Monthly Archives: April 2012

White flesh in a hot pot

Okay, I figure it was about 600 pounds of the whitest flesh you have ever seen. Flesh on three women who haven’t seen the sun for a very long time. Six blue eyes looked at me as I slithered my flesh and green eyes  to boil in the neighborhood hot pot.

I sat knee to knee with strangers who didn’t speak my mother tongue.

There are times like this I have to imagine that someone picked me up and plunked me down in unfamiliar surroundings just to see what I would do. I sat getting warmed up and that felt good to this expat.

A young blond lady came over and asked if I wanted to join them in an aerobic exercise. Sure I did, so I climbed out with the other white flesh and two men joined us for an hour workout in the pool.

Then back to the hot pot to soak some more. A gentleman who works at the pool brought a pitcher of ice water and glasses for all of us so we wouldn’t dehydrate.

That sounds funny…don’t dehydrate while you’re sitting in water.

Then there were four women and a man in the pot. Soon another women wanted to get into the pot and there was some discussion. The gentleman hopped out and the woman exchanged the hot pot seat with him. I figured out that it must have meant that there could only be five people in a pot at a time. I can see why; that’s a lot of knees, ankles, toes and derriere’s.

Before he got out, he tried to tell me that he was a farmer; he searched for the English words to tell me he raised sheep. When he said cheap, I Ba ba-ed  like a lamb and he smiled and nodded his head.

 

 

 

 

Beautiful Sunday night

Right now, it’s so beautiful outside the big window; it’s hard to describe. On one side of the fiord it’s bright red, lots of blue in the middle from the sky and the water and then there is a sliver of a moon and one star. The northern lights are expected to be seen tonight. I hope to get a photo. Must stay awake for a long time.

The Fjord at 8:45 p.m.

Right after I took this photo, the sun came out and it was BRILLIANT at 9 p.m.

 

This was taken at 8:45 p.m. The Fjord from the house

photos of the fjord

I took a few photos of the fjord around 7 p.m. while it is still light out. The fjord is  very wide, and the water is busy tonight. It’s been cloudy and dark most of the day, but now sun peeks through the clouds onto the water. Beautiful.

Photos from the fjord across from where I’m living this month

It’s cold up here.

Today is Sunday and the town of 500 people is closed down. There was a little bit more activity in town yesterday, but not much more. I took a walk then through the little village and observed the fishing/harbor area, the little church on the hillside, the public school and houses that are spread about. The ocean was calm, with ducks bobbing up and down and seagulls flying freely, as they like to do.

It was cold but I was comfortable with my Icelandic wool sweater and layers of clothing underneath. Back at home, as I sat by the big window overlooking the fjord, it began to snow great big flakes, and it lasted about 5 minutes.

But today! It was about 65,000 degrees below zero. Exaggeration helps to set the scene so you’ll believe me. I walked the opposite direction of the town, where I wanted to have a look at the airstrip I’d be flying out on in a month. I didn’t get very far when realizing I’d better go back and double my warming effects.

With wool gloves and a stocking cap Siggi had loaned me, I started again up the road toward the runway that was not yet visible. The ocean is more active than the calm of the day before.

I had asked two men, who were dressed in yellow rain coats, yesterday where the airstrip was and they said about one kilometer that way, and they pointed up the road.

The harsh wind blowing toward my direction was so cold, the glasses I wore were frozen to my frozen face, and my hands matched. But you know me, don’t you by now? Can’t give up; no siree, so I forged on, taking my fingers out of the fingers of the glove and putting them back inside like fists, and pulled the hat down as far as it would go over my face with just enough space left to see.

I passed a few houses and then there was nothing. However, up ahead, an information sign in Icelandic and English told about the area, and what lie ahead.

Seems a Norwegian boat capsized many decades ago a few kilometers ahead, and all but one person died.

A village close to that accident, has long been uninhabited. I could only imagine it looks like what I remember as ghost towns in Colorado. But that village would be much older.

By now, I could see the runway. The wind sock gave the direction of the wind; and you betcha, it was blowing right on my face.

The runway was on a slight slope; it would have been fun to see the plane crabbing into the wind to land, slightly uphill.

Now, it was time to turn back away from no man’s land; and on the way back, tiny pin drops of snow stung the other side of my face.

The photo is a farm on the way to Porshorn.

Up to the Arctic Circle

It’s a wonder to me sometimes how I got to where I am. What turn of events would take me to a house overlooking the most awesome view of a fjord at the furthest end of the Island of Iceland?

It began when Siggi, a tall, red-ringlet, haired iceman picked me up at the Salvation Army Guesthouse three days ago and took me to the town of Mosfellsbaer to his home on Dvergholt (Dwarf Street).

