Showing posts from July, 2009

Last chance

My mother's brother, who I have been meaning to invite over for dinner all summer, finally made it, the last night Palmer is in town.  Once he got here, I found out that Keflavík was playing HF in Íslandsmeistari keppni, in an elimination round. They are the best team in Iceland, and have beat everyone except Keflavík.  My TV does not work, so instead he kept getting periodic updates on his phone. It was a fun way to follow the game, which ended up well, that is to say, Keflavík won. I mean of course. We rock. 

Loki and Tommi and Sissy

Palmer named two of his wooden trucks while he was here, one Tommi (a boy ambulance) and the other Lóki (a girl fire truck). He's taking them home with him to California.  When they get there, they won't be able to spend much time with Sissy, since my parents are planning on towing Sissy the Saab from San Francisco down to San Diego this week, loaded up with most of my stuff. Dave is moving his stuff to a new apartment, but I don´t think any of it has a name (expect maybe the baseball signed by Hank Aaron).  Yes, the next few days will see a lot of things coming and going.  

I think that was a student of mine...

I was just trying to download a scene for Palmer from Beauty and the Beast (the one where Cogsworth says to Belle - "Nasty, dirty, dusty. Nothing at all of interest in the West Wing" to which she replies, "Well, then it wouldn't be off limits"). Instead I ran into this blog, to which I think I must contribute at some point in time. But I see one of my former students (just kidding) has done well enough . 


I was just laying in bed, thinking about yesterday, and realizing that, once again, I was slightly misunderstood. This happens a lot to me, since of course my communication skills in Icelandic are not so stellar. I had mentioned to two of my cousins that they could borrow my car while I was out of town. Fanney actually has a car, just her husband uses it a lot. The other one, Hjördís, does not have a car at all.  So it seemed to me only right that the cousin that has no car at all should get it, and the one that already has a car should contact Hjördís to use it. This however was extremely hard to get across to both of them, each one confused about why I was mentioning the other, and it was almost to the point that I would have to just drive myself to the airport! I suppose one should not propose something so complicated, since people like to have a car at 100% availability. Or at least not over cell phones in a foreign language.

Going on a date

My friend Koleen and her husband David are going on a date tonight. They have two kids, a third one on the way, and have been married for 8 years I think. And tonight they are going on a date.    When I was married the first time, sans offspring, all my ex-husband and I ever did was go on dates, practically. Out to dinner three times a week, brunch on Sunday, walks on the beach. And I was sick of him, really, by the time we got divorced.  But dating after a person has kids, that is a whole different thing. I remember babysitting for married couples when I was a teenager, and the woman being all excited to have a chance to get dressed up, and the husband so proud to see his wife looking the way they did when they first met. Usually once a month or so, a bit of a sign of upperclass to be able to afford the sitter, and the dinner and the wine and the play.  I don't know if that is a tradition here in Iceland. I think kids are out of the house more anyhow, more likely to be staying at


When we had our ceremony here at Vikingaheimar, we treated it a bit like a funeral for Íslendingur, the end of her sailing days. In point of fact, she last sailed into port in October of 2000. Everything since then has just been splashing in the water here or there, no actual journeys. It has been a bit hard on Gunnar I think, the end of an era, although he is talking about building more ships. In a way it reminds me of the scene in White Christmas, with the General that has retired, and finds himself out of place in civilian life. That is what happens when objects are put on permanent display in a museum. They become a memory embodied in a thing.  

Habitat for Humanity

America does one thing much better than Iceland does: encourage a charitable ethic. This is in fact a necessity in a country lacking a good social welfare net, but cynicism aside, the non-profits that develop in this atmosphere are really admirable organizations. Especially this morning I am thinking about Habitat for Humanity, one of the best of American charities. Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit agency that builds houses. They have had a particularly ambitious project in New Orleans since the flood, but have actually been working on urban renewal projects for many years. Unlike many other non-profits, they accept three different kinds of donations. Monetary donations, which is of course the main thrust of most charities, is not at the top of their list. Rather, working closely with housebuilders , they arrange an inordinate amount of material donations--wood, nails, fixtures. Lots of times these are extras that the companies ended up not needing, and they are glad to find someth

Wrong every time

On Saturday, I had my cousins over for a barbaque. I was quite sure it was implied in such an invite that the event would be outside, and casual. Well, my female cousins all showed up in dresses and heals. I was in jeans. Hmm. Today I got an invite to coffee at my cousin's, to celebrate her daughter's 16th birthday. I put on a shirt and heals (more difficult than it sounds because I have not done any laundry in days, and thus it was down to slim pickins). So, I show up, and well, no surprise. Everyone there is in jeans and a sweater. Hmm. The good thing is that I trust they will forgive me.

On editing

I am a pretty vicious editor, even when I was a graduate student instructor, my students complained I was a hard grader, because the fact is their papers had to have structure, argument, support, and style before I would consider it an A paper. It wasn't a matter of just having a few good points. Then I met a really vicious editor, and boy did I love working with her. I got just as good as she was at rewriting whole paragraphs authors would send in. And guess what? Most authors really liked the improved papers. Thanked me for my efforts in revising the paper. Thanked me for the opportunity to clarify and strengthen the argument. That to me is the point of an author/editor relationship, intellectual engagement with one another over the same topic, with a goal of making it as good as possible. Editors have a real responsibility, that the final product that is published--and which will be, afterall, accessed under the editor's name for all eternity--at least meets, if not exceeds,

No two ways around it

We just got home from my aunt and uncle's house. The conversation was suitably unsettling, on a day when a wind storm suddenly kicked up and there is talk of a huge earthquake tonight.  My uncle got really upset talking about the whole banking mess. And the situation really is dire. Iceland has completely succumbed to the oldest trick in the book, and is now head deep in enormous debt. There is just no two ways around it. 

