You gotta admit, someone who studied Russian, theoretical mathematics, psychology, linguistics, data science and nutrition - and has gone to learn the tango at its source, in Argentina - has an impressive hunger for knowledge.
And, having lived in Nova Scotia, Toronto, Montreal, Berkeley, California and now Boulder, Colorado, is hungry for new experiences in new places too.
Meet Amber O’Hearn from Halifax, a lady with a lively mind and an intriguing personality whom participants will have the pleasure of meeting in March at our upcoming writing retreat in Languedoc, France.
Explaining her eclectic interests, Amber said, “I tend to follow my passions rather than practicalities, which is why I've tried my hand at various academic specialties. I spent several years at home with children before working as a programmer and data scientist, a career I then left to devote more time to writing and speaking on nutrition, evolution, and diet.”
Amber, 48, took her first degree - in Russian - at the University of Waterloo, followed by a degree in math and computer science at Saint Mary's University, then a Masters in computer science from the University of Toronto.
Mother of three children aged between 12 and 20, Amber loves to sing, is learning to play piano and admits to “being addicted to the tango.”
Asked a few days ago to sum up her guiding life philosophy, she said, “There’s a Spanish expression I learned this week in Argentina, "poner toda la carne al asador" — to put all of your meat on the grill, meaning to go all in, risk everything, give it all you've got. I like this very much. Not just because I'm a vocal advocate of meat-eating and its little appreciated health-promoting properties but because when an idea grabs hold of me, I grab it right back. My current obsession is tango. I learned the basics of this dance ten years ago, but had to bide my time before I could devote serious attention to it.
As the summer of 2021 opened its tentative arms to social interaction again, I began to study it in earnest, and I'm now visiting Buenos Aires, the tango Mecca of the world, to experience how it is authentically danced by los Porteños — the natives there.
Boasting some of the best beef on the planet and fine Malbec to complement it, my grill is full indeed here. But soon I will rejoin my children in Boulder, Colorado where I write about nutrition, evolution, and health.”
With a little luck, and a few fine French wines, participants could find themselves swept up by the music and assuming the ‘abrazo’ — the dance position.
Teacher, yoga instructor, stage director, actor, writer and public relations specialist - Kathleen Mansfield, another participant at our upcoming Languedoc retreat next month, has certainly acquired a diverse range of skills over the years.
Though born in Basildon, Essex, Kathleen has spent most of her life in Scotland, close to the English border, and summed up her life so far, saying, “I’m quite diverse and like lots of things. PR was fun before children as I could travel and it was a mix of writing articles, dealing with graphic designers and organising and hosting events, which made every day interesting and different.
I started teaching in my mid-forties after a divorce and liked seeing students blossom. However, I got cancer and my immunity wasn’t what it should have been so, being surrounded by millions of bugs in the winter, led to lots of time off and I had to take early retirement.”
Kathleen then qualified as a yoga instructor and ran classes for about four years before she moved to southern England to look after her ailing father.
With her love of theatre, Kathleen also started her own semi-professional, not-for-profit drama company, called ‘Odd Productions,’ and runs youth drama in collaboration with the National Theatre Connections programme in London.
Mother of two adult children, with two grandchildren and another on the way, Kathleen has self-published three books with another in production and has sent an anthology of short stories, poems and memoirs for publication. She readily admits, however, ”I like the process of writing more than I like the effort of marketing it.”
During the first Covid lockdown, she began a family history and produced a book of old photos and anecdotes.
Kathleen said she “is currently playing at being an interior designer,” adding, “I’ve just moved into a castle in the Scottish Borders (a flat in renovation) and I’m happily creating a home. That means sourcing lots of second-hand furniture and cleaning it up. I’m ruining my nails and skinning my knuckles but I’m pleased with the result. Outside the door, there are hills and forests to explore. I love it.”
Describing her personality, she says, “I like people, especially those with a quick wit. My listening and observation skills have helped me become a good theatre director.”
Kathleen is also a caring person, having nursed her father for two and a half years and her mother when she was in her 20s. Sadly, Kathleen’s father died in July. “I was childminding for my granddaughter at the same time, so it was tough,” she says. “Don’t tell me your woes or I’ll avoid you like the plague. Make me laugh and I’ll be very appreciative.”