Travelling and the lessons learned

One of the things that comes to my mind when I think of all the travelling I’ve done over the years, is that you can plan and prepare as much as you like, but you just never know what’s in store! And the most important thing for me is FLEXIBILITY!

I´ve lived and worked in a few different countries … In reality, I’ve lived half of my life out of Ireland.

Ireland will always be home but home is also where I live and currently I call Mexico City home.

Before Mexico City there was Stockholm, London, Ireland, Cyprus for a season, New York for a summer and L.A. intermittently for longer stints of work.

Through those periods of life and career, the moving to another country was always part of a life decision or a career / educational one.  So I would move because of a partner, an education or a curiosity to know somewhere different.

Living in other countries other than my birth country has and probably always will be something I will never fully get used to 100%, but have grown accustomed to in many ways.  That´s not to say that I don’t enjoy it 🙂

Calling somewhere home but still being considered the ¨foreigner¨ or as it´s called in spanish ¨extranjera¨ or ¨stranger¨ by the locals, well it is what it is.

When one lives in a different country, you are certainly no longer a tourist!  But you will never quite be a native no matter how long you stay. And I had to come to accept that early on, as struggling with it, meant that I would somehow have to relinquish my own culture and part of my forever identity.

Even when I return to Ireland, albeit familiar and comfortable in so many ways, I am still not 100% at home anymore.  I AM at home in the sense that my family is there and I have some friends that still remain, however, at the same time, I am also only visiting when I am there and so that too brings with it a sense of non-belonging.

It’s a strange inexplicable sensation to be honest.  Those who have lived in many places and speak different languages will relate.

Would I have done things differently? NO! But all the same, it does make me wonder who I would be had I not made these choices..

From an early age I always knew I was going to travel, speak languages other than English (much to my french teacher’s disbelief!) and most of all experience the world while traveling and working!  With a continued curiosity to understand and to know more I ventured off on a one year tour at the tender age of 18 for the first time.

And what about now, here in Mexico City. Well, after over five years I can finally call it home.  I speak enough Spanish to manage my life and work. My career has decided to take new flight and lots of interesting opportunities have come my way since arriving here in the middle of 2010. So here is my PRESENT, my HOME and my NOW.

Albeit one of the biggest cities of the world, there is still the possibility of finding local, sensing familiar and not become overwhelmed all the time by the traffic, pollution, over population and everything else that’s challenging with living in a huge metropolis.

So lessons learned… stay open, without feeling like you´ve lost a sense of identity.  Stay flexible in a way that you are not limited by a tunnel vision of how things ¨should¨ be according to how you grew up.  And all of this in a health and moderate way so that there’s still a love for the new and unpredictable and a love for the old and predictable.

Whether it´s trying a new local food dish or trying an exotic fruit in the caribbean… or settling in with a nice cup of tea in front of the fire watching the Late Late Show at home … They are all pleasures and ones to treasure 🙂

I continue on this quest for more and this curiosity for learning about new experiences and I hope to see a few more places in the next few years…

Travel Bucket List : AUSTRALIA, NEW ZEALAND, MACHU PICHU PERU, INDIA, THAILAND, TAHITI, HAWAII & more parts of Ireland and Mexico!

 

 

 

 

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To eat meat or to not eat meat, that is the question!

So anything that is referred to as an ¨ism¨, often has strong ties to extreme dedication and great sacrifice.

Let me share some thoughts about VegetarianISM.

For me I decided to explore this possibility at first at the young age of 16/17, when I began to question why I was eating meat. Essentially why we eat animals.

So I voiced this opinion and was met with understandable concern and confusion as to why I would stop eating meat and if I did, what in the name of all that´s holy, would I eat instead? We are talking about the 90´s here, at which time Ireland was not famed for it´s vegan/veggie friendly cuisine..

So meat, chicken or fish were staples and always served at dinner time in my house growing up. For a while I came up with a solution.. I would chew a little and the spit it out into my hand or a serviette and give it to our dog Muffy, who was only delighted of course! Keeping in mind, that if plates weren’t cleared, there was no leaving the table and no dessert (and I have always been a dessert fan, except for rice pudding but that´s an entirely different story! 🙂

I remember a conversation with my Mom around that time and she told me, if this is what I want, then I must find out what replaces meat in my diet. Basically I can´t just take something out without replacing it.  Wise words from Mom!

