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Showing posts from May, 2009

Curators and politicians

Tonight I had dinner with one of the curators from the Greenlandic National Museum and Archives. He is married to one of the top politicians in Greenland, a very well traveled and knowledgeable woman, so we had an interesting conversation about the American military and the financial situation in Iceland. It occurred to me that several other curators I know are also married to politicians, if not to other academics. So the curators intermediary role, between politics and research, manifests itself even in the curator's personal life.

Technical glitches

Well, my technologies woes in Greenland continue. My camera batteries died, which means I cannot upload the groovy pictures I took. Which is probably just as well, since it costs me 2 DKK a minute to use the internet, just about. Yes, I am looking forward to being home, in Iceland.

Earthquakes

There have been a series of earthquakes over the last few days on Reykjanes peninsula, most of them centered near Grindavik, and felt all over the peninsula, up to Reykjavik, and even over to Hvollsvollur on the south coast. 
This of course has got me worried, worried about the museum. To take an exhibition made at the Smithsonian, which used the most sophisticated printing techniques, the most secure case construction, the best practice exhibition design, etc., and put it here, well, let's just say it has increased my appreciation for the amazing skill of the professionals at the Smithsonian. 
One particular demonstration of exhibition bravado and skill comes in how the objects are displayed within the cases. Many museums, most in fact, put objects on shelves, sometimes with a little something to hold them up at an angle, but often nothing at all, often just laying on a shelf. Well, not the good folks at the Smithsonian. Nope. Instead, every artifact was carefully examined with the…

Whatever.

Last night my parents skyped me in my hotel here in Nuuk (one other benefit of skype, a person can be reached anywhere!). I was telling them that I had no idea what the conversion rate was, but that since my lunch cost 72 Danish Kroner, and my hotel room 1400 DK per night, either my lunch was the deal of the century, or my hotel room was way too expensive. Checked on it just a bit ago, and yeppers, lunch was normal priced, and my hotel room is ridiculous. The reason for this is it is the only hotel in Nuuk, a town of 17,000. There is a youth hostile outside of town, but very far from the museum. So, looks like I'll be making the best of my hotel room. At least it has a flat screen TV...

Party weekend

Things in Greenland are gearing up for a party weekend. Monday is a holiday, and Tuesday is electiondayhere, so allthepoliticiansare hosting rallies. As I walkedpastthegrocery store, I sawpeoplestrolling out with tons ofbeer and liquor. I myself do not plan to join in thefestivities. All I want to do is cozy up and do nothing.

South Greenland, East Greenland, Greenland

I am in Nuuk, the capital of Greenland. This does not seem as exotic to me as it seems to be to other people, since well, I have been to Greenland before. But then I was in South Greenland, in Eiriksfjord; the cruise ship I was lecturing on stopped there. Between Nuuk and South Greenland is a good 500 kilometers of basically nothing, and that was the same way in the Norse period, two settlements hundreds of miles apart, and yet having regular interaction with one another. There is also a third area of Greenland that is inhabited, East Greenland. Although I have never been there, I have heard it has its own language really and the people are quite different. 
What I have started to notice though is that there is a pretty good connection between East Greenland and Nuuk, regular flights back and forth for instance. What is a little less clear to me is the relationship between East Greenland and South Greenland. There are no historic ties there, and there is no political necessity for a li…

I am so lame

I'm here at the airport, came super early since I was dropping off my Swedish colleague, whose flight was at 8am. My flight to Greenland is not until 9:45. To be at the airport when all the other passengers have departed is an awkward situation, all the staff people that work in the shops and coffee places are looking at me like I am some idiot that missed her flight. This impression was not improved by the hotspot refusing to let me sign in from my own computer. I asked three people how to fix that, none of them had any offers of help. Finally got that figured out on my own, only to discover I had left my plug converter--from American (my Mac is born in the USA!) over to Icelandic--was left at home.  OK, so I go to Elko to buy a plug converter. They only sell huge multipacks of converters; waste of money but otherwise not so bad, since I am not sure what type of plus they use in Greenland anyhow. But guess what? The Mac design of a plug is too wide to fit into the adapter from El…

Þokkaleg

When I straightened up my desk this evening, even though it was mostly piling up the papers strewn everywhere into one pile, I did also take a moment to arrange my books to stand up next to the computer. And then I remembered to grab packaging material for the artifacts, and print out all I would need for my trip. I decided it was þokkaleg to do so. And now I feel ready to go.

