Flatey, Part 2

Flatey: The Rest of the Story

I already wrote about most of our Flatey trip, but there are a few more pictures and stories about that day that I want to share.

First of all, when we boarded the ferry, Hrafnhildur asked me if I was going to get seasick.  I assured her that I am quite used to ferry rides (in the summer anyway) and would be just fine.  It was a clear, calm day and I was indeed just fine.  Apparently in the winter they often have to cancel the crossing due to bad weather.  It’s a fairly small boat… not sure about the vehicle capacity, but there’s a little galley with ridiculously overpriced food, plus a nifty little theater where they show movies (there was some oldie on starring Mel Gibson).  Kind of a nice idea for winter crossings, or for people who ride the ferry all the time, but I wasn’t about to waste my time watching Mel Gibson when I could be enjoying the scenery.

Skipping ahead to Flatey, let’s recap: we perused the fish-factory-turned-giftshop by the dock, walked into Þorpið (the village), said ‘góðan daginn’ to all the summer residents who were out painting their houses, listened in on choir practice at the church, had kaffi at Hotel Flatey, and enjoyed the constantly beautiful view.  Eventually we ran out of things to do, so we lingered by the hotel for awhile and watched kids jumping into the water, then meandered back to the dock and sat in the sun while we waited for the ferry to return.

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Flatey Scenes:

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Sheep! I took this photo just for my mama, who has an inexplicable obsession with pictures of farm animals, specifically sheep and chickens.

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These contraptions are all over the place. They’re for hanging fish to dry. Why anyone would want to ruin a perfectly good fish by drying it for 6 weeks until it looks and tastes like fishy straw is beyond me, but it seems very popular.

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Flateyan Goods

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Enjoying the sun and waiting for the ferry

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The ferry arriving to take us home

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Homeward bound

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On the ride back, I once again stayed above deck the whole time.  This time Sæmundur and Hrafnhildur joined me, and Sæmundur tried to locate Skáleyar, the islands where some of my ancestors lived.

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Looking for Skáleyar

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We ate pizza at a little restaurant back on the mainland, and I eavesdropped on the conversation of some English-speaking tourists sitting behind us.

On the drive home, Sæmundur suddenly pulled over.  He wanted to show me the area where my great-great-grandfather’s farm was.  First he showed me Neðri-Arnórsstaðir, but then right across the street we discovered a sign for Miðhlíð, the actual name of the actual farm where my great-grandfather was born (and I think where he lived until he left for America at the age of 9 or 10).  I don’t know if the land boundaries are the same as they used to be, but in any case, he was born in this area and enjoyed this incredible view of Snæfellsness.  Impossible to really wrap my head around, but incredible nonetheless.  I would have loved to be able to talk to the people who live on the farm now and see what they know about its history.

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Neðri-Arnórsstaðir

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The sign for Miðhlíð, the farm where my great-grandfather was born.

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Not a bad place to live, eh?

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My ancestors had to suffer this terrible view.

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We had to take Astrós back home to Tálknafjörður, so we enjoyed some heitt súkkulaði out on the deck and then her younger sisters said ‘komdu!’ and invited me to jump on the trampoline with them. The language barrier didn’t matter too much. We just jumped and jumped and laughed and laughed.

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This morning Hrafnhildur and Sæmundur showed me a book with information about farms and towns in the area and the people who lived there in the past century.

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Here’s the page about Miðhlíð:

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Miðhlíð

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Patro, circa 1913

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I can’t wrap my head around the fact that I am walking on the same land as my ancestors did, seeing the same views of the same impossibly beautiful land, but it’s true.  Hey Mom, have I convinced you that you need to come yet?  🙂

fimmtudagur: íslenska, pepperoni, forseti íslands?

Halló again dear readers (wow that sounds very Jane Eyre – points to anyone who understands that reference),

I just got off the phone with mamma mín.  Today is my parents’ anniversary.  Til hamingju for 37 years of marriage!  For anyone who might be curious and isn’t in Washington, my dad is recovering very well from his surgery.  He’s off the pain meds, is walking around the neighborhood, and is sleeping better.  Good to hear!

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að vinna: to work

My first day of work was rather overwhelming, as you can imagine, so I made sure I took a notebook to work with me yesterday so I could write down words to know, questions I have, things to remember, etc.  Hopefully it’ll help me learn and also help me remember things to blog about.

