My mother was born in 1946 in Skellefteå, Västerbotten county. Christine “China” Strömberg was brought up in a Pentecostal home, and as a child an engaged member in the local perish. Sunday school was fun, and the church created a community and a sense of belonging. However, as Christine grew older, the community started to feel more like a chain than a resource. She was not allowed to dance, or go to the cinema. When we talk about her upbringing, she often comes back to the first time when she dared breaking the rules. She went to the cinema even though it was forbidden. China was very excited, but the experience was everything but pleasant. The movie turned out to be about an incestous relationship. It was horrible! As mum came out from the cinema, guilt came upon her. She had comitted a great sin, and she was convinced that her blasphemic actions held the power to kill everyone she loved.That was what she had been told by the church. Christine was devastated! But as she nervously stepped through her home door, she realized that everything was exactly as it used to be. No one had died, or even got hurt by her miserable experience. It was all a lie.
My mother is one of the smartest, wisest, and toughest people I know. When she started to question the reality that she had been told, and did not get convincing answers, she chose to go her own way. It can’t have been easy. I know that the elders in church came by to question her reasons for departing with the church. But she persisted and choose to live life as an extremely good, generous, loving, just human being, but without being religious.
My mother did not have the chance to choose her education freely, but she managed to convince her parents to allow her to get a degree in psychology. She worked as a deeply appreciated child psychologist for over 30 years. When she retired, she first taught courses in clinical psychology at Umeå university. She is currently engaged in voluntary work to help newly arrived refugees.
Mum and dad met at a dance. Roy Andersson fell in instantly in love with China (whe was, and still is, drop dead gorgeous). Mum wasn’t that interested to start with, but dad was just a too good dancer to resist in the long run.
Christine and Roy got married in 1969, and my older sister, Lina (Hollow tree) was born in 1974. I was born in 1977, and little sunshine (Karin) was born in 1983. My mother gave me the best upbringing any girl could dare to dream of. This is a fact, and a completely unpartial truth.
This is a part of my very large collection of proof:
When I, at the age of 10, wanted to be “different”, and therefore painted my face and wore very strange clothes, mum did not tell me that I wasn’t allowed. She just said – Hanna darling, you are just like me. I’m a witch and you are my witch kid. We witches like to dress up and go a little bit crazy from time to time. I am proud of you.
When my father cut down a tree in the backyard, and we found out that there was a little magpie in one of the nests, my mother did not tell me that raising the magpie was impossible. She instead found out what and how to feed it, and went up every 4th hour to make sure that it survived. It did, and his name was Kalle.
When I, at the age of 11, decided to change my name from Hanna to my middle name (Andrea), my mother just said – it is your name, you decide. And that was that.
When I, blushingly read “The valley of horses” by Jean M Auel at the age of 12, my mum said – Good, get to know your body. Find out what you like.
When I went to the local disco at the age of 13, and no one wanted to dance with me, mum told me – It is only because they don’t dare to ask you. You are just too cool. From the moment I was born, mum had taught me to believe in myself, so I believed her and asked the boys to dance myself (when I didn’t dance by myself. I did the latter a lot).
When I, at the age of 27, chose to go to Malawi to write my Master thesis in Economics, and felt terrified, my mother said – I have always wanted to see Africa, and simply decided to join me for the first two weeks.
I can talk to my mother about everything. I talk to her about things I can’t talk to anyone else about. Some might say that we know too much about each others’ private life. But I disagree.
Whenever I have felt sad or angry in life, my mother has always been there for me. She always listens, but she never listens uncritically. Mum always ask questions. She always make me see things from other perspectives, and that makes me grow.
I have learned almost everything I know from my mother. I love, respect, and admire her more than I can express.
In August 2016, Christine Andersson turned 70. For her birthday, Roy gave her the present of a lifetime – a trip back to Africa with her 3 witch daughters (now transformed into Ents).
Most 70-year olds would probably prefer a comfortable trip to some luxurious and calm place by the Mediterranean. Not mum. Trekking through the jungle? No problem! Risk for terror attacks? Nah, the risk is over-estimated, and I have three Ents by my side! Sitting in a hot truck for hours? I love heat! Getting sick in central Africa? Bah, what are vaccins for? And so, we booked a 10-day trip to Rwanda and Uganda with G-adventures, and headed off from Stockholm on January 6th 2017.
After a bumpy ride with Ethiopian Airways, we were greated by our guide, Evarist, in Kigali.