Anonymity

My favorite thing about the Blue Lagoon is how completely anonymous I feel in there. Everyone is floating around neck deep in water, so all you see is everyone's head. That head is then obscured by a thick layer of steam, so that it is hard to see even the people closest to you. And if you can see them, half of them have white stuff smeared all over their faces anyhow, so they are basically unrecognizable. So I have gotten in the habit of just deciding on a meeting time outside of the pool when I go there with people, instead of assuming I will be able to find them in the water.

A tale of one stone and two spear points

The stone was installed today, and it did not crack in half!! Oh my goodness, what a huge relief! 1200 year old limestone artifact, could totally have happened. And my three carpenters did such a good job really carefully putting in in place, that the Swedish courier basically decided we are bonified, even after it came to light that I had requested, and received, two spear heads, when in fact I had only designed the case for one. There is no way to get around that, I simply did not take enough time with it, was not careful enough about double checking. He had told me one was not available, but he had also told me he was suggesting an alternative. Anyhow, somehow this got confused in my head, so this afternoon was spent completely redesigning the case, and tomorrow we will install the weapons. 
The courier was so nice though, he said he'd been at far less well organized installations. I am not sure I believe him, but then I have never fooled myself into thinking I am an amazingly o…

P A L M E R - what does that spell?!

Last night when Palmer saw me on Skype, he got so excited, just yelled out, "hi mom!" and then started talking and talking. It is so amazing how completely sweet he is. All his teachers comment on it, how he looks them right in the eye and totally engages. 
Man, it will be wonderful to have him here with me this summer.

Not so bad

Well, at least the stone arrived without getting caught up in customs, or stuck in the door, or dropped. 
And I actually think, though I could be completely deceiving myself, I actually think two people I work with went, "wow, she isn't just a hyper flakey b*tch. She actually knows what she is doing." I think it was just a temporary fleeting thought, but I swore I saw some remote glimmer of that in their eyes. 
All in all, not such a bad day. I even seem to be a bit happy, though I am too tired to know for sure.

What can I do to help?

I was talking to my mom last night, about how bad I am at all this local politics stuff. And she suggested that I just assume the people here in town want to help me, are in fact rather asking, "What can I do to help?".  There are actually some things they could help with, but even just knowing that they would like to help, helps a lot.

High rises

As an aside, it should generally be considered that any meeting that needs to be delayed by an hour is best rescheduled for another day. When the person is less busy and not just squeezing you in between a bunch of other things. But no, instead me and a lady from Reykjavik today tried to work around the schedule of the sound guy, and that ended up meaning that I drove into the city for no reason. 
It did however give me a chance to walk around Perlan. And then drive past Smaralind. 
From Perlan, as one soaks in the beautiful views from Reykjanes to Akranes, admiring the mountains and the clouds and the ocean, one cannot also help but notice how completely ridiculously out of place the 30 story black glass high rise is that is now, I guess, completed along Saebraut, Reykjavik. A few blocks down from the lovely white cement building where Gorbachev and Reagan met, across the street from some really nice public art, there looms this thing plucked right out of Wichita. I had to turn away fo…

Memorial day weekend

This weekend in the United States is Memorial Day weekend, which is supposed to be a time to honor those who died in military service, but instead, because of the timing of it, has become the symbolic beginning of summer. People go camping, go to the beach, it is the weekend people look forward to all winter long. Always filled with good times and barbeques. 
Here in Iceland, Thursday was a holiday, the day Christ ascended to the heavens. Most people took Thursday and Friday off, not only here in Iceland but also in Sweden (I happen to know because a Swedish colleague is coming on Tuesday night - with some artifacts - and we had to get it all arranged on Wednesday!). 
But still it seems to me that Icelanders are celebrating this weekend, because a long holiday is always something to look forward to.

