The Pakistani-Mumba Shuffle

It has been storming like crazy here in Islamabad for the past couple days. It literally has not.stopped.raining. This means that the roads in Bani Gala are no longer roads, they are streams of flowing red mud and the population of Bani Gala was been with pruney, wrinkly fingers and toes all week. We have been without power for 8 hours at a time and have buckets under all the various ceiling drips and seeping walls. The house lights up with lightening, trees are leaning at dangerous angles and the water from our taps has become an awful endearing orangeish colour. Needless to say, I have been going a little crazy. WE ALL have been going a little crazy. But, me especially. I know this because I signed up for a Salsa lesson at the French Club.

You're thinking: that doesn't make you crazy at all! And to that I respond, have you seen me dance? Anybody who has ever been out with me knows that it takes at least three or four rye and gingers to get me out on the dance floor. And just because I'm out there doesn't mean it's pretty. Usually, its pretty much the exact opposite of pretty. I am awful. And you know what? I don't even like to dance. Not even a little. I hate it. I am so NOT one of those girls who begs her boyfriend to take her dancing every weekend. In fact, boyfriends usually bug me to go dancing with them...poor men.

You're wondering: if you hate dancing so much, why did you sign up for a salsa lesson? Well, I did it because I was going crazy being cooped up in Bani Gala. Also, a bribe of the warmth of a building that has not been without power and a post-dance-lesson dinner at the French Club restaurant didn't hurt either. NEVER underestimate the power of a food-bribe to a girl who has been eating nothing but rice and lentils for the past month!!!

So here I am, standing in front of a mirror, trying to follow the wiggling hips of the Pakistani man leading the course while cursing the very rye and gingers I consumed last weekend that led to my agreeing to attend this lesson. One-two-slow-slow-fast. Five-eight-slow-slow-fast. I decide that the women beside me are actually secret Salsa-dancing professionals. I resist all urges to shoot them a "I know who you are" look.

The instructor speeds up. One-two-slow-slow-fast. Five-eight-slow-slow-fast. I am tripping over my feet. One-two-slow-slow-fast. Five-eight-slow-slow-fast. Everybody else around me is smiling at themselves in the mirror...DAMMIT I shout at my feet for their inability to perform the simple steps the Salsa-dancing professionals to my left and right are performing just perfectly. "Let the music fuel your moves!" The instructor starts shouting out ridiculous inspirational things, "Let the beat flow through you! Move instinctively!" The music is NOT fueling my moves, nor is the beat flowing through me. And the only instinct I have is to snarl at the instructor when his back is turned to me.

We learn (or, 'learn' - for some of us) the steps and launch into a forty-five minute 'free-dance' period where we can dance with each other, practice our steps by ourselves, or in my case, check my watch every thirty-seconds to be sure that time is in fact, still moving.

I'm doing alright though, clumsily and surely not attractively swinging my hips and dancing on my own. This of course, comes after I scare off a lovely French gentleman who, I guess, did not appreciate the under the breath cursing my dance partnership brought to the table - I guess it wasn't exactly the romantic Mumba experience he had envisioned for himself.

I notice the instructor, in his tight latino-wannabe jeans, swaying his way over to me. Oh god, I think. He puts his right hand on my back and holds my right hand with his left. He is swinging me around the room gazing creepily salsa-ly into my eyes. I stumble around him, doing my absolute best not to laugh. You guys, this was no easy feat! The not laughing part, I mean. And I guess the dancing part too... But, the not laughing part, MAN that was tough! Picture this: a Pakistani man with his hair slicked back teaching a rigid hipped Canadian to do the Mumba all while speaking an awful rendition of the French language. If you aren't laughing to yourself just thinking about should probably get help. In all my years of travel and study, this was probably the absolute best image of multi-culturalism I ever could have dreamed of conjuring up. Pure.Comedic.Gold.

Anyway, anyway. He is swinging me around the room while barking orders in an accent I couldn't even begin to describe: back straight! don't step on my feet! eyes up! sturdy elbows! don't step on my feet! balls of your toes only! I said, eyes up! come on, don't step on my feet!! And did I mention that all of these orders were served with a generous side order of disappointed sighs??? I was pretty impressed with his ability to multi-task and, he was pretty impressed with my skills, I could tell.

I tried my hardest, you guys. Really, I did. I one-two-slow-slow-fast'd and five-eight-slow-slow-fast'd to the best of my ability. In fact, I did it SO well, that after class, people were asking me things like, "So I guess...people don't dance in Canada?", "How do you keep your hips so rigid?" or my personal favourite posed to me from the instructor, "Aren't you glad you don't walk like you dance?"

Inshallah the storming will stop tomorrow. If only three days of insane rain leads me to sign up for a Salsa-Dance lesson, I don't even want to think what I will find myself doing after three more days of rain. Tonight, I am going to bed and saying a little prayer for the rain to STOP - and if you guys love me out there, even just a little, you will too!!


  1. you are hilarious and I can't BELIEVE you signed up for a dance class
    next rye and gingers we're showing me your moves
    lotsa loovee


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