Monthly Archives: May 2012
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The word incredible comes to mind when I think over the past five weeks. It’s the last day for me at the Arctic Circle in a little fishing village- Thorshovn-of five hundred people. The window in the living room of the Jorvik Hotel is a moving scene, changing by the minute. Ducks bobbing up and down in the fjord, talking to each other, and birds sailing past the window will live in my memory forever.
I have walked everyday, with only two exceptions, when I decided to rest from the weather that often enveloped me in sunshine, snow, sleet, rain and extreme winds. Sometimes the change in weather occurred when on a walk, therefore, my Icelandic sweater became my refuge.
Siggi, the owner of the hotel has been so kind, expecting little out of me but to enjoy myself, relax and choose to spend my day the way I want. I have learned much about his beloved country of Iceland and I will miss him and his loving little cat, I nicknamed, Smokey, a real princess.
I’m going to miss the little village and its people who wondered, “who is that white haired lady with a camera, taking shots of our town?” People have been kind to me once they learned of my intentions. I’m leaving and taking the mystery with me.
Today on my last walk to the Grillskillen, the owner gave me a hug, said it was pleasure having me in town and in her store. She bid me a safe journey. The young lady, Hulda, who was mentioned in an earlier post, left for a vacation in Spain yesterday, so our goodbyes were said at that time. In the grocery store, the owner also bid me a safe journey as I purchased enough food to last until tomorrow, when I leave on a small plane. By the way, traveling by plane is a normal here, and is close to the same cost by car or bus. Coming to Thorshovn required staying all night at a cabin along the way, which adds to the expense.
In this town I have met the mayor, police chief, fishing inspectors, roads administrator, fishermen, neighbors, post office employees, pharmacy manager, manager of the swimming pool and sports hall, the new head mistress, two restaurant owners, a retired commercial pilot, a movie actress and director, and many other good people in the town. I have been interviewed for National Icelandic Television and a radio station streamed an interview of me from the states.
I have soaked up knowledge of the town, the Icelandic culture, and the life of the rugged people who live on the edge of the Arctic Circle. Remembering their fortitude in facing the winters, and other surprises of nature, will live in my heart, and using their lifestyle as an example, will keep me strong forever. See you in Reykjavik.
Neighbor to the Jorvik Hotel, Cathleen Alfredsson, gave me one of the best days I’ve had since being in Thorshavn. I met her yesterday when I saw her husband Solvi working in his garage on the fetching little people he makes that enhance his front yard.
She graciously invited me into her kitchen for a cup of coffee held in a dainty teacup.
She’s Irish, and has lived in Thorshavn for over twenty years and has raised two sons in the town. She considers herself Icelandic now.
Recently recovering from breast cancer, she was feeling good enough to take me on a long drive to key parts of the area, beginning in town, across the fjord to a farmer’s house, where the young farm lady welcomed us into her home. We were entertained by the cutest baby you could ever see. He didn’t stop smiling at us.
She explained that this is the lambing season going right now. Farmer’s are in their busiest season, shearing the back side of the adult sheep, which keeps them warm, and the farmer’s see to the health of the baby lambs.
I can thank a lamb for the wonderfully warm sweater I wore everyday.
Cathleen drove slow and stopped often whenever I wanted to take a photo, and that ended up to be about fifty shots of sheep, horses, the Fossa waterfall, the clam dump, the harbor, a fisherman and more.
A tall clump of rocks sits near the Fossa waterfall with a little shelf, she told me was used in the past to place lanterns on so the fishing boats could see they were close to the harbor.
The clam dump looks like a small snow capped mountain. Broken pieces of clam shells have been dumped there from the factory that is now closed. Cathleen, who worked at that factory for awhile, said the fishermen stopped fishing for clams, and the factory closed down. Town folks began to take the shells away for decoration, but the town has decided to do something with the shells that would benefit the town financially. She isn’t quite sure what that is, but as it stands, it’s illegal to take away the shells.