Grocery store

I need very much to go to the grocery store; I do not even have coffee anymore, although thank goodness there was some instant in the back of the cabinet. So that should be on my list. 
The problem is, I never write lists when I go to the grocery store, really I don't. I just drive over there, and see what is available, see what looks fresh, what is on sale, what is on the shelves that was not there before, and then figure out while I'm cruising the aisles what I want to buy. Sometimes, this means that I get home and go Doh! I forgot toilet paper or something else equally crucial. But on the plus side, this means I am continually surprised, by what is on the conveyor belt, what I unload when I get home, and what is actually in my refrigerator. Suits me very well, since of course the main point is I will not starve.

5 minutes

Leaving the airport today, I saw the big new billboard, with a picture of Gunnar's ship, the name Viking World, and then the slogan, 'Five Minutes'. I know the idea here is that we are only 5 minutes from the airport, but a museum professional such as myself would rather hope that people devote a good hour or two to discovering all we have to offer, taking their time. Once the outside area is done, three hours would not be out of the question at all. Come explore our world is rather more what I would like it to say.

A lot of work ahead

It turns out just about everything that I think should only take me a day is taking me three or four days. Which means I still have a lot of work to do.

New York scenes

Image
OK, here are a few photos from my trip. Really hardly does the Big Apple justice.  They also uploaded in reverse order. So, starting from the bottom, that was the first night I arrived. New York is really great at night. Then there was the army of taxis at Central Park South and 7th. I was really trying to take a picture of the building at the far corner. Then I noticed the clothing shop at that same corner - the most gorgeous men's shirts I think I have seen in a long time. Walking along Central Park South, I wandered past a cool fine art dealer - the bell hops at the fancy buildings next door were not pleased I had taken a picture of the display - guess that is gouche. And now back at JFK, where an Icelandic rock band has made themselves cozy on their equipment, beer in hand, while waiting to check in, same as me (well, except the beer in hand sitting on my equipment playing poker details).

Hofstaðir

I was so overjoyed yesterday at lunch that I almost grabbed the hand of the gentlemen sitting next to me, and then remembered I had just met him, so that might be weird. But our other luncheon companion, Tom McGovern, had started telling me about his find from Hofstaðir two summers ago, I guess it was. Woops, I am tearing up now writing about it. 
Tom is a scientist, all about core samples for precise long-term measurements, bar graphs, and data data data. When I first met him, a fresh eyed assistant curator babbling on about the sagas and Iceland, I got the feeling he did not think my scholarship would have much to contribute to his scholarship. But he was always very friendly, and it was cool to go visit the site he has been working on in Northern Iceland, near Lake Myvatn, which I did some summers back. 
Yesterday at lunch Tom was talking about collaborative projects, ways basically that we could get an extra research agenda through linking it with the public outreach potential of my…

International Monetary Fund

I had dinner tonight with my Icelandic cousin, the violist who has created a life for herself in NY as a freelance artist. We spoke a lot about the situation in Iceland, the lack of a deep talent pool, to put it mildly, in matters of governance and finance, or even business. Neither one of us was exactly sure how much Iceland has already committed to the AGS (or IMF, in English), nor for how long Iceland will be beholden to its rules and regulations. We both agreed the less, the better. Because the goal of the AGS is to make Iceland a third world country, by the looks of it.

Walking in NY

It happens to me all the time, when I am in Manhattan. I look at the subway map, do a quick calculation of how many blocks it is from my location to my destination, and then I end up walking. "It is only 10 blocks" or "only 3 blocks over to 69th" (though then 10 blocks up...). And once I start walking, I refuse to then give up and get on the subway. My feet have made up their mind, they are heading where they are heading. And actually, since most walks in NY include a peak at Central Park, one really cannot go wrong.