I think that Evariste decided that he liked us there and then. I know that we liked him, a lot. We were a perfect match. We all talk faster than a speeding train; the four of us wanted to know everything (about everything), Evariste wanted to tell us everything (about everything). We all share the same low level sense of humor, and we all love mum. Evarist instantly saw mums true spirit and gave her the nick name that she will carry to the end of time – Mummy King. Because that is what she is, a mum and a king.
In Kigali, we first paid a visit to a women collective, set up to find funding for women to educate themselves. We were guided in old Kigali by the son of one of the founders, and then had traditional lunch in the same founder’s home. You may think that it felt weird, like we used them or they used us, but it didn’t. It felt enlighting and good. We learned a lot, they earned money. Win-win.
After our feel good tour in old Kigali, we were ready for a less feel good visit to the genocide memorial center. I knew that I was up for horror and grief. I did not know that the exhibition would be so respectfully built, and contain so much information on the background and events during both the Rwandan genocide, but also many other genocides that has taken place across the earth. I cried a lot, especially in the room where I was presented to 12 kids who was slaughtered during the genocide, and I learned a lot, again.
After a fullpacked three quarters of a day in Kigali, Mummy king, her 3 Ent kids, Evarist, and our new friend, Jillian, headed off to the misty mountains of northern Rwanda.
On the way up north, we ran across Santa Claus. I was aware that the north pole was moving, just not how far south it had moved :).
The beauty of Rwanda swept me off my feet. The mountains, the trees, the lack of garbage flying around. Absolutely stunning.
And as a crown of all the beauty, the Virunga Massif. Home of golden monkeys, and mountain gorillas.
It is impossible to fit all the pictures that I would like to fit within this, already too long post, so I have posted the rest of the photos here. For now, I will settle with mum meeting her only dream man except dad. This one is a vegetarian.
While we stayed in Virunga, we got to meet a bunch of fantastic people and animals. Our guides knowledgeably answered all of our questions (and they were many) about the community, the history, the biology, and the zoology of the place.
We danced until our legs would not carry us any more (and my lungs imploded). We ate fantastic food, drank nice beer, snuggled up by the fire with a whiskey, laughed, cried, and learnt.
Yes, we are white, we are rich, and we come to watch exotic animals. I have always struggled with that, but in Rwanda I did not feel to bad about it. It was so immensely clear that both the animals and the local community benefited from our dollars, regardless if we paid these as entry to the park, as extras for our guides, or from our purchases in the local art stores. No, I know that it is not enough, but it is not nothing either.
We left Rwanda like you leave a new love, with ache and a strong feeling that you have to see each other again.
But it was time for Uganda. Time for the land of the sun. Time for heat, and savannah in Queen Elisabeth National park.
But we started with a trip to the Ugandan side of the jungle. To see if we could find some Chimpanzees.
The trek through the jungle went over giant fallen trees, through shrubberies and lianas. I remember wondering how Mummy King was doing. She is 70 after all and her vision is not what it used to be. So I kept looking back to see if she was keeping up, and if she needed a helping hand. No worries, Mummy King was stepping on my heals, with a huge grin on her face. Nemas problemas, she is a king after all.
After roughly 1.5 hours of walking through the jungle, I was starting to lose hope. It is in no way certain that you will see the chimps. They move around over vast areas each day. But then, all of a sudden, there was a new sound in the forest. Shadows in the canopy. And then total mayhem. A black and white colobus monkey started chasing the chimps, who started screaming like mad. I nearly shit myself, and I did shed more than one tear out of sheer excitement.
I think that it was one of the absolutely best days of my life (completely on par with my encounters with the whales up here).
The savanna safari was like most savanna safaris, but three things made it fantastic. 1) our guide Harriet, who I really hope will make it to become a lawyer and protect the poor. Harriet is such an incredibly strong, kind, and intelligent woman. The world need more of those! 2) driving out during sunrise and meeting a grand daddy elephant, and 3) our safari boat ride. What a crescendo!
What else could we do but raise both of our hands in the air and scream Itchuri Ketano (or however it is spelled)!
Our Mummy King does Africa – trip gave us all memories for a life time. I learned a lot about the two countries that we visited, but also how immensely much I love my Ents and my King. With these 3 wonderful people around, life really becomes a dance on roses. They extract the very best of every person that they meet, and they make everyone around them feel awesome.
A huge thanks to Evariste, and G-adventures, Jillian, Harriet, the rest of our fantastic guides, and Rachel, for making our trip to the such an incredible experience. I will keep it like a treasure in my heart until that heart stops beating.
And Mummy king, you rock!