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.  Later:  we learned that this is not a stave church at all but is a bell tower which houses . . . church bells!
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!

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Hej from Sweden!

The younger generation back home who greet each other with Hey rather than Hi or Hello don't know it but they are actually speaking Swedish.  Hej (pronounced hay) is the common greeting around here and means, of course, hi or hello.  It can be said short and clipped, as to a stranger, or long and drawn out, as to a friend.  So there's your first Swedish word!

So far, Äldste Torrie (pronounced eld-stuh, and meaning of course, Elder, which is what all male missionaries are called no matter their age) and I haven't learned too many Swedish words but we regularly use our phones to translate and when that doesn't work, we type the words into google translate on our computers, and if that doesn't work, we ask for help from the young missionaries with whom we regularly work, as they are fluent in Swedish.  The two Office Elders and the two Assistants to the President live in the apartment above us and work much of the time in the mission office, which is just next door to our apartment.

The Church owns the whole building, with apartments for the 4 junior missionaries on the top floor, the mission office and our apartment on the main floor, and a storage area and large apartment for visitors in the basement.  It's an old building that used to be a pizzeria.  It's been newly painted and has lots of hot water and great water pressure.  So nice to have lots of good water.

Since it's Sunday, I'll tell you about our Sabbath meetings.  We attend the Stockholm Ward, which is just one of many wards in Sweden.  The meetings are in Swedish, of course, except when an English-speaker is giving a talk.  There are several English-speaking families in our ward but most of them also know enough Swedish to get by.  The junior missionaries -- a companionship of two sisters and a companionship of two Elders -- take turns translating for the few of us who need it in our worship service.  Thankfully the ward has lots of electronic equipment.

It's quite tedious to sit through two hours of church and not understand anything.  This is the first time I've attended church somewhere in the world where I haven't understood anything without someone translating.  I've been to church in France, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, and other countries where I could pick out phrases and words.  Even Kenya was English speaking.  But I know zero Swedish.  It's definitely humbling.

People have asked about street scenes in Stockholm.  One thing we noticed, coming in mid-January, was the abundance of Christmas lights still up.  Someone suggested that Swedes have so much darkness in the winter that they enjoy Christmas lights more than we do.  Could be.  The nearby Täby Centrum Mall kept their Christmas decorations up until January 31.  Today is February 9th and many homes in this area still have their Christmas lights up.  I love seeing the bridge candles in many windows.  I first saw bridge candles in Ireland one December.  I think they are so cheery in darkened windows with the point of the triangle pointing toward heaven. 

The homes here have steep roofs -- the snow, when it does come, must be very heavy with moisture -- unlike in Alberta where the snow is drier.  My eyes are drawn to the yellow siding and the red roofs although there are other colors of houses.  The houses are helter-skelter amidst many trees.  Apparently there is a law that only so much of the land can be clear-cut, even to build a house.  And the law of allemansrätten (freedom to roam) allows people access to all forested land as long as they behave themselves.  LeRon and I took a short walk in our neighborhood and ended up in a forested area with a path and even a place for an impromptu campfire.  So nice to be in the city but not in the city!

The food is great!  So many kinds of delicious cheeses.  The milk and other dairy products are very good.  Different kinds of scrumptious bread and pastries -- we have to be careful not to overeat!  And the candy aisles in the stores -- oh my -- so much candy.  I need to take a picture.  Apparently families have a candy day every Saturday and eat their fill that day, the theory being that they won't have to eat candy the rest of the week!

But back to missionary work . . . other than working all day in the office, we don't do a lot of "missionary work."  But I had a good conversation this week.  I was walking the two minutes to post some letters and as I was leaving the yard, a lovely young lady from Ethiopia approached me excitedly.  She asked, in very broken English, if I was a member of that church and if I was from the US.  I said yes . . . and no, that I was from Canada.  We couldn't understand each other but she put her phone number into my phone and I promised her that the young missionaries who speak Swedish would phone her.  I was excited.  We very rarely have anyone ask us why we are in Sweden and what we do here, even when they see our name tags.  Very unlike in Kenya!  But who's comparing?  President Baldry, our Taber Stake President, told me as he was interviewing me for our mission, that this would be a very different mission from our mission in Africa.  And he has been so very right!

Here we are in the Stockholm Ward chapel.  It's 5 C outside and they have opened the windows.  They like fresh air!

There is bedrock everywhere and trees too.  We're standing behind the chapel in the middle of the city.  So many trees!

Elder & Sister Torrie

The chapel is backed by a forest of trees but across the road are apartment buildings and busy city life.

These cars are in the church parking lot and across the street are apartment buildings.

Then from the church we drive home through more wooded areas and small roads.

Things will look different when the trees are in full leaf in the summertime.

