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---- meets Kirchliche Dogmatik
We are on our way home from ISCA. As mentioned yesterday, we decided to break up the trip home, so tonight we're staying in Hannibal, Missouri. You can think of this town as either the home town of Mark Twain, or as the town of Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, Becky Thatcher, and Jim, the supposedly escaped slave. I much prefer the latter perspective. As Mark Twain once said . . . [Actually, the basic rule of thumb is that if someone says that Mark Twain said "such-and-such," chances are that he didn't say it.]
It's been raining off and on, and--as June reminded me--the point was to rest up from the conference, so we didn't do a long touristy thing, but we drove around, and I took a few pictures, some of which you are looking at now. Then we had a great supper at the "Mark Twain Restaurant." They had homemade rootbeer there, and it exceeded in quality any brand name root beer with which I'm familiar. And the Cajun chicken I had was superb.
I've always been a fan of Tom and Huck. But, if I may mention this, my appreciation of them increased when I received a copy of the two books (Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn) in one volume, translated into German, back in my youth at the Gymnasium, probably when I was in either the grade that they called the Quinta or the Quarta, roughly corresponding to sixth or seventh grade, around age eleven or twelve for me. The system was pretty complicated. At the time, you could take a test to enter the Gymnasium at the end of either your fourth or fifth school year. Then you would enter the lowest level class, the Sexta, and from there the grades would count down: Quinta, Quarta, Untertertia, Obertertia, Untersekunda, Obersekunda, Unterprima, Oberprima. If you did well, at the end you received a dipoloma called the Abitur, and you would be eligible for university studies. As a further point of trivia, the school year would begin after the Easter break, and--a very important consideration at the time--the Gymnasium was reserved for boys only, while girls went to the separate but equal school called the Lyceum. We left for America at the beginning of what would have been my Untertertia year.
But I have digressed. One day--it must have been during the Quarta--I was told to go to a certain place on the school grounds after classes where I would be met by some teachers, and we would drive somewhere. Obviously I obeyed, though I had no idea of what this was all about. Given my psychological disposition, I certainly didn't rule out that I might be in major trouble (not that I could recollect having committed anything bad). I knew one of the teachers in the car, my history teacher, and he said something along the line of, "What, Winfried? They're giving you a book despite the 5 you're getting in history?" I was confused in some ways, but not in others. I had no idea what the book thing was about, but Herr Klimek had teased me all along that year that I was going to get a 5 in history because I hadn't remembered some trivial detail at some point. The German grading system was (and I think still is) that a 1 was a superior grade, reserved for a truly outstanding performance in a subject, and a 6 was designated for exceptionably abominable work. 5 was clearly flunking the subject, and thus, I guess a 6 meant flunking it with distinction. Generally, if you got a 5 in two subjects or one 6, you would have to repeat the year. I was pretty sure that the threat of a 5 in history was a joke. Anyway, have I digressed again?
The short of it is that the place we went to was a hall with more available seating than we had in the school building, and the occasion was academic recognition. Along with students from other classes, I was called forward and received a copy of the Mark Twain ensemble, inscribed and officially stamped by the director (principal) of the Gymnasium. A cool moment in retrospect, and I'm sorry if this is bragging. For me it's just recollecting; I know my short-comings too well. Anyway I've always appreciated the fact that, even though it was something of an egghead award, the prize was pretty much as un-egghead as you could get: a fun set of books for a boy of my age (to be honest, then and now) to read.
Actually as I'm sitting here in the town called Hannibal, recalling the gag about getting a 5 in history, I'm beginning to crack up. Hannibal, the Cartheginian general, had always been a favorite of mine. I remember when we had a student teacher in history for a while, and we were learning about the Punic wars, I brought up how Rome's reaction to Hannibal was ineffective for a while due to the power exercised by the consul representing the populist party in the Senate at the time and his short-sighted policies. Unfortunately, the gentleman seeking to receive his pedagogical accreditation was not much interested in such detailed points of analysis at that moment, and I let it pass, though I was somewhat disappointed at the shallowness of his discourse. No question: I needed that threat of a 5, even as a mutually understood joke, to keep me from becoming a pompous ass. I wish some other folks I know would have had Herr Klimek as history teacher.
So, June and I think we might want to come back to Hannibal in a little while. Of course, it'll be filled with tourists then, but we can take our time, go on the boat ride and maybe get lost in the cave, like Tom and Becky. Maybe we can plan it as a definite event as a few days set aside if another trip to Kansas should materialize. But there I go again. Somewhere along the line we really need to take a genuine vacation without any tasks attached. Our trips are always enjoyable, and we try to get as much out of them as we can, but they're always linked to conferences, workshops, research and so forth. The trip to Thailand was a pretty heavy working trip. Somehow we need to convince ourselves (hah! make that: convince me) that it's okay to go off and just have fun for a while without needing to rationalize it.--- So, I promise that I'll give it more thought as soon as I'm done with all of my other projects.