when in newfoundland

I believe in signs. Those mystical road posts that lead you in one direction over the other… They aren’t sent by chance you know. I believe they’re an invite to an intricate dance hosted by The Universe to test your strength and encourage you to grow as a person.

That being said, the first sign of the craziness that was to come in Newfoundland was when one of our hosts showed up with a missing veneer, which had gone AWOL after a chance encounter with an airline snack. Thankfully she kept a level head about the situation and the concierge at the hotel we stayed at – the fabulous Sheraton Hotel Newfoundland – found her an emergency dentist that did a bang up… no pun intended… job. She was back up and show ready in no time. But for what kind of show? We weren’t sure.

You see, the shipment that our registration coordinator had so precisely packed and shipped… well half of it hadn’t arrived. Our VP and Mystery Guest – who were set to speak that Friday night – were stuck on their respective airplanes, hovering over the St. John’s airport unable to land thanks to a thick fog that had set in. Not to mention the Toronto AV crew who had been stuck in the airport waiting for a flight to become available for hours were finally told at 2:30 a.m. the only place they were going was home.

It was shaping up to be one humdinger of an event.

The hilarity continued onsite when we had to reprint scripts (which was somewhat of a challenge with the hotel’s printer not working, their photocopier machine jamming every time a paper was removed and their computer systems – having been recently upgraded – at times not accepting my memory stick or access to Hotmail from the main desk’s computer).

Did I mention the last-minute wheelchair request that had four hotel staff digging in the back of their storage room because “we haven’t used that thing in about 20 years”? Oh, and there was the fact that our prop umbrellas for the fashion show that was set to open our morning session were in the missing half of the shipment, along with the sleek white chairs that were to be used for our centre stage interviews.

Every which way we turned it seemed the signs had changed as swiftly as a weather vane in a hurricane.

But you know what? Somehow it all ended up working out. The wheelchair ramp we needed? Found safe and sound backstage, only requiring a quick vacuum of leaves that it had attracted over the seasons. The missing umbrellas? One of our teammates hightailed it to the nearest Wal-mart to pick up new ones. The high back chairs? We just borrowed bar stools. The AV crew? A local AV company, Eastern Audio, sent two of its top people to help us with whatever we needed – including providing all audio and video for our three live shows.

You would think that this gong show was never going to come together, but the audience was amazing! No giveaways featuring new product that would cover the cost of their event registration? No problem. A rickety old ramp, black Wal-mart umbrellas (instead of fancier black and red ones) and bar stools at centre stage? They didn’t know the difference!

Their enthusiasm and easy breezy outlook became contagious. What would have frustrated us back in Toronto made us chuckle – and sometimes laugh out loud – because what else could you do?

Regardless of what happened or what was about to – which we couldn’t predict if we tried – we learned over those two days to take things as they came and always have a plan B. The lack of control somehow enabled us to go with the natural flow of things, even discovering new ways to do things we would have never thought of it not for this trip.

Needless to say, when the show ended three of us shed a few tears – of gratitude, of happiness and of relief – while one just laughed at all the hijinx that had befallen us. We decided that night we would hit George St. and celebrate an event unlike anything they really had ever seen.

Now if you’ve ever been to St. John’s, the first place the locals point you to is George St. It’s THE place to be. So much so that no cars are even allowed on the streets, aside from police cars and paddy wagons that seem to drive by in 10 minute increments. It’s all about fun and frolic on good ole George St… and our time there was no different. Here’s a picture of us at the beginning of the night.

Mary, Michelle, Myself, Heather

Mary (our rockin’ Registration Coordinator), Michelle (our EMCEE extraordinaire), Myself (the sassy Stage Manager), Heather (our sensational Staging Coordinator)

We decided to hit one of the places Brian, one of our replacement AV techs, had recommended, O’Reilly’s. Featuring live music and a jovial crowd that consisted of people aged 19 – 75, it was a true taste of Newfoundland life. From what I saw, they are a hardworking people who just want to have a great time and have an incredible sense of pride in their culture and history. But I think the best way to describe it would be through dance, featuring someone we’d come to nickname Tappy McGee. Wearing tap shoes and a smile, Tappy danced his way into our hearts that night – his enthusiasm as contagious as the guitar playing of a local musician.

Tappy McGee

Now I’ll admit, with a 7 a.m. flight the next morning (even though we learned it was cancelled on the Saturday night, we’d still have to go to the airport to pick up our hotel and food vouchers, meaning 4 a.m. wake up call), a feeling of panic began to rise in me when we didn’t head for the door before midnight. Then 1 a.m. rolled around. How was I going to be up a few hours later, all packed and ready to go?

Instead of succumbing to that feeling, you know what I did? I got up and danced a jig. Right there on the middle of a crowded Newfie dance floor, in a room filled with wonderful, happy strangers, I threw caution to the wind and thought to myself, “I can always sleep tomorrow”.

We did eventually leave the bar sometime around 2 a.m. with some fabulous pictures and memories to commemorate our time at O’Reilly’s. And, as The Universe somehow knew we would, we all managed to meet in the lobby at 4 a.m. so we could make our way to the deserted St. John’s airport and then back again…

But instead of crashing when I got back to my room on the bed that was still warm, I put on the brand spankin’ new running shoes I had packed and said “to heck with resting”, deciding instead to break them in on the streets of downtown St. John’s.

Little did I know that with that first step in the direction of Water St. (and the nearest Starbucks!) would come a two-day adventure that would have us meeting new people, experiencing new things and, most important, learning important lessons about teamwork and truly enjoying the journey… not just the destination.

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2 thoughts on “when in newfoundland

  1. Andrea – now I wish my plane had landed in Newfoundland to share this wonderful experience with you and the team. It is only when we are tested that God shows us the light and teaches us so much more than we ever expected. Together, each of you formed an amazing team that saw the shine even in the thickest fog. You go girl!

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