About this episode:
Jennifer Parnall is a Canadian music teacher teaching in Spain. Now, of course, she’s quarantined in her apartment in Barcelona. Jennifer shares how she’s building a community in her new neighborhood from afar through music.
Follow her adventures on Instagram at @jlynnparnall. Her balcony concerts are posted there!
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Leah: Welcome to Wander by Proxy, a podcast featuring women’s travel stories that connect them more to themselves and the world around them.
I’m Leah Falyn, and today we’re hearing from Jennifer Parnell, a music teacher from Canada who will be teaching for two years in Spain. Now, of course, she’s quarantined there, but she’s maintaining a sense of community by performing music from her fifth-floor apartment every day. Here’s Jennifer.
Jennifer: I’m from Canada and music has obviously been a huge part of my life and I’ve been teaching now, this is my fifth year, fifth year teaching. And in Canada, it’s quite difficult to get a permanent position as a teacher, especially in Ontario anyway. And my parents had always been traveling when I was, when I was younger, so I kind of had that like wander bug.
When I went to teacher’s college and I was looking at jobs, I was just like so impatient and I wanted to go and explore the world and I wanted to have my own classroom and all this. So I actually moved to China for my first year of teaching and did a bunch of traveling in Southeast Asia, which I’m so grateful for.
But I didn’t last much longer than a year in China. It was quite challenging. So, then I moved to Luxembourg, and for those three years, it was incredible. I loved my position there. I loved the people in the family that I need there. And yeah, so much of Europe. but as you said, yeah, it’s incredible that my job kind of led me to travel and, and work as well, which is great.
Now I’m in Barcelona. But not traveling because of quarantine.
Leah: Wow. So how long were you intending on staying in Barcelona?
Jennifer: I have a two year contract with the school that I’m at. So, who knows. I mean, it could be extended or it could be taking me somewhere else. I don’t know where my path is leading just yet.
Leah: How did you find this opportunity in Barcelona?
Jennifer: Because of my experience in Luxembourg at the international school there, I met a lot of people. It’s all about who you meet. And there’s this organization that I’m a part of, it’s called AMIS, and it’s the association of music and international schools. And so you just make contacts through this organization. And I saw that there was a job posting in Barcelona and I’d been to Barcelona once before on holiday, and I loved it. And yeah, I came out here for an interview and just kind of fell in love with the city and thought, Oh gosh, this could be amazing.
So far, I mean, it’s obviously quite challenging to live in a country that you don’t speak the language and just culturally too, it’s quite, it’s been challenging, but I have to say like, I know how strange this might sound, but this quarantine is probably the best thing that could have happened for me and Barcelona and our relationship.
Leah: Really? How so?
Jennifer: Well, for the longest time, but like last several months, I just felt quite out of place here. So as a Canadian, like I speak some French because that’s one of our national languages. So, in Luxembourg, I got around just fine. I could speak French, I could speak English.
Here it’s Catalonia. So, there’s a lot of Catalan, there’s a lot of Spanish, some English, but, not a lot. And so I was struggling really to like connect with people besides the people I work with who are all American Canadian, English speakers. I was, yeah, finding it really, really difficult to kind of find my place here.
And I always felt like everyone in the street was always in a rush to go somewhere and like, people would bump into you. And again, coming from Canada, it’s always these cultural differences that are coming from Canada. You, you are like super polite and you’re, he respects people’s faces and all this.
And yeah, I just really felt I, I just didn’t belong. But,
Really beautiful thing because that would never have happened. It really wouldn’t, I wouldn’t have known the people across from me. I wouldn’t have connected with them, like on social media and they wouldn’t have, anyway. And with the little English that they know and that like super, super minimal Spanish that I know we’re still connected and we’re still communicating somehow and it’s really cool.
Leah: Why did you start the concerts?
Jennifer: I think it was only like three or four days after we were completely locked down, after they called the quarantine in Barcelona.
I’d started virtual lessons on school and I really just, I was struggling with it. I was having a really rough day. We were having so many meetings and. On like Zoom or Google chat and it was just so overwhelming and I was just feeling like, Ugh, I can’t, I can’t go on like this.
So, I had seen a bunch of people in Italy because they were locked down before us. I saw a bunch of people in Italy singing songs or playing your saxophone or like all getting together in their neighborhood just out on their, on their balconies. And I was like, you know what? I’m going to do that. I feel like music.
Well just help me. It always does. When I’m in a mood, it always makes me feel better. So I just started singing, all you need is love. By the Beatles, cause that that song, they sang on a rooftop and I’m like on the fifth, on the fifth floor. So I thought that’d be kind of cool. And that’s all I intended to do is just to do that one song.
And then people like started opening their doors and their windows and coming out on their balconies. And then they were like shouting out requests like Elton John. So then I did Your Song and then one guy wanted the Cranberries. And of course, like, I only know one song Zombie. And yeah, I just was using my like ultimate guitar app on my phone and finding the chords and lyrics, and then they were saying, come same time tomorrow, same time tomorrow.
And so it just kept going. And then I kind of panicking because I would realize that our corn team is going to keep getting longer and longer.
Leah: That’s so fun. What did you play today?
Jennifer: So today was a musical inspired day because, I don’t know if you knew this, but Andrew Lloyd Webber has been, streaming his musicals for free, during the weekends. So it’s like 24 hours. On YouTube, and I found, or I think it’s on YouTube, I saw mine on YouTube.
Anyway, so I watched the Phantom of the opera this morning, and I love that musical. It’s, Oh, and I had the privilege of watching that in London, England, but not with the original cast. This is the original cast. And anyway, so I was like, Oh man, I haven’t sung the songs in forever. So I started getting into that.
