Friday, September 21, 2012

Thwarted at Every Turn...

The travel part of living abroad for 4 months is amazing; the living part is not always as easy or exciting. So, in an attempt to make it feel like I'm constantly doing exciting stuff (rather than just working and living-- kind of like what I do in the US), I've decided that every other day, I'm doing something touristy.  Yesterday's touristy event was probably the least exciting yet, though.  .

I went to seek out C.S. Lewis' grave and the church he attended (which is where the graveyard is).   It  was an expedition to seek out part of "literary Oxford"; I was expecting something more than what I found (don't ask why-- I don't know exactly why I thought this would be more exciting than it was. Maybe because every time I tell people where I'm living, they excitedly ask me if I know I live near C.S. Lewis' grave.  They seem so excited about it... I thought it would be exciting.)

The church itself is pretty easy to find, especially since there are signs pointing down the path (walking only) to it. (I'm not sure it's as helpful to drivers...but maybe that's the point.)  It's astounding to me how many churches there are around here-- the church and grave site are in Headington Quarry (also where the previously written about Mason's Arms pub is located) and not a very far walk from my flat, but I passed at least two other churches on my way.  This one sort of looks like all the other small churches...

There is supposed to be a small gift shop inside the sells tea towels associated with Narnia, but I don't know where that would be.  When I first got there, there was a small group of people who had obviously attended some kind of  memorial service or other serious event (which made my rooting around for C.S. Lewis' grave a bit awkward since it's strange to be touristy around those who are legitimately in mourning), but after they left, I was alone at the church/in the graveyard.

I would have thought this would have been a more touristy attraction-- I don't really know why.  And, clearly some people have come looking because there is a very small sign (which I found after about 10 minutes of wandering through the yard and looking at a map which provides information about C.S. Lewis as well as other known people buried there but is a pretty bad map) that says "C.S. Lewis grave" with an arrow pointing to the general area in which is he is buried, though not to the actual grave (I tried precisely following the arrow's direction which took me no where near the actual grave, so then I wandered some more). It's not obviously marked in any way.

His grave is the long, flat white one that I've positioned between the trees in this photo (it's close to the back tree).  It took me quite a while to find-- I almost gave up.  But, once I found it, I felt obliged to take a picture of the actual gravestone, mostly just to prove I'd found it since it doesn't really say anything remarkable on it.

I spent the rest of the day trying out small cafes in my neighborhood (lunch at one; cappuccino at another) and window shopping in charity stores.  Charity stores are sort of like Goodwill in the US, but each store is associated with its own charity-- so some support hospices, some support different kinds of cancer research, etc.  There are a surprising lot in my neighborhood.  This seems to be charity store central.

But, all in all, not the best being a tourist day... though more successful than my "living" day the next day which started out really hopeful and ended with not a single thing actually going as planned.  I had plans to go to the local tennis courts for a meet-up, drop-in group-- it was an event advertised on the website for local tennis leagues.  It was easy enough to get to because it was being held in the park across the street from my flat (and, the weather was actually ok for tennis-- little cool, but not too bad). But, when I got there, no one else was there.  I waited until a few minutes past when it was supposed to start and then left-- since it was in a public park at public tennis courts (so, no one works there), there was no one around to ask why no one was around.  It was kind of dejecting-- I was really looking forward to playing tennis and hopefully meeting some nice people (who also like to play tennis) since developing a social life here is what is hardest about "living" abroad, especially since I'm here for a relatively short time. 

Trying then to salvage the day and come up with something else to do where I could meet people, I headed out for a 1:15 yoga class being held on campus (I was thinking maybe other professors take yoga since this class met all summer when there were no students on campus)-- only to find out that the class had been canceled due to student inductions.  What students were being inducted into or why this effected the yoga studio specifically is still unclear to me (especially since there were very few students around and they didn't seem to be headed to the studio area)-- but the end result was no yoga.  (I sort of salvaged this by doing an hour of cardio, so the trip to campus wasn't a waste, but it wasn't the social opportunity I had been hoping for.) 

The day itself was rather productive: I got the syllabus for the class I'm teaching finished (and it doesn't start for another 4 days!) and cleared up some administrative details with both my university and Oxford Brookes and there is still plenty of time to do a load of laundry (an all day ordeal each time I do one...but I'm getting more used to that) and clean the flat in anticipation of the arrival of my mom and sister.  It's a good set of activities to do on what has now become a very rainy day.  (And, it means another week of whirlwind touristy activities... with new people!  Acting as tour guide might make me feel a bit more like a local...)

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