Thursday, July 7, 2011

London Flyby in April

After the quick stop in Saõ Paulo to check out Jean’s gym, I headed to the airport for the long flight back to London.  My first act upon arriving at the airport in London was to go to the M&S just outside of baggage claim and buy a flapjack (for those of you who aren’t British- a flapjack is not a pancake, it’s a sort of cereal bar), a chocolate milk, and a yogurt with granola.  I guess I can say that I was glad to be back in London, although I after 24 hours with açai I definitely felt myself going through withdrawal.  After a brief Tube ride (it felt really good to be in an efficient, clean, and well-organized public transport network again) I arrived at the first of many lodgings for my brief stay in London.  After a not-so-quick nap and a normal meal I felt recovered enough from the jet lag to head to the normal Parkour Generations Thursday night training at Moberley.

It felt great to be back in a Parkour Generations class again, and while it wasn’t quite as painful as I remembered, it was a nice dose of conditioning after the past few months of relatively little conditioning.  Getting to reconnect with all of the people that I had left behind in November was great too and as always, the atmosphere in the class was really good.  After the past few months of traveling and instructing, I had a new appreciation for the instructors of PkGen, who no longer seemed quite so superhuman as when I left, but whose really understand the nuances of teaching parkour.  It was a nice shock to see so many women in the classes, and while I am still not quite able to understand why PKGen classes have so many more women in them than classes in other countries, I can certainly appreciate the diversity.  For those of you that have never had the good fortune to attend a PkGen class, or who are curious about them in general, check out the video that Bruno Peixoto made from this winter:

Since I still hadn’t completed my ADAPT supervised instructor hours, I spent a lot of my time in London assisting at PkGen classes in an effort to get as many hours logged as possible before heading out again.  The classes were a lot of fun and it was good to be able to finally really apply a lot of the instructing experience that I’ve been picking up since taking the course last November.

Friday morning I was woken up by the sound of trumpets and cheers.  After briefly wondering why the queen would be visiting Wembley Central on a Friday morning I realized that all of the pomp and circumstance was for the royal wedding, which was in full swing by then.  While I had decided not to attend the wedding due to the huge crowds and the fact that watching two people I didn’t know get marry wasn’t exactly my idea of a great time, I did watch the affair from the comfort of my friend’s couch as I ate a leisurely breakfast.  After watching the nuptials for a while, I soon got bored and decided to head down to Vauxhall for a spot of training before class.  The mini-training session went well and it felt good to be back in a place full of good memories (and also some painful ones).  Going back to do the jump that took a bite out of my shin (see August 2010 post) felt really good as well, especially as I realized that the ease with which I did it now was partly due to the fact that my jump in actually starting to improve (slowly, but nonetheless).  I also got a chance to talk with the ever-elusive Thomas Couetdic, who was passing through briefly. 

On Saturday morning James and I met up with a few friends to roadtrip over to Rugby to check out a “parkour park” that we had heard rumors about.  While we were all pretty apprehensive from the descriptions that we had been given and the grainy photos that we had seen, I have to admit that I was pretty happy with what we found.  While it wasn’t a huge spot, and didn’t have a ton of stuff to work with, the scaffolding on the edge of the park was pretty intricate and big enough to keep me occupied for a while.  While we were training, we were joined by a group of neighborhood kids that often trained in the park, who, after a few small challenges and some warming up, initiated an epic game of tag that left everyone pretty tuckered out. 

Despite the fact that my visit did not fall on the last Sunday of the month, fate and Easter the weekend before conspired to my advantage and Sunday turned out to be the date for May’s “Off the Wall” event.  This jam is organized each month by Parkour Generations and is designed to bring the traceurs and freerunners of the London area together in a very open jam session.  While the location changes each month, it usually overlaps with the Sunday Morning Wake-up class, which worked great for my scheduling and meant that I could essentially spend the whole day training.  The class and the jam were a lot of fun, and gave me a chance to catch up with people that I hadn’t seen in a while.

Thanks to Brian for the "official" Off the Wall pic (Photographer: Brian Appiah Obeng).
Monday morning I headed over to Forrest’s house for some training and to pick up the new shoes that I had ordered from home (despite the fact that I had to ship them overseas, it was still cheaper for me to buy shoes in the US than in the UK).  Of course spending any amount of time with Forrest usually ensures that your muscles will regret it the next day, so I made sure to take plenty of notes for future conditioning sessions on my own. 

The rest of Monday and Tuesday I tried to take advantage of my quick stopover in London to train as much as possible with people and to “absorb” as much as I could from the instructors of Parkour Generations before heading out on the next portion of my trip.  While it was great to be training so much, by the time Wednesday rolled around and I headed to the airport for the next round of adventures I was more than ready for a day off and some time spent just sitting and relaxing in the (very comfortable) lounges at Heathrow airport as I waited for my flight to Milan.

While sitting there, I had some time to reflect on why it felt so good to be back in London, and also what I still missed most about Brazil (I was still undergoing açai withdrawal):

Things I miss about Brazil:
-Training with all the great traceurs and traceuses that I met there
-Pay-by the kilo buffets
-Making “fruit juice” by taking a large chunk of fruit and popping it in the blender
-The beautiful weather
-The beautiful women (don’t get me wrong, London has plenty too, but Brazil….)
-The fact that bikinis in Brazil don’t include bottoms, more like thongs
-A super-strong sun that reminds you not to forget your sunscreen when you walk out the door
-The variety of fruits that I never knew even existed (pinas, 8 types of bananas, amazing mangos….)
-Midday meal (rice, beans, farofa (a floury powder you put on everything)
-Inviting grandmothers/mothers
-Eggcheeseburger – sounds weird, but a fried egg on top of a cheeseburger is genius (and really good)
-Training in shorts (not having to fit in with the “sweatpants parkour” culture of Europe)
-Bug-zapper racquets

Why it’s so good to be back in London
-Parkour Generations atmosphere and people (positive, productive, open)
-Good prepared food and salads in supermarkets
-Decent chocolate milk
-Efficient and clean public transportation network
-Efficency in general
-More equal gender representation in classes

PS - Big shoutouts to Leon, James, Annty, and Forrest for welcoming in a vagabond Yank

1 comment:

  1. Yeah!
    I'm glad you've been in Brazil, Blake.
    It seems that you got the whole experience.
    Can't wait to face an açaí bowl again, one of the things I miss the most.
    I'm back in London as well, so see you soon.