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Kodiak, Alaska - The Island of the Great Bear
With its high mountains, clothed in emerald green and cut through with deep blue fjords, Kodiak, located in the Gulf of Alaska, is one of the most enchanting places I’ve ever visited. The rugged terrain has protected the islands from human exploitation, leaving the wilderness virtually untouched. This is the home of the Kodiak bear – the world’s largest land predator.
I first came to Kodiak in 1988 to film the beautiful scenery and the giant bears on the island. What I hadn’t anticipated was the infinite hospitality of the people, who welcomed me like family. Since the early days of the Sugpiaq, through the invasion of the Russians, and the subsequent sale to the Americans, the people of Kodiak have enveloped the foreign cultures that washed upon their shores, and have developed themselves and their culture into what it is today – a celebration of diversity and harmony. Every time I step off the plane at Kodiak’s airport, I take a deep breath and think, “It’s good to be home!”
In this book, I would like to introduce you to some of my friends on Kodiak and share with you the mysteries of Kodiak’s history, the diversity of cultures, the richness of the environment, the enchantment of the wilderness, and the gentle character of the giant bear.
Welcome to Kodiak, Alaska – the island of the great bear!
“You’re going to do what?”
“Must be gluttons for punishment!”
Just a few of the reactions we received after revealing our plans for this Grand Adventure. Apparently travelling with kids is not necessarily equated with joyous living. After completing the journey, and surviving it, many told me I should write a book, a “How to” book. Honestly I don’t feel qualified to give expert advice on that subject. I believe that all people are different, some enjoy travelling and some prefer to stay at home. I believe that applies even to children, and I believe that our children were born to roam! Having children who enjoy watching the world roll by outside the car window, who scream with disappointment when a 10 hour-long journey is over and we are finally home, who begin each morning with “Where are we going today?” certainly makes travelling easier. Who am I to give advice to the vast majority with ”normal” kids? Having said that, I may just have a few tips to offer anyway.
This is the story of a young girl growing up in rural Sweden with dreams of the Promised Land, America. May-Britt grew up on a farm in the most primitive part of Småland, Sweden. As she shares her memories we learn what life was like on the farm that was located so deep in the forest it was called, “The end of the world.”
“Growing up, I never dreamed I would one day be living in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado,” she says laughing. But dream she did, and those dreams took her on a long journey filled with laughter and joy, hardship and sorrow, adventure and excitement.
She dreamed of becoming a nurse, but when her mother died she had to leave school and return home to help care for her sick father and her five younger siblings.
She dreamed of adventure and was one of the first to travel by airplane to America, where she found work, bought a car and drove across the country. While returning home to Sweden in July 1956 her journey came to an abrupt stop when her ship, the MS Stockholm, collided with the Andrea Doria. The Andrea Doria sank and the Stockholm limped back to the New York harbor, and May-Britt had to wait for another ship.
She dreamed of love. One day, while driving up highway 101 in California at 80 mph, she and her girlfriend spotted two young men in a car in the next lane. Smiling and waving, the men followed the girls to a gas station and asked them if they would like to have coffee with them. More than 50 years later, May-Britt is still married to the man she met on hwy. 101.
She dreamed of prosperity and began early to find ways to make money: catching leeches in a nearby lake to sell to her Grandmother who used them to suck the blood from her swollen legs; selling fish door to door and picking berries to sell to the local store. Later, beginning with nothing but their willingness to work hard and a book titled, “How to Make a Million Dollars in your Spare Time,” she and her husband began buying real estate, one fixer upper at a time. Now retired, she looks back at the successes and failures they have experienced throughout the years.
This is the story of a young girl who refused to give up on her dreams despite the many obstacles rising up in her path. It is a story of determination and hard work, of love and laughter, and of God’s grace and provision.
I’ve come a long way in the seventy-six, and counting, years I’ve walked on this earth. From a farm in Denmark, where I warmed my feet in the morning in fresh cow pies, to the majestic slopes of the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. It’s been quite a ride, this thing called life. Looking back, I have my regrets, but mostly I am astounded by the abiding grace and the immense blessings that have been poured out over me. I hope that in some way I’ve been able to share at least a fraction of all I have been given. Anyway, this is my life, according to me.
It has been a life filled with excitement and a lot of hard work. I have had two careers, one as a painter and the other as a building contractor. I have built homes and developed neighborhoods. I was a volunteer Deputy Sheriff, and have been involved in Rotary and the Chamber of Commerce and spent years working to improve the lives of orphans in Mexico. I have pursued and enjoyed many hobbies, flying, diving, sailing and, above all, traveling. It has been a privilege to travel around the world; something I’d always dreamt of doing, but never really had the time while I was working. Since retiring I’ve been blessed with, not only the opportunity to travel, but also to share the gospel with people who had never heard it before.