Carried away by love - Sverredal & Langen Gallery - Photo Agency Sweden

Svelan Gallery - Photo Agency Sweden

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This amazing story about the international woman Riitta Huttunen, and her life change, in one way starts in Finland, where Riitta was born, but also in Sweden, where she lived most of her adult life together with a Finnish born man. Even Norway is a key piece in her life puzzle. It was in a Norwegian context that Riitta met Ron Stubbings, a Canadian man interested in Scandinavia and folk dancing. They fell in deep love, passed some serious crises, got married and settled in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia.

Today Riitta Huttunen is driving her car safely in the Vancouver traffic, but it has been a long journey getting there. While driving Riitta reflects on her big life change and "how come she got carried away by love all the way from Scandinavia to Canada?”:

- It is with mixed emotions I tell my story, Riitta says. At the same time as I am happy, very much in love, I like my job - yes the whole country with its friendly people, beautiful nature and environmental thinking - I also find it difficult to settle. And I miss my friends and family.

Riitta has also met other people from Scandinavia who confirm similar difficulties and feelings when settling in a new country.

- You have to struggle, be ambitious and learn how the country and culture work. You have to communicate in a language where you have a limited vocabulary and understanding, about a history you are not as familiar with, and on the top of that you must relearn and redo things that you already have done before. Even when you are a defensive and experienced driver from Sweden, you have to understand the different rules for driving in Canada, take new lessons and pass the road test to get a Canadian driving license.

Another difficulty moving to a new country is to establish new relations, and to keep the ones you had before.

- You have to be active in building up your new network and relations. At the same time it is important to keep up the good relationship with your family and close friends at home. By heart they are the closest ones, but by distance they are too far away to see regularly. It is necessary to find new ways and channels for communication.

It is now (2014) five years since Riitta met her Canadian husband, an International Director for Sons of Norway, Ron Stubbings. He loves to tell how he met his wife Riitta. "Neither one of us could stop dancing when we met at the folk dance convention, Nordlek, in Lahti, Finland, and we have become partners since then".

Riitta's eyes go wet when she thinks back. At the time she met Ron, Riitta was in a middle of a divorce from her Finnish born husband and her emotions were all over the place. She could not listen to her inner voice immediately and had to let Ron go.

- We did not even share phone numbers from a start; I never thought we could see each other again, but the "love alarm clock" went on and I could not stop myself from catching up and planning a visit in Vancouver. The bond we got when dancing together was unbelievably strong. My friends convinced me to visit him as soon as possible, and I did.

At the first visit Riitta and Ron decided to try a life together in Port Coquitlam. But, the happiness of the planned move was covered by ashes - literally - when Riittas ex-husband suddenly died from alcohol acute alcohol intoxication in his new flat. Riitta was devastated. Suddenly she found herself in the middle of an emotional chaos, planning both a funeral and –a new love and a move to a new country. Many friends and family members were very upset and sad of the whole situation of "losing two loved ones at the same time". Ron could only be supportive to Riitta, but he could not do much himself for his new Scandinavian acquaintances and family.

A shadow of sadness pulls over Riitta's face when she talks about her ex-husband:

- He was a wonderful man and we had so much fun together, when he was sober. We struggled to overcome the alcohol problem but failed. The marriage could not be saved, nor his life.

After Riitta lived in Canada for several months, she returned to Sweden to visit family and friends. While she was gone, Ron realized how much he missed and loved Riitta, and went to Sweden to visit her. They did an overnight trip to Norway to visit one of Ron’s friends. On the way home, Ron stopped the car at the border with Sweden, and as he stood in Norway, and she stood in Sweden, he had a flower ring in his hand and he proposed marriage. She accepted...

The wedding ceremony went well, both in Sweden and Canada. Colorful, traditional costumes and dancing gave character to their big day in Sweden and Ron was welcomed into the family. The official wedding was in Canada with Ron’s family as the Swedish authorities didn’t accept his paperwork that he was single.

Today the couple lives in a townhouse in British Columbia, only thirty kilometers from the city of Vancouver. They are happily married and folk dancing continues to be an important part of their lives. They also have many other interests together - outdoor activities like bike riding, hiking, gardening and of course spending lots of time together in nature. Riitta works part time at the Scandinavian Community Centre in Vancouver, and also volunteers part time, and she goes back to Sweden and Finland at least once a year.

- It is not always easy, but "following my heart" is the best thing I have ever done for myself, Riitta says. I will probably never understand from where I got the courage.

