Thursday, November 28, 2013

Abroad For Some Hours

It's not a big thing, but at least, it's something. It's a must-thing to do, for if I don't do it, I can't travel at all. And I must travel far to do it.

I had to travel to Oslo, Norway to renew my passport which is about to expire. Why Oslo? The Philippine government has decided to keep just one embassy to serve all Filipinos in Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Iceland. Renewing a passport requires personal appearance at the embassy. Hence, the long, long "wasteful" trip to a neighboring country.

We (four of us, one of whom needs to change her family name in her passport) had to travel by car about 1,000 km one way to Oslo. Since it would take 14 hours to travel, we had to take an overnight stopover at a backpacker's inn in a Swedish town close to the Norwegian border before proceeding early the following morning.

It took us within 30 minutes to get done with the papers, though the new passport would be available in January (too long!), after which we started on our way back to Sweden. We skipped sightseeing around Norway's capital city because we had to be back to work as soon as possible, as we already missed two work days.

We traveled for three days (from Sunday to Tuesday), were abroad for some hours, only about 30 minutes in Oslo, spent two nights in backpacker's inns in two places in Sweden, and the rest of the time was used up driving through the distance of about 2,000 km from Umeå to Oslo and back again.

As we drove along, I watched the passing sceneries which comprised mainly of frosty vegetation, leafless trees, evergreen trees, rimy rolling hills and lakes that were almost encrusted with thin sheets of ice. I watched the short daylight fade into darkness. I communed with my "celestial friends" as I sat in my corner of the car. They studded the whole sky with their twinkles. I spotted a few remnants of the Leonid meteor shower zipping across the sky. The hazy sprinkle of Milky Way and the augmented glow of Jupiter followed us all the way until the rain clouds  obscured them.

Quite a dull and tiresome trip, but my tryst with the luminaries empowered my psyche. And at least, I've been out of the country this year too. Not so bad after all, huh?

Monday, November 18, 2013

Upcycling Juice Boxes

Shorty after I moved to this country, each time a box of juice had been emptied out, I had that persistent notion that I should do something about the boxes since they are durable and are coated with aluminum foil within. So I came up with the idea of making gift boxes out of them. Since then, I stored every empty box after drinking up the orange juice and crafted several gift boxes.

Here are some I made for young friends, with an inspiring Scripture about spending one's youth, and are filled with assorted chocolates.

A university office worker, also a friend of mine, ordered these pieces to sell to her co-workers, which were all sold out.

Here's with a parting message for a young man who moved to another place to help more people strengthen their spiritual well-being.

Choco boxes with photo holders

For the two self-sacrificing young men from the south who came up here to help in the "spiritual harvest" work

Here's to welcome a lovely couple from the south who also became my friends

I still have several boxes waiting to be upcycled and commissioned projects to be done but not much time yet. I do love crafting but I do it mostly in my spare time. But whatever projects I have, I will definitely accomplish my stride.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

A Weekend at the National Parks

My summer this year didn't slip by without a distant journey after all. Contrary to what I had thought and accepted, we got our chance to travel for a weekend even amidst circumstances that posed as barriers from carrying out our yearly vacation trip. It may not be the usual out-of-the-country stuff, but somehow, it's kind of stepping into another zone  that is out of range for many globe trotters.

It's another spur-of-the-moment event. Actually, we had this planned out before but it went down the drain. Then while I was still working that 29th of August, hubby phoned me and asked if we could go somewhere up north that afternoon after my work. Surprised! What could I say? That certainly was a food for my starving wanderlust.

Coming home from work, I crammed my clothes and toiletries into my small backpack. Since we were off to a vast mountainous area, we filled our cooler with food and drinks that we would be needing for three days. Everything having been packed, it was time to hit the road.

Since we spent much of our time burning up the road and only stopping by when necessary, I'll try not to use too much words and let my pictures speak instead. I will only supply minimal background information.

Our point of destination was the northernmost county of Sweden, Norrbotten, which lies within the Arctic Circle.  This county consists mainly of mountainous terrain that stretches out across the border towards Norway, and is inhabited by the indigenous Sami people, many of whom own legions of reindeers.

