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Showing posts from April, 2010

Hospitable

My friend Candy and her husband Robbie, plus their two cats, had their flight from Iceland to Boston cancelled on them yesterday. I told them if that happened they should call me, and indeed they did.

So now I have house guest, unexpectedly, last night and tonight. This was not only fine with me, but felt very nice.

I have to say I am a little bit proud of myself, or proud of the upbringing I got from my mom, that I am hosting them even though both Palmer and I are really rather sick. I could have told them not to come on the basis it was for their own good, and perhaps Palmer would have gotten a bit better night's sleep.  But really I am so so happy for the company, and this is just a bad headcold, not the stomach flu or something.

So it is all good. And I am really happy I had a chance to give Candy some sense of security in the midst of a international move, exploding volcanos, and crying cats.

An orange fridge, etc.

A friend I met here in Iceland is leaving tomorrow, back to the States. I volunteered to take her fridge, one she's had since her and her husband lived in Australia actually. Somewhere along the journey it got painted orange with a swirly yellow design all around it, very Latin American or something.  I dig it.  So even though I will not need a fridge until I move or something, I still wanted to have it. It is safely in storage for now.

She wanted to hang onto the fridge until her very last day in town; it is afterall quite reassuring to know one has at least food, if not a place to sleep. So picking up the fridge meant I was part of her impromptu going away party. With my cold, and Palmer in tow, I was not able to send her off with a beer and lots of laughs, but we said a short, sincere goodbye. I think I will miss her a little.

Stuck in the 90s

My 20 year highschool reunion is coming up this summer (end of July, actually). They are planning to have it at one of the restaurants along "Downtown Disney Boulevard".

I went to my 10 year reunion, and really cannot decide if I want to go to this one now, especially since I would much rather be in Iceland in July than in California. The choice of restaurant is also rather discouraging, but on the other hand, the facebook page the organizing committee has set up is working really well. People are posting old photos and commenting, and all of us getting a chance to say hello.

It got me thinking though about something I once heard, that basically we develop our fashion, music, and artistic taste in our late teens and early 20s, with some slight modification up to 30. I know in my case, I became a lot less current in terms of pop-culture starting in my mid 20s. I actually never got into Friends or the Lord of the Ring movies or anything. I just sort of felt like I had gotten a…

Brave

Though the sky does look unusually smoggy for Iceland, I remember days in California when I could not see down to the end of the street. So I think Palmer and I will be brave and head outside, without our masks on.

Hotpot

Today in the midst of a very light sprinkle of snow, I saw a truck drive past with a hot pot on the flatbed.

One thing Icelanders and Californians have in common is their love of a good soak in a hot pot, or a jacuzzi as it is otherwise known.

Nú er ég algerlega tilbúin til þess.

Happy Days

Today Palmer and I went to the carnival that Altantic Studios here at Ásbrú was hosting as part of Sumardagurinn, and people were saying "Happy summer" to each other, while eating cotton candy and pizza and standing in line to jump on bouncy things or walk through a ghost house. Something about it reminded me of the TV show I literally grew up with, Happy Days. I watched that show every week, and then the reruns everyday, for many years. Looking through the youtube clips of it makes the show seem a lot worse than I remember it. Mostly I remember the theme song, and how cute the Cunninghams were as a family, and how cool the Fonz was. It was iconic of a certain idea of American history as rooted in the 1950s.

I suspect this show was never shown in Iceland. Or anyhow, the Fonzy "Heeeyyy" has no cultural currency here, nor does his finger snap to get a pretty girl to slide up next to him translate well in the Icelandic milieu.

But I think Icelanders might relate to ju…

Sumardagurinn fyrsti vs. Earth Day

Tomorrow all the schools and many of the businesses are closed here in Iceland because of the first day of summer. Many of the townships, as I have already noted, are putting together programs and activities on this day and weekend for kids and families.

Though I do not think this is a terrible idea, I rather preferred the way Californians commemorate the day after the spring equinox. Though it is not generally speaking a day off, Californians still make a big deal out of Earth Day, which is usually on the 21st or 22nd of April. I guess Icelanders feel like they do not need to follow the lead of the rest of the world, and want to carry on with their own ideas of how to mark the change of the seasons.

