Thursday, August 13, 2009

Moving On...

Well, I'm moving on from GCIA (God's Call is Abroad...can I call it GCIA? I like acronyms).  I've started a brand new blog called Popcorn Day: Musings from the Conscious and Unconscious Mind of Brian Schroeder. (And for those of you who don't like clicking links and instead prefer the old-fashioned way of putting a URL into the address bar, the address is: brian-schroeder.blogspot.com. That's where I'll be writing from now on, and it would be SO COOL if you all followed it as well. It's going to be a lot of fun; Popcorn Day is about my every day life, including dreams of mine, both awake and asleep, and things that I think are exciting.  

I've told you this before, but it was great to share my journey with you on GCIA.  Please keep reading and move on with me to Popcorn Day! 

Peace,

Brian 

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Story of My Kite

Well, here we are. After trying to drag this thing out for a long as I could because I freaking love it, we are at the conclusion of my travel blog. Two months in Europe has become a spark of intricate memory in my mind, immeasurable joy riddled with crippling anxiety, but all worthwhile and rewarding.

I look back and can’t believe all the things I have done, and I look at my kite and think about all the amazing sights it has seen, too.  Over the two months my kite was held closer than sometimes even my passport—my only true and significant souvenir, I would not leave it unguarded. It’s my kite, after all. Something that I found some people didn’t know was that each time I flew my kite, not only would I take a picture of it, but I would also write on the kite the date and the location in which I flew it. That way I’ll always remember what sky it touched.

To get the ball rolling, I gave it a Bon Voyage Flight in Onalaska, Wisconsin, on top of a very pretty bluff.


The first European flight was in Lübeck, Germany, a flight that ended up being very difficult, but thanks to some camera-savvy friends, we got a good shot.


Next was a flight in the beautiful island of Wyk auf Föhr in Germany.  I was so very happy to fly my kite there because, as it turns out, Wyk auf Föhr was one of my favorite places in my entire journey (and is arguably the best flight I had).


Flight #4 was in Salzburg, Austria, a place that is so very close to my heart now that I’ve been there. It had been a dream of mine to see the original place of The Sound of Music, and I finally got to check that off the list. Of course I had to fly my kite there.


The fifth flight took place on one of the dangerous edges of the Cliffs of Moher. I compromised my safety for this beautiful shot, and it was worth it.


It took me a long time to find a place to fly my kite in London. Though beautiful, Green Park had a lot of trees, and everywhere else was crowded.  After much searching, I found the perfect spot.  I like to imagine that the Queen of England saw my kite flying that day and is a committed follower of my blog.


Ahh, one of the best shots of me flying my kite is the one I took in Paris. With travelers from Asia and a few six year olds from Paris cheering me on, I got the right shot.


La Rochelle, France was the next place I took my kite. I struggled a lot to control my anxiety in La Rochelle, the first place I was really alone, but it was beautiful nonetheless, and the people I met there (Davi, Julie, Penny and Roger). 


I’ve never drank such amazing wine as what I drank in Aix-en-Provence. Also, I wanted so badly to see the lavender fields, and finally owning a picture I took of the fields is a wonderful thing.


Nîmes was a blessing, mostly because of Carol-Ann and Anthony.  I can’t thank God enough for putting them in my life.


Avignon was a mess, but its weirdness was really fun to be around (well, for a few hours, anyway).  I loved flying my kite there, even though my mom still yelled at me when I got home about where I flew it.


The twelfth flight (which, I just found reminds me of The Twelfth Night, which is a Shakespeare play, which reminds me of the two Shakespeare plays I saw in London that changed my life, which I forgot to mention when I wrote about London above, which has now caused me to write a very long run-on sentence riddled with which’s) was in Milan, Italy. How exciting it was to finally be in Italy! The people I met there, Sufred from India, the sisters from Vietnam, the unfortunate photographer from California…all gave me great memories.


Next, I flew my kite in my favorite place of the entire trip, Cinque Terre. This place was perfect for me, but not for my kite. It was so difficult to find a windy place! The windiest location was not the prettiest, unfortunately, but it had to do. 


And finally, my celebration flight.  Back in the Fifty Nifty, me and my friend Tami went to Riverside Park in good ol’ La Crosse, Wisconsin, and flew my kite for the last time. I originally wanted the picture to be by the La Crosse flight to be in front of the La Crosse Bridge, and we got one, but then I saw a giant American flag in the park.  The picture was too darn hilarious and corny not to take.


