Saturday, July 17, 2021

North to Umeå

Our first excursion far away from Stockholm!  President Davis wants Äldste Torrie to accompany the missionaries as they sing the mission song at each of the five zone conferences, so in this post we are away to Umeå (pronounced oo'-me-oh), a 7-hr drive north.  It's only 500 km but it takes 7 hours because of the roads.  It's only 200 miles south of the Arctic Circle, depending on whom you ask.  But we've been further north than that in Nordkapp (North Cape), Norway, which is 632 miles north of the Arctic Circle!  Crazy how big, and yet how small the world is.  I remember my sisters and I dreaming of those far-away places when we were young.  Nothing better than a good atlas to dream over.

So this post has lots of pictures of beautiful places, beautiful people, and interesting architecture, as well as interesting road rules.

But first I need to tell you that I have started driving a bit here.  When we served our mission in Kenya, I was always the navigator and never the driver.  Besides the crazy traffic in Nairobi, it was left-hand pattern like in the UK.  LeRon became expert at it and I was expert at navigating.  

Here in Sweden, there's lots of traffic but it's right-hand pattern.  I decided I might entirely forget how to drive unless I actually did it.  So I have started driving all by myself the few blocks to the grocery store in the evenings when the traffic is light.  I have mastered the two round-abouts between home and store and they actually work amazingly well, and I am gradually getting used to the quirks of the little Hyundai that we drive here.

Tonight I felt so grown up and independent as I grabbed my purse and headed to the car to drive to the store.  Then I realized that I hadn't brought the car key, nor had I brought the house key, and as the door automatically locks, I was locked out.  Thank goodness I had a phone, so I phoned LeRon to open the door and hand me the keys.  So much for being grown up!

 Former missionary, Äldste Rantaniemi, from Finland, popped in to the mission office to say hello.  When I first met him, I stumbled over his name, but now it rolls off my tongue.  His name is pronounced "ron'-tahn-ee-eh-me" with a bit of a roll on the "r".  He's one of our unofficial grandsons that we love so much.

Now we're headed out of Stockholm and away from the trees and buildings.  Love the clouds and the wide open places.  Cropland on the right and a field almost ready for harvest on the left. We're taking the coastal highway, the E4.  It's a divided highway for a while and then turns into a 3-lane road that will be explained later.

If you zoom in, you can see the steeple of a church.  There are churches in every town and village.  The Church of Sweden is the official church and most all Swedes are baptized and buried in church, but few actually attend services.  The Swedes say they donate to the upkeep of the churches and are baptized, married, and buried in church just to be on the safe side!

It's so humid here that hay doesn't dry.  So after it's baled, it's wrapped in plastic to keep the air out to prevent spoilage.  Our climate in Alberta is so dry that there's no need for plastic.

Couldn't resist taking a picture of these clouds.  We see so little sky in Stockholm because of the trees and buildings.  These skies make me homesick for southern Alberta.  
This highway, I swear, has the most number of speed cameras in the world.  I should have counted the cameras.  Speed limits were anywhere from 50 km/hr to 120 km/hr.  And sometimes the lower speed was for just a mile and then it would zoom up and then zoom down.  One time we came over a hill going 110 and at the bottom was a speed camera and with no warning, the limit was 50.  Keeps you on your toes.  Speed fines are very hefty -- in the hundreds of dollars, even for just a few kilometers over.

We're further north now, driving along the coast.  There's lots of lakes, rivers, and the ocean here.

Trees on both sides of the road.  Ireland has 40 shades of green, but so does Sweden.  The only difference is that Ireland has green all year long and Sweden has green for only a few months.  Notice the road.  On the right side is one lane, and on the left are two lanes.  It's like that for a couple of miles and then it switches so that the right side has two lanes and the left only one.  Traffic really piles up on the one-lane side and then you have a couple of miles to speed up and pass cars.  You can go from 50 km/hr to 120 km/hr in a matter of a mile.  But you need to watch out for speed cameras.  You are usually given a warning.

