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Archive for the ‘Learning about Sweden, Norrbotten, & Luleå’ Category

Spontaneous trip to the Ice Hotel!!

It’s spring break for the girls and they’re wallpapering our home. So to get out of their way, we went to see the Ice Hotel – always wanted to do that but never did. They are celebrating their 25th year as the original Ice Hotel. It’s about 10 degrees colder inside than outside so it gave some of the pictures a misty effect.It was amazing and we all had a great time!!!!! Check out our slide show!!

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Easter vacation has begun!!!

This has been an unusual week! They have started putting up wallpaper in our apartment and have now finished the kitchen, living room, and hall. Next week will be the bedrooms and then we’ll have a beautiful place to live!!! So tiring, but so excited!! So we couldn’t eat in our kitchen this week. Thank goodness for McDonald’s McMuffins!!! We ate breakfast at the most northern McDonald’s in Sweden every day!!

The northernmost McDonalds in Sweden!

The northernmost McDonald’s in Sweden!

Recycling, even at McDonalds! Before the 1st slot, they have a place to dump garbage. Then each slot is for a different type of trash and the last one is for the tray. We honestly haven't figured them all out!! Still trying to learn to be good Swedes!! LOL

Recycling, even at McDonald’s! We honestly haven’t figured all the slots out!! Still trying to learn to be good Swedes!! LOL









Easter vacation started with a half day yesterday and goes till April 12 – a nice long time!!! So today, we’re trying a new mountain, Storklinten. This winter-spring weather has the snow very mushy while the mountain is like ice.

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Great News!!! And prayer needed!!!

We are happily1 smiley-156609_640 jumping up and down!!!! Yes!!! We have received our permanent residence visas!!!        Yes!!!! What does that mean? No more applying for visas to live in Sweden!!!  YEAH!!!!! Thanks for  your fervent prayers!!! Thank you, Jesus, for your good answer!!!!!

Although we’ve received our visas, we are still not finding any apartments suitable for us that we can  rent. The housing crisis here in Luleå is worse than we anticipated. The lines are extremely long for the community’s apartments. We aren’t making much headway there. We were told by a private housing company that there is a 5 – 6 year waiting line for their apartments. Because of the housing shortage, people renting privately are getting nearly 100 requests for their apartments and houses. The apartments we possibly could get in to are almost double the amount that we can afford to pay. So this is what we are up against.

The simple fact is that we need to see Jesus move on our behalf to get an apartment. This will take a miracle!! We know that our heavenly Father is fully able to perform this miracle for us. But we need your help in prayer!! We feel discouraged about this and we need our praying friends to stand with us! Pray for God to open the door to the apartment that suits our family’s needs and pray for us to have the tenacity to continue being fervent in our looking, even when it seems so useless. Remember, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much!” (James 5:16)  Luke 18:1-8 reminds to keep persistently praying until we see God’s answer. Please don’t forget us!

We are not without hope, just discouraged about the housing. Thanks for listening to our heart. And thanks in advance for your prayers and for those who are helping us look. And double thanks for our friends here in Sweden who are housing us. THANK YOU!!!!



A Royal Wedding!!

Today was a happy occasion in Sweden. Princess Madeleine married her Prince Charming!!! Below, you can see some pictures of the happy event!!

Hope you enjoy them!!

Family night crazies!!

What do you do for family night in the dead of winter? Well,  here’s one idea from my fun & crazy husband!!!!

Swimming anyone???
Swimming anyone????

I’s only -26.6 F (-32.6 C)!!! I swim in the summer, he swims in the winter!! Think we’re opposites?? He standing  just under our balcony decorated with the garland and lights. It’s getting lighter now; the sun doesn’t go down till about 3:30. But  it still makes it more cozy with the lights. 🙂 We enjoy them outside our living room windows!!

Here’s a couple more shots of our apartment complex.

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Happy New Year! Sweden’s connection to the Mummers!!

Happy 2012!!!! We had a great nght celebrating and ringing in the New Year. We saw fireworks from our balcony and Chinese lanterns floating in the sky – a beautiful sight!!!

Today, we’re really having a lazy day watching movies and The Mummer’s Day Parade in Philadelphia. I  (Gwen) went there many times with my dad, who passed along his love of the string bands! Now, Tony finds it for me on-line!  Did you know this tradition dates  back to early Egypt, pagen Rome and Greece? And the Swedes actually brought it to Philly!! “In the 1600s, Swedish settlers to Philadelphia’s outskirts honored Christmas by beseeching their neighbors for dessert and liquor by dressing up, chanting and shooting firearms.”


Today, we are celebrating Midsommars Eve and tomorrow is Midsommardag here in Sweden. As usual, Swedes celebrate the holiday on the eve before. It’s the longest day and shortest night of the year and Swedes come out to celebrate the summer solstice. Back in Viking times, it had to do with a fertility rite where Mother Nature was fertilized to bring forth a good harvest. Later, the holiday seems to have been combined with St. John’s Day, celebrating John the Baptist’s birthday (6 months before Jesus birth). There are many varied myths of magical powers surrounding the different customs of the day. Today, Swedes celebrate by dancing around the Maypole (mostly children) while singing old, traditional folk songs, sometimes dressing in national costumes. Flowers are an important part of the celebration and some girls  make flower wreaths to wear in their hair.  They eat fresh potatoes and pickled herring with crisp bread and beer, saving fresh strawberries and whipped cream for dessert. Below are some pictures from our Midsommar celebration!

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Glad Påsk / Happy Easter

Our first hint that Easter was here was on Maundy Thursday, Skärtorsdagen in Swedish. Dating back to the 1400’s it was believed that on this day, witches flew to Blåkulla (Blue Mountain) on their brooms to dance with the devil himself. They flew back just in time for church on Sunday morning, to say their prayers backwards.  Some traditions tell of these witches stealing milk, with the help of the milk-hare, from other people’s cows (perhaps the origin of the Easter bunny bringing candy). In the late 1600’s, there was an epidemic of  witch trials, much like our witch trials in the States. Today, this is celebrated in a playful way by children dressing up as Easter witches in long skirts and headscarves with painted red cheeks and black freckles. They go from door to door looking for candy, much like the American Hallowe’en.

Another Easter tradition is decorating with multi-colored feathers on the ends of birch twigs. In the past it is said that on the morning of  Långfredagen (Long Friday or Good Friday) they would lash each other with the birch twigs as a remembrance of Christ’s sufferings. Eggs, the symbol of life and growth, were not allowed to be eaten during Lent when Sweden was Catholic. Thus, it became very popular to dye and eat eggs at this time of year.

Swedes seem to like to celebrate holidays on the eve before the holiday and Easter is no exception. So Easter here is celebrated on Saturday, Easter Eve. Easter seems to be sadly lacking in any religious significance. Some do go to church on Easter Eve, but it is mostly celebrated by getting together with family and friends. Many look forward to family reunions or a much longed for vacation. Candy is hidden in a colorful cardboard Easter eggs for the children to find. There’s a real feeling of the beginning of spring with parties and dinners in the homes of the Swedes, similar to America’s Memorial Day but without parades. For Swedes, Easter and the day after are celebrated by visiting with family and friends.

So, what did we do for Easter? Saturday, we decorated our Easter eggs by drawing symbols of Easter on one side and Christmas on the other side, reminding us that the promise of Christmas is fulfilled at Easter! We choose to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection on Sunday, as we did in the States. Jensina and Jiana woke up expecting to see their Easter baskets, but were sadly disappointed. They woke me (Gwen) up lamenting that the Easter bunny didn’t come to Sweden. I told them that maybe they needed to look a bit harder!! With a couple of hints, they happily found their Easter eggs filled with candy. With a good dose of candy in our blood, we were off to church. Sadly, there was very low attendance.  We had a nice Easter dinner together with a couple of friends, which helped us not to miss home quite as much.

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A week of … ups and downs

Saturday, we traveled about 2 hours north to just inside of the Arctic Circle to Jokkmokk for the annual Jokkmokk outdoor market. We met friends there who showed us around and had a GREAT time! We saw everything from candy to Sami crafts to reindeer meat and skins. Our friend’s mom makes and sells hats, mittens, etc. knitted the old-fashioned way with a needle from the bone of the front leg of a moose. She does such a beautiful job!! Then, there was the 3-day marathon race where 4 teams did biking, mountain climbing, orienteering, and cross-country skiing! Now mind you, we are in the Arctic Circle where temps were -12 C (10 F) at the highest!!! The Swedes won!!! YEAH!!

Then it was off to the reindeer races!! The reindeer were NOT really tame and the drivers were NOT really trained. What a combination!!!! It took several men to get the reindeer started in the right direction and several to stop them at the end!! LOL!! What a ride!! The instructions to the drivers were “DON’T let go of the reins or the reindeer will NOT stop!!!” Here is Jiana’s version. “Last Saturday, my family and I went to Jokkmokk for the day. There we saw a reindeer race! I loved it. One reindeer didn’t want to go and it tried to take a shortcut. I laughed hard.” We had such a fun time – fun place, fun activities, fun shopping, and special fun with old friends and new!!

The down side was 3 out of 4 of us came down with bad colds. The temperature wasn’t that cold (it’s often – 30 C, -22 F) so we just wore our normal outdoor clothes. I think the fact that we were outside for about 6 hours made the difference! Well, live & learn!!! LOL! We are all on the mend and won’t make that mistake again…I hope!!

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Tuesday, we had a sad phone call from home. My Aunt Emily died and went home to be with Jesus. I’m so glad we had a short visit with her the day we left for Sweden. We thought it would be the last time we saw her, but that doesn’t make it any less painful. It’s sooooo hard to be so far away from home at a time like this.

Now, we are gearing up for a team retreat! Go, Team Sweden, UWM!!! Krista, our co-worker from Malmö, and Chad, our supervisor from Hungary, will be joining us here in Luleå for a long weekend!! We are really looking forward to renewing our friendship with Krista (she was with us at the Center for Intercultural Training last February) and getting to know Chad!

Well, that’s our week with just some of the ups and downs we’ve been experiencing. We so appreciate your prayers on our behalf. God really uses your prayers to keep us stable and going!! Thanks so much!! God bless, Gwen 🙂

Snow Removal


Jensina & Jiana playing in the snowpile

Here in Luleå, there is some serious snow removal going on! Snowplows range from very small to humongous!!! They not only clean snow from the streets, but also from sidewalks! Recently, they have been breaking up the 5-6 inches of  packed snow & ice from the streets and they pile it all up in gigantic snow piles. 

Snow removal at Tony’s school
But it doesn’t stop there. After the kids have played in the piles for a  bit, the snowplows come back and shovel the snow into huge dump trucks to be taken to the snow dump. Today, I was watching them remove the snow at my apartment; one dump truck was filled up and moved in front of my window while waiting for the second dump truck to be filled by the 2 snow plows. While looking at  

Dump truck of dirty snow at our apartment

the dump truck filled with the dirty snow, I started thinking about Jesus dying to remove our dirtiness. You know, the bad things we all do. This dirty snow gets taken to the snow dump and there melts into the ground never to be seen again! And that’s just why Jesus came; to take away the dirtiness & unpleasantness of our lives never to be seen again!!!!!!!



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