Saturday, March 21, 2020

Hej då Sweden

We never expected to say hej då -- goodbye (pronounced hay doe) -- to Sweden so soon.  We arrived in Stockholm on January 16, 2020 and we left exactly two months later on March 16.  So sad that the current pandemic has caused all senior missionaries serving in Europe and all junior missionaries with any kind of health concerns to be sent home.  And more throughout the world will be going home sooner than expected as the days go by.

I'm so grateful for our Church's very early response in closing down all meetings worldwide, including worship services, and systematically sending missionaries home.  Our church leaders never move on anything in haste nor as a knee-jerk response to rumor.  So wonderful to know that our prophet-president, Russell M Nelson, receives regular revelation from heaven for our guidance in these latter days.  We don't need to fear; we just need to have faith and be obedient.

We have been taught for many years to have a food storage for emergencies and a year ago, the church started a program of studying the gospel in the home as it has moved toward a home-centered and church-supported church.  It's been a huge help to families who are now home-bound during this pandemic.

President Nelson's 3-minute message of comfort at this hard time is actually trending as #1 on YouTube right now, and not just among members of the church.  Check it out at  Interesting and comforting that a 95-year old man, a world-renowned heart surgeon who himself is vulnerable to the Covid virus, is praying for all of us and is so positive about the future.

Back to our thoughts about Sweden.  We never really got a chance to get to know Sweden.  We were so busy in the office, and on Saturdays we were fixing up our apartment -- doing such things as installing new taps in all the sinks so the incessant dripping would stop, and reorganizing furniture.  We always thought that later, when it was warmer and the days were longer, we could start taking short trips outside of Stockholm on Saturdays to see a bit more of Sweden.  Now we'll just have to go back someday.

We enjoyed the friendly people we met in the stores and the great members we met at church.  We loved the young missionaries with whom we worked on a regular basis and the mission president and his wife.  That love came quickly and they are the ones we really miss now that we're home.  It was a wonderful experience and we feel that we did what we were sent there to do.  We were able to streamline the computer systems and make it easier for someone else to step into our shoes.  In fact, Äldste Torrie is still working on some of his spreadsheets and is in regular contact with the missionaries in the office in Stockholm.

When we left Stockholm on March 16, it was getting light at 5 a.m. and the temperature was about 5 C.  So nice to have light and relative warmth.  Then we came home to Alberta to -14 C and snow and darker mornings because Alberta is already on Daylight Saving Time.  We are self-isolating for two weeks.  We just wave at our grandchildren and talk to them through the window.  Our sons buy our groceries and leave them at the backdoor.  We are doing our part to stop the spread of the virus.

I will post a few pictures we took in our last days in Sweden.  (If you click on the pictures, it enlarges them).  I'll probably do another post later to finish up the pictures.  But for now, this is hej då to Sweden.

Once a week we had the missionaries who live in our building (just a few of the 100 junior missionaries in the mission) over for treats and singing together.  Here we are celebrating my 68th birthday.  I made a strawberry cheesecake and it was delicious.  The missionaries wrote 68 with candles.  Can't believe I'm that old already.  L-R: Äldste Hall, Äldste Jensen, Äldste Seely, 68-year old Syster Torrie, Äldste Sherwood, Äldste Merrell. 

Tonight we had a small farewell for Äldste Merrell and Äldste Hall who are being transferred to a new area.  They will be missed!  We welcomed a new missionary to the office:  Äldste Deshler, who will take over my job in the office.  Äldste Seely will take over Äldste Torrie's place as financial secretary.  Here we are: me, Äldste Seely, Äldste Merrell, new Äldste Deshler, and Äldste Hall.

So great to get to know so many wonderful young women and young men who are giving up 18 months to 2 years of their lives to serve the Lord at their own expense.  Here I'm saying farewell to Syster Allred who has finished her 18-month mission and is returning home.  Her Swedish is excellent and she often translated for us in sacrament meeting.

What a shock to learn that within a few days, we would be leaving the office and returning home.  Here's Äldste Torrie at his desk.  It's a stressful time right now as we're trying to finish up all our projects and leave them in the hands of the junior missionaries.

I actually shed some tears when I learned we were leaving.  I had just set up the office the way I wanted it and was working on a lot of computer projects to help things run more smoothly.

This is where we have been for the last 2 months.  It's been a remarkable experience.