Work went well today.  Nine hours is a long time, and just like yesterday, my brain was getting a bit tired of learning in the afternoon, but it was okay.  My coworkers are wonderfully kind and mostly the customers are very understanding.  I don’t think I did anything too strange or mortifying today, although it was moderately embarrassing when I thought a customer wanted tobacco or candy and all she really wanted was a receipt.  úbs  🙂

My boss (also the owner of the store and the baker) speaks pretty much zero English, so we don’t really talk much.  I don’t know if it’s the language barrier or something else, but I find him a bit intimidating.  Every once in awhile, though, we’ll talk, and it’s fun to see how he gets excited when I actually understand him.  Like today, I walked into the back and he was hanging up some keys.  I pointed and said, ‘lykill’?  His answer was a bit longer than já or nei, but as soon as I heard the word ‘ruslið’ I understood – he had just come back from taking the garbage out.  When you’re learning a new language even those little moments are worth celebrating!

I think the most difficult thing at work is still the money.  It’s hard enough to get used to buying things with a different currency, but it’s even harder to count change correctly!  Different language, numbers with different genders, big numbers (an average purchase costs maybe 2300 kronur)… add mental math onto that and you have one confused me.  Luckily there is a calculator by the cash register and I quickly got over my pride and started using it.  Sorry, Dad – my mental math skills are not up to snuff when I’m under pressure!  I did however do a much better job saying the numbers today.  It is a pretty big effort, but since I’m more accustomed to other aspects of the job I decided I had to really try today.  People usually give me an amused (but pleased, I think) look when I say prices.  If you don’t know anything about Icelandic, here’s an example of why it’s so freakin’ hard.  If your purchase adds up to 2334 ISK, I would say, ‘tvö þusund, þrjú húndruð, þrjátíu og fjögur.’  And even as I type that I’m not entirely sure that it’s correct.

One reason numbers are difficult in Icelandic is that the numbers 1-4 have three forms – masculine, feminine, and neuter.  I could be wrong, but I think when you’re counting you use the masculine forms, but when you’re saying numbers like prices you use the neuter.  It’s all very confusing.  So confusing, in fact, that our Icelandic teacher told us a story about a girl who came to Iceland from abroad to be an au pair, and when she went to the market to buy groceries she would order 5 of everything (fimm) because it was easier than figuring out the numbers 1-4.  Our teacher told us that was a bad idea, but I don’t know… at some points today it seemed pretty appealing.

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I went to the kaffihús for lunch today… ég borðaði panina með kjúkling, pepperoni, ost, og hvítlauksósu… or something like that.  FYI, Icelandic national obsessions include genealogy, black licorice, candy in general, leggings, and pepperoni.  Seriously, they put pepperoni on everything.  It’s strange.  But tasty.

If I didn’t already mention it, Patreksfjörður has a very small population (600-700), so I’ve seen several people three days in a row now at the store.  I talked to my German friend again this morning.  He’s been living here since October and is working on a memoir.  I told him if there’s an English translation I’d love to read it.  I also saw this younger guy again today.  Yesterday he was asking one of my coworkers about me and they must have mentioned the Snorri Program by name because today he suddenly said in English, ‘So I got curious about you and looked up the Snorri Program.  Who are you related to here?’  Yep, apparently I’m an oddity and the word is spreading.  But that’s okay… I’m advertising the Snorri Program  🙂

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Forseti Islands?

The grocery store where I’m working has a wall by the front door where people can put up posters.  Most of them are listing things ’til sölu’ (for sale), but some are advertising places or events.  My first day I noticed a poster announcing that Þóra Arnórsdóttir, one of the presidential candidates (the election is this Saturday if you didn’t know), was coming to Patreskfjörður for some sort of town hall meeting tonight.  So on my lunch break I called my host mom and managed to tell her that I was going to walk to the Sjóræningjahúsið (pirate house – seriously) for the meeting.  If you missed the picture of it I posted yesterday, go check it out.  It looks like a dump on the outside, but I was surprised to find that it’s quite nice on the inside.  They have a bunch of information for tourists, displays about pirates (which I didn’t have time to look at today – I’ll probably go back and then post about it later), a book exchange (Lopez people – it’s just like the take it or leave it!  makes me feel at home!), and a little coffee shop.  I ordered a vanilla latte (side note: if you think Starbucks is expensive, try ordering kaffi here.  It’s ridiculous – I paid 510 ISK for a 12 oz. latte today, which is like almost $5.  The only good news is that you’re pretty much guaranteed to get good strong coffee anywhere in Iceland.  None of that watered down crap.  Oh, here’s another side note: á íslensku, ‘krap’ means ‘slush,’ and it also applies to a slushie drink.  ‘I’d like a large krap please.’)

