44 days ago
Kim Wood ’54 writes: “I still keep busy with various interests and activities — duplicate bridge, chess on the Internet with my Canadian friend, gym training, tons of additional exercise, maintenance of cactus and flower gardens, novel and nonfiction reading, and quite a bit of Spanish study lately. I will be traveling to Guatemala in late spring to attend a wonderful Spanish language school in Quetzaltenango and simultaneously live with a Guatemalan family for five weeks. The cost is extremely reasonable. I will pay $200 per week to get five hours of private tutoring five days a week for five weeks. This expense includes housing and food costs borne by the host Guatemalan family. What an experience! I attended the school 11 years ago while taking graduate history courses at The University of Arizona, and the teaching is superb. Unfortunately, I’ve gotten a bit rusty in the language since then and now I’m trying to get caught up with some private tutoring in Tucson so that I will be in a better position when I arrive at the school on April 22 of 2012. When I first studied at the school, I had a different teacher each week — one teacher for the present tense, another for the past and imperfect tenses, yet another for the future tense and so forth. The teachers were exceptionally competent and well organized. The Guatemalan people love you if you try to speak their language, but I’m a long way from fluency. However, I made friends with some of the chess players in the area and hope to renew those friendships or make new ones. The grandmother in the Guatemalan family I stayed with at that time came to my school graduation, her arms filled with Guatemalan bills. She felt badly because I had been pick pocketed at a fiesta, but I couldn’t and didn’t accept her money, of course. I was quite touched by the offer.
I may have mentioned that I had lots of fun several years ago teaching a 14-week adult education course on The Life and Times of Lyndon Johnson. Although he wasn’t one of our greatest Presidents, he was the consummate politician and an interesting one at that. For a while, I explored the idea of teaching two 14 week adult education courses on the Middle Ages based on two novels by Ken Follett. The first novel, The Pillars of the Earth, was superb, all 1,000 pages of it. But I didn’t like the sequel World Without End nearly as much. I had planned to give 28 one hour lectures in two course segments, each covering all aspects of life during the medieval period in England ranging roughly from 1000 to about 1400 A.D., but the project was almost mind-boggling in scope. I finally decided not to continue with it because I have many other reading interests and didn’t want to spend a good part of my life mastering the events and high points of only one period in history. Who knows, maybe I’ll teach a course on the Years of Richard Nixon someday. His foreign policy achievements interest me, but Watergate arguably was the worst presidential scandal in U.S. history because of its scope. When I taught the Johnson course, I had fun developing talks on the Civil Rights Movement and Vietnam War as well as Johnson’s rise to power. The idea of teaching a course to adults was scary to me when I first embarked on the project, but I did a tremendous amount of reading and then realized I knew more about the period than anybody in my class. That experience was good for the ego, but mine isn’t that high!”