We're in Sundsvall now.  I love bridges but it was hard to get a good photo of this one.  Two lanes going each way.  We drove across it just for fun.

Love the reflection in the water of these very Swedish buildings.

And this decommissioned ship is now a hotel.  But we're not staying here.

We're staying here -- at the Elite Hotel Knaust.  It's no more expensive than a good hotel in the west.  But the parking was very pricey.  This hotel was built in 1891 by Adolf Knaust after a fire in 1888 burned much of Sundsvall.

Gorgeous Carrara marble staircase.  Apparently a rich lumber baron rode a horse up this beautiful staircase.  Who would do a stupid thing like that?  Poor horse.

The king of Siam stayed here in 1897.  I wonder if he stayed in my very hot room?  No hotels have air conditioning here and we didn't think to ask for a fan.  It may be far north, but it is hot and humid here.  If the temperature is in the 80's F, it feels like the 90's.  The hallways and lobby were gorgeous but the rooms were not remarkable.

We took some fans to these sweltering sister missionaries, Syster Foote and Syster Owens. Behind them is a wall hanging that has been signed by all the previous sister missionaries who have lived in this apartment.  Fun!

So many wild flowers everywhere.  It's a lovely time of year.  And bales of marshmallow-looking hay in the fields.  Our daughter, Heather, once wrote a poem about the round bales in the field that looked like marshmallows.

The forested areas were gorgeous but LeRon and I loved the open meadows and fields.

Coming up to another interesting suspension bridge.  You can see the next span through the first one if you click on the picture.

The steel pipe cables were about a foot in diameter.  Huge!

I don't know how to photograph this bridge so that you can see the beauty of it.  I love bridges.

Stopped off at a little church to rest our bottoms and walk around.

Wild flowers everywhere.

And modern sculptures of Viking ships.

In many places in Sweden you can't turn left even though there's a place where you could go left.  You have to first go right and around a loop of road and then face the main road at a right angle.  That way you don't stop traffic in your lane while you wait to turn, and it's safer to come at the road straight on.  Smart thinking. Click on the picture to enlarge so you can see the loop to the right.

This is the sign explaining what you can and cannot do when you want to turn left.  You have to turn right and then cross the lanes straight on.  No left turn from the main road.  You can see the actual turning lane in the previous photo.

Swedes seem to love round buildings and tall towers.

Now we're in Umeå at the zone conference.  Missionaries drive or train in from 3 hours north of Umeå and 4 hours south of Umeå.  It's a large area.  Very long days in the summer and very long nights in the winter.  Missionaries here use "happy lights" when they study to help them cope with the lack of sunlight. L-R: Äldste Hamilton, Äldste Andreasen, Äldste Hughes of the famous Hughes family from Branson, Missouri, Äldste Stinson from New Zealand.
Each zone has about 16-26 missionaries and they are led by Syster Training Leaders and Zone Leaders.  Here are the Norrland (North Land) Zone leaders, Syster Owens, Syster Foote, Äldste Ward, and Äldste Jacob Jensen.  There are several Jensens in our mission.  These missionaries do some of the training at zone conference.

And to the left are the Lead Syster Training Leaders, Syster Westman and Syster Pippert, who travel with President and Syster Davis (on right) to all five zone conferences and help with training.  In the middle are two new members from Eritrea (Africa) who now live in Sweden.

More sister missionaries, Syster Madsen, Syster Mendez, and Syster Dransfield.  The missionaries have divided into groups for a discussion.

Äldste Scott and Äldste Austin are the two Assistants to the President who also travel to all zone conferences to help with training.  Then there's Äldste Nichols and Äldste Nelson.

Äldste Torrie and I joined with this group discussion.  Next to Äldste Torrie is Äldste Paxton, Äldste Duncan, Äldste Correa, and Äldste Stilwell.  Äldste Paxton translated for LeRon and me because the zone conference was conducted in Swedish, and we know very little Swedish.
The Norrland Zone with President & Syster Davis, the Assistants to the president, the Lead Syster Training Leaders, and the two new members.  LeRon and I are taking pictures.  After that we all changed into work clothes and headed to the forest for a service project.