Pig bones

Lest anyone think I am doing something super glamorous in Manhattan, I am rather consulting with an environmental scientist on the impact of grazing animals on fragile island ecosystems. And hoping to get some pig bones and bird bones for *my* exhibit.

New York New York!

I arrived in Manhattan a few minutes ago. I have some meetings tomorrow at Hunter College. 
Being in Manhattan always reminds me of when the Viking exhibition was coming to the American Museum of Natural History, and I made several trips from D.C. up here for that. Plus just coming to visit a few times. Walking around Central Park is amazing, any time of the year, in any weather.
When I think of a city, I think of Manhattan. When I think of living in a city, I think of Manhattan. The energy on the street here is nothing short of electrifying. 
I really should get better about putting in photos. Guess I need to get one of those flickr accounts or something.

That's more like it

There are clouds in the sky today and a chill in the air, which suits me fine. It was really weirding me out, all this desert weather.

Amanda says . . .

that I look just beautiful these days. She's sweet that way. I think it is a trick of the camera, when a person is too thin. If I was in black and white, I could be in one of the Dreyer films she is researching, which she argues are all very melodramatic. Other Dreyer experts disagree.

A continuous whole

It seems to me, and I could be wrong, but it seems to me that there is no distinction between personal life and professional life in Iceland. That although distinct, although called on at different times and for different purposes, they still flow in and out of one another, respond to and work in concert with, one another. One would not exist without the other, that is my impression. And it occurs to me, that is how it ought to be.

The beach

Today I wore my flip flops, which does not happen very often in Iceland. Then I talked to Dave and Palmer, and heard about their trip to the beach yesterday, which made me think about taking Palmer to the "beach" in Reykjavik. He likes the petting zoo very much, and of course I hope he likes my museum. It will be great to have him with me this summer. 
I think also his dad is looking forward to a tiny break. He has no time to clean the house or go grocery shopping. Such is the life of a full time single parent.

Unable to explain

It is becoming increasingly apparent that I have really missed the boat with how Icelandic business works. I have not spent near enough time just chit chatting with people about what I am doing. I have submitted written reports and PDF files, but have gotten so little feedback, I pretty much stopped doing that too. I kept waiting for the sort of meetings I have had with every other project I have worked on, two, three hour meetings where an issue is discussed in depth until a satisfactory resolution is found for all involved. 
The problem is that what I am doing is rather complex, and no one around here has any familiarity really with how it is done. About two steps into explaining a 10 stop process, either myself or the person listening gives up. That's OK, I do not need so much to have people understand what I am doing as just let me do it.

World's colliding

There is something very strange about such a warm day in Iceland, everyone is suddenly outside and the whole place feels different. It makes me feel like I am simultaneously in Iceland and in Searchlight Nevada. The strange part though is that does not seem to bother me at all, my brain just somehow reconciles the similtude into rectitude. Once again proving that I am very bad at categorization. But then, why shouldn't Iceland get some Nevada weather from time to time?

Leaves

The trees outside my house have suddenly sprung leaves. Rebirth is happening.

Snow

I finally broke down and decided to watch this Eurovision silliness. Now, certainly, I am horribly biased, but I think without prejudice one just must say that the Icelandic entry is very good. That Johanna girl can really sing!

Easy bake oven

I wonder how Hasbro actually got away with selling Easy Bake Ovens, and I wonder if anyone was gullible enough here in Iceland to buy one. I remember even as a kid being roundly dissatisfied with the dried out, tasteless, uneven "cake" that would emerge from the lightbulb-heated area they rather generously termed the oven. 
To make a real cake, one needs whole wheat flour, fresh eggs, and sugar. Not some premixed goo.