Cathleen drove around the soon-to-be quick freeze, fishing, production plant,to be finished in August. She showed the current plant that turns fish into fish meal, and also where she has worked in the past. Her sons, and other boys and girls in the town work during the summer months in the factory. I had seen many of them in the Grillskillin, wearing the required hairnets.
Soon herring will be the predominate fish caught and the workers will work in twelve hour shifts, including kids beginning at fifteen years of age.
By the way, Cathleen told me the Grill, as I have been calling it, is referred to as “The Shop.”
We were almost on our way back up the hill when she spotted a fishing boat coming into the fjord, and I had previously told her that I was happy with everything I had seen on my month-long stay, so far, except a fishing boat unloading the catch.
She turned and headed back to the harbor where the fisherman came in and who was met by two examiners. They aren’t in Thorshovn often, but come in once every so often to greet a fisherman, ask for their papers and to look at the fish.
The cod was considered too small by standards, but since it was a small catch, the examiners approved it anyway. One examiner lifted up a fish and said it was too dark of a color, and then showed another one of a lighter color which was more of the standard requirement.
The fish were brought up in baskets and dumped into another bucket filled with ice.
The fisherman, with a ruddy complexion, looked exactly how I imagined a hard working fisherman would look at the end of a fishing trip: strong, healthy and tired at the end of the day. Bet he sleeps well.
The tour with Cathleen ended at “The Shop” where we had a cup of coffee and she greeted nearly everyone who came into the shop. It’s a small town and everyone knows everyone, I have often heard here.
After I was dropped off, I picked up my swim suit and headed to the hot pot and swimming pool, where I met the new headmistress of the high school.
A brilliant sunset closed the brilliant day.
Tomorrow is the last day here, and on Friday morning, I fly to Reykjavik.
Last night a couple took a room here in the hotel, and I was already in bed, so didn’t greet them until this morning. Adorable young couple. Terezia holds a Ph.D and is working in research regarding the physically and mentally handicapped challenges the country of Slovakia has and how they can best serve their needs. Christian works in the countries’ education system. He was quite interested in how Central Coast cities deal with educating the indigenous people. He’s sympathetic to the challenge in his country of meeting the needs of the Roma people, who are politically incorrect called gypsies.
They were on a two week vacation, traveling throughout Iceland. While I had spent quite a few weeks in Reykjavik, and thought I had seen about everything there was to see, they gave me some more ideas for when I arrive back there this Friday. Apparently there is a hostel that is decorated imaginatively by men who work as property men in movies. Can’t wait to see that place.
Today I just spent time on the computer writing to people, answering emails and reading. One fun email was from my daughter-in-law Aleida, and grandson Michael on how he surprised Brandon, his younger brother. I felt so bad that I didn’t plan my get away better, so I could attend Brandon’s graduation, but happy that Michael could be there from his college in Iowa. Seems Aleida came home from the airport with Michael, and she went into the apartment and asked Brandon to go to the car to get the juice from the store and there he was.
Windy. How windy is it? I’d call it a ‘six-clothes-pin-wind’. I washed some clothes out and the long sleeved T-shirt is barely hanging on the line with six pins. The jeans have already lost one pant leg, with three pins, to the wind. And yesterday I started towards a different road than the two I usually tramp on, but the wind was so strong, by fighting it while walking, I must have looked like a drunk. So I aborted that plan and went to the Grill for lunch instead.
There I had a lamb chop, small potatoes in a sweet sauce, gravy, rhubarb sauce and a salad of cucumbers, grapes and red bell pepper.
Then I went to the grocery store, purchased a yoghurt drink, and walked home where I stayed the rest of the day, until I talked to the man who lives two doors down from the Jorvik Hotel where I’m staying.
I also read ebooks that I ordered from Amazon. By the way, I received a review for the book I recently published, “Too Close to the Sun” a Dutch boy becomes a man during WWII. I see on-line where it has been picked up by other agencies and offer if for sale, as well. Great.
