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Bastrop Daily Enterprise - Bastrop, LA
  • Home away from home

  • One day Lucy Holtzclaw received an odd phone call from a local International Student Exchange representative. She had gotten her number from Holtzclaw's church and informed her that she  was housing a foreign exchange student from Hamburg, Germany, with no host parents.


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  •   One day Lucy Holtzclaw received an odd phone call from a local International Student Exchange representative. She had gotten her number from Holtzclaw's church and informed her that she  was housing a foreign exchange student from Hamburg, Germany, with no host parents.
      Holtzclaw told the ISE representative she would gladly become host parent for the boy. And that same September evening she and her family met 16-year-old Leon Billerbeck.
      The night that Billerbeck met his host family, they all attended church. 
      “Our churches are very old and boring,” he said. “The buildings are from the 1700s."
      One of Holtzclaw's rules was that Billerbeck attend church while he was here, and she said he enjoyed it.
      Billerbeck said he had a few culture shocks when he first made it to Louisiana.
      “We went to Chile Verde and the drinks were huge,” he said. “The cups in Germany are so small compared to Louisiana. Plus, the refills in Germany are three dollars apiece and you get only two ice cubes in your cup.”
      Another thing he found odd was the fact that banks and almost every store has a drive-thru window. 
      “There are no drive-thru banks in Germany,” he said. “Also, most people ride bikes or walk -- they do not drive.”
      During his visit Billerbeck attended Sterlington High and played basketball on the team.
      Although he did not qualify to graduate, he made all As and Bs and took pre-calculus “for fun.”
      Billerbeck said his desire for the future is to travel and one day become a film editor.
      Holtzclaw said that Billerbeck learned Southern hospitality, such as how to say “Yes ma'am” and “No ma'am” while he was here. He also got a taste of Hispanic culture as well, because Holtzclaw is of Hispanic descent.
      One of Billerbeck's most memorable times spent with the Holtzclaw family was eating homemade hot tamales.
      “That was monumental for him,” Holtzclaw said, smiling at Billerbeck.
      Holtzclaw's two sons, Nate, 5, and Sam, 6, immediately fell in love with Billerbeck and affectionately refer to him as their “German.” 
      “They will be so sad when he leaves,” she said.
      Billerbeck is leaving next week and traveling around the United States with his older brother, Marvin, before returning to his hometown in Germany.
      A fun tradition that Holtzclaw learned from Billerbeck is called Nikalaus and it happens every year in Germany on Dec. 6.
      The night before, children clean their shoes and set them outside so Nikalaus can come by and fill them with treats, such as candy and small gifts.
      Holtzclaw said they followed the tradition this past December and it was fun for her and the children.
    Page 2 of 2 -   Billerbeck tried many new dishes during his visit too, both Southern and Mexican.
      “He would try anything,” Holtzclaw said. “He ate frog legs, crawfish, homemade tamales, barbacoa (a Mexican dish made with cow cheeks) and menudo (a traditional Mexican prepared with beef stomach)."
      Of all the different kinds of food he tried, his favorites were crawfish and hot tamales.
      Holtzclaw said that Billerbeck said something the other day that brought tears of joy to her eyes.
      “He said he learned how important family is,” she said. “It is the most important thing in the world to us.”

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