Greenland

Today I booked two flights, one to New York next week (to get objects for the Faeroes case - don't ask), and another one to Greenland. That one is on May 29th, the first direct flight from Iceland for the summer, but I will not be able to return until June 1st, because the return flight on the 29th was all sold out (I guess Greenlanders were anxious to leave!).
I hope while I am there to find out a bit more about the carvings they make, tupilak. I have one, and when it was given to me, my colleague could not remember which face was the evil face and which one benevolent. But since it topples over if it is turned one way, and not the other, I decided that must be the good side. Two weeks from now I can find out for sure. 
The main thing I am looking forward to though (besides getting my hands on the artifacts for the show) is walking around Nuuk. I have never been there before, but if it is anything like the parts of Greenland I have visited, I believe it will renew me. Such is the p…

Car wash

Other than when the roads have been salted, and I feel the immediate need even in the cold weather to scrub my hubcaps, I must say I am otherwise rather lazy about washing my car. I always expect that it will rain, and that the rain will be long enough and strong enough to wipe away all the dust and dirt. This has as of yet not proven the case with the newest layer of grime, but that is OK, it is just the Icelandic countryside (Mosfellsbaersveit to be exact).

Summer

Today is a summer day here in Iceland, warm and sunny.

Domus Medicus

My mom, my brother, my best childhood friend, and several other relatives are in the medical field. I have never understood how something that they are so passionate about holds absolutely no interest for me. I never even considered doing that.
Here in Iceland, going into the medical field is quite an undertaking, especially to become a doctor, because the training must be completed abroad. That means Icelandic physicians are even more dedicated to the field than the average Joe.

krydd

Icelandic burger joints always ask you if you want your fries seasoned or not. They have this great seasoning they use, a mix of paprika and garlic I think, rather strong but really tasty. I have been known to ask for extra krydd. I did not do so tonight, which is a good thing. The burger was plenty tasty just as it was. Although it has left me rather thirsty!

Þjóðargjöf

Every house in Iceland got a coupon for 1000 kroner off an Icelandic book priced at 3000 or more. When I got it in the mail a few weeks ago, I remember being so surprised, especially at the name. The slogan on the back reads, 'national gift to the book nation'. The national pastime remains, as far as I can tell, reading. Which I think is an improvement over baseball.

NSF

Obama has DOUBLED the budget of the National Science Foundation. Good to be an American scientist these days.

Clouds

One of the clouds that just rushed past my window looked JUST like a happy, chubby puppy, running through a field. And there goes a brontosaurus.

Contacts

It is indeed good to make, build, and maintain contacts. This week I made two great new contacts, built trust with two old contacts, and pressed on two other old contacts to help me out in a crunch. Next week will be more of the same. Yeppers, getting artifacts on loan from various museums has its drawbacks, and its benefits. I predict by June 5th, this place will be smokin'.

I love archaeologists!

Yesterday the courier from Viking Ship Museum Oslo, arrived, and this morning we installed the Carolingian Beast Head in it's case. Not only does it looks super fly, none of the cracks worstend during transport! 
Then the courier from the Isle of Man arrived. Turns out both of them are archaeologists, so after a brief stop at Perlan, I asked them what they wanted to do; it was 5:30, too late to go see any museums, but too early for dinner. We decided to buy hotdogs and drive out to Jesse Byock's site at Hrisbru!  Yes! I love archeologists! No stuffy dinners at a fancy restaurant in town, no way! Instead we braved the wind and the sheep shit to better appreciate the site, which in all honesty is amazingly cool. 
There were perhaps things I could have been doing on my computer today, but one also needs to step outside, and look for ships in the landscape.

Trust me

Whenever I have presented my plans for the exhibition, people have always just said it sounds great, that they trust me. Never ever any content planning meetings, it has just been up to me to figure out what we are going to say and how. All fine and dandy, I have no problem with it, because I know what I want to do and why. But given the financial situation, an informative but family friendly exhibition may not quite be what everyone had in mind . . .

Securitas

Today, the transport company we were supposed to use said that they read we were using a different transport company, and therefore did not think it would be necessary for them to assist me today with an object that arrived. 
I therefore would like to state here and for the record that TVG is the transport company that is handling our artifacts. No one else.