Back to the neighbor: When I first got here, when it was snowing, rainy, windy and cold to now when it is just windy and cold, I noticed some stone work and other creative hand made items on the neighbor’s front lawn. I did get a photo of one item, and now I have more.
He was outside working when I walked by and I decided to stop awhile and chat with him. He showed me the inside of the shed where he works on the stone urchins that grace the lawn, and other fetching critters made from drift wood.
“Here, take this. You can have it.” He handed me a small statue with a head and body made of river stone and glass eyes, and stone ears. I had to turn it down, because this senior traveler, has limited space and must abide by the airlines weight rules for luggage. It would be too heavy to lug around the world. But I appreciated the gesture more than you could imagine.
He learned his English, he said, by watching TV, however, his wife is from Ireland, so that must have helped. I haven’t met her yet, but I did go back and get more photos. I hope to see him and meet her at least once before I head back to Reykjavik.
There are so many things I have learned to enjoy in Iceland, and one of them is you can buy one half loaf of bread. The bread choices are good; those dense rye loaves that put you back when bread was baked in an oven that also kept the house warm. Delicious.
Another item I saw in the second largest city, Akureyri, was the red stop light shaped like a heart. That would have been fun sitting in on the discussion when the City Council decided their stop light needed to be shaped like a heart.
Also in that city, and in Reykjavik, as well, book stores…large ones, where you can sit and read, drink coffee or eat lunch and stay as long as you want, are in prime city locations. Icelanders are known for their love of reading.
I have just finished, “Independent People” by Halldor Laxness, a 1955 Nobel prize recipient in literature.
All nordic countries are known for the saga stories, folklore that includes little gnomes and other invisible people, and those books are abundantly available in book stores. The little people are evident, however, if you look closely at neighbors yard from the Jorvik Hotel in Thorshofn. They speak to me.
Yesterday afternoon, I ‘hot-potted’ it again and met a nice man with his two year old adorable son; adorable until he became jealous of the conversation between his dad and me. He started throwing swim fins and other water toys at my head.
His dad diverted him as you would get a dog to go ‘fetch’. He’d throw something far away and the little guy would bring it back and throw it at me. He was finally subdued a bit when a fisherman got into the hot pot with us and began to play with the little tyke.
The little guys’ dad told me about his job as administrator of the roads in the village and surrounding area. He said the biggest problem was the country government, but didn’t elaborate.
He had also been active as a town council member, and also helped with the education in the schools, but gave up public service to be more with his family.
He has lived in Denmark for four years, and said in order to speak English, he had to first translate it into Danish and then into English. “That’s the problem I’m having,” he said.
His English sounded perfect to me. Those Europeans are amazing on how they can go back and forth between their own language, English and other languages. In the States, we’re lucky to learn a little bit of some other language in high school, but nothing to qualify as fluent. I wish that would change.
He had a big smile on his face when I got into the hot pot, saying that the townsfolk had been wondering who I was. That’s not the first time hearing that, as others had said the same thing. My appearance in this town is old news now, and I’ll be moving on in seven more days.
I’ve been told that the show I was interviewed for the Icelandic TV will be shown next week. Hope it happens before I leave. The fisherman who joined us in the hot pot was also part of another story, aside from mine, and he gave me what he thought was the time it would air.
Back at home, a gorgeous German couple stayed all night before they took off this morning for the rest of their tour through Iceland. Both are border control agents and gave me some advice about traveling through European countries and how to stay legal. Very nice young woman encouraged me to see Dresden while in Germany. Perhaps, I will.
Yesterday, before the above mentioned activities, I did get to the pharmacy for my heartburn meds. A jolly lady with a great smile helped me graciously.
I went to bed in daylight last night. It was after 11 p.m. and at 3:30 a.m. I awoke to daylight again. I managed to sleep a bit more, and that was a good thing because of the energy it took to do what I did today.
