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Showing posts from May, 2010

A good day

I woke up this morning pretty worried about how the day would turn out. I had agreed to work the front desk of the museum, and although I am usually really happy in that building, sometimes I get really stressed out, thinking about all I need and want to do. Today though there was a constant stream of people--visitors to the museum from all sorts of countries, vendors for our sales shop, a guy testing out our smoke alarms--so there was always something going on, which I like. Also three work colleagues came by to talk about various projects, plus a friend from Reykjavík.

I don't know exactly how to explain it, but it felt a lot more like my days at the Smithsonian. Seeing friends and colleagues, discussing all sorts of different things, really part of the fabric of life.

A thought about VG

Anyone who reads my blog knows that I like to consider myself an environmentalist. So I was not especially happy to see VG do so poorly in the municipal elections (though of course most Icelanders think of them more as communist than environmentalist, I like to pretend they have the same idea as I do about the necessity to prioritize corporate responsibility over profitability).

So if I may be allowed to spin that poor showing a bit to the positive side, it occurs to me that perhaps the leadership of VG was too busy dealing with pressing national matters in the Althingi and ministries to really be of much help to their local party affiliates. They did not have, or did not take, the time to promote VG as a label in a way that could help in municipal elections. It is a small party, and it is trying to do an awful lot all at once.

Double the fun

Well today is not only the big Eurovision finale, in which Iceland actually has a fighting chance for the title, but it is also election day in all the local municipalities, where there looks to be lots of changes that will have wide ranging implications and an influx of new ideas.

The strangest thing about these two events culminating on the self-same Saturday is that it does not seem strange at all. It seems perfectly natural, part of the variety of life, that all the conversations all over Iceland today should vacillate between the incredibly serious and purely entertaining.

I am having trouble thinking of anything comparable in the US, but then of course our founding fathers made the decision to have elections on a Tuesday. This has sometimes struck me (and others) as a weird decision, since it is a random mid-week work day, but on the plus side, it turns out nothing else is ever happening on a Tuesday.

Vintage

Today I was hanging out around Laugarvegur like a real Reykjavík local. Had coffee at Tiu droppar, which is a cozy little hole in the wall place Dagný suggested, and then over to Oðinsgata to get my hair done by my second cousin. I did not get lossed, I did not get a ticket, and think actually I am getting more and more to feel at home in Reykjavík.

It helps a lot that in addition to all the pricey shops along Laugarvegur, there are also a few good vintage clothing shops. I think it is nice, when people decide to take the old clothes they are not really wearing, and give those clothes a chance to have a new life with a new owner. Some of my favorite pieces of clothes are vintage, actually. And I have also put some of my old clothes in consignment shops and vintage shops in Berkeley.

Yep, Telegraph Avenue and Laugarvegur have more in common than I thought.

Mail issues

Sjalfstæði flokk sent me in the mail a trash bag, stapled to a little note about picking up all the political flyers that will be littering Reykjanesbaer because of the election. I guess this was supposed to show some sort of concern for the environment, but I did not take it that way.

More welcome was a flyer that an artist couple here in town sent around questioning the sale of Hitaveita Sudurnesja. They made the particularly good point that it is highly unusual for this locally owned utility to be sold to a foreign company without the issue being put before public referendum.

Two days before the election, things are getting interesting around here. Looking forward to something even better coming in the mail tomorrow.  

Contact solution

Saturday morning I decided to put on one of my last pair of contact lenses for our hike on Esja, only to discover Saturday night that I had no contact lens cleaning solution. I pondered putting them in their case with just regular water, but I have tried that before and it makes the contacts shrink up, and then they are rather painful to put on the eye for the first few minutes. Then I remembered that I have "long wear" contacts, which means I can actually wear them constantly, even sleep in them, for up to two weeks. So that is what I have done until 10pm tonight, just worn my contacts non-stop. Yesterday my eyes felt a little dry, and I thought it really was time to buy some contact solution. Plus I miss wearing my glasses.

So I was happy one of my errands today took me right past Apotek, and that I thought to jump in. I was dreading how much the solution would cost here in Iceland, but found it to be reasonable, actually.

Now I am even more pleased with my purchase though…

Not completely immune

The weather today in Iceland is once again sunny and warm, and it is supposed to be that way through the week.

