Sunday, June 14, 2009


(Posted from: Galway, Ireland)

Pfortzeim, Germany

And now it’s just the four of us: Zach, Josh, Tim, and I.

Saying goodbye to the choir was tough. I was going through so many emotions—thankfulness for the friendships, fear of the future, and homesickness. All I wanted to do was buy a ticket and come home where I can see my family, my girlfriend, my dog, sleep in my own bed (or at least my own country), get free refills at restaurants, and not have to pay for the bathroom anymore. It was so hard to let them leave without me.

But I stayed, which I wasn’t so happy about in the beginning.

We were picked up by Elke, a family friend of Josh’s who was kind enough to open her home for us in Pfortzeim.  Pfortzeim is a somewhat-new town right outside the black forest.  It was completely demolished in WWII and rebuilt quilkly, so a lot of the buildings are not too impressive. Still, it’s a very nice town.

The five of us really didn’t know what to do that day, and we spent a long time trying to figure it out. And then at one point Elke said, “We could go to France. It ‘s only about an hour from here.” Of course we said yes. So we drove to a city in France called Strausburg.  It was a cute little city.  

We stopped to have some espresso with Elke.

There was a nice cathedral, and it was at this cathedral that I realized that I’m already quite sick of cathedrals.

One of the things that really did stick out in this elaborate building was that, at every candle-lighting place, every prayerful kneeling station, every saint statue, and every confessional there was a small box for donations. Once I realized this, I couldn’t help but feel dirty. There’s no way that this can be called a church of God. This made me incredibly sad, and I had to leave before I got the urge to flip over any tables.

New subject, something more positive.

Once at Elke’s house, we met her family. Titzian, her 10 year-old son who tried so hard to communicate with us, but knew only the simplest English. He pretty much knew as much English as I know Spanish…enough to sort of get by, and little enough to be proud to say, “A piece of bread,” at the dinner table.

Lea was their daughter. I think she was 14 or so. She was shy and knew a pretty good amount of English, which she refused to share with us. Still, she laughed at our jokes and soon opened up to us enough to let herself go and be silly with the rest of us.

And then there was Elke’s partner, Carmen. She knew very little English, maybe even less than Titzian, and she was noticeably stressed about it in the beginning. There was something in her wary smile that made me fall in love with her and try to make her comfortable with us. We all joked around, and when we started talking about music she brightened up. Apparently she loves all the bands I do, and she would run back and forth to their CD player to show me bands I didn’t know. She even started dancing to some of the songs.

I also became acquainted with one of their cats. 

When they found out that I brought my travel guitar, they immediately made me get it out. I played some songs that I thought they might know, and we stayed up late into the night requesting and playing songs. By the end of it, Carmen said in her cautious, broken English, “Your voice looks like an angel.” That meant the world to me.

The next day we took a nice trip to the Black Forest, which I’m sure a lot of you have heard about. It’s really just a big forest, and the reason it’s called black is because, from a distance the trees look really dark. La de da, a big forest.

We found some fun things to do, though.  We went on a nice hike to see Germany’s Longest Waterfall, which was beautiful and made totally worth it when the guys and I hiked off the beaten trail to get a closer look. I could have stayed there all day.

This picture is looking down, by the way. 

After that, we went on yet another Alpine sled. I’m pretty sure that’s one of the coolest things one can do.

Oh wait. I have one cooler.

We also went on a high ropes course in the Black Forest! I love stuff like this: suspended over a hundred feet in the air, walking on wires between trees and being attached only by two karabiners. This was a monstrous ropes course with five levels of difficulty. We had about two hours there, so we decided to go on levels four and five—the most difficult. It was so exhilarating and terrifying and wonderful I could not contain my excitement.

Loved it.

We were quite hungry when we were finished with the course, so we went to a little café.  The food was delicious, but the experience was made actually quite horrible by the music that was playing. It wasn’t necessarily polka; it was more happy traditional German songs recorded on a cheap keyboard.  What made it worse was that there were only about four songs on repeat. It sucked. At least the food was good.

After this we went home to Elke’s house, where we had a nice cookout.  I hung out with the kids a lot and they tried to teach me some German. They taught me the phrase “Ich heisse Brian,” which means, “My name is Brian.” During my attempt to say everything correctly, I said, “Ich scheisse Brian,” and scheisse is the German equivalent to shit. We laughed about that one for awhile. 

Somewhere in our conversation, they started talking about Strauss, which is Emu—a common bird that they eat in Germany. And then I realized that in my first homestay in Bad Hamburg, I continued to call my hostdad whose name in Klauss, strauss. So I called him and Emu for most of my stay.  How embarrassing.

