Thursday, 27 December 2007

and that just about wraps it up for Christmas

Well, that was Christmas. Yes, I ate too much, but more important- ly, I took waaaay too many photos. Some are up on Picasa, one is my current desktop, and another is here.

Luce and I have nearly finished reading all the poems about the Yuletide Lads, their mother & her husbands, and the Christmas Cat. I am also working my way steadily through Luce's After Dinner Mints (he told me I had to be careful not to close the drawer too loudly so that I could eat them with impunity - I'm not sure if this means I'm allowed to eat as many as I like so long as he doesn't hear...)

And it's back to work tomorrow - Christmas here is a long weekend, not a month-long holiday!

Saturday, 22 December 2007

Christmas Bread

We made some traditional Icelandic Christmas bread the other day, you may have seen the photos on picasa. Here's a video of the cooking process.

In other news, we have now passed The Shortest Day, and I'm expecting to be woken by the daylight 7 minutes earlier tomorrow. Hopefully by the new year I can get up before 10am...

Monday, 17 December 2007

What do we think of Reykjavik? She's alright!

Bliss! Icelanders have their own brunost!! It's called Rjóma Mysuostur, and it's a lot like my favourite Norwegian brunost. Hagkoop (the local Coles) also has Tine brand Gudbrandsdalost brunost, but at $20 for a 500g block, Luce wasn't very encouraging when I expressed my interest in purchasing some. Thankfully the local stuff is only about $6.

I've been collecting 'odd things about Iceland/ers/Reykjavik' in my head, and I thought it was time to post them:

1. The bus drivers here are ab-so-lute-ly insane. They accelerate up to red lights, roundabouts and bus stops before slamming on the brakes, they accelerate far more ferociously than any bus I've been in before has been capable of, they take corners like they're on rails (which they're not - snow or ice is more like it), and I've yet to have a bus trip where at least one person didn't get thrown out of their seat on one of these manoeveurs. Think Harry Potter on the Knight Bus, and that's pretty much what it's like, except here the chairs are bolted down, and there is a mysterious heat that warms your back and toes, and for which I've yet to find its actual source. They also don't open the back door until they've completely stopped, which always leaves me worried whether I'll be let out at all!

2. Icelanders don't seem to say 'hello', 'goodbye', 'excuse me' or 'please'. They also don't mind bumping into you and pretending it didn't happen (personal space in a queue extends only as far as your bones). This contrasts massively with boarding a bus, where everyone stands back to let everyone go on first - no pushing whatsoever.

3. The Wind is quite extraordinary. It can blow strongly enough so that if I jump in the air, I land somewhere different to where I took off from. This is quite fun when it's blowing in a direction you want to walk in, but I got a bit of a shock once when a sudden side-ways gust nearly landed me in a massive puddle (that I had thought I was a safe distance from!). It's also scary near roads, where you can never be sure that you won't get pushed into oncoming traffic... or that oncoming traffic won't be blown into you. I stand well back from the gutter now when I'm waiting to cross the road, ever since I found tyres tracks 2 foot into the footpath one snowy & icy evening. And heard the stories about the cars blown off the roads, and my office buddy's skylight that got blown off at 2 o'clock in the morning.

4. Icelanders totally don't 'get' Christmas. There's no Santa, only 13 elf things that come and lick pots and bowls, slam doors, peep through windows, eat your skyr and sausages, and chase your sheep. Oh, and their mother who's a troll, along with her latest husband. And the Christmas Cat of course, who eats children who don't wear new clothes at Christmas. I think Gryla the troll also eats children. (Actually, nowadays the 'Yule lads' (the elves) leave a present each night for the kids in their shoes, and if you're naughty you just get a raw potato. None of which really sounds like the Christmas I knew as a kid.) Luce and I were talking about this today, and really, Christmas here sounds like it's run by bunyips and drop-bears - there's rather a lack of Americanisation in this part of Icelandic life at least.

5. Icelanders have a love affair with cars that I imagine is only matched in America. For example: it's a 10 minute walk (if that) to the shops. Our landlord thinks that that's too far to walk (okay, so a big shop is somewhat out of the question). But there's a general perception that anything more than 2 minutes is driving distance (one uni building to another for example - I kid you not). I had assumed that this was because the weather was so bad that no-one could tolerate it. But it's really quite warm here. When it rains, the temperature goes up to about 8 or 9 (which feels like about 20). It's MILD. It's far less extreme than what I've experienced in Norway (or Melbourne for that matter), where everyone gets about in the outdoors, and they have a saying 'Det er ikkje dårleg ver, bare dårleg kle' (there's no such thing as bad weather, there's just bad clothers). People who I've mentioned this to here have just looked confused.

Sorry for the long post! We took the camera to Ikea yesterday, and we're making Christmas bread on Tuesday, so more photos then!

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Tales from the Binding Workshop

Gave my talk yesterday, looking at differences in the acceptability of long-distance binding of seg and sin in Norwegian, which fitted in very nicely with the preceding talk, AND I was cited (different works too!) by two people in their papers :) (the two I most wanted to meet, and not only do I like their work, but they are both lovely people, and we're going to arrange me going to Oslo in May or so).

Us foreigners were then taken to the Blue Lagoon this evening, where we paddled about in bath-warm/hot water, covered ourselves in beneficial white mud (silica mud) in the lava pools created in the run-off from a power station down near Keflavik, I turned into Beetroot Face in the saunas and longed for snow to roll in, and then we had dinner. Somehow the conversation turned to people falling asleep in lectures, and we had a bit of a 'that's NOTHin'!' competition:

  • I told about my student who didn't take notes, but would sit up straight watching me, and so was very obvious when he slept;
  • Ken told about a small class where two students side by side listed to the same side as they slept, and the rest of the class tried to work out if there was a strange gravity effect there;
  • I told about my first years, and the guy down the front who I used to lecture specifically for, trying to keep awake;
  • Ken told about a postdoc's job application talk, where 5 of the 9 panel member audience fell asleep in one guy's talk, and then how he fell asleep in the most recent job talk where he was a panel member, and that person got the job;
  • someone (Øystein?) told about a class with 3 students, one of whom was a maths student who used to read the newspaper and then fall asleep in class, until a maths topic arose;
  • Helge told about a guy who had one student in his class, who fell asleep, and mentioned later that he didn't know whether he should keep talking or not;
  • and Höski told about a guy giving a lecture, who was so tired he actually dozed off himself in the middle of his own talk!!

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Hello Reykjavík!

I've actually been badgered for details, details and more details, and for photos too. I've uploaded several albums to Picasa now, if you didn't get an invite, then I probably don't have your email address (I'm not convinced I want my photos public, so they're all password protected).

Basically, I've started work, it's cold but not stupendously so, the hot water smells, it's dark lots but not always, mandarins come from spain and bananas come from brazil, L nearly faints every time he sees the price of anything (but still manages to overcome his fear and spend up anyway...) and Icelanders seem to like it if you try to speak Icelandic. Oh, and I think I've found somewhere to dance salsa :D