With all the senior couples leaving, they have been bringing their vehicles to the mission office.  Looks like a used car parking lot now.

The door on the left is the mission office door and the door on the right leads to our apartment and upstairs to the young missionaries' apartment.  We only had to walk a few steps each morning to get to our office.  It was actually a really good setup.

On our last Saturday, we took the bus and then the tunel-bana down to Gamla Stan to buy one more painting before we left.  It's a painting of an iconic main square in Gamla Stan.  I love the bright colors.  LeRon and I are with the artist, Gabil, in this picture.  And here's something very interesting about Sweden:  most places, even small businesses, prefer credit card to cash.  Even Gabil preferred credit card.  Sweden is almost a cash-less society.  In fact, you cannot deposit cash into a bank.  You have to give the cash to a third party and they somehow work with the bank.  Whenever LeRon made cash deposits, he had to inform a company online and get a code and then put the cash into an unmarked lock box on the side of a building.  The cash went into the box and somehow made it to the bank.  So interesting.  The Täby Centrum Mall that we shopped at was almost entirely cashless.

Trolls are a big thing in Scandinavia.

More trolls in this shop window in Gamla Stan.  But I think I saw more trolls in Norway when we were there a few years ago.

Many homes fly this particular Swedish flag with its narrow, very long blue and yellow stripes flapping in the wind.  On special occasions, the regular Swedish flag is flown, which is rectangular with a yellow Nordic cross on a field of blue.

I was hoping to see the trees all leafed out.  I hear it's gorgeous in the spring and summer.

On this last day in Sweden, we got a call from some young sister missionaries asking us to unclog their drain.  So we hopped in the car and drove the 20 minutes to their apartment.  We drove through a very long tunnel.  So interesting how they tunnel from island to island.  Mostly, though, bridges connect the island and you don't even realize you're on an island.

Here's Syster Andersen and Syster Bass shining her phone to give Äldste Torrie light to see.  Apparently an unnamed sister missionary (not one of the above) jammed some tuna down the drain, thinking it would go through.  She didn't realize there's a trap under the sink that, as its name implies, traps large things.  It was a stinky job to unclog that drain but the sisters were very grateful.  It was nice to visit them in their apartment.

Lots of apartment buildings here in Stockholm.  This is looking out the sisters' living room window.

Driving home from unclogging the drain, we saw one of those micro-cars I told you about in an earlier post that young Swedes drive before they get their regular drivers license.  They are even teenier than they look.

These little cars can only go about 40 km/hr so can be kind of annoying at times.  They obviously can't drive on the motorway.

On our way home from unclogging the drain, we stopped to take photos of some of the houses in our neighborhood that we really like.  Here's one that I've often wished I could see inside.

Love the yellow siding with the red roof.

This red house with the white trim is very striking.

Here's a closeup of the red house and it has, of all things, a blue door!
Found this picture from quite a while ago.  This was when we first discovered Google Translate on our phones.  It was an amazing experience to hold the phone over the Swedish words and have English replace the Swedish.  LeRon said it was just like using the Urim and Thummin which, according to the Bible Dictionary, "was an ancient instrument prepared by God to assist man in translating languages and receiving revelation".  See Exodus 28:30, Leviticus 8:8, Numbers 27:21, Deuteronomy 33:8, 1 Samuel 28:6, Ezra 2:63, and Nehemiah 7:65.  Joseph Smith also used a Urim and Thummim to translate the Book of Mormon.   And now here we are in Sweden, using a modern Urim and Thummim to translate!  Amazing!

Our last night in the mission.  One more time to sing with the missionaries.  What an amazing, very special experience.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Shopping Fun on P-day

It's been another busy week in the mission office.  LeRon helped me develop spreadsheets to track everything that I need to do for our missionaries arriving, departing, and needing visa renewals, and driver's licenses.  He's helped me learn to do formulas with dates so that I can be warned of upcoming things I need to do.  I'm pretty excited about it.  LeRon has used spreadsheets in our farming business for over 45 years and really understands how powerful they can be.  He's been a lot of help to me.  We're having fun being together 24/7!

