Monday, November 25, 2013

We Have Hit Negative Temperatures!

It’s true, we have finally hit the negatives for Celisus temperatures. I don’t know exactly how cold it is, but Äldste Hills was having fun ice-skating on the roads last night on our way out of a dinner appointment last night. Syster McCollaum continues to inform me that we haven’t hit real Swedish winter yet, but it’s also consistently sitting around 0° C. It’s not completely frozen yet, but weäll get there.
We’re finally getting to get more appointments and lessons in. One thing I’m starting to learn very quickly out here is not to judge. Everyone has their own set of problems, and everyone comes from different backgrounds. I’ve met people from just about everywhere, including China, India, Kenya, Ghana, Colombia, Uzbekistan, Canada, Chile, and SO MANY OTHERS, and from every walk of life too. It’s fantastically amazing who I’ll get to meet every day.
So, just a fun tidbit, the Stockholm temple is actually in my zone. It used to be in my district, but due to a complicated set of transfers, it’s now only in my zone. However, last week for District meeting, we met in Västerhaninge (the town where the temple is), and I walked straight by the temple. There are NOT many missionaries in Sweden who can say they saw the temple in their first week in the country.

District meeting last week was also my first chance to try kladkaka, which is the Swedish equivalent to brownies, and completely delicious, as well as kebab.
Let me explain kebab in Sweden- it is NOTHING like shish-kabobs in the states. There is no resemblance whatsoever. Kebab is fried lamb meat cut in very thin slices and put on pizza with sauce, peppers, and french-fries. The kebab I had last week also had tomatoes and lettuce, which Syster McCollaum tells me isn’t how it usually is (and I had kebab last night that would agree with that statement). It sounds bizarre, but it is SO GOOD. I think I’m in love with kebab and kladkaka, and it’s a good thing it doesn’t fit in the missionary budget to have both all the time, or I would be coming home as a very fat missionary at the end of my mission.


Another weird thing about Sweden, everyone here has a dog, a baby, or smokes, or sometimes a combination of all three. I think I have seen more pregnant women here than I did walking around BYU campus, which is a statement in and of itself. I’m also fairly certain that if I develop lung-cancer later in life, I will blame that on the Swedes. I love them to pieces, but sometimes, I wish the bus-station didn’t smell like tobacco.
Lessons are going great, and they’re always interesting, as is contacting. We do a lot more contacting than anything, and that’s mostly because we’re building up our area. For those who’ve been wondering, we do contacting, and not tracting, and that’s mostly because almost every apartment building in Sweden has a passcode on the doors. Unless you have the code, you can’t get in to ring the doorbell, and so, usually we just end up walking up and down the streets in Flemingsberg and Älvsjö looking for people to talk to.
It actually led to an amazing experience last week. We hadn’t been having much success in our contacting after District meeting last week, so we went to the side of the road and said a quick prayer. We went back to the road, and within seconds, we met this guy who was just out for a walk. We started talking to him, and he told us he had time to sit down and talk, so we sat on a bench, and taught him the entire first lesson. He had so many questions, and we could feel the Spirit so strongly as we taught him. It was freezing, and the rain was coming down, and we were pretty well soaked by the time we were done, but it was worth it! Seriously, it was the most amazing lesson I’ve been to yet. 

We still have not had any real snow; so far, it’s just been these frustrating little flakes that are almost more like a mist that is just cold enough to freeze and stick to you. I’m still waiting for some real snow to come, but Syster McCollaum says to be patient, because soon we’ll have so much snow we won’t know what to do with it.
Oh well, I haven’t frozen yet, for which I’m grateful!
Love, Syster Maxwell

