I did not receive a full letter from Erik this week, which I’m quite bummed about as it was his first week in Sweden. Thankfully, he answered some of my questions and that will be his post for the week. He ended the email saying he was writing the blog letter, but I never heard back from him. He is in Karlstad, Sweden which is 3 1/2 hours west of Stockholm. It sits on the largest lake in Sweden-Lake Vanern. Karlstad and the surrounding area has a population around 80,000 with there being one LDS branch in the town. With Erik being about half Norwegian, it’s so awesome that he’s serving in a Norwegian community in Sweden!
I asked Erik about if his new haircut was mission approved, he said: “In regards to the hair, it really isn’t that bad. Both times you were referring to, I was wearing a hat before and I hadn’t fixed it yet so it made the hair look weird. Also the level of hipsterness is suffocating. Even 75 year old men are dressed more hip than Portland….it is hilarious. I asked President Becktrand and he said it is fine. He just does not like buzzed hair because he says it is fine in Utah and Idaho but here it is a gang statement….but my hair isn’t that bad, mum. Don’t worry.”
Of course, snow is important to Erik, so I had to ask how much snow there was: “ I don’t know where the punctuation is on a Swedish key board…sorry…but hey, I can do this öäå¨å¤) . We got dumped with a ton of snow. This morning it is about 16 degrees fahrenheit outside and we’ve got a nice pile. Karlstad is a beautiful place. My area is Värmland (I’ll explain more in the other letter) but it is basically Norway. The accent, the rest of Sweden thinks is Norwegian. Many people are either Norwegian or identify themselves with Norway. Lots of people speak Norwegian on the street, and it is also the main producer of lingonberries so ligonberry everything is super cheap here. Ligonberry juice is cheaper than orange juice. Our area is the 3rd largest in the mission, taking over 5 hours to get to the top, with no car and no bikes (upsetting seeing as I had to pay for a bike when I got here straight off the plane). I’ll talk more about it in the other letter. “
In asking him how he liked his two days in Stockholm, plus more explanation of Swedes– “I’ll explain more in the letter but polar opposite from Karlstad. In Stockholm, which is a beautiful city, with tons of old buildings, no one has time for you. Proselyting for the hour, like I did, fresh off the plane, was interesting. Lots of cuss words, both in Swedish and English…though luckily only the English ones I understood. Karlstad is a different story. Swedes are still shy people, but they are also the nicest people ever. If they don’t want to hear your message, they will apologize profusely. If you are speaking Swedish with an American accent, they will start talking English for you. If you say you want to learn Swedish, they will apologize for talking English….Canadians and Swedes…maybe it is a northern thing. You can punch a Swede and they will apologize for hurting your hand with their face.”
About his new mission president: President Beckstrand is very nice. He is from a small town right next to Cedar City. He is powerful, but not intimidating in a negative way. Their home is awesome. It feels very much like ours.
Answering my question about the branch in Karlstad and his apartment: “Yesterday there were 12 people at church….we are going to change that. They are all very strong nice members. Lillamor (which means little mother, which is very fitting because she is a little lady that is like the missionaries’ mother) cooks us food every Saturday when we shovel snow out of the church parking lot for Sunday morning. She speaks hardly any English, has a very strong Värmland accent (singy songy Norwegian) and bakes us bread and makes us ligonberry jam. My apartment is known as the worst apartment in the whole mission, which is a very nice apartment: Extremely nice shower, nice wood floor, etc.. but I guess other apartments have nicer mattresses, newer kitchens, Ikea furnishings and showers that come from the ceiling….oh well….still very nice. My area has a reputation for being the dead zone…which we will change.
Because I worried if his bank card works over there without the chip in the card (like all Europe banks use): “The card works….i just need to control myself with it….everything is on really good sale because it is after Christmas and stuff in the States is nothing compared to Sweden…even better that Britain. I wish I would’ve just bought a few things before, because these are really good prices for really good stuff that I don’t actually need.
The last question he answered was about food, as I knew he’s be making his own meals most of the time: “I have to make the food for myself most of the time. Swedish meatballs, muesli, ligonberry juice, and salmon we buy in bulk because it is very affordable. We can eat pretty good on our budgets…with really good fresh bread.”
So, hopefully next week, there will be more details and stories for him to share. Until then…