Ég Lima is a band name inspired by an autocorrect incident. I was texting with a friend, commiserating about how exhausting life can be, especially under the constant stress of this era of plague. I responded, or at least tried to, with ég líka, the Icelandic for ‘me too’, but it was autocorrected to ‘Ég Lima’. Why did the AI seem to think, keep the ég ditch the líka? Only our ever benevolent sky-net overlords know for sure and I’m sure they know best. Anywho, I made a joke that it sounded like the name of a Reykjavík-based imaginary Peruvian, punk-new age band and immediately made a band t-shirt.
Months later, I was lying in bed, when my youngest offspring hopped into bed, as he is want to do on a school-day morning, for a little snuggle and chat. He had just gotten his second shot of the plague vaccine the day before and his arm was still a bit sore.
“It sounds like dead cells,” he said. “What do dead cells sound like?” I asked. “I don’t know. Crinkly,” he replied. “The sound of dead cells. That would make a good band name,” I said. “Or name of a song,” my husband chimed in from his side of the bed. “Or an album,” I offered. “Or maybe just an EP,” said the youngest offspring.
And that’s when it hit me. ‘Sound of Dead Cells’ would be the perfect name of the breakout single of my imaginary band Ég Lima. I can just see the blurb about them now:
Ég Lima Erupts onto the Icelandic Music Scene
Ég Lima is a Reykjavík based punk new age band with Peruvian roots and they’re pumping new blood into the heart of punk with their first single, ‘Sound of Dead Cells’. On the surface ‘Sound of Dead Cells’ is just another “back to basics” punk song. Lead singer and guitarist, Pablo Puddin’ screams the names of his favorite Paleolithic animals over sawed guitar riffs and impressively violent drums. But a deeper listen reveals layers of traditional Peruvian flutes, flutes Pablo says are made using replicas of the fossilized bones of ancient sloths recently discovered in the Peruvian Andes. The sounds of the Paleolithic pipes weave in and out of the echos of handbells and the strumming of synthesized harp to create an eerily pre-historic soundscape. First time listeners may find the discordance unsettling but don’t be deterred, because once you get it, you get it, and your ears will never be the same.
It’s my most fervent desire that some whimsy-filled Peruvian musician will read this and become so inspired that they turn Ég Lima into a reality. Will this actually happen? No. Will I continue to think up song names and possibly even lyrics? Yes, yes I will and you should feel free to do the same.
Update on The Viking: Regular readers of my highly inconsistent blog will remember The Viking from two of my earlier posts. For those who don’t know and/or have forgotten, this is The Viking and this was the last we had heard and seen of him…until now.
While at one of the nearby swimming pools, the husband and youngest offspring ran into The Viking in the locker room. His locker was right next to my husbands. They strike up a conversation in Icelandic but his Icelandic isn’t up to full on conversation and they soon switch to English. If you’ve read the previous posts on The Viking, you’ll know that we’ve heard, or at least thought we’ve heard, him speaking Danish. I propose, dear reader, that my husband, being some distance away in the big hot tub in Vesturbæjarlaug (Westside swimming pool), mistook his wonky Icelandic for Danish.
It turns out, his parents are Icelandic but he grew up in, drum roll please….Texas! Of all the places. How weird is that? Maybe it was his fellow Texan vibe that set my spidey sense all atingle. He’s an Icelandic Texan and I’m a Texan in Iceland. The next time I see him I will probably stare at him, trying to remember where I know him from and then hours later, say out loud”He’s The Texan Viking!”
It’s Easter Sunday. I’ve run out of Earl Grey tea and am forced to drink English breakfast instead. It snowed early this morning. It’s April 4th.
I’m going to take this morning snow as the universe aligning with the topic of the latest episode of my music podcast. I’m one with the universe y’all. In the latest episode of Space Time Music, I listen to covers of April in Paris and Sometimes it Snows in April by the late, great, purple, paisley one known as Prince. It’s a song that reminds us that no matter our expectations and greatest wishes, sometimes life just does its own thing and sometimes that includes ending. Sometimes it snows in April and you have to drink a tea that isn’t your favorite. Them’s the breaks.
In other news, I finally made it up to the volcano in Geldingadalur with the husband and kids. It’s a pretty amazing sight. There’s a bit of steep hiking involved and a lot of sideways on rocky slopes walking. My knees and calves were not ready. We spent about five hours there, from sunset and into the night and the husband to help me down the mountain because I kept getting cramps in my calf muscles.
That’s all for now. Despite the presence of snow on the ground I’m keeping the faith that ‘spring’, such as it is in Iceland, is still on the way with summer soon to follow. Happy Easter!