And so my quest began and I made the delightful discovery of soya protein! The only healthfood shop at the time in Limerick ¨Eats of Eden¨ was where I would go regularly to stock up on my soya protein or as it was then called TVP (textured vegetable protein). Upon returning back home I would rehydrate it and then experiment with cooking with it as a meat substitute.

All the while my dad would wave fried sausages in front of me and say ¨You know you want it¨ – lol!!!

So the strategy was in place and as the months and years past and I began to leave Ireland and travel to foreign parts I realized I wasn’t alone.  That in fact, vegetarians existed all over and so upon returning to Ireland from the first of many subsequent years of travelling and living abroad, i declared myself a full vegetarian, never to eat meat, fish or chicken again.

And to this day, I never have.

At the beginning I used to play it down.. it seemed easier. Then I went through my rebellious, tell everyone about it and lecture meat eaters phase.. And then I found my groove and it all fell into a comfortable truthful place.

That is that I chose and still choose to not eat meat because I do not want to ingest other animals flesh into my body. The end.

It was never about being different. It was more that, once my eyes were opened and I truly understood the action and the consequences, I simply couldn’t eat animals again. I saw no difference between my dog Muffy and the piece of roast lamb on the plate.

As I mentioned, this was back in the 90´s and in those days, Ireland certainly wasn’t know for being a Vegetarian´s paradise. It still  isn’t but it’s waaaaaaaaaay better!

Being a vegetarian back in those days was definitely more of an inconvenience.. Not just for me, but for everyone I went to eat with! The sighs and groans at times of… ¨God what are we going to feed you.. There´s some salad in the fridge and I suppose we could do some stir-fry vegetables and rice or some pasta and tomato sauce¨…

And well, I understood.  It wasn’t common place back then, but amidst all the lack of understanding and seeming inconvenience, I stayed strong and loyal to my belief and conviction.

Even travelling to some of the biggest meat eating countries of the world, I would sit and eat my chargrilled veggies and salad as my friends and co-workers delightedly tucked into their freshly bbq´d slabs of flesh! lol!

I now live in Mexico, a country where meat is consumed by the majority of the population. However, thanks to its rich variety in vegetables, fruits and pulses, there is a plentiful supply of food sources here to live and eat well.

And one thing I truly believe is that being a vegetarian allows me to be more in contact with what my body needs.  I try to eat a balanced diet.  I certainly don’t just eat salads and carrot sticks! There are so many variations and meat substitutes available that if anything, I have ALOT of fun exploring new combinations.

Do I have a disdain for meat eaters, no.  Will I ever eat it again, absolutely not.

I don’t need meat in my life or in my diet. And I delight in the fact that I can drive past a field of cows or sheep and know that none of them will ever end up in my plate or ingested into my body.

All living beings have value and worth and deserve to live out their days without sudden death, abuse or cruelty.

Our six pets prove this to me every day. They fill our lives with joy and unconditional love.  They teach us about the simplicity that is life. And to me, there is no difference between my dog Sneaky and the cow who was killed to produce a hamburger or a steak.

And I know that many people feel differently where VegetarianISM is concerned.  And thank goodness for that! Because we ARE different.  I listen with open ears and an open heart to the choices and truths of others.  However it doesn’t mean mine need to change. I believe we must listen to our own truth and follow our instincts where lifestyle, diet and chosen career paths are concerned.

Life is short. Be yourself, be no one else.

http://www.louisephelan.com

Well that´s my story. 🙂

 

 

The performer and the performance

This ideal of the performance and the performer being one… What is that exactly?  Well my thoughts are these… I believe, like so many, that they are very much one in the same.  There must be a true and honest connection from the person who interprets a character, a piece of music, song, choreography is it is to be truly credible and believable.

When I share my thoughts and speak on this subject in my Alexander Technique classes, especially those with stage performers, I am reminded that this is often not the case.  It certainly isn´t commonly offered as a model for study during training and in many cases, this work is left to the individual. Which is often something that gets overlooked, forgotten or merely just not focussed on, until the day arrives and the individual comes to the realization that in fact true connection is really the only way to interpret from the heart and that ones own truth is happiness may well be at stake if we become aware of this essential element and we chose to ignore it.

