Sunday, February 26, 2006

Traveling daughters; traveling parents

I'm going to try not to write too much or spend too long here.

Our girls have been traveling. You already know I went with the elder teen, now almost (i-learned-the-truth-at-) seventeen, to look at colleges in Minnesota and Michigan. Here is my brief summary of that. You already know my impressions of the flight to Michigan, and our visit to Calvin College so I'll continue with...
  • Kalamazoo College, in (surprise) Kalamazoo, Michigan. (The aforementioned friendly midwesterner thought we were visiting Western Michigan University, also in Kalamazoo -- but no, it was Kalamazoo College itself, apparently not well-known in Detroit. It took just just about an hour to drive there from Grand Rapids. We stayed at the Red Roof Inn -- Kalamazoo West. A nice enough place, but if I do it again, I'll stay at the Baymont, which is nicer inside -- your door opens into an indoor hallway, not into the snow-covered parking lot (-11°F wind-chill, that's about -24°C, ouch!). Baymont also has free wi-fi, unlike the T-Mobile that's "on offer" at Red Roof: $7 per login under 60 minutes, or $10/day iirc. Kalamazoo has great language programs, internship and what they call "externship", great study-abroad programs.

    We had a nice conversation with a Mr. Tavares in the admissions office, who graciously worked that Saturday to talk to us (or any other inquisitive visitors) about the college. He told us that the merit scholarships are renewable if you maintain a 2.5GPA. "Why do you suppose we make it so low?" he asked.

    Supposedly my girl is the first student in 3 years to come up with the right answer. Of course I think it's because she's a genius, but she says "they probably didn't go to the Reed [College] presentation before coming here."

    We took a plane (without incident) to MSP and spent three nights with Jan and Britton and their kids. I went to junior high with Jan, who I hasten to tell you is not as old as I am. She skipped at least one grade and so is at least one year younger than I am. I wouldn't want you to think she's as old as me 8^>

  • Monday February 20 we drove to down to Northfield in plenty of time for the free food, I mean, for the opening session of "Junior day" at St Olaf College. A record crowd was there. Their academics, including the language and study-abroad programs, looked really good. The director of admissions is a great entertainer, but I don't hold that against the school, really I don't. Since our visit, I heard positive things about St. Olaf from at least 3 people -- mostly concerning the music program there.

    The chapel service was nice and the address by the president was good if rather liberal. Apparently St Olaf is Lutheran.... I asked an admissions staffer about how welcome God is in the classroom. The answer? Basically it depends on the professor.

    The financial aid seminar was well-attended and worthwhile. We were encouraged to grab a box lunch before heading to our next visit across the river, viz.,

  • Carleton College, where we snuck into the info session after it had started. They don't have "merit aid" at Carleton -- they don't need it. I feel a little guilty thinking like that, but well, we're talking about a lot of money here. The academics at Carleton are definitely top-notch. Many (most?) graduates leave Carleton as published authors (I assume " peer-reviewed journals," but our tour guides did not say). We sat in on a history lecture with a professor who took his citizenship exams in Redwood City, California! Now I wish I'd had a history teacher like him when I was in junior high -- when "don't know much about hiss-toe-ree" could've been my middle name. Later, I could not remember seeing anyone non-white at the school, besides the assistant director of admissions who gave the presentation.

    That was it for Northfield; we drove back to the twin cities and had dinner with Jan, Britton, and a few of the kids (the ones who weren't fencing) at what's in effect a Chinese restaurant with a Vietnamese name. Our last evening in Minnesota.

  • Tuesday morning 2/21 we packed up and got to Macalester college in time to not be totally left behind by the tour group. The language program is excellent there -- there are language houses where if you live there, you speak the language there. (Not sure how many hrs/day that applies or is enforced.) The 4-year grad rate is supposedly over 90% -- this would be a year-on-year retention of over 97.5%. The students are brilliant -- median SATs are 720 verbal, 710 math. The setting is really urban, I mean the campus borders on Snelling (a main drag), students don't need cars because they can take city buses -- this sort of thing. They gave us lunch tickets and I'll tell you, their cafeteria food is totally excellent.

    We sat in on a creative writing class with a prof who was very engaging/engaged with the students... the most enjoyable class we saw on this tour. I think it was 90 minutes but he had no problem keeping our attention. I don't know if they cherry-picked this class but there was an Egyptian lady, an African man, an African or Afro-American woman, at least one Asian-American - in a class of 16.
That was it basically. Our return flight home was basically without incident; we left MSP late but arrived at SFO a little early. But some of the gate hardware (jetway maybe?) was broken so they had to tow us to another gate -- so we got off the plane on-time rather than early.

So where will she go to school? Well, Calvin and Macalester were on her A-list before we started, and those are the ones still on her A-list afterwards. Now, about St John's College...

the younger teen's travels

I wasn't there on the younger teen's travels to Southeastern North America so I won't be able to give you as much of a report. But it was a Sojourn to the Past tour -- one of the Little Rock Nine traveled with them on this 9-day visit to some major sites of the Civil Rights movement. Near the end of her trip, our younger teen heard Rev. Shuttlesworth speak, and afterwards he sat at the table where she was. She asked, "How do you know when God is speaking to you?"

What a great question! And he answered, "It's like a mother, talking to her children." Wow.

The Parents' Travels

Yesterday the lovely Carol and I went to visit her mom. We left the house at about 8:30 and drove to Turlock. About 10:00 I gave her a call. "Hi Charlsey, it's Collin."

"Oh, are you coming to see me?" I told her we were, and that we'd visit for a bit, then go to a nursery and then to lunch. She thought that sounded fine.

"We'll be there in about half an hour," I told her. Twenty minutes later, we signed in and walked over to her room. She recognized us and remembered my name. After a while in her room, we headed off to the nursery, where she enjoyed looking at the flowers. Carol bought some flowers for our garden at home. Charlsey had a pretty good time. We left about 1pm, which was probably about long enough for all concerned. Although she probably forgot about the visit 15 minutes after we left, I know she enjoyed seeing the flowers, having a burger off-campus, and gettng that attention from us. Oh -- we also showed her some old photos and read some stuff from her travel journal, and a letter her sister had sent in 1958.

the following section rated PG

Afterwards, Carol and I went for a drive. We had a tent and a thermarest® pad in the car. The map showed a national wildlife refuge off highway 132, but when we got there, the signs were emphatic that nobody was allowed in! We drove on to some "S.V.R.A." which we found out, unhappily, means "where dirt bikes roar" -- not a place to pitch a tent for a peak kid-free outdoor afternoon experience. After some more driving, we came to Del Valle Regional Park, where the $6 entrance fee is far lower than any hourly motel rate. We pitched the tent in an unauthorized campsite under the shade of some beautiful trees, and....

Ah, Del Valle.

We drove to Palo Alto to look for the Apple Store -- which we found after much wandering around. I asked my question, then it was time to pick Jenny up from church. She had ridden her bike there to help with the K-1 class. We drove home, where Jenny asked me the embarrassing question of why there was a thermarest pad in the car. I tap-danced my way out of that one, mostly by not giving much of an answer. Luckily she didn't notice the tent I was putting away.

Well, that was probably more detail than you wanted. But it was fun for me to write anyway.

Even though I did spend over an hour on it.

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