We would leave the next day around noon to head up to Porshorn, far up north to the Jorvik Hotel he owns at the Arctic Circle. Actually, we left at 9 p.m. because Siggi had some complications that had to be settled before we left. Meanwhile, I sat inside his home reading, “Reykjavik 101” and got acquainted with the smoky-colored cat.

I enjoyed the view of snowy mountains from the windows, as well as listening to the soft purring of “Smokey”.

We left while it was still relatively light, driving on roads which both sides were covered with lava-pocked rocks, and bumpy hills of naturally growing wheat-grass. Siggi explained the lumps of wheat grass are formed when ice sits under the grass and then melts, leaving mounds in small hills.

One area heavily laden with lava rocks in such formations that led my mind to imagine they were carefully placed there, rock on rock on rock, by some giant artist who came out of the sky to create abstract art. Hey, that actually sounds like a Saga, those folk stories Icelanders have been telling for generations.

We arrived late after driving through rain and snow, at Gladheimar Cabins, where I fell fast asleep inside my knotty-pine room, under a comforter that had been stuffed into the car with everything else that would be needed at the Jorvik Hotel. l will be here for one month at least, and will no doubt fly back to Reykjavik at that time.

The cabin, a two-bedroom house, fully equipped kitchen, living room, awesome views of a river and mountains, ducks and geese, was made of knotty-pine walls and wooden floors, with leather couches, and is just one of many ‘cabins’ that awaits weary travelers.

The next day, the journey continued on through a varied terraine, including dark hills with ribbons of snow, reminding me of gingerbread sprinkled with powdered sugar.

Then, Siggi made a turn off the beaten track and I wondered if this was the turn I saw on the map that showed the route to Porshorn? My question was answered with a surprise.

The Godafoss waterfall!

See the photo of the waterfall, the cabin and the Icelandic horses we saw along the way.

 

Walking and observing

Intent on walking up to Mokku coffee shop, I was  in the hope of seeing Kitel one more time. Kitel was the local character I met a few weeks ago. Who should I run into on the way? It was the Icelandic John Wayne. I quickly told him I had an appointment.  I aim to keep this year a positive experience.

So at Mokku, in the middle of enjoying a delicious cup of hot chocolate, in walks Kitel…a bushy bearded fellow with a devilish twinkle in his eye. He saw me and began to yodel.  Yodel, well I think it may have been the sound he made when he played an Eskimo in the year he toured with a theater group throughout the U.S. about forty years ago. Fifteen minutes of fame can spoil you for a whole life time.

Then, he came over to me and began to sing.  I left him singing his heart out and I headed to the Reykjavik Library and who should I run into?  Yeah, him again..the Icelandic John Wayne. “Was your appointment with the Italian,” he asked?

I assured him that no, it wasn’t the Italian and that I had to look something up inside the library, so bye, bye. The Italian, if you remember, was the man who held him back during an altercation.

This afternoon, after a long walk, I sat inside the Paris Cafe enjoying a bowl of leek soup and had the best seat in the house for the entertaining, “Waiting for Godot” scene going on across the street on the corner. Two men, who I have seen before, begged for money from people walking by.

The men, one with a crutch and another with an alcohol wobble, seemed to be enjoying their conversations, while holding up the post office wall. When someone walked by, the one with the wobble would hold out his hat and ask for money. After someone walked by and didn’t drop any money in the hat, the men had words to say to each other, then they would giggle. One time, however, after someone walked by with a disgusted look on his face, and who must have said something that adjusted the humor of the moment, Crutches  gave the guy the universally understood middle finger salute.

When someone, and it was most often a woman, dropped money into the hat, Crutches would put his hand out to his wobbly friend, for his share of the booty.

Little arguments went on for a few minutes and then they were friends again. One man I saw dropped two cigarettes in the hat, and they both lit up, which momentarily took their attention away from the main purpose.

I was  happy for the ‘rear-window’ into the street theatrics.

Earlier, and what prompted my sore legs to sit down, was the long walk I took toward an area of the town I hadn’t seen yet. It was several streets with tall, aluminum-covered houses, and one of those was the American Embassy. A young guard, who called himself a ‘new be’ because he’d been on the job a short time, told me I wasn’t allowed to take a photo of the front, but if I walked a bit away, then I could do so. He enjoys his job and particularly likes his bosses, as he gestured upstairs to the office.

It doesn’t seem to matter how you walk throughout the streets, all roads seem to lead within eye of the Hallgrimskirkja, the large church, which is a great big landmark not to be missed.

My friend Gergo, is still in search of a place to call home and a job. I read a news brief that finding an apartment in Reykjavik isn’t easy, but he is determined.

