addendum to friday
I forgot to mention in my previous post that on Friday evening, I went with Ásta Sól to a reception for the current Snorri Plus group. Relatives of each participant were invited, plus supporters of the Snorri programs, and it was a very full house (well, office). I got to see Kent, tour guide and bus driver extraordinaire, who informed me that I get to be an honourary Canuck for Canadian Thanksgiving this year; Halldór, who I first met while on the Snorri Program; and Rúnar, a professor, author and translator I met at Þorrablót in Seattle earlier this year. The crowd was rather overwhelming, but watching people connect with their long-lost relatives, hugging and taking photos and poring over genealogy together, was an impressive and moving sight to behold.
laugardagur / saturday
Saturday was Menningarnótt, or Reykjavík Culture Night. Officially, Menningarnótt is intended to celebrate the start of a new year of cultural events, or something like that. Unofficially, it’s a good excuse for a city-wide party, including free events and food!
Before I partook in any Menningarnótt festivities, however, I went to Café Babalú to meet Kelsey, a fellow Icelandic as a Second Language student and Árni Magnússon grant recipient. Kelsey had found me on Facebook somehow and we thought it would be fun to meet each other and postulate about what to expect on the looming stöðupróf, the placement test we had to take to determine if we could begin the BA program. Kelsey is from California via British Columbia and if she wasn’t so great, she would be incredibly intimidating, on account of being fluent or near-fluent in at least 3 (?) non-native languages. We sat chatting over cups of coffee long enough that we were kindly asked to leave due to the encroaching Menningarnótt hordes.
So back to that whole Menningarnótt thing. There were events going on all around the city throughout the day. I studied the schedule and saw a few events I would have liked to go to (including “Free Hugs” on Laugavegur from 2:00-3:00), but ultimately decided to meet up with a couple new friends and just wander around and see what we found. I met up with Daniela and Harry in the afternoon (see: fimmtudagur here) at KEX and we set out to see what Menningarnótt might hold for us. Before long, we found our first stop: vöfflukaffi! There were several places around the city that were offering free waffles and coffee to visitors. We happened to stop at a little house that is a resource/community center for people living with HIV. We sat and enjoyed some fresh vöfflur með sultu og rjóma, then continued on our merry way.
For lunch, we went to a little pizza place tucked away on Hverfisgata, and I was introduced to the phenomenon of pizza that comes with a salad on top. Apparently this is considered normal by many people who are not Americans.
I went home to escape the crowd for a few hours, then set out again to meet up with Kimberly. She was with her frændi Helgi and his girlfriend Sóley, and they were bouncing back and forth to different venues to watch friends playing in bands (because, Iceland). I followed them around like a little duckling for an hour or so, and then decided I had to escape the crowds again.
There were fireworks by Harpa starting at eleven, but after I fought my way home through the crowd and settled in on the couch, I wasn’t terribly excited about venturing back out into the insanity. So I joined Ásta Sól’s family in watching the festivities on TV, which was kind of strange during the fireworks as we could see flashes out the window and hear the explosions.
To summarize: Menningarnótt is quite a spectacle to behold. There are endless options for how to spend the day, and the city is buzzing with energy wherever you go. But the crowds definitely got to me after a while. If I am here for Menningarnótt next year, I might try to plan out my day a bit more and compare that sort of experience to the wandering experience. I’m sure both are enjoyable in their own way.
sunnudagur / sunday
After a lazy Sunday morning, I went with Ásta Sól in the afternoon to Þjóðræknisþing – the annual convention of Þjóðræknisfélag Íslendinga, the sister organization to the Icelandic National League of North America. We arrived a bit late (Iceland may be a rather large island, but I think “island time” still applies) but still got to see most of the program, which was, no surprise, almost entirely in Icelandic. I understood a very teeny tiny fraction of what was going on, but it was still interesting.
I think my favorite presentation was from a University of Iceland researcher who has been studying so-called “Western Icelandic,” the distinct dialect of Icelandic that developed among Icelandic settlers in North America and in some cases has been passed down several generations now. From what I understood, part of her project was that when she met with speakers of Western Icelandic, she brought an illustrated, wordless book. The pictures clearly tell a story, but the experiment was in hearing how these people chose to tell the story. Because there were pictures, and because it was a children’s story, it was much easier for me to follow.
