Departure

In a little over a fortnight, I will be returning to America for my annual getaway. It’s been two years since the last one and I am really looking forward to being in a country that is not being ravaged by Covid-19. The first order of business will of course be getting vaccinated, preferably with the single shot Johnson & Johnson. I am doing this in the U.S. as I have more confidence in their vaccines and should not have to wait in line. (All my Thai friends, in contrast, are talking about appointments starting in August, presumably using Sinovac. They have my sympathy.)

As for the seven Thai women I’ve been helping on a monthly basis (one has dropped off the radar), each has been provided with seven month’s worth of support, through January of next year. Hopefully by that time most of the population will be inoculated and the economy in better shape. (But don’t hold your breath!)

There are also three others I’ve supplied modest, as-needed amounts to. They all have jobs (more or less) and are not as destitute.

As one might guess, this latest round of assistance has drained a large portion of my charity money. However, with the virus variant causing record numbers of infections and deaths in this country, I simply could not fly off and leave my friends to their fate.

For over a year, it’s like I’ve been playing poker with Covid-19. Initially, I had planned on only a few months of helping others. Then the virus upped the ante, continuing to stick around, forcing me to extend my obligations. It became a high stakes contest, but I have stubbornly stayed in the game: “I’ll see your six months and raise you seven. F*ck you!”.

MacPhoto

I shall return.

‘Tis The Season

For my Covid-19 support this month, I included some extra money so the girls could go home and be with their families for New Year’s Day.

I also gave some help to Wan, an acquaintance I have not been in touch with for awhile. In fact, I cannot find her email or phone. But I do have her bank account number (!) and knew the gift would be appreciated by her and her three children.

All of the above was done on the morning of December 25th.

From A Christmas Carol:
“We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is
keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices.”

Happy Holidays!

Laundry Money

Last month, my friend Wan confessed that with business so slow because of the lack of tourists, she might have to shut down her laundromat. She had been drawing on her bank account to get by and it was now seriously depleted.

Unlike the other women I have been sustaining, this was a problem that affected me. Wan has been doing my laundry for years and I’ve never had reason to complain. My clothes were always ready the next day, nicely pressed, the socks perfectly matched. The thought of this reliable service having to close was almost too sad to contemplate.

Anyone who has been following this blog can guess what I did next. But not right away; I was fiscally constrained, having had to keep a barn load of money in my bank account for three months from early June in order to renew my Retirement Visa in 2021 (an Immigration requirement — you don’t want to know any more). But with September lurking around the corner some of those funds would soon be freed up, allowing me to be more generous, starting with Wan.

I stopped by the laundromat last week to pass on the good news, that I would be providing special help for my special friend. I was startled by the reaction. Fastening me in a tight embrace, Wan began crying, almost sobbing. It was a sign of how much stress she had been under, struggling every day trying to keep things going. I’d never had a Thai woman break down like this. Not knowing what to say, I simply let her hug me, pinning my arms, until the tears began to subside.

When the day came to perform the good deed, I wasn’t sure how much was needed for Wan to get by for another four or five months. (I doubt the local economy will be any better before then.) I gave it my best guess while impressing upon her the time frame I was trying to cover. We will see if this is enough. She is a good businesswoman, so nothing will be wasted.

Now sleeping better at night.

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It’s Wan’s Birthday!

Ambition

A few days ago, I received an interesting email from my masseuse, Pam. She has been giving some serious thought about her future and has come up with a possible new direction. Here’s what she said:

“Yesterday I went to apply for a sewing class and I will start sewing lessons on the 1st of the next month for two months — October and November.

I make the decision learn sewing because it was during the Covid-19 virus outbreak and it is hard to find work. So I decided to go to learn sewing for the future. I will have the knowledge and when I have finish learn and then I hope it will be easier to find a job.

I thank you very much that you have keep sent me money every month. You had help me very much and I hope you will continue to support me the same you help me every month during I have learn sowing please. Thank you very much again.”

In other words, she wants me to keep helping out during the two months she is learning the finer points of embroidering. Not a problem. I admire people who are trying to improve their lives and quickly responded that I would support her for four more months, through the holidays and into January. I even volunteered to pay for the class (which is expensive by Thai standards).

Pam was very appreciative.

Now, maybe this idea will work out, maybe not. There are of course no guarantees, especially in this country. But I’m proud of Pam regardless.