With this story and photos both Riitta and Ron want to welcome all their family and friends to their home and the beautifulness of Canada. They also want to inspire other people in a crisis to struggle, communicate and care for each other. It is never too late to change.

Article and photos by Maria Langen

Photos

  • PORT COQUITLAM, BC CANADA 2013-08-07 The North American Black Bear is common from the State of Florida north, into Canada and north to Alaska. This one is spotted from "Roniittas" garden at the Oxbow Sidechannel in in Port Coquitlam. It is believed to be about three years old and it could live up to 25 years in the wild. The black bear is omnivorous and their diet is mostly of vegetable matter. Males reach full size at about 8 years of age. Females mate and produce cubs at 5 to 7 years of age. Males weigh up to 280kg(600 pounds). Photo Maria Langen / Sverredal & Langen AB

  • PORT COQUITLAM, BC CANADA 2013-08-07 Environment, nature and gardening are three of Riitta's main interests when she is not doing sports or Scandinavian dancing. The "Roniitta" Garden is a project that Riitta has created and cares for together with her husband Ron, in Canada. Photo Maria Langen / Sverredal & Langen AB

  • PORT COQUITLAM, BC CANADA 2013-08-07 Environment, nature and gardening are three of Riitta's main interests when she is not doing sports or Scandinavian dancing. The "Roniitta" Garden is a project that Riitta has created and cares for together with her husband Ron, in Canada. Photo Maria Langen / Sverredal & Langen AB

  • PORT COQUITLAM, BC CANADA 2013-08-07 Environment, nature and gardening are three of Riitta's main interests when she is not doing sports or Scandinavian dancing. The "Roniitta" Garden is a project that Riitta has created and cares for together with her husband Ron, in Canada. Photo Maria Langen / Sverredal & Langen AB

  • VANCOUVER 2013-08-09 "How to pay for parking in Canada?" Everything is new for a person who migrate and settle in a new country. It is a big step and challenging but also inspiring and fun. Photo Maria Langen / Sverredal & Langen AB

  • VANCOUVER 2013-08-09 "Dog off-leash area" in Stanly Park, Canada? Owners are responsible for the actions of their dogs and must pick up and dispose of their dog's waste.They must also have a valid license for their dog. Animal Control Bylaw enforcement takes place at all parks and beaches throughout the year and fines of between $250 and $2000 are issued to people who disobey the rules. Photo Maria Langen / Sverredal & Langen AB

  • VANCOUVER 2013-08-09 Stanley Park in the city of Vancouver, Canada, is the first, largest, and probably most beloved urban park. The park is surrounded by water, ideal for going around by different means. Riitta often enjoys the scenic views of water, mountains, sky, and majestic trees along Stanley Park's 8.8 km long famous Seawall. Photo Maria Langen / Sverredal & Langen AB

  • VANCOUVER 2013-08-09 Stanley Park is Vancouver's first, largest, and probably most beloved urban park. The park is surrounded by water, ideal for going around by different means. Riitta often walk, enjoying the scenic views of water and bird life along the 8.8 km long Seawall. Photo Maria Langen / Sverredal & Langen AB

  • VANCOUVER 2013-08-09 Stanley Park is Vancouver's first, largest, and probably most beloved urban park. The park is surrounded by water, ideal to go around by different means. Riitta often walk, enjoying the scenic views of water and bird life along the 8.8 km long Seawall. Photo Maria Langen / Sverredal & Langen AB

  • VANCOUVER 2013-08-09 Stanley Park in the city of Vancouver, Canada is Vancouver's first, largest, and probably most beloved urban park. The park is surrounded by water, ideal to walk around. Riitta still explores the 400-hectare natural West Coast rainforest and enjoys the scenic views of water, mountains, sky, majestic trees as well as the cultural and historical landmarks along the 8.8 km long Seawall. Photo Maria Langen / Sverredal & Langen AB

  • VANCOUVER 2013-08-09 Stanley Park in the city of Vancouver, Canada is Vancouver's first, largest, and probably most beloved urban park. The park is surrounded by water, ideal to walk around. Riitta still explores the 400-hectare natural West Coast rainforest and enjoys the scenic views of water, mountains, sky, majestic trees as well as the cultural and historical landmarks along the 8.8 km long Seawall. Photo Maria Langen / Sverredal & Langen AB

  • VANCOUVER 2013-08-09 Stanley Park is Vancouver's first, largest, and probably most beloved urban park surrounded by water. Riitta still discover the area with cultural and historical landmarks, along with many other adventures and attractions. It helps her to settle and get to know her new country and culture better. This is one out of nine totem poles at Brockton Point, BC's most visited tourist attraction, First nations art and totem poles. Photo Maria Langen / Sverredal & Langen AB