In the latest episode of The Raisin at the Hot Dog’s End my podcasting partner Jonas and I bring our listeners up to date on the goings on here in Iceland, including the recent eruption in Geldingadalur which roughly translates to Castration Valley.
I won’t recount the podcast episode here but did want to share a little more of what it was like during the swarm and share a picture of the fresh rock so if that’s cool with you, carry on reading.
There are small earthquakes every day somewhere in Iceland. They’re usually small and not one feels them. But on Wednesday February 24, 2021 I was at a cafe having tea with friends when a 5.7 made the light fixtures sway and even the Icelanders present say, “I think that was an earthquake.” There was construction going on nearby so I wasn’t convinced until I kept getting texts notifications and then another smaller quake hit soon after.
That was the beginning and since then an earthquake swarm has been shaking Reykjanes peninsula for weeks. Many of the quakes, like the first, have been strong enough to be felt in Reykjavik which lies north and east of the peninsula.
At first, I was intrigued and amused. Buildings in Iceland are built to withstand fairly strong earthquakes. Although strongest of the swarm was that 5.7, on average, the ones we began feeling day-to-day were 3.3 to 4 ish. They’re not the kind of earthquakes that lay waste to human settlements but they were strong enough to rattle furniture and make you feel a little dizzy. You could hear the wave coming as the buildings shook and the thing within them rattled like maracas.
But then the first night quake hit and I was not so amused. Being awakened in the middle of the night by the earth shifting beneath you is not fun. After the first week, we were all getting pretty tired of the shaking. I posted on Facebook that it felt like living with an energetic toddler that just won’t sit the hell down and just when you think they’ve finally calmed down they jump on you and scream.
There was a good sized quake on Sunday the 14th of March, then things went relatively silent for a few days and you know when toddlers get quiet, they’re up to something. And then the meteorologic office of Iceland posted this update:
At around 20:45 UTC 19 March 2021, a volcanic eruption began at Geldingadalur, close to Fagradalsfjall on the Reykjanes Peninsula. The eruption was first seen on a web camera positioned close the mountain. It was also confirmed on thermal satellite imagery.
And all rejoiced. It was like we’d all given birth after weeks of labor. She is a tiny little thing, the smallest Iceland has seen in a while, gurgling and spewing lava but she’s ours. The husband and I have nightly dates where we watch our TV show of the moment and leave our phones in the bedroom so we didn’t see the news until after midnight. Being born and raised in Iceland and used to galavanting all over the highlands with maps, GPS and such at the ready, he (the husband), just couldn’t resist grabbing his gear (he’s a photographer) driving down in the middle of the night to see what he could see.
Of course the roads were closed and there aren’t any good paths to the site of the eruption so that night, he only got pics of the red glow emanating in the distance. Check out his Instagram for more pics. By Sunday morning, he’d plotted course and he and his best friend trekked across the rough terrain to watch the earth make more Iceland.
He came back in the late afternoon with a sore body, some great footage and a literal piece of newly created earth. Apparently hundreds of others went as well, some not anywhere near prepared for the journey. Sunday night the weather turned bad, like blizzard force winds and toxic eruption gas bad. Many people had to be rescued and some are yet to be found.
Scientists are saying this could be the beginning of an active period for the region meaning there will be more earthquakes and eruptions in the days, months or years to come…or not. That’s how it goes with earthquakes and such. We shall see.
Or your gig, or your bag or whatever it is the kids are saying these days. Iceland is not for everyone and that is OK. Not all people, places and things are for all people. I get into the reasons Iceland may not be for you Late Night with David Letterman-style down below.
10. You’re a big fan of carrying a personal firearm. Iceland just doesn’t get down like that. Nobody carries guns, not even beat cops.
9. You like your day/sunlight and night/darkness in moderation. You’d be fine in the spring or autumn but the 24hrs of daylight in mid-summer is not everyone’s cup of tea. Similarly, the deep, dark, dank winter months are ROUGH.
8. You like warmth. Iceland NEVER gets hot. NEVER. Not even at the height of summer. You might get a warm day or hour here or there but walking around all day in shorts, skirts, summer dresses, tank tops and sleeveless shirt is not a thing here. Layer up children.
7. You hate nature. One of the best things about Iceland is that draw dropping, stunning, gorgeous natural beauty is all over and easy to get to. If hiking up a mountain at midnight in summer and driving out into the middle of nowhere in the cold-ass winter to look at the northern lights sound like torture, yeah, Iceland is not for you.
6. You love the noise and hustle and bustle of big cities. Iceland is fresh outta big cities. Reykjavík is a small city with a tiny bit of hustle and not a bit of bustle to be found. It’s so quiet, I couldn’t sleep through the night for a few weeks after moving, and I live in “noisy” downtown.