Air pollution

Growing up in Southern California, I was really used to smog. The sort of stuff that makes it hard to breath sometimes. So when I started coming to Iceland, it just amazed me how clear the air was, how far one could see and how deep one could breath. Shortly after I moved here, two years ago, I noticed a layer of brown air laying over Reykjavik. Smog? Seriously? In Iceland? This summer it seems to me the air pollution has also been bad, because it has rained so little. Thank goodness there is not quite so much construction going on this year, because all the dust they kick up would just been hanging in the air.  I was genuinely happy that it rained yesterday. More of that would be just fine. 

Appropriate punishment

Palmer's day was a bit messed up today, what with the puking in the mall and then napping 2.5 hours thing. So it was perhaps not a big shocker that he decided not to eat dinner (especially since I, um, gave him icecream when he woke up from his nap at 5pm).  But still there are rules about having to take a bite of everything, and taking 3 bigs sips, before getting down from the table. Nothin' doin' tonight.  What should the appropriate punishment be? Sure he was being willfull and defiant, so perhaps that warranted a time out? Perhaps I should just have ignored it? But then he had no lunch and had even said he was hungry, just did not want pork. Should I send him to his room without dinner? That seems cruel. Spanking is of course out of the question. And although it is not beyond me to bribe, I was not about to give him more icecream if he took 1 bite of mashed potatoes.  A parent's only recourse is guilt sometimes. "I cooked all this for you." But then childr

Universal constants

Today I heard a mother saying to her son something in Icelandic I have said to Palmer in English many times: "The answer was no last time you asked, and nothing has changed since then." I suppose it is a constant of children that they do not believe this answer. It probably also does not help that with enough persistence, parents will occasionally give in. I would say that the odds of that happening are only about 10%, although that may not be a universal. 

Liable to do anything

I have tended to consider my general lack of decorum a result of growing up in Southern California, where anonymity affords a person a great deal of freedom. Since moving here to Iceland, I have tried to be a bit more aware of the fact that other people may know who I am. But just now, Palmer puked all over Serrano at Smaralind. And so it occurs to me that a lack of decorum may just be something inherent in me, that he has inherited also. 

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

I'm a fan of black and white films and musicals. Call me old fashioned. And American. I have not met any Icelanders who know Hollywood musicals as well as I do.  So I have introduced Palmer to a few classics. And this morning we are on a chitty chitty bang bang kick.  I was actually trying to find him the moon landing. But these things happen when you surf the net.

Giving fair warning

I suppose no one at the party this afternoon was entirely surprised by the fact that I did not really know how to grill. I mean, they have all known me a long time, and even Palmer picked up on the fact that a woman's place is not at a grill (literally said to me, 'How can you grill mommy? You are a lady'). His prognostication was entirely correct. The chicken just laid there on top of the smoking coals, no grilling taking place at all. Each squirt of lighter fluid only gassing out my guests more and more, doing nothing to actually get the embers hot. Turns out you need to dose the coals with plenty of lighter fluid, then let it slowly sink in while one patiently waits, throw in a spark, and after the fire flares up, wait, and wait some more, until the flames die down. And then you can actually start to grill.  Short cuts do not work. That is the process.  And now I know.  

Summer reading

Icelanders are of course avid readers, and I always feel a bit sheepish, when I am asked what I have read recently. This year, it has not been much, and last year I was probably writing more than I was reading, so that also does not quite count. I have my fingers crossed through, that with time, this too will right itself. 


Not only did Palmer get to speak to his daddy just now, but as we were online, we noticed his friend in Prague was also on line. So he is now all caught up on the status of the various toy cars he has interacted with internationally. One broke a wheel, and he said to me we should get glue from the museum and go fix it.  Yes, my museum is the place where things get fixed. Perhaps not one of its better known functions, but I believe he may be on to something there. 


Much to my delight, Nettó had everything I needed for the grill party I am throwing tomorrow. Charcoal sitting out, grill tongs and spatulas prominently displayed up front, colorful party supplies, tons of fresh vegetables, exactly the marinated chicken legs I was hoping for, and other grill-appropriate meat conveniently together in one cooler. Umm.  And then I realized this means I am actually doing something lots of other Icelanders are also doing. That doesn't happen to me all too often, that lovely feeling of belonging. 

A new cell phone

I have had the same Nokia cell phone now for four years, and I think it really is time to get a new one. The battery does not seem to last as long, I am hearing a crackling noise on the line sometimes, the key pad is a worn, and it does not have the conveniences one wants in a cell phone these days. So I have gone into three different stores trying to buy one. The first was at Smaralind, and the prices seemed way too high, especially since I had not yet gotten my grant money! Then I went into Elko, and Palmer insisted on driving his car on the floor and over every item on the shelf, and thus, well, standing still at any one spot long enough to even see what brands were offered was not possible. The other day he was being better when we went into BT, so I asked to see their selection of cell phones. They had 5, none of them with email capability.  Of course, every little task is harder with a 4 year old in tow. But the recession, and my own slight "dear in the headlights" resp

Greeting cards

A coworker and I today were talking about American greeting cards, and although I have certainly noticed the dearth of Icelandic language greeting cards, I did not quite appreciate how disconcerting that must be, for a nation that so prides itself on its verbal acuity , to see an area where the U.S. excels. Yes, pithy sayings that fit within a few lines, or more poetic expressions that sometimes go over two or three card pages, this is a verbal form Americans have really worked hard to perfect over the last 50 years. It of course has a commercial aspect to it, aptly called "the greeting card industry", but despite that, Hallmark and American Greetings really do employ a wonderful number of full time writers, with graduate school degrees and everything.  And yet with all that know how, sometimes a greeting card can still miss the mark. I have spent so many hours going up and down the aisles in the greeting card section of a store, it is almost scary to think about, because th