I don’t know how I’ve become so blessed to meet such wonderful people. Each one of my hosts have changed me in a significant way and caused me to praise God all the more. God does good work with people; I am continuously impressed by that.

Hope all is well in the Fifty Nifty.  J



The trick is to pretend like you're taking a picture of something else. 
For this picture I actually WAS taking a picture of something else--the pigeons on this one house. And then on the last picture I realized that an old woman in the house was watching me.



  1. is anyone else having trouble posting comments on this entry? I've tried twice...I'm trying now again....this is a just made me change my password.

  2. IS THAT SCHNITZEL WITH NOODLES??? (Again, I can't say those words, I must sing them.)

    I'm so happy that you, again, had a wonderful time with the choir. They seem like some very special people. Thanks all of you for tagging Brian on your Europe photos! We've really enjoyed seeing them on Facebook!

    Elke and her family seem awesome. And Strausberg is an adorable town!

    You got your travel guitar back! How did you get it back?

    What were the bands that you and Carmen both liked? Are American bands popular there too?

    The falls in the Black Forest look so peaceful! I can see why you would like to spend more time there! I wish I could have done the high ropes course with you! (the alpine slide...not so much.) Is that you in the ropes photo? Is it one of the guys behind you on the alpine slide? His expression is hilarious!

    I love the photos of the old people. but the lady behind the shutters should be careful. It looks like the pigeons are scheissing all over her window!

    Carmen is right...your voice looks like an angel. There you go made your mom cry. :-)

    Love you and miss you!


  3. Looks like a great time. I posted on the first try. However we had some trouble Friday when Julie was learning to post.

  4. Wow Brian those high ropes look scary! Looks like something Christie (my adventurous one) would love.
    I think you are very brave to stay and travel and it is cool to read about how blessed you have been by your host families. I think that is the coolest part!

  5. wow, you have already had a taste of france!!
    QUESTION: are the first three town pictures from france or pfortzeim??

    sorry about the lame cathedral.

    hehe i like how you did a little profile on each family member you were staying with! i think i like all of them!

    and i agree with your mom, the "your voice looks like an angel" story... way too cute.

    Your black forest pictures should either be puzzles, postcards, or calendar photos with cheesy quotes. Maybe all three.


    the old people are precious! i love them.
    the pigeons are precious as well.

  6. sorry mom, that's not schnitzel with noodles. schnitzel is usually a fried and breaded pork (very similar to chicken-fried steak). the noodles are actually very specific to the region, though. they were thick and soft and really interesting to slurp!! i forget what they are called, though.

    i don't know how i got my travel guitar back. for those of you who don't know, i left my travel guitar in Lübeck by accident. i was pretty sure it was gone forever, but when i was in Nidderau the choir manager came up to me and handed me my travel guitar!! he didn't tell me how he got it, but he did. thanks, kevin!

    carmen loved coldplay and michael buble and jason mraz. it was interesting because, even though she could sing to all of the songs, she had no idea what they were saying. i also sang a bit of the choir's bach motet for them, and they also thought it was so weird that i could sing in perfect german, but not understand a word of it.

    yes, that's me in the ropes photo. tim is afraid of heights, so i gave my camera to him on the ground.

    the three town pictures are from france. pfortzeim didn't necessarily have anything to take pictures of.

    thanks for your comments!!

  7. YUM! I think I would love SCHNITZEL WITH NOODLES especially if they serve it with gravy!!! Do they serve it with gravy? You didn't really 'slurp' your noodles did you? But it's okay if it is culturally accepted! :-)


    Love you,

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  9. ***Comments*** 

    YOU’RE IN EUROPE BABY!!! (from Joey in Friends) Enjoy it! Look at the obscene amount positives that out weigh the few negatives you mentioned in the beginning of your blog… Make the very most out of your charged bathrooms, take a picture they have to be good if you have to pay for them! Haha! This whirl wind of a summer of yours will be over before you know it. Take in every smell, sight, taste, and sound… enjoy it, swim in it, until your fingers get all pruny! = ) Know that there are a TON of people that love you!

    ***Comments On Pictures***

    ---Pic 2---Such a cute picture… I just want to walk down that street, it looked like a lovely day!

    ---Pic 4---I get a kick out of all of castles everywhere. I think we need some castles in the states besides in Disney… Didn’t you say that you would see the castle that inspired Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty’s castle? Did I miss it or is it coming yet????

    ---Pic Black Forest—That’s gorgeous!!! It looks like somewhere tropical! 

