Showing posts from June, 2010


Well this week here in Iceland has not exactly been icecream and popsicle weather, but still I splurged on íspinna after pizza tonight. Palmer likes to eat the crunchy chocolate shell, and then he gives it to me: "Buinn Mamma" he says very dramatically.  This leaves me with the arduous task of slurping up the thick rich vanilla icecream even the inexpensive popsicles contain here in Iceland. Íspinna is also just the right size, it gets down to a smooth hump clinging to the popsicle stick all around almost immediately, which means it does not make a sticky drippy mess everywhere. Kudos to kjörís!

Old Icelandic churches

As part of my Master's work at George Washington University, I wrote a research paper about the built landscape of the West Icelanders in Gimli Manitoba and Red River, Minnesota. The Library of Congress had some wonderful resources, diaries and such, as well as small yearbook type publications. So for a place I have never been, I feel like I know a lot about it. The West Icelanders built a lot of churches, especially in Red River. That community had splintered off from the Gimli community over a scriptural dispute, and they took their religion seriously. Icelandic churches in Red River had a special kind of steeple that distinguished them from Swedish or Norwegian churches in the area, so that even after the services stopped being in Icelandic, the church building itself helped preserve a special sense of Icelandicness.

Mailing list

I seem to now officially be on the US Embassy mailing list, which is groovy. Embassies always have something going on that they invite people to, it is pretty much one of the main things they do. This Friday there is a reception aboard the USS Stephen W. Groves. I am considering attending, if they let me bring my son. Hann hefur gaman af þessu.

What he wants

As a single child of a single parent, Palmer is pretty spoiled. If he asks for a toy, he usually gets it, especially if I think it has some merit to it, like legos that develop his fine motor skills or crayons for his artistic side, or a ball for his gross motor skills. He is pretty good at only wanting things that are generally speaking not totally stupid, so that is good. And he is also really good at deciding he does not want something, bargaining instead for something else. Palmer also gets a lot of one on one attention from me. I think about how much cumulative time I had alone with my mother as a child, and I am sure Palmer and I have already surpassed that. That thought makes it easier as he heads off to California in a week.


Camping in Iceland is simply amazing. We have a perfect spot.

Juvenile Poetry

Next week, at Vikingaheimar, we'll be conducting a bold experiment to try to teach kids aged 10 to 13 something about Viking Age poetry, in fact to have them compose their own kenning-riddled poems. This has got me thinking a lot about the poetry I read in school in California. I remember two poems that we read around this age especially well. One was Edgar Allen Poe's The Cask of Amontillado and the other was Robert Frost's The Mending Wall.  These two poems are associated in my mind not only because I read them at the same time, but also because they both have motifs about walls. We had a wall around the house I grew up in, really I think the only one in the neighborhood that went all the way around front and back. And bees used to nest inside the wall in the backyard, from whence they would occasionally swarm over the house. Climbing over that wall with my sister was always a great adventure as a child, even if all we were doing was getting a tennis ball we'd thrown

Currency conversion

The highcourt of Iceland decided this week that the loans whose principle fluctuated with the value of various foreign currencies were illegal. I know nothing about the legal background of this, save to say that the whole idea seemed really strange to me. But I have noticed, perhaps because of the popularity of these loans, or because Icelanders, pre-crash, traveled an awful lot, that every Icelander has an incredibly precise understanding of the value of the kroner against a variety of foreign currencies, including the US dollar, and they keep up with the value fluctuations on a daily basis. I mean everyone from the plumbers to the college kids to the executives. Everyone knows the value of the dollar against the kroner, it seems to me. In the US on the other hand, I have rarely met even someone with an advanced college degree who knows the value of the dollar against the Euro or Yen, let alone against the kroner. So it seems to me these gengistryggð loans were at least good for t


Palmer and I have done a number of "experiments" while he has been here. When the volcano was erupting, we did something with red dye, a rock, and baking soda that approximated lava bubbling down a mountain side. And now the last few days he has been mixing various juices together, calling it an experiment. When I was a kid, my best friend Wendy and I used to try to make cement out of whatever household products were laying under the kitchen sink. Usually it was a combination of ajax and soap, anything that was white and sticky. We would then take this concoction outside and fill in the holes in the sidewalk. Of course usually whatever we did would get washed away at the next rain, but those were pretty seldom in So Cal. When Palmer gets back to California, he'll be enrolled in a "science camp" where the kids will do experiments and learn about the planets. I hope it will instill in him a life-long interest in science and discovery, but we'll see. Just a


The United States has had its share of celebrity authors, absolutely. But these days, an author only becomes a celebrity in the US (that is outside of elite circles in urban areas like New York) if their book is turned into a motion picture, and preferably a block buster. Iceland retains the older sense of a celebrity author, a person who writes a good book at a young age and becomes an inspiration to those around them. The nice thing is that there are so many of these celebrity authors floating around Iceland that I think many of them do not even realize just how much of a celebrity they are. Then on the other hand there are some older, established authors that are really intolerably conceited about their celebrity status within the Icelandic literati. It is all very cute from my perspective.