I sat down, perused the book exchange (found a copy of Makbeð by Mr. William Shakespeare), and waited.  There was a guy pacing around who I kept staring at because he has come into the store a few times and he looks so much like my cousin Ben.  Remember him – we’ll come back to him in a few minutes.

Þóra, her husband Svavar, and their ADORABLE baby finally arrived.  She apologized for being late, but if there was an interesting explanation I didn’t understand it.  She and Svavar both immediately began making the rounds greeting everyone and shaking hands.  Svavar came over to me first and shook my hand and I think I had used up all my Icelandic for the day because I think all I said was ‘Hæ, ég heiti Julie.’  Awkward.  Þóra came over and I said hæ to her too.

Before you get too excited, let me tell you that right when I got to the pirate house I pulled out my camera and saw that the battery was dead.  So I didn’t get any pictures.  But I don’t think you need photographic proof – I mean, I’m creative, but there’s no way I could make up a town hall meeting with a presidential candidate at a pirate museum.

(Oh wait, here’s some photographic proof.  Okay, you can’t see me, because I was sitting next to Svavar, who took the picture on his fancy dancy iPhone, but anyway.)

Of course I understood next to nothing of what Þóra said (although more than I would have understood even a couple weeks ago), but I was definitely impressed by her demeanor.  She seemed very laid-back, kind, but professional, if that’s even the right word.  I did catch words here and there, so I know she was talking about the Alþingi, about IceSave, about the kirkja (church), and about Evropa (Europe – maybe something about joining the EU?).  There was an older woman in attendance who Þóra talked to for several minutes at the beginning, and then near the end she was pointing at her and telling a story.  Something about how Þóra and her husband were driving in this area once, and I think that lady helped them out somehow… or I could have completely misunderstood.  Who knows.  It sounded like a good story though.

After the meeting, I was getting up to leave, and Mr. Looks-Like-My-Cousin-Ben came over and said something to me in Icelandic.  I very gracefully said, ‘huhhhh?’ and he mercifully switched to English.  He recognized me from Albína and was very curious to know how I ended up at a political meeting where I can’t even understand what’s going on.  My answer was pretty simple – I’ll never learn if I don’t listen to the language in a real setting, and there’s nothing else to do in this town!  😉

We chatted for awhile and I found out his name is Brynjólfur (didn’t get it until I made him spell it for me).  He’s going to the Háskóli Islands but is working here for the summer (something to do with local government, I think).  He’s a poly-sci major so is very into politics.  He didn’t seem to hold it against me too much when I said I kind of hate politics.  Well, at least in the US I do.  Here it seems much more civilized.  We talked about handball (I just today learned what it is).  He loves handball and is of course rooting for the Icelandic team at the Olympics this summer.  He doesn’t want the sport to become popular in the States or other big places though because then Iceland might have some real competition  😉

Anyway, it was nice to talk to someone about my age (and in English!).  He said he doesn’t know too many people here and gets rather bored, so we might do something next week.  Who knows.  Hopefully he didn’t notice that I was staring at him.  If/when I see him again I might have to explain the whole cousin Ben thing.

I had to take a break from writing this blog a little while ago because my host parents came in and wanted to see more of my pictures.  They were kind of shocked that I didn’t enjoy eating svið and hákarl and harðfiskur.  Funniest of all was the fact that Sæmundur thought Mahtob (my cat) is ‘falleg’ (beautiful), but he definitely didn’t think Finn is fallegur.  I don’t know exactly what he said, but I heard ‘ekki’ several times.  Fyrirgefðu, systir mín.  I really did try to defend him.

Well it’s late and I must be up tomorrow klukkan korter í sjö (6:45).  Ugh.  I’m excited for the weekend, although I might not get to sleep in… my host family wants to take me somewhere.  Depending on the weather, some options are: Flatey (island south of here; some of my ancestors lived there or on a nearby island); Isafjörður (the largest town in the Westfjords); Rauðisandur (uhhh I don’t really know but I’m assuming there is sand and it’s red); or Látrabjarg (tall cliffs, lots of birds, westernmost point of Europe).  Hopefully at least one of them will work out!  It would be great to see more of the area.

Góða nótt!