Monday, November 18, 2013


So, first and foremost, I'm still alive in frozen Sweden!
Actually, from what I hear, it's about as warm here in Sweden as it is at home. I'm actually not sure what the temperature has been here because I'm still not sure where a thermometer is, but itäs been about 5 degrees Celsius on average, if not a little less.
President and Syster Newell are amazing, as are all of the Senior Couples. We were welcomed in right away, and I can't say that things are uncomfortable right now, aside from going from sitting in a desk all day to walking around Stockholm for hours at a time.
I've been assigned to an area just south of Stockholm. We're lucky; our apartment belonged to senior couples before us, so it's HUGE, and really nice. It's a little different, because they shower is not at all seperated from the rest of the bathroom ( really, we have to hang the rug over the shower curtain every morning so it can dry out), but considering that that's the only strange thing I can find about it, I'd say we've got it made.
Speaking of 'we,' I have an amazing new companion, Syster McCollaum, who is a Doctor Who fan! We've both been celebrating our mutual nerdiness all week. She is from Delta, Utah, and only has a few more months out here on her mission. She's been great so far, and an amazing help with learning the language.
I got out of the MTC, and I quickly realized, I don't know the language half so well as I thought I did. Everyone speaks so fast here, and they fluctuate their words in spots Americans would never think to. I'm at least able to seperate different words, but Syster McCollaum does most of the talking when we're out contacting since I'm still trying to figure out what in the world people are saying to me.
It's definitely been different here; it's usually dark by about 4:30 p.m., and we stay out contacting until about 7 or 8. The phrase I'm working to master right now is 'ursäkta' or 'excuse me.' Contacting is harder than expected. I'm still not entirely sure what people are saying when they talk to me, so I'm a little more cautious when I approach them, just to be certain I'm not somehow saying something ridiculous or offensive.
I have done more running for Tunnelbanan and Pendeltåget than I have ever run for any form of transportation in my life in the past week. I'm pretty sure I'm getting just as much exercise walking around Sweden as when I exercise in the morning. We've yet to get an actual lesson in; we keep scheduling them, and people keep cancelling or not being home. Hopefully that changes in the next week, especially since we have a good number lined up.
We've also done an amazing amount of singing in the past few days. We had some Elders from the next zone over have us come and sing with them at a mall, which attracted a fair number of contacts. We also went to the Stockholm Stake conference to sing there. I was actually briefly able to see President Nyman, but due to time and language barriers, I didn't get to talk to him much. We've also been asked by the ward to sing 'If the Savior Stood Beside Me' as part of the Primary Program next Sunday. Also musically connected, my district leader is a violinist! He was playing yesterday after church, and I kind of did a little happy dance out in the hallway to hear strings played again.
The members are awesome, or at least, I think they are from how much I can understand when they talk (we're still working on that). They also love the missionaries. They had me get up to bear my testimony på svenska on Sunday in Sakrament, which was terrifying, and kept very short so I didn't have too much room to mess up, but great. They've also already had me pray in meetings. My hope is that I'll be forced to speak the language so much that it'll just start coming as I need words.
Oh, and one last thing: Sweden has been perfect for my diabetes so far. I do work hard, and once or twice, that's brought my sugars down, but never to an actual low. The food has SO much less sugar than the MTC or just American food in general. My sugars have been AMAZINGLY on track in the past week, which has been an enormous blessing as I've been out working all day to meet people interested in the gospel. It's been an answer to so many prayers from the MTC, especially given how hard it was to focus and progress there with out of whack blood-sugars.
   Syster Maxwell

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Hejsan, hej då!

So, we have officially entered my last week at the MTC! It's so strange, but it's finally here! I'm leaving in a week! I had my last trip to the temple today, and it was gorgeous. It was a little bittersweet, because, although there is a temple in Stockholm, I have no idea how often I'll actually get to attend the temple, so this is going to be my last temple visit for a while.

This week has otherwise been great. Yesterday, we had a minor adventure early in the morning. We woke up and had a bat outside our door, just laying on the ground. At first we thought it was fake, but Syster Stewart decided to touch it with a fork, and it twitched. I thought I reacted pretty well to a bat in our Residence, but Syster Stewart disagrees. Apparently shrieking, running into our room, and refusing to come out until the bat was gone is not a positive response- although for anyone who's ever seen me react to any sort of rodent or animal I'm expected to touch, you will know this was a huge step forward from me. I successfully avoided the urge to climb on my bed and scream for about 1/2 an hour, which is pretty big for me. 

So, things are a little different this week at the MTC. Usually, a new district arrives the 
Wednesday after the last one leaves, however, since that means that the New Swedes would be leaving the week of Christmas, this means that they're arriving today and tomorrow. Our teachers have been telling us we're not allowed to confuse them by refusing to speak English to them, but I'm pretty sure we'll still be speaking whatever Swedish we can to them.

Oh, and the fantastic news: I'M FLYING OUT A DAY EARLY!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We got our flight plans last Friday, and we'll be flying our from SLC INT early Monday morning, and arriving in Sweden early the morning of the 12th. And even more fantastic news: I HAVE MY VISA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So, if all goes according to plan, at this time next week, I'll have been in Sweden for a few hours! Oh, goodness, I'm so excited to finally get out to the field! I've loved the MTC, but I want to get out into the field. The idea both terrifies and thrills me, because I've talked to native Swedes in the last few weeks, and I fully realize I'm far from fluent in the language, and I know I'm a less than perfect servant, but I also have faith that the Lord qualifies who he calls and that I'll be fine so long as I'm doing all I can to serve Him. Okay, one more little moment of freak-out.......... I'M GOING TO SWEDEN IN A WEEK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I'M GOING TO FREEZE TO DEATH BUT I'M SO EXCITED!!!!!!!!!!!.

They tell us to be quietly dignified. Technically, nothing audible happened there, so I think we can choose to overlook it. The only downside to this is that it means I most likely will not be allowed to email next week, so it may be a while before the world will enjoy another of my lovely updates. There's a slim chance I'll get to email when I first arrive, but I wouldn't say to count on it.

Anyways, I  think I'll tell you about my experience with native Swedes so far. For TRC every week, people come in and we teach them lessons on the gospel. So far, we've taught a fair number of native Swedes, including a family from Göteborg last week, who were amazing to teach. There was an amazingly strong spirit there, even though we'd only known them for about 20 minutes, and they were so excited to learn we'd be in Sweden in just a few weeks. We've also been having fun getting to know Syster Bussman. She's a sister from the northern part of Sweden going to Russia. We've had fun getting to practice our Swedish with her, and while she's shared swedish candy with us (it's VERY different from American candy), she nearly started crying when I told her she could have some of the knäckebröd I have in the residence. She's been absolutely adorable to get to know, and has only fed into my excitement to get over to Sweden. 

I love the fact that I'm a missionary. It's a struggle; it's not easy, but it's so amazing. I know I'm where I need to be, and I'm excited that in a few days, that means I'll finally be in Sweden! 

Med kärlek,
Syster Maxwell