Yesterday was the last day of the Musica Sacra Festival, the international music exposition involving a dozen choirs sharing their culture and religion with the German people. I can’t believe how quickly time has flown past since we arrived in Frankfurt, then Münich on the morning of the 21st. We have a few more concerts to put on separately in Worms and then in Belgium tomorrow, but other than that, Dozan’s first European foray is almost at a close.

While our layover between Amman and Münich was in layover in Frankfurt, I thought it would only be right to sample the famous sausage-based food that bears the city’s name. Sadly, I probably should have listened to the advice that an airport would not be the best place to taste test. My five euros got me a forlorn looking pale frankfurter, a couple small slices of rye bread, and a few packets of mustard (premium mustard!). However offputting it looked, it was tasty.

We rendevoused with our new German guide in the airport, Melanie, and she escorted us to our waiting bus to take us to the Music Academy of Marktoberdorf, the hub of activity for all things festival-related. I remember I was entralled with the landscape we were driving through that cloudy afternoon. Huge forests of spruce trees, damp-looking and inviting, waited just meters from the highway, and twisting vines curled their way up elderly concrete walls that separated the highway from farmland in places. Fields of yellow flowers were waving in the breeze and neat, trim, unpainted blackwood barns stood in the distance in them.

It was like I hadn’t seen a familiar summer in years…and then I realized that I hadn’t. German weather and agriculture in Bavaria look quite similar to that of Wisconsin and it’s been two years since I’ve seen summer there, having only gone back to America in the winter.

After arriving at the venerable-looking white-stone Academy building, we had a bit of time to look around before practicing. The building and its companion church of St. Martins sit high on a hill above the small city of Marktoberdorf, surrounded by trees and hayfields. Surprisingly, I learned that the church is Catholic, and that in fact most of the Germans who live in southern Germany were utterly unaffected by the Reformation and that by far the majority population is Catholic, not Lutheran/Protestant like I had always naively assumed they were.

When we visited the Konzertsaal (Concert Hall) that we’d be performing our introductory short-concert in that night, I visibly took a step back in shock after entering the performance hall and seeing a massive Israeli flag flung over the center of the far wall. Noticeably smaller representations of other country’s flags, including Jordans, were arranged around it. In some sort of unintentionally ironic twist they had positioned the huge Israeli flag over one of their security cameras, which blinked in warning at us, as if we were being dared to question the flag’s presence as the largest and central fixture of the room.

We were introduced to the owners of those flags that night at the introductory concert in that hall, where each choir group had a chance to put on a shortened version of their show for all of the festival attendees. Besides ourselves, the Israelis, and several German choirs, there was an Indonesian dancing/singing squad, a Turkish singing band, an incredibly talented octet of Swedes, elaborately dressed Ukrainians who were selling their album everywhere I looked, a Tibetan Buddist, and a tag-team duo of a Dane and Indian who did some incredible meditive music and throat singing. The Indonesians were by far the crowd favorites though, including my own. Their squad was a team of around two dozen highly skilled young Islamic women whose dance choreography as they did a “worship” prayer to Allah was impeccably timed and mezmerizingly intricate. As I watched them pound the floor with their tiny hands and shake their heads upward in unison while ululating “Allahu Akbar,” I was amazed by how the interpretation of prayer and feminine roles in Islam had changed between the religion’s birthplace in Saudi and on their little clusters of islands.

Yanal and I had been assigned to a host family together, and the two of us hit it off with our new family right away. We were met in the Koncertsaal by Reinhard and his daughter Lucy, both tall and slender with easy quiet smiles and good-natured dispositions. Although Elizabeth, our sole German-American in the choir had joked with us that Germans don’t have the American trait of smiling happily when they see someone, Reinhard and Lucy seemed to be an exception to her estimation.

The two of them took Yanal and I to their village of Stötten, to the southeast of Marktoberdorf, with my choir friends Joe and Lou’ai who were staying with a host family just down the street from us. Lou’ai, always the joker, pointed out his host mother’s name on the piece of paper we’d all gotten. “Gaw…denz…ia?” he muttered, and then repeated it. “Sounds like some sort of soldier’s name,” he then reasoned, and then roared in a gutteral voice, “Gaw-denz-ia!!!” We all thought it was fairly amusing until he did the same thing from of the woman herself. Gawdenzia giggled and said, “Ensy wil do fine if you want,” to which Lou’ai growled back again, “Yes Gawdenzia.” Because she lives just down the street from Reinhard’s house, she and Reinhard have been taking turns over the past few days carpooling the four us from Stötten, to the Academy, and back.

I know that over the next few entries I’ll be able to talk about the concerts and the venues in more detail (before all the churches we’ve sang in over the past few days blur together like some sort of brain mush) but right now I know I should get to bed. We’ve been singing so long now that I’ve been coming back home to my host family host exhausted each night, too tired to do anything more than have a cup of tea before falling into bed.