Oh, what a city -- Oxford is finding a special place in my heart and I've had blast this past month jumping in and experiencing the buzzing activity around town. If you're curious how I've kept busy, read on!
A few weeks ago, I spent a Saturday helping at the Oxford Food Surplus Cafe. The cafe aims to help redress the imbalance in our food system by reclaiming surplus food and transforming it into delicious healthy meals for all. This is a new organization in Oxford that functions through small pop-up cafes on a monthly basis. They spend weeks gathering food from local food banks and grocers and then gather a team of volunteers to cook a meal and share it with the surrounding community. I joined the front-of-house team in setting up the cafe and welcoming guests as they arrived. I also got the added bonus of hanging at the craft table where I had some stellar conversations with the little ones - always a treat.
One of my favorite weeknight activities has been evenings spent at KEEN. KEEN provides social, sporting and recreational activities for children and young adults with special needs. Zig-Zag is the Thursday night session that features a mash-up of music, dance, craft and games. This term's theme has been storybooks - each week we dive into a childhood classic and let the fun begin. This past week, I (the butterfly expert) guided the athletes through a series of activities to help the Very Hungry Caterpillar turn into a butterfly. (For the record, the caterpillar successfully turned into the most brilliant butterfly there ever was!) The amount of excitement brought by the athletes week after week keeps me coming back.
As many of you know, dancing makes my heart sing! Be it in a studio, on a dance floor or in the middle of the grocery store... I just can't get enough. That being said, I've been delighted to find dancing friends across Oxford. Hazel, Jessica and I have had a ball joining the Oxford Lindy Hoppers each week. Every Tuesday, we ride into City Centre to the Mitre, a local pub, where we're lulled upstairs by big band tunes. With twinkling lights and a tiny rickety floor, dancing feet cover the floor. We've met some great pals and brushed up our swing skills! Double win I'd say, eh?
I've also discovered a new form of dancing that I plan on bringing back with me to the States. A cèilidh is a traditional Gaelic social gathering. David, our housemate, asked us to join him at a cèilidh happening down the road. Naturally I tagged along and boy was I in for a treat! We showed up at a community hall in a small village outside of Oxford and just about every person you could think of was there ready for some good ol' dancing fun. The band kicked things off and we danced for a solid five hours straight. I met a man named Tom who had started dancing when he was twelve and slowly fell in love it all. Now in his retirement, you can find him at a cèilidh almost every night of the week! Needless to say, he killed it on the dance floor. Since then, I've attended three cèilidhs and have full intent on joining more if the opportunity becomes available. :)
I'm continually impressed by the way communities come together in this city and how diverse the groups can be. I think more than we realize, we put an age limit on how long you can pursue your passions. Let's say you grew up playing baseball, marching in the band, taking ballet, singing in choir, writing stories or painting. At the age of thirty-five it's easy to say, "Well, not becoming an expert so... all done!" What a shame, am I right? These activities that bring so much joy are thrown out the door simply because we're too grown up to be only half-way decent at it or we’re too caught up in our work life. From what I've experienced in Oxford, being an amateur is completely acceptable and welcomed! For example, there was a big Christmas festival last weekend that filled the streets with friends ready to ring in the holiday season. We walked into a nearby library to find a full orchestra and choir singing through Handel's Messiah (yes, all three hours of it). Come to find out, it was made up of anyone and everyone who wanted to join in. Was it brilliant and perfectly polished? No. Was it unique, homemade, and filled with passion? YES. At a ceilidh I attended, a dancing group came out and performed a few pieces for entertainment. The troupe had an age range of fifteen to seventy-five and everyone was moving across the floor just the same. At KEEN, there’s a volunteer named Mike who is hitting his late 40s but still joins the university kids each week to volunteer with the athletes. Why? Because he loves it. My sweet neighbor, Karima, will go down to the Ashmolean Museum with her sketchbook each week to take a break from the every day and just relax. I went to a ballet class that was mostly filled with a load of pre-teens (yes, I did stick out like a sore thumb, thank you). However there was one older lady who came and rocked the beginner level class -- yu could tell she loved every minute of it. The fact that adults take the time to pursue their passions is something to note. I think I’ll carry that in my back pocket as I head into “adulthood”.
An update from the inside the office -- we have reached our final week of project work and everything is finishing up quite nicely! We are pumped to print drawings and reports and send them forward to the client who hope to start construction this coming summer. I know I keep saying this... but this next week I'll give you a full project report and get you in th loop with what we've been working on!
That's all for now. Go find your spark of joy & make something happen. Cheers!