Print Story The Iceland Diaries II - - Preface
By BadDoggie (Mon Feb 07, 2005 at 01:08:00 AM EST) (all tags)
Munich, 18 January 2005

I'm an idiot.

A little better planning might've been in order. After all, I'd known for months I was going back to Iceland to stay for about three weeks and yet I didn't have a plane ticket until two days before leaving nor a hotel in Reykjavík until I was 10 minutes away from the city limits.

I'm trying not to be an idiot.

And a poll.

The Iceland Diaries II: Preface, Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6, Day 7, Day 8, Day 9, Day 10, "Food", Day 11, Day 12, Day 13, Day 14, Day 15, Day 16, Day 17, The End.

If you read the original Iceland Diaries series, you might've noticed that Iceland really had an amazing effect on me. A lot of it had to be coincidence -- I'd sorted my mother's move, had a full week to do nothing, arrived in Iceland for its Nicest. Weather. EVAR. It was the hottest week ever recorded (including a few thousand years' worth of ice core samples), so the Icelanders were also out in force, enjoying the brief respite from the normal cold, rain and wind.

Say what?
It sounds beautiful but is all that grammar really necessary?
Knowing I was returning, I'd started to learn the exasperatingly complex language. I found Teach Yourself Icelandic with the CDs at a bookstore in Keflavík and a few weeks later, had seen many endorsements in some Iceland-related forums for Colloquial Icelandic and bought that as well. The two are very different in their presentations -- neither one stellar but together they make up for each other's weaknesses.

I'd looked around for more resources. Some friendly people in various Icelandic IRC channels didn't mind me camping1 once I told them why I wanted to. I was just asked to say something now and again (in Icelandic or be banned from the channel).

With only around 300,000 residents, Iceland doesn't have the booming publishing industry that, say, Germany does. I did find the Morgunblaðið Web site, but it's so big on ads you need FireFox, AdBlock and Flash Killer just to find content to read. I don't begrudge 'em making money but packing in all these Flash ads everywhere is like running two minutes of commercials between each minute of a TV programme. No thanks.

A great on/line resource is, an on-line Icelandic-English-Icelandic dictionary which is very good, and though it's not terribly helpful when it comes to verb declension, many common expressions are included. They have a free 2-week trial and no, I'm not buying an ad -- this is stuff that's not easy to find for a language not too many care about. I'm buying a subscription.

Finally, I found RUV (Ríkisútvarpið) -- Iceland's primary TV and radio broadcaster -- for WMV streams of TV (Sjónvarpið) and radio (Rás 1 & 2). A few of their TV shows are streamed2 each day and available for two weeks. Among the shows are the 7p.m. news (mostly about Iceland, but difficult to follow), and a weekly "talking heads" program <yawn>. These aren't so hot for trying to learn.

Stundin Okkar But I also found some hip, with-it magazine-style show called Óp ("Oap") for teens (good - simpler vocabulary used). Best of all, a children's show called Stundin Okkar ("our hour") is there for the streaming. This is one of the best ways to learn a language since they overact and use a lot of gestures and simple stories. You can watch it a few times and figure out what's going on. It has the added benefit of having some Teh Super Hotties and some Not Quite Teh Super Hotties But Still Very Nices.

Birta / Bárður
I'm your biggest fan!

I got to work on learning. An hour's commute each way each day turns out to be a fairly adequate amount of study time. Added to that was trying to watch the Icelandic news each night and watching the half hour-long children's program 30 times in a week until I understood at least a good deal of what was going on (40 times if Teh Extra Super Hottay Gæludýr Guðrún was in the episode talking about pets).

Gæludýr Guðrún
Of course I'm paying attention!

[Break: Made it from Munich to Copenhagen and had a very tasty shot of Gammel Dansk along with a glass of Tuborg because the 7.5% Carlsberg Elephant was out. I'm now packed like a sardine in the IcelandAir plane to Reykjavík... with a child directly in front of me and another squeaky-voiced vermin-ette behind me. This will be a l-o-n-g flight, but it's par for the course. Read on.]

