Readers here (and people who have emailed me over the past week) may have been wondering where I was. The short version would be, in a place with expensive Internet connections and a 9-year-old and his grandparents to occupy, amidst unparalleled family excitement. I am going to write up some of the saga here, but it will have to be in chunks, as we make our way back home.
As reported earlier, my older son Isaac won the Missouri State Geography Bee a few weeks back. The reward for that was this week’s trip to the National Geographic Bee in Washington, D.C., hosted by the National Geographic Society itself. (At the state level, I had not quite twigged to the fact that the venerable educational publisher was the ultimate organizer of the event.) The National Bee turned out to be a nearly week long series of events based at a rather strange old downtown D.C. hotel, where we all had to stay, at no little expense. The contestants themselves were paid for, but also required to room with other contestants, and we could not see not being the building while Isaac was having the first experience anything remotely like that. Karen signed on as the parental representative at the various banquets and picnics, whilst I was deputed to entertain our younger son Owen (and visiting grandparents) in the many hours when geographic competition was not occurring. So we hit the tourism, and the pavement, hard. (I will have some thoughts on the History Channelization of history in the various D.C.-area museums, based on what Owen and I saw, a bit later.)
The trip was not a small thing before, but it got a bit bigger when we arrived here Monday and saw the auditorium/television studio and giant three-level game show-style set that would host the finals. As if that was not daunting enough, reading through the ready-for-Harvard biographies of the other 54 state and territory winners made it even more so. Poor Isaac has not yet written any novels or mastered any musical instruments or weapons, and his travel experience has largely been limited to family visits and car trips built around his father attending history conferences. We had his birthday party in a hotel bar in Philadelphia one year. Not that there is anything wrong with that.
The foregoing is just a way of saying that it was quite unexpected when Isaac actually made it into finals, in last-minute, walk-off fashion, I might add. I will have to explain that tomorrow when Isaac is awake to help me remember the exact question.