05 October 2005

First filters

Every morning, J and I awake to the sounds of Rás 2, one of the national radio stations. It’s a curious blend of NPR-style reporting by a grave-voiced reader, mixed with music, some of which seems to be chosen solely for the low royalty costs. We have unknown songs by better-known singers, as well as music that sounds like it might be American but has never been played on any radio station I’ve heard in the States. They also, of course, play Icelandic selections as well, but those are more main stream and not worthy of as much comment as the eclectic American choices.

This musical medley is enriched by a few daily traditions, such as the 7 o’clock bell-ringing that makes it sound like you have your very own churchbells in the bedroom. Nothing shakes you awake better! After the bells, it’s time for Pálmi Jónasson to read the news. I often have the greatest Icelandic-language clarity during my pre-conscious fuzzy moments in the morning, so individual words will often glow clearly in the rattle of news-delivery speech. Sometimes they even read headlines from other newspapers around the world, so I will hear a “Boston Globe” or “New York Times”, and whenever they report on what the American president is up to, they will use clips of his speech with a convenient Icelandic voice-over masking some of his twang.

Some days though, when being here seems like a constant struggle of confusion, those first filters of Icelandic before I am awake are a slap of a reminder that I am somewhere that I don’t fully belong. On days like that I remember the WGBH guys, the “nine minutes past the hour” and the ease of processing what they are saying. I think of making cappuccinos in my Boston apartment as I caught the first rays of sun in my kitchen window and how early morning rugby practices in the Fenway fields sounded, and I miss it terribly.

For the most part though, hearing Icelandic first thing (or little-known American music) reminds me that I am here and why I wanted to move. My brain is actively absorbing information every day, and I delight in being able to understand just one more word than yesterday. Everything I see is that much more vibrant because it is still so new to me. I love that feeling and if I pay for it with a few moments of nostalgia or frustration, I am willing to do it.

Boat report: Helga Maria looks like she’s ready to go now- her paint job is done, and her name has been repainted. During one of the intermediate stages, it was actually possible to see that she had another name, a male name that had been applied in relief. I thought it was bad luck to change boat names but I guess it is ok with Icelandic fishing vessels, since her skipaskra photo shows she’s handling rough seas pretty well. The docks were also quite busy this morning with the unloading- there were fish boxes stacked 6 high in one place and trawler doors opening and closing as we passed. Another boat, Steinunn, has been around for a few days, but was riding higher in the water so I guess her load has been taken off too.

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