Monday, October 6, 2008

A rainy day

Yesterday was as rainy as Saturday was beautiful. So it was a quiet, grey day with the clouds hanging VERY low. Zelia and I took a long walk during her nap, down the pier, around the water and the library and back through town. I have no idea what people do here on Sundays but is is quiet and very few people are out and about. Really I almost saw no one. they may be at church, but for some reason I have not gotten that vibe here. I will ask at the next swimming class.

(This is Zelia in her favorite area of the house, where there are SO many copies of National Geographic. She loves to stand here and eat the tag on that bag!)

Jacob mostly worked on a project and in the afternoon we went back out for a walk as we needed some coleslaw and buns for the roasted pork he made. yeah, you read this right. Can't say I loved it though...

Today we set the alarms for 7am and it was very dark, my walk to the gym was dark and again no one was out. I think things wake up later around here. But then I was thinking, the stores won't be open for a few hours, school doesn't begin until 8am, so I guess no one needs to be out. I don't know what time the fishermen go out but probably even earlier. Needless to say, it is getting darker and darker here and I am both nervous and excited for what this is going to feel like.

I did go and meet the dancer from Finland, Katri, today and we will begin working together on Thursday!!!! Yay, I basically jumped on her with excitement and just said I was here and wanting to dance, let's make a concert. So we will. The other good thing is that her husband is a lighting designer who loves to fly fish - really could this be a better match. I learned from her that it costs a great deal to fly fish in the rivers here. There is a river in Iceland that costs 200,000 krona a day!!!! to catch and release!!! Wow. Anyway, I cannot wait until Thursday.

An old friend, Chris Moreley, asked some very good questions about life here. I am not sure I can answer many of them, hopefully with more time here. Here's what he asked, "I typically wonder about the things that I find very negative about the US culture. For example, I hate that our news media constantly prop up the single example as proving the rule in any given situation. 3 shark attacks in a year and suddenly swimming is dangerous. The celebrity obsession. The anti-intellectualism.
On the positive side of things... I like to hear about how they receive strangers, areas of national pride, what the architecture and art is like, what daily life is like. What kind of experience do they value?"

So we have no TV so I cannot speak to that. There are tabloids in the market, but it's hard to know what the general feeling is toward celebrities. I will say that I picked up a magazine in the doctor's office and was struck by the models inside, she was just a real person, in a way you never see in the US. I was often struck by this in Panama as well, could have to do with small countries and their own "high society." The country is in a big financial crisis, yes at the moment worse than the US and people are worried. Again, i am just beginning to make inroads with folks here and not understanding the language puts a big damper on my understanding of their concerns.

People have been kind to me. No, they do not come up and smile and introduce themselves like Americans do, it's quieter and I find if you approach people that way, things warm up. My enthusiasm with the dancer is an exception, there's no time to wait!!! When I first arrived there had been a survey about whether people here supported lower pay for foreigners and the author was Very dismayed to see they did, he also wrote, however, that this was not consistent with other surveys regarding foreigners. From what I can see and have read they are fiercely patriotic and although travel they don't want to leave, they love their country.

People here work a lot, not a lot like the US, but often more than one job in order to support their families. It is expensive here. I asked and was told that families have 2-3 children. This year in Isafjordur there are more babies being born. When I asked if this was the case in Iceland in general, the swimming teacher thought so. Last year 47 babies were born, this year, as of Sept 29, 54 had already been born and they are predicting about 80 by the end of the year! Both parents are given maternity leave, 3 months each, but I am not understanding something about this. Because most moms don't work for a year it seems. Someone told me they can have 6 months at about 80% pay but if they want they can take a year for about 50%. I will find out eventually what it is and explain. There is a swimming class before mine and there are several dads there with their babies, very nice to see.

The only art we have seen in a gallery was a local woman who works in glass. The work was very pretty, large pieces of colored glass with Icelandic music painted on it. She told us that many people came in and those who read music were humming to songs. Otherwise every building seems to have any pieces of art hanging on the walls - even the shrimp factory where on the top floor is the physical therapy. The work is large, painted and since I am SO ignorant about art hard for me to explain. Many are of people, sometimes working in the fishing industry, other times faces that are pretty disturbing...

I found it really helpful to think about these questions, thanks Chris. If anyone has any, please ask them, it helps me reflect on this place in a way I may not do in writing naturally.