I, like many others, took class after class in voice, performance, theatre, acting, musical theatre, movement, dance, improvisation, methods and techniques from around the world, all in search of honing in on a need to express myself through the arts. A desire to communicate something, anything! Which after 20 years I think I finally feel like I´m getting close to achieving!

And one major turning point in the journey for me was my discovery and ultimate work and study of the Alexander Technique.  This technique has opened up so many aspects of myself, bringing me to a much greater understanding of truth, honesty, clarity of intention, emotion and expression through my voice, either spoken or sung..  My ¨true voice¨… my ¨real voice¨ comes from no other place than from my very essence, my centre.

I often become disillusioned when I see so many superficial expressions of ¨ART¨…where we seem to have lost the very definition of what artistic integrity is. Music and forms of artistic performance that leave with an empty feeling inside. An uninspired, unoriginal, carbon copy of something done before in exactly the same way… Nothing new, pleasing to a crowd in which hands we give all the power to approve or disapprove and not, what I feel might be our real job, to educate, to challenge, to expand perspectives and to release closed off minds and narrowed perceptions of life and art.

And then I meet the people who are connected.  Visual artists, musicians, singers, actors, directors, dancers, choreographers, painters. Those people who, upon our first meeting, they just get it (whatever ¨it¨ is of course).. Maybe not simply or straight away, as for many it was a long road of self explorations, delving into experiences in order to discover more layers and deeper meaning.  But they understand what ART is in my opinion, and how huge a role TRUTH plays in its expression.  Truth  to not just to provoke, to scare, to incite anger or to cause confusion, but TRUTH in order to basically not tell lies, not fabricate stories of untruths and essentially fooling people (and themselves) into thinking that kind of art is true ART. I´m not speaking about imagination or fantasy as these too have much truth to them when explored and developed.

I know my words may be strong, and this is my opinion only. However,  I compare it sometimes to tastes that are all relative given our experiences thus far in life.

To give a silly example..

I grew up in a house where the coffee on offer was Nescafe or Maxwell House or some other brand of  instant freeze dried coffee granules.  (my dasd loves the stuff!) This was what I thought coffee tasted like… and then I went to Italy and had my first espresso.  F<rom that moment, something big changed in my whole perception of coffee and it´s beans natural (once roasted and toasted) flavour. My mind was literally blown away. Upon first tasting it, of course I was a little shocked as it tasted nothing like the coffee I had known for so many years…but then when i investigated further, I learned more about its history, the coffee plantations, the tasting and roasting processes and the varying levels of intensity and flavour, ultimately the coffee comes from the bean itself and not something that is extracted and then chemically manipulated to give us a quick, just add water, stir and drink version. ( and I use this as an example of plenty of ART that is out there, popular or not)

So, from where I stand, once you are exposed to the real thing, or even made aware of its very existence, why settle for something less or an imitation copy? Convenience? Comfort?  Maybe so.  And that again is a choice that one makes.

But personally, my choice, like so many other things, is once I know what the real taste and experience can be, why would I stay with something artificial.  Like musical expression, art, movement etc..

I know the arguments are there… needs must, i prefer it, it´s what i am used to, ground coffee beans are too strong etc etc… And each to his own.

But what it boils down to, is that I chose, for me, to not settle for less. I want to live my life to the fullest for me. And that definition of full will be determined by me and no one else.

So the ARTIST for me has a duty to explore their very essence and experience as much as possible in order to truly and honestly express themselves.

Listen to their TRUE VOICE.

Singing a song with lyrics and just repeating the notes and the melody with the words attached with no real connection to what it is we are singing about is something I can no longer accept, for me. Nor is it something I wish to subscribe to or listen to anymore. It is something that I implore my students to explore as I truly, vehemently and passionately believe there must be truth and sincerity to artistic expression. Whether you are dancing a piece of choreography, singing a jazz standard, presenting a shakespearean monologue, playing the oboe or violin in a orchestra – connect, connect, connect!

Relate, communicate, find an intention, find your TRUE VOICE and share it through your ART!

