melodies and serendipity

Music is a form of magic. It unites strangers. It can stir up your soul. It is the ultimate story teller. It matches your emotions and can make your mood swing from one end of the spectrum to the other. It is a universal language. It is powerful.

Dublin has a wonderful music scene. No matter what days you have available to go out, you’ll never have to worry about catching some live music because guaranteed there will be multiple places with live music to choose from every night of the week. You have the option of concerts, smaller gigs with new and upcoming bands, traditional Irish music and dance, or talented cover artists at local pubs.

Since I’ve been here I have experienced all of those options. I had a great time clapping along to some traditional Irish tunes at the Old Storehouse in Temple Bar, I sang along to some of my favourite songs being covered by an amazing vocalist/guitarist at Trinity Bar on Dame Street, I danced with a former of Lord of the Dance performer to some Irish jigs at The Mercantile, I experienced Bon Iver’s show in all of its glory at the O2, and I saw Matt Corby in an intimate, casual setting at Whelans Live. All of the shows ranged in price from free to 40 euros, and I thoroughly enjoyed each and every one of them.

Taken from Bon Iver’s Twitter account, caption “Thanks Dublin, emotional.”

I experienced a phenomenal week music wise, seeing two of my favourite artists within a few days. I had the privilege of seeing Bon Iver twice this year, and I got the best of both worlds because I saw them in an outdoor venue in Burnaby on a beautiful clear summer evening and then again in Dublin in an indoor auditorium. They opened with the first track of their album, “Perth,” and then went in order of their album for the first few songs. They sounded incredible and I swear I could feel their music in every part of my being. The best thing about the indoor venue was that I got to experience the magic the set crew put into the performance. The lights accompanied the music, emphasizing moments and aiding in creating the appropriate atmosphere. It was their last show of the tour so it was very emotional for them, which translated into their flawless performance. They did a double encore because they “weren’t ready to stop playing music” and then lined up at the end to take a bow in front of a standing ovation. It was also announced that at this time there are no plans for Bon Iver to make more music together. One can only hope they’ll make another album.

I can’t help but wonder how it feels to have your music, a product that you have dreamed up and pieced together, affect people by the hundreds, thousands, millions. So many people have an emotional tie to their music and that must be a surreal feeling. Whether a song evokes happiness, anger, or nostalgia, I think it’s all positive and cathartic.

Matt Corby, several feet away from me. Halleluiah!

Two nights later, Matt Corby, one of my favourite Australian artists, was playing at Whelans Live (I highly recommend buying his EP “Into The Flame” on iTunes. You can thank me for the recommendation later). I discovered he was playing in Dublin about two and a half weeks prior, but it was already sold out. I couldn’t live with myself knowing that I didn’t try to see Matt Corby when he was playing at my local bar, so I was absolutely determined to get into that show. I scoured Gumtree, eBay, and Facebook ads in hopes of finding a ticket. Nothing. I posted an ad on Gumtree saying I’d pay over face value for a ticket. Again, nothing (well that’s a lie. I did get one guy emailing me two hours before the show asking if I wanted I ticket. I responded twice, with great enthusiasm, and then eventually he wrote back saying he gave his ticket to his friend — for free. Awesome.) And then, Whelans posted at the last minute on Facebook that an extra 15 tickets were being sold. Here was my big chance! I got butterflies in my stomach from nervous anticipation, grabbed my phone, and got some guy named Richie on the line. Richie told me there was one ticket left, and a wave of excitement and relief washed over me. Then, the line went dead. I ran out of credit and had to call O2 to top it up which took about five minutes, and then when I called back the last ticket was gone. I was devastated.

My determination didn’t allow me to lose hope, though. I went to Whelans several nights before the show and asked everyone I talked to for advice on how to get in. Whelans is a big venue, with three different areas set up for gigs. The most common advice was to just show up early, grab a drink in the main bar, and hope you can either buy a ticket off of someone or be let in at the last minute. So, after Richie let me down, I quickly got ready, hit up the ATM, and booted it over to Whelans.

ser·en·dip·i·ty/ˌserənˈdipitē/

Noun:

The occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way: “a fortunate stroke of serendipity”.

There was already a queue outside, and definitely no chance of buying a ticket off of anyone. I felt discouraged, but figured I might as well stick around until the doors opened and the crowd dispersed so I could try and convince the door staff to sell me a ticket. After all, we’re talking about Matt Corby here.

Earlier that day I had been thinking about how I should talk to strangers more. Yes, I’m aware of stranger danger, but I’m talking about seizing opportunities to meet people. So, when I saw a girl journaling while drinking a glass of wine at Whelans at a table with an extra seat, I got over social boundaries and any fear of looking like a weirdo and asked her if I could sit with her. It was by far the best decision I had made all week. We ended up getting along really well and bonding over our love of music. She had been at Bon Iver’s show as well (and MET them afterwards!) and it was one of those times where we kept finding things in common with each other. Her friends joined us a little bit later and they all had tickets to the show and managed to get me in. It took a combination of sass and stealth, but ultimately the key was the serendipitous meeting of new friends.

