When someone hands you a fire extinguisher as an accessory for the van you just rented, you can only assume the adventure to follow is about to be lit. Let’s just hope not quite literally…
Vivien always seems to start his announcements to the group with “There is good news and there is bad news. But the bad news, I think, is not that bad.” He’s usually right. Except, maybe, for the people it’s actually happening to. A few of our travel companions missed their flights for various reasons, mostly revolving around the weather in Canada. Two are currently stuck in Iceland. We drove around in circles for a while at Orly airport, but finally found who we were searching for. As I type this entry, we are attempting to get all 15 of us together to leave CDG. It’s 4:30 PM here in Paris…and in seconds we will be on our way to Amsterdam…
The drive to Amsterdam was not particularly eventful. Other than having to stop once to refill the oil (something it appears we will be having to do ever 600 km or so), it was 5 hours of assorted music and napping.
We did make one stop, where I discovered the existence of both room temperature meatballs and corndogs.
I assume they were somehow cured but I did not purchase them to find out. The market (I wouldn’t even call it a truck stop or gas station the way we have in the US. It had food much closer to being fresh or healthy or…not US gas station fare.) also sold BBQ ham, bologna, and burger flavored chips. Again, I did not sample them.
I feel myself start to become nervous as soon as we get off the highway. I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect entering Hooked. As we pull up to the building, my team brimming with excitement, I try to mentally prepare. I temporarily abandon my typical outgoing self and begin to take it all in. As promised, there was no need to be worried. Upon entering, we are greeted by Laurent, one of the main organizers of the event, and his girlfriend, Charlotte.
Down the hallway, I meet at least 10 new friends, and I see a couple faces I have seen before. Everyone is pleasant and welcoming. Past the entrance, through a set of double doors, is the first gym. Step inside, inhale the fresh sweat of 1000 new friends, a hint of excitement, combined with an ambience of the comfort of home. There’s a thick aura of passion and motivation in the air. People stand around a large spring mat surrounded by stage lights. It’s bright, open, and warm.
A certain feeling is shared in the tone of every voice in each of the many languages spoken at the event; a communal camaraderie over an appreciation for the sport and each other. Even as a “muggle” (a term borrowed from Harry Potter, reallocated to mean “a person who does not trick”) I feel the welcoming nature of the group as a whole. Each time I tell someone “I don’t trick…” they answer with “…yet.” The very idea makes my stomach flip. I’m not sure if I’m ready to attempt my first cartwheel in a gym full of people from all over the world, some of whom can quadruple backflip. But this is exactly the mentality they encourage you to shed.
“It seems impossible at first, but once you become aware of what your body is capable of, it get’s so much easier,” one of my new friends tells me. This statement seems ridiculous to me, but you can sense the sincerity in their voices. Maybe my inability to accomplish anything athletic is entirely in my head? I’m still doubtful. I suppose we’ll see.
We arrive late, missing the preliminary battles. But the open gym itself is incredible to watch. The second room, the main gym, has multiple open floor spaces as well as trampolines, balance beams, a foam pit, and basically any other kind of gymnastics equipment you can imagine.
People stand in circles, shouting words of encouragement at whomever is performing a trick in the center of their group at that moment. Others practice individually throughout the gym, seemingly oblivious to the world around them. Everyone has a deep sense of concentration for their own personal growth as an athlete, as well as an enthusiasm for supporting their peers.
Across the hall, there’s a large room full of bunkbeds for people to sleep on. Down the corridor, there’s a cafeteria, typically pumping assorted rap or electronic music, with a full bar. People stand in circles in the front of the building smoking (this is Amsterdam, after all). Back in the first room, the TrickDynamix, Euphoria, and Trickstrong team (the lovely humans I’m traveling with) set up their merchandise.
The rest of the evening is comprised of meeting new friends. Tired from travel, I went to sleep before some of my companions. Curled up on a beanbag in the gym, I fell asleep easier than I would have expected. Not exactly four star accommodations, but sometimes you just have to be thankful for the roof over your head. Especially when that roof is half a world away from home and your adventure has only started.
It’s not always easy to find reliable wifi when we don’t exactly have a home base. I’ll be writing consistently, but posting when I can.