March was characterized by predictably unpredictable Icelandic weather (we officially marked our 38th storm of the winter) and the worst sinus infection I’ve had in years, which left me thinking I might never regain my ability to smell and taste, so I have neither tons of exciting stories nor tons of lovely photos to share for this month’s recap. But still, there were bright spots, and I’ll share a few of those…
reykjavík folk festival at KEX
In early March, I was already starting to get sick, but after some encouragement from my friend Leana, I decided to check out the Reykjavík Folk Festival, an annual event held at KEX Hostel. It’s a three-evening event, but I just went for one. The musicians performing were Kólga, Klassart, Lindy Vopnfjord, and Lay Low. There were musicians I would have enjoyed seeing on the other two evenings, but I was particularly keen to see Lindy, as I have met some of his relatives in Canada but had never heard him perform, and Lay Low, who I had also never seen live before.
For the most part, “music festival” is a phrase of which I am not terribly fond, as it stirs up nightmares of stifling hot, overcrowded, crazy loud rooms full of tipsy people. But the Reykjavík Folk Festival is my kind of music festival – small, intimate, quiet, focused on the music and the experience of listening together, rather than talking over it in drunken-loud whispers (well, okay, there were definitely a few people doing that, but they were in the minority).
I went by myself, but, as happens so often in this town, I ended up seeing some people I knew there. Leana was volunteering, and I also saw a German guy I had met just the day before at the “Stefnumót við tungumál” event at Stúdentakjallarinn.
Lindy is, like me, descended from so-called Western Icelanders. I met his parents in Seattle at the INL Convention in 2012, then stayed with some of his relatives in Winnipeg on my Canada trip in 2013. When his cousin Cara took me to Gimli, we listened to Lindy’s music in the car. So it felt right that somehow this had come full circle and I was able to see him perform here in Iceland. He’s a talented singer-songwriter with a great sense of humor, and he is also ridiculously tall. I mean, really, really tall.
Lay Low was, as expected, marvelous, mesmerizing, magnificent, and a lot of other positive adjectives, some of which don’t even begin with “m.”
I chose just to watch and listen instead of snapping photos, so words will have to suffice.
After hearing about it from friends, I decided to sign up for Postcrossing. It’s an online project where you send postcards to strangers around the world and receive postcards from strangers in return. I’m not a postcard collector or anything, but there’s something appealing about connecting to people through snail mail. So far I have sent cards to Germany, Finland, Malaysia, Japan, Russia, Czech Republic, China, France, the UK, the Netherlands, and the US. I’ve received cards from Germany, China, Russia, Taiwan, the US, Finland, and the UK.
I’ve received dozens of direct swap requests from people all over the world and quickly realized there’s no way I can keep up with them all. Iceland is súper popular these days, and there are fewer than 200 Postcrossing members here. Sadly it’s too expensive and time-consuming to say yes to everyone, but I will spread as much Icelandic postcard cheer as I can.
In late March, the other Fulbrighters and I helped out with a college fair held at Háskólinn í Reykjavík (Reykjavík University). Several universities from the States and a few from Europe had representatives in attendance, and there was information about Fulbright grant opportunities for Icelandic students as well. I was still feeling pretty terrible, but did my best to be friendly and helpful and not sneeze on people. Plus, I wore a cherry dress, which I purchased at Gyllti Kötturinn, home of Baktus the Cat, AKA my best friend in this city.
Alwin, Vitalina, Kelsey, and Florencia came over one evening for dinner and afterward we attempted to play Orðabelgur, an Icelandic game where all the questions are about the Icelandic language. I think the game box states that it is for players ages 10 and up, so it was somewhat demoralizing to realize that despite our advanced ages, it was a bit much for us as Icelandic learners, and eventually the game devolved into a game of “Smilebags.” There was also a stuffed panda named Aloysius. The greatest thing about my friends? They are at least as weird as I am, if not more so.
I somehow happened upon this masterful piece of Icelandic-language music magic. The tune is called “Gubbuhesturinn,” which basically translates to “the vomit horse” and is a play on the word “gubbePestur,” which is like a stomach flu. Maybe you have to be an Icelandic language student with a twisted sense of humor to appreciate it (in other words, maybe you have to be me), but just in case anyone else might also find it amusing, here you go:
As the evenings have grown longer and the weather milder, I’ve been enjoying lots of rambling walks, often with Florencia and Kelsey.
On one such walk, we explored Seltjarnarnes, the peninsula to the west of downtown Reykjavík.
And with this lovely view of Esjan, I will say bless í bili.