It is funny what good weather does to one's motivation to work. The librarian commented as I was getting my things together that it was such nice weather, she did not expect a lot of people today to be using the collections. I laughed and told her that since I grew up in Southern California, I was immune to the effects of days like this. But that is not entirely true, because I do feel energized, and rather excited. Palmer felt that way too, practically running into his classroom at school this morning.

Two, Four, Six, Eight, who do we appreciate?

The United States has had a "two party system" since the time of the Civil War. Though the platforms of the Republican and Democratic parties have shifted over those 150 years, that there is a significant, abiding, and persistent divide in the cultural fabric of America has not. The Civil War solidified that divide, and although we all live together in the same country and follow the same laws, we have become comfortable with the idea of "two Americas". In the U.S., we may not like our two party system too much, but we respect it. It has been around for a while, it has shown flexibility to adjust and rise to challenges, even though other times it has miserably failed us. Talk of overthrowing it comes around from time to time, but one thing it has going for it is stability. And the fact is, a stable government is a big plus. It makes people comfortable, makes them able to plan for their future with confidence.

So I sort of had to scratch my head when I first heard h…

Bauhaus

We took a little drive today out to Esja for a hike, and it was amazingly nice. On both the way there and the way back, we drove past the enormous warehouse style building constructed by the German hardware/homeware store Bauhaus. They were just about finished with the building, and in process of hiring all the employees, when the Icelandic banking system collapsed. The opening of this mega European chain, originally scheduled for December 2008, never happened.

The sight of this building on such a beautiful day in 2010, still sitting there fully built with signage and everything, but completely empty, got me thinking. And so I have a proposal.

I think this building would make the perfect place to create a new "Museum of the Collapse." Here I am thinking of a multimedia, experiential kind of museum, rather than an artifact driven one, but one that archives all the architectural plans for all the overblown projects in the works and on the books in 2006 and 2007. It could play …

Osteospermum

Today at IKEA, near the registers, they had some live plants in pots for sale. As soon as I saw the pallet of white and purple daisy-like flowers with thick green leaves, my heart did a little skip. These were my favorite flower back in California, where they grow wild. So I bought three of them, and planted them in the cement plant holders that have left empty outside of my house for three years. I am so looking forward now to them greeting me when I come home everyday.

It is funny how the simplest little things are all we need to make our hearts happy.

Mornings at the museum

On Monday morning, I went into the museum before it opened, and before any other staff was there. It felt really nice, I was able to just focus and relax, think about what needed to be done without being rushed. Now I have certainly been at the museum alone a lot of other times, but often that has been late at night when I am tired and stressed. When I worked at the Smithsonian, I was only there after hours or on the weekends if there was a major deadline looming overhead, and I think I have brought that memory with me to working alone in Vikingaheimar. That is, until now, just this week. Things finally seem organized enough there that I can see what tasks need to be done without fretting about all the things that are not getting done. It was nice.

Not as nice of course as being at the museum when it is full of people and everyone is enjoying the exhibits and the ship, but nice in a quiet sort of way.

Miss USA

The US of A did a little something to improve its image as an anti-Arab country with the selection of the lovely lady Rima Fakih as Miss USA. Even when she is telling jokes, she seems intelligent and warm-hearted.

Icelanders on the other hand seem to be trying to reinforce their new reputation as irresponsible cads by suddenly throwing their support behind a "grín framboð." But there is clearly something about the joke I am not getting.

High rises

Today Gunnar Marel invited me along for lunch with Brent Meade, a deputy minister from Newfoundland and Labrador with whom he had worked when Íslending sailed there in 2000. We had several mutual acquaintances, and it was great to talk about cultural tourism opportunities linking Newfoundland and Iceland. Plus the food was good at Duus Hús.

The conversation turned to the celebration in New York in October of 2000, and then to the World Trade Tower and then of course to 9/11. Since I was not really in the mood to talk about that day, I instead mentioned something about the observation area on the top of the Empire State Building.

It strikes me now that it to, though to a far less degree than the World Trade towers, also has with it a sense of pathos, of drama. But it is a more romantic kind of tragedy, the place where King Kong clutches his starlet before falling to his death, and the place where too ill fated lovers agree to meet in an Affair to Remember, and the place from which hund…

Permission?

