04 August 2010

Blogging from a garish bench

The garish bench
All right. Anyway. I've got a backlog already. But what, I ask, does "blog" mean, if not "b[ack]log." In any case. Okay. Eyrún picked me up from the side of the road, and we headed off to Reykjavík. On the way, she saw her friend Magga and picked her up. And just took her along to Reykjavík. Because everyone in Iceland knows each other. To wit: There was a band playing in a record shop. Eyrún and Magga knew those guys. We went to a flea market; Magga picked up a book that was illustrated by her aunt. Later, we found a book about warm mittens, wherein Eyrún's friend was pictured several times. Iceland.

The most popular dish in Iceland is the pylsa, which means hot dog. They top it with mustard, mayo, onions, and fried onions. Eyrún and Magga took me to the best pylsur stand. I was amazed by the special pylsur tables, which are apparently de rigeur in Iceland. Pylsur cost 280 ISK, making them the only affordable food in Iceland.

A pylsur table. Holds four pylsur.

After the pylsur, we drove and walked about the city. I'm not sure what utility Eyrún and Magga got from this; apparently they're just incredibly hospitable. I went back to my hostel and fell asleep at 6:30 pm. You'll see photos when I get around to posting them.

This day was interesting. Eyrún couldn't hang out, because she was working all day. And apparently her grandmother died. I was going to meet another random internet friend. But then he bailed on me too. So I wandered. More pictures. I went past Björk's house without even knowing. (PS It's the one painted black.)
I slept late. Then I decided to go to the mall. It turns out that the main shopping streets are not very good for souvenirs. There are lots of tourist shops, but the goods there are sickeningly touristy. I figured that a mall outside the centre would likely have goods that were for Icelanders, and that some of them might have Icelandic on them, or they would have something specifically Icelandic about them. I was, um, wrong. Icelanders import everything at great cost. So nothing is specifically Icelandic, or even affordable. Seriously. A normal pair of running shoes cost 37.000 ISK = $300 or thereabouts. 

I didn't know that Eyrún's grandmother had died, so I didn't know to expect a great delay. It wasn't that she was sad; apparently her grandmother had been waiting to die for 25 years. Rather, she just had to sort through a lot of old bank-statement envelopes. Then she finished. And she drove me to Þingvellir, the first home of Iceland's parliament, the Alþing. Hooray! It was very beautiful. There was a pond where they used to drown woman criminals (hanging and other normal methods were too dignified for woman criminals, as far as I can understand).
Eyrún, next to the pond where they used to drown women

We picked very tiny wild blueberries!

After the trip, Eyrún took me back to her house, where I talked to her mother and aunt. Everyone's English, by the way, was excellent. It turns out that everyone in Iceland must study linguistics! Everyone! So I could talk about my research a bit without losing them. They gave me sole to eat. This will be the only fish I eat in Iceland; I am not able to afford it in general.

Afterward, we went to hang out with Eyrún's friends in a café. One of them spoke perfect English, and the other two spoke very good English. The two whose English was not absolutely perfect wouldn't talk to me very much. I think they were self-conscious? It's a shame. Anyway they were nice. We read through the list of permissible Icelandic names, and they bemoaned the proliferation of new names like Christopher, which are not Icelandic. And they judged me by the music on my iPod. (I passed). In fact, we're going to share music. Apparently, a lot of great bands play in Iceland, and Icelanders who care about music will in general know exactly what year any given band played here. (Of Montreal: "I saw them here in 2006." Vampire Weekend: "Yeah, their show in 2007 was really good." Et cetera.) 

Anyway, I expect my last Icelandic friend any moment. I'll say hi to him from you. Also, someone just took a picture of me. Hmmmm.


Some more cool things about Iceland:

The mayor of Reykjavík is also the most famous comedy actor in Iceland. His party is called the "Best Party." My friends really like him, mostly because of his Facebook page, where he chronicles his every activity. None of my friends have any idea of what his policy goals are, or whether he has achieved anything positive in his tenure as mayor. But anyway he's cool.

If you have an Icelandic social security number, you can access a database which gives you your entire genealogy back to the viking settlers. And beyond. Eyrún is descended from a an Irish king of the 8th century. You can also find out how any two people in the country are related. There is in fact a Facebook app which will list each one of your friends and how closely you are related, provided they have given their full name and correct birthday to Facebook. Icelanders are always at least 10th cousins, apparently. 

The legal drinking age in Iceland is 18. The legal age for purchasing alcohol is 20. It is not legal to purchase alcohol for those under 20. So 18 and 19 year olds can only drink alcohol if they find it. My friends think this is funny.

My friends were calling America strange. I told them that Iceland was strange, because hot water comes out of the ground. They asked me "Where does your hot water come from?" 
When I answered that we had a water heater in the basement, they were taken aback. I have never seen anyone's eyes go quite as wide as Sonia's.

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