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California Family Moves to Bergö

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Picture courtesy GSF
Three languages will be spoken at Bergö school this autumn: Swedish, English and Finnish. The school has two new students from America, Alisa Johansson, age 12, and Stefanie Johansson, age 9. They'll have no problem adapting. The girls have many new buddies and half of their conversation is in English and half in Swedish, according to their father Tom Johansson.

He, his wife Susan and both daughters moved into Melkerson's house. The house in Bergö is over 100 years old and is painted red with white corner boards. Tom bought the house in 1990 after his mother's brother Stig Gref of Västervik found it for him. It has stood empty for 10 years so there is much work to be done. They had lived in it the following summer for the first time and had determined there is a lot to do to make it liveable. Electric heat and water pipes will be installed and in two weeks a container with their car and household goods will arrive. Next summer they will build a sauna.

Tom Johansson is originally from Vasa. When he was 13 the family moved to Crescent City, CA in northern California. He went to school there. For 30 years he worked as a building contractor with his own company. Susan was employed by the California highway division. The possibility to live in peace at a quiet tempo is the main reason they decided to move. It has worked out fine and they credit the Bergö residents for accepting them. Tom said that the people are genuine and helpful. Everyone greets them and they wave back even though they don't know everyone. They felt it would have been difficult to move if they didn't have friends and acquaintances who were there.

It has been difficult for Susan to resettle because she has not spoken much Swedish until recently. She said it has been a big change but she loves Tom and they have a happy life together. They have so much to do and not enough hours in the day to do everything, so they have to learn to plan better.

Getting up at 4 a.m. to buy fresh bread is not the greatest for them, but they like the small area where everyone knows everyone. Tom sadly noticed that in his old home town the large stores are taking over. He would rather see the small shops and businesses in Saluhallen that were once there. Tom said he was appalled the first time he saw McDonalds in Hartman's house. "We moved here to get away from commercial development, and find that you are going the same way!"

But there are positive experiences in their new country. The school lunch is one good example. In California Susan packed lunch boxes for the girls everyday. There was a cafeteria, but the food came from a large central kitchen. They said the food wasn't of the same quality as in Bergö. The school classes in California were large with 30-35 students. Nearly as many as in the entire Bergö school with its 40 students. Care for the elderly is better in Finland than in California where it is only the rich who are guaranteed a secure old age, Susan noted. She said that they don't have a computer because they take a great deal of the children's time. Although the children learn much from computers, they also become self-indulgent and have not learned to show respect and care.

When Tom and Susan talked about their life in northern California, they revealed how much alike it is here and there. Crescent City, where they lived, is about the size of Nykarleby. Wood processing has been a vital industry in Crescent City. When they ceased cutting down the redwood trees, most sawmills and plants shut down and unemployment shot up. As compensation, the city received a prison that is now an important employer.

Tom had a good business because many retirees from southern California moved to Crescent City and either built or renovated houses there. He stated that along the Pacific coast there is conflict between regions and cities, between the fishing industry and tourism about salmon fishing. Some adjustment is needed but the situation is not good today.


NORDEN, September 21, 2000

Translated by June Pelo


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