5. You hate to drive. Reykjavík has a serious car addiction. If you live anywhere but downtown Reykjavík and the immediate neighborhoods you have to drive to get just about anywhere. The city buses in Reykjavík aren’t too bad but they ain’t cheap.
4. You really like keeping to a schedule and for everything to be orderly and organized. Yeah, that’s not gonna happen or it might…there’s a possibility but I wouldn’t count on anyone knowing anything about whatever may or may not be going on at any given time. Good luck with that. Þetta reddast.
3. You believe variety is the spice of life. Not much in the way of variety in Iceland…except maybe the various kinds of crap weather. Iceland really knows how to diversify in that sector. Everything else, you’re gonna have maybe two choices and it’s gonna be expensive.
2. You love a bargain. Kiss your coins goodbye cause just about everything on this island has to be imported and it costs a pretty penny to get it here. Get ready to shell out more money than you ever imagined you would for produce, books, electronics, video games–you name it, you’re gonna pay for it. The good thing about this is that you end up getting your priorities straight on what you’re willing to spend your hard earned cash on.
1. You’re a horrible person who hates sheep. I mean really, how can you hate sheep? It’s not their fault people brought them here and they aided in the deforestation of Iceland. Damn, can’t sheep get a break?!
Icelanders LOVE their coffee so you can get a great cup just about anywhere. But my Icelandic peeps aren’t too hip to the tea jive, which makes it difficult for a tea drinker like myself to find a cafe that serves a good cup of tea. In two years of living in Reykjavík I’ve managed to find a few places that know how to (to misquote Missy Elliot) put the kettle on, steep it and (re)serve it…with cake, yummy, yummy cake.
This place is kind of a hidden gem. It’s not in downtown Reykjavík but in a neighboring emerging hipster (not the kind you want to trip because they’re so freakin’ pretentious but maybe just poke really hard because they’re on the verge) neighborhood. They serve a lovely pot of tea and have great vegan and vegetarian options on the menu. Two pinky fingers holding a fancy tea cup up from me.
Kaffi Brennslan is smack dab in the middle of Laugavegur, has a small yet carefully selected variety of loose leaf and bagged teas and has yummy cakes. All of these elements combined make it the bees knees in my book. Did I mention they also have waffles? Served with chocolate and whipped cream? Yeah. Tasty.
Mýrargata 2, 101 Reykjavík
Amid the mid-century chic with a sprinkling of industrial decor, Slippbarinn serves a pretty decent little pot of tea (and a yummy slice of carrot cake) with a view of the old harbor. One of the things I love about it is that you can sit at the bar, at one of the nearby tables, or take your pot o’ tea to a little nook surrounded by shelves decorated with all manner of interesting knick-knacks.
There’s nothing spectacular about the tea here and some locations serve the tea after it’s been steeped so you can’t be sure of the strength. Stay with me here. The thing I like about Te & Kaffi is that they sell loose leaf tea. I can get my Earl Grey at a fairly reasonable price and brew it to my liking, in my kitchen and then watch a Korean drama or work on my novel manuscript which I am sure I will finish in the next few years or so.
Shhh, don’t tell anyone but this cafe is actually in downtown Hafnafjörður. The cafe itself is cozy with two creaky floors of old, small town charm. I will say that they were a little heavy handed with the tea leaves but I prefer my too strong than too weak. Added bonus, you can sit upstairs by one of their old school wood frame windows and watch the denizens of Hafnafjörður go about their…Hafnafjörðuring.
You’ll get your classic eclectic coffee house vibe here but what you won’t get is freshly boiled hot water hitting your tea leaves. After I ordered my tea I was given a tea cup, tea bag and pointed in the direction of a hot water dispenser. Not ideal but not bad. And since is right downtown, if you hang out long enough (and by that I mean a few seconds) you’re bound to run into someone you know and possibly even like.
This is another case of nice vibe and OK tea. Cafe Haiti is right by the old harbor and has a whimsical ocean theme going on and the chocolate cake is tasty. That said, my tea was served as hot water in a tea cup, with a tea bag on the side. It’s a common tea-serving/making problem in cafes in Iceland but, as I said about Stofan, the atmosphere and location make up for the lack of exceptional tea.
There you have it folks, the tea hot spots of Reykjavík (*whispers* and Hafnafjörður). Check them out if you’re in town. Tell them Lydia sent you. They’ll have no idea who I am but it will make you seem quirky and memorable and possibly get you an even better cup of tea…and a bigger slice of cake.