New friends and post-gig hangs at Whelans

Everything happens for a reason. If I had gotten a ticket to Matt Corby earlier, I wouldn’t have met the amazing group of people I spent the evening with. My new friend, Laura, said that earlier that day she had actually been asking how people meet outside of work and school. The answer is to get over any fear of “bothering” people or looking strange and simply say hello and test the waters to see if there’s common ground. Ask if the seat is taken. What do you have to lose?

If I had gotten a ticket earlier, I wouldn’t have met my new friends. If I hadn’t met my new friends, I wouldn’t have gotten into the gig. Serendipity.

Matt Corby’s gig was everything I could’ve hoped for and more. His ridiculous vocals tore me to pieces. In a good way.

Music. It’s a wonderful thing, and I’m so grateful that Dublin is a hotspot for it.

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Unknowns

I am about to begin a huge adventure and I don’t think the reality of it all has hit me yet. Sure, I’ve done my fair share of research on Ireland and have tried my best to educate myself on Irish customs and history, but there are still so many unknowns and experiencing Irish culture first hand will be completely different than researching it.
(Fun research fact — there are no snakes in Ireland and there never have been. After living in Australia, I love this fact a lot.)

Fun facts aside, my question is, can you ever really prepare yourself, mentally and physically, for an adventure abroad?

I don’t think you can. Speculation is inevitable, but retrospect holds the real power. Martin Buber summed it up when he said:

“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.”

Yes I can spend hours on Google and blog surf everything I can think of about Ireland, but I won’t know where I’ll love to drink coffee until I get there. I can pack and repack 10 times, but I won’t know if I packed appropriately until I get there. I can watch P.S. I love you over and over and it still won’t prepare me for the Irish man that is guaranteed to sweep me off my feet with that amazing accent of his. I can make a list of places to see and things to do, but what about all the things I don’t know that I want to do yet? And then there’s all of the people I haven’t yet met who are going to change my life.

Am I excited? Heck yes I’m excited. I’m excited for the newness of it all and experiencing a continent that I have never stepped foot on. I’m excited to build new relationships, discover my new favourite pub, learn to love the rain, embrace new music, and be pushed outside of my comfort zone. I’m excited to find inspiration in the unknown and look in awe at my adventures in retrospect. Ireland being my destination is already a surprise and I have no idea what this adventure holds, and that is what I find most exciting of all.

“To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.” – Bill Bryson

Bryson sums up the exact reason why I love to move to new cities. I want little things like ordering a pint or doing groceries to be unfamiliar. I want to be surrounded by accents and new sights. I want to make every day an adventure.

A season for change

Dah dah dah dah! Spring is here.

It’s currently 8 degrees outside, and I couldn’t be more pleased.

I went for a walk today because I had to say hello to the sun. It’s been so long since I’ve spent some time with the sun, and it would’ve been rude to ignore it.

I’ve been thinking lately how frustrating it is that I’m in Canada for my two least favourite seasons – winter and spring. However, since I’ve been here I’ve been reminded of the beauty in both seasons.

View from the kitchen window.

For me, winter’s best quality is its outward beauty. Snow covered mountains, snowflakes drifting from the sky, and hoar frost covered trees are some of the most naturally beautiful things I have ever witnessed. Winter completely transforms a scene, magically covering yesterday’s mistakes and replacing them with sparkling beauty. It’s a treat for the eyes.

Outwardly, spring is muddy, wet, and not yet warm enough to bare any skin. However, it’s exciting because it holds the promise of summer. The children that live on Robyn and Chris’ block have been taking full advantage of the warmer weather and snow-free pavement. They’re always biking, playing basketball, or drawing pictures with chalk on the pavement. When I was a child I didn’t think about the mud or the fact that spring isn’t as “good” as summer. I was thrilled with the change and loved it for what it was. As soon as the weather warmed up I would shed my coat, put on my rubber boots, and bike all around the farm for as many hours as possible. Once the snow melted, I’d spread a quilt out on the damp grass and read a book. I only saw the positive, not the negative.

It’s the time of year when I become inspired to make changes, probably because the change around me is so stark I can’t help but feel like it’s possible for me to change as well. I find myself thinking maybe I will head back to school one day for a post-grad program. I catch myself imagining all the different cities I want to live in and possible careers I could have. I even go so far as to picture myself settling down in my own home, planting a garden, and writing a book.

Spring is special, even if in the beginning it’s not as beautiful on the outside. It does something to people. Gives them hope.

Spring warms my heart and fills me with inspiration — even if I do still need to bundle up in three layers.

Dear education: thanks for the brain workout.