The past is a foreign country

Scholarly interaction in the United States is a bit different than it is here in Iceland. More camraderie , less competition, at least for tenured faculty. For graduate students, it is the opposite. Or anyhow, to put it simply, scholars in the US like to network. Thus it did not seem at all unusual to me to invite a woman I had never met before to spend the night at my house. She's a fellow scholar and we have mutual acquaintances.  But I was thinking this morning if in a way I was also paying it forward for something David Lowenthal did for me. A few years ago, just after passing my exams, I was at a conference at Cal. During coffee afterwards, I saw an older man sort of standing by himself, and since I am unfortunately not at all shy, I went right up to him and struck up a conversation. Turned out it was David Lowenthal , and I had recently 'read' his book (well, read the intro and looked through the rest). We talked for just a bit, long enough for me to mention my PhD t

On not playing a role

It turns out that the person visiting me just now is also from Southern California. Her and I both understand the pros and cons of the anonymity afforded by life in Southern California. It boils down to not playing a role.* To take this phrase in a negative sense, one can say it means one is not a part of what is going on. One has no say, one's actions do not affect the outcome. To take this phrase in a positive sense, it means that one is not confined to a role. That what I choose to give to society, to my family and friends, I give not because I am obliged by societal roles, but because it is something I want to do. No one will judge me one way or another, because in fact no one will know.  To take this phrase in its metaphysical sense, it means that who I am is more than the roles I fulfill.  * I note the irony that in a society like this, Hollywood films should be produced. Or perhaps this paradox is exactly the point. 

Cafe Paris

Palmer and I returned to the scene of the crime today, Cafe Paris. Palmer was only slightly better behaved, insisting on taking off his shirt and then yelling every time he was about to drift off to sleep (about every 5 minutes or so). But he stayed on my lap, so I was happy. Funny how little difference it makes to me how bad he can be sometimes, because I always know the reason why. He's tired, he's hungry, he's stressed out.  Anyhow, I enjoyed the chance to people watch, even with a sleepy wiggle worm on my lap. So many ladies downtown had on the nicest dresses, and this is just adding to the building realization that I must go shopping soon. Nothing in my closet fits, really, well, except a few things that are now mostly worn out. When we went into Victors and I saw even that place has been redecorating, I thought this was also a sign that my wardrobe is in need of updating.  The colleague visiting me--her first time in Iceland--had perhaps a slightly less favorable opin

Guest house Elísabetar

I am so excited to have my fourth guest staying at chez Lissy. Academics are really wonderfully good about taking advantage of a free place to stay, and it is such a great way for me to find out about what is going on in the world of U.S. higher education. My current guest will begin teaching at Harvard this Fall, og mér finnst það ekki smá heiður að fá hana heim til mín. 


I am looking forward to serving my guest tomorrow some rugbrauð . This amazing little bread was something I overlooked for years coming here to Iceland, even when I started baking bread I was on the quest for fluffy insides with a crispy crust. And then I bought the West Icelanders cook book published a few years ago, and flipping through it, I noticed some recipes for brown bread, raisin bread, cinnamon bread, but nothing really like rugbrauð . Turns out that baking bread with lots of steam is really tricky, can only really be done here in Iceland. And thus rugbrauð  is an example of Icelandic culinary ingenuity every bit as fabulous as skyr . The molasses means it is packed with iron, in addition to the normal carbs of bread. And it has a wonderful dense but sweet taste. It welcomes a tab of butter like skyr takes milk -- what a pleasure not to have to worry about the bread tearing as the butter is smeared on.  But rugbrauð suffers from a PR problem. Photographs of it hardly do it j


Today I had the rare pleasure of going to a sjoppa twice. Once around 2pm when I simply found I could not stare at fish bones any more without some food in my stomach, and again at 5pm, when I thought an icecream would be a good way to convince Palmer to stay in the car while I ran into the store (I'm having a breakfast guest tomorrow and needed milk!).  Both times the girls at the sjoppa were clearly trying to decide just how nuts I was. The first time because I kept zoning out, I mean seriously, I was so preoccupied I just could not decide if I wanted a 7up or not. She spoke to me very slowly .  Then at the other sjopp. Well by then I was stressed out an anxious, so the girl was trying to get me out of there as soon as she could. Kept telling me what my total was before I had finished ordering.  Although it is entirely possible the girl has not received much training. Afterall, it wasn't Starbucks. 

Wanting good news

Visits with family members here in Iceland is always so different than visits with friends in the United States. Because small chat, about general things, is really at a minimum here in Iceland. After the kids leave the table, the adults look at one another, and it is time to say what has really been going on. At least that is my feeling, and perhaps part of the reason I have not been doing quite so much visiting these last 6 months. I really prefer to go visit people when I have good news to share, when I want to tell them something happy.  But tonight my dear second cousin once removed and I finally got together, the first time since her mother's funeral in January. And we talked about death. Her mother's, my brother's. And sickness. My son's, her daughter's.  We were both searching for some upbeat news to share, and could not think of much. Until she mentioned going to hear Eva Jolie recently, give a talk about how wide spread corporate irresponsibility and finan

Wooden toy set

I bought Palmer a fancy new plastic Thomas the Tank engine set for his birthday. But I also have an older wooden train set, pretty plain. Now that he has discovered the miracle of magnets (which manufacturers use these days to link the cars together), his interest in all things train continues to increase.  I was thinking just now that maybe I should buy new elements for his old train set, like this  or maybe like this  

Blue laws

The United States maintains a number of laws on the books, sometimes referred to as Blue Laws, that enforce everything from moral codes to prohibitions against shopping on Sunday. These were established when the United States was still a set of colonies, and not a united country, originating primarily in Connecticut and other highly conservative and religious areas. They subsequently spread throughout the U.S..  Although many laws stopped being enforced long ago, many were still technically on the books. It is only recently that each state started formally repealing these laws, which were highly restrictive and included such provisions as death for adultery.  That these laws never existed in Iceland, or most of Europe, has taken me some getting used to. Americans are perhaps not by nature uptight, but we do have a different sensibility. 