What started as a fun idea about a fun, cheap souvenir became a metaphor for me and my journey. I went out (or up) into the unknown. Not knowing what would happen, unaware of the challenges that would come to me, and not expecting the incredible heights that I would reach, I went wherever the wind blew. Sometimes it led me to places I didn't want to be, and sometimes the were places that made me not want to be anywhere else. And without the powerful string of love and prayers (or hugs) I felt from the people who love me, and without God holding on to me at the end of it, I would have completely lost my way. I became a kite. And now I'm back home, which I love, but I'm ready to go up again. 

So there it is. The last of my entries on this blog (probably, but don’t hold me too tightly to that statement). I filled my kite with places it flew in Europe. It is now officially retired, since it has been stuck in power lines before and I would be devastated if it happened now. It has a special place in my heart, and on my wall, for a long time.

My only problem is:  now I’m kiteless.  Here begins another journey—finding the right kite for me!   :) 

Peace, all of you; I can’t tell you how wonderful it has been to share this journey with you. Your support and comments and prayers have meant so much to me. 

I love you all.

Brian

(P.S. Send me your email address or something if you want to get information on my new blog when I put it up. Or you  can just keep watching for updates on my website, BrianSchroederMusic.com.)

 

Friday, August 7, 2009

Recreating Some of My Trip

As was the main topic of most of my posts from Europe, the main topic of conversations I had about Europe once I was home was of course...food.

Can you blame me, really?  The food that I had over there was terrific.

After saying, “Oh, I wish you could have eaten this,” to my parents about four hundred times, I came to a realization.

You know, I could probably cook some of this stuff.  

So I decided that I would try.

The first step was something that I just couldn’t get enough of when I was in France, even though they seemed really difficult when I saw them being made. 

Crepes.

Ooh, what a beautiful gift from above.

I went online to look for some good crepe recipes, and I found a nice website that showed how to make them (complete with pictures and everything!). As it turns out, they’re not that difficult to make. You don’t really need a fancy crepe pan or that weird stick that they use when they make them.  And the recipe is only butter, eggs, flour, and milk.  Super easy.

And delicious!

Another thing I just had to try was trofie—the hand-rolled pasta I had in the Cinque Terre. This one proved to be quite easy as well, but very time consuming.  I found the recipe on another website. All you need is some unbleached flour and water.  The time consuming part is the rolling.  My parents and I tried it and ended up spending almost an hour preparing the noodles.

When we were done, though, it tasted wonderful.  Just like the trofie I had in the Cinque Terre! We decided that trofie is a great thing to make at a party or something. The more hands you have helping, the better. My parents and I had some great conversation while we were trying to roll those little noodles.  

It was wonderful to be able to show my family and actually let them try the kind of food I had while I was in Europe.  I think they really enjoyed it, too. 

Stay tuned for the story of my kite!

 

Sunday, August 2, 2009

My day went VVVVRROOOOOOOMMMM

I woke up in my hostel at nine in the morning on the 15th.

Holy crap; I’m going home today.

What a strange feeling. It had been almost two months. Two months of challenges and fears, but also joy and wonder.  Two months of intense anxiety, but also indescribable breakthroughs.

Two months.

I packed up my things (ooh…I’m almost done lugging these dang things around!), checked out of the hostel, grabbed an éclair from a bakery I had passed the day before…

…and hopped on the good ol’ metro to the airport.

I remember wanting to do everything again. I wanted to go back into the centre of Paris in the remaining hours I had and find all the Arago medallions, ride the Ferris wheel that I kept telling myself I had to ride, stare at the Eiffel Tower again for about a day, eat more crepes, run through the Louvre again, and spend the whole day at the Orsay. I could do that in a few hours barely make my flight, right?

(Sigh), no, I had to go.

But I could go back to Giverny! Maybe even La Rochelle and take a trip over to Austria and get that green jacket I’m still thinking about! I’m not done here!

I realized then that I could never be done here. In this wonderful world of ours, there’s always something amazing for me to fall in love with. Unfortunately, Europe would have to wait. 

So I boarded the metro and took the 45-minute ride to Charles De Gaulle airport. I arrived, checked my bag, and ate at my last French McDonald’s (which I was kind of bummed to do because I wanted something more French, but McDonald’s was the only thing available). I had a few hours until my flight.

