Five Years of Music

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I was walking home from rehearsal recently, along with two classmates. It was around 1pm; I invited them to have lunch at my place.

Over at the table, one of them started talking about how his dad had a huge Benny Goodman vinyl collection, and that there would constantly be swing and dixieland music playing around the house. He grew up in southern France and learned most of his music by ear.

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Travelling solo is awesome for many reasons. One of them is that while abroad, your old habits are left behind and you have nothing familiar to fall back on. You’re forced to act differently and think differently. Somehow, you become a different person.

While in Montreal, like anyone living at home, I hang around the same people, I drink at the same places, I cook the same food. I’ve been conditioned to stick to certain habits that came to be mine throughout the years. But the minute the plane takes off, they all go out the window.

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Handstand Contest

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I like to think I can be quite a charming guy. But please don’t get me wrong: I say this in a very humble way. I happened to hang out with a bunch of guys with strong personalities where wit and humor were just about everywhere. I just learned by exposure and imitation.

I am aware that the common understanding of the word ‘charm’ comes hand in hand with a hefthy dose of dishonesty. So let me get this straight right off the bat: I’m the what-you-see-is-what-you-get type. I try to be 100% genuine. I’m just aware that wit and humor make for good first impresions on people. And that doesn’t make me dishonest, but feel free to disagree.

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It must have been 2 am. I was on my way back home after a dinner-and-drinks-with-friends type of evening, and I was about ready to call it a night. Walking past the fruit shop on the way, I noticed that their merchandise had been delivered and  dropped at the doorstep. It would most probably not get picked up before the early morning when the first employees would show up. Alcohol affecting my otherwise very rigid code of ethics, I subtly grabbed a couple of veggies while no one was looking, thinking they could come in handy for lunch the following day.

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Heading Home

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When I left Montreal in July, all I knew was that I wanted to try and live abroad. I was fascinated, almost obsessed, by the challenge: starting from scratch, making new friends, creating a new living environment for myself. I admired people I had met and who had done it in the past, and I wanted to take a shot at it myself.

I was very enthusiastic about getting started. No matter where I was going to end up, I was confident that something awesome was awaiting for me out there, and I was eager to find out what it was: a group of friends, awesome roommates to live with, a jazz trio to play in, a girl with tattoos, a sports team where I could fit. I was looking for a little bit of magic, in whatever shape or form.

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Purposeless in Rio

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It took me about a month to get me from leaving Berlin to settling in Rio. I certainly didn’t take the shortest path. On the way I stopped by Lausanne, Zurich, Sao Paulo and Vitoria. All along, I kept an eye open for signs about where to settle next, but I guess the dice were jinxed: I had Rio in mind all along. Great music, warm people and nice weather 12 months a year: it’s hard not to like Rio.

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My Ten Year Plan

I remember having one of those wow-moments reading the book The Google Story. One of the Google brains was saying that when facing a problem he couldn’t solve, he liked to redefine it into one which he had a solution for. The example he gave was the classic prime number problem, where you have to tell whether or not a number is prime. From a computer processing time point of view, it can be very demanding, even impossible to solve within an acceptable amount of time. So he redefined the problem into one where you had to state whether or not a number had 99.99% of chances of being prime, and that problem, he could easily solve. I thought it was a pretty clever thing to do.

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On Leaving Berlin

 

I got dropped off on a late July night at around 10 pm along Autobahn 10, some 25 km south of Berlin. I picked up my 20 kilo backpack, strapped my guitar around my neck, and waved my Polish truck driver friend goodbye. I started making my way towards the closest S-Bahn station, and towards my first attempt at living as an expat.

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Hitchhiking is a fascinating social experiment that teaches us about ourselves in many ways: appearances, first impressions, natural fears, subconscious decision making process, etc. It gets you to meet people from wide variety of backgrounds: from the trucker to the wealthy businessman, from the young nose-pierced anarchist to the mustached father of two.

I started hitchhiking only recently, in a cross-Canada tour I did in the summer of 2010. And I find it fascinating to look at the social patterns that it bears. For example, in the 40 or so rides I’ve hitched lifetime, only 2 of them were women stopping to pick me up. The vast majority were men alone in their cars, most of them over the age of 35, most of them ex-hitchhikiers themselves. Couples won’t stop, but they’ll take you in every now and then if you ask them at gas stations. And cars with children won’t even look at you, understandably so I guess…

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Busking in Berlin

Have you ever had one of those ideas growing in you for a period of several months or even several years? They start off as a seed without you being aware, planted by some conversation you had or something you’ve seen. They grow slowly along with you, and you start seeing them as some silly adventure meant for some hobo out there. Then one day they hit you in the face and you fully recognize them in disbelief. (e.g. “I can’t believe I actually feel like trying this hitchhiking thing!”)

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