Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Sweden the Second Time Around

A delicious Swedish apple.**** Hunter waving from the window (he wasn't standing in an open window when I was in the air, though (story below).****Hunter blowing on a very tiny flower from one of our country walks.

Sunrise on a morning after I drove Phil to the bus stop.

We're back in Sweden, accompanying Phil on one of his work trips. We come with him to be a family, catch up with our friends and to find more adventures.

What follows is a list of some of my adventures, so far:

Finding and staying in an apartment at the Three Lily Buds looking out over the beautiful Swedish countryside.

Playing soccer with a blow-up soccer ball in a very windy area doesn't work too well; Hunter making faces from one of the twin beds in the apartment.

I decided to have fika with my old fika friends before going to the afternoon International Church Fellowship. This was a great way to fend off jet-lag not even 24 hours after landing. Besides, Hunter and I were elated to be with our friends again—both for fika and for church!

Wandering around the Räng church cemetery, taking photos and hearing my name. We had been spotted by Hunter’s Swedish teacher on our first day back! We ended up attending the Swedish service that night to hear her sing in the choir. We were invited to celebrate the Swedish thanksgiving by drinking tea and eating a variety of apple cakes (apelkaka). The person I sat by told me that the house we lived in last winter and spring was built by his grandfather.

Watching a kite-bird flutter over its prey.

Watching a whole flock of sheep run in the other direction for no apparent reason. Watching that same flock of sheep nearly overtaken by a rookery of rooks. The birds landed on and around the sheep, landing where the sheep could not fend them off, sometimes running up the sheep spines and pecking them between their ears on top of their heads. Witnessing a sheep’s problem with “the grass is always greener on the other side.” A few of them jump between the electric wires nearly every day. It is great fun to chase them back through the fence and hear the fence ddddzzzztttt for several minutes, especially on a rainy day. I have no pictures of chasing them because I’m busy running beside Hunter!

Sheep out of the pen; Cute twin sheep

What sheep which don't know my voice look like when I talk to them.

Watching a huge sugar beet harvester all day, then picking up an abandoned beet to take home for later eating. Sliced and set in a little bit of South African olive oil with a little bit sprinkled over the top, then broiled until almost crisp, tastes like candy! It was a bear to clean all of the good Swedish black soil off of it beforehand, though, so I just sliced whole chunks off as if peeling the beet with a large knife.

photo of tractor pulling a load of sugar beets like many tractors did all day for three or four days. The dirt road is still messed up from it.

What to do with myself for two days when Hunter wakes up with a fever? (I made him smile for this photo.)

Being the spontaneous photographer for a wedding—and the photos were terrific! Mind you, I got lost three times in Malmo before arriving 2 minutes before the beginning of the wedding. Getting lost in the car was one thing, the other was finding the wedding itself because the bride had not given me the exact address, only “at the end of the street within spitting distance of a school.” As it turned out, probably 100 people lived with the same directions on that street, one of whom had a first initial and similar last name in a different apartment building. Sigh. I didn’t stop sweating until I was finally home.

Getting lost in Malmo was one of my first
unpleasant experiences, and I’m not talking about being unable to find the wedding. Phil had agreed to meet us at the Malmo library one evening after work, the Tuesday after we arrived. Hunter and I had met Phil there several times during our last stay in Sweden, so this was a piece of cake, right? WRONG. This time I didn’t have the benefit of a GPS and boy, did we see parts of Malmo we’d never seen before. Whole sections of gardens and a canal separated us from an easy street to the library. Of course, it would feel that much worse when my cell phone rang to Phil on the other end asking if I would eventually arrive. We made it, though, because I knew enough landmarks to keep myself turning in the right direction. I sang, “It is good to be simple, it is good to be free, it is good to come round where we are to be. We will find ourselves in a place just right when by turning and turning we come round right;” driving Hunter crazy with the song and our lostness.

photos: Hunter in the children's section of the Malmo Library--you can see why we like it. There's a huge children's play area outside, too; The Malmo library on a moonlit night.

The parking garage near Phil’s work remains a place of driving terror for me. It doesn’t help that they have added new one-way doors at the entrance and exit so that I feel I’m going to get the car stuck in the wrong direction.

We had the opportunity to eat at some friends’ apartment in Lund. I decided we’d take the bus to meet Phil at the train station where we’d meet our friend. Phil’s bus was late, so we were a half hour late to the apartment (because the next train arrived in a half hour after Phil’s arrival). It was fun to try a common commuting route instead of tension of driving. Fredrik walked us to his home from the train station though a huge deciduous wood in all the splendor of autumn. Hunter and I often fell behind to kick and crunch through the big, colorful leaves on the ground while Phil and Fredrik continued to talk..