Outside area

Vikingaheimar has a big lot all around it, from the building on the point all the way to Stekkjakot. And we need to figure out what to do with it. I have met with various people on this issue over the last few years, and everyone sort of has their own ideas. A petting zoo. A Viking village. A 3 dimensional representation of Asatru. Picnic grounds. I of course have my own take on it, to split it up into various lands, to show the breadth and diversity of people in the Viking Age. But there is this inlet on the western side of the lot that has a change in water level between low tide and high tide that leaves several meters of seaweed-covered rocks to deal with, and which represents an intellectual challenge in terms of mapping the grounds in whatever idealized way one might want to. So this first summer of operation, we have just let it lie fallow. I imagine we'll turn our attention to it more in earnest in the fall, and hopefully have some plan in place soon. Whether or not it will

A lot has changed since January

On the way out to Thingvellir just now, Palmer commented that the bits of snow still on the mountains was "Christmas snow". And that got me thinking, about how long that snow had been there, and really how much has changed since the beginning of the year. Iceland got a new government, my brother died, the exhibition opened, Palmer came here after Dave and I signed a custody agreement, I mean it has been an extremely tumultuous and memorable year for me. And it is only a little more than half over.  So when we got to Thingvellir, it seemed fitting to see the burned out remnants  of Valholl hotel, which I headed straight for. I no longer find walking down Almannagja the exciting thing it was  when I was a kid, and prefer instead to make my way down to the river, and the flat area along the banks. This is anyhow where the Althingi actually met in the Viking Age, here where the river meets the lake, and not up in the narrow passage of the cliffs, that is my thinking. Before we le

Palmer can't use a computer

I was realizing that I could not tag a photo of Palmer on Facebook, because, well, he does not have is own facebook profile. Nor his own blog.  Of course, I've heard that people as young as 10 are using Twitter. Which means we only have 6 years to wait until my superstar gets a chance to let the world see just how cute and funny he is.  

Walter Cronkite

I may have been more saddened by the death of Peter Jennings, who was the only newscaster to cover all the year 2000 festivities, including the sailing of Islendingur, and his death from lung cancer was really sudden.  But there was something about Walter Cronkite that made everyone in the United States feel like he was talking right to them. Because it seemed he would want to, if he got the chance in person, and therefore why wouldn't he mean it that way now, even though it was over the television? That is a special talent, to make people feel like they are worth talking to, and not at.  Peter Jennings on the other hand was a bit more snobby. But I liked him too. 

Coffee is a good espresso chaser

Up here in Ásbrú, fyrir verandi Varnastöð, things are progressing for the change of electricity from 110 volt to 220 volt.  I personally was really happy with the 110 volt, coming from the U.S., not only because you know, that is the way an electrical outlet is supposed to look, but also because it meant I could use all my old appliances from the U.S. no problem, the crock pot, the vacuum cleaner, the espresso machine.  But I am reconciling myself to the coming change. The signs are everywhere--we cannot walk to the pizza place without stumbling through 4 or 5 trenches dug for the new power cables. Soon I will have to say goodbye to my American appliances for good, I guess.  This I suppose is why I am now using both my coffee maker and my espresso machine each day, instead of alternating. 

On the road to Reykjavík

The road the Reykjavík is a wonderful place to think. About global warming, about aluminum factories, about the price of gasoline, about the last year, about four years ago in a hospital in San Diego, about what will happen next year.  It is also a good place to put my son to sleep. But he's leaving in two weeks, and I wonder if the ride back and forth between Reykjanesbær and Reykjavík every day in the Fall will seem quite so charming.  At least there may be snow again on the mountains though. That will be nice. 

Will the real Iceland please stand up

I couldn't help myself, the other morning when I was in a meeting, I had to start off the conversation with a comment about the weather, even though we had really important things to talk about. Because the weather has been surreally awesome for weeks now here in Iceland.  Makes me not miss California at all. 

He's 4!!

Pálmer turns 4 today at precisely 4:14pm Icelandic time. His mom was not quite thinking about that when she agreed to work from 4 to 6 today.  So we'll just have to celebrate at 9:14am, the time on his birth certificate.  He is so gorgeous, and so smart, and so aware of his surroundings, I really am incredibly proud of him. 

Saab 9000cs

Today Palmer and I were driving up to Toys R Us, when he exclaims from the back seat, "That car is just like yours in Albany." My little car aficionado . He was of course exactly right, except my Saab is white, and probably a few years older than the one we saw today. Then I said to Palmer, "Well, mommy's car in Albany died." We had a good conversation about how oil and water and gasoline all go into an engine, but that mommy's car had started mixing the water and oil! Not so good. So, that car has died. If it sits for more than 2 months, obviously unused, then the city can consider it abandoned property, and come take it away.  But since I do not have the title to it (it got lost when I moved from Virginia to California), odds are it will just sit there. So the best case scenario is that the city of Alameda will have more luck getting some use of it than I have the last year and a half. 

