Fake Duck, and Pork Buns, and Thai Eggplants, oh my!

So, one of the things I continually say that I miss the most about living in the US is the food. Not all the high fructose corn syrup, no, but the general availability and variety of fresh vegetables and ingredients and the breadth of affordable and interesting cuisines. It’s not to say that interesting an unexpected foods can’t be found in Reykjavík. I keep seeing fresh turmeric at the Bónus, which blows my mind, for instance, and we just got our first Ramen shop—a coworker told me they had Udon noodles, which he had to Google because he’d never seen them before. But I’m not always sure of where to look for these things here, or when I find them, they can be rather decadent expenses (i.e. the Halloween pumpkin when we first arrived).

But I’m starting to discover that while food options might be limited here, they are not as limited as I thought.

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At Home, Again.

This art is made of yarn. And it is amazing.

This art is made of yarn. And it is amazing.

It seems to me that the more normal life gets here, the harder it is to write about it. I’ve never been particularly good at keeping a daily journal, for instance, and it seems that the less fish-out-of-water I feel here in Iceland, the less able I am to step back and break my experiences down in writing.

I suppose the upside of this is that life is feeling a lot more like Real Life here. We have jobs! We have friends!! We have bills and pay taxes! And now, we have a spiffy new apartment that is filled with (cheap!) furniture that we own. I can’t express how strange it is to think that we own furniture in another country.

But yes, we’ve been in our new place for going on three weeks, and have unpacked and gotten the place—a sunny, third-floor-apartment-with-balcony!—looking really cozy and comfortable. The moving process itself had a lot of steps, but it honestly was pretty painless—due in great part, I must say, to Mark’s incredible pre-move tenacity.

For one, he tracked down a number of useful and inexpensive items on Bland, which is basically the Icelandic Craigslist. Then he found out a local car rental place (Cheap Jeep) which rents a mini-van (Ford Town and Country: WHAT UP) and got them to take all the back seats out so that we could better move furniture. (This was a great idea.) We then found plates and bowls at a yard sale (but somehow no cutlery…for the time being, anyone who comes to eat at our house has to bring their own forks and spoons). And, best of all, we got to spend a fair amount of time in Góði Hirðirinn (The Good Shepard), a Red Cross meets charity shop meets swap meet where you can find everything from couches and bookshelves to kitchen appliances, electronics, and AMAZING YARN ART (see above; below) for incredibly low prices.

Yarn art detailing. I definitely need to learn how to do this.

Yarn art detailing. I definitely need to learn how to do this.

Seriously, we got a sweet copper-esque coffee table for roughly $4 and a great Miró-inspired lounge chair for roughly $12 and a blanket with two fancy horses on it…and Mark, on his solo scope-out mission while I was at work, even found me a hand mixer (the beaters were located in an entirely different spot and he had to check each one to make sure it fit in the mixer and then he called me all triumphant only to have me ask him to go back and get me bread hooks, too….) which I have already used with great results. Should you take great pleasure from second-hand awesomeness (which I do), this place is simultaneously the best and the worst thing that you could know about while moving in Reykjavík—it took a lot of self control for me to not purchase one of the 60s-era Soda Stream soda makers (next month, maybe), or the porcelain doggie figurines or several heavy shag carpets that were specifically made to hang on your wall…

Anyway, we’re settled now and have submitted all our address change forms and rent benefit forms (a social benefit which gives you a monthly discount on your rent if you make less than a certain amount in salary…) and are finding it quite enjoyable to work in our kitchen/dining room/living room. It’s nice to feel at home, again.


Better Lives, Uncommon Adventures

For those of you sitting at your desk and looking for something to get you to the end of Friday, may I submit the following for your consideration:

Firstly, the much-hyped (by me) first video in what may end up being a series for The Grapevine, “Uncommon Adventures,” went live this week. If you don’t actually believe that I’ve been doing this sea swimming thing, then here’s my real proof:

If you have ideas for future adventures or interesting people to meet here in Iceland, do share!

And now that you’re all focused and zen, post sea-dip, get yourself hyped again:

I am coming a bit late to the Páll Óskar partý, perhaps because the album of his I picked up at the library last year was distinctly not-dancey, and that was what I had been in the mood for. So I kind of gave up going through his extensive catalog. Which was obviously a mistake because there is nothing I don’t love about the song and video above (for “Better Life”). The choreographed musical dancing—and that dance! I am learning that dance—the huge, cartoon smiles, the piano on a truck, the crazy colors…Love it. Anyway, I was looking for something completely different on YouTube the other day and stumbled across this song because the universe is awesome sometimes, so you all get to reap the benefits.

(Also, there seems to be something in the Learning-Icelandic-Blogging-Water, because Hulda over at the Transparent Language Icelandic Language Blog included a link to the very same tune (with others) in her most recent post today. What can I say? It’s an amazing song.)

So happy weekend—Góða Helgi—everyone!