I learned to eat rice or a sticky corn substance with my hands, like they do in Ghana. The meat in the delicious sauce was exceptionally tender (if full of grissle). There were several of us Americans around this Ghanan’s table and he chided us all for using BOTH hands. Oops. Off with our left hands! It wasn’t long before Phil was cheating and using a utensil—Hunter, too—so I joined them.

We have had the absolute joy of spending Sunday afternoons until evening in fellowship with other believers from around the world and not having to go home to a quiet, boring house after church. I even hate the quiet boring part in Idaho! There are instruments all around the apartment we visit, some African, some conventional. We have taken them up to sing together, spontaneously. Great fun! Phil can even play the finger bells.

One Sunday, after not playing the piano in public for many years, I rose my hand to help play the sing-along offertory. It was fun for me and the song leader was grateful. I was beginning to wonder if I’d ever really need to be a musician, for anyone other than myself, again. “It Is Well With My Soul.” A definite favorite.

I waited patiently for the perfect day to go flying. That low-wind-mostly-clear day came and our landlord indicated it was so by parking his airplane outside my kitchen window to pick me up. Insurance didn’t allow him to take Hunter, so Hunter stayed by himself (Hunter’s request) for the 20 minutes we were in the air. He waved at me as we took off of the grass strip. I was able to see my favorite peninsula (because I’ve never lived on another) on a wonderful day! My shutter finger was busy on the camera the whole time!

U.S. Election day, 2008, was my birthday. Phil and I had already cast absentee ballots, and we are so far ahead of U.S. time that we got to go through my whole birthday without “worrying” about the election. That was nice. Hunter gave me a piece of Belgian lace he’d purchased in Brussels and told me he wanted to stay with me all day on my birthday. I cleaned house, did laundry, vacuumed and went to the store for cakes and tea. We had a fairly quiet party of 8 (two rambunctious, due to tiredness, children) for cake and conversation. It was very nice. For gifts, Phil paid for renting the room we met in and the cakes, Annika and Håkan gave me a nice writing notebook and a novel and our new friends Steve and Anya gave me some home-made glass cherry liqueur from their home in Poland.

It wasn’t until this morning we learned who won the election—because we had to sleep during the time we would normally have spent in front of the television, we were able to stay relaxed. I’m not sure what state Phil will come home from work in, though, since he was waiting to find out after he got to work. I’m hoping Americans of all beliefs and political viewpoints will work harder at uniting than they did the previous eight years.

Monday, November 3, 2008


Sure enough, I'm out snooping for adventure. Some of you might have wondered if such was the case after such a long time between entries. (Do I wax poetical if I say, "such a long silence?")

Today's adventure was getting to mow a portion of the lawn at Fridhems Gard in Rang, Sweden, where we are renting a small flat from a business called, "Three Lily Buds" (after a painting by one of the partners). The air was fall-cool, the sky alive with the honking and quacking of migrating birds, and the landloard out on a smallish tractor grating the driveway gravel (into nice, Japanese gardenesque rows) and beginning to mow the lawn. When he saw me in the window, he stopped mowing to come and ring the doorbell because I had requested he look at a few things in our flat. By the end of our figuring out why certain heaters and lights didn't work, I found myself offering to mow and his answering with a pleased, "why not?"

Just as he said, the steering was hard--like driving an old rig with no power steering--and the tractor, heavy. But I was having so much fun that I eventually quit mowing long enough to drag my son from a favorite morning cartoon on the television. He was crying and complaining, but once he was seated with me on the tractor, he was soon complaining that he was not also driving.

That did the trick. We were able to spend a glorious hour enjoying a beautiful fall day under a not-too-cool streaked sky, first on the mower, then on our bicycles. From there, the day only got better, though we did the usual things like going to barntimna at the Stora Hammar Kyrkahus for child-play, singing and fika as well as getting a few groceries for dinner.

We also spent some time writing letters and reading them. I told Phil that I get mommy-points for this.

We watched the landlord take off in his piper cub, just outside our window, fly overhead and eventually come back. He parked his airplane next to our car, just for effect, and we loved it.

But that is a normal day. Few of our days back in Sweden have been normal or even all in Sweden!

The next few posts, which I find difficult to compose with so many wonderful distractions outside the house window, will be about more adventures--great and small.

Tell me about yours! Write me a note. Something outside your window may have called you out of the house and doing what you didn't expect to do in a day.

And, may your voting (U.S.A., Nov. 4, 2008) be heartfelt and the results be something we all choose to live with graciously!