Bedtime routine

Every night, as I sit in my son's room, waiting for him to fall asleep, my mind begins to wander. At the beginning of the summer, it was all about work. But for the last few nights, Ossur Skarpheðinsson keeps popping into my head. I cannot figure out for the life of me why he trims his beard like that. Is it a tough guy thing? Or is he going for the teddy bear look? 

Two months

All of a sudden, I realized I have things going on straight through to mid September. I will have to hit the ground running after summer 'vacation' is over (staying home all day with a 4 year old does not exactly count as vacation, ev við getum segja svo).  

Fork in the road

Of course it happens all the time, that a person or a nation feels itself to be at a turning point, a point in time when a decision needs to be made. One of the most effective metaphors for this feeling is that one is at a fork in the road. Turn left or turn right. One cannot simultaneously walk on two roads. And yet that is pretty much what the Althingi did yesterday. It decided not to forgo any possibilities, it decided to keep doors open, it decided to walk more than one path at once.  The metaphorical possibility of less literal forms of travel allows us to imagine such a possibility. 

kids birthday parties

I was racking my brain yesterday, trying to figure out where to hold a party for my son's 4th birthday. Yes, certainly húsdýragarðurinn, but where else?  The United States is full of specialty places just for kids, places like Chucky Cheese but also Studio Grow and other indoor playgrounds. Easy places to throw a party. Invite some friends, bring a cake, and the restaurant does everything else.  But here in Iceland, there are so few options along those lines, even fewer in Reykjanesbaer (can't really see having a kids party over by Skessuhöll).  So if I want a fun party, I am going to have to transform my backyard and the adjacent playground.   Capitalistic ease versus homemade quirky. The eternal struggle. 


To believe that whatever words come out of your mouth will be understood.  Whether or not that is the linguistic definition of fluency, it is a really nice feeling.  Thank you, sales guy at Office 1! 


Today the Icelandic parliament OKd a proposition allowing the foreign ministry to begin discussions of joining the EU. This was pretty big news, and I was excited to see how people would react to it. But my TV is broken, and my only way to get news is either from the internet or the radio. It was a nice day, and I had an errand to run in the city, plus Palmer was cranky wanky, so a drive seemed in order.  RUV's reporter was asking people on the street what they thought, and it really seemed everyone was positive about it. As one guy put it, at least something now is happening.  Something good. 

Have questions, need answers

I am so looking forward to my meeting this morning, with the mayor and the president of Íslendingur . And not because of Icesave , even though I have heard something about one of them having something to do with that.  Nope, there are a lot of issues I consider a lot more important that we have been needing to talk about since August or September, and I never can really get their full attention. Not that I will this morning, mind you, but if we can even shed light on a few of the more gnawing things, that would be great. That would really make me feel better.   

A glimmer of hope

Palmer went to bed at 9pm, easy as pie, after running around with his cousins, playing hide and seek and climbing up the slide.  Perhaps, perhaps he will have a good night's sleep, and things will go well tomorrow. In fact, maybe it will spill over not only to his day, but mine as well. Because I have a meeting with the mayor in the morning. Dumm Dumm dom! (suspense thriller music). 

Summer time summer time sum sum summertime

Summer time has of course a myriad of associations, but for me, it means archaeology. Archaeological colleagues are coming to Iceland now, started a few weeks ago and is continuing all the way through August, not to mention the Viking Congress in mid August.  The ones that know me and know I was working on a new exhibition, they have let me know they are coming.  I really want to pick each of them up at the airport and give them a guided tour of the exhibition, but as it has turned out, for the two groups that came earlier this month, the timing was awful, I just could not meet them, and in early August, I will be away when another group comes through. But still I am happy they are letting me know they are coming, and I think it will eventually work out, if not on their way to Iceland, then certainly on their way home. 

11 am

Well, it is 11am, and I am still in my pajamas, did not really eat breakfast, and other than starting a load of laundry, cannot really say I have gotten anything done yet today. But my cousin and her daughter are coming over for dinner, so I am highly motivated to at least get the dried skyr off my floor before she arrives. Always good to have a goal! And always good to keep the goal modest when one has a child, who is clearly relishing the freedom of a summer with no schedule, to deal with. 


I am starting to get a little worried that maybe Palmer and I should not have gone to such terribly crowded public places two days in a row. Because I am feeling a little under the weather, and he clearly has been today as well.  His birthday is Saturday. Let's hope I have something better to give him than swine flu. 


I used to really like to travel, but of course, I was always heading to Iceland.  Moving to the place you like to travel to, it turns out, is the perfect remedy for wanderlust. 

In case anyone was under the mistaken impression that I was perfect (laugh even writing that)

Not only did Palmer get no sleep last night, and then puke up his lunch all over Koleen's floor, he then refused to take a nap with mommy back home.  Ok, I thought, we'll go for a ride. That should help.  So we drive up to Reykjavik. I wanted to send a Western Union money order. Palmer did not sleep enroute, although he said he would. We show up to the Landsbanki right in the city center at 3:55, and of course they close at 4pm. I have an out of control son, running around demanding the toys out of the cabinet and screaming that he needs to go pee. I am at the window, trying to get help, and the cashier is looking at me like I am crazy. She literally stepped away from the counter when I told her how much I was trying to wire abroad. Looked at Palmer, looked at the clock, looked at me, and was just incredulous. I asked about a bathroom. Nothing doing, we would have to go across the street.  So down the steps of Cafe Paris we go, into the toilette. And just as Palmer is pulling d

You clearly get to go first

Today, getting on to and out of the train, all the other kids stepped aside, and gave Palmer room, let him be the first one on and the first one off. He is not a big, muscular kid or anything like that. But he is pretty cute. And somehow or another, just the way he looks so eager, or is so singly focused, or so impatient, he always gets to go first. Or maybe the word got around, that he'll start babbling something he thinks is Icelandic, if you don't let him get his way. 

