Wednesday, December 14, 2005


Yesterday His Holiness and I visited the Weinachtsmarkt (Christmas Market) in the Neumarkt. There are a number of such markets in Cologne and ours is by no means the grandest but it has a carousel and yesterday HH went for his first ride. In the past he has been reluctant to mount the grocery store parking lot fire trucks and trains that cost between fifty cents to one dollar per ride and seldom work. He enjoys sitting on them – but as soon as I insert the coins and the machine starts to rock and roll, he wants off. That was not the case however with the big shiny Weinachtsmarkt merry-go-round, with it’s brightly colored, perfectly painted and maintained fire trucks and police wagons and motorcycles … He sat there, all alone and confident, and rode round and round in the fire truck and when it was time to go, he asked if he could take a spin (my words not his) in the police wagon. When that ride ended he asked about the motorcycle but I wasn’t sure he was ready for that and was able to convince him that we would revisit these vehicles another day.

It was another milestone, not a huge one like walking or talking or riding a bike or taking the bus to school on his own or his first kiss – but I am getting ahead of myself. It was a significant moment because for the first time he sat in a moving vehicle, toy that it was, by himself and without crawling out of it while it was still moving, and he did it twice in a row. Last night as he was going to sleep and we were reviewing the day, he smiled broadly when I congratulated him on his accomplishments on the merry-go-round, and he reminded me of my promise to return for a shot at the motorcycle, another small milestone; keeping Papa honest.

Catching up ...

Unable to connect with the Internet again this morning. The wireless network I was tapping into has become inaccessible. Like many others on this planet, I depend on the web as my primary means of connecting with the world. I take for granted the ability to read blogs posted daily by people in Zambia, Thailand, New York and elsewhere here in Europe, and similarly I expect each morning, however early I might rise, to be able to connect and post my pleas for affirmation to the wide world.

In two hours I’ll be sitting in German class. I hope my old seatmate is back today. She was absent Friday and the lady who sat next to me is duller than dirt. We often work on new language problems in pairs and Friday was just plain painful. This woman speaks so softly I can’t hear her and she has no facial expressions so I can’t figure out what she is trying to communicate. To top it off, she doesn’t know her German half as well as my regular seatmate.

The lessons are becoming increasingly difficult for me to follow. It’s the accumulating pace that’s the problem. If you fail to grasp a rule or fully understand a word or phrase, you can get lost in a hurry. Only German is spoken in the room, with the rare English translation tossed out now and then. I do my homework, and review each day’s lessons, but I could be doing much more. This weekend for example I spent only about 90 minutes studying and the rest of the time shopping for food, cooking, playing with His Holiness and taking care of Mama, who has come down with a nasty cold.

HH and I went to church on Sunday and he heard for the first time what the inside of a real church sounds like when it is filled with booming organ music and beautiful voices. The church we have been attending back in Smallwood is not much bigger than a good-sized farm shed, with indoor-outdoor carpeting and a four-person choir accompanied on the piano by one of our neighbors, who is a charming person but a below average pianist. The church we attended yesterday dominates a square near the Neumarkt. It is a grand building and the music intensifies as it travels through the heavily scented interior airspace. As an added treat the Mass was spoken in Latin, something I haven’t heard since I was a young boy, not much older than His Holiness. Following Mass we spent an hour at the carousel in the Weinachtsmarkt. HH rode the Harley-Davidson motorcycle and sat in the spinning teacup and had an altogether grand time.