    ---Pic Kitty-Kitty--- I don’t have a kitty from Pfortzeim… haha! It looks like the kitty has some ‘tude like Mr. Fez. 

    ---Pic high ropes course---Wow! That looks like such a blast!!! Did they give you special shoes?

  10. It looks chilly there. Your photos are fun cuz it looks like you can just start walking down the streets.

    After seeing the food from the last few weeks, I bet you're dyin' for some Red Rooster sauce to spice things up! Or maybe some "BAM!"

    Bummer about the donation boxes.

    Glad your guitar found you.

    Neat that the little boy tried so hard to speak English.

    The alpine slides look really fun. Sky ropes... not this guy!

    Are the trains fast? I've heard some really fly.

    Looks like the carousel guy saw what I did and put up his ride in the HUGE OPEN AREA across the street! Way to go Hans.

    Great blog! Have fun, be safe, love you! Dad

  11. “It’s London, Baby!” Haha! Just incase anyone was wondering what Friends episode I was referencing….

  12. Hey Brian,

    I just got all caught up on your posts. Your adventure seems so inspiring! I'm so glad you didn't go home with the choir...selfishly (I am really enjoying reading this) and because I know you would have regretted it as soon as you got back to La Crosse.

    I love your collection of pictures of old people. I tend to take photos of people who don't know, too...there's something psychologically pleasing about it...but maybe I'm just a weirdo. ;)

    Also, I wanted to chime in and tell Lindsay that the Disney castle (if you are seeing the same one I saw) is somewhere in Spain, I think in Sevilla, no?

    Finally, I get constantly disillusioned by touristy, money-hungry churches. All the oldest churches in the world are here in Palestine and they are almost all like that. It's so sad. I usually find solace in the emptiness of the mosques. Though I am not really religious and usually go to any house of worship more for serenity and meditation in a busy place than anything else.

    I was going to ask if you saw any Holocaust stuff in Germany, but since you didn't mention it and you're already in Ireland, I guess not.

    Keep writing! You are truely gifted.

  13. this is a test grandma and grandpa

  14. We are thinking about you and praying for you. God's Peace Love Ya Grandpa and Grandma,

  15. thanks, linds, for the nice words. and the disney-like castle will be in the next post. :) and no, they didn't give me special shoes for the ropes course...that kinda scared me. i'm pretty sure my nike running shoes are not supposed to be over a hundred feet in the air.

    no, dad...trains don't "fly." they're on the ground. PLANES fly. easy mistake.


    sarah, i'm so glad you're following this. and it's funny that you called yourself a weirdo because i specifically remember some home videos of one of lindsay's birthday parties where you introduce yourself as a weirdo. :) yeah, the churches here usually end up just pissing me off. i hope to be able to learn more and figure out some sort of small solution by the time i leave. oh, and we visited Dachau in Germany. that post's coming too. :)



  16. Haha! I guess I've always been a weirdo and always will be.

    Also, I wanted to add that the reason the 14-ish year old girl was being so shy is because she had several heart-breakingly cute 20-ish year old guys in her house! I know, the age difference is huge and you guys didn't think of her like that, but for her it doesn't matter. I remember being a 14 year old girl and was certainly shy around cute older boys. Lindsay will undoubtedly back me up on this! :)

  17. we are quite good looking, aren't we...


  18. Well, you weren't THAT shy Sarah... pretty sure we used to chase boys around the playground in elementary school AND you nearly got married in…ummm… the second/third grade? To Chris somebody, if I remember correctly… I remember that I had a special toy wedding rings and everything. Hahaha!!!

    But yes, I agree with you! ; )

  19. Brian,

    I see it is June 19th and you are on your own. I can only image all the emotions you are going through today. Know that we all love you and are with you. Enjoy this experience to the fullest.

    Chris and Sara

  20. thanks, guys. i need that today. i'll give you a quick update. right now it's almost 2pm in London, and i'm leaving for paris at 4. i'm going to be arriving at 7 and meeting my host at 11. london on my own has been fine, but i'm quite nervous to go to paris on my own. i don't know the language, or the city.

    please pray for me to have patience and courage and strength while i take this next step. i can do this.

    peace to all of you. thanks for your love.


  21. We all love you, Brian! You will do just fine! It's all new to you so of course it's a little stressful, but you are strong and smart and we KNOW you will figure this out and thrive there as you have thrived and grown through your entire trip!

    You know we are 'stormin' the heavens' for you! :-) You will be fine! He will watch over and guide you. Of that I am sure!!!

    Love you Brian!

    Mom and Dad