HILARIOUS

Oh my goodness, the interview taken with me on Friday was shown on the evening news tonight. Thankfully, I had taken a shower, so I looked normal enough. The interviewer decided it was OK to let me speak Icelandic, which I really appreciated. Only problem is that my Icelandic ebbs and flows like the tide, sometimes it is fine and sometimes it really sucks, both speaking wise and comprehension wise. Quite a strange feeling to not understand what one has said oneself.

Delightful Danes

This morning I was in a bad mood after discovering two of the pictures had fallen down overnight. But then a group of 4 couples from Denmark showed up, laughing and joking, pretending to row the ship, etc. That helped cheer me up. But the little boy that came later with his grandparents, and asked all sorts of great questions, that was the best.

Chicken

When I was in California, there was only one brand of chicken I would buy, Rocky's Freerange Chicken. They only sell whole chickens, and I like that, that I had to cut it up myself, be fully aware of the fact that it was an actually animal I was consuming. So when I came here to Iceland, I got in the habit of buying Holta chickens, which are also sold whole, though always frozen. I have had one defrosting in my fridge for a few days, and actually forgot about it until this morning. Guess I'm having chicken tonight!

Palmer's Song

When Palmer was only a little baby, I started singing him this song, set to the tune roughly of an Icelandic song my grandmother used to sing for me, það var einu sinni krakar....
I once knew a baby,  a baby named Palmer I once knew a tiny little charmer named Palmer Hightower.
He was such a good baby A tiny little maybe the sweetest little drop of angel love.
He was my little baby My perfect little maybe A gift sent down from heaven above.

Sleep deprived

With three nights in a row of almost no sleep, and doing hard physical labor as well as mental labor over the last week, I keep hoping to be able to sleep. But the long days have set in already, making it seem odd to be asleep at all.

Letters to the editor

I tried to send a letter to the editor of Morgunblaðið, but it was refused, since well, it was in English and he did not know what I was talking about. The policy is they only publish in Icelandic, which is just as well, I suppose.

Hugues

A passenger that had sat next to me on a flight last year, and who sometimes peaks at my blog, came by the museum today -- he happened to be in town consulting on an aluminum plant job. He's French Canadian, and immediately asked me why there is no Icelandic text, since they always have both. So, to any others with the same question, and who may also read my blog, I hereby state that we are working on the translation, many apologies. I was of the opinion that doubling up the text would look bad, too crowded, but the way the exhibition is organized now, I think actually it will look really good.

Forms of authority

I was just skyping Dave (well, actually Palmer, but he tends to wander out of the room for a minute ["Just one minute mommy, wait right there...."] to get a car or something to show me). We got around to discussing my level of authority of work. He was talking about clauses I could write into my a contract to clarify my authority. Yeppers, this would be lovely. In fact, this is absolutely standard practice with most contractors, I cannot imagine being in a similarly nebulous situation as I am in here in the States (there in fact my work doing layout on a book about Bikky Sunizawa turned into the most complicated six party contract the lawyer could remember writing). But actually, I usually find that once people realize I have a thing or two going for me, I do not need to wave a piece of paper in their face about it. People get it.

update

No longer so sure it was a good idea at all. But there you go, what is done is done. Must just trust that there is some rhyme or reason.

"Opening Day"

Today we are declaring ourselves open for business starting at 11am. May 8th, 2009. Not a bad date. But indeed this is a strange opening, at least from my American perspective. There is no fan fare, really, there is no list of invitees, there is not even any real idea if anyone will show up at all. We are opening our doors with everything in working order, but the exhibition not completely done (the last artifact will not arrive until May 29th). Today we are starting our "preview" and "getting operations in order". This is a good idea, a good model. Because on the one hand there is a museum and on the other hand there is the exhibition. The exhibition will get its own opening later. (17 juni to be exact). For more info, see Vikingaheimar.com!