What happened?
We all just kinda stopped writing.
I'd meant to go back in October but for reasons based in scheduling and finances that plan fell apart. What little E-Mail between me and a few people there had existed dried up but I was confident in my ability to completely mangle the language but get my point across and so sent Xmas/New Year's greetings to the E-Mail addresses I had... in Icelandic.

Ok, I sent them greetings in something as reminiscent of Icelandic as mouldy ketchup resembles a vine full of ripe tomatoes in late summer, but the response was fast and wonderful. Rósa was back in touch and quite pleasantly surprised that I'd written again but now in Icelandic. (Un)fortunately, she wrote back in pure Icelandic, which I could more or less hear her speaking at breakneck speed in my head. It took a while to decode most of it and I realised that I'd asked her if she was ready for me to send the package I'd promised back in August rather than asking her if she hadn't already received it. From the way she wrote, she hadn't. I cleared up the misunderstanding, burnt new CDs and sent them. She got 'em three days later. She shoulda written back sooner.

One of the guys from Keflavík also was surprised I'd actually learned a bit in so short a time. Everyone will be at Paddy's Wednesday night when I return. Party, party, party!

Ready, Set, LOL What?
Three weeks in advance? Not even three days.
Through an Icelandic group here in Munich whose monthly party I crashed (though I was invited) I found out about Katla Travel, an agency in Munich specialising in travel to and around Iceland. There were some delays and some misunderstandings. I almost had to take a four-hour train to leave from Frankfurt but which would've saved me about 120 Eurobucks. I dodged that bullet only to be hit with a €35 ticket holding charge because for some reason, they didn't issue e-tickets for this flight and there wasn't time to mail a ticket.

The flight was on SAS/IcelandAir but Rats-Alliance partner Lufthansa did the holding. I wouldn't bitch about €5 or €10, but €35?! Why couldn't I just go pick it up at the airport myself? That woulda cost me €4.50 and 15 minutes each way from the office. Thanks Lufthansa, and bite me. Usurious fees like this and the 30 eurobuck Web ticket surcharge (when you're saving money by customers doing the work themselves) are the reason you keep losing business. Quit acting like Delta.

Still, the travel agency was quite helpful. They also got me a rental car with unlimited mileage at a nice rate. This is a Good Thing. When I told her my schedule, Rósa (the DJ in Reykjavík) wrote back that she wants to drive with me to Akureyri to go snowboarding. Sweet... and scary. Sweet in that my first experience navigating Iceland's partially paved bits won't be solo. Scary in that I've never gone snowboarding. I'll most likely hurt myself pretty badly, giving me an easy few thousand words along with deeper insight into Iceland's health and emergency care systems. I can't wait.

Because of having to work Friday through Monday night at the bar, I didn't get around to packing until Tuesday night. For my Wednesday flight. I also had to run around and pick up things like contact lenses, gifts (schnapps and sausages), cat litter (the girls across the hall are taking care of the little terror while I'm gone), do laundry, wash dishes, all that other fun stuff.

I grabbed the cash, found my list of toiletries and trivialities not to forget to pack and actually succeeded that bit. Then for extra safety, I put my passport in the zippy upper pocket of the rollie-case along with the tickets, important numbers and what I'll generously call my itinerary. Having almost lost the passport from my ass pocket once and seeing it in the plane seat after getting up another time, I was playing safe. You're definitely not failing it when you think of this sort of stuff after half a bottle of gin and a couple beers.

So everything's ready. I know where I'm sleeping tomorrow night. The cat should still be alive when I first arrive. The firewall/router is accessible through SSH for remote control thanks to a 47-character password and has been tested. The main Windows box has VLC and pcAnywhere servers running, also with long passwords. The main SCO/Lunix box is equally accessible so the entire network at home can be administered. I have my RSA token so that I can access the office VPN in case they're in dire need of my Unicode and I18N expertise3. Among the items I packed were two sweaters (I'm buying another one or two there), 5 thermal shirts and only a couple T-shirts. Everything fit into the one suitcase and rollie-case with room to spare.