Better than I remembered

The expat group met at húsdýragarðurinn today, all a bunch of half-Icelandic, half- Commonwealth kids who went back and forth between English and Icelandic. And the weather was also not quite Icelandic. I have never seen so many Icelanders in shorts in my life, and I did not regret skipping the perfunctory leggings beneath my skirt.  Only bummer thing is that Palmer is not yet 5 years old, so he can't drive the cars on the little mini-speedway. Next year!

Spider bite

Warning: not for the faint of heart. I got scratched by my cat, right near my eye, when I was 3 years old. Through most of my childhood, the scar was quite noticeable, even though it was just a straight, extremely narrow, line from my eye down my cheek. My mom had told me, when it happened, that we would not get stitches for it, because stitches actually would probably make the scar more noticeable. It was such a clean line, she thought stitches would leave their own, more odd looking, marks. By the time I was a teenager, most people did not notice it until I said something about it, though one lady commented that she thought I must sleep funny everynight, to have a sleep mark like that everyday. Now a days it is still there, but looks like just one of the several lines around the corner of my eye. So I like to think my mom was right. When I was 3, I don't think they had that dermaglue they used these days, on cuts like that.  I have other wounds I never sought medical treatment fo

A lovely day

We had such a nice time at the Blue Lagoon, and then heard from my mom that her knee is healing well, plus it is actually now getting a tiny bit dark at midnight, which feels slightly more normal, just a hint of night. No darkness, mind you, but enough to let one know when it is time to go to sleep. 


OK, I am trying my best to avoid posting about this, but I have read some articles and blogs lately that suggest the Althingi would be doing some huge disservice to the Icelandic nation if they went ahead with talks on EU membership without first getting a mandate from the nation -- ie: a special election on the issue.  Now I am not a political junkie, but I remember quite clearly that the reason the Samfylking did so well in the election in the spring was that it was very clear about its position concerning seeking membership in the EU.  In other words, there was already an election on the matter, and it seemed very clear, to Johanna at least, that the people want them to move forward with this option. 

How I know I am not Icelandic

The weather is really beautiful, has been the last few days, and probably will be the next two weeks or so. Every Icelander I know practically is going camping or is camping, because when the weather gets good, Icelanders jump at the chance. I am just too Californian to imagine there will not be another day just as good tomorrow. 

Affective advertising

In one of the magazines I have here at home, there is an add for the Blue Lagoon, full page spread. Palmer was flipping through the magazine, came upon the picture, and recognized it from going there last year. Only he calls it the Blue Laguna. (Already a little Spanish creeping into his Icelandic!).  Since seeing this ad, he has asked me on a daily basis if we can go to the Blue Laguna today. I am thinking of taking his suggestion to heart, and heading there today. It is a sunny day. 

Icelandic tutor needed

I am coming up on the 2 year anniversary of moving into this apartment (and the 1 year anniversary of my blog, but that is another entry).  Everyone told me before I moved here that my Icelandic was good, that all I would need was 2 months of living here and it would be perfect. Ha! Try 2 years, and it could still use LOTS of improvement.  I really am in need of an Icelandic tutor. Someone who will be able to take the time to actually understand my strengths and weaknesses. Someone who is smart enough to adapt their normal teaching methods to my learning style. Someone who really knows Icelandic. But most of all, someone who enjoys giving of their time and energy to help someone else fulfill a goal that is important to them. This is not a job where hourly rates are the issue, this is something I have tried to do my whole life and just cannot succeed on my own. I want a language partner, I guess I mean.  I do not know if this is something I can do in earnest, really turn my full attenti


Over the mantle of our livingroom fireplace was a painting my mom had gotten from her family on her wedding day, a picture of Lake Thingvellir from the south shore, Hagavík, where my grandfather had grown up, and where he met my grandmother.  In the painting, the Axá waterfall was visible in the distance, along the cliffs, as was the church and farm house on the field below. I spent untold hours as a child staring at that painting, and can remember every detail of it.  Two years ago, when the house I grew up in was being remodeled, that painting got misplaced. We haven´t seen it since.  This morning I was looking at the front page of Frettablað, which shows a photo of the farm house at Lake Thingvellir. It burned down yesterday.  Which has got me thinking about permanence. Because Lake Thingvellir was recently recognized as a Unesco World Heritage Site, not only for its historic importance, but also for its natural beauty. And yet there is nothing there, nothing there to show the world


Palmer is making decent progress on his Icelandic, thanks in large part to watching the Disney movie Cars in Icelandic on almost a daily basis. The film is an old favorite of his, he went through a spell of watching it every day in California (in English) but now he's on to the Icelandic version. And he has overcome one of his major anxieties related to the film. The tractor scene . All in all, I consider this time well spent. 

On Icelandic dogs

Icelandic dogs are not only the perfect size, they also have this cute way of tilting their heads when they are wondering about something. And so smart and playful too. I am proud to have an Icelandic dog walk in my front door, even if it is just for a day.  Thanks for letting me dog sit!

Thank you Dr. Gunni

I was giving my friend a ride to the zoo, and thought we'd go too. But on the way up Palmer was acting a bit unruly, and then the parking lot at the zoo was PACKED. So I reverted to plan A - to go to Austurvellir and hear the free concerts that had been plugged on Dr. Gunni's blog. The acts were all garage band types, young I mean, but a couple were really good, especially the second band. Palmer was rockin' out, the weather was great, it was genuinely nice. And I think a better choice than the zoo, it was afterall free!