This morning we drove our mission president and his wife to the airport and then we did what we always do on our P-days.  All missionaries get a weekly Preparation Day (or P-day).  It's a day to clean house, do laundry, shop for groceries, see cultural sites, and write letters home.  Junior missionaries' P-day is Monday but we take ours on Saturday, generally speaking.  Sometimes we still need to work in the office on Saturdays if something urgent comes up, which it often does.  Senior missionaries have more leeway to organize their time than do junior missionaries.

So for our cultural experience on P-day, we . . . shop at the mall!  It's good exercise and it's definitely a cultural experience.  The Täby Centrum Mall is the hugest mall I've ever seen with almost 300 stores.  (I know that's much smaller than the West Edmonton Mall in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, which is the largest mall in North America, but I've never been there so I can't compare.)  We did our exercise for sure, trying to find the stores we were looking for.  And while we mall-walk and get lost numerous times, we always share the gospel with those we meet.  Most aren't interested, but that's okay.  The important thing is to open our mouths and share what we believe with all our hearts. It's great fun and 3 hours later, we stagger home with our groceries and other treasures!

Finally . . . snow in Stockholm!  It's been lightly snowing all week.  First time we've seen snow since we got here on January 16.  When we left the Calgary, Alberta airport, it was -30 C!  Here in Stockholm, it still hovers around 0 C.  Nice!

Now to the shopping . . . The Täby Mall is huge and has lots of underground parking.  Valkommen till Paradiset!  Welcome to Paradise!  Ha ha.  Is shopping paradise?  Maybe for some people.

Cool parking.  There are red and green lights above each parking space.  Green of course means it's open.  Here's LeRon carrying our shopping bags.  They charge for shopping bags in Sweden so everyone brings his own.

So excited to find a whole store dedicated to Lindt chocolate!  Wow!  Lindt or Lindor is my very favorite chocolate, which I shouldn't eat now that I'm diabetic.  Oh well.  One a day will probably not kill me!

Valentine's Day is not a big day here in Sweden.  Very few stores even advertised for it but this Lindt store did.  The girl told me that every year Valentine's Day and Halloween are getting bigger and bigger, but still not big like in the West.  LeRon bought me some Lindor chocolate and I'm happy to say we still have most of it.  I'm being very careful with how much I eat!

So maybe Valentine's Day is not big, but CANDY is big here in Sweden.  There are rows and rows of candy in every grocery store.  On any given Saturday, you see families gathered round purchasing bags and bags of candy.  The theory is that if parents give their kids candy on Saturdays, they don't need it during the week so families gorge on candies on Saturday!

I laughed to see these Kinder Eggs.  We have them in Canada too but in the United States, they are actually against the law.  Someone very close to me took 24 Kinder Eggs across the border to her grandchildren and later found out that there's a $2500 fine PER EGG for bringing them into the States!  She found it out not by sad experience, thankfully.  Apparently there is a very old law saying that toys should not be inside of edible candy.  American children, apparently, choke easier on them than do Canadian, or German, or Swedish children!!!!

Doesn't this beautiful display of fruit make you want to buy it?  What a good idea to put a mirror up.  Your eye is drawn to it immediately.

Vegetables too!  Mirrors make all the difference.

Many different kinds of fruit here.

The mall also has a huge hybrid car display on one of its floors.  Hybrid cars are a big deal here.  Even our president drives one.

And then I found the Renault car on display down another aisle.  I used to drive a little yellow Renault when I was a university student.
So interesting to see a car dealership in a mall!

Love these shopping carts and this moving escalator for shopping carts.  As soon as the wheels touch it, they magnetically lock on and then you are "hands free".  Also, the wheels (when they are not locked on to the escalator) move in all directions like the ones in Kenya.  So nice to be able to move the cart forward, backward, or sideways.  It's a little more difficult going uphill but with this kind of an escalator, it's wonderful!

Today on our way home from shopping, we stopped at a little church in our neighborhood.  In the back there's a wooden stave church and a huge cemetery.  Stave churches were medieval Christian churches.  We've seen them in Norway and also in Fargo, North Dakota where our daughter lives.  A lot of Scandinavian people moved to North Dakota in the 1800's.

So fun to see heather growing here in the cemetery in the snow.  We named one of our daughters Heather.  When she was young, she used to say that "she was just a little shrub."  We've seen heather growing in Scotland, where the Torrie's are from, and we love the shrubby little plant with its pink or white blossoms.