  • VANCOUVER 2013-08-09 Stanley Park is Vancouver's first, largest, and probably most beloved urban park surrounded by water. Riitta still discover the area with cultural and historical landmarks, along with many other adventures and attractions. It helps her to settle and get to know her new country and culture better. Photo Maria Langen / Sverredal & Langen AB

  • VANCOUVER, BC, CANADA 2013-08-09 Sea otters could be seen in Stanley Park, Vancouver's first, largest, and probably most beloved urban park. Vancouver is also home to a large range of wildlife - everything from coyotes, eagles, and dolphins to deer, raccoons, and skunks. This day Riitta was lucky seeing sea otters. Sea otters like "sun-bathing" and often prefer to dine while floating on its back, using tools such as rocks to crack open the shells of its prey. They can even sleep in the sea. The City is not legally responsible for wildlife, though the Parks Control Bylaw prohibits feeding wildlife within parks. Photo Maria Langen / Sverredal & Langen AB

  • VANCOUVER, BC, CANADA 2013-08-09 Sea otters could be seen in Stanley Park, Vancouver's first, largest, and probably most beloved urban park. Vancouver is also home to a large range of wildlife - everything from coyotes, eagles, and dolphins to deers, raccoons, and skunks. This day Riitta was lucky seeing sea otters. Sea otters like "sun-bathing" and often prefer to dine while floating on its back, using tools such as rocks to crack open the shells of its prey. They can even sleep in the sea. The City is not legally responsible for wildlife, though the Parks Control Bylaw prohibits feeding wildlife within parks. Photo Maria Langen / Sverredal & Langen AB

  • VANCOUVER 2013-08-09 Stanley Park is Vancouver's first, largest, and probably most beloved urban park surrounded by water. Riitta still discover the area with their landmarks. One is the Siwash Rock - a 32 million-year-old rock outcropping - located just off the seawall in Stanley Park. Photo Maria Langen / Sverredal & Langen AB

  • VANCOUVER 2013-08-09 Stanley Park is Vancouver's first, largest, and probably most beloved urban park surrounded by water. Sometimes when Riitta is strolling around the Seawall in downtown Vancouver, Stanley Park or along False Creek, she sees seagulls or herons, otters, harbour seals. Another staple sight on the waterfront is balanced rocks. Those sculptures stay tall until knocked down by incoming waves. Photo Maria Langen / Sverredal & Langen AB

  • VANCOUVER 2013-08-09 Stanley Park is Vancouver's first, largest, and probably most beloved urban park surrounded by water. Sometimes when Riitta is strolling around the Seawall in downtown Vancouver, Stanley Park or along False Creek, she sees seagulls or herons, otters, harbour seals. Another staple sight on the waterfront is balanced rocks. Those sculptures stay tall until knocked down by incoming waves. Photo Maria Langen / Sverredal & Langen AB

  • VANCOUVER 2013-08-09 Stanley Park is Vancouver's first, largest, and probably most beloved urban park surrounded by water. Riitta still discovers the area, culture and people. Today she met this artist on her walk in Stanley Park. He showed off with balancing rocks that amazed all people who passed by in Stanley Park. We would like to mention his name but sorry, we cannot find him. If someone knows him, please contact the photo agency and we will add his name to this article! Photo Maria Langen / Sverredal & Langen AB

  • VANCOUVER 2013-08-09 Canadian limo parking slot in the city of Vancouver. It is not Riitta's limo though. It is not so easy to know where to park a car in a new country. But in this parking area your car should be safe, which means it is also expensive to park here. Next day I know that Riitta found a free parking spot on the street. In Vancouver you are also allowed to park your car in the bus lanes, off rush hours. Photo Maria Langen / Sverredal & Langen AB

  • VANCOUVER 2013-08-09 It is not so easy to know where to park a car when you move to a new country. Today Riitta found a parking area where the car could be safe, but she found out that it was far to expensive to park here. Next day I know that Riitta found a free parking spot on the street. In Vancouver you are also allowed to park your car in the bus lanes, off rush hours. Photo Maria Langen / Sverredal & Langen AB

  • CITY OF VANCOUVER 2013-08-10 Riitta is one of many international women in Canada. She lives close to the coastal seaport city of Vancouver on the mainland of British Columbia. The city is one of the most ethnically and linguistically diversed cities in Canada; at least half of its residents have a first language other than English. Photo Maria Langen / Sverredal & Langen AB

