steps. The third day I hit 10,877 but then Sunday came . . . staying in and doing home projects all day netted me a grand total of 700 steps and 20 minutes of exercise.
On the fourth day, the old-school pedometer stopped working; it would count one step for about every 25 that I actually took. By then I was spoiling to clock my progress: just loosely counting exercise time wasn’t going to cut it any more. I unwrapped the second pedometer that I’d bought.
My neighbor Sarah (Randy’s wife and while not a techie, a college graduate) helped me measure out 10 of my steps to calibrate the number on the pedometer. We first calculated my step length in centimeters before realizing that the pedometer would measure in feet. We United-Statesians are one of only three countries in the world who don’t use the metric system, the others being Liberia and Myanmar. Go figure that. I passed on inputting my weight, no need to complicate things with silly numbers.
So far in Oaxaca – even with an 8-hour work day in my home office seated unmoving in front of a computer screen — I’m averaging from 5,000 to 12,000 steps a day, a heck of a lot more than I’d do in the states walking from car to office to house and back again. It’s 10 minutes, or about 600 steps, from my front door to the stop where I usually catch the bus when I’m going very far (though maybe I should just keep walking towards those 10,000 steps). 20 minutes, or about 1,200 steps, to the zocalo (downtown).
I don’t really need a pedometer to tell me that I walk a lot more in Oaxaca than in Dallas; I can feel it in the waistband of my pants, as they always get a little looser here. And one day with girlfriends visiting from Texas, I logged in 18,000 steps (9 miles) in one day!
The pedometer keeps me mindful of reaching goals, in whatever form that takes – and the older I get, the more I like to have a list so that I can mark off things accomplished.
And I definitely not be swimming with my step counter; he be my friend.
— Susan Bean Aycock, embracingthechaos.org