Monday, January 26, 2009

Here Comes the Sun

This morning was the second beautiful day in a row. The weather was peaceful, calm, and cool, and the sun was shining, which made for a beautiful sunrise.

As I rode the U-bahn (now above aground) over the Rhine, and saw the sun again, I thought - this must be a trick. By noon, it will be rainy and the sun will be gone.

Surprise, surprise, the sun shone all day. It was a nice day.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Beauty of Speech

Well Ian has started speaking a bit more. He has moved on from Mama, Papa, Emma, Hallo, Home, and Hi (not necessarily in that order - I believe Papa came last) to a brave new realm of speech.

Ian can now say Sponge Bob and Bubu, a dog in a children's book we read to him (in English the dog's name is Kipper). Those are words that truly bring tears to a father's eye. Well, maybe not. I'm just glad that he said Papa before Sponge Bob.

Hannah was also late in speaking like this, but then improved in leaps and bounds once she started. We'll see if that happens with Ian as well.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Winter Cup

Today Spencer got to go to a day of soccer in Düsseldorf. The Fortuna Düsseldorf Winter Cup between Duisburg, Cologne, Berlin, and Düsseldorf. From what Spencer said there were four games of 45 minutes each. Düsseldorf lost to Cologne in the final and so the boys I drove home from the train station said they now hated Cologne, because they beat Düsseldorf. Spencer said he had a good time and he was glad he got to go to a soccer game. There were a couple of games that went to penalty shots, which is always fun.

But the story he told Tamara was the best. He started with how you have to take your ticket with you in order to go to buy food, and go to the bathroom. He then told her how he bought three currywurst mit pommes (polish sausage with curry sauce and fries) and actually ate them all. He also drank a bottle of water, and soda. He then went on to explain that he had to throw up afterwards, surprise, surprise.

That kid has some hilarious stories.

Friday, January 23, 2009

I can understand German

I noticed recently that I understand German conversations I overhear, e.g., in the bus, standing in line, without trying to understand them. I was wondering when this might happen.

I wish I spoke more German at work, but I have two "English only" members in the team. C'est la vie.

Tamara is out at a Tupperware party tonight. This is her first since being in Germany. Hopefully not the last. The older kids are watching the Disney classic - Robin Hood. I'm playing around on the Internet.

Monday, January 19, 2009

A voice from the dust

I heard my grandmother's voice tonight for the first time. My mother sent over a recording on a USB stick. In which her mother spoke her autobiography. It was an eerie experience. I was not sure what to expect. Whose voice would I hear? Would I recognize my mother's voice in her mother's voice?

The quality of the recording - made prior to 1969 - the year of her death, was not great. Some moments were clearer than others. And, I could recognize my mother's voice and my aunts' voices in their mother's voice. She sounded very tired, so I am guessing it was near the end of her life.

Then the unexpected occurred - in the first story she told. I heard an amazing story about my grandmother's life that I did not remember, or had not heard.

She started at the beginning of her life on this earth, which occurred in the early 1900's.

She said she was born with the umbilical cord around her neck and did not scream directly after birth. The doctor was concerned and felt she would not live to see another day. Her parents named her and blessed her, while life was still in her, and presumably planned for the worse. But then, her grandmother, my great, great grandmother Ballard, began administering mouth to mouth, striving to save the young baby's life. It worked. Grandma Ballard heard a faint gasp for air and informed the doctor. The doctor began trying to help the child breath. It worked.

I was astonished and amazed at this beginning to my grandmother's life. I contemplated the events that take place to bring a person to their current situation in life. The fact that I was born to my father and mother at this time in the world at all is a miracle of epic proportions. I cannot name all the events that transpired to bring me to this place today, but I just discovered yet another amazing event that led to my life on earth.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Guten Morgen - A Glorious Greeting

I post, therefore I am! I'm a bit sad that I haven't posted in a while. I enjoy doing this, but have been crazy busy as of late. Work has been hectic.

While I was working all sorts of insane hours before Christmas the regular security guard at the front desk has vacation. In Germany one commonly greets the security guard each morning with a Guten Morgen. I noticed while greeting the back-up security guard each morning I was in a good mood.

In January while I continued to work all sorts of insane hours the regular security guard returned to his post and I started greeting him each morning. I noticed that when I greet him my mood goes just a bit sour.

With his absence and return I was able to put my finger on why my mood changes with his greeting.

The German morning, mid-day, and evening greetings have a rhythm, tone, and inflection to them. And this security guards strikes the wrong tone and inflects in the wrong direction.

Here is my assessment of the tones associated with each of the greetings North Rhine Westphalia.

The morning greeting Guten Morgen is a bit like a song and the tone in one's voice raises at the end of the Morgen. It is as if you are waking up, and having a great start to the day.

The daytime Guten Tag greeting is short, direct, firm, and serious. It is often shortened to Tag.

The evening greeting Guten Abend is similar to the morning greeting, except that the tone is a bit more subdued. The tone and inflection at the end of Abend goes down a bit and has a bit of a feeling of parting in its song-like tones, and a hint of sadness at departing.

Now, back to the regular security guard. His Guten Morgen is simply atrocious. I don't like greeting him. The tone goes flat and the inflection neither raises or lowers. For me it is simply like someone playing the wrong note at a critical point in a beautiful piece of music.

I remember dearly missing the morning greetings after returning home from my missionary service in Germany in 1992. Whilst a missionary I attended the local congregations each Sunday. And each Sunday each member of the congregation would greet every other member of the congregation in the entry way of the meeting house. You heard a lot of Guten Morgens. And almost every one had that quality of praising, embracing the day, singing out joy that one had risen and rejoicing with the other person that they had also risen, looking forward to a glorious new day.