But despite these misgivings, and the President of Iceland's prediction that a Katla eruption is eminent, I will try my best to just relax and enjoy tomorrow, and not think too much that I could instead be at the Earth Day parade in San Francisco. Besides, I am sure Palmer will enjoy …

Easter tree

This last weekend, I was debating whether or not to plant the clipping Palmer got from his school just before Easter. It is a branch from a tree that has sprouted a nice set of roots the last few weeks, and many of the buds have opened up into little shoots of leaves. Sure it can't live forever in a glass in my window sill, but it seems to be doing pretty well there all things considered. On the other hand, it is always a little worrisome to take a clipping that is doing fine in water and put it into soil. If the soil is not good soil or not watered enough, or if the root system is not quiet developed enough, the plant will die. Plus, I plan to put this clipping into an empty planter I have out front, which adds to the worry. Though a freeze might not kill a clipping, it is not good for it either, especially if it is a prolonged freeze. And of course if the ash blows this way, that also would be bad for tender new leaves. So a gardner around here has more things to worry about tha…

Hard to decide what to do

This weekend, Thursday through Sunday, will be a Family Festival weekend in Reykjanesbaer, with lots of special activities all over town. Turns out there is also a festival in Reykjavík aimed at children this same weekend.

Of course with leikskóli being closed on Thursday, it is indeed possible to attend both festivals, say one on Thursday and the other on Saturday. But sometimes it is nice if there is less to choose from, instead of more.

Iceland's responsibility

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Of course the ash from Eyjafjallajökull is not Iceland's fault, and even less so the fact that the wind blew the ash to Europe, and even less so that modern airplanes really cannot tolerate flying through this kind of ash. But still, Icelanders do feel a bit bad, about all the people being stranded all over the place because of the airport closures.

A few Icelandic companies are trying to help out those passengers stranded here in Iceland, both by finding alternative flying routes or just discount hotel rooms, etc. I was thinking we should do something similar at Vikingaheimar, for people stuck at the airport, but that would take a lot of coordination with bus companies, etc., and I am not quite up for dealing with all that.

Instead, I am thinking I will be doing my own little part to help Iceland's tarnished reputation, if I give a tour of the museum to a British colleague I just ran into, who is stuck here now until Wednesday. Not that this makes me like the Greatest American…

Fowl fables

There has been a bit of a joke going around here in Iceland that the irresponsible behavior of the politicians and bankers here in Iceland the last few years is because all of them heard the same children's story in preschool, about the little yellow chicky who causes lots of trouble and always says it is not their fault, as far as I can tell. This is not a children's fable I am personally familiar with, but it seems to be pretty well known here in Iceland. 
Instead, in the U.S., we have a story called Rosie's Walk. In that story, Rosie the chicken leaves her coop for a stroll around the farm. A fox starts stalking her during her walk, and tries to pounce on her on five or six different occasions. The fox unfortunately misses everytime, landing instead on a rake or into the pond or into the bee hives. Rosie notices none of the mayhem happening around her, and just carries on her mary way, eventually making it back to her safe, cozy coop, none the worse for wear. 
I suppose t…

Cannot speak for others

Icelanders seem to be going through a range of different emotions about this volcanic eruption. Unlike the eruption of a few weeks ago, which was declared a "success" as it were--no property damage, lots of pretty pictures--this one is much more circumspect. Icelanders seem to be fighting off some sort of feeling of guilt that "their country" is grounding flights all over Europe. There is anxiety also that Icelanders abroad cannot get home, and now that flights out of Iceland have also been cancelled, there is anxiety about not being able to leave either. So, combined with all the emotions stirred up by the release of the Truth Commission Report on Monday, many Icelanders have their nerves a little frayed.

So, although I know I am not speaking for other when I say this, I think this eruption is just wonderful. In my book, anything that inspires awe is wonderful, and this eruption certainly does that, even more so than the last. And if we do not go through life thin…

This weekend?