Just show up

Today Palmer has his first "soccer game". The coach sent all of us parents a long email about how this was not really a game, that the score would not matter at all, that he knew the kids would run the wrong way and would use their hands and everything else. He said the point was just for the kids to show up, put on their uniforms, and have fun. I remember when my brother was in peewee football back in California. By the time the kids were 7 or 8, the coaches were pretty demanding, but at 5 or 6, all they really had to do was just show up. And have fun of course!

One reason, and one reason only

I have been invited to the American Embassy tomorrow for their 4th of July celebration. Seems a bit odd, to have a 4th of July celebration on any day other than the 4th of July, and of course I am going to Boston on the 4th of July, where there will be a really proper celebration. So this does not really strike me so much as a 4th of July party, as a good chance to get to talk to people I have been wanting to and trying to talk to about a variety of issues for the last two or three years.


Palmer was so happy to finally be able to drive his own car.

Sad apple

Came like this out of the bag.

Knock, knock

Palmer and I came up with an Icelandic-American knock-knock joke. It goes like this: Knock, knock Who's there? Orri Orri who? Or we could row our boat there!

Free into Vikingaheimar to celebrate 10 year anniversary of the sailing of Íslendingur

Though Íslendingur has now found a permanent dock inside of Vikingaheimar, the crew of Íslendingur, and many of the friends who witnessed the ship sailing both in Iceland and in North America, remember fondly her proud sailing days. On the 10 year anniversary of Íslendingur's departure from Reykjavík harbor, we will have a special program starting at 4pm. Please join us for songs, a segment of Ferðirsaga Guðriðar, and a chance to chat with Gunnar about his trip. Admission is free and we look forward to welcoming you to Vikingaheimar, the home of Íslendingur!

Stop thinking about yourself

Well, I do not know when, but at some point in time over the last year or so, I have become some sort of wise sage dispensing caring and timely advice to friends near and far. My friend Kim in California has always put me in this roll, but when we were younger, I sort of chaffed at it, did not feel like I actually had much wisdom to impart. But now, 20 years later, it turns out I do have an opinion about how people should handle emotional crisis of one sort or another. It is kind of like realizing I have an opinion about politics, which I still sometimes do not really acknowledge until 4 days later or something, I find myself telling someone else about a recent decision by the Icelandic or Calfornian government, and getting rather upset about it. It is only then that I think, "wow, I did have an opinion about that!" So it turns out I also have a much stronger opinion than I thought I did about how women should treat their boyfriends, and men should treat their girlfriends. 

Palm trees

I have finally got my summer travel figured out, at least the first part of it. I am taking Palmer to Boston to meet his dad on July 4th, and then flying down to see my brother, his girlfriend (who is a childhood friend of mine), and my mom and dad in Florida. Of course I expect the beaches may be affected by the oil spill, but I also know the weather will be nice and we'll get a chance to hang out under the palm trees. Alex, a little boy we met at the pool in Reykjanesbær this weekend who speak Swedish and Icelandic, asked if Pálmar's name meant palm tree.  Although that is not the correct etymology of his name, it sounds about right.  So now I think I will start reminding everyone that they have only just a few more short weeks to enjoy the rare sight of a palm tree growing in Iceland.


Palmer has now mentioned for the fourth time wanting to go camping. Camping of course is a good idea, and especially natural after how warm and dry the weather has been for stretches of May and June. But Icelanders typically hold off on the big camping trips until a bit later in the summer. Which means I will need to do some asking around, see if I could talk any of my friends or cousins into a trip in the very new future. Theoretically, I could just go camping on my own, but I do not want to. I would prefer having some adult company.

