Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The art of relaxation.

Our second time round in London is a bit of an exercise in learning to appreciate staying still.  We piled off the bus from Holland around dawn on a monday morning... and three tubes later we were firmly positioned on a couch in front of a tv... this happening to be the first monday of the Olympic games, our first day back in London was over before we knew it.
The weather was grey and flat, there were constant sirens outside, everyone was complaining... only this time, unlike when we first got off the plane from Auckland, we weren't looking to be tourists experiencing the city, and somehow none of that mattered.  We met two great South African guys that first day in the hostel, and spent hours watching Olympic sport and jointly lamenting the fact that neither of our countries had won a single medal.  And then we enjoyed rubbing in the fact that at least we had a small population to explain our lack of success... and again when even Togo got a medal... and again when South African-born Kirsty Coventry picked up a haul of medals for Zimbabwe... yeah, we watched a LOT of sport.
But to counter the abundance of sedentary behavior, the guys walked to a nearby sports court in the evenings, and played a seemingly rule-free game of four [or five, or however many turned up] -a-side football against some local Brazilian guys.  Best moment: an eight year old kid was on the court when we got there, to compensate for stealing his practice space, he was asked to join in the game.  He then proceeded to single-handedly score the first three goals.  The kid was good :)  Even after the guys decided they wouldn't 'go easy' on him any more [yeah, right] he continued to show them all up.  Until, that is, his mum came and called him home for dinner.
Later that week, we transferred hostels, the Olympics were still going strong, and we made some new friends... as well as meeting some *interesting* characters...  For the next five days, the couches were taken over by two Aussies, two kiwis, and one sad South African [they still didn't have any medals, and neither did we.]  We all cheered on the Aussies in the pool, gunned for the kiwis in the rowing, and waited for a South African to make it to the final of... something!  Even the Aussies were on the edge of their seats when the Evers-Swindells squeaked ahead at the last fraction of a second, and the running joke of New Zealand's high ranking on the fourth place tally began, as we racked up a succession of near-hits.
We also had a lot of fun with a guest-who-shall-remain-nameless who picked a fight over tennis by telling us that Rafa Nadal is ruining the game, and plays like absolute rubbish... needless to say, some intense conversations followed, and we enjoyed pointing out exactly who it was with a gold medal around his neck by the end of the weekend.  Though it turned out tennis wasn't the only controversial topic..  We were in the pub watching the ABs squash South Africa 19-0 and he had to come by and claim rugby was barely a sport and that he could outrun any of our wingers... then we were watching some gymnastics finals, and that was too easy as well, anyone could do it!  He also claimed his superiority at kickboxing, held that he could beat anyone in the room at a tennis match [even though he hasn't played in 17 years] and I think somehow it came out that apparently his father single-handedly established parts of Australia... anyway, we learned very quickly not to take this guy seriously, and consequently had a lot of fun waiting for what he was going to challenge next.
Our second week in London we moved into our own place with our Australian friends, Bryce and Ewan.  It's pretty small, and not exactly in the greatest of neighbourhoods, and there are some interesting housemates there too, but it is great to have our own space, to be able to unpack, and to buy more than a day's supply of food at a time.  It's also surprising how much we appreciate having friends!  We've met heaps of nice people on our travels, but when you only get to see them for two days before you both move out of town, it's not quite the same.  But it's been fantastic getting to know the guys, hanging out watching movies, listening to music [cheers for the speakers, Paul!], kicking a ball around at the park, sharing travel stories and plans, having a few drinks watching rugby [just having people around who know that real sport is played with an oval, not a round ball is a huge bonus too!]

So, while we're super excited about our next trip, and can't wait to be seeing new sights again, we've also really learnt to appreciate staying in one place, not having to carry our worldly belongings on our backs everywhere we go, and not feeling like half our lives are spent on trains!