30 August 2005

bus system improvements

I just got back from Kópavogur, where I went to spend 3 seconds getting my photo taken for my work ID. The bus ride turned out to be the best part of the outing.

On the ride out there, I'd noticed a few slim laminated books attached to some of the seat backs. Since the bus system recently reorganized, I figured it was some kind of informational booklet touting the marvels of the new Reykjavík bus network. On the way back, familiar with the trip and done admiring the atmosphere around Mjódd, I glanced through one of them.

Turns out they're all short stories, some in English, some in Icelandic. The one at my seat was a six page tale of a girl who had just turned 18, and had moved out of her house (of course she takes the bus to do this) so she could marry her girlfriend.

I can see all kinds of future entertainment with this one... what if they had a story that was in chapters, with each chapter at a different seat? People would have to swap seats during their ride to finish the story. Or, for immigrants like me, they can do a side-by-side with the English and the Icelandic, so I can brush up on new vocab and sentence structure while I'm heading to work. I could have learned the word for "domestic partnership" this trip if they had. Instead I only know how much it costs. 5100 krónur, if you're curious.

29 August 2005

+354 = (512)

The Land has welcomed me again, and the jingles are surfacing from my memory 2 months ago as I go by the chain restaurants like "American Style" and Brimbourg.

This morning as I was on my way through the familiar halls of KEF, following a college guy in low-slung pants accessorized with the Lonely Planet Iceland book and a map, I realized that I've been through this airport enough times in the past year that it's starting to feel like the airport in Austin, Texas.

They're both about the same size and newness level, with the exception of the KEF Hall of Purgatory, where I've had to wait for planes and stare at the stained khaki carpet a few times. Of course if you want to pick up a side of smoked lamb or some sheep eyeballs, you're probably out of luck in Austin.

Still, it's easier to fly to KEF from the East Coast than it is to fly to AUS, and I'm about as familiar with things there in Texas than I am with things in Iceland. The land around the airport is similarly wasteland themed as well. Now if only they had the great Tex-Mex food here, we'd have something.

the right way to start things off

I'm eating the ultimate first (super late) lunch in the Land

2 SS hotdogs (love that smoky southlands slaughterhouse flavor!)

dipped in ketchup, pilsusinnep, and crunchy toasted onions.

no silverware, just a napkin.


28 August 2005


Yesterday for my last real dinner, my parents took me to the awesome Chinese restaurant in the next town, site of birthdays in grade school, and celebratory dinners with various sports teams in college.

They've expanded their menu recently, so I decided on sushi, and as I ordered the Tekka Maki, I caught myself pre-aspirating the first word like a good Icelander. Hope that bodes well for my future Icelandic-speaking abilities...

27 August 2005

the fruit of my labor

These past few days up here have felt like autumn. I feel like I should be getting my Trapper Keeper ready, sharpening my pencils, and planning my first day of school outfit (which I am kind of doing, but for my first day of work) The busses full of Jamaican apple-pickers are bumping down the street, and it's been getting cold enough at night to close the windows.

Autumn also means apples here, in this orchard-rich region, and my parents have an apple tree in the front yard that's so old nobody knows what kind of fruit it is. It's been a fixure in my life as long as I can remember, from when I was newly able to climb trees, and the gently sloping branches were perfect practice. This year it's dropping apples by the minute, and the acid of their decay ruins the grass, so I've been picking them up to take up to the compost heap.

So far I've filled three large trash barrels and there are still more falling. It's a pleasant enough job, surrounded by the scent of cider, crouched in the cool grass with the tree arching overhead. There were enough relatively unblemished and newly fallen apples to make a crisp last night, so we spent about an hour picking through the bruises from the fall from the tree and the places where opportunistic bees made forays through the skin. The resulting crisp was perfect- tart apples spiced with cloves, cinnamon, and mace, topped with crisp crumble laced with pecans. Times like this make it difficult to imagine being in a place where the seasons aren't marked by the familiar fruit on the trees, the almost imperceptible shift in the weather, and the beginning scents of decay and cold. It's what I love best about New England.

25 August 2005

chasing the sunrise

I'm flying on Sunday, chasing the dawn on the horizon to KEF, on a round-trip ticket that I will not use to return with. It's strange to think that on September 12, a plane with an empty seat that had my name on it will be coming back to Boston.

Next week at this time I'll be waking up in Iceland, swimming in Ice-pools and eating lots of codfish.

It's been a grand last few weeks here, with the most American summertime reunion ever imagined. My brother and wife came to MVY with my 8-month old nephew G, along with her parents. Add my parents, another brother and some cousins all sitting on the porch, chowing on lobster, chowder and watermelon, and you get the picture. We watched the evening arrive at the Menemsha beach, drinking white wine out of plastic cups and sitting with our toes in the tiny waves there. We went to an acapella concert in the grand 19th century church in Edgartown, built on the impressive funds of the whaling captains that settled there, and had ice cream at Mad Martha's down the street.