I see lots of yellow sided homes with red roofs.  So striking.

And lastly, these are the fine missionaries we work closely with in the office:  Äldste Merrell, Äldste Seely, Äldste Jensen, Äldste Sherwood, and Äldste Balls.  Äldste Balls finished his mission and went home last week.  Even though we only knew him for two weeks, we felt very close to him and to all these wonderful young men.  Tonight they came over for treats and singing together and it reminded us of happy times in the Kenya Nairobi Mission with all the wonderful elders and sisters we worked with there.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

A Mission to Sweden!

Who would guess we would be assigned to Sweden when we submitted our mission papers in June 2019.  Scandinavia was never on our radar.  Then with the mix-up with our medical reports and subsequent assignment to San Diego, California for December and then the change to Sweden for February which was then bumped up to January and then the possibility of a reassignment to Africa and then not, it's been a roller-coaster ride.  But here we are in Stockholm, Sweden.  Actually, we live in Enebyberg, a suburb of Stockholm.  Enebyberg is pronounced en-uh-bee-berry.

Stockholm is a little south of the 60th parallel so is about at the same latitude as the northern boundary of Alberta.  We are very far north and the days are short.  Right now the sun rises about 8 a.m. and sets about 4 p.m. -- not a lot different from southern Alberta.  But apparently days here are a lot shorter in December and early January.  We'll see next year.

It's been chilly but no snow.  Everyone says this has been a very mild winter.  Last year at this time, the rivers around Stockholm were frozen and people were skating or skiing on them.  This year the rivers are open and flowing.  Stockholm is built upon 14 islands all connected by bridges.  We took the bus and then the metro (the T-bana) to the old town of Stockholm, the Gamla Stan, and found it to be as quaint and cute as many European old towns we've visited.  Will be nice to explore it when we have the time.

Mission-wise, it has been a real stretch to learn our office duties.  Having served in the mission office in Kenya has been helpful but government regulations in Sweden are much different from Kenya.  So we've had to learn completely new ways of doing things.  It's been a steep learning curve.  The first week we wondered what we were doing here.  We wondered if we could really do this for a year and a half.  Today (2 weeks and 2 days after our arrival) we think maybe we can do it!

A big hurdle is the Swedish language.  Although most people speak English, everything in the stores and everywhere else is in Swedish.  AND all the documents we deal with in the office are in Swedish!  We are starting to recognize words on documents and we use google translate a lot.  Who knew that you could point your phone at a document and it would translate right before your eyes?

The computer keyboards we use are Swedish, which means I am learning to type again!  Different letters and different placement of characters.  But I'm catching on.  At home in our apartment, I have an English keyboard and in the office, a Swedish one so my fingers have to learn two different ways of typing.  Can my senior brain do this?  Last week I wondered.  Things are looking up this week!

Yesterday we had what to us was an amazing experience: we learned that Swedish Immigration people are very nice and accommodating -- unlike our experience in Kenya.  Elder Torrie had to phone about a serious immigration problem and we were worried so we had a prayer and he took a big breath and phoned.  The lady he talked to was amazingly courteous and helpful.  So different from what we expected.  And then I had to make a call about another problem and again, the lady was great.  We were so surprised.  So different from our experience in Kenya where government people and others want bribes.

On the other hand, people in Sweden are not interested in religion -- unlike people in Kenya.  In Kenya, we could talk to anyone and everyone about Jesus Christ and they were happy to listen.  Here, no one really wants to know why we are here.  Last week I gave away our first pass-along card to a clerk in a store who had never heard of our church.  But that's the only one so far.  So for sure, missionary work here in Sweden is very different from Kenya.

But the gospel of Jesus Christ is true and we are happy to be serving Him here in Sweden.

Here we are in the Stake President's office in the Taber Alberta Stake Center after having been set apart to serve in the Sweden Stockholm Mission.  Soon our picture will be on the map!

Nice to have some of our children with us for the setting-apart.

We arrived at the Arlanda Airport in Stockholm on Thursday, January 16, 2020.  Äldste and Syster Bailey were there to greet us.  They were our trainers and have been serving as the Office Couple for the past 18 months and we are taking their places.  (Syster is  Swedish for sister.  Äldste is Swedish for Elder.)  All male missionaries, regardless of their age, go by the term Äldste, which is an office in the priesthood.

President and Syster Youngberg are our mission president and wife.  They are great people.  President Youngberg served a mission to Sweden in his youth and they have Swedish roots too.  Youngberg is pronounced yoong-berry.  They use that pronunciation here in Sweden but of course in the US, where they are from, they use the English pronunciation.  They are great people.  They relate well with the missionaries and are wonderful mission leaders.  Sadly their 3-year mission is over the end of June.