02 August 2010

Things about Iceland

Remember my last post? The one I wrote after sleeping from 6:30 pm to 1 am? In that post, I mentioned my friends in Iceland. These friends have two sources: couchsurfing.org and livemocha.com.

couchsurfing.org: This website originally failed me pretty spectacularly. I asked eleven different people to host me, and was denied by all of them. Disenchanted, I turned to livemocha.com, where I had more success. But more on that later. Having failed to find a host in Reykjavík, I decided to find someone near the airport who could hold my enormous suitcases for me, and possibly host me for a night. I found a Canadian (Ko-leen) and her Icelandic husband (Davíð).

My flight arrived at 6:30 am. I was to arrive at my new friends' house at 9. I decided to wander the airport parking lots and look for a pedestrian route. In so doing, I determined that the distance to their place was far too great to cover with my enormous quantity of luggage. I also determined that the road was too busy to admit pedestrian traffic (although I later found out that it has exceptionally wide shoulders). I also lost my passport, retraced all my steps, and then found my passport among my maps, in my computer bag. Very smooth. Anyway I decided to take a taxi.

Observe the dinosaur egg (?) sculpture

I didn't like the taxi. It cost me 2820 ISK = $24. And then when I got to my destination, the door to my friends' apartment had a sign on it saying "Do not knock. The dog is a bark-aholic." I called out a few greetings, but I didn't want to shout, and I was not heard. So I waited. For like 10 minutes. And then I conceived of a plan. I went outside and whistled the opening bars to "O Canada." When I went back up to the apartment, my hostess opened the door. I said "The door said not to knock." She said "Most people just open the door and walk in." I was abashed. But I would have felt very uncomfortable just walking into a stranger's home. Later, my hostess explained to me that part of couchsurfing is assuming that everyone is a friend. So anyway I learned a lesson.

I spent the whole morning with Ko-leen, Davíð, their nine-year-old son Kasper, their 9-month-old son Leópold, and their dog Rósa. I learned many things. Did you know that Icelandic rents are inflation-indexed, but Icelandic wages aren't? Worst thing ever. You can make $6/hr. after taxes as an electrician. And a box of cereal costs $4. Anyway. I had a hot shower (hot water is essentially free; volcanic islands are awesome). Rósa loved attention, and I was happy to oblige her. Then Davíð woke up, and we spoke of books and linguistics. Kasper was an awesome heritage speaker of English, and he talked a great deal. Then I decided to call my livemocha friend Eyrún. So I did. And then Ko-leen decided to lend me a cell phone. Have I mentioned that I really like these people?

I needed to get from Ko-leen and Davíð's place to Eyrún's hometown of Hafnafjörður (which you shouldn't try to pronounce). I had a bus ticket that could have gotten me there, but I would have had to go back to the airport to catch the bus. And I didn't want to take another taxi to the airport. So Ko-leen recommended that I hitchhike. Apparently everyone in Iceland hitchhikes. Kasper hitchhikes by himself. Davíð has hitchhiked all around the country. So Ko-leen told Kasper to take me down to the highway, and he left me there. Apparently, Ko-leen and Davíð's guests never have to wait more than 5 minutes for a ride. I was the exception. After 45 minutes, I called "Mom" on my borrowed cellphone, and I asked whether my technique was wrong. Ko-leen was horrified that I had been waiting so long, so she sent Davíð to pick me up and take me to a better spot. Which he did. And I waited another 30 minutes. And I was cold. But then an old man pulled over and let me into his car.

This old man did not speak any English. I think he tried to communicate with me in Danish. But apparently the only sentence of Danish I understand is "Do you understand this?" So we sat in silence. For like twenty-five minutes. Then he dropped me off at the Viking Hotel in Hafnafjörður (which you still shouldn't try to pronounce). I called Eyrún, and waited. For like 5 minutes. Then the old man came back. My shaving cream had fallen out of my bag, and he had driven back to give it to me. So wonderful.

Then I waited for 5 more minutes. Then Eyrún arrived.

I have more to tell, but this post is already too long, and I must attend to other matters. So for now, a few observations:

The weather in Iceland is the same at 6 am as it is at noon as it is at 10 pm: Chilly, breezy, damp, but ultimately fairly pleasant, given the proper attire.

Things are expensive here. My cash is running out, so I'll have to use my credit card (which will tack a 3% fee onto every purchase).

None of the words of Icelandic are pronounced as you might guess. I therefore can't refer to streets or people or anything, because I just say it wrong. Also, Icelandic looks like Hungarian sometimes because of the letters áéíóúö. The word "out," which is what they post on exit signs, is "út," which is also the Hungarian word for "road." So that's funny.

Hol van az út? Where is the road?

Today is a national holiday, so most things are closed and the streets are pretty empty. It's less than ideal. Apparently there are 15 000 people camping on an island in the south where they are having some enormous festival. This might be why I had such trouble getting a ride. That is, the type of person who might pick up a hitchhiker is the same type of person who might go camping on an island for an enormous festival.

I broke my pen, and I can't seem to get a new one for less than 400 ISK. So that's annoying.

I'll post pictures soon.

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