20 March 2006


Last Friday afternoon, a fog settled into the city which stayed until early Sunday afternoon, when it blew away as quickly as it arrived. The view outside the window stopped at the dark rocks of the seawall, and the only thing interrupting the white blanket of fog was black shapes of ravens soaring past the window.

I spent half the weekend in a similar fog of all-Icelandic conversation at a (so I hear) typical Icelandic choir retreat, where we practiced all our upcoming music at a string of almost non-stop rehearsals. We went to a large house 40 minutes north on the other side of Hvalfjörður, mostly used to house wealthy fishermen during the season. The artwork was all fish, rivers, and fly themed, and signs warned us not to wear our waders in the house in two languages. If it had been clear, we would have had a grand view of Laxá and beyond to the sea, but all I was able to see was to the wire sheep-pasture fence and the gate that led out to the field and beyond to the river.

We sang through half a mass together, several Icelandic songs, and a few Italian ones, interspersed with generous spreads of homemade lasagna (the director's wife is Italian, so it was the Real Thing), a walk through the silent mist to the river, and a few awkward conversations in Icelandic.

We also pulled out the "fun song books" on Friday, and one of the basses played the tunes with a guitar. The songs were a mix of English and Icelandic songs, and the best one was a mix of the two- the classic "cotton fields" song reinterpreted from Louisiana to the potato fields of Þykkvabær. It's quite a surreal experience to be singing this down-home all-American song with Icelandic lyrics in the middle of a fishing house in the foggy darkness.

Singing that much is already hard work, and when all the instruction and surrounding conversation is in a language that's still unfamiliar, the end result is exhausting. I left on Saturday afternoon feeling like I'd been taking a test the whole time. However, I said very little in English the whole time, and I think I had two sentences spoken to me that were not Icelandic the whole time. Progress!

Ship spotting: Eldborg is already looking better in the shipyard with a new coat of paint on the hull, and the cement cargo ship Cemsea apparently has just arrived at the Akranes docks.

*in case you're wondering, this is a totally fabricated word that some friends and I invented as part of a strange words quiz we wrote. Our "definition" was, "to be enveloped in a chill mist".


tsduff said...

Always enjoy your take on the daily life over there... I love hearing your experiences. Thanks for continuing to post them.

sb said...

Man I would have been SO EXHAUSTED!
You're doing great though!