So today was, yeah, today was a musical day. Sometimes I have themes, sometimes it’s completely random and be like, between, not rap. I’ve never done a rap one, but, just between like crazy ballads to like super poppy songs. But yeah. I think too, yeah. Sound of music. I started with, and then there was mama Mia and I ended with Phantom of the opera.
Leah: I’m a huge Beatles fan and, I saw your video where you’re singing, with a little help from my friends and I’ve been thinking about that song so much with quarantine that it was just perfect. I like woke up and saw the video and it just warmed my heart
Jennifer: Yes, I thought, I thought that was like the perfect, and I definitely was thinking about my friends and well, and people now that I, that I have become friends with just by like posting that on girls love travel, it’s a, it’s a great song. The Beatles, just everything. They just nailed it.
Leah: They really did. Are you able to speak with your neighbors after these concerts or do you get feedback somehow?
Jennifer: Well there was this one day cause someone was like, why don’t you put your Instagram tag out there and you know, then they could send you requests for songs.
So I made this really, really awful sign and someone helped me translate like send requests. And so yeah, they found me on Instagram and so some of my neighbors have, sent me requests or like really lovely, lovely messages saying, like we know that you’re alone in quarantine if you ever need anything, we’re right here.
You know, it was really, really sweet. Obviously like this. It’s not easy for anybody. Even if you are living with somebody in quarantine and have, a family like that’s tough on its own and being alone in quarantine again, like we’re all having those, those struggles. So it was really sweet of them to like reach out and, and say that they’re there even though like, we can’t physically be there together.
It’s funny because my neighbors across the street, they’re, they’re the ones who can truly only see me because I can’t put my keyboard out on the balcony. It’s too small. The balcony is too small. So the people who look at me, give me feedback just by like looking at me and smiling at me, and I love that. And just seeing that, and then others who can’t necessarily see me, they take a video, of. Like the street and I guess just get like the street sound cause it’s, it’s really interesting.
It’s not a stage. It’s like I’m battling the street sounds and the fact that we’re like, you know. A neighborhood. So it’s really cool that they will send me some of the, some of the audio that they hear from their balcony, where whether it’s up the street, down the street, across or like on my side of the street.
And so in that way, it’s really cool because then I get to hear what it sounds like from their perspective. So that’s in some ways that they tag like my concert or, or they tag a video that they’ve, that they’ve, recorded from their balcony. And then more or less, they just send me requests, which is really great because sometimes, like the inspiration doesn’t really always come like, what do I want to sing today?
It’s every day, right? So it’s nice to know what they want to hear. And sometimes it’s really challenging because it’s like a super rock and roll song that I don’t have like an electric grungy guitar to play on or, yeah. But I love to, I love the challenge. And, even though it kind of started off for me, kind of releasing some of that negative energy, I really love that it’s started to be part of them too, and what they want to hear and they want to be involved.
Leah: Do you think you’re still able to experience Spain in some way, even though you’re kind of in a limited situation?
Jennifer: Yes, I think so. When Catalonia anyway, they have this, I actually don’t know what it means or, or what it, where it came from, but sometimes people like bang, pots and pans together. And every night at eight o’clock, we all go outside and clap for the healthcare workers. And I dunno, it’s just. You still, you still get the sunshine—that’s very Spanish. You still get the language. I can hear it outside when I have my windows open,
Even though I’m kinda like, I don’t know what you’re saying. So I do definitely feel like I’m still experiencing some of Spain, some of Catalonia, but, it’s definitely like me and my little bubble here as well. I’m looking forward to the, the day we opened the doors, for sure.
Leah: Yeah. How do you think your experience is going to change after all this?
Jennifer: I’m definitely a lot more positive. I’m not gonna lie, I was in a negative space for sure. I’m just, I mean, it’s just the challenges of moving to a new place and especially not understanding the language and especially not connecting with people.
But I am feeling way more positive and I think I’m just, you know, going to go for it. If people don’t want to talk to me, that’s fine, but I’m just still going to make an effort to kind of try to connect more with the people who live in my, and my Barrio here. I like grassiness so wonderful. It’s like such great vibes and you know, who cares if we don’t speak the same language, I have to be a little bit more.
I’m confident, and I, I do feel that now, so
Leah: That’s great. What do you think about quarantine kind of made that switch?
Jennifer: Well just the concerts, honestly, it was just me putting, I guess like it is confidence, right? It is. It is. Putting yourself out there, especially with music, it’s the most vulnerable thing.
Because I didn’t think they would like it. And
But if they’re still coming out each day and Oh my gosh, the little girls across the street, they’re so sweet and they, you know, “Jennifer, Jennifer.” And so if it’s something that, that brings them joy and positivity. It’s, it’s brought me so much joy and positivity. So that’s, that’s honestly what I think has changed for me in quarantine.
Leah: How long do you think you’ll continue the concerts?
Jennifer: Well, I have this vision.
Like everyone’s locked down. So I have a feeling it might be the same with when we’re allowed to leave, but. Anyway, on the last day of this quarantine, I want to go to the roof. Like I have rooftop access and I’d love to go up there. I just need to figure out some kind of power outage situation and just like rocket, I just want to have like a finale concert, and just do a bunch of like the best hits of the quarantine series or the quarantine concert series and just have.
And then just go out in the street and have a celebration and party and dance and have a good time.
Leah: As a huge Beatles fan with no musical talent performing on a rooftop, that sounds like a dream to me.
Thank you for listening to Wander By Proxy. I heard of Jennifer when she posted a video of one of her concerts on the Girls Love Travel Facebook page. Check out her concerts on Instagram. Her handle is in the show notes. You can see her neighbors in the background of a few of them, and they are so heartwarming.
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