Monthly Archives: May 2012

Surprises and duties

The wind is blowing strong, and the water in the Fjord has been flowing south instead of north for the past two days.

Being in an island out in the ocean brings all kinds of surprises. This morning, while looking out the big window, the water was blue and rolling, and a large fishing boat was making its way back to Thorshofn port.

I grabbed my camera, threw on my Icelandic sweater and slipped on my shoes, and ran outside to get a shot.

Later, I faced strong winds heading to the hot pot, keeping my balance and trying not to fall over.

The hot pot was a welcome and appreciated way to get warm again.

The day before, I walked back from the town a little different way, and took photos of the hotel where I’m staying, from a different view.

Today, it was time for me to change the bedding of the men who are working on the new fish production facility. Part of my agreement to stay here at a low price was to help out a bit. And I agreed to change the bedding and give a birth control pill to the cat. I accomplished both projects, and am off the hook until next week; not a hard job at all, and the benefits are a tremendous view, a nice place to sleep and an atmosphere of a small fishing village that I wouldn’t be able to experience otherwise.

A description of the hotel and its history will be supplied sometime by the owner. It was a summer home of his family and he purchased it from his mother four years ago.

The hotel is the pink house in the top photo, the other is another aluminum sided house and an old boat I found on my walk.  Enjoy!!!

 

Senior citizens: get off the couch and see the world

Some people have said that I’m some kind of an extraordinary woman because of the year long journey I’m on. What?

Believe me when I tell you that getting on an airplane and flying to another country is not that difficult. Sure, you get tired dragging suitcases, getting your passport and ticket out, and sitting for a long hour on an airplane. But once you reach your destination and rest up, it’s easy. By the way, airlines are helpful in providing special care for those in wheelchairs or sight impaired.

Not only that, the little glitches and unexpected events, can be the most interesting part of the journey, if you have a positive view.

Consider this: American’s are equal to the United Kingdom, according to the statistics on NationMaster.com, that the average amount of TV watching is twenty-eight hours per person, per week. If that doesn’t alarm you, maybe this will: According to A.C. Nielsen Co., by the time a person reaches the age of sixty-five, that person will have spent nine years glued to the tube.

Here’s another consideration: the Center for Disease Control claim that American men are seventeen pounds over weight and women are nineteen pounds overweight.

When I faced up to the fact that I was overweight and in pain when I walked-not even one half a block-watching TV after working in front of a computer all day, and no longer feeling the joy on the job; it was time to make changes.

I took out the TV, much to the chagrin of the company that provided the violence and porn into my personal space, and made a plan to quit the job, learn about other cultures and their people, and improve my health.

I’m happy to say I have lost nine and a half pounds, not only because I’m no longer gorging myself out of boredom and unhappiness, but because I’m walking everyday, and can now walk further. And the fresh air, ah! I have changed my attitude away from the bitterness I was feeling every day and instead, made up my mind that this would be the year where everything I experience will be done in an attitude of positive acceptance. So far, it’s working, and I feel great.

 You don’t have to travel far; but in case you would like to know more about Iceland, I’ll tell you all about where I’ve been staying and how I’ve traveled using creativity, in my blog tomorrow. Meanwhile, get off that couch!

 

 

 

Blue sky, blue fjord

The ocean and the sky meet today in blue…it’s no wonder it is the most favored choice of color, some research stated. It almost made me change my favorite choice from red to blue.

I walked down the road in the morning heading to the grocery store. Today isn’t  freezing cold, but still cool enough for a coat, jacket or raincoat. Raincoat?

Yes, instead of the mysterious lady in the brown and white Icelandic sweater, I opted for the black raincoat, and black t-shirt, pants and shoes. Now I’m the mysterious, white haired lady who walks around town wearing black and dark sunglasses.

Actually, one of the women in the restaurant/convenience store/coffee shop said when I first arrived,  people were wondering  who I was and what would I be doing in this small town. “That’s not unusual,” she said. “When someone gets a new car, for example, that’s the latest news that goes around town.”