Knit One, Purl One…

In Appreciation

Since April I have been providing monthly support to various female Thai friends to cushion the hardships brought about by the pandemic. The original plan was to help out for three months, but it doesn’t look like the economy here will be recovering anytime soon. So, I will be extending my little program through the end of the year. Maybe by that time the troubles will have receded.

One of the surprises of the charity work I’m doing has been the reactions. I don’t think any of the women have ever experienced this kind of no-strings-attached generosity and their thanks have been heartfelt, showing me a side of them I would never have encountered otherwise:

“How are you? Do you have anything (for me) to help or do?
Call me. I’m always happy.”

“Thank you so much. I will not forget you…
You are my good man and are always in my mind.”

“If you sick you call me ok”

“Thank you very much for your help.
I’m in trouble for money now you are so kind for me.
Hope to see you soon.”

“Thank you about money. You are good friend for me…
I wish you good luck in everything. And be healthy.”

I also receive occasional pictures. One of my friends has a fondness for scenes showing a full moon over the ocean, which I enjoy as well.

“Good night have a sweet dream and sleep well tonight 😘 😘😘😘😘😘😘😘💋💋💋💋💋🌷🌷for you”

It’s nice to know others are thinking of you.

Tveit Cousins in Norway

Background

When Janice Wilson and her son Monte visited Norway in 1988, they attempted to locate their Tveit relatives. Bea Tveit (Nielsen) recalled that her grandfather Lars Tveit had corresponded with someone in Norway, but that was many, many years before and the contact had been lost.

Using the Tveit family information they brought as a starting point, Janice and Monte visited the Bergan State Archives. The family had split in Lars’s generation when he left for America, so it was necessary to start there and try to trace the Norway branch of the Tveits down to a living person. Unfortunately, that proved rather difficult. They did, however, get the address of the Tveit farm.

The next step then was to rent a car and drive out to the Hardanger Fjord, which had been mentioned by Bea Tveit as having been the area Lars came from. Once there they visited a pastor, the old Tveit farm, and a Tveit Family Reunion. The general idea was to let as many people as possible find out about the strange Americans who were looking for their relatives!

Alas, no relations were found. A few people named Tveit were located, but it was not possible to connect them with Lars’s family.  So, Janice and Monte went home with plenty of Tveit archive data, but no contacts. However, they did leave their U.S. address in case anyone wanted to get in touch. This proved to be the best thing they could have done.

Within the next 18 months, Janice received two letters from people in Norway who thought they might be related to Lars Tveit. They are described below.

Hjordis Sharning  Runarveien 2D, 3200 Haukerod, Sandefjord, Norway

This woman wrote in November of 1988. She had an uncle named Lars Tveit who emigrated to America. Unfortunately, the brothers and sisters mentioned for this Lars did not match, and the dates were one generation later (1870s instead of 1850s). However, according to a letter from an Arne Urheim in 1989 (see below), Hjordis actually is related, just further back in the family tree than she thought. Her great-grandmother, Marita, was an older sister to Lars Tveit’s father Arne. The line goes like this:  Marita > Brita > Marita > Hjordis. This makes Hjordis a third cousin to the generation of Bea Nielsen, Mildred Campbell and Leslie Tveit (children of Arne and Anna Tveit).

Arne Urheim  5774 Lofthus, Norway

In his four page letter written in November of 1989, Mr. Urheim recalled his father talking about an “Uncle Lars” who went to the U.S. The date of birth and wife’s name (Martha Busteheim) of this uncle matched Janice’s information exactly, proving that Arne Urheim was a relative. Arne was also kind enough to show how Hjordis Sharing (above) is related.

Arne’s paternal grandfather was Arne Tveit, Lars Tveit’s older brother by three years. Mr. Urheim is therefore a second cousin to Bea, Mildred and Leslie Tveit. A picture he sent shows a pleasant man in his early seventies with a prominent nose.

Arne Urheim was born in 1920. He’s the youngest, and only son, of three children. His father was Jakob Arneson Urheim who worked in Madison, Wisconsin from 1904 – 1909. Jakob returned to Norway to take over the farm when his father Arne Tveit (Lars Tveit’s older brother) passed away.

Mr. Urheim’s wife died in 1988. He has one daughter, Audhild, who at the time of writing was married and living in Bergan with two young children, Veronica (b. 1984) and Andreas (b. 1985).

Regrettably, neither Monte or Janice replied to Mr. Urheim’s letter until 1997. Having visited Norway with no plans to return, perhaps the excitement of hunting for relatives had worn off. However, almost a decade later, a three year correspondence was begun, and all of the letters from him (1997, 1999, 2000) have been kept.

Arne Urheim’s branch of the Tveit family tree is listed below, starting with the oldest generation. His direct ancestors are highlighted.

Click to access tveit-cousins-in-norway-pdf-2.pdf

Jens & Bertha Larsen

Personal Info_____________________________________________
Father: Jens Larsen
Born: June 10, 1847         Norway
Died: January 4, 1892      Near Thor, Iowa   Age  44
Parents: Unknown

Mother: Bertha Hansen
Born: October 6, 1852     Lete Kvinnherad  Norway
Died: October 2, 1933     Eagle Grove, Iowa   Age  80
Parents: Unknown

Married: October 31, 1878 for 13 years

Buried:
Jens Larsen: East Ullensvang Cemetery southeast of Thor, Iowa.
Single plot in the very back row, next to the fence.
Bertha Hansen: Rose Hill Cemetery, Eagle Grove, Iowa.
In the Homer & Julia Spangler plot.
The name on the tombstone is “Bertha Larson”.
________________________________________________________

Next to nothing is know about Jens Larsen. He most likely came to America as a young man, settling near Story City, Iowa. It was there that he met Bertha.

Bertha left Norway in 1876 through the seaport of Bergen on her way to the U.S. Since she had several cousins in the Story City area, she moved there and two years later was married to Jens.

In 1884 the couple bought eighty acres of land near Eagle Grove. At the time, the family consisted of two sons and two daughters. Another boy and girl came along later. Since farming in those days required a large amount of manual labor, the children were kept busy.

Seven years after purchasing the farm, Jens became ill and finally passed away in early 1892 after being sick for about a year. Since the family could not afford a coffin, the neighbors built one for them while Jens’s body was left outside in a shed to freeze. A bobsled was used to transport the remains to the cemetery for burial. Heated stones were taken on the journey to keep warm in the frigid January cold.

Jen’s death left Bertha with six children to raise, the oldest being around twelve and the youngest barely a year. In addition, there was the farm to attend to. It must have been tempting to simply sell the acreage and/or quickly find another husband. It is a tribute to Bertha’s determination that she chose to continue the farming and family raising and that she did it almost entirely on her own.

While farming, Bertha received assistance from the neighbors in return for the work the Larsen children did for them. The boys would help out in the fields while the girls would earn money by babysitting, milking cows and feeding the pigs. All of this no doubt promoted a tighter community amongst these transplanted Scandinavians.

But there could be challenges. At one time Bertha had to take a neighbor to court because his tiled ditch was draining onto the Larsen land. This was not easy. Money was tight, and laws in those days were often stacked against a single working mother, a fact the neighbor was probably well aware of. Imagine his surprise when the judge ruled in Bertha’s favor!

In 1910, after the children were all raised, Bertha sold the farm, married Lars Tveit and the two moved to the tiny town of Thor, Iowa. It must have been a close knit family since Bertha’s daughter had three years earlier married Lars’s son. Bertha in fact had been living with the young couple and had delighted in spoiling her grandchildren.

Even though she was no longer involved with farming, Bertha continued her hard working ways by raising a garden. Vegetables were kept in the cellar under the house. A stern woman, Bertha would use the Norwegian phrase “chus cotton” when things went awry. In English this means “kiss the cat”.

The two moved again, to Eagle Grove in 1920, to be closer to the children. Later in the decade Bertha began to experience “heart spells” which would trouble her at times for the remainder of her life.

Almost all of the couple’s money was lost when their bank failed during the Depression. Ironically, Bertha’s son-in-law Homer Spangler sat on the bank’s board of directors and could hardly have been unaware of the institution’s distress. His failure to warn Bertha did not endear him to the rest of the family.

After experiencing increasing problems with her “spells”, Bertha finally died a few days short of her eight-first birthday. A better example of immigrant persistence and resolve would be hard to find.

Children of Jens & Bertha Larsen

Chris Larsen – Farmer
Born: ??Died: ??

Hans Larsen – Farmer
Born: 1881Died: 1965

Julia Larsen (Spangler) – Housewife
Born: January 5, 1883Died: March 6, 1953

Martha Larsen (Spangler) – Housewife
Born: 1884Died: 1967
Martha & Julia married the Spangler brothers Elias & Homer.

Nels Larsen – Farmer
Born: ??Died: ??

Anna Christine Larsen (Tveit) – Housewife
Born: October 27, 1890Died: July 9, 1936