IBAN, UBAN, We all ban together

The United States, for some bizarre reason, has decided not to participate in the global IBAN bank identification numbering system. The Icelandic electronic banking system wisely only wires money to banks with IBAN identifiers.  And that leaves little old me, with money in my pocket, and in need of getting it to my wonderfully reliable American Express Account, sort of stuck.  Boy I hope I don't have to borrow money from Dave to cover it. 


My Icelandic readers can correct me, but I am pretty sure the Icelandic term for recycling is endurnýjan. I like this, because it means literally, make new again.  I currently have three bags of cardboard containers of various sorts -- milk cartons, juice boxes, egg holders -- all waiting to get recycled. One bag is in my car, one bag is under my sink, another bag is in my laundry room. Last time I went to the only recycling container for cardboard I know about in town (right in front of Kronan, was Samkaup), it was absolutely stuffed full.  So it seems there are a lot of people like me in Iceland, full of good intentions about recycling, but the government is not quite doing its part to provide basic infrastructure. 

4th of July

I completely missed out on the 4th of July, wasn't even thinking about it when I booked the trip to Prague. So the event at the American Embassy, to which I was tacitly invited, got skipped.  But this morning, with a bright sky overhead, I find myself thinking of fireworks and patriotic songs, or actually, just the chorus from various songs.  My Country Tis of Thee, Sweet Land of Liberty, of thee I sing.  This Land is my land, this land is your land, this land was made for you and me. America, America, God Shed his grace on thee. And crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea.  Purple mountain majesty, above the fruited plain.   

Moon rises

In the winter time I am mesmerized by the sun rising in the late morning. Tonight, I see the moon rising at midnight, huge and orange, in a clear sky over the mountains in the distance. There is no light like the light in Iceland. 

Pesticide continued

Here in Iceland, the township employs all the kids over 13 or something to do work around the town, cleaning, painting, fixing potholes, little things. They do it in groups.  For the last two weeks, kids have been up here doing something in the planting beds around the bushes, I think weeding and picking up trash. I wonder if anyone informed them that these were the same trees that had been sprayed with pesticide just a few weeks ago. It seems to be the responsibility of the township to send a letter to the parents of these children, just telling them to be aware that this potential danger was just released into the environment, and that they should use care about washing their clothes, etc. 

Time with my son

I have two months every year now that I will be alone with my son. And as a friend told me today, I need to be sure to make the best of that time.  There is a saying about children, that the more time you spend with them, the more time you want to spend with them.  A person has to plan for that. 

Morning heat

In California, particularly in San Francisco, there is a slight chill in the air most every morning. A person gets used to putting on a robe before leaving the bedroom. I remember as a kid even getting dressed under the covers, to avoid the shock of the morning air.  All through the winter here in Iceland, I have enjoyed wrapping myself up each morning in a big white robe my mom gave me some years ago. Soft and snuggly, putting it on is my favorite thing about getting out of bed.  As the days have gotten longer and longer and brighter and brighter here, by the time I get up at 7am, whatever chill may have been in the air early morning is long gone. For the last few days, I have, out of habit, reached for the robe, but it is in fact too heavy, too hot to wear just now.  Tomorrow I think I will try my zip up cardigan sweater, which is also soft and warm, but not quite so thick and long. 

Social center

We went to Vatnaveröld tonight after dinner, an attempt to enjoy the weather, keep Palmer awake, and get some exercise.  That place was crawling with people, I have rarely seen it more crowded. The groups of teenagers were particularly noticeable, and I thought, wow, I guess this place is the social center of Keflavik.  I did not mind though, since actually, I can't really swim laps myself these days, with Palmer with me at the pool and all!


Well, heading back to my usual controversy free blog style, I now report that Palmer refused to get out of the car at the duck pond, refused in fact to walk around downtown Reykjavik. Insisted on going home after lunch. And yet on the way pointed out the pretty church in Kopavogur. We stopped there, and he happily got out.  This may indicate I have a suburbanite on my hands. Sigh. 


Today I am doing a happy dance, because my friend Kolleen moved in a few blocks away last weekend. She has two sons, both a bit older than Palmer, and another one on the way.  Over coffee, and before we set out on our babysitting swap while each goes grocery shopping experiment, she informed me of two little shocking tidbits. First of all, here in Iceland, they are seriously trying to discourage people from having babies in hospitals. A mom can only stay 4 hours after birth, and in fact they pay if you opt instead to have the baby at home. I was shocked when she informed me of this, but actually it strikes me as a very liberal minded policy. Pregnancy ought not be treated as an illness.  The other thing Kolleen told me is that she has to get a letter every year from her landlord, her employer, and the mayor of the town she is living in, in order to renew her residency permit. Dude, that seems like total overkill. She's married to an Icelander, afterall. 

Built to last

I was telling my aunt and uncle last night that the bridge outside the apartment I was staying in in Prague was built in the 1400s, completed around 1425 or so if I remember right. Then I happened to mention that our apartment building was from about the same time period, and their eyes widened like I have seldom seen. So I went on to tell them that the walls were almost a meter thick, and noticeably thicker at the bottom than at the top. They were built of stone, covered in plaster. My hostess had explained to me that this type of construction does not fall down, it simply does not. The weight of itself holds itself in place.  I guess for most Icelanders, both these concepts are a bit hard to grasp. Turf house construction is extremely liable to fall down, practically designed for easy abandonment (as are many housing types, the world over). That a building might be over 500 years old, and liable to stand another 500, well, that seems like some magic trick. 