More on this for future blogs…

www.louisephelan.com

www.facebook.com/LouisePhelanJazzSinger

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life…

So I originally thought maybe daily entries might be what I’d be able to do here, but then I quickly realized maybe once a week was more realistic.. However this week (week 1) something happened that changed this. s

Someone I admire so much passed away.  Her name; Adriana. She was someone I only knew for a few years, since moving to Mexico City, but from the first moment we chatted, our friendship was instant. From her love and affinity for Ireland to the fact that she DJ’s at the national jazz radio station with her own programme.

She had that affect on many people, the evidence of which was clear at her service earlier today.  Not just family present but an enormous circle of friends, from all walks of her life (and there were many from what I know), from the cleaning staff, people she collaborated with in charities, international friends (she spoke many languages fluently), work colleagues from the multinational IT company, to colleagues and friends from the jazz radio station and of course musicians and singers.

Adriana was loved by so many and she was one of the kindest and most generous people I’ve known to date… generous with her time and openly sharing her passion for life and of course music!

So with this passing of someone I considered dear, and many many tears cried since finding out yesterday morning… it has opened up in me a different relationship with LIFE.

I have often spoken of living in the present moment and its importance.  I truly believe it, however I don’t practice it as faithfully as someone like Adriana did.  I still have moments of over-thinking about tomorrow, worrying about things that I have no control over or dwelling on stuff that may have felt unresolved on some level from the past.. who knows.  But I felt a switch going off in my head today.. and now tonight, as I write this, I am reminded once more, that that ¨click¨ is thanks to Adriana.

It’s to live even more consciously and chose to live NOW.

Interestingly the lyrics to one of the songs I wrote for my last album are ¨Be limitless, be who you are, feel the joy, wherever you are, be yourself, be no one else, and you’ll see the truth will set you free¨. Whenever I sing these words I really do believe it and feel so full of joy in that very moment… I suppose it’s kind of like a decree or an affirmation of sorts. And above all else, it’s me staying or re-connecting to present moment.

I believe we all struggle with these words from time to time and some of us maybe even a life time…  The big ¨what’s it all about ¨questions or the ¨who am I¨ or ¨what’s my purpose in life¨ etc…  Honestly I spent many years with no idea of what my purpose was…  I’m still not 100% sure, but I have a much better idea now.  Age, maturity, bit of hard work thrown in maybe.. And definitely a trusting my intuition based decision plan, which has proven to be invaluable in the past 10 years.

But when someone, who’s only 50 years old comes to the end in this life time.. I did stop and ask ¨why?¨.  Why did someone so good, so loved and so respected have to go so early?  Had she really done all she came to do?  Why was her 20 year old son left motherless?  What’s fair or right about that?  My heart cried and my tears flowed freely watching her son kneel down before her coffin this afternoon.. those sobs will forever remain etched in my memory as pure sorrow and loss. And yet, there were still small bursts and moments of joy present in knowing that she has left this wonderful young man behind as well as her words and music with so many of us… Is she is in fact living on through us all? Who knows.  I think she think she is…I believe her spirit remains in us all, the people she has touched throughout her life, and there were thousands more that were not physically present today..

So, as it’s late and I need to get some sleep.. I shall sign off.

Thank you Adriana.  You maybe never know how much of an affect you had on people (which is often the case), but I for one can honestly say that I am a better person for knowing you.

Your life and your death have taught me invaluable lessons and I thank you for that.

I hope to see you on the other side, for now, it’s till we meet again.

RIP Adriana Arellano Caldeira (1965 – 2016)

My first ever blog… the original title

So this is my first ever blog, ever ever in the history of life to date….and to be honest I never though blogging was for me until a friend suggested it.  In saying that, the thought maybe did cross my mind, but it quickly left as I got busy with watching yet another youtube video of cuddly kittens :).. So today, i think maybe writing it all down will mean I can gain even more clarity to what it is that goes on in my head and ultimately expand my overall perspective on things when I read it back and/or someone shares a thought or a comment..

So let´s start…. I´m from Limerick Ireland and since 2010 I´ve been living and working in Mexico City.  Did I ever think I would settle and live in such a HUGE metropolis? Not atall..  In fact when it came to making the decision to come here, I made it erring on the side of quite a bit of caution and reserve, but knew I needed to give living here a proper chance in order for important parts of my personal life ( I will write more about this in another blog) and career to have a chance at taking flight, of at least saying <I had tried enough to not regret it.