On the way back from the store, I took a photo of the blue sky and fjord, and one of the cutest little houses made of corrugated aluminum, with fetching lace window curtains. It sits on the cliff overlooking the water.

Couldn’t resist it.

 

 

The Night of the Golden Plover

The Golden Plover, a sight to behold by bird lovers in Iceland, is lip-smacking dinner to the cat.

The day began with me at my computer answering messages, and writing my blog, all the while Siggi, on his computer, would look outside to see yet another bird, who has made its way up north. He started putting his bird photos on the website that will be launched in a few days, www.birds.iniceland.com. He is blessed with an ‘artists eye’ in photography.

“Look, there’s a Golden Plover,” he would say. Or, “look! there’s the Oyster Catcher, or, “Laureen, listen. hear it? That’
s the Great Northern Loon.”

Man, oh, man, bird watchers get excited.

Then, “Look what’s out there?” I thought oh, yeah, another bird.

“Hey, that’s the Italian I met the other day,” I announced as he walked up to the door carrying equipment on his back almost as big as he.

He wanted to know if there was any room in the hotel, as he was so tired. Siggi told him no, but he was welcome to sleep on the couch..for no charge. He also wanted to take a shower, and that, too, was granted.

The next event, while the Italian was in the shower has two different versions, and I’ll go with mine first:

When I went downstairs to my room. What did I see? A Golden Plover scurrying, desperate to make a get-away from the cat, who brought it into the room via the window.

“Siggi, you’ve got to come and see this,” I shouted. One time a big bumble bee flew around between the curtain and the window, so I expected him to be ready for something like that.

Oh, no, the bird was now in the hallway, and then ran back into the room fluttering his wings, and fleeing under the second bed in the room, wings flapping like wind sails. Siggi tried to catch the cat and made a Bobby Crocker-like, baseball slide to home base as he slid under the other bed reaching for the cat.

He got the cat outside, and he picked up the bird and got it settled in the palm of his hand.

Okay here’s Siggi’s version of what happened: “I knew the Italian was taking a shower, and you exclaimed,’oh, wow,’ and I thought it sounded like you were pleasantly surprised; she’s caught the Italian in the shower, I was thinking. I thought I might just check it out and then that’s when I saw the bird and dove for the cat.”

After Siggi got the cat outside and the bird settled in his hand, he told me to keep the cat inside my room, so I waited until the culprit came back in through the window.  I closed up the cat inside her prison. Siggi was petting the birds feathers, keeping it calm, while waiting to ensure the cat was locked in before freeing the bird.

We waited for the Italian to come out of the shower so he could witness the birds’ escape to its own environment.

About an hour later, and many photos were taken, the bird was no longer stressed, it was time to release it.

We stood outside in the cold wind, while Siggi held the bird high in the air, and we all bid it farewell.

We heard a ‘beep’ and observed its mate joining it on the ground. Together, they literally walked off together into the red-orange sunset.

Okay, you may think this is the end of the story, but it isn’t. Not too long after the bird was released, two young German ladies came to the door, hopefully, for a place to sleep one night. Same story; no room in the inn, but you can come in a sleep on the floor, Siggi told them.

The ladies were pleased with the offer and slept on mattresses Siggi brought up from the basement.

Otherwise they would have had to sleep in the car. It’s too cold for that.

The German’s left the next day for hiking in the northeast side of Iceland, and the Italian would catch a bus in the afternoon, heading back to Reykjavik.

I will always remember the “Night of the Golden Plover.”

 

 

 

I have a screw loose

I have a screw loose! That happened this morning when I tried to make my first cup of coffee. It’s one of those deals where you put the coffee into a glass container, then pour boiling hot water into it and on top of the coffee grounds; then you press  down  a spring-loaded handle until the water is squeezed out of the grounds. It makes a muddy cup of coffee, it’s  okay: it’s not perfect: it’s not Starbuck’s quality, but coffee all the same.