There was another Icelandic-language presentation of which I understood very little, but Ásta Sól explained it to me a bit later on. It was about the concepts of “blóðtaka” and “blóðgjöf.” The words don’t translate directly into English very well, but “blóðtaka” would be something like bloodletting and “blóðgjöf” is like a gift of blood of gift by blood. Since I couldn’t understand the presentation, I don’t remember the details of the story very well, but it was something about an Icelandic woman who emigrated to Canada, had one child and then died, and her family in Iceland completely lost track of her. As it turns out, her child has many descendants, including a very prominent family in the Winnipeg area. I think the overall idea is that the emigration of so many Icelanders to North America was a painful loss, a hugely significant event that tore families apart, but had that blood not been taken from the body of Icelanders, fewer would have survived overall (due to a stark lack of resources), and people would never have known the joy of reconnecting with long-lost relatives from across the ocean.
That is a very inarticulate summary, but I have to say that the presentation struck a chord even with as little of it as I could understand.
Other presentations included:
- A recap of the 2014 Snorri West experience (which made me homesick for my own Snorri experience, especially since none other than fellow 2012 Snorri and overall fabulous human being Sacha made an appearance in the video)
- A brief speech about Icelandic settlers in Utah by Dr. Fred Woods, a BYU professor and researcher who gave a wonderful presentation at the INL Convention in Seattle last year
- A beautiful presentation by the always-sunny Sunna Furstenau about her Icelandic Roots organization
- A presentation by Egill Helgason, whose TV show Veturfarar finds him traveling to North America to explore the areas of settlement, stories of immigrants, and the Icelandic heritage in North America today (it’s a 10-part series that will run on RÚV on Sunday evenings; you can watch the first episode here but note that it’s all in Icelandic).
After the program, I got to chat with a few people I know and meet some of this year’s Snorri Plus participants, including one with the fabulous name of Julie.
I also got to give a quick hug and hello to Sunna mín. Sunna has been a tremendous example and encouragement to me and was kind enough to write me a recommendation for my Fulbright grant, so I literally would not be where I am today without her.
Áfram Jóð Té!
You may have heard that Justin Timberlake was in Iceland last weekend. It was a Big Deal. He had never performed in Iceland before, and although Iceland has an incredible amount of talented musicians, many of whom are internationally known, they do not often attract útlendingar with names as big as Justin Timberlake. Earlier in the week, there was a two-page guide in Fréttatíminn with information about the JT concert, including the ridiculously complicated parking/carpooling/public transportation rules. Apparently people who live in the neighborhood of the venue had to have special passes to even get to their own homes. So not everyone was thrilled about JT’s presence here.
Anyway, the powers that be decided that the Official Hashtag for this magnificent event should be #JTKorinn (Kórinn being the name of the venue). Before the concert started, one of the Icelandic TV channels was showing a feed of Twitter posts and photos with the #JTKorinn hashtag. Iceland being Iceland, Ásta Sól and Addi kept pointing out people they knew in the photos. Something went wrong with the licensing or the technology, though, because the channel just kept cycling through the same 12 or so Tweets, which was awkward.
At the appointed hour, The Event began, and because it was live streamed on Yahoo, we got to experience it almost as if we were actually there with the rest of the country. JT got himself in a bit of trouble, arguably, by addressing the crowd as “Reykjavík,” when in fact Kórinn is in neighboring Kópavogur. Úbs. But Kópavogur not exactly being a booming metropolis, and Reykjavík being home to two-thirds of Iceland’s population, it is entirely likely that the majority of the crowd was from Reykjavík.
The media coverage of #JTKorinn was quite a sight to behold. I say “media” rather than “news,” because it very quickly devolved from things that are actually news (the occurrence of the concert itself, the traffic jam it caused) to things that could only loosely be considered news (an interview with the first two people in line for the concert, two women who traveled from Denmark just to see JT) to things that might as well be BuzzFeed articles, so little do they resemble actual news (e.g., an article about the long bathroom lines at the concert; although I will say that this one was educational as it taught me the Icelandic phrase “að kasta af sér vatni,” which means “to make water” or more colloquially, “to take a leak”).
I think the volcano could have erupted and the media might not have noticed, so focused were they on JT. And the obsession did not end with the concert. The next day there were articles dissecting the show, making fun of JT’s Reykjavík mistake, predicting that other big international stars will come to Iceland soon, telling the story of a girl who fainted at the concert and a bartender who gave JT’s drummer a cigarette and got drumsticks from the show in return, etc. It was nonstop, it was ridiculous, and it was entertaining.
Well, I have finally recapped one full week, which only leaves one more week to go until I am caught up. Writing about JT was exhausting, though, so I shall stop here for now. Until my next post is up, you can entertain yourself by reading Vísir articles about JT or perhaps listening to N*Sync’s new hit album (yes, you read that correctly, and no, it is not 2001).