This is the first semester that I haven’t been in school. After a lifetime of education, I finished my university degree in June. Even though my excitement to be done was tangible, the last day I walked around campus I thought about all of the things I would miss.

University is a place where people come together to think, create, and stretch their brains in uncomfortable ways.There’s something about walking around campus and being surrounded by people in different disciplines. While standing in line for a much needed caffeine fix, in front of me is an engineer crunching numbers that mean nothing to me, behind me is a medical student who knows exactly what that fifth coffee is doing to her body but orders it anyways because she’s running on little sleep, and at the front is a couple of philosopher’s arguing over who summed up human sexuality the best: Freud or Foucault. And then there’s me – a journalist whose time spent observing people standing in line for coffee is every bit a part of my education as the news writing and ethics class that I’m running late for.

Sure, I went to unversity to get a degree that will hopefully help me get the career that I want one day. However, the part of school that I loved the most isn’t the paper I received at the end. It’s the way different topics open your eyes up to parts of the world you never knew existed. It’s that teacher that is so passionate about what they’re teaching that they can inspire you to change journalism for the better, get you excited about fonts, or burn into your memory how different chemicals affect your brain. It’s that person you roll your eyes at because it’s the seventh time they’ve raised their hand in the past hour and they’re sharing another story about what their boyfriend thinks about an unrelated topic, like soup. It’s the sports teams, friends, Tim Hortons, early mornings and late nights.

During my last weeks I was excited at the thought of being done assessment and starting “real life.” However, I am going to miss being on campus because  of its unique atmosphere. There’s always more learning to do. After all, I never did sit in on an engineer class.

ZUMBA! Plus awkward hips, smiles, and inspiration.

Lately I’ve been immersed in a Zumba-filled environment. You might be thinking “uh Grace, Zumba isn’t even a word…I thought you work at a newspaper. Shouldn’t you know how to spell?” Correct — it’s not in the dictionary and I should know how to spell. It’s actually the name of a company. ‘Zumba Fitness LLC’ is a Latin/international dance fitness program — and people are going crazy over it.

My sister Robyn is a Zumba education specialist (ZES) and I met up with her in Edmonton two weekends ago for a couple of workshops. My sister Nadine and I were her assistants as she taught people how to become instructors.

Nadine, me, and Robyn selling Zumba wear. hollllaaa!

The next weekend when we got back to BC I ended up taking her workshop (so yes, technically I’m now a certified instructor. I still need an excessive amount of instruction though, so I won’t be instructing any others any time soon unless it’s on how to take a break.) No, this won’t be a blog post describing how awkward it is to do body roles and how my hips are a little too connected to the rest of my body. It also won’t be about the time when I was doing a Salsa move a little too aggressively and ended up knocking over a woman in front of me… (don’t worry. That was only a horrifying dream.)

The best part of the Zumba training was seeing someone doing something they’re truly passionate about. Robyn is passionate about dance and fitness, but her passion for people and developing relationships is ten fold.

During the lecture portion, Robyn talked about the importance of the role of an instructor. She said that as instructors, they have the responsibility and privilege to make people feel special. She pointed out that some people go through a whole day without being acknowledged or even smiled at — it’s important to remember that you don’t know what people go through and what their life is about. By simply smiling at someone from the stage, saying “hi, how are you” or “I love your new haircut,” you can make an individual feel really special because finally someone noticed them. This doesn’t only pertain to Zumba instructors — this attitude can be a lifestyle. We all know dance is the universal language, but I’d say smiling is as well. One of my favourite pass times is laughing, and I love that no matter what language people speak, smiling and laughter always mean the same thing.

I discovered that no matter what your daily routine is, you can make a difference in someone’s life in just a couple of seconds — and I know this works. Everyone in the room felt special because Robyn made sure she took the time to acknowledge each person.

Afterwords I was helping Robyn by typing up the evaluations that the participants filled out after taking the workshop. There were many comments that said participants left the workshop feeling “inspired.” Being inspired is one of my absolute favourite feelings in the world. I love when I become inspired by someone or something. Robyn has a job where she is a catalyst for inspiration, which is the ultimate goal for me. I hope that I end up doing something I am equally passionate about where I can ignite some inspiration in others. Robyn could literally introduce herself like this: “Hi, I’m Robyn and I’m a catalyst for inspiration. My favourite colour is purple and I think it’s hilarious when people shake a floppy fist when they’re angry.”

People always seem to ask “what do you want to do after school?” or “what’s your career going to be?” To be honest, I only have broad ideas and don’t have a definite answer — and I’m not too worried about it. The most important thing to me is that I make a difference in peoples lives, and I can do that in pretty much whatever career I choose. I can even accomplish this by letting the public witness my awkward hips while doing Latin dance. Who doesn’t like a good laugh at something ridiculous like that.

Robyn doing in her thang in Edmonton