We walked into the forest for about 20 minutes and then started clearing tree roots to help the local community build a trail for mountain bikes.

It was very hard work and most of the missionaries had forgotten to bring gloves.  Äldste Torrie and I, being farmers, brought gloves.  You can't work without gloves.

Hmn . . . are they working or what?  Work is also fun.  Äldste Paxton, Syster Owens, Syster Madsen, Äldste Stinson.
Even though she didn't bring gloves, Syster Foote (in the yellow jacket) was smart to wear a jacket.  The mosquitoes were vicious.  I came home with a lot of bites on my neck and face, but none on my arms where I had sprayed mosquito repellant.  Äldste Nelson (in the red shirt) reminds me of one of my nephew's sons.  Can't remember which one at the moment.

City girl, Syster Dransfield, was excited to catch a frog!  We enjoyed it for a few minutes and then let it go.

Cloud berries (above), blueberries, and lingonberries grow abundantly in the forest.  Cloud berries make cook jam but are a bit tart for eating.

Crazy architecture in Örnsköldsvik.  Don't know if it's an apartment building or businesses.

And then there's this building!!!

Örnsköldsvik is the site of the very first Winter Paralympics in 1976.  It's right on the coast and yet they cross-country ski, alpine ski, and ski jump here.  In the center at the top of the hill must be some sort of a ski jump.  Who knew you could ski on the coast?

Give us farmland any day!

I thought this spot was beautiful.  Wildflowers, farmland, hills and forests.  But Stockholm beckons and we must travel on.

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Another Day, Another Dollar

"Another day, another dollar," my dad always said.  In other words, life is going on as usual.  We keep extremely busy and will probably collapse for a month when we get home in December.  By the way, I'm having a hard time typing on a regular keyboard (which I am doing now in my apartment) now that I'm used to the Swedish keyboard I use every day in the office.  My brain has to remember which keyboard I am using!

I would like to point you to our daughter, Heather's, youtube channel.  We are so proud of Heather.  For years now, she has practiced piano and/or organ for 1-2 hours per day, even now that she's a busy mom with teenagers.  We're so proud of her abilities and her hard work.  She has recorded a lot of her pieces, and her recordings are much better than the ones I'm recording on my cell phone (and putting on my youtube channel so that missionaries and others can access them).  You can find Heather's channel by searching for Heather Torrie on YouTube.  She has recently recorded herself playing a piano/organ duet of The Swan by Saint Saen.  She recorded the pieces separately and then put them together.  Interesting to play a duet with yourself!  It's a lovely piece.  Grandma Guinivere Torrie loved this piece, and had a grandson, Scott Torrie, play it on the cello as they carried her out of the chapel at the end of her funeral. 

I recently learned an interesting thing about Swedish school curriculum.  First you need to know that Sweden is a very secular country.  Many people are spiritual, but most are not religious, and some are anti-religion.  Yet, in the curriculum it is required to teach why we celebrate Christmas and why we celebrate Easter.  The point is to help the children understand their culture, which began with Judeo-Christianity.  So even if they don't believe in Jesus Christ, teachers are required to teach the Christmas story and the Easter story.  Even some schools take their children on a field trip at Christmas time to a very old local church.  In the basement, a live Nativity is presented with the "shepherds" leading the children past scenes representing the birth of Jesus Christ.  The teacher we talked to said that children always feel a sacred feeling during these presentations, and even if the children's parents say that Jesus was not real, many children say that they love Jesus, and this teacher says she can feel the children's sincerity.  So interesting!  Especially given what is happening in western schools.

When I was an elementary school student, we began each day by singing either O Canada or God Save the Queen, and then we recited The Lord's Prayer.  It didn't matter if you were Christian or not.  Everyone recited the prayer.  We all, even our Buddhist friends, took turns choosing which song to sing and then leading the prayer.  It was just a really nice way to start the day and NO ONE complained!