Me, Kettle Talkers! That’s right, me and my fellow American in Iceland Jonas launched our podcast earlier this month. I broached the idea back in December or January–sometime before I started my second job at the Kindergarten and was feeling a bit bleh about everything. We were going for a walk because it was allegedly a nice day out and all the snow was melted. But when we reached our destination, a park whose name I cannot recall, we discovered that everything out in nature was still covered in snow; a thin layer of snow that hid slippery as hell ice underneath. So as we gingerly walked (engaging our cores) and then slid and slipped along, we talked about what we were going to do in Iceland. I confessed that I wanted to try my hand at a podcast and secretly harbored a desire to do voiceover work. We talked about our favorite podcasts (shout out to 2 Dope Queens and My Favorite Murder) and what we would do if we had podcasts. We left it at that. Nothing planned, nothing concrete, just thoughts blowing away in the gale force Icelandic winds.
After a pilgrimage back to the motherland for some hot sun and family time Jonas returned to Iceland rejuvenated and invigorated. “We should totally do a podcast,” he said. “Right?!” I answered. That’s basically the way the conversation went. We both have kids and Jonas’s are not yet in elementary school and by this time I had started my second job but we weren’t going to let lack of time and mental energy get us down. We had podcast meetings in the brief time between getting off work and kid pick-ups. We rambled into a borrowed microphone we barely knew how to use and I hacked and pieced our first episode together and oh the fun we had doing it! After getting our own, less high tech but more user-friendly microphone, the episodes came fast and furious cause when we get together, we go on and on. Through my cold, an impatient one-year-old, airplanes flying overhead and completely not recording one episode when we totally thought we were recording, we recorded five episodes. Woo! They are available wherever you listen to podcasts and on our podcast website.
Listen, enjoy and do me a solid, subscribe, rate us, write a review–all three would be great doing just one would be of immense help. We are @raisinandhotdog on most social media.
Takk, takk and bless, bless y’all! (Thank you and bye-bye y’all!)
I know I look all peaceful and serene in the pictures in this post and that’s because I am. Me and the family had a wonderful time frolicking around Langjökull and touring the nearby Víðgelmir cave yesterday. It was a good day but, let me tell you people of the interwebs, internets and intertubes, F*cking January, as per usual, was hard as f*ck. I have never met a January I liked in all my forty plus years and this January was true to form. The good news is the sun is making a comeback. I know, don’t call it a comeback, it’s been here for millennia but still I think this moment calls for a hallelujah. Hallelujah!
As I suspected, the holiday lights went out after New Year’s Day and it was like the air was let out of everything. I have never stopped missing home but the missing suddenly felt so much deeper. At the same time I felt like spikes were growing underneath my skin and at any moment they would shoot out. I felt like I was going to burst out of my skin. Is that what island fever feels like? In any case, two things helped carry me through. One was talking to the husband about my feelings. He really is a gem, that one. And he encouraged me to get another job in addition to the part-time one I already have. Who has time to wallow in self pity when you have to get up and go to work everyday? I live in my head a lot which can be great for creative pursuits but can bend towards being unhealthy, especially when combined with not enough sunlight, homesickness and did I mention the horrible weather? So yeah, in the long tradition of my step-ancestors of the West Indies I have two jobs. I know they would shake their heads and suck their teeth at me having so few jobs but if you count this blog, the other blog I haven’t written anything for in months and my design website (see that travel mug, I created the design on it and I put that shit on t-shirts too) that kind of makes up another part-time job, yeah? Who am I kidding? There’s no impressing West Indian elders.
At any rate, I’m now working part-time at a preschool. Yes, you read that right, the person who doesn’t like children is working with small children. I know, it’s a shock to me too and not nearly as stressful as I thought it would be. The first two weeks were exhausting but now I’m kind of getting used to the flow, the constant chatter and their boundless energy. The kids are teaching me Icelandic and lots and lots of patience and the other teachers are teaching me how to be Icelandic. For example, if you go abroad, when you come back, everyone expects you stock up on candy at the duty free and bring it to work. I’m sure there are some other more subtle cultural shit I’m picking up but I probably won’t notice that until later. The kids have also validated a theory I have about humanity within the span of just a few weeks. My theory is that there are no good people and bad people, there are only people. It makes us feel good to other-ize murderers, thieves, rapists and assholes but the truth is that is all part of human behavior. It’s not some sort of anomaly, it’s perfectly human and we are all capable of doing horrible things. The kid that will hug a friend when they’re sad will turn around and, quite literally, kick the mess out of that same friend when they are down. I have seen it with my own two eyes. I know, you’re thinking, well, small children’s brains aren’t fully developed so yadda, yadda, yadda but you know full well that fully grown humans with fully developed brains can behave in the same way. Watching the kids play out the range of human behavior got me thinking that we, meaning humans, just can’t seem to not mess up a good thing. We will always find a way to mess it up and big time.