This morning the whole thing came apart and when I tried to figure out how to put it all back together, with the spring and the filter, etc….It was missing a tiny screw. It may be tiny and insignificant, but my future here in this house with coffee depends on that little screw. It wasn’t on the floor or the counter; and I even tried to wade a bit through the garbage, until I told myself to stop that!

I went down to the town to the grocery store and showed the manager what I needed. She couldn’t help me but tried to find the words to tell me where a car repair shop is located, and where I could possibly get some help.

Then I walked catty-cornered to the Grill and ordered lunch. It was a crepe, stuffed with rice, corn and cheese and a salad. While sitting there, a table full of workmen sat next to me, and while I couldn’t understand a thing they were saying, I realized how laughter is universal. They could have been joking about me for all I know, but their laughter made me feel good.

After lunch I showed Hulda the part of the coffee part I needed to fix with a little screw, and she also told me about the car repair shop.

So I’ll go there tomorrow and see what they can do. Meanwhile, today is a holiday and most everything is closed, including schools, post office, town  offices, etc. I asked four people what the holiday was all about and no one new the answer. “It has something to do with Easter,” Hulda said.

 

 

Boys become men

Looking out of the big window inside the Jorvik Hotel, where I’ll be for another two weeks, in Thorshofn, Iceland, I see turquoise and blue water that is slowly rolling to the shoreline. The snow on the mountains across the fjord is allowing some dark blue-black spots to peak out.

Snow around the hotel is melting, leaving mounds of dark, yellow-beige grass, trying to make a break-through.

Yesterday the sun shone most of the day. It had been two days since being out doors, and I took advantage of the sunshine to walk to the hot pot. I sat with a fisherman and his son, and was later joined by another fisherman.

The first fisherman said he often goes to another town to fish for the type of fish he needs for the market.

We talked a bit about politics and I mentioned to him that an interviewer on a radio station asked me if the City Council holds their meetings in the hot pot, and I had said, “sure.”

Both fishermen laughed and said a lot is discussed away from the meetings, and probably some right there in the hot pot, but nothing official, of course.  I then told them about the “Brown Act” whereby, in California, council members cannot meet apart from the regular council meetings.

The subject changed and the first fisherman pointed out that the pool is thirteen years old, and during the summer – whenever that is – the ceiling opens up and large doors on the side of the building, where tables and chairs sit, waiting for the summer crowd, also open to the outdoors.

The fisherman told me about the sports kids play in the town; a ball game that I’m not familiar with, swimming, volley ball and soccer- called football.

When I left the hot pot, I sat down and drank a Coke, as I felt a little weak. Guess the time in the hot pot was overspent, a bit.

Then, walking home, I observed about eight teenaged boys talking in a group, on the street, wearing shorts and t-shirts…Soon they ran on down the road jogging around snow clumps. A man stood on the sidewalk and I asked him if the boys were in a track team.

“No, they’re in a football team, and they are just warming up.”

“Will they just keep on running so they don’t have to practice?” I laughed.

“No, they know me and they do what I tell them,” his turn to laugh.

It was enjoyable to see the teenagers, and made me miss my sons at that age, and my grandsons, as well.

In the Arctic Circle, you barely turn your head, and the environment changes; almost as quickly as sons become men, it seems.

 

Sugar in mashed potatoes

Yesterday, determined to head down to the little grocery store, lunch at the Grill and a soak in the hot pot, the wind pushed me all the way down the hill. There were times I had to catch my balance on the road. I walked on the road because the few sidewalks that exist, were covered with snow. It was a wet, sloppy, slushy snow that turns to mud, whenever the sun begins to melt it down. I don’t have boots, to-boot.

I made it to the grocery store, purchased a few items and put them in my bag with the swim suit and towel, then hopped over the snow to the grill. Everyday the grill restaurant/convenience store/ gas station, puts out a lunch and keeps it under flame from around 11 o’clock until around 3:30 p.m. Today was the first time to treat myself to lunch there. I had time to kill before trudging back up the hill to the hot pot. Today’s lunch was a casserole with ground beef, spaghetti, carrots and a cheese topping, a salad of grapes, red bell pepper, cucumbers and lettuce, and a rhubarb syrup that I didn’t know where I should put that, but dashed some on the plate. The meal also came with mashed potatoes, that had a surprise ingredient.