I walked to the medical center to see if I could purchase those little pills that keep heartburn away. I walked in and noticed the Icelandic unspoken rule was in force; you must take your shoes off, as is appropriate in everyone’s home, as well.
The pharmacy part of the operation wasn’t opened. Heat burn will have to wait, aut I have enough for five more days. Anything to do with ant-acid medicine is not available over the counter; this means not even Tums or anything similar. It’s considered medicine.
I began a walk towards the end of the Thistle Fjord which, if you reach the end, it would be about twenty or so miles, but along the way, there is a farm, old church, museum, cemetery and sheep with baby lambs grazing, estimated about five miles from the hotel.
The refreshing breeze nurtured my soul with smells of the ocean; sea weed and fish, and also a hint of rain. It was quiet except for my foot steps on the gravel and the sounds of birds flying and cheerfully signaling each other.
I am always aware of the birds for the reminder that Iceland is bird watchers bliss.
Cars passed by until I got beyond the airstrip that is about one mile from the hotel, and the museum and church with the sheep was within eye site, but it seemed to keep moving further away, and cars grew scarce. I hoped that someone would stop and ask if I would like a ride, but I could have turned around., as well.
A truck did stop and the driver asked me something, which I’m sure was, ‘would you like a ride.’ And I told him that the museum and church up there is my destination and could he take me there.
“Yes, I will. Come and get in.”
The seat was so high, and I could not hoist myself up easily, so he told me something that I thought he said, “see the hummingbird?” I stopped, turned around and was about to ask him if there were hummingbirds in Iceland. I sure didn’t know that.
He then pointed to the handle and said, again, ‘see the hummingbird?”
“Oh, no, I thought you said, ‘see the hummingbird?’”
“No I said use the handle.”
That got a laugh out of both of us.
He dropped me off at the church and museum, and said he’d be back the same way in about ten minutes. I told him to look for me walking down the road. If he didn’t see me just keep on going and I’d walk back.
I took photos of the sheep and the babies, and the church – which looks as if it is still being used as a church-all pews are still inside. I peered into the window.
The museum building was freshly painted but didn’t see any signs of museum life around it. The windows were too high to look into. A cemetery is located down a bluff, and from the bluff, you can see an old American plane that crashed there during WWII.
The sheep were cautious around me so I respected their space, plus I didn’t want to over excite them and make it difficult for the sheep handlers. However, a mother and her baby walked out of the area while I was there. I quickly and quietly, walked out of the gate. I have a photo of them eyeing me.
It was a quiet day. We need that sometimes to re-group and get ready for what’s next. I braced myself against the wind and headed off to the post office. My grandson Brandon will graduate in June from St. Ignatius high school in San Francisco, and I had to get my letter in the mail and the gift so he would get it on time. But I was too early by about fifteen minutes for the post office, so I went into the Grill and had a yogurt drink. Yogurt is popular in Iceland and it is good. I spoke for awhile with Hulda, the young lady who will soon head off to college herself.
Then I got to the post office but I was still early, so I waited inside the space between the automatic door and the main door, and entertained myself by stepping on the spot that would open and closed the automatic door.
Childish, huh? I know, but what was I to do?
So then I took photos of the harbor, police department, Hulda at the grill, the post office and another aluminum sided house. I also got one of the grocery store but that one will have to wait.
I was shivering and the camera shook too much for a decent photo. But I did got into the grocery store and purchased a darning needle and black thread to hem my pants that are way too long. I couldn’t find a regular needle so went with the darning kind, and by the way, if you’re eyesight isn’t too good, those needles are easier to thread.
Later in the day, I took another walk the opposite way and heard the sounds of the Loa birds calling to each other.
They almost sound like a cell phone.
After I wrote about the Fjord water moving south instead of the usual north, it switched and now it is moving straight out from the shoreline to the Fjord. The wind is very strong and creating this phenomenon. I’ve never seen ocean water move so quickly the opposite way, with nothing coming back. Tsunami?
I think there are under waves we cannot see. Amazing!