There must be some sort of a plan for people to camp out in front of the Althingi this weekend. I really want to just sit silently on the front stoop, waiting. Especially after what I have heard and read in the skýrsla, a physical reaction seems to be in order.

Get ekki gera neitt í því

Upon entering the national library, I am greeted by signs telling the U.S. to get out. I knew there was an exhibition at the library about the protests surrounding the U.S. military base in Iceland, but I did not expect it to be quite so confrontational.

There are intellectual and symbolic grounds for Icelanders to object to the base in Keflavík, of course, such as Icelandic nationalism and a general anti-military stance. But compared to other U.S. military bases abroad, like the ones in the Holy Land of Saudi Arabia, or ones in Germany that serve as a daily reminder of the German defeat, or the ones in Japan where the soldiers have been found guilty of serious misconduct towards the citizens, the one here in Iceland seems to me to have less of a grounds to be so hated.

Anyhow, I had a hard time not taking the exhibition personally, and started honestly to feel quite unwelcome. But then I thought these days Icelanders certainly must realize that no one is perfect.

All on the same page

I don't know what exactly about the skyrsla managed to do this, but in the conversations I have had with people, it feels like things are really starting to happen here in Iceland. I guess it is because everyone is finally on the same page, and it is quite clear what needs to happen next. Better yet, there is the feeling that it will happen, perhaps even starting tomorrow.

Leikhús

Today Palmer and I went to the Þjóðleikhús for the matinee performance of Oliver, and it worked out well. He watched quietly, clapped when he was supposed to, and although the whole thing overwhelmed him a little bit, I think he still did enjoy it. It is a well staged production.

My mind though wandered over to the event that will be taking place tomorrow, at the other leikhús, Borgarleikhús. They will be reading the entire contents of the Truth Commissions report non-stop, and using all the actors associated with the theatre, starting from page 1 tomorrow morning, when the report is released.

I think this is such an interesting idea, and I especially like something about the way it is playing with performance and words. There have been hints that the delay in issuing the report had something to do with  toning it down, or giving people warning, etc., and this has led to the suggestion that the report is more of a performance piece than a hard-hitting indictment. So the decision by B…

Elías

Icelanders do a good job, I think, of providing children's programming in Icelandic, considering of course it is such a small country with a tiny market. But still one has to be aware when buying a children's show that in fact it might just be in English, unless it has a sticker on it saying "með íslensku tali!" In fact they all specify what language they are in: one cartoon where the penguins do nothing but squawk at each other specified that it was in "morgæs tal" (penguin talk).

Having íslensk tál though is only part of the issue. I also want to make sure the content is age appropriate, and something Palmer will enjoy. I also hope it will be something the other kids here in Iceland watch and like, so that Palmer hopefully can find some common ground with the kids out on the playground, something to talk about.

Well, we bought the DVD with the show Élias on Friday. It is about a group of boats, set in a Norwegian fjord as far as I can tell. Palmer watched…

Walking in the wind

We walked over to Langbest pizza tonight after the rain let up. The wind was still blowing very strong, but I told Palmer that it felt just like it would if we were birds flying up in the sky.

Even a simple walk is a little bit magical here in Iceland.

At the pool

I am under doctor's orders to use the pool, hot pots, and saunas here in Iceland more, because I have actual soft tissue damage from too much time sitting typing at my computer. This was just the thing I needed to motivate me. I have a 30 visit pool pass I bought TWO YEARS ago, that I still have not exhausted. The thing is so old I am embarrassed pulling it out of my wallet. And I love swimming, I really do. Plus the pools here in Iceland are not chlorinated, which is such a treat, and the hot pots are so nice and steamy all year long.

So I went this afternoon with Palmer, and it felt great.

But I have to say, especially with Palmer in tow, I am so self-conscious about speaking English. Palmer's Icelandic is improving everyday, and I am really happy to hear him using it more and more. But still there are a lot of things he does not understand, and a lot of things that just naturally come out of my mouth in English much easier (like "Don't run around the pool!"). …

Coalition of the willing

The video footage from Wikileaks of American military in Iraq is upsetting, and I am not surprised that it is making some Icelanders call for an investigation into why Iceland was listed as one of the countries in the "Coalition of the Willing."

