|Christmas Greetings From Kalamazoo, 2002|
It has been a very eventful year and we have a lot to remember for a long time ahead. Last Christmas we stayed here because we were going home to Sweden in January to celebrate Tove who just had taken her medical exam. It was a fantastic pomp and circumstance at the University auditorium and a fantastic party in the premises of the Medical Students of Uppsala at the Akademiska Sjukhuset. Tove sparkled and we were very proud. We met with many dear friends and had dinner prepared by Tove, Anna and Karin. The visit to Uppsala lasted four days, we hardly had time to notice the jetlag!
Here in Kalamazoo we live in a new and for us big house that needs special attention and we also got ourselves a bigger TV that we have learned to enjoy, watching numerous rented movies. The garden has been established from scratch, which means that many hours have been spent there although the design is not final yet. Last year on the 24th October we had a big storm passing by that took many of our trees in the backyard. We had a lot of work taking care of the somewhat 30 pine trees that we lost to the storm. During the spring Ulf prepared more lawn and the backyard has now become much lighter, which was the first major undertaking towards completing our garden.
This year has been somewhat extra from another perspective as well, Ulf became 50.
We celebrated, as we always do (?), properly
several times. More about that in a bit.
After Nashville we drove straight down to Florida, passed through the Everglades and saw a lot of alligators laying along the dirt road we chose to drive. The alligators appeared huge, 7ft, and they just lay there along the road and stared at us. We think they can jump sideways...
Now we came to the highlight of our trip, a five days cruise in the Western Caribbean including Cayman Islands and Jamaica. It was lovely to be able to sit down at laid tables any time of the day "sandwiched" with a couple of excursions ashore. At Grand Cayman we visited the famous turtle farm - turtles are swimming in different big open tanks sorted by size, the biggest are 3-4 ft. They also let you lift up small ones, foot long ones. After this and some other stops we snorkeled at a beach near the harbor.
At Jamaica we first climbed a water fall. This was fun, water splashing all over us and the tourist group we went with. After that we took a sea kayak tour along the shore. Salty, temperate sea water washed over us, very pleasant. We passed Mick Jagger's house and came to the beach where scenes out of the James Bond movie Dr. No were recorded. Very beautiful and pleasant, there was a small river (one of the Ocho Rios) with a water fall that was cooling us off wonderfully. A dip in one of the small falls is said to make you younger and we noticed it worked...
After the cruise we drove down to Key West and the most southern point of the mainland US. Lots of tourists, celebration of the sunset at the harbor, mingling.
Now started our long travel back home, we stayed at Key Largo watching big houseboats in the channel outside the hotel window.
We had a few hours in Savannah, you can sense the memories from the time this was the main shipping spot of USA for the cotton produced in this area. The vegetation is different from Michigan, the lushness is apparent, for instance you can see ivy covering big areas.
Back in Portage/Kalamazoo we were embarking on the next big project - costumes for the approaching 50-years party, which was going to have a Viking theme, needed to be prepared. The costumes turned out very good thanks to a lot of work and patience from Tove and Linn. Ulf showed up in helmet, sword, shield, and shoes that they made.
The Viking party took place at our friends Rob's and Annette's place. We were outdoors and offered whole roasted pig and "viking games" such as tug-of-war, boot throwing and kubb. Ulf had a grand entry on a tractor trailer with a long ship that Rob had made (and I believe Marty had given a helping hand to the project too). The evening was concluded with a spectacular burning of the ship, according to old viking tradition(?).
After that Tove and Linn made their ways home to Sweden, well Linn took off the next day to Bilbao, Spain, for studying Spanish at the university there. She is resuming her studies at Lund's university after Christmas. Tove has started her internship at Oskarshamn's hospital. She got her an apartment and an old car (the one she had before was stolen during her visit to us). A car is needed since she often has to go to Uppsala and Stockholm during the week ends to plan for the group of scouts she is involved in leading at the world jamboree in Thailand over Christmas. She is currently in Thailand and reportedly everything goes well (well we don't here much from her)
Every Saturday we are calling Tove (not now in Thailand though), Linn and Astrid. This gives us a good contact with what is happening to our near and dear on an almost daily basis.
So after the August discharge our daily life went back to the normal with classes for Ann-Kristin and work for Ulf. The buyout of Pharmacia by Pfizer has not affected us anything yet and it appears we wouldn't need to be very concerned for the nearest time to come.
Ulf celebrated his real birthday in November, we got some much appreciated gifts from friends and relatives in Sweden, and then we throw a minor party for about 30 persons at our house. Ann-Kristin had worked hard preparing a lot of food and we had a great time. The birthday cake (Swedish princess cake) with all the candles looked like a hedgehog with wavering needles.
Then came Thanksgiving. We were invited to the parents of our neighbors - got a lovely, sumptuous, dinner together with family members of all ages.
During the preparation for the last exam for the semester Ann-Kristin was in charge of preparing for the Swedish Lucia celebration for the Kalamazoo Vasa Lodge, which took place at the Trinity Lutheran church downtown Kalamazoo. The preparation involved weekly training sessions with a group of children and parents for a couple of months. The performance was very successful and appreciated.
We are celebrating the Christmas holiday without our girls but they are of course in our thoughts.
Soon we will need to plan for the next trip to Sweden, which will be next summer. We will focus on work at the summer cottage at Gräsö and visit Astrid in Helsingborg. Hope to meet many dear friends at our cottage since we will not get a chance of paying visits ourselves as we have done before.
With this we want to thank all our friends that have been part of making this year so wonderful and memorable for us.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
From Ann-Kristin and Ulf