I had to go get Palmer from a neighbor's house the other day, and had the feeling the mom did not entirely appreciate 4 kids showing up unannounced.

I remember when I was a kid, knocking on the door of my friend's house, nervously awaiting the moment when the mom would answer, and I would have to ask, "Can Wendy come out and play?" It was then completely at the mom's discretion if we played together or not, or whether we played inside or out.

Here in Iceland I am having a little bit of trouble understanding how it works. It seems the kids sort of just run into each other outside, and then one kid invites the others over to his house, without the mom being consulted. Or maybe my son is just asking if he can go play at their house (with their toys), because I think usually the Icelandic kids stay outside most of the time.

Hagkaup

Whenever I go shopping, I always have some idea of what I want, and I usually stay pretty focused on getting it. But I have had more than a few disappointing purchases because of this policy. Head out to the store thinking "I need a white blouse" and then I scourer several stores, finally buying some top I do not even like, just because it happens to be white. The same thing happened to me on Wednesday, when I went into Hagkaup with the express purpose of buying Palmer ínniskó. They had a dismal selection--only 1 style and that in only 4 sizes. But the one style was Lightning McQueen inspired, and since that is Palmer's favorite, I thought it was still worth buying. Now, I do not know Palmer's European shoe size, but in looking through the selection, most of them seemed too small on him. So I bought the pair that was the largest. When I got home and showed them to Palmer, he was ecstatic, but I was not. The shoes were too big. He cried when I said I would need to ret…

Bedtime routine

Palmer's bedtime routine has been thrown out the window the last two nights, and I suspect the same will happen tonight. Instead of falling asleep in his bed, with me sitting beside him, and then crawling into my bed around 4am, he now insists on sleeping in my bed the whole night through. This is cutting down on my chance to get some reading done at night, because I end up falling asleep with him. However, I am managing to get up in the middle of the night for a few hours, which reminds me not only of my schedule in highschool and college, but also whenever I am home in California, trying to adjust to the time change.

I am consoling myself with the example of Winston Churchill, who just took naps when he was tired without ever devoting 8 hours straight to sleep. In fact the claim goes that some of the most brilliant and productive people were nappers. So maybe this will become a new habit.

The twins

We saw Fanney's twin daughters, Thelma and Osk, at one of the birthday parties we went to. On the way home Palmer gave out a little sigh and said, "I love the twins," which I think actually those two beautiful teenage girls get a lot. They look a lot like two twin sisters I was friends with in elementary school back in California, and they were also the most popular girls in school.

So it is almost like a little treat that the two of them want to babysit for Palmer today and tomorrow, to use their days off hanging out with my little guy.

At the library...

and holding steady on course. This dissertation will get done, and it will be fabulous. 

Cinderella and the ashlads

I once wrote an analysis of the ashlad folktales of Scandinavia that suggested their popularity had something to do with the international rivalry between Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, more specifically that the tales had a wider distribution in Norway because Norwegians saw themselves as the youngest brother of three, the one everyone else thought should just be mucking around in the ash, when in fact he was destined to marry a princess. 

I can offer up no similar explanation for why the Cinderalla story should be popular in the United States, but of all the Disney princesses, Cinderella is the most quintessential, I think. She is afterall the star at the end of the electric light parade, and well anyhow, she was always my favorite.

Folkloristically, the ashlad tales of Norway and the Cinderella story have a lot of structural similarities, and they even share motifs such as the magical helpers. Cinderella's glass slipper though does not find an exact parallel in the ashlad stories…

Clean getaway

Dave's flight to Seattle was cancelled on Saturday afternoon, and so he rebooked on Monday's flight to Boston. Yesterday evening and this morning, it was amazing to see how every other flight out of Keflavík Airport was either delayed, rerouted, or cancelled, except the Boston flight. It stayed on schedule all day long, and departed only 8 minutes later than it was supposed to.

