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Blogging My 2013 Oxford University Summer School Experience

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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Best laid plans of mice and men....

And here I thought I would have time to blog every day, maybe every other day. But...NO! The last days at Oxford were incredibly busy--finishing my major assignment for the week, meeting individually with my tutor, and, of course, keeping up my new friendships--Julie from England, Gudrun from Norway, Charelle from Netherlands, Nada from South Carolina, and a number of other writers and folks taking different courses. Then on a bus to Heathrow, a plane to Orly, a rental car to the little town an hour and a half south. What fun that was finding a little out of the way village at night. Asked several people for directions and finally arrived where Maggie and the granddaughters had visited with long term friends for the week I was at Oxford. From then on it life went from fairly fast paced at Oxford to hectic in France.

The next day I drove to Strasbourg and the beginning of yet another adventure. We stayed with the Mamie Antoinette in her beautiful 4 BR Strasbourg apartment along with Mwanday, 10, and Candace, 8. These are two little girls my daughter (with my help) tutors at home. We met the grandmother when she came to the States to help with their care there for part of the year. What a gracious woman. Of Congolese descent. So we were immersed not only in French culture but Alsatian and African. We attended a African mass with beautiful singing and a special Congolese priest visiting from Rome. I also attended a magnificent organ concert at St. Thomas church. It was the annual commemorative concert held at the exact hour of Bach's death and the superb world reknown organist played a dozen Bach pieces on the grand pipe organ.

Rented a car while in Alsace and visited the beautiful, beyond quaint villages on the Alsation Wine Route. Eguisheim being the most incredible. It was like being transported back to the Middle Ages. The next day we visited the marvelously reconstructed Haut Koenigsburg chateau. What a marvel that it was brought back to its full splendor by Kaiser Willhelm in 1908.

Other highlights of Strasbourg were the music and light show on the magnificant Catherdral, which rivals any in Europe. A river boat trip. Yummy Alsatian food with its German influence. And, of course, meeting many of Antoinette's friends, all warm, welcoming. By the end of 10 days, I was beginning to understand at least half of what was spoken in French, but could only guess at what was spoken in Lingala.

Then a TGV train ride to the south of France. A real challenge to get 2 adults, 2 babies, 2 strollers, 2 car seats, 4 large bags, and 4 small bags on and off the trains twice. They give you less than 5 minutes at the stations to accomplish this and gave us a lecture about having too much luggage. Thank goodness a young man from New Hampshire helped plus a few other strangers. But we were greeted at Aix-en-Provence by Marc, the owner of the home exchange we had arranged. He and his wife Christine and daughter and her fiance were wonderful hosts for the evening before they took off for San Ramon today (Wed, July 31st) to stay in my daughter's home for a month. The home is gorgeous, photos later, with a huge inground pool, and very Mediterranean look.

Tomorrow Aveline will start her French school with other 3 year olds. She will stay all day for 3 weeks. Maggie and I will take the baby and do some sightseeing during the day. Next week I will begin my journey home--a two day affair--and Maggie will stay on to the end of August. She will be on her own with the children until husband Jason arrives on the following Monday.

It has been a grand adventure to say the least. Maggie is writing her own blog about what it's like to travel internationally with two little ones. The first week they didn't understand the time change at all. But now are going to bed a their usual times.

I still would like to write more about the work I did at Oxford, but today wanted to catch you up with what has transpired since my last post.

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A bit about OUSSA

I will be taking a one-week residential course on "Creating Character" by well-known author Jonathan Miles,  July 13-20, 2013, at Rewley House, Oxford


I will be joining people from the UK, Europe and further afield (me!) for enjoyable, yet serious study with some of the finest tutors in the country. For over 100 years the Oxford University Summer School for Adults (OUSSA) programme has been making it possible for everyone to take advantage of the Oxford system of expert tuition in small groups.

This intensely practical course explores character. Through examples stretching from Chaucer to Becket, you will identify the ingredients that give fictional beings life. When, does a character take on an archetypal status? When does a character degenerate into a two-dimensional stereotype? Most people feel comfortable creating characters that they know well. But what about those figures that are more distant from our everyday experience and yet who seem to demand a place in our stories? And what about the possibility that there may be no such thing as character? This writing workshop explores different ways of approaching and building rounded, interesting, recognisable but not cliché-ridden characters.

The only entrance requirement for a summer school course is enthusiasm for the subject and a commitment to undertake the required coursework before and during the summer school.