Speaking of humans messing things up. There are a few spots in Iceland that were not completely deforested by humans and the sheep brought along for the ride. The national parks are protected and have forest areas, one of which we saw yesterday. It’s a small forest (which would look like a field of shrubs to non-Icelanders) on the way to Langjökull. There is also a small inaccessible island in the middle of the Skógá river covered in small Icelandic birch trees. In the winter, they look mostly like a reddish gray blanket on the landscape but in summer they’re like a carpet of green. So much more of Iceland used to look like this one tiny island and the national parks. Skógafoss is a waterfall in the Skógá river and it’s name means, waterfall in the forest. Yeah, the whole area around that tiny island was once covered in birch forest but, you know, humans. I understand that humans deforested Iceland to survive but isn’t that just so damned typically human to weasel our way into a place we have no business being in and then survive to the detriment of everything else around us which in the end turns out to also be a detriment to ourselves? We just can’t help cutting off our noses to spite our faces every chance we get.
I didn’t start out writing this post with the intent to go so doom and gloom but that’s kind of my style. Everything in the world is great and wonderful and simultaneously horrific and terrible. January was long and dreary but is finally over. February brought a lot more sun and enlightenment via 2 to 5 year-olds and March ain’t looking too shabby. Bring on the 24 hour sunlight! Until then, the kettle is on.
*I’ll be adding to this post throughout the winter so bookmark this post and check back for updates.
The thoughts I have in the dark and perpetually overcast days of winter.
January 10, 2018
It is January 10th and the last bits of Yuletide cheer are quickly fading into the seemingly never ending darkness. Yes, the solstice has passed but there are still only five hours of daylight and yesterday morning I was awakened well before my alarm went off by howling winds. More darkness than light and howling winds. This is it. This is Fucking January. Back in New York, I muttered Fucking January into my scarf as I trudged through snow and subzero (Fahrenheit) temperatures but here, in Iceland, it’s the darkness I curse.
If I don’t have to go into work, I wait until the sun is up to go outside. On the days I do, it is a bit unsettling. It just feels very…wrong. Once I am inside and under the fluorescent lights, the traditional sunlight of office spaces, I feel right again. It’s as if in that fifteen minute walk across the stretch of space between home and office I was briefly in a Twilight Zone of never-ending night. For native Icelanders and those that have lived here longer, I imagine this isn’t doesn’t feel strange at all but I just can’t shake the feeling that I’m going against nature by being up hours before the sun. “It ain’t natural, I tell ya,” my Texan soul whispers, afraid of being overheard by the darkness.
December 21, 2017
Sunrise at 11:22. Sunset at 3:29 or 15:29 for my 24 hr clock peeps. The shortest day of the year. With the help of vitamin D, good family, good friends, origami and many a good cup of tea, the increasingly shorter days of winter have passed without much gloom. As I have mentioned, Icelanders go hard when it comes to Christmas decorations. Not so much in the crazy light displays and lawn decorations sort of way but in the tiny Scandinavian Santas popping up everywhere and half Christmas tress attached to the fronts of buildings sort of way.
This year we’re planning an Icelandic-style Christmas. We’ll have dinner at 6 pm, the traditional Icelandic start of Christmas Day, and open presents afterward. The husband assures me he knows how to make an Icelandic Christmas dinner sans the meat– a nut loaf of some kind, glazed potatoes, pickled red cabbage and apple cake for dessert. We haven’t yet decided if we’re doing the Christmas morning Santa gifts too. We shall see.
Of course, January, or what I like to call F*cking January, is still to come but the promise of longer and longer days ahead will be my light at the end of winter’s tunnel.
Happy Solstice and Gelðileg jól!
November 17, 2017
Here’s something about Reykjavik you may not know: some of the sidewalks are heated. Hot water is piped beneath the slabs of concrete thus preventing snow and ice from accumulating. It’s great! Here’s another fun fact: There appears to be no sidewalk shoveling policy in Reykjavik. If the sidewalks are not heated the snow accumulates, melts a little bit, freezes overnight and then tries its damnedest to trip up this small black woman, walking down the street, muttering to herself about the madness of it all. I have noticed that some people put down sand in front of their houses, which is at least something, but even businesses allow their patch of sidewalk to turn into bumpy sheets of ice. One would think they’d want their patrons not to go careening past their establishments, unable to stop or worse, fall and break something. You would think, but that’s not what’s happening here. Just the other day I saw a tourist slip, fly up into the air and land on his ass—hard. This isn’t to say they don’t shovel at all. If the snow is really deep, say a meter, then they’ll break out the shovels, or so I’ve heard. If you’re pushing a stroller, in a wheelchair, on crutches or unsteady on your feet in any way, well, you’re S-O-L.
