Showing posts from December, 2010

Smart phone

My brother had a Smart phone Treo 700 that he was no longer using. He gave it to my dad, who put it on his existing Verizon plan. Then today, my dad gave it to me. So I now have a free Smart phone (although I will have to buy the data pack myself if I want to use the phone to get on the net). I am trying to decide if this counts as rather Icelandic of me, or not. On the one hand, utilizing connections and figuring out a free way to do something seems pretty Icelandic to me. But on the other hand, Icelanders these days are reticent to recycle or use hand-me-downs. Anyhow, it is surely not very Orange County of me. Probably best to say it is vintage Lange family.

Jeans and a pretty blouse

I was invited to a party last night that was hosted by a girl I used to play with pretty often in elementary school. We also went to the same junior high and highschool, but I think she thought I was a bit too serious and moved on to funnier friends. So the group last night was a good selection of the 250 some-odd girls that were in our graduating class. I am happy to report that I fit very well into this group. Not only was I wearing the exact right sort of outfit (jeans and pretty blouse with accessories like big necklace and cool belt), I have perhaps become a bit less serious in my old age, because I laughed a lot. So living in Iceland has not completely warped my Orange County roots.

Driving rain

One of the cherished stereotypes about Southern Californian's is that they horribly over-react to every rain storm.  This is because it does not rain very often here, and when it does, roads and hills that are not used to getting wet react badly: the roads get slippery and the hillsides very muddy.* Today I was driving down the 5 freeway in a rather heavy rain. Having lived in Iceland, the rain storm did not bother me at all, but I was impressed to see that the natives seemed to be doing pretty well as well, even though they were putting on the breaks a bit more often than necessary. *another sign that Southern California is not built for rain is that all the play structures at the fast food places are actually outdoors, rather than indoors as they are in Iceland, and basically anywhere else in the world.

Anti-strong verbs

Today as Palmer and I were driving up the 5 freeway, he started telling me a story about a black knight and his group of grey knight friends who "fighted a dragon." I corrected him, "who fought a dragon." Palmer has decided, starting sometime in October or so, that all verbs should be formed by adding -ed to the end of them. I am therefore I fairly regularly trying to correct him. His normal response is to complete ignore me and keep saying things liked "thinked" and "drived". But today when I interjected "fought"into his story, he said, "what? fought? what? That doesn't make ANY sense! It is supposed to be fighted" and then he kept going. This made me realizing that teaching him Icelandic might be a little more tricky than I thought.

Under the same roof

I have enjoyed a wonderful four days with my family in Southern California, with lots of good food and laughs and fun presents and heartfelt moments. Last night my niece left, and today my nephew and his mom will be leaving, so it is all winding up a bit now. We've all been sleeping in the same house here, the house I grew up in, and indeed, this is a big part of the holidays in the United States, having family members who live far apart from one another actually sleep in the same house again. It strikes me as not quite so much a defining characteristic of the holidays in Iceland as it is here. In Iceland, I think everyone tends to go back to their own homes Christmas eve, and then eat somewhere else Christmas day. Of course this could have something to do with the fact that Christmas morning is the main time to open presents in the United States, since Santa does not come until Christmas eve.

All very Californian

Yesterday, we drove from San Luis Obispo to Mission Viejo, California along the 101. That road cuts along the coastal foothills, sometimes merging with the 1 and hugging the coast. But even when it turns inland, the 101 still offers beautiful scenery through wine country and cattle grazing land. So that part of the day was very Californian. Three other events of the day were also terribly Californian. We awoke in San Luis Obispo to a heavy rain fall (which does indeed happen every winter here) and a dead battery in the car. But here in Californian, the AAA (American Automobile Association) is especially robust. They had a service vehicle out to replace our battery within a half hour. Cars are king in Cali. Five hours into our drive (after a stop in Santa Barbara where Palmer through a fit at a lovely Italian restaurant with views over the pier), we hit Los Angeles. And true to expectation, for 3pm in the afternoon on a stormy day, we landed in a terrible traffic jam. The road was f

Children's Hospital

This morning I took Palmer to a routine exam at Children's Hospital in Oakland for his liver and kidneys. It is a very good hospital, very kid friendly with lots of decorations everywhere and a staff that is specially trained to know how to talk to and relate to kids. Palmer got to watch a movie during his exam and was given a gift afterwards, so he was a happy camper. The only odd thing about it is that upon admission to the hospital, he is given a wrist band with his name and birthdate on it. Everywhere we went in the hospital, he was asked his name and birthdate. I think they are very concerned that the patients do not get mixed up or lost while navigating the maze of specialists that need to be seen for most sick children.

