July 19-20 – Cousin Alf’s

Alf and Chris have a pleasant little two story house out in the country, about 12 kms. from Trollhatten. They have been together for 32 years now and still find pleasure in each other’s company.  They are generous hosts and eager to please. Chris is a social worker and Alf is a teacher’s help at one of the local schools, so they are both open-minded and receptive to new ideas.  

Alf and Chris 

Trollhatten is a small city of about 50,000. Its claim to fame is a large Saab factory and a lock system complete with a hydro-electric generator system and a canal that runs all the way down to Gotenburg on the coast. This weekend happened to be their annual street fair so we spent a couple of hours checking it out on Saturday afternoon. It was the usual stuff you see in most western countries, with small fair ground rides set up in the city square and novelty booths, lots of food stalls, a few music band stages, lots of small stalls selling junk and nothing authentically Swedish.

The best attraction we saw was a group of S. American Indians playing a variety of pan flutes varying from a few inches to a few feet long, accompanied by an electric guitar, feathered head dresses and bone necklaces. They were actually pretty good. I like pan flutes and those guys really knew how to play. I almost bought one of their CDs till I found out the guy was asking $28 a piece.

The big attraction of the day was the opening of the local dam control gates. Everyone gathers on a small bridge and when they open up, 300,000 liters a second gush forth down a boulder strewn valley, under the bridge and into a lake. Not much of a highlight but I guess there is something to be said for small cities and a quiet life. Needless to say, we didn’t stay for the evening entertainment. A quite night at the house seemed a better alternative to rock & roll and drunken revelry.

On Sunday Alf and I drove an hour south to Gothenburg on the coast. Its one of the gateways to Sweden, if you happen to be coming in from Britain across the North Sea, as Alf did in 1971.

Nice city, wide open streets with tram lines and some older European style buildings.   me in GothenburgWe went to the local tourist attraction, something called the Universium. It was a presentation of the local flora and fauna, particularly fish. Its an enclosed glass building built on the side of a hill. You go up to the top by lift or small escalator car. You gradually descend down to the bottom on pathways that meander through various aquariums built onto the hill side. Universium


Starting with the Lapland far north fish and habitats on the top level it ended up with the anaconda, tropical forest habitat at the bottom. It wasn’t spectacular but was quite good. And it was busy throughout the day.

An adjoining building had three levels with a simple science museum for kids, a space explorations center and an open air picnic stop. It gave me some ideas for our Mayapur TOVP, especially the need for catering to kids. Most visitors were families, and if you don’t have facilities for kids, families won’t come.

After that we had a walk around town and through the local mall which was built in the 1970s and compared to the palaces that are constructed nowadays, wasn’t very impressive. (But later one when I mentioned it to Yogindra, he told me that the owners allow the devotees to sell books in there, and even do kirtan). After a short excursion down to the docks we headed home.

Alf has been interested in Indian cookery since the mid-70s. He’s quite an expert and last year I sent him one of Kurma’s cook books Great Vegetarian Dishes. So in preparation for my visit this year he emailed Kurma for some advice on various ingredients. He followed his advice and made some excellent pizzas for dinner. He even made his own dough for the bases.

 Pizza king

The best thing was seeing Alf and Chris happily bow their heads in respect while I chanted ‘maha prasade Govinde….’ and ‘sarira avidya jal…’ followed by the Panca-tattva mantra and the Hare Krishna maha-mantra before we ate.

I gave them a copy of Satyaraja’s book Hidden Glories of India and another cook book. They are respectful of our tradition and even said they would like to visit India one day. So their spiritual lives have started.

From Poland:

Sitala sent an update from Poland. She has problems with arthritis and fibro-myalgia and hasn’t been able to go out as often as she would like but she’s feeling enlivened from the preaching.

She wrote “Rasrani-priya is doing well. She is going to be Sita in the Ramayana starting tomorrow–as the usual Sita is going away. So, it’s nice that she will be busy on the stage every day. She also works in the booth where they put saris on people who want to get dressed up like that, and sometimes helps in the tent where they make crepes. I’m so happy that she is doing all of this. It is truly the place to learn about preaching and devotee life. She is already talking about coming back next year–so that’s a good sign that she is getting a taste.”

All glories to Sri Krishna sankirtanam!

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