I have also yet to see a snow plow on the streets or in any parking lots. Yes, the snowfall hasn’t been all that significant but, again, wouldn’t it behoove the city and business owners to not have cars slippin’ and slidin’ all willy-nilly? And yes, people put snow tires on their cars but they also leave the snow tires on well into spring, because winter and spring are unpredictable, and as a result, the tires grind up the asphalt creating a foul dust that settles on everything including people’s lungs. I’m thinking plowing the roads is a better idea than asphalt dust but that’s just me. Maybe there are some other factors at play to which I, as a non-Icelander, am not privy. Whatever the reason, I’m bitter about it. But you know what? People will probably need snow tires if they’re driving outside of town and so would put on snow tires even if the city streets were plowed….
I’ve mentioned it to a few Icelanders. Some are clearly uncomfortable with me even broaching the subject while others are also miffed about the no shoveling thing. They blame it on the car culture in Iceland—the so called car-coat—no need to shovel a sidewalk if you’re always driving door-to-door. Back in the day, people would regularly die from walking one place to another. Women would take their washing to the hot spring, get caught in bad weather on the way back and freeze to death. There’s a saying in Icelandic, að verða úti which basically means to die from exposure. It literally means “to become outside,” that is, to go from “being” to “was” outside. With this bit of history in mind, I can understand why Icelanders use their cars so much but in this particular case we’re in a city where it’s easy enough to walk from one place to another without running the risk of freezing to death…at least I think it is….
November 13, 2017
Last night we went to the pool. To set the scene, here’s last night weather forecast:
Sleet or rain at close to sealevel in the southwest [the southwest includes Reykjavik] but snow in the Westfjords….Temperature 0 to 5 deg. C
So yeah, I’ve become that person that I never thought I would. I am the person who walks barefoot, in a bathing suit, through snow and sleet, to sit in a hot tub. While my body is submerged in the hot water, the howling winds pelt my face with rain, sleet and snow in the gloom of night. I’m pretty sure this makes me fully qualified to work for the United States Postal Service. I also sweat it out in the steam room and then sit outside on benches covered in icy slush and then maybe hit the sauna before cooling off again in the snow and then hitting the hot tub once more. Sounds like madness but it’s really quite refreshing.
If you read my post about my first month here, you know about The Viking but, if not, I’ll recap. The Viking is the name the husband and I gave to a man we often saw at our local pool. He was tall, wiry, had a long beard, wore a man-bun and often sat stoically with his hands on his knees, in the big hot tub. The husband proposed that he was attempting to attract the attention of tourists looking for a real live Viking in Iceland. Well, since darkness has fallen, we’ve seen hide nor man-bunned hair of The Viking. We once heard him speaking Danish to someone so I suspect he goes a viking to Iceland in the summer and returns to Denmark for the winter. Perhaps we’ll see him once again when the darkness lifts.
November 8, 2017
Good morning, Kettle Talkers. It is 9:09 am and the sky is just beginning to lighten a bit. The dawn is less than half an hour away. In these dark mornings, I find myself waking up in stages. I get up to wake the boys and get them moving. I pack the youngest’s lunch, make sure they eat, brush their teeth and get dressed and in between I retreat to the soft, cozy embrace of my bed which has never before felt so fluffy and divine. I feel myself falling into the haze of half sleep but catch myself in time to get up and check on the boys’ progress and keep them on task. Once they’re out the door I retreat to be bed for a few more minutes, closing my eyes and, if I can manage it, roping the husband into a snuggle. He claims he doesn’t need the extra snuggle time but takes it all the same. Surprisingly, my boys aren’t any harder to wake up than usual in the mornings and aren’t any easier to get into bed at night. Eventually I feel the need to eat and get to work by which time the sky is lighter and it feels more like morning. I eat, I Facebook, I drink my tea and prepare for a day of writing, laundry (there is always laundry) errands interspersed with YouTube videos (mostly vlogs and drag queens).
Since Icelanders don’t have a Thanksgiving, November is pretty much the beginning of the Christmas season. Lights are going up in storefronts along with holiday displays and the grocery stores are already rolling out their “Gleðileg jól” (Merry Christmas) shopping bags. Because I am of a certain age, I find Christmas decorations going up before Thanksgiving distasteful. I’m pretty sure the shift to putting up holiday decorations just after Halloween has been a thing in the States at least since the 90s, but it had already become a habit of mine to feel annoyed by it by then. But you know what? I think I’m a changed woman. Here, in the darkness, I’m thankful for the premature fairy lights, giant glittering snowflakes and red yarn stacked up in the shape of Christmas trees. It’s difficult to work oneself into a funk in the face of sparkling things, shiny red and gold tins decorated with Christmas goats, and tiny Yule Lads with long white beards and wearing little pointy red hats. Be grateful for the light, wherever you may find it.