Hard not to fit in

Today I have spent a good deal of time at the Seattle International Airport. Now Seattle is not known as the most diverse city in the United States, but even here, the range of people one sees, the range of way people are dressed, the way they talk, the way they look, it is really impressive. Celebrities like to go to Iceland because they say they do not get any kind of extra attention there, and they welcome the relief from the spotlight. I think that Icelanders that come to the United States would suddenly feel that anonymity.

Image of the Vikings

Last night I arrived at my sister's house in Seattle in time for her boyfriend's annual Winter solstice party. One attendee was a very pretty, friendly, talkative, 25 year old named Amy. She was fascinated by the fact that I had just arrived from Iceland, and this led to lots of questions.  Her impression when I said the word "Vikings" was that I was talking about cavemen. I tried to explain the  historical time frame better, but she was on a roll. "Yeah, a friend of mine was telling me the other night, that those Vikings did not wait for anything. If they saw a woman they liked, they just raped her."  I think I might in the future just say I specialize in medieval Icelandic literature. 

Sigrún Ásta

Today I gave my colleague at Byggjasafn Reykjanesbæjar my key to Víkingaheimar. She seemed glad of it, and I am sure she'll take good care of the artifacts on display at the museum.

Eyrar brauð

Although I have been living here in Iceland more than three years, I have not developed a lot of brand loyalties. I can never remember which skyr brand I prefer, which hotdog is better, which type of Icelandic icecream I prefer. So I consider it a real accomplishment that I have actually, finally found one Icelandic grocery store item that I clearly prefer and now always buy without a moment's hesitation.  Eyrar brauð.  It is a barley/wheat blend, and the barley all comes from Iceland, from a farm called Þorvaldseyri which is not that far from Eyjafjall on the south coast of Iceland. Barley was grown in Iceland in the settlement period at least in some valleys. Used both in brewing beer and making bread, barley was important in the Viking Age, and the first generations of Icelanders made sure to plant some here. But then in the medieval and early modern period, bad climate and imported flour made barley cultivation untenable.  I am more than happy to be using my spending pow

Translation help

I have been a bit of a stressed out wreck all week. My poor co-workers and friends! Trying to redo the entire first floor of the museum while getting ready for a six month stay in California has not left me any time to be social, and has drained much of my enthusiasm for getting up in the morning. Last night however three of my Icelandic friends (and possibly a fourth) chipped in, each one doing one part of the translation I needed done for the exhibition. The whole thing was a bit of a blur, I have only a vague sense of who did what, but anyhow, it all got done, for which I am grateful. Now just to have a proofreader go over it all, and it is off to the printer! Last-minute Lisa

If Iceland has taught me one thing . . .

When I get to California, I will be able to start picking my son up from school several days a week and having regular weekend visits with him. I imagine that moms who are used to spending every night and every day with their children might not understand how excited and grateful I am for the extra time with him, and the chances to give him lots and lots of hugs and kisses.

Thank you Donald Rumsfeld

Sometimes I wonder if I should have moved to Iceland a long time ago. I thought about it the first time when I was 16, and then every few years after that it would occur to me again. But I have to say, I am really glad I waited to come here until after the American military left. I am quite sure that a number of friends I have here in Iceland would actually never have spoken to me if I had come here in 1994 or 1999, or 2003, or 2005 even. During the Bush years it was difficult enough to be an American abroad, and whenever I traveled during those 8 years, I was always having to defend myself against people who thought that all Americans were like that. Now that the US Military has left Iceland, and we have Obama in office, there has been a slight lifting willingness to discuss the good things about American amongst the intellectuals in Iceland. But it is still pretty thin, and well, I have a feeling it would have been a real obstacle anytime prior to 2007. So I came here at the righ

Icelandic Commonwealth period

In 1999, I was tasked with the job of finding authors for our exhibition catalogue. Most of the authors were the curators that were assisting us at the various lending museums, but we wanted to expand out from that to other specialists, particularly historians and literary scholars. Having completed my bachelors in Scandinavian in 1994, some of the names of people we "had to have" were in my head, and I had of course done some of my own reading in preparation for the exhibition. But I think I had maybe 2 weeks to come up with an author's list and send out letters of invitation. So in a lot of cases, I asked my embassy contacts to recommend people. The person that wrote the chapter on the commonwealth period in Iceland was one such embassy recommendation, Helgi Þórlaksson, history professor at HÍ. He wrote a very clear and straightforward article on the matter. Now that I have been living here in Iceland for a while, the entire concept of the commonwealth period in I

Family and friends

I had a wonderful weekend saying "merry christmas and goodbye" to my friends and family here in Iceland, with a party at my house Friday night and Saturday night. One of my cousins was trying to reassure me, when I mentioned how much I would miss everyone. Her sister, Elísabet, lives in Ireland, and she said that they talk basically every day. Then we got into a discussion of how often that is the case, that one ends up talking to the people that are farther away more often than the people that are right there in the same town. Icelanders in particular make more of an effort to bridge the distance with phone calls and text messages and gifts. It is a trade off, but it works out pretty well. In the three years I have lived here in Iceland, I know I have changed in this regard. I have become more Icelandic, more appreciative of community, more appreciative of the value of keeping lines of communication open between friends and family both near and far.