Vegan diet

When I was an undergraduate at UC Berkeley back in the early 90s, there was a lot of talk on campus about food politics. This means that one is supposed to know where your food comes from, who grows it, how it is grown, who profits from it, how much resources go into its production, etc., just like an informed voter is supposed to know all those things about the candidates. Lots of people who learned enough about food production decided to become vegetarians, or vegans. I decided to start eating cruelty free, cut way back on my meat intake, and learned how to cook vegetarian meals. 
I know some Icelanders who are going through the same process now, of learning about food politics (like my cousin who through a glutton free birthday party for her daughter on Saturday. I think that is really important and good. People ought not take the food that lies on their plate for granted. Then last night my mom tells me that she is trying a Vegan diet, and feels great. So this seems like a definite…

Dánjal Orri

For the last two days one of the neighbor boys has shown up by the back door, not saying much but seemingly wanting to play with Palmer. I've invited him in and he and Palmer have played some games together, but he always leaves rather abruptly a few minutes after he arrives. I suspect this has something to do with Palmer's language skills.

Nothing would make me happier than to see him walk up to a little kid, and start speaking perfect Icelandic, in his normal, outgoing, direct, friendly way. It would really fill my heart with joy. But I am realistic about his language acquisition. Outside of daycare, he is not getting much exposure to Icelandic, and this last week I even took him out of day care three days of the week. I am really amazed that he has the comprehension skills he has, and such beautiful pronunciation. If he does not get to the point of  declining the nouns and conjugating the verbs by July, that would be mostly my fault.

Little Einstein

This week Keilir switched over our television and phone service from Siminn. Now our television is cable TV, which is a really good idea. All of these American apartments are built with cabling throughout and there are outlets set in the wall in almost every room (so it is no problem to own multiple televisions).

This morning was my first real chance to check out the channel selection, all 30 of them. Turns out we have the Disney channel, which at first made me worried. i did not want Palmer watching a bunch of English language cartoons, same as he could get in California. So I was delighted to discover this morning that the delightful kids Little Einstein were speaking Danish.

I told Palmer Danish was a blend between English and Icelandic. He seems to really like listening to it.

National Park

Going to the National Parks in the U.S., and especially in California, stands out as some of my favorite childhood memories. Yosemite, Sequia, Grand Canyon, etc. So when I heard about Skaftafell National Park here in Iceland for the first time a few months ago, I got really excited. I in fact had been there as a child, had seen the famous waterfall, but it had seemed at the time like one more amazing site in Iceland (or perhaps it was not yet formally a National Park?). Two days ago I heard the temperature there was hitting 18 degrees celcius, so I had even more of an incentive to go. 


So I decided this morning, looking out over a foggy Reykjanes and a semi-bored looking Dave (Palmer was off at leikskoli)* that the thing to do was take a road trip to Skaftafell.  When I called a hotel in Vík to check on availability, the desk clerk said, "Yes, and hopefully the ash fall will clear up by tomorrow." Right. A volcano lies between me and Skaftafell.


Well, so I might not make it al…

Dosing

The doctor at the hospital in Keflavík gave me a prescription for 500mg of amoxycilin, taken 3 times a day. I guess that is a pretty strong dose, but I must say I was hoping more for like 1000mg. Anyhow, I guess it will be enough to keep me from getting more sick, even if it does not clean out my system pronto. At least it is making me sleepy.....

Real comfort

I asked Dave if he could go to the grocery store for me, because I really am pretty sick. During one of his previous trips here, he had decided that Netto is the one he likes to shop at; it is quite similar to American style grocery stores. I was of course a little worried that he would not be able to find everything on the list, not being able to read any of the labels.

The most urgent thing on the list was toilette paper, and not only did Dave manage to find toilette paper, he managed to find the one made out of 100% post-consumer recycled paper. It is French, Lotus Confort, and it is probably the thickest, softest recycled toilette paper I have ever seen. Which means it lives up to its name in more ways than one.

Exhibitionist

The Seattle flight arrived this morning with Dave aboard, one week later than originally planned but otherwise none the worse for wear. He did not sleep on the plane, and Palmer is not letting him sleep now at home today (too excited to see his daddy) so I think I will manage to drag everyone off to Perlan today.

Vikingaheimar has a display there, along with other tourist sites in Suðurnesja. Gunnar took the reigns on setting this one up, with the help of Oskar and Buddi, so I am rather curious to see how it turned out.

I think it is great for Vikingaheimar to get some public exposure and attention, now with the summer tourist season just about to start for reals. Might also be nice to try to do something Viking related at the National Library. These kind of tradeshow displays are good team building exercises for the staff.