October 18, 2017
Every morning is darker than the last and it is taking longer and longer for the sun to rise. At 7:30 there is barely a lavender haze on the horizon. Game of Thrones has made it impossible to utter the words, winter is coming, without it sounding ominous but it’s true, winter is coming and it will be dark and its winds sharp and unforgiving. With the crap weather settling in, Icelanders point outside and jokingly ask, so how do you like Iceland? I wish they wouldn’t, it makes me ill. Why does anyone live here?
My left eyelid has developed a twitch. It’s very subtle but it’s there, twitching. I am not sure what the twitching means or if it means anything at all. A combination of things, I imagine. I may just need to get out of the house more. I came out to a cafe today and managed to lock myself out so I have to wait here in the cafe for my oldest son to come home and let me in. I was going to say that getting out actually made the twitch go away but it returned just now to put me in my place. “You think you know me? You don’t know me.” My twitch has an attitude problem. I’ll have to make sure and hunker down somewhere else the next time I lock myself out. I just paid 8 bucks for hummus on toast but they do have free wifi….
When I first moved to New York City I lived in uptown Manhattan’s west side, on Riverside Drive, said river being the Hudson. In the winter, the Hudson Hawk is killer. It is a bitterly cold, biting wind and it nearly literally swept me off my feet on more than one occasion. I would come off the 1 or 9 train (this was back when there still was a 9 train) at 137th and Broadway, walk down to 135th street, take a deep breath and brace myself before turning right. At first, I would sigh in relief, thinking there was no wind and then halfway down the block I would be pushed back and forced to walk Michael Jackson in the “Smooth Criminal” music video style down to the corner and then pray to the baby Jesus that I wouldn’t get blown away as I fought my way to the front doors of my building. At this point, my face would be almost completely numb but I could feel hot tears streaming into my hair from the corners of my eyes. Once I got to the front door, I had to gather what little strength I had left to pull open the door and not be slammed into it as I made my way inside. So that’s the Hudson Hawk. Now, imagine the Hudson Hawk is just…everywhere and it’s always raining, not always heavily, but always—that’s Iceland.
It happened. It actually happened. A few months ago when the husband broached the idea of moving to Iceland I was shook, as the kids say. I felt (and will probably continue to feel off and on) scared and anxious and my muffin of a husband gave me the space to feel my feelings. I poured myself many cups of tea and called my momma, because that’s what you do when the shit hits the fan both literally and figuratively. She assured me that no matter what we decided to do– regardless of if, when or where we moved– everything would be OK. Perhaps it was her reassurance that helped nudge me in the right direction but soon after that I felt a weight lifted from my shoulders. When had I decided that I was incapable of changing my life’s course? I had locked myself into the mentality that my life could only be lived in New York and nowhere else and when I asked myself, why? I didn’t have an answer. New York is wonderful in many ways but it was bleeding us dry. Rent, health insurance, RENT and the cost of just about everything else is sky high in New York. The cost of living is also high in Reykjavík but when healthcare is dirt cheap, activities for the kids cost almost nothing and we have family here, our quality of life improves considerably. I may be stubborn as a mule but I ain’t stupid.
With that mental hurdle behind me but still not ecstatic about the move (because I may have acquired some degree of mental flexibility but I am still a New York City girl at heart), we packed and purged and purged and packed and purged. How the hell did we accumulate so much crap in our apartment? And purged some more yet somehow still managed to have enough stuff to load up into a crate and move to Reykjavík (I like to sing that last part to the tune of The Ballad of Jed Clampett a.k.a. The Beverly Hillbillies theme song — So we loaded up the crate and we moved to Reyk-ja-vííííí´k. Iceland that is. Swimming pools, lava flows). After we said our goodbyes to our dear friends and school was out for summer we headed to the Great State of Texas for a week with my family and did absolutely nothing. The boys ran amok in the backyard with their cousins, spraying each other with the water hose, and I hung out with my family, catching up, harassing each other and breathing together. We soaked up all the Texas heat we could before heading to Iceland with a pit stop in NY and after twenty four hours arrived in Iceland. Here I am, blogging in Iceland. No, for real, I really am.
The day we arrived in Iceland was the day before a friend from college who was visiting Iceland was leaving so we met her that evening for a mini-in-real-life-not-Facebook-catch-up. How lucky is that? But listen to this, we arrived on a Saturday morning and I’m writing this on the following Monday and we’ve already checked off most of our bureaucratic to do boxes. Yup, keep reading, I’ll explain.