The makings of a happy evening

Friday night the 3rd, I went to a Christmas party at my boss' house. She had a lot of food and drink, and also had organized three different games for us to play. Between each course there was something different. It was all planned ahead of time, and gave the evening an air of formality. I suppose the games were also supposed to help people who do not know each other very well (there were 25 or so of us who work in different parts of the cultural division of the town) find something to talk about. Last night, I had a Christmas party at my house for my extended family here in Iceland. There were 18 of us, and although they are all people I see on a fairly regular basis, some of them had not seen each other for quite a while. It never crossed my mind though to organize any particular activities or events for when my guests were at my house. I did not even have a movie picked out for the kids to watch. To me, the only thing I need to do as a hostess is provide the place, decide

Nighttime reading

As a thank you for hosting her during her stay in Iceland, my colleague Ursula sent me a book. Since she has a PhD in Comparative Literature, and is a professor at Harvard, I decided that her taste in books is probably good enough that I should actually read the book she gave me. It is by a Nobel Prize winning author,  Orhan Pamuk, and is entitled Museum of Innocence. I am not an avid reader, or at least not an avid reader of non-fiction. My nighttime reading for years has consisted of non-fiction essays. I love to read heavy theory late at night. Narrative fiction on the other hand is not my favorite, mostly because as I get tired, I start to get impatient to know what will "happen" next in the story. This is never the case with a theoretical essay, where every paragraph is full of interesting ideas. Instead when reading a novel, I inevitably stay up way too late, trying to get to some point in the story where something "happens" that is satisfactory enough for m

Christmas crosses

Icelanders have a tradition at Christmas time of putting lighted crosses on the graves of their loved ones. I find this such a strange custom, I cannot seem to get my head around it. Tonight I was driving with a colleague from Sweden through Keflavik, and he just about had a heart attack when he saw the lit up graveyard. We stopped to take a picture. He has never seen or heard of anything like it. We then had a scholarly discussion about Icelanders and their obsession with the dead. He is an archaeologist that specializes a lot in funeral rituals, and thinks somewhere along the way, Icelandic culture stopped providing the sense of closure needed to let the living get on with their lives. It has resulted, it seems, in lit up Christmas crosses.

Core temperature

Although I do not know the least bit about medical science, I have heard on TV doctor's talking about needing to get a patient's "core temperature" up. I believe this is what I am in need of. I have been cold, constantly cold, for three or four days now.  My core temperature is clearly already adjusted for California. 

When Palmer was here

This year has sped by unbelievably quickly, and I am sure this is because I spent four months of it in domestic mommy bliss with Palmer here in Iceland, hardly thinking about work or my dissertation or anything else. As Christmas approaches, and I am getting ready to leave, I am realizing how little time Palmer and I spent visiting friends and family when he was here. I guess I just wanted time on my own with the little guy, but now that he is not coming here for Christmas, I do feel a bit sorry that I was not more generous about sharing his bright and friendly personality when I had the chance.

Armed for the voyage

Yesterday we opened our new exhibition about the Viking Age boat burial tradition. As part of the opening ceremony, the Ásatrúagoði from Kjalsnes performed a sort of farewell blessing that she also uses at funerals for members of the Ásatrú here in Iceland. This funerary rite includes depositing beside the dead certain prized possessions. The mayors of Reykjanesbær and Sandgerði put sand from Hafurbjarnastaðir inside the boat. Then I laid a shield near the skull of the man - his skull actually has iron stains from where it touched a shield boss. Böðvar laid an axe at his side, and Gunnar laid a sword. In the Viking Age, death was seen as a journey, just like other journeys. And a person set off on such a voyage well armed. I suppose if you expected to meet Oðinn or Þór when you got to the other side, and to be greeted by a beautiful Valkyrie, you would want to show up with your proper armaments. Not of course because you planned to fight with them, but because one wants to show off

Welcome to Víkingaheimar

I am here at the museum, waiting for the courier from the National Museum to bring the skeletal remains for our new exhibition. At 5pm this evening, we'll have the formal opening ceremony, which we will be conducting kind of like a funeral. It is perhaps a funny way to welcome the remains of this man into the museum, but I thought it was fitting. Doors are open at 4pm and it is free in today. You are most welcome.