The potatoes were mashed with the usual milk, butter and salt, and the surprise was sugar. “Is this a typical way to prepare mashed potatoes?” I ask Hulda, the young lady who has been very  accommodating towards me since I’ve been here, and  speaks perfect English. “Yes, don’t you like it?”

“Oh, yes I do. It’s just different than I expected.” I told her that in Holland nutmeg is the surprise ingredient in mashed potatoes.

Hulda is a delightful young woman who agreed to print out my plane ticket for when I leave Thorshofn in about two weeks. She spent two months as an au pair in Spain, and will continue on to Iceland University in Reykjavik to pursue a degree in physical care for the handicapped. We spoke for quite some time, while I worked up the spirit to tackle the up-hill trudge to the hot pot.

Finally, I pulled myself and the bag up hill, facing the icy wind, a grey sky that was now freezing the slush into slippery, crunchy mounds of little snow caps. Now I felt it wasn’t safe to walk on the road because of the ice. I made it, walked into the town hall where the swimming pool and hot pot is located and announced. “This is summer in Iceland?”

It is unusual, two different people have told me. In fact, Siggi said he was worried about the tiny birds who flew to the area in search of the warm air.

So in the hot pot, I soaked along with an Italian, a sprightly, but muscled young man who will be in the area for two weeks. He told me through smiles that he will be hiking in the peninsula and camping out. Camping out? In the snow?

That’s right, he’s all prepared with a sleeping bag, tent and everything he’ll need for the next two weeks.  He works at a water park in the town where he lives in Italy and has long weeks of vacation, so he hikes in different locations every year. His work at a water park explains his perfect swimming stroke and powerful kick while swimming laps, when he wasn’t in the hot pot.

A young father and his boy about three, also stepped into the hot pot, and while the father ignored me, the little boy began to throw plastic cups of water out of the pot on to the floor. The father ignored him, as well.

When I finally felt warm enough for the last part of my journey, I got out, got dressed and found the Italian in the lobby writing into his journal. That’s a read I would covet.

Right now at 9:45 a.m. the area is fogged in, strong winds continue to roll the ocean in high waves, and the snow remains bright and white on the ground.

 

Changing scenes

The window scene from Hotel Jorvik changed in one day. The day left with sunshine on Saturday, and yesterday (Sunday), the view changed when the fog rolled in early, accompanied by strong winds, and then snow, and finally a complete white out.

An abstract piece of art in the form of ice crystals completely covered the large window.

Before the winds became too strong to go outside, I tramped on the grass to catch the waves in a photo, but I had to fight the wind to get back into safety of the hotel. The waves grew bigger and bigger, and I thought of my son Larry. Oh, how he’d love to pull on a wet suit and catch a wave. Heck, I would have liked to don a wet suit and just play in the waves.

Ducks disappeared for awhile, I assumed they hid out among the rocks, but they reappeared again. Guess when they get hungry, nothing will stop a good fishermen, be it human, or a duck.

Night time was tough on the cat I call Smokey. She wanted to go out of my window, which is her only outlet at night, but the wind yanked the curtains out the window like a sailing jib. The noise of the wind, the blinding snow and the cold air, made her afraid to jump. So she whined, questioning what to do?

When the window was open, the bedroom door clanged back and forth to keep the hard working men in the hotel from their sleep.

So when she asked again to go outside, I pushed her out, and in a split second, she jumped back in. So the next two times, I pushed her out and shut the window. She whined to come back in within a few minutes. That satisfied her for a little while, at least.

Then another challenge came this morning when I washed a few things out, and like a fake Icelander, I tramped through about one foot of snow to the clothesline. It’s just a few yards away, but the wind hampered the walk. I managed to hang up one T-shirt with about fifteen pins, and the last time I looked, it was swinging around and around the line like a trapeze artist.

