Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The people you meet along the way

by Megan Hickok,
Covering the London Olympics
LONDON, England -- Twenty days in the rear view mirror as I woke up to the 48-hour countdown on my time left in London. I don’t want to leave.
Not because I want to attend one last Team USA event or come across one more story to tell at the Olympics. I love the fish and chips, but I could fry them up back home. The train and Underground were never really nice to me, and I could certainly go without paying for drink refills ever again.
Yet I don’t want to leave, at all.
When it comes to memories in my life, it’s not about what I did, but rather whom I was with. I may forget all of the small details of an experience in my life, maybe even London one day, but I will never forget the people who shared these days with me.

Photo by Megan Hickok
Megan Hickok and Colin Brown sight see London on the Big Bus Tour.
Andy, security cop at the Tesco Market.
Better known as Miami Vice, Andy and I talk on a daily basis. He works as the security cop at the grocery in Guildford. On my third day here, while searching through Tesco, trying to deal with my culture shock about food, Andy helped me find the peanut butter. Ever since that day, he always welcomes me with a smile when I come through the doors.
He told me about his trip to Miami and how he bought a pink shirt and white pants last minute to fit in. He didn’t believe me when I said only people in Miami dress like that. I update him on my experiences reporting and socializing in London, and he continues to share his outlook on the world with me.
Tyler and Jacob, football’s biggest fans.
These two popped up during my instant rush to meet a million new people the first couple of days on my trip. After the introductions, they went right back into their heated argument about Arsenal football. I nodded my head along, acting like I knew anything about what they were saying.
Then, I did the unthinkable. I said the forbidden word ‘soccer.’ They looked at me blankly for what felt like a long five seconds, then proceeded to tell me I was going to make no friends in London because I said that. After apologizing 20 times in 35 seconds, they laughed and told me that I could still be their friend. They spent the next 20 minutes teaching me everything there was to know about European football.

Photo by Megan Hickok
A group of Scripps students pose with local police after chatting about their unique helmets and duties during the Olympic games.
French fry guy on the train.
It was a late night catching the trains back from London and I was with a few of our friends. As we walked down the aisles, I noticed everyone indulging in late night McDonalds. I instantly became severely hungry, remembering I still had a 35-minute train ride to sit through before I could eat.
Then, he sat down. French fry guy instantly talked to us about Guildford and all of the London suburbs we pass through on a daily basis. He too was headed home after a day out in London. He munched on his fries, sharing his opinions on everything from football to Americans. Then, as if fate sat him next to me on this train in my time of need, he offered me his extra fries. The fries were exactly what I needed as my stomach growls subsided, but his stories and friendly face are what got me through that late night train ride.
Josh, the waiter at Wetherspoons.
He has seen how far this American has come over the last three weeks. The first time he noticed me, I was sitting at the bar stressing as I counted out my pounds and pence. The money thing over has been a struggle for me. Josh came over and collected the right change out of my big pile of coins sitting across the table. Since then, he checks in with me between my food or drink orders to see how I’m getting along in London. My accent still makes him laugh along with my million questions about unusual drinks and food in Europe. He, along with many others at Wetherspoons, has become a friend of mine.
The names, faces and stories are turning into memories as I start collecting my thoughts and belongings to say goodbye to this place I’ve called home lately. I am so fortunate to have sat 10 rows back from a men’s beach volleyball game. I had to pinch myself as I chatted with Candace Parker about London. I snapped a thousand pictures of the London Bridge and Big Ben. However, these aren’t even the experiences impacting me the most.

Photo by Megan Hickok
Megan Hickok and Danny Medlock pose with the official 2012 Olympic mascot.
As I reflect, I realize all of the people who became friends of mine over the last three weeks made this trip for me. Those long chats were invaluable. I met real people who could share the culture and personalities of London. I taught them everything I could about back home, and they unknowingly opened my eyes to a new outlook on life.
I can say goodbye to Buckingham Palace and even the Olympic Park, but it hit me this morning, I’m not ready to end the conversations.
London is no different than any other journey in my life. It really is about the people you meet along the way.

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