Music for Monday: Pale Green Ghosts by John Grant

So, thanks to a recent pillaging of the new music section at the city library, I ran across John Grant’s Pale Green Ghosts. Grant is an American musician (formerly the lead singer of The Czars), but has been living in Reykjavík for several years. Pale Green Ghosts, which Grant worked on with Birgir Þórarinsson of GusGus, came out early last year.

I’ve really enjoy the full album and recommend checking out the whole thing. To get you started, here’s the video for the title track:

Looking Ahead: The Völvuspá

(This is not as timely as I hoped it would be, but I still think you’ll all find it of interest…)

Pauline Frederick - Potiphar's wife,  via the Library of Congress collection (Flickr Commons)

Pauline Frederick – Potiphar’s wife
via the Library of Congress collection (Flickr Commons)

An interesting Icelandic phenomenon has recently come to my attention, namely that at the end of every year, many of Iceland’s national media outlets consult their own “völva,” or, roughly, their [female] oracle, to get predictions for the coming year. For the full story on this, see my editor’s discussion online, here. (Oh, and just in case your mind runs the sort of childish course that mine does, I will confirm, that yes, “völva” is pronounced much like “vulva,” which has been, full disclosure, a source of perpetual amusement for me and some of my English-speaking coworkers.)

Anyhow, one of the magazines which has been consulting with their völva and publishing the predictions regularly (since the 1970s, actually), is Vikan. My editor picked up a copy of their New Year’s issue to take a look at this year’s predictions, and I borrowed it, both for a reading/translating exercise, and because I was really intrigued about what she had to say.

The Vikan völva’s predictions, it turns out, extend from weather to politics to social issues, natural disasters, and famous people abroad. They are extensive. And in case you’re wondering, she did apparently get a lot right in her predictions last year. (There is a whole page in this issue relating which predictions the she made last year which came true—a quick skim showed that she correctly predicted some weather events and earthquake tremors, and also had some accurate readings related to  government leadership, Eurovision, Baltasar Kormákur, and foreign movies made in Iceland. Just FYI.)

I haven’t quoted and translated the full 2014 Völvuspá, but here are some of the highlights:

Völvuspá: 2014
Oracle Prophecy: 2014


Snemma í desember heimsækjum við völvuna okkar. Notaleg stemning ríkir á heimili hennar, kertaljós um allt og heitt kaffi í bollum. Þegar búið er að draga upp spurningalistann er kveikt á upptökutækinu. Allt eins og það á að vera. Við bregðum ekki út að þeim vana að byrja á því að spyrja hana um veðurfarið á komandi ári.

Early in December, we visit our oracle. A cozy atmosphere pervades her home, with candles everywhere and hot coffee in cups. When the question list has been drawn up, the recorder is turned on. Everything as it should be. We don’t break our habit of beginning by asking her about the weather conditions in the coming year.

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A Good Sort of Shock

Remember that whole sea swimming thing I started doing, Internet? Well, my article about it was published in the new issue of The Grapevine. (Soon, there might even be a video piece, too…) So in case you want to live through the experience gasp by gasp, here’s a snippet:

It’s worth admitting from the get-go that when I proposed the idea of writing about Reykjavík’s Sea Swimming and Sea Bathing Association, I didn’t think that I would be actually getting into the water myself. I grew up in the landlocked, Sonoran desert of Arizona, and have nursed a lifelong suspicion of large bodies of water. I’m also petrified of being cold, and am a strictly two-scarf sort of lady. But when I found myself invited to join a few members on their weekly swim, it seemed churlish to decline. And anyway, I figured, this would be a great thing to Have Done: Arizona Girl Bathes in North Atlantic and Lives to Tell the Tale.

Get the full effect here.

Just a Day at the Beach

Well, hello, Internet. How was your day?


Good. How’s mine? So nice of you to ask.

Because my day was awesome, Internet. Because I went sea bathing in the North Atlantic, after dark (5:30 PM), in November, and I not only didn’t pass out, freak out, or die, I actually enjoyed it.

How do you like them apples?!

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Five Songs + 1: A Short Little Airwaves Playlist

So, we didn’t end up doing nearly as much off-venue Airwavesing this year—homework, and other work, and sleeping demands being as they were—but we did get out for a good run of shows on Friday afternoon and evening, and I popped out for a last one on Saturday during the day. Missed opportunity, perhaps you’ll say, but I wasn’t too fussed by it. There are a lot of bands that it would have been nice to see, many of them for the first time, but Reykjavík is a very musical little city and I think future opportunities will present themselves. For now, I’d like to present you with a short musical playlist from the shows we did get out to see, pretty much all of which I enjoyed.

But before the playlist, a few photos from the day:

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Svefnskýt and Geimþrá by Mammút

As promised, leading into Iceland Airwaves (which kicks off on Halloween), I have more Icelandic music for you. My obliging co-workers shared a number of bands with me last week, and I fell rather immediately in love with Mammút, a high-energy, female-fronted five-piece which runs breathlessly between a sort of 90s punk and melodic noise-rock. They also won the annual battle of the bands in 2004, and promise to be epically good live.


Svefnskýrt (which maybe means “Lucid Dreams”?)

Geimþrá (Space desire?)