  • CITY OF VANCOUVER 2013-08-10 Riitta is one of many international women in Canada. She lives close to the coastal seaport city of Vancouver on the mainland of British Columbia. The city is one of the most ethnically and linguistically diversed cities in Canada; at least half of its residents have a first language other than English. Photo Maria Langen / Sverredal & Langen AB

  • CITY OF VANCOUVER 2013-08-11 Both Riitta and her Canadian husband love showing their country to visitors, Riittas family and friends - also to photo journalists like myself. I have learnt that Vancouver people in general care a lot abotu the environment and farming. Everywhere you see signs like "sunlight farms", "fresh fruit" - also in this shopping market. Photo Maria Langen / Sverredal & Langen AB

  • CITY OF VANCOUVER 2013-08-10 Both Riitta and her Canadian husband love showing their country to visitors, Riittas family and friends - also to photo journalists like myself. I have learnt that many Vancouver people is open-minded, friendly and do not hesitate to wear a headgear, but probably those ones at the shopping market are mainly made for toursits... Photo Maria Langen / Sverredal & Langen AB

  • CITY OF VANCOUVER 2013-08-11 Both Riitta and her Canadian husband love showing their country to visitors, Riittas family and friends - also to photo journalists like myself. I have learnt that Vancouver people in general care a lot abotu the environment and farming. In the fruit market you can buy almost all fruits and vegetables - in the picture cherries at the fruit market in a Vancouver city shopping centre. Photo Maria Langen / Sverredal & Langen AB

  • CITY OF VANCOUVER 2013-08-10 Both Riitta and her Canadian husband love showing their country to visitors, Riittas family and friends - also to photo journalists like myself. I have learnt that many Vancouver people is open-minded, friendly and do not hesitate to wear a headgear. Today also Riitta tried and bought a hat at the shopping centre to protect herself from the sun. Photo Maria Langen / Sverredal & Langen AB

  • CITY OF VANCOUVER 2013-08-11 Both Riitta and her Canadian husband love showing their country to visitors, Riittas family and friends - also to photo journalists like myself. I have learnt that the Vancouver people is creative and solution orientated. They bring different ideas to the city of Vancouver from all over the world. Why not use a boot with flowers as a door stop? Photo Maria Langen / Sverredal & Langen AB

  • CITY OF VANCOUVER 2013-08-11 Both Riitta and her Canadian husband love showing their country to visitors. I have learnt that Vancouver and its people is as international as Riitta herself. She is amazed and likes the fact that so many people from different cultures and countries live, study and work here. Strolling around the city you also get a feeling that almost all nationalities are represented in different parts of the city. For example there are many people from South Korea living in Vancouver. Photo Maria Langen / Sverredal & Langen AB

  • CITY OF VANCOUVER 2013-08-11 Both Riitta and her Canadian husband love showing their country to visitors. I have learnt that Vancouver and its people is as international as Riitta herself. She is amazed and likes the fact that so many people from different cultures and countries live, study and work here. Strolling around the city - and explore both alleys and main roads - you get a feeling that almost all nationalities are represented in different parts of the city. Photo Maria Langen / Sverredal & Langen AB

  • CITY OF VANCOUVER 2013-08-11 Right in the heart of Vancouver’s Chinatown, Riitta has found a place to reflect and gather inspiration for her own garden. It is the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden and adjacent Sun Yat-Sen Park that is her oasis. The garden is an authentic representation of Ming Dynasty-era tradition and the first of its kind outside China. Photo Maria Langen / Sverredal & Langen AB

  • CITY OF VANCOUVER 2013-08-11 Right in the heart of Vancouver’s Chinatown, Riitta has found a place to reflect and gather inspiration for her own garden. It is the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden and adjacent Sun Yat-Sen Park - that is her oasis. The garden is an authentic representation of Ming Dynasty-era tradition and the first of its kind outside China. Photo Maria Langen / Sverredal & Langen AB

  • CITY OF VANCOUVER 2013-08-12 Whenever Riitta and her Candadian husband Ron get a chance they go by bike or car to enjoy the nature and beautiful scenaries of Greater Vancouver. Photo Maria Langen / Sverredal & Langen AB

  • VANCOUVER, BC, CANADA 2013-08-12 When you do a big life change and move to a new country it is not always easy to get a job for a start. Riitta has managed and it is worth to celebrate. She started off as a volonteer and later got a part-time job at the Scandinavian Community Centre in Vancouver - within cycling distance from home. The Scandinavian Centre is a meeting place for all Scandinavians, local and visiting, who strive to preserve and promote Nordic culture, community and spirit within the Greater Vancouver area. Photo Maria Langen / Sverredal & Langen AB