The American military invasion of Iraq did not just sit badly with Icelanders, though. It sat very, very badly with a majority of Americans.

I remember really well making the sign the night before a rally in 2003. I used a black marker for the oil drops at the top of the sign, and a red marker for the blood drops at the bottom of the sign. I wrote out, "No blood for oil!" and then the next day, me and several thousand other people met on the lawn of the National Mall, really pleading with the Senate not to approve funds for the War in Iraq. President Bush's mind was not to be swayed that day, in fact I think he made up his mind about that war before he even took office.

The vidoe footage, and indeed the continued US mil…

More evidence that I am not Icelandic

This morning I bundled Palmer up and dutifully took him over to leikskola. But when we got there, things seemed a little off. The door was open, lights on, teachers there, but no kids. Palmer was the only boy in his class to show up as of 8:30 am.

The house

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where my mother was born. My cousin just moved into the house next door.

Aukadagur

Annan í paskum is not a bad idea, considering the fact that Icelanders do their holiday dinners at their regular meal time, instead of at 3pm like Americans do. That means Icelanders need the day after Easter to recover from their Easter meal. Plus of course the kids get an extra day to finish their chocolate eggs, and I get an extra day to hang with Mr. Palmer.

Still strikes me as a bit extravagant, though.

Sunday school

I really did not know what to expect from Easter Sunday service at Hallgrimskirkja. I had read online they were having some sort of a listahatid, and that Bach would be performed on Easter. Knowing what I know about the less-than-fervent religiosity of Icelanders, I figured it was entirely possible that the concert would be the only thing going on for the 11am service. I also figured they might not have any sort of a Sunday school for Palmer, so I brought Palmer's baby Bible, as well as two cars, to give him something to look at in case the concert did not hold his interest.

Much of my anxiety though was put to rest not only by Palmer's enthusiasm as we walked up to the church, but also by the lucky coincidence of running into Gisli Sigurdsson and his daughter Anna. Palmer and Anna have played together on a number of occasions, so when Anna invited us to sit with them, I knew she'd show Palmer the ropes. Indeed, when the kids did head off to Sunday school, Anna extended he…

Gefa

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Seems like a good way to celebrate spring.

Dyeing eggs

Tonight Palmer and I dyed 10 hard boiled eggs green and red. I used a white crayon to make designs on some of them, for variety sake. Palmer also wanted us to try taking the eggs out of the red and into the green, and vice versa. I think we managed to come up with a decent batch of Easter Eggs.

My memories of Easter as a child revolve so much around decorating the eggs. We had dippers we would use and special kits with stickers and I don't really know what. But us siblings would sit in the backyard and color them every year. It was a good ritual, one of the few we had really, so it felt nice to repeat it today with my son.

I hid our decorated eggs around the living room and the kitchen for Palmer to find them in the morning tomorrow. In California of course the easter egg hunt would be outside, but it was sowing here in Iceland today. Until the flowers start appearing, it won't feel too much like spring!

Easter holiday

Icelanders have two more days of Easter than Americans do. Today is skírdagur, the day Jesus held the Lord's supper. Americans do not get this day off, but Icelanders do. Lots of American schools and businesses are closed for Good Friday, but here in Iceland it is a national holiday, just like skírdagur. I am pretty sure that Monday, which Icelanders call "Annar í páskum," things will also be closed.

I am happy to have plans today: my cousin's daughter is getting confirmed, and the whole family will be there, so that should be fun. But then I am trying to figure out what to do with Palmer for the rest of the long holiday. I half considered getting a hotel room out in the countryside somewhere, but that seems pretty extravagant. Hallgrímskirkja for Easter Sunday sounds like a good idea though, or the Catholic church in Vesturbær. I haven't decided which one yet.

Good Friday, I thought we would start eating our Noi Sirius eggs, and dye the eggs for Easter morning. …