Friday, 30 April 2010

Icelandic lesson

OMG!! Rósa and I nearly died laughing at the dinner table tonight!! Okay, here's what happened. Daughter #2 Helga (18 y.o.) had 2 friends over. Rósa had made brauðsúpa 'bread-soup' for dessert, which is Traditional Icelandic Food, so Tolli started asking the guests about other TIF they'd had. Not much, it turns out. "I think TIF is going to die out with our generation," quipped the talkative one. Apparently young Icelanders are just as enamoured of TIF as most foreigners are!

The discussion turned to particulars, covering hrutspungur ('ram's testicles') before getting stuck on hákarl ('rotten shark'). Daughter #3 Goya (14 y.o., confirmed 2 weeks ago) was asked whether she'd had hákarl before, to which she replied in the affirmative, to general shrieks of 'No way!' and 'WHY?!' In answer to the 'why' question, and here beginneth the Icelandic lesson, she replied Ég var í einhverju herbergi... ég var ein... which means, word-for-word 'I was in some room... I was alone...' HAHAHAH!!! It was at this point that Rósa and I lost all sense of propriety and dissolved into belly-wrenching hysterics. 'Oh, poor Goya, she was lonely, so she ate some rotten shark to feel better!!!' "Are you lonely? -No, I've gotten some rotten shark, so I'm okay now!" hahaha.

But anyway, what she ACTUALLY tried to say was: Ég var ein í hópi meaning 'I was single/alone-female in a group [of guys]'. ein means 'one-singular-female', and it contrasts with e.g. einn meaning 'one-singular-male'. (If you're wondering, which I know you are, if there are plural forms, since I'm specifying 'singular' here, you're right.) The word for 'alone' and 'single/one' is the same word, and cos Goya didn't spit out her sentence quickly enough, we interpreted ein as 'alone' instead of 'the only female/one'.

Morals of the story: Icelanders can be ein or einn without being bereft of company, so pay attention to all of what they say before offering a shoulder to lean/cry on. Alternatively, if you're ever ein or einn, try some rotten shark to cheer you up. It cheered us up!!

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Update on life

So, sorry for the long post, but I've been getting loads of emails from friends and family about how things are going, so I thought I'd try to summarise it definitively here.

As you all know, Iceland is busy having volcanic eruptions at the moment. I missed the first two on Fimmvörðuháls, which splashed lava about in a photogenic fashion. Then when an eruption started under the Eyjafjallajökull glacier, it was deemed by the relevant authorities to be both boring and dangerous to get a close-up view of. Ash spewed up, blanketing southern Iceland, wreaking havoc on farms, their livestock and crops. The ash also proceeded to smother most of Europe. This happened right when Einar and I were supposed to go to Norway to do fieldwork.

Our flights were cancelled, and new ones invented. Ordinarily, flights to Europe leave between 6-8am, with flights to the US in the evening. Flights to Norway go to Oslo, and to Bergen in the summer. Our flights were due to leave Saturday at 8am. However, all of Norwegian airspace was closed on Saturday, so Einar and I attended Vigdís's conference instead. Then on Sunday, while southern Norway (ie Gardemoen/Oslo) remained closed, Iceland started shipping people directly to Trondheim. A flight at 1pm, 2 at 2pm, then every half hour or so after that, for 6 flights. Thus, instead of flying Keflavík-Oslo-Trondheim, a journey of about 5+ hrs, it was a 2-hr hop to Værnes. We all disembarked and squished into the carousel area to collect our bags - and found out why we don't normally fly lots of people to Trondheim all at once!

I did manage to take some photos of the eruption on the way over, but they're a bit hazy :(

Fieldwork was great, Einar and I only missed the orientation day. We were 12 linguists, mainly Norwegian, interrogating the locals this time. I thought I was finding only negative results (which are still 'results'...), until the second last evening when we were discussing how our data collection was going, and I discovered that what I had semi-dismissed as just some individuals' funny pronunciations was actually exactly what I had come to Norway to find! This is why I think group fieldwork trips are so useful - the off-the-cuff comments over dinner or coffee by people who know what they're talking about can make all the difference to what we think we've found!

I go for a run each morning when on fieldwork and at conferences, and I've been running in my toe-shoes. I found out that it can be quite cold on the toes to run on snow, but so long as it's not wet, it's not too bad. Einar and I did a couple of self-guided whip-round walking tours of Trondheim, then we headed back to Iceland, this time via Oslo. I was on the wrong side of the plane to see the steam eruption this time :( but a very friendly Norwegian woman took what turned out to be a series of awesome photos when I handed her my camera! :) They'll be up on Picasa in a week or so.

Finally, European airspace has opened up again today, because the wind has changed - it's now blowing the ash over us! Par consequent, Keflavík and Reykjavík airports are closed. This morning on my bike-ride, the air was actually really clear, and the rising columnn of steam was clearly visible. Unfortunately your intrepid photographer didn't have her camera :( and by lunchtime the winds had caught us, and made the air in Reykjavík all hazy. It smells a little bit like camp-fire. I can't smell any sulphur, thankfully! I promise to keep my camera on me until I get some good pictures!

I'm due to get the keys to our flat this weekend, but I won't move in straight away. I was at The Good Shepherd (like the Salvos) this evening, and bought a chest of drawers and a pot to cook with... I also managed to buy <mumble> ski boots </mumble>. Not snowboarding boots. But honestly, they fit PERfectly, much better than any of the snowboard boots I tried on in Norway, they're exactly the colours I would choose were I give complete freedom in my choice (white, purple and pink), and they were 500isk. Which is not very much at all. I though there was a 0 or two missing at first :D

So, things are going well, Luce arrives in less than 2 weeks!!! I'm working now on resumptive pronouns in Northern Norwegian. We'll be going to New York at the end of May. I think Luce is going to book us a flight to Svalbard in June!! :D Brent, Dan and I are recording songs again, and maybe even writing again. Life is hectic, intense, and great.

PS, some links that might be interesting (Icelandic Review): pic of new craters, How to pronounce Eyjafjallajökull

Friday, 16 April 2010

Be careful what you wish for...

So I didn't get out to see either of the first two volcanic eruptions, so I wished for another one. Unfortunately, the next eruption is no tourist-friendly gentle spurt of magma. Instead it's an ash-spewing, Europe-suffocating monster. Satellite images show that the Faroe Islands are completely engulfed, they are directly in the middle of the huge black cloud of ash streaming from Iceland towards Europe. The funny part is the tiny little finger that branches off to smother the UK. The not so funny part is that the whole of northern Europe is now closed to air traffic. Some meteorologist/vulcanologists are talking about it remaining this way for several years! Gah! I have a fieldwork trip in Norway this week, I'm supposed to leave on Saturday, but whole of Norway is closed! Not want!

Apparently some wits in Holland and Britain are already making jokes: 'We asked for CASH, not ASH' and so on (they were the main players in the Icesave debacle). I just hope Luce can get here in 2 weeks from now...

There's a 3-day celebration for Vigdís Finnbogardóttir's 80th birthday. I was at the opening ceremony, and went to ask her if I could have a photo with her. When I was saying who I was, she said, 'Yes, I remember you.' !!! The first democratically elected female president in the world knows who I am! :)


Her birthday conference is this weekend. I'm planning to be in Norway for it, but, well... we'll just have to wait and see!