It’s a great day for the hot pot, which opens up at 4 o’clock. You can bet your bottom krona, I’ll be there.

Aileen loved nature; wish she was here.

Wow, the changes out here in the Arctic Ocean Island amaze me. Just yesterday, Siggi pointed out to me that in the Fjord,  there were light spots that you could see to the bottom of the water, from inside the window.  Ducks were swimming and birds were chirping; all was calm.

Today, I’m sitting at the same window, listening to the wind and watching the  water breaking fast along the shoreline. And that is not all;  it is snowing. Yes, those great big flakes that look like someone shakes a giant blanket and cotton pieces of lint then falls gently down through the air.

If you’re not careful, you might think of the calm the day before as being peaceful and today, the water and the storm is angry, but in reality, it’s nature at its best.

Today is Mother’s Day, and it’s a perfect day to remember my mother, Aileen, who loved nature. She found it fun to sit very still and watch ants in an ant pile, until she figured out who was the queen. She would comment on how hard they worked, and how amazing it was that they could carry so much weight on their backs.

She would marvel at the artistry of the spiders web  and she found a bigger gift if there was a sparkle of water on the web.

She could  listen to the birds in the bird bath on the side of our house, and always had a story about  the birds who created havoc, and the docile ones who waited their turn to bathe.

A new spring blossom lifted her spirits and those around her.

 

Another view of Iceland

Siggi invited me to go for a drive with him out to another beach and to a different view of the land, so I jumped up like a puppy and said, ‘yes, ‘yes, ‘me, ‘me, ‘take me’.

Not exactly, but it was a great offer because the views were spectacular and I met a man who I mentioned on another day, his daughter, son-in-law, two grandchildren and an all white labrador.

And then there was that flock of swans. How many times in one life would you have a chance to see more than one at a time? And now there were well over twenty.

We stopped the car and for awhile they just stood there and watched us, then, when Siggi made some noise, a few of them flapped their wings, rose, and flew away in a circle. A moment never to be forgotten. Beautiful birds, and wonderful to see them in their natural surroundings.

An abundance of drift wood, strewn along the road: all shapes, and sizes including large logs, all ocean weathered, some came as far away as Russia.  “Not as much comes from Russia as before, because they have better ways of working with the logs so they don’t lose as much,” Siggi said.

We stopped at a dark sandy beach, and while Siggi jogged, I looked for sea treasures. I pocketed a few items for the bowl I have sitting in storage. These will join those from Panama, Costa Rica and California, of course.

We ventured on toward Vihjalmur Thordarson’s home/farm that sits on a lake, and near the American abandoned U.S. Army Radar Station hill, Heidarfjall. Soon, I will write about this, for it is a sad situation that has ruined the drinking water on the farm from the stored, American Army waste left over from the station, and buried in the hill side.

Vihjalmur’s daughter, Margaret Vihjalmsdottir and her husband, Egill Palsson came back from town with their two children. They had been visiting their dad and granddad from their home in Reykjavik and took a little time in the town of Porshofn.

They made pancakes and we all sat in the kitchen talking and smearing whipping cream and jelly on the cakes.

Egill is a theater professor at Iceland University and he also directs professional theater all over Europe. Soon he will be directing a theater production in Denmark. Margaret is a known actress in Iceland, known internationally. She can be seen in part, on YouTube in  “Falcons”, a movie she co-stared in with Keith Carradine. She’s a beauty.

Vihjalmur, if you remember in a past post, is the retired pilot of Iceland Air. He was busy working on the land when we arrived, but quickly got out of his boots to be a great host.

Names are interesting to note, in Iceland; women are given their father’s first name, as Vihjalmur and then dottir is added to that to make the last name. Sons get their last names the same way, but son completes the last name, as in Vihjalmur’s last name, Thordarson.

Now, it’s time to clear up the name of the town I have been spelling Porshofn. The correct English way is Thorshofn. The “P” is not a “P” as we know it in English. It’s another letter found in the Icelandic alphabet and is pronunced as “th”. in Icelandic. So from now on, I’ll refer to the town as Thorshofn.