Friday, February 18, 2022

2021 December: Final Hejdå to Sweden

We have been home from Sweden now for two months and are getting acclimatized to the dry, windy, Alberta climate.  We left Stockholm on 2021 December 20 with its no snow and 0 C weather and came home to -35 C and lots of snow.  That was a shock!  Since then the weather has alternated between snow and no snow, between minus temperatures and plus temperatures.  There is no guessing what Alberta weather will do next.  But we are glad to be in our own home, with sons and and some of our grandkids living close by.  Good to have served.  Good to be home.

We served in Sweden for 16 months and worked from home for one month, for a total of 17 months spanning two years.  It was a great experience, as was our first 18 1/2-month mission to Kenya from 2016 to 2017; they were different missions but enjoyable in their unique ways.

Now speaking to senior members of our church:  If you have the health and the finances to serve a mission, DO IT!!  It will bless your lives as well as the lives of those you serve.

What do we miss about Sweden?  Here are some things in no particular order:

1.  The courteous drivers.  We have driven in many countries throughout the world and have never experienced such polite drivers.  If you want to change lanes on the freeway, you signal, and soon cars move to let you in.  We never heard horns honking in anger or anyone giving us the fist or finger.  "Live and let live and I'll help you do it" seems to be their philosophy.

2.  The lo-ong summer days with their very short grey (not black) nights.

3.  The very old and beautiful churches and the architecturally pleasing homes and colorful buildings with their unique and interesting roofs.  (Note the buildings that are the background to this blog.  These buildings are in the main square of Gamla Stan and are representative of buildings you see all over Stockholm).

4.  The delicious bread, cheeses, and potatoes.  Yes, potatoes.  Their potatoes are so tasty that you don't need gravy or even butter.  Just cook with a little salt and eat.  Delicious!

5.  The Marabou chocolate bars.  Since Sweden doesn't have chocolate chips, all you need to do to turn a regular banana bread into a delicious banana bread is to chop up some Marabou bars to add to the batter.  Scrumptious!  AND to make easy delicious fudge, I invented a recipe.  Just chop up 500 grams of Marabou chocolate bars (any flavor but I prefer the milk chocolate), melt with 1/4 cup butter, then stir in 1 can sweetened condensed milk.  Do not boil; stir just until well-mixed.  Pour into buttered pan and refrigerate until firm.  Yummy!  They stay firm out of the fridge (after they've been refrigerated) and freeze well too.  On another note . . . the home of the founder of Marabou chocolate bars is now our Sweden Stockholm mission home where President & Syster Davis live.

6.  Fresh flowers are a steal in Stockholm!  Small bouquets are just a few kronor.  And they last up to two weeks.  Stockholm is a short flight from Amsterdam, where fresh flowers from all over Europe are auctioned and shipped daily.  (Google for Aalsmeer Flower Auction to learn about this fascinating place that we have visited and highly recommend).

7.  Love the round-abouts.  They are everywhere and keep traffic flowing.  Just remember that as you enter the round-about, you yield to those already in it; as you exit, you have the right-of-way.  But you still need to watch in case others don't follow the rules.  But generally speaking, Swedes follow the rules.  That's just what they do.

8.  The teeny-tiny cars that 15-year olds can drive before they get regular licenses.  Very expensive little things but parents prefer their kids in a covered car rather than on an open motorcycle, especially in winter weather.  But we will NOT miss driving behind these teeny-tiny cars because they are governed at 40 km/hr.

9.  So many young fathers pushing baby buggies in all kinds of weather.  Parents are each entitled to 240 days of paid leave when they have a baby.  Fathers take their roles seriously.  So nice to see families with several children.  Many Swedes do not marry but they tend to keep the same partner for life and children are important to them.

10. Walking in our neighborhood in the dark and seeing into houses.  Swedes do not close their curtains, and house lights stream into the darkness and give us a peek into their homes.  (Swedes are used to the lighted windows with no curtains and don't even glance at the houses as they walk by; we, on the other hand, being curious foreigners, like to take a peek.)  Even when no one is home, lighted lamps shine in the windows.  It's a welcome sight on a dark night (or on a dark afternoon!)

11. The fun of the old city of Gamla Stan.  Cobblestone streets.  Touristy shops and un-touristy shops.  Old homes and tiny streets.  History everywhere.

12. Our walks in the nearby forest were like hiking in Waterton National Park, except the evergreens in Stockholm have no piney smell and there are no mountains.  But it was nice to be in the city and yet out of the city.

13. And who can forget the people?  The shopkeepers in Gamla Stan, especially Omar, Vahagn, and Gabil.  The Swedes we've befriended, such as our friend, Per Rydberg and his wife Elsa, and Meseret, an immigrant from Ethiopia.  Members in our Stockholm Ward, such as Bishop Peter and his American wife Heather, Viktoria & Uwe, Jennifer who plays the organ, Mara, an American who now lives in Sweden and speaks Swedish fluently (and who has connections to the Haslam family in southern Alberta).  Friends we've adopted as our own such as Helene, and Tamara and Marko.  So many people that we have come to love.

14. Then there are the missionaries.  About 175 or more of them, not counting the senior couples.  We knew them all and became close to many of them, particularly those that worked in the office.  They became our grandchildren.  

15. Singing with the missionaries in the mission home and at zone conferences.  How we will miss that!  Whenever I hear LeRon play these songs, I am transported back to Sweden:  Gud finns här i Sverige (the mission song). Blott en Dag.  Swedish Christmas carols.  Hymns.  Primary songs.  Folk songs.  O Canada (which we introduced the missionaries to).  Star Spangled Banner (for the Americans).  See my youtube channel for many (and I mean many!) videos of missionaries singing:

16. Our Sunday evening sing-alongs and treats.  Every Sunday about 9:15 p.m., we would hear missionaries running down the stairs to our apartment.  We knew we were in for another great evening of singing, visiting, and eating that would keep us up well past our bedtime.  But it also left us feeling uplifted and loved.  The missionaries loved my chocolate sauce recipe:  Melt together and stir: 1/4 cup butter and 1/4 cup cocoa.  Then stir in 1 can sweetened condensed milk.  Serve warm (do not boil.)  Delicious with Swedish ice cream.

17. Then there are the senior couples, and President & Syster Davis, our mission president and his wife, who have become dear friends.  Really, it's people that you remember most and that have such a huge impact on our lives.  When we left Kenya, I thought we could never love others as much as we loved the missionaries there, and President & Sister Msane.  But we've learned that there's room enough in our hearts for love for many, many people.  If we want to be more like our Saviour, Jesus Christ, then we need to (and can) love all people.

Last photo of Elder & Syster Torrie in the mission office saying "Hejdå to Sweden."  
(Pronounced hay-doh, and meaning, of course, goodbye.)

1 comment: