an altered april

15 04 2015

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One gets used to the usual way things have always been done.  April was always the advance warning:  autumn shades would just begin, there might have been a bit of a nip in the air for a few mornings and there was not much chance of rain on my birthday. 

This year was not like that at all! 

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We have been getting used to seeing huge, or small chunks of ice come floating by.

We first watched how within a week the river opened up: first just a shimmer of water glistening through the snow and within a week a swathe of almost 300 meters of water was showing. 

Within just a few weeks we have seen amazingly positive signs:

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Friends we last saw in October have returned and are being seen all around the waters of our town. 

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Whooper swans and knipa (common Goldeneyes) are visiting us regularly. 

We have seen several new little birds too:  the siskins, chaffinch and green finches are around, and the sounds of singing from the forests are refreshing.  We have heard Tengmalm’s owl calling from our house too.  We do understand how blessed we are to be able to live where we do: on the Vojmån River, with forests around us, yet very near to town too. 

Another reason to be grateful is that my brother and his wife have moved about 600km closer and I got to see them twice over 2 weekends! 

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Easter weekend is all about FISHING and being outdoors up north. 

My brother is an avid fisher, and came up to where the waters are meant to be good for brilliant catching. 

We do not fish, but joined in on a FREEZING day to see how it  is done. 

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Drill holes.  (Super quick with motorised drill.  Through at least 40cm of ice on the lake.)

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Make sure the equipment is ready.  Yes, the rods are that small:  just about 20cm.  Maggots are used, as well as blinkers to catch the Really Good Stuff. 

The Really Good Stuff would be Arctic Char, Brown Trout, Rainbow Trout, Perch, Char… Apparently the waters around these parts are top fishing waters.  (yes, just another reason to come visit.  You can fish for brilliant species from our house front). 

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Go find a hole and get down to it. 

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It is not relished by all, equally.

But some go back over and over.  Ever after the Big One. 

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We far prefer getting out in the good weather, when that is around. 

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We joined some friends for other fun on the lake.  (This was 2 days before the fishing photos.  April weather is temperamental!)

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Getting towed behind a snow-scooter is great fun! 

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And then the fires are lit, sandwiches are grilled and sausages are charred.  Good chatting, great playing for kids on slopes and even a bit of lying in the sun… these moments sink down into the cherished experiences of our lives. 

April is all about enjoying the outdoors.  There are several hours of sunlight a day, the weather is not totally miserable (although we have had a few windy days) and there can be amazing sunshine, enough so that a person can get a tan. 

Even if there is no sun, that does not stop the Swedes!  Good clothes, a fire, some coffee and brisk activity and one can face ANY weather! 

Our school spent several hours at our local ski slope a few weeks ago.  Several students were slalom skiing or snowboarding.  But there was a big group, from the littlies to the oldest, who went on ‘madras’ ( a thick plastic coated small mattress) down the slopes, all together, wrapped in, around and through each other. 

This was some of the most fun I have had in AGES!  I do not trust myself on skis, and this way there was not far to fall.  We did land on top of each other, we lost control, we screamed in fun, and went over and over and over down the slopes. 

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(More pictures can be seen on the Strandskolan facebook group.)

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I had one of my best and must unusual birthdays too.  We had just a few friends for a typical SA braai (grill) in very untypical SA form! 

See the thick snow? 

But we had meat, pap, milktart… all good SA food. 

We also had arm-wrestling and neck massages for all!  Never had that at a birthday party, have you? 

See the neck rubbing in the photo above?  We have the best massagers around, often giving free treatments during coffee time at church!

And our town hosted the National Arm Wrestling Championships for Sweden over the weekend, so we had a few partygoers giving it a shot…

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And I got to see my brother and his wife again! 

I have made some of the most amazing friends, with so many experiences standing out for their uniqueness in this place. 

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I have also found my twin.  See how similar we are? 

It is a crazy relationship.  more like a daughter twin.  This special gal has become so dear to me!  This is Dianah, a student from Uganda, studying in Östersund.  We met at a youth conference where Deon was doing sound and have had regular contact, a few visits and a few parcels in between.  We share a birthday, and shared a party.  (you can keep her and her studies in your prayers.  And pray that it warms up enough for her sweet African legs to wear skirts and dresses soon…)

And a  day after we were enjoying superb sunshine outside, in sunglasses and short sleeves, the snows came down!  We had about 20cm or more of snow! 

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We are beginning to see (but not grasp at all!) really fickle weather.

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The other exciting news is the boat that Deon is helping to build.  He has always wanted to build a wooden boat.

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Our landlord wanted to build a boat too.  He had not done this before.  The landlord has been rather ill this year, so needs to take it easy.  He has an amazing workshed filled with tools.  He knows just the right places to get wood. 

This boat is a miracle story.  Neither Deon (or Bjorn, as the landlord has named him) or the landlord speak a common language.  Both are practical.  No plans were used for the boat, but hands held for dimensions.  Deon is getting to live a dream.  He is making a difference and impressing Swedes, who said it should not be done this way.  The landlord and his friends are most impressed at Bjorn’s cleverness and skill.

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We still find hundreds of challenges coming our way.  But we also find hundreds and hundreds of blessings to cheer us on.  The days are lighter, we see prayers being answered, and we have had some amazing fun.

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Maybe not as much fun as this rocking squirrel at our feeder? 

But grateful, glad appreciation for all our blessings. 

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