It really wasn’t much of a visit: I went to only three buildings out of dozens that I passed by. First, I went to Old Main, where my daughter has her office. She teaches Spanish Linguistics and Medical Spanish and she invited me to lecture to one of her classes today.
The second building was the Moody Library, which my daughter pointed out some distance up the walk and beyond a number of other famous buildings whose names I can’t remember. The library was where I spent most of my time, so I’ll return to it later.
The third building was the English building, a marvelous old stone edifice near Old Main. It has a delightful lounge with an entrance sign “Please, no food or drink in this area.” There were a number of publications, so I took a seat and read about a famous poet and writer, neither of whom I had ever heard of before. There was a quote by C.S. Lewis in one article, so I know the journal was high class, although I found it impossible to understand the poet, who was into Zen meditation, or the narrator, who was into most everything.
My daughter’s office is spacious, so I spent the first hour there reading a grammar of Tok Pisin and reviewing my notes, which I knew I would pay little attention to. But one of her students was coming for a session before his thesis presentation, so I knew it was time to leave.
The walk to the library is probably a quarter of a mile along a wide sidewalk with beautiful live oak trees adorning it. About a hundred yards parallel to my walk was a sister sidewalk and in the middle was a vast green lawn, with students walking to and fro across the area. It was a peaceful scene and although the Texas wind was blowing, the sun was shining and in all it was a beautiful day.
I noticed that something big was about to take place tonight and continue the next day, the “Dia Del Oso,” or “The Day of the Bear,” a tradition that stretches (or at least leans) all the way back to 2016. It is a day when students have a day off from classes so they can enjoy the spring weather. This year there will be “yoga, petting zoos, concerts and more.” Some of the “more” includes flag football, a crawfish boil, free throw contests featuring President Livingstone and her husband, and at 8pm a movie, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” There will also be inflatables and dunk tank, a car show, carnival rides, exotic animal photo opportunities, mini golf, archer tag, food trucks and, of course, “more.”
But tomorrow is the big day: swing dances, a comedy hypnotist, a student musician, goat yoga, a fun run, Zumba, the smash brothers, a tug of war and bubble soccer. I don’t know what some of these things are but I read that in New York City they cancelled goat yoga due to health concerns. It seems when the goats get on the students’ backs they sometimes think they are in the barnyard and raise a stink. The goats are supposed to stand near their yoga mats before interacting with the students or clients.
I wanted to look at the Zumba dancers video because the exercise is said to be “way beyond fitness,” which will “transform your total body, anytime, anywhere.” However, the cost is generally about $14.95 a month for 15 minute workouts, and what is on-line is not free. These are “fat-burning” dance workouts and have some of “today’s hottest moves as you blast away calories.” Apparently at Baylor tomorrow there will be free demonstrations.
Locally bottled Dr Pepper is the drink of choice and, if I was organizing it, there would be a Dr Pepper hour where students sit around and belch at each other. The loudest belch will get a free pass to the Dr Pepper Museum, one of the main tourist attractions in Waco.
But my goal is the Moody Library, which I have no trouble finding—it is big and has its name embossed in large letters near the entrance. I don’t actually go into the library and stacks, which are to the right of where I sit in the Starbucks lounge. It is large, with perhaps 20 rows of tables, each accommodating about 6 students. There are also sofas and stuffed chairs, like the one I am sitting in.
Some of the students also appear stuffed—where are the sleek, starving students of yesteryear? One boy has a t-shirt on that says “fried chicken, sweet tea, French fries and gravy.” He is holding his Starbuck’s coffee in one hand and his i-phone in the other. On the table in front of him is his laptop. There are about 40 students in various locations and postures around me and every one of them has a laptop. The girls decorate their covers with stickers saying “NYC 1984,” “God is good,” “How you doin?,” Yeti and ATX, both which must be cool and mean something.
There is a constant stream of students coming and going: the girls are mainly in shorts, but a few wear sweatpants or jeans. Anyone walking has a backpack, but no one looks suspicious.
On the whole, I suppose the students represent a cross-section of America: different nationalities, ethnic groups, genders, and so on, although it is best not to talk of such distinctions and to maintain a neutral and unbiased attitude. One thing is apparent: they are pretty sloppy in their dress, regardless of how I would classify them. A couple have loud hacking coughs—no doubt they forgot to get their flu shots this year.
I am probably at least 50 years older than anyone it the room, but no one pays the slightest attention to me. The focus of all is on computers, phones and coffee, even an occasional book.
I sit so that I can look out towards the grassy expanse of lawn where workers are assembling tents and unloading chairs and tables. Students walk by, or whiz by, on bikes and skateboards. Classes change and the whole area resembles a hive of worker ants, with no obvious queen.
It is a fairly boring exercise—something like watching monkeys at the zoo. I decide to go outside and sit at one of the tables, but the Texas wind soon drives me inside again.
I decide to leave and wander back to Old Main and my daughter’s office. She is consulting with a student, so she directs me toward the English building. After an hour there I return to her office and eat my lunch while she teaches a class.
The time for my lecture comes and my daughter ushers me to a classroom on the second floor. There are five students, all girls, all looking at me intently when not noticing their i-phones and computers.
I tell them a bit about Pidgin and Creole languages, with examples form Chinese Pidgin, Tok Pisin (Papua New Guinea) and Sierra Leon Creole. I finish with a exposition of Psalm 23 in Tok Pisin, handing them copies to observe. There is time for some questions and then we are done.
My daughter guides me to her van and we leave for home, but not before a trip to Chic-fil-A and a lemon squash. It has been a long, tough day and I am ready for this refreshing drink.
Next time, instead of a university campus, I’ll go to an Old Folks Home. Someone might notice me, even if they won’t remember my name.
April 14, 2018