Thursday, January 9, 2014

My Last Day at the Gym

Well, here is a hideous truth. The owners of my Russian gym (named 'Monroe' and replete with a Marilyn clock, her face in the tiles, and bright pink weight machines) have just installed a bunch of seedy hotel rooms above it, rented 'by the hour.' Many of the girls who come to the gym work in those rooms. Mostly they're teenagers.

I need to find a new gym. I will not give one ounce of profit more to the owners. And once again, with a furious heart, I grieve for the women here; so exploited, and somehow so resilient.

I met one young woman at this gym. Her name was Aibeka. Aibeka had pretty good English, and I learned that she'd recently returned from working in Dubai airport, in customer service. It seemed like a pretty decent job for a local girl. But no. It's no good, she said. No good. They take your passport away. They make you pay for every glass of water, every bus trip from the accommodation to the airport, so that in the end, you don't make much money at all. The only way to make money (for your family back home, which is why you came in the first place) is to give in to the prostitution racket. Most girls do.

Lord, Lord.

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