2am

In Iceland in early May, there is a bright spot in the western sky even at 2am. And the full moon glows just as bright.

Epiphany

I just has an epiphany, which means I have to go back down to the office. I hope someone offers me a proper Viking burial when this is all said and done.

Repeat visitors

There are major differences between a museum and a tourist attraction: an education objective, involvement with the local community, government sponsorship, ongoing programming. The idea is basically to get people to come to the museum very often, for members to feel a part of what we are doing, almost as if the museum were a community center. This takes a long time, but it is a good, steady way for the museum to maintain funding, and especially important if one expects grants. 
A tourist attraction on the other hand is not concerned with making long term connections with the local population. Their interest is only in the people coming from the outside who may only come once, and will want to spend lots of money on their one trip. To attract these sorts of visitors, it is all about offering a big impressive draw. Once they have seen it, they are free to leave. They disappear as quickly as they come.

Unable to speak

There are so many people running in and out of the building this week, everything from the fire inspector to the insurance adjustor to the carpenters to the security equipment installers. And I have phone calls to make to five different countries. And then go to the printers. And then try to write text and organize photos. 
The printer by the way was truly amazed when I told him we used the highly expensive and precise printing method reserved normally for massive quantities of the same text to print each piece of text for the Smithsonian (with a few tiny exceptions). The look he gave me is one I am familiar with. Seylon 4 is the name of my planet.

Travel

Boy it would be great if there was an easy way to get to Greenland and the Faeroe Islands. I have a feeling if Iceland were still a part of Denmark, there would be. The EU problem would also already have been sorted out. Geography, geography....

Mexican food in Iceland

In honor of Cincode Mayo, and the swine flu news, I have been thinking about Mexico. I have been to Mexico 6 or 7 times, twice when I was a kid with my parents, a few times before I was 21, to party in Tijuana, and then on my first honeymoon. Each and every trip is filled with a paradoxical mix of intense memories, the beauty and the pain of Mexico. Not a few of these experiences (the sensitive ought cover their ears now) ended in puking, including unfortunately, my honeymoon (the waitstaff at the fancy restaurant was NOT pleased). Or when I was a kid, the memory of how shockingly poor people who lived so close to me were, and are. One little girl riding a tricycle with only two wheels, and yet happy. 
I have been to three Mexican restaurants in Iceland, the food always pretty mediocre, but at least Tapas Bar has enough atmosphere to give some hint of the real place.

Bankruptcy, Icelandic style

I have known a few people in the U.S. who have had to declare bankruptcy, my first husband's parents, two friends of mine. In some ways it is a liberating thing to do; it allows one a really fresh start, all debts completely wiped clean. But in other ways, it is severely hampering, since once that gets on your credit report, it is hard to even rent an apartment, and there are some jobs that you are automatically disqualified for, like working at a bank. Plus for a minimum of 7 years, nothing doing getting a new loan. 
Ironically, my first husband worked at a law firm representing banks, and thus had to organize getting police to kick people out of their houses, once they were 3 months passed due on their mortgage. 
Anyhow, Icelanders have been bouncing around the idea for at least the last 4 months, actually more like 6 months, to stop paying on their mortgages, just stop paying. The mortgages in many cases have tripled, depending on what currency they were taken out in.
But it seems…

Repetition

It happens in the museum field that one ends up repeating oneself an awful lot. Each new group of tourists, each new class of school kids, each new adult that realizes the world is more interesting than he thought when he was 20, tends to ask at least some of the same questions. This can get a wee bit tiring. We therefore are designing computer monitors to be placed around the ship, to answer the most obvious questions. And the website (the English version of which I was working on Saturday and Sunday) is also meant to do the same. Hopefully, if one sticks to message long enough and in enough media, it will begin to sink in.