If anything is emblematic of how small and efficient Iceland is, it is the ease with which one can get shit done. In less than two hours we had registered the husband and kids at our new address, begun the application process for my residency, got health insurance (I won’t tell you the cost of the private health insurance we got to cover us until we are eligible for coverage by the national healthcare system, it would be too cruel to my fellow Americans) and the husband set up a bank account. Go ahead, slap the table and look all agog. I know. It’s unbelievable. I still can’t shake the feeling that the other shoe is going to drop and we’ll have to go back through the whole process again and then we’ll have to stand in line for hours before sitting in uncomfortable chairs for another couple of hours, during which time our kids, who will have to accompany us because we have to prove they 1) exist 2) haven’t been kidnapped by my husband, will begin shrieking and howling in pain and boredom and when it seems they will pass out in despair, to finally get our turn in line, fill out all the paperwork, wait for our turn again and then be told that I not only checked a wrong box but used a blue ink pen instead of a black one and don’t have the proper 13 points of identification and stool sample so I need to come back after 5 to 10 business days but only if it’s a full moon cause that’s just about what it took, sans howling children, for the husband to get his residency in the states. Knock on wood, friends. Knock on wood.
Our stuff won’t be here for a few weeks so we’ll be staying with family for a bit. I don’t completely feel like we’ve moved here, even with the packing, schlepping and 24 hours of travel. I think it’s most likely because we don’t have all of our stuff and aren’t in our own place so it still kind of feels like any other visit to Iceland. In a few weeks, when we’re unpacking and settling in I may have a freak out as it sets in that I really moved across the ocean to a different country and I don’t speak the language. I’m hoping not to freak out but it would probably be more entertaining to you, my Kettle Talkers, if I did. If I don’t freak out, I promise to include a sensational fictionalized account of events for your voyeuristic pleasure. Until then, the kettle is on.
A week or so ago I was pondering this question: Do I get a power adapter for my cute, little, orange tea kettle or do I get a new tea kettle? You see Kettle Talkers, me, the husband and the kids are moving to Iceland this summer and some difficult decisions regarding packing will have to be made. No sooner had I written about my adapter conundrum than the kettle up and died. It began turning on by itself and then wouldn’t turn on at all. Such a good kettle, making things easy for me in this time of transition. I loathe transitions of all sorts. I hate the saying, it’s more about the journey, than the destination. The journey can be fun, yes, but often it is uncomfortable and it takes too damn long. If transporter technology were to become a thing tomorrow I’d be the first in line. Beam me up, Scotty. One for transport, O’Brien. Scratch that. Transporter travel would probably do something weird to my body rhythms and I’d break out in hives and have insomnia for days. It’s much too sudden now that I think about it. These processes are uncomfortable yet necessary, like mosquitos. They’re little biting, disease carrying jerks but if they disappeared from the face of the earth everything would be thrown out of balance.
My point is that transitions are stressful and we’re undergoing a big one. With the addition of myself and my two kids to Reykjavik we will push the population of black residents well into the teens. I haven’t combed through the city’s vital statistics but I doubt that I am far off in my estimation. I wouldn’t go so far as to call myself a celebrity in Iceland but when I walk the streets people do sometimes stare and I’m pretty sure they’re thinking, “Hey, isn’t that Snorri’s wife?” because everybody knows just about everybody in Iceland, “I heard he married a black woman.” I’m not a seeker of celebrity, but as is said about greatness, some strive for it while others have it thrust upon them. I could parlay that celebrity into something I suppose. The idea of becoming a You Tuber has crossed my mind — check it out, it’s a black woman living in Iceland – but it runs counter to my core way of being. Random people would comment and some would say some pretty horrible things, because that’s what humans do, and then I would feel the need to respond and I’d hear Michelle saying, “When they go low, we go high,” in my head and I’d be like, bump that, Michelle, I need to tell Becker about his dumb-ass self and it just would not be a good look for me…. Or it could be really fun. But the whole walking around with a camera all the time thing…that’s just weird and the whole vibe is a bit narcissistic in a way that doesn’t fit with my natural shy introversion. And yet, I feed the You Tube beast myself. I have fallen down many a You Tube hole and discovered some very interesting people and places. Decisions, decisions.
Downtown Reykjavik is walkable so that’s great but going anywhere outside of that kind of requires car travel which I don’t enjoy but, I grew up in Texas, I’ll get used to it. There is one thing about moving to Iceland that will be a real challenge for me — the climate. The lack of real heat in the summer and soul crushing darkness in the winter is worrying to me, to say the least. I need four seasons to feel at peace but could make it if I had a hot summer in there somewhere. I was born in the summer in Texas so I’m not talking a little warm I am talking H-O-T hot. It is nice to have cold, snowy winters — perfect weather for drinking lots of tea and hot cider — but…. Iceland has plenty of sunlight in the summer but the heat, not so much. This will undoubtedly call for an increase in tea consumption just to stay warm but too much caffeine turns me jittery. I’m going to need a LOT of herbal tea. Let me know what some of your favorites are in the comments below.