Everyone went home Monday, and I came off island yesterday, a day marked by the deep blue water of Vineyard Sound, the beginning crispness of autumn in the air, and an outlet shopping orgy followed by coconut shrimp and spinach dip at Ruby Tuesdays. I feel that I'm leaving in proper American style after a day like that!

Visa, it's everywhere you want to be

OK, I'm ripping off their slogan, but in this case it is true.

My passport is back, with a nice little notecard folded inside it saying "with the compliments of the Consulate General of Denmark" Not really complimentary when I had to pay $58, which is even more peculiar when you consider that the application for the year-long residence permit didn't cost me a kronur.

It's got my picture on it and everything, my very own Schengen Visa.

some disappointed readers

I just had a reader here from the UK who definitely didn't get what he wanted out of my site.

Apparently I'm a top entry if you search msn UK for "naked boys swimming" thanks to my "naked republic of Iceland" blog post. It's been roping in several unsuspecting readers searching for various permutations of the naked swimming theme.

wonder if it's going to increase the number of people considering Iceland as their next vacation destination...

23 August 2005

the hlaup has released

Yesterday morning was a rapid succession of approvals from all corners of the world.

First the email from HR man T saying Vinnumálastofnun had approved, then a phone call from him saying Útlendingastofnun had approved, then an afternoon call from the Danish Consulate in New York asking when I wanted my D-Visa to start. It all happened as fast as a volcano releasing a massive pile of sand from underneath a glacier (that, for my non-Icelandic readers, is a hlaup)

Last night I couldn't sleep, my mind swirling with plans for the future and memories of that first time I was in Iceland last October.

I remember that first sunrise I saw, hanging in the space between the horizon and the cloud cover as I greeted my first Icelandic horses. My stomach was full of coffee, my first flavors of skyr, and that thinly sliced brown bread in the crinkly package, spread with Icelandic butter.

I remember the waves on that south coast, cresting against the lava cliffs and pouring into the air, bringing the smell of seaweed and the first hint of the still-unidentified Iceland Aroma. I remember the drive through the low, rainy clouds across the lava field on the way to Rvk, wondering what I was getting myself into, and hiding behind my knitting. The city built up around us, building by building, and my nervousness receded by the time we'd arrived in Vesturbær.

I remember the trip to the West Fjords, as the land built up and the houses fell away. The mountain pass was covered in snow and the wind howled across the treeless space. When we came down into the fjords, we ate cheese layered on crispy Norwegian crackers, and I cut my finger on the cheese slicer, thanks to the bumps in the road and sudden curves. We finished it off with chocolate bars and J's aunt's homemade carrot cake, flown to him from New Bedford, MA.

That view from the road that afternoon stays with me too, the view of the snow-dusted fjords opening to emptyness, barren of houses, trees, or people. They lay in that late afternoon autumn sun, dropping into the brilliant teal water of the fjord. Our only company there was the ducks and I think, a seal. We lay bets with each other on how much it would take to sleep there among the abandoned settlement's collapsed turf houses with the wind whistling in from Greenland, and the spirits of settlers past hanging round their land.

A few logistics still stand in the way, but I'm almost there, and it's about time. My hair is in need of another ice-cut

10 August 2005

the unknowable requirement

I haven't written in a while because not much has happened in a while. Lots of porch-sitting, a little painting, and some how-de-do with the neighbors has taken up most of my time.

until today.

I got word from Iceland that they'd added a new requirement to the permit application, a requirement that was not listed on the applications, the instructional forms, or the website in either English or Icelandic. Apparently I need a doctor's note now, something which no liability-minded doctor will write without actually checking me out beforehand.

I am reminded of my college days when before we started the rowing season, we had to get a physical (Hi Angel! I know you remember this). I once again need to be certifiably fit for training purposes apparently, and they're not letting me in until I get inspected, even though I'm going to be inspected by icedoctors in a matter of weeks as a further requirement befor getting the actual stick-in-your-passport res permit.

Of course I can't get an appointment until next Friday, and of course there's more to come following that part of the process (still have to send my passport to the Danes in New York and wait to get it back)

On the positive side, I have the persistent HR guy in Iceland to thank for finding this out at all, since I expect it would have been many more weeks before they'd have told me without his interference, or the worst-case scenario in which they denied me without telling me why. The other good news is that once I've got this letter, I'm approved, and I'll be just that much closer to finally earning my keep again. This idleness and Victorian-style tea sipping out here is starting to get to me.