Majority vs. Minority

Yesterday, over coffee, Gunnar and I started explaining to the carpenter doing some work for us why we are planning to be different than Fjörukráin (note though that even this has an Icelandic name!). He listened, expressed some interest in the points we were making about the incorrect image of the Vikings establishments like that project. When we were somewhat done, said, (and here I translate), 'The problem is that you two are in the minority. I am in the majority. I would never think about these things at all. He runs a good business, is all I ever think.' 
Thus I take the opportunity to say this morning that the majority is not always right. In fact, these days in Iceland, it is left.

Basketball playoffs

Although I have not followed basketball all that much since college, I used to really be addicted to watching the Lakers play, and Michael Jordan. Now that it is playoff season, I am wondering if there are new players that show that same sort of athletic artistry on the court. Makes me feel kind of out of it that I do not know the answer to that....

Tjaralikt

After working all day beside a Viking ship, my clothing and my hair takes on a distinctive woody oder, with a hint of tar. Perhaps I should bottle it?

Deficit spending

Both the Icelandic government and my little project have ventured out somewhere we would rather not be, the realm of deficit spending. 
I always found this phrase amusing, because it has such a mixed connotation. It is actually a paradox, one utilized by both the right and the left. How can one spend money one does not have? Ah, but one cannot make any money to pay off the debt unless more money is spent fixing the problem. 
Businesses who are able to do this, are able to borrow more money when they are in debt, are companies that may have a cash flow problem, but they at least are not operating with a trust deficit. Much more important, then, than avoiding deficit spending is to do whatever is necessary to avoid a trust deficit. 

Sunday morning

Because I have been working every day of the weekend the last few weeks, I forgot that it was Sunday morning today. So I was happy just now when I remembered it.

Kjörís vs. emmenís

I learned today that the brand kjörís does not leave a funny aftertaste in one's mouth because it is made with milk and vegetable oil, instead of being made from cream. 
During this indepth conversation with my co-workers, I began to chuckle. Smári looked surprised, said he did not know that was a joke. 
He does not understand that I generally consider it a colossal waste of my time to participate in conversations that do not at least have some serious issue at the heart.

Langur dagur!

Well, myself, Smari the carpenter, Gunnar the ship captain, and David the Idol contestant had a good day at work. I was lifting things, painting things, screwing things together. It finally occurred to everyone that um, vacuuming Gunnar's ship was not quite so important as actually putting the exhibition together. I am extremely pleased to be getting some direct attention, because, well, you know, I am full of great ideas but they do not mean much if no one ever listens. 

Name game

Looks like it will be Vikingaheimar!

Windsong

Back in D.C., my boss and I worked on a documentary about Leif Eiriksson with a television company in town. One of their other consultants was Valgeir Guðjónsson, he made the music for the documentary and did some of the voiceover work; he had also arranged some funding from the Icelandic government. I had no idea who he was, although the producer said to me that he had been in a band in Iceland (a few years later I saw the Studmann movie, and was like, hey, I know that guy!). He was personable, and it was nice to have an Icelander on the project. When the exhibition opened, we showed a 10 minute re-edit of it as an intro film. I tell you what, Valgeir's song was not only the highlight of that video, it was one of the things we got the most visitor feedback about. 
Last week, on Thursday, I showed that video to our computer consultants, and have not been able to get Valgeir's song out of my head since then, not really. The chorus goes, 
"Listen to the windsong, See the wate…

Hmmm

My paper has become the tale of archaeology, saga scholarship, and historical research in Iceland, how things that were once one have become separated, and the potential for them to be reconciled again, perhaps through the egis of the National Museum. Which is good, since that is what I had in my abstract from July of last year!

Again with the metaphors

Is there an Icelandic equivalent of 'Digging one's own grave'? If there isn't, there should be.

Transferring funds

Two years ago, when I got my grant from the American Scandinavian Foundation, I asked them to deposit it into an Icelandic bank account I had just set up. Other than the bad exchange rate I got, this worked well. Now I have another grant payment expected in 2 months, and am looking forward to the exchange rate working rather in my favor this time. Of course, the fund administrator thinks it is terrible idea to send money to Iceland, said the other recipients are putting money in non-Icelandic accounts!