There was nothing else for me to do but wait.

I read more Narnia; I was actually very close to being finished, which was exciting. Another thing I did was something amazing that I had found in the many airports I had visited in the previous two months: massage chairs. Two Euro, ten minutes, and the world becomes a better place. Mmm. 

The plane finally arrived. It would be a three-hour flight to Iceland, and then a five-hour flight to Minneapolis. Taking off, I felt the same feeling I had when I left the U.S….Try to realize that you’re not going to see this land for a long time. Savor this. Reflect.  It didn’t really work, though.  But still, I felt a small hint of sadness as we left the ground.

Bye, Europe.

On the first flight, I was proud to finish The Chronicles of Narnia.  The entire Chronicles. I had come to Europe with three of the seven books read, and I finished them before I came home (and read The Shack during the choir trip). So yeah, I felt pretty cool. 

After that, I did what I found to be even a better way to spend time on a plane instead of sleep: watch movies. IcelandAir rocks. A small touchscreen television was on the back of the headrest of each seat on the plane, with many movies and television shows available. I watched Duplicity on the first flight. Good movie. 

Iceland was nice for an hour. That’s all I really had there. I got some lunch and sat quietly, already knowing the movies I was going to watch on the flight.

Sideways and The Savages. Both great.

And then I heard over the intercom, “We will be arriving in Minneapolis in twenty minutes.”

Whoa. 

Soon enough, we landed.  I went through customs, and everything went smoothly until they found out I had wine in my checked baggage.  Oh yeah…I’m not legal over here.  

My parents and Christie were waiting for me outside customs, and didn’t expect to have to deal with a cop escorting me to make sure I wasn’t going to keep the wine. 

“Can you claim the wine this gentleman has brought over?” the cop said to my parents.

“Uh…yeah,” my parents said as they nearly pushed him out of the way to hug me. And Christie hugged me too, of course.  And from there we zipped over to Buffalo Wild Wings, my all-time favorite place to eat, where some of my friends from college were waiting for us. 

The simplicity of placing my order caught me off guard. Habitually, I prepared myself for ordering, taking a deep breath and thinking, “Okay, how can I say this in a way so the server understands me?” I realized then, where I was.  America, baby.

We had a wonderful time talking and eating my favorite meal, hot wings.

From there, I said goodbye to my friends and to Christie, and got in the car with my parents to head to La Crosse. As soon as we were on the road, I grabbed my pillow and fell asleep.  It was only about seven o’clock, but it was two in the morning to my body. 

Then I was shaken by my mom. 

“Brian,” she said, softly. 

“What! What’s going on? Where are we?” I said, confused, pretty sure we were near a gas station or something in Rochester.

“We’re home. It’s ten o’clock.”

Holy crap.

So I got up again, unpacked some of my things, and went to bed in Holmen.

The next morning, I lay in bed with my eyes closed. 

I have to pee, I thought, Does my room in this hostel have its own bathroom? Let me think. No, I have to go in the hall. I hope no one’s in there.

And then I opened my eyes.

Ohhhhh.

I got a call a bit later from my dad.  “How’s it feel to be back in the United States?

“I dunno. Only a few hours ago I was in Paris.”

It was strangely true. The whole day had been a blur.

Paris.

Zip to Minneapolis.

My parents are here.

So is Christie.

That’s great!

Zip to Buffalo Wild Wings.

My friends are here too!

Yum. Hot wings.

Bye, friends.

Aw, Christie has to go too?

Fall asleep in the car.

Zip. We’re in Holmen.

Sleep again.

Wake up in my room.

Vvvrrrrooooooommm.

That’s how my day went.

And thus, I started my slow but sure “I-have-to-get-used-to-America-again” transformation. Swallowing two months worth of incredible adventures is not an easy task. Also, becoming acclimated to our culture, not having to listen in public for English because everyone already speaks it, suppressing the need to look for ATMs, pay phones, wondering if I’ll ever find wireless internet, and having to do the scary “okay…how much is that in American dollars?” calculation was something that took some time. 

Over time, though, I began to thank God for my experience and realize how lucky I was to have it. Then I realized how thankful I am for the area that I actually live in.  This place makes me wonderfully happy, and it is beautiful.  The challenge is to continue to find things that excite me about this place, this town, this state, and this country. So that’s my new goal.

To find things that are exciting to me everywhere I go.