Moving attitudes

Every foreigner I know that has moved here has had of course a different reason for coming, but I have been surprised by the range of possible attitudes about the move. Some people have a sense of trying it out for a while, seeing if it works. Other people have the idea that they will never fit in, and do not worry about it. Some people are just happy to have a job and are not too concerned one way or another what Icelanders think about them. Anyhow, looking back I realize that I set for myself a very ambitious goal. I wanted to be genuinely accepted into the Icelandic community. I do not know if I had an actual plan for how to do this, but I think I thought I had a pretty good base from which to try. I have close family here, long term professional contacts, and a job that involves my local community. When I moved here, I thought it would be pretty easy to become part of the Icelandic culture. It is even possible I was a bit too presumptuous. In California, any one of those things wou

So nice to see

Yesterday I saw a lot of friends I do not get a chance to see too often, including two that live near me that I just have not taken any time to hang out with lately, and another two "friend's of Iceland" that are here visiting for a bit. When I go home to California, I usually try to do the same thing, see several good friends in one day, but this was one of the few times here in Iceland I have gotten the chance to do the same. Always so good to see friends laughing and enjoying each other's company.

No false pretense

My colleague/friend Merrill is coming to stay the night with me tonight. We met at Berkeley, and now she teaches at Ohio State University, where I spent a couple of years. Plus we both have a thing for Iceland. So that gives us lots in common.  But what I like about her is that she comes forward under no false pretense of us being like the best friends in the world. She just sent me a short message, "I need somewhere to sleep for one night." And so of course I said, "Sure!" And I am looking forward to catching up on some of the goings on in her life. Sometimes it pays to have an apartment right by the airport, and friends all over the world.

A good headstart

This year 17 júni we'll be doing an event at Víkingaheimar (which I will write about in my other blog shortly). So I am trying to add and improve a few little things to the exhibition, some of which have been fairly glaring omissions, and some of which are more things I notice need to be done for flow and clarity sake.   Last year I was trying to do the entire exhibition about the sailing of Íslendingur before 17 júni, and it was terribly stressful. This year I have much more of a calm, organized feel about what needs to be done, and indeed a lot more of a headstart on doing it. Instead of crossing my fingers hoping it will work out, I am just confident it will all come together nicely, and right on time.  

Curious George, Again

Palmer does not believe me that the Man in the Yellow Hat in the Curious George movie that he has been watching works at a museum, "same as your mommy." Not only does he work in a museum, the movie also has an "adult subplot" as I would call it, one which strikes near to my heart. The Man in the Yellow Hat is up for a promotion at work, but Curious George's antics put not only his promotion but his entire career in jeopardy (he is accused of stealing an elephant). Lucky for him though, he is actually the only person being considered for the position (head of the museum) by the Board of Directors, so they are very understanding and forgiving. I am not sure if this happens in the real world also, but I think sometimes it does. The stealing the elephant part I mean.

That should be enough for now!

This morning I drove up to the airport with two boxes of our new pamphlets for Vikingaheimar. That is about 2,000 copies. Some of the booklets are of course at the tourist information booth, but there it is mixed in with lots of other booklets for historic sites in Iceland, in fact we ended up way in the corner. But I gave them a box anyhow, just in case they need them. We also have some booklets inside the main terminal, as part of the exhibit of Gunnar's model ship. A few days ago the manager of the airport services told me all the booklets I put in there two weeks ago were already gone. This does not surprise me since that is a good location, but it means it is important those stands stay full. Now the airport offices also have a box of the booklets, and I really hope they are diligent about refilling them.

Ashes, ashes, we all fall down!

I had a dark grey cat named Ashes. He and his brother, an orange tabby, were the only two in Precious Angel Kitty's first litter, born in 1988. My mom came up with the name Ember for the orange tabby, and although in retrospect we should have perhaps gone with Ask og Embla, we instead went with Ember and Ashes. Thereafter I had many occasion to explain their names; apparently an awful lot of people are not familiar with the workings of a fire, that it produces both glowing embers and floating ashes. Poor Ashes died of a jaw infection when he was 13. It was pretty terrible. I had noticed swelling in his face, but then it seemed to go away. About a year later, his teeth started falling out. When a chunk of his jaw came out in the food dish, I knew it was time to put him to sleep. Funny thing was he was purring and affectionate all the way up to the last day, even though he must have been really sick and in a lot of pain. His brother Ember had diabetes by this time, and I tell y


My favorite part of the drive between Keflavík and Reykjavík is the rocky stretch just before the aluminum factory comes into view, a place where old farms and new summer houses cling to rocky outcrops between tidal pools. I have always wanted to go walk around there, but have never taken the time. I always watch the waves (instead of the road, I know) when I drive past there. Waves in Iceland are different than waves in California. Waves in California are steady and smooth, whereas the waves here are choppy and constant. The waves in California draw your eye out into the expanse of the ocean, whereas the waves here bring attention to the shore, to the place where the land and the sea meet.


Yesterday it rained here in Keflavík for the first time in like 10 days or more. I was so relieved. Looking at a sky filled with clouds seemed right, seemed like the Iceland I know and love. Today it is warm and sunny again, hardly a cloud in the sky. Sigh.