Meeting Yvonne was the first thing I did today. Literally. Before I even went to bed I was up meeting my first European. It was exactly one minute past midnight when the connection was made. Me, in my suburban neighborhood in Los Angeles and she somewhere in the suburbs of the Swedish capitol Stockholm.
1: Sweden is officially called the Kingdom of Sweden and it is the fourth largest piece of property in Europe.
2. You will always know a Scandinavian cheese by the ending "öst" in the name, which simply means "cheese" in Swedish.
Präst dates back to a time when church tithes were often paid with farm produce. When the pastor's family would receive an overabundance of milk, his wife would make cheese to sell at the local market.
I am not sure if Yvonne knew that I was an ordained minister with a twisted sense of humor, but I had to crack a joke when she described the cheese as “very spicy and delicious.”
Thankfully Yvonne spoke English flawlessly. Like most everyone in her country, she was nearly fluent in my native tongue at a very early age. “The problem you have in America is you really only speak English. It’s so universal that you really don’t have to learn another one.” Yvonne also speaks some French and Italian as well. For her, language is the best way to make new connections. Like this one. As a social worker who advocates and finds employment for people with disabilities, Yvonne also speaks an unspoken language – one that comes from the heart.
3. The main official language of Sweden is Ssvenska, but the country also has 5 other official languages - Finnish, Yiddish, Sami, Meänkieli and Romani.
Yvonne is divorced. Her two sons are adults and are not living in the house anymore. As the gentle morning sun filtered into her home office, she confessed it took a global pandemic to finally make her house feel like her home again. Outside her window she could see one of her apple trees. It was bare having shed its leaves and fruit for the season. Her garden closed for the winter that will eventually come. But inside her home there was nothing but life and warmth radiating so brilliantly from her soul that it lit up numerous time zones.
As the night darkened for me, and the day brightened for her I had some sleep to catch up on and she had her Covid Bubble friends to meet up with, but not before she cleaned her house and went for a walk to enjoy the sunshine, a rare thing for this time of year. “Your last Presidential election we had the worst snowstorm. This time we have sunshine.” I took this as a good sign of what was to come in our election drama. Yvonne reminded me of the power my country has over hers. “The US is the global leader. My life, my kids work and my country’s economy depends on your decision.”
4. Highly skilled at warfare, Swedish Vikings were a fearsome group who invaded and settled throughout Northern and Eastern Europe. During the 17th century Sweden again emerged as a great power with the Swedish Empire gaining territories in Eastern Europe. But since 1814, Sweden has remain neutral in all wars including World Wars I and II. Despite the country's peaceful nature Swedes over 19 years still have to complete up to 15 months of military service. And working at Ikea is purely voluntary.
With her blonde hair and blue eyes, her fiery spirit and fierce passion, it’s no surprise Yvonne has Viking DNA. I would learn she has shot both a crossbow and a blowgun with the skill and expertise that would make her ancestors proud. But during our hour together, she was also very open and welcoming, willing to be vulnerable and real, like someone who had finally come to a place in her life where her Divine DNA could be seen.
I came prepared with questions to break the ice. But I quickly realized there wasn’t any ice, or borders, between Yvonne and I. Just two new friends connected by two mutual old friends. Like what often happens when friends get together, time flew by. It was late. We both had somewhere we had to be. Me, asleep. She awake. I said “godnatt” and she “good morning.”
5. Sweden has very low unemployment, low birth rate, a highly developed welfare system and one of the world's longest life expectancies all contributes to modern Sweden having one of the highest standards of living in the world. Which tells me this new friendship will have longevity.