On not having a schedule

One minor point of contention during my trip to Prague is that the other mom has a definite routine with her daughter. First thing in the morning, the daughter brushes her teeth, gets dressed, and then eats breakfast. Palmer, on the other hand, does not have this routine. Sure, on the week days when he has to go with his dad to preschool, he has to get dressed right away, but on the weekends, he hangs out in his jammies until late, late in the day. Until they have to leave the house, actually. And he eats breakfast after he has played for a while. This however cannot drag on too long, or all of a sudden, he's hungry and cranky and the whole morning is shot. So she was rather of the opinion that Palmer did not want to leave the apartment, which he probably did not. He likes very well to stay home with his cars.  Most days he has been here, I find that we've got everything all done and we are ready to leave the house just about at lunch time. And then I think, Oh, we should eat l

Lots to do

I'm in a lazy mood after all the traveling, but actually we have a lot to do. Laundry, shopping, finishing the Faeroese case, calling family. And then, this week I swear it, we will start socializing. Palmer deserves to do some sight seeing here in Iceland, just as much as in Prague. 

There and back again

I like to always claim that I prefer to take a different route home from somewhere than I took getting there. But yesterday, Palmer and I back traced exactly our route from Prague, through Berlin, and back to Iceland. Minus of course the stop at the wrong train station that made us miss the first train a few days ago. So this was a return done right, went smooth as pie actually. And I found myself relieved and pleased to be back at the Berlin Schoenfeld airport, looking at the same adds for Easy Jet, knowing where to go. It is not a spectacular airport by any means, but it had a restaurant that had perfect tender little chicken strips for Palmer in a car shaped plate, and nice spicy french fries for mommy. It felt like home.  So for the first time in I do not know when, I realized just how very nice it is to be back just where you started. Nothing wrong with that at all. 

Czech handicrafts

Czech handicrafts have also caught me by surprise, since everything from cut crystal (which I thought of as Austrian) and egg painting (which I thought of as Russian) and wooden toy making (which I thought of as German) is all to be found here as Czech handicrafts. The one though that surprised me the most was the marionettes, I do not know why. I have no reason for thinking they belong elsewhere, and in fact I now suspect it to be the most authentic of these Czech handicrafts.  I have not however bought any of these, as of yet. What I did buy was another, perhaps more particularly Prahaish handicraft. Intricate, sometimes tiny, ink drawings that are then filled in with extremely bright wa ter colors. Seems like a Byzantine mosaic, or a Italian stain glass window.  The one I bought shows the exact part of town where we are staying, and in point of fact, our apartment would be just to the right of the bottom right corner of the painting. Directly adjacent to the naked woman in the windo


When we went to visit Kafka's grave, my hostess told me he had never wanted any of his works published. That his best friend published them posthumously against his explicate instructions to burn them.  I wonder why he did not just publish under a pseudonym, like Scandinavian authors are apt to do.  Now instead there is a Kafka museum, extremely expensive tours of his home, and a stream of visitors to his grave. I think he would have probably wanted a bit more privacy. 

High and low and everything in between

There were a great many things about Prague I did not know, and really ought to admit to being lax on looking things up on the internet about it before I got here. Now that I am here, I am more and more impressed by the minute. Although York is still my favorite European city. I decided today that Prague is my favorite European capital. Such an amazing variety of architectural styles and such a sense of solidity, of history, this place has been and will be. But oddly work-a-day. deregulated. Kitchy tourist shops right up to the palace gate. No hiding the fact that they expect you to pay if you break a glass at their restaurant (which I of course did today - me, not Palmer. Yeah, I'm slick). Cafes open while in the midst of redecorating (rather Icelandic, I would say, in that respect). So even though I have never seen Paris, the extent to which this city bypasses Athens and Brussels and London just in terms of making a person feel welcome, feel part of the fabric of what is happenin

Benefits of divorce

I got the lowdown on this apartment, how it is that friends of friend's of mine could afford a place like this. A friend of theirs had inherited it from his grandmother, just after getting married. Then he and his wife got divorced, and she of course claimed half of this apartment as hers, so he had to sell it. He saved himself a good deal of hassle selling it to his friends, and they in turn let their friends stay here too, so all in all, I would say it was a good divorce. But in point of fact, they guy should have probably figured out a way to keep his property from becoming communal - I imagine he misses this place! Photographic proof follows, of the entry and view out the balcony. The interior has also been partially redecorated. Golden tiles in the bathroom, a huge built in mahogany bed, and antique glass in the kitchen cabinets. Nice!

Two apartments

My friend Jana has a house outside of Prague and an apartment in Prague, which she says is completely normal here in Prague. My kind of place.  She arranged for us to stay at another apartment, the one of a friend of her's whose apartment is right in the heart of the old, tourist district. There are hotels and cafes and shops and amazing sites all over the place. This apartment is small, and old, and perfect.   Funny I sort of left the Prague part of this trip up to Jana to plan. I just figured out the transport here, and had not even checked a single website about things to do in Prague. I trusted her to know what was good to do. She always took great care of Palmer when she babysat him back in Berkeley, and I knew she was the kind that one could trust to come up with a good plan.  So far, to say I am not disappointed would be a gross understatement.

A Catholic city

Prague is a city of revolutions, a place where the potential for change hangs in the air, but where the memory of the past is never far out of site, or out of mind.  My hostess tells me Catholicism is on the rise here, and that seems fitting to me. Because this is a medieval city.  I'll download some pictures in a bit, now that Palmer is sleeping. 

Getting there

I thought it would be a piece of cake to catch the train in Berlin for Prague. Was all happy and proud walking over to the train station -- even stopped to notice an add for flights to Copenhagen featuring horned helmets. Nopers, there was no way to print out my online reservation from the automatic machines. And the one person at the tiny ticket office spoke no English. And Palmer had not eaten anything, so he was a wee bit of a handful. 45 minutes later, and two different train stations later, I had it figured out.  So, we missed the first train to Prague. But we caught the second one. And on the plus side, I got to see a lot more of Berlin than I was planning on.