From Umeå, we took the coastal highway, E4, up to Skellefteå, then swerved northwestward to a charming municipality called Arvidsjaur, where we drove around for a few minutes just to have a glimpse of the place. Then we made a beeline for Storforsen in Alvsbyn to turn in for the night. We rented a small cabin just as we did two years ago when we first visited this place. The wonders around here still kept me spellbound.

The following day, we exited the wilds of Storforsen (Big Rapids) and out to the main highway that led us to another municipality called Jokkmokk,  located north of the Polar Circle. "This is the site of Ajtte, Swedish Mountain and Sami Museum, a gateway to the high mountains, to Laponia and to the Sami culture." (source:  We stopped for a while to take a look at the museum which tangibly chronicled the life of the people and their survival in a demanding climate and environment.

Afterwards, we headed straight up north, then turned west and followed the byway that runs alongside an unimaginably long lake that extends close to the bounds between Sweden and Norway. From this point, the natural grandeur gradually unfolded. My head kept on spinning from left to right and vice versa, and my eyes remained wide-open with unspeakable admiration as we drove along. We pulled over where it was possible to take snapshots of eye-catching sceneries.

At last, the snow-capped peaks of the mountains in Sarek National Park loomed in view over the lake. My heart skipped a bit as I gazed at them. They're just so awesome!

As we moved along, I was enruptured by the sights of huge waterfalls plummeting down the sides of wall-like mountains to the right and into the lake to our left.

We reached the impasse of our journey when we got to Ritsem's Fjällstation, where mountain hikers get information concerning the mountain trails along the Sarek and Stora Sjöfjället National Parks and hire cabins/rooms to rest for the night.

Not far from this station lies the cabin which we had booked beforehand. The cabin was without electricity, but we used candles and flashlights. This gave us the feeling of being in the heart of nature the primitive way. The views from this private lot, however, were enchanting, what with the magnificent snowy mountain peaks, the serene lake and the sunset, not to mention the charm of the almost untouched vegetation within a 25 or so meters radius of our little cottage.

Here we spent the afternoon basking in the awe-inspiring beauty of the mountains that slowy faded into the night. We blended into this silent night as we lay down in unruffled sleep.

Morning came with the sun spilling pieces of sunshine, several of which were captured by the dewy berries and grasses. Sunlight was also accentuated by the yellowing leaves of birch trees, an unmistakable hint that fall had come here. We ate our muesli breakfast with yoghurt and fresh blueberries that I picked the day before.

We were supposed to go hiking this day but when we checked the mountain trail maps, we learned that the hiking trail spans about 60 plus km from Ritsem fjällstation to Norway, the nearest stop being 8 km away. That would mean several days of hiking and spending nights along the way in a tent. We were not equipped at all for that. There were also helicopter flights offering tourists to enjoy a bird-eye-view of the most fabulous parts of the mountain ranges, but that's out of our budget. I knew how much I have missed there, what with the alluringly silent grandeur awaiting to be explored, but we could go back another time and immerse ourselves to the enchantment of the mountains and the untold riches that lie hidden in their nooks and crannies.

And so, we didn't need to waffle over what to do since we undeniably reached the cul de sac of our weekend journey. We decided to drive back and just take in all the majestic beauty around us from within our car.

As we drove along, those resplendent panoramic views gradually faded behind us, though the lake followed us until we hit the highway again. From there, we pressed on to Gällivare where we planned to stop for the night. But since the Dundret hotel didn't have an available room for us, we just ascended to the "lofty wilderness" to smell the unadulteratedly cool mountain air and take a top-of-the-world glimpse of the conurbation of three towns in Lappland. The cutting blow of the wind sent us back to the coziness of our car.

Time to traverse the lengthy expanse of conifer forests leading to the coastal city of Luleå, where we found a modest hotel to rest for the night. The rest of the story can be read here: The First of September.

We came back home still in late summer and not a trace of autumn at all. I still had to wait for the coming of autumn here, which would be my second autumn experience this year.

So it went with our weekend at the national parks in the polar circle. It may be just a brief weekend jaunt, but it was relaxing, and at the same time, it fattened the heart of this ever simple, ever appreciative, ever grateful and ever joyful child of the universe who always strives to praise the Maker of such awesome sights and many other things that He is generously giving us.  

And the memory will last for a lifetime.

One more precious gem stashed away in my treasure box.

"How many your works are, O Jehovah!
All of them in wisdom you have made.
The earth is full of your productions."
- Psalm 104:24