Love the stave church and find Celtic crosses so interesting.  They are a form of the Christian cross but with pagan origins.  When Christianity came to Ireland and Europe, they often mixed Christian symbols with pagan ones maybe to help the people adapt to a new religion.
One Saturday, we took the bus and then the Tunnel-bana (pronounced toon-el bawna) -- the underground -- to Gamla Stan, the Old Town of Stockholm.  It's much like many old towns we've seen but still fun.

Narrow walking streets and high buildings in Gamla Stan.  Love the cobblestones but they're not easy to walk on. 

Love this house!  We pass it every Sunday when we go to church and also every time we go to the mall.  Lovely!

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Balmy Weather in Stockholm

It's nearly the end of February and there's still no snow in Stockholm.  Such an unusual winter, we are told.  It hovers around freezing but usually above.  The wind reminds me of southern Alberta and I'm glad for my winter coat and warm boots.  I've been cold ever since returning from serving a mission on the equator in Kenya; I think my blood has permanently thinned.  Äldste Torrie doesn't think it's as cold as I do.  He only wears a light jacket and sometimes a toque to cover his ears.

We're settling in to our duties in the mission office.  So much to learn and so much to do.  The Swedish language is our biggest hurdle but it must be possible because other couples who have not known Swedish have been assigned here.  We love working with the junior missionaries.  What great young women and young men they are!  It's humbling to think that they would give up 2 years of their lives, at their own expense, and at such a young age, to serve the Lord.

On a lighter note . . . The sun rose this morning at 7 a.m.!  So nice to have light in the mornings!!!  When we came mid-January, it rose at 8:30 a.m.   I like the light.

Silly Äldste Torrie in just a sweater in the cold.  He says it's not cold but I think it is!  He's standing beside the steps to our office and apartment.

The building is owned by the Church.  On the main level is our apartment, and the mission office; the upper level has storage, an exercise room and apartment for the junior missionaries.

The basement, which used to house a pizzeria, has lots of storage and an apartment for visitors.

Will be nice to see the bushes leafed out in the spring.  Grass is green!

Wish I could get a side-view of this little car.  It's actually a very tiny car, like a Smart car, but not a Smart car.  Notice the red triangle on the back.  This is what young drivers drive when they first get their licenses.  They can only go so fast; not sure if the car is governed or it simply can't go fast.  I'll have to find out.

It's nearly the end of February and there's still a lot of Christmas lights out.  This is actually a snowman in lights.  So cheery on a dark night.

We sometimes drive on the freeway.  Drivers seem quite polite.  If you signal for a lane change, they let you in quite easily.  We haven't heard much honking here.  Unlike many cities in the West.

We had the missionaries over last week to celebrate Äldste Merrell's 21st birthday.  Had a lot of fun with them.  The yellow package you see on the table is one of his birthday presents wrapped in sticky notes.  So creative!  I made brownies and we had them with ice cream.  Ingredients here are different so the brownies weren't as yummy as my recipe usually is.  But the missionaries liked them anyway.

Äldste Hall from Denmark, birthday boy Äldste Merrell, Äldste Seely (whose family came originally from Lethbridge, Alberta), Äldste Sherwood, and Äldste Jensen.

The highlight of the evening was singing with the missionaries while Äldste Torrie played his new keyboard.  They sang sometimes in English and sometimes in Swedish.  They are all fluent in Swedish.  Ha ha.  Notice Elder Torrie's warm sweater.  Sometimes we think it is colder inside than out!

We've driven to the airport 6 times now, either picking up new missionaries or taking departing ones home or transporting the mission president and his wife.  This 747 marks the entrance to the airport but it is also a huge hotel.  Can you imagine sleeping in a little compartment in the engine room or in the cockpit?  Check out images online.

We drive past this cute school a lot.  Architecture here is so interesting.  You can't really see the yellow siding in this picture but you can see the steep red roof and the barn-type front.  Very "old school" wouldn't you say? 
Thought you might like to see a picture of me in my little kitchen.  This is the first time in 50 years that I've had to cook on an electric stove.  I grew up with a gas stove and it was such a shock to go to university in 1969 and find an electric stove in my apartment.  Had to learn to cook all over again.  I was so happy to have a gas stove the past more than 45 years.  And now . . . I'm back to learning to cook on electric.

LeRon is so happy to have music again.  We were here for only a week when he had to get a keyboard or he thought he would die.  I love to hear him play. So nice that he has so much music in his head!