25 October 2005

Áfram Stelpur!

Yesterday I did participate in the Kvennafrídagur festivities as I had planned. The day was crisp and clear (good Snæfellsjökull viewing from the living room!) and on my way downtown I enjoyed scufffing in teh last remaining leaves on the sidewalk. I stopped to say hello to one of the tabbies that lives around the corner, and looked for signs that a Big Gathering was happening in town. The most excitement I saw on the way down was an old fellow out painstakingly painting his front windowsill with the company of a black tuxedo cat curled at his toes.

When I came to Hlölli, the stage was set up there, and a few women stood around, but for the most part it seemed only slightly more crowded than normal, just minus the skateboarders. I continued up Austurstræti, past a few road blocks and once again, just normal-looking foot traffic for a Monday afternoon. By now I was starting to wonder if I'd come on the wrong day, but as I climbed the hill on Bankastræti, the wave started to surge down the hill. Suddenly the street was choked with women, pouring from both Laugarvegur and Skólavörðustígur and compressing together around me. Some carried signs, some pushed prams, some banged pot lids together, and a lot of them looked old enough to have been flag-waving members of the first movement 30 years ago. I turned and followed the crowd, listening to the hum of conversation, watching the befuddled tourists taking pictures, their duty-free woolshop bags in hand.

I made it back down to Hlölli to snag a prime spot in front of the stage, where I saw my co-worker G and her choir singing. Every one of the 100 something women in the choir was decked out in lopapeysa with pink accessories. On either side of them swarmed film crews, cameramen, and guys hooking up speakers for the later events. In front of us on the Tryggingamiðstöðin roof, more cameramen staked out the view from above. Inside the building I could also see the faces of the men still at work inside pressed up against the windows.

After the music there were speeches, more music, curious theatrics, and more speeches. I had heard the crowd was supposed to be big, so I did a tour around the immediate downtown area, and it was like I was back at (my single-sex) university. Every café was crammed with women, every shop was full of browsing women. There were women everywhere, and the few guys that turned out looked self-conscious, like they knew they were being observed. I completed the circle with coffee that was being passed out in front of the insurance office, but by then the growing shade was starting to have an effect on me.

Due to my prime location, I was probably in background shots for all kinds of tv news, but scanning the headlines didn't turn up anything. It was hard to really get an idea of the scale of the crowd, packed in as we were, so I had to turn to the morgunblaðið website to find out the real statistics. Turns out it was as big as the independence day crowd of around 50 thousand, and what I didn't know was that it happened in towns all over the country, like Ísafjörður, Akureyri, and a previously unknown-to-me town called Siglufjörður.

Overall, although I only understood the parts of the speeches that were newly-learned grammatical constructions like "Núna, ætla ég...." (now, I intend...) it was still really cool to be part of the huge crowd, and I was able to understand the main message of the event, áfram stelpur!

Ship sighting: When I went to take my daily photo of Akrafjall yesterday afternoon, there was a huge cargo ship perfectly centered in a sunsplash at the base of the mountain. It's not often I see one of those actually in motion, so it was an impressive addition to the photo with the two cranes folded in like insect legs against the low-riding body.

1 comment:

JB said...

Here is the evening news coverage of the event, and the link to the story on the Reykjavík portion. E is in there somewhere, in a Where's Waldo kind of way.