Tonight, I should have some travel plans for the trip up north from Siggi.  The top photo is the American Embassy and the bottom photo is an old building in Reykjavik.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Church and flea market

Yesterday I was expecting to hear from Siggi, the man who owns the place where I’ll be staying up in the Atlantic Circle, about when we would be leaving for the long trek. He wanted to leave earlier than I had expected, and I was to call him over the weekend. The call ended with him telling me to call back the following day…which is today. More news on that will follow, but right now, it’s limbo.

On Sunday (yesterday) I was sitting inside the community room at the Salvation Army Guesthouse, where I’m staying, and Billy, a Salvation Army worker, from both the U.S. and Iceland, invited me to attend their church, which is located within the same building.

I’ve heard music coming from there on occasion, but didn’t know what it was. However, I had met Billy earlier, and again on the street with his auburn-haired beautiful wife, Dorothy, from the Faroe Islands, and felt very welcome.

Salvation Army officer Margaret Saue Marti translated the message in the service so I would understand. She is from Norway, is fluent in Icelandic, English, Norweigan and, I’m certain, in other languages, as well. Anyway, I was impressed that she could translate so quickly.  Afterwards, in celebration of a church member’s birthday, a table full of food was laid out for everyone. I had the sweets, of course, and two of the savory items. One of which was a cracker with salmon and caviar.

Went to a flea market earlier that day in Reykjavik and saw the usual: you know, books, clothing, shoes, DVD’s, old Videos, etc., etc., and then the UNUSUAL: horse meat steaks and roasts, dried fish and durian fruit. The durian came from Taiwan, so said the seller, but it was frozen. He has never tasted it before, so I warned him not to let it thaw out. It smells so bad that everyone would clear out of the building. It IS good to taste, however. That fruit is mentioned in my book, “Too Close to the Sun”.

Then, I finally broke down and purchased an Icelandic hot-dog, that is almost worshipped here. It’s made out of cute little lambs, with some brown sauce and mayonnaise. Really, really gross!!!! When the brown sauce dripped down my arm I threw the whole thing out.

This morning, while waiting for the city to wake up, I strolled into the popular restaurant, Laundromat. I ordered a traditional breakfast of scrambled eggs, grilled tomatoes and bread. It was good, and while there, I began to read a British magazine with an article about a woman reporter-turned editor, who was investigated for phone hacking. Interesting. I think the people in the restaurant thought I would stay there all day. Under the counter that wraps around almost to a circle is full of paper books – their restaurant should be called The Library.

 

 

 

Expat enjoys a night out

I was out late last night for the first time since arriving in Reykjavik. I ventured to the Harpa Concert Hall and sat on the fourth floor on a chair that was part of one line of chairs that overlooked the stage. The opera La Boheme was beautiful. It was sung in Italian and dubbed in Icelandic. Music translates into any language, however. The lead singer received ‘BRAVO’ from the appreciative audience.

The curtain calls were as good as the story line. Actually, the sets were designed without a curtain and moved around so creatively you didn’t notice the changes.

The players began moving on stage and in the audience before everyone was even seated. Two players sat for awhile up where I was sitting.

When the opera was over, I walked down all four floors joining with hundreds of other folks. The theater was full, with a capacity of seven hundred and fifty people.

I had planned on taking a  taxi back home because I didn’t want to be out late walking home.

The sky was still light blue with one star that hung over the harbor and I walked home with about one hundred other folks going the same way.

Reykjavik is known as its vibrant nightlife that comes alive around midnight; it was getting a good start by eleven o’clock.

Soon I was on my way alone, with just a few more blocks to go, and I came upon a table with folks standing around.One of the gentleman and a woman asked me if I would like a cup of coffee or hot chocolate. Sure, I said and then I asked what was the purpose of standing there handing out hot drinks? They were representatives of the Hvitasunnukjrkjan church telling all who would listen about the church and their services. There would be a service on Sunday at 2 p.m. in English. It was a jubilant bunch of folks happy to spread the good news.

Back to Harpa Hall: It was a controversial issue in the city because of the economic failures of the country, but, according to what I have read about it, the hall has been credited for being one of the reasons for the quick return out of the country’s financial trouble. The hall draws big venues and big names; one of those will lose his heart to San Francisco and sing in Reykjavik and all will hear the lovely voice of Tony Bennett.

Before the opera, I ate dinner inside the gourmet restaurant situated inside the Harpa Hall. I had a dish of root vegetables. It is so hard to explain what that was, but I haven’t tasted anything that delicious for a long time, excluding the curry soup of the other day.

The waitress, a delightful, smiling young lady spoke perfect English and I had to ask where she was from. It turns out her father is the Ambassador from Uganda to Iceland, but before that, he was stationed in America, which is where she had spent most of her childhood.