  • VANCOUVER, BC, CANADA 2013-08-12 When you do a big life change and move to a new country it is not always easy to get a job for a start. Riitta has managed and it is worth to celebrate. She started off as a volonteer and later got a part-time job at the Scandinavian Community Centre in Vancouver - within cycling distance from home. The Scandinavian Centre is a meeting place for all Scandinavians, local and visiting, who strive to preserve and promote Nordic culture, community and spirit within the Greater Vancouver area. Photo Maria Langen / Sverredal & Langen AB

  • VANCOUVER, BC, CANADA 2013-08-12 When you do a big life change and move to a new country it is not always easy to get a job for a start. Riitta has managed and it is worth to celebrate. She started off as a volonteer and later got a part-time job at the Scandinavian Community Centre in Vancouver - within cycling distance from home. The Scandinavian Centre is a meeting place for all Scandinavians, local and visiting, who strive to preserve and promote Nordic culture, community and spirit within the Greater Vancouver area. Photo Maria Langen / Sverredal & Langen AB

  • VANCOUVER, BC, CANADA 2013-08-12 When you do a big life change and move to a new country it is not always easy to get a job for a start. Riitta has managed and it is worth to celebrate. She started off as a volonteer and later got a part-time job at the Scandinavian Community Centre in Vancouver - within cycling distance from home. The Scandinavian Centre is a meeting place for all Scandinavians, local and visiting, who strive to preserve and promote Nordic culture, community and spirit within the Greater Vancouver area. Photo Maria Langen / Sverredal & Langen AB

  • VANCOUVER, BC, CANADA 2013-08-12 When you do a big life change and move to a new country it is not always easy to get a job for a start. Riitta has managed and it is worth to celebrate. She started off as a volonteer and later got a part-time job at the Scandinavian Community Centre in Vancouver - within cycling distance from home. The Scandinavian Centre is a meeting place for all Scandinavians, local and visiting, who strive to preserve and promote Nordic culture, community and spirit within the Greater Vancouver area. Photo Maria Langen / Sverredal & Langen AB

  • CANADA BC 2013-08-12 Nature, environment, fishing and gardening are some of Riitta's main interests. She can easily find beautiful sceneries and places in Canada that brings up all the good memories from Scandinavia where she still has her heart. Photo Maria Langen / Sverredal & Langen AB

  • CANADA BC 2013-08-12 Nature, environment, fishing and gardening are some of Riitta's main interests. She can easily find beautiful sceneries and places in Canada that brings up all the good memories from Scandinavia where she still has her heart. Photo Maria Langen / Sverredal & Langen AB

  • BURNABY, BC, CANADA 2013-08-12 Nature, environment, fishing and gardening are some of Riitta's main interests. She can easily find beautiful sceneries and places in Canada that brings up all the good memories from Scandinavia where she still has her heart. Although she does not have the same access to the water as in Scandinavia there are many parks and lakes around. Close to the Scandinavian Centre we walk the Deer Lake in Burnaby and the surrounding areas with its amazing garden arts. Photo Maria Langen / Sverredal & Langen AB

  • CANADA BC 2013-08-12 Nature, environment, fishing and gardening are some of Riitta's main interests. She can easily find beautiful sceneries and places in Canada that brings up all the good memories from Scandinavia where she still has her heart. Although she does not have the same access to the water as in Scandinavia there are many parks and lakes around. Close to the Scandinavian Centre we walk the Deer Lake in Burnaby and the surrounding areas with its amazing garden arts. Photo Maria Langen / Sverredal & Langen AB

  • STEVESTON, RICHMOND, CANADA 2013-08-12 Both residents and tourists visit Steveston. It is one of the most important ports in North America at the height of the salmon-canning industry. Vast machine and then-modern technologies is still standing on wooden pilings over Fraser River. Here you can dine out or buy your own salmon to cook. Photo Maria Langen / Sverredal & Langen AB

  • STEVESTON, RICHMOND, CANADA 2013-08-12 Riittas husband Ron has just bought his wife Riitta a Salmon in Steveston to be prepared for dinner. Both residents and tourists visit the area. It is one of the most important ports in North America at the height of the salmon-canning industry. Fraser River. Photo Maria Langen / Sverredal & Langen AB

  • STEVESTON, RICHMOND, CANADA 2013-08-12 In Steveston area it is not only possible to visit the port. Riitta and her husband Ron also go there walking, looking at the dragons flying and enjoying the spare time together. Photo Maria Langen / Sverredal & Langen AB

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