And so I did….  I packed up my two suitcases and moved to Mexico City in the middle of 2010 and made a conscious decision to give it a go!

I haven´t looked back, not even once!

It´s been a hell of a ride so far… by far the busiest and most active 5 and a half years of my life work wise!  And one of the things I feel most proud of is that I finally speak Spanish!  A language I have wanted to learn since being a teenager…  I can finally say I have an acceptable command of this incredible language and I grow to love it more and more each day.

I´m often asked why I moved it or indeed upon coming here, why I stayed.  This question normally comes from Mexicans themselves…  I suppose I can relate it to when people move to Ireland and we Irish would wonder why as well… Far away hills are greener and all that and well, we don´t half appreciate what we have on our front doorstep ´til it is no longer there…

I´m also asked do I miss Ireland and what I miss the most.  I suppose this is coming from someone who has loved more than half her life outside of her mother land… so at this point it´s without a doubt, my family and the simple familiarity of daily life, language and routine..

I´ve never fully disconnected from Ireland… as that´s where almost all my family lives, but I have felt my ¨home¨ was also in other places over the years and just recently I finally feel like ¨home¨ is here in Mexico City.

So a day in my life here (when I´m not getting up at the crack of dawn to teach) looks something like this… wake up in the morning and normally attend to the cats who are pining for attention, cuddles, food or for their litter tray to be cleaned. Then check in with the online world to review any pending work stuff as well as to have a gander over family and friends facebook pages while I maybe sip on a cup of coffee or a cup of lemon and ginger tea while nibbling on a granola bar or having some boiled eggs with mayonnaise and rice cakes with habanera sauce (yes you read correctly, don´t judge me!) .  Most days I turn on the radio… normally the national jazz station here and if I´m in the mood maybe a TedEx video on youtube or netflix to motivate the day.  I then post on my own facebook pages (www.facebook.com/louisephelanjazzsinger) and twitter account (@louisephelan), something which I´m getting a little better at and hope to continue to improve in 2016! Without fail there´s at least one if not several video(s) or a photo(s) of one of my nieces on whatsapp or imessage so i maybe watch that a few times (or maybe like 10 times lol!). Then if I have a spare hour I might go to the gym and do some cardio and stretching…  When I can´t do that I try to make sure to be on the bike or walking as much as possible as exercise and moving my body just feels good.  After which I have either private Alexander Technique classes from my studio or a rehearsal or meetings or classes downtown Mexico City, at the opera house, theatres, rehearsal studios etc. etc.

Planning times and coordinating is key to survival in any big city in my experience and so , allowing for traffic and public transportation, i also spend that time writing plans for classes, projects or listening to music and rehearsing or indeed reading a book (The book I´m currently enjoying is W. Somerset Maugham´s The Summing Up).

After 11 years teaching the Alexander Technique I continue to learn and improve and am humbled and awed by the incredible changes I have witnessed in the people I get to work with.  People from all walks of life, learn this technique and allow it to accompany them along their life journey… giving them moments of new connection, communication, perspective etc etc…  I absolutely LOVE my work.  And for a long time I never knew that this would be a place I would arrive.  I mean I hoped for it and then stopped hoping and dream and got busy making it happen.. and here I am.

With Jazz, I feel like I´m still at the beginning, although I´ve learned so much over the past 12 years.. It is an infinite world of discovery and inspiration and releasing myself into this unknown world and letting myself be transported has made it all the more enjoyable.

So with that I´ll sign off for today…  Don´t know where this blog will take me from here.  I suspect that I will explore many topics, both personal and current affairs, ones which I am passionate about and others I am still understanding..

That is why I began writing here..  but I suppose I just wanted to share this small, albeit somewhat vague, but honest introduction entry..

Hurrah for blogging…and to anyone out there who took thew time to read this entry, thanks for sharing a few minutes of your day 🙂

– L

* And to any spanish (or non-english) speaking readers (I recommend the copy and paste option using www.tradukka.com, as this is how I survived my first two years in Mexico City!)