Sunset, 10:00 p.m. June 30.  I took a picture out my window because I could see part of the glorious sunset.  But this picture was taken by the missionaries who climbed on the roof of our building!  It reminded me of the amazing sunsets at home in Alberta.  But sunsets there are much easier to see because there's no buildings or trees to block the view.

LeRon and I went car shopping for the mission.  Found some great cars in the Subaru and Citroen dealership.  But this is one of those teeny tiny 2-seater cars that go very slow.  We learned that they are only 40 horsepower and only go up to 45 km/hr.  I had been told that new drivers were required to drive these cars.  But no . . . the salesman said that parents buy these very expensive cars so their kids can drive a covered vehicle rather than an open motorbike.  Kids can drive these little cars at age 15!  This little car reminded me of the Citroen Deux Chevaux (literally two horses) that I rode in in France in about 1972.  I swear I could see the road through holes at my feet.  It was almost like riding a covered motorcycle.  Apparently Deux Chevaux could go up to 65 km/hr.

I absolutely loved this white Citroen with the red roof and other red accents.   Too bad we don't have Citroen cars in Canada.

Love the globe willows.  They look like they have been hand-sculpted, but they grow this way.

We spent a few hours with our Montenegran friend, Tamara, and her husband Marko.  She's a wonderful photographer.  Love her work.  She makes everyone look great!  She took pictures of LeRon and I but I couldn't figure out how to put them in this post.  I'll have to work on it.  This was a picture on my phone, so not amazing.

A 4th of July grill with our junior missionaries.  Elder Scott, Elder Ronndahl (from Sweden), and Elder McCallister.

American flag hanging from our building.  Normally, we would only fly the Swedish flag (if we had a flag pole), but after all . . . it is the 4th of July -- Independence Day in the US.  My cousin, Elder Scott, grilled chicken, pork, salmon and korv (what we in Canada call weiners).  Quite the feast, along with homemade potato salad and other goodies.

Some young men joined us for the grill, along with Elder Austin (LeRon's cousin through Thomas E Ricks), Elder McCallister, and Elder Ronndahl.  I was impressed that the missionaries covered the tables to make it look nicer.  Good job!

Teeny tiny wild strawberries growing in our yard.

Music time on the 4th of July.  Elder Ronndahl on the guitar, Elder Spellacy on the ukelele, Elder Scott on the guitar, Elder Austin on the banjo, Elder McCallister singing, and Elder Torrie on the keyboard.

Fun singing with the missionaries!  I took a few (very poorly videoed) videos with my phone and have put them on my YouTube channel (L&C Torrie).

Then 9 p.m. in our apartment.  I decorated the table with red, white and blue, and then we had veggies, chips and dip, and ice cream and my homemade chocolate sauce.  Fun times!  Days never to be forgotten!

On our neighborhood walk, right next to the sidewalk, in this little forested area, was a huge sarvis berry bush!!  Some people call them serviceberries and some call them saskatoons.  I call them sarvis berries.  I have some sarvis berry bushes in my yard at home but we never get ripe berries because the birds get them every year.  This tree was loaded.  LeRon and I ate quite a lot.  We've also learned that soon the forest will be loaded with ripe blueberries.

Elder Austin and Elder Scott dug up a piece of lawn and planted a very small garden!!  Potatoes, carrots, peppers, dill.  Fun!  I miss my garden back home.  Here I've planted some flowers to brighten the deck of our office building home.

On Canada Day, July 1st, we had a seniors get-together.  LeRon and I sang O Canada for them.  They stood while we sang, and we appreciated it.  L-R: Cowgurs, Salls, Moleffs, Wilhites, Torries, Johnsons.  We have a senior night once a month.  This time the Moleffs shared pictures and stories of their two previous missions to Russia and to Thailand.  Next month we will share about our mission to Kenya and perhaps show some farm pictures too!!