To challenge myself to go beyond what I think my limits are, because when I do, I find myself becoming more in touch with who I am and to God as well.

To do something that causes me to want to take a picture at least once a week.

To set goals for myself and improve my life.

To find God in ways I did not know I could find Him before I went to Europe. 

To seek enjoyment and happiness in all areas of my life, knowing that God is there.

To help others find that happiness as well. This means also to stand up for social justice and equality.

To meet new people.

To step out of that box that I so frequently put myself in and allow myself to be changed.

(I smell a new blog forming.)

So I’m back from Europe. I have been changed by what I’ve experienced and by the Spirit who has led me.

Praise God.

I have a few more things to say about returning to the States—the fun European things I brought with me, the retirement of my kite, more reflections…lots of stuff!

Love,

Brian

Thursday, July 30, 2009

My Last Day in Paris

After my nap in the hostel, I decided to walk around the city for a bit.  I hadn’t gotten to take a look at Notre Dame yet, so I took the metro over to that area. Apparently Bastille Day is pretty popular among tourists, so the lines to get in the cathedral were terribly long.  I walked around Notre Dame, though, and took some pretty fun pictures. 

For some reason I was quite comfortable walking around Paris, enough so that I was willing to get lost around the area (which makes me really cool, by the way). (I hope you laughed at that last statement.) It was a pretty nice day.  Kind of cloudy, but people walked around happily—especially tourists.  I was a little annoyed by that. Still, it was obvious that kids were off of school and adults had the day off, so seeing people happy and relaxed on this holiday was great. I snapped some pictures of a happy Weimaraner and a kid that was enjoying a small door on a little building.


The famous Berthillon ice cream parlor was closed on that day, but there was another gourmet gelato place that was open and making a killing on hungry tourists. I also bit. The gelato was delicious, but expensive.  Still, I needed my gelato. As I ate, I reflected…

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I took my gelato to a nice little park near Notre Dame and ate, and then read. It was nice.

Even though most of Paris had the day off, it was still a working day for street performers.  Well, actually, only the bad ones. Not really worth the pictures.  This guy, however moved a puppet’s hand and mouth up and down to the American song, “She F***ing Hates Me,” which the tourists just ate up.


See?

Finally, it was about time for me to go find a seat for the fireworks. On the way there, I was excited to find two more Arago medallions, across the river from where I found the others.


After telling myself that to resist the temptation to look for more medallions, I walked toward the Eiffel Tower.  The more I walked, the more crowded Paris became. I didn’t necessarily know where I was going—just kept heading towards the Tower, and following the huge crowds. 

My stomach was filled with excitement when I saw that there was street food along the streets. Mmm.  Candy, crepes, sandwiches, fried things.  Oh, if I didn’t have so little money and, more restricting, such a small stomach! I decided that I would buy a snack and some sort of meal-like thing. A candy stand that had a plethora of gummy things, licorice-looking ropes, roasted cinnamon nuts, and much more was calling my name. Why would I buy something I know I’m going to like? I thought to myself as I pointed to a large, strawberry-shaped something.  Perfect.

It was like a giant, strawberry-flavored marshmallow Peep that had been sitting on a shelf for about 40 years. Still, I’m glad I tried it.

Now looking for my dinner, I came to a stand that consisted of nothing more than a table with a large skillet on top, and a man and a woman sitting in folding chairs behind it.  What was coming from the skillet smelled delicious, and there was a long non-English-speaking line, so I decided I would eat whatever they gave me.

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When I was done eating, I walked closer and closer to the Eiffel Tower, the crowds getting denser and denser. Somehow I found a patch of grass near the park, in the middle of a large crowd, and sat down to wait for the show.

Then the fireworks started.  I had never seen anything like it.  Not only were fireworks shooting up around the Eiffel Tower, not only were they shooting from the Tower itself, but somehow images and shapes where being projected on to each side of it, metaphorically telling the story of France throughout history. It was incredible.


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Pay no attention to the fact that I look absolutely wasted in the frozen shot of this video before you push "play."  I'm not. I just have no control of what frame blogger decides to freeze my video on. 

What a wonderful way to spend my last night in Europe. I walked back home to the following beautiful sight - its beauty was a little diminished because I wasn't necessarily sure if  I was going to get mugged or not. 

I will talk about my return to the Fifty Nifty and reflect on it all in the next couple of posts.  I'm sad that this is coming to an end soon! At least I have more to share...