What could possibly go wrong?


1 "Camping": sitting in a chat channel and never saying anything. Highly despised by most IRC channel members.
2 Of course, anything that's streamed can be saved if you know how, and VLC and mplayer2 both ignore embedded control commands that stop you randomly accessing parts of the file.
3 This would rock since getting on-line for an hour or two during vacation gets me back a whole day of vacation time.

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The Iceland Diaries II - - Preface | 10 comments (10 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
camping by tps12 (2.00 / 0) #1 Mon Feb 07, 2005 at 01:20:59 AM EST
I thought that was called leeching.

She's no Sarah Jane Honeywell by georgeha (2.00 / 0) #2 Mon Feb 07, 2005 at 01:22:30 AM EST
but she's attractive enough, if you like Aryan sorts.

What does SJH know about taking care of pets? by BadDoggie (4.00 / 1) #4 Mon Feb 07, 2005 at 01:45:45 AM EST


"Eppur si muove." -- Galileo Galilei
"Nevertheless, it moves."

[ Parent ]
Surely there's a Tickabilla where SJH by georgeha (2.00 / 0) #5 Mon Feb 07, 2005 at 01:49:19 AM EST
dresses up in a skin tight bunny suit and hops around, wagging her tail. Let's ask Rogerborg if he has that one.

[ Parent ]
snowboarding. by wiredog (2.00 / 0) #3 Mon Feb 07, 2005 at 01:40:29 AM EST
If you can ski, you can snowboard. Takes about 2 hours to learn the basics, and most of the learned instincts are easily transferrable.

Is there such a thing as a non-hot Icelandic woman?

Earth First!
(We can strip mine the rest later.)

Meh & Yes by BadDoggie (2.00 / 0) #6 Mon Feb 07, 2005 at 01:55:12 AM EST
Snowbaording: Here's how I learned to ski: My cousins took me with them and at the top of the hill, they pushed me. After running into the trees I figured out how to turn. After running into a girl who was just getting up from a fall, I learned how to brake. After she tried to stab me with her poles, I learned how to go faster.

And yes, there are unattractive women in Iceland. More than one appear in this series.


"Eppur si muove." -- Galileo Galilei
"Nevertheless, it moves."

[ Parent ]
Can you skateboard or surf? by wiredog (2.00 / 0) #7 Mon Feb 07, 2005 at 03:01:53 AM EST
Snowboarding is the same sorts of movements. You steer by shifting your weight. And, since you don't have to worry about keeping your skis parallel, or crossing the tips, etc, snowboarding is easier than skiing.

Unless, like me, you have serious uncorrectable vision problems in one eye. Then snowboarding can be problematic, as you can only go in one direction.

Earth First!
(We can strip mine the rest later.)

[ Parent ]
Whatever you do, though: by spcmanspiff (2.00 / 0) #9 Mon Feb 07, 2005 at 11:11:00 AM EST
Don't let your weight drift to the center; always keep it on the uphill edge.

Especially when moving quickly on flat, icy, territory.

[ Parent ]
Dont get overconfident to quickly... by burtman (2.00 / 0) #10 Wed Feb 09, 2005 at 03:10:15 AM EST
went riding at christmas, picked it up again after not doing it for about 8 years, got overconfident and managed to fall on my head on the last day (my neck is still making funny clicking noises). Excellent fun though, and possible to go far to fast far to quickly!

dyslexic and lazy
[ Parent ]
GOOD ISG! by ti dave (2.00 / 0) #8 Mon Feb 07, 2005 at 08:35:18 AM EST
That really appeals to my Viking sensibilities.

I don't care if people hate my guts; I assume most of them do.
The important question is whether they are in a position to do anything about it. --W.S. Burroughs

The Iceland Diaries II - - Preface | 10 comments (10 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback