Learning to Speak English

July 15, 2006

Hope you all are doing well and enjoying the summer. Sorry for the long delay in emails, my time online has been kept short due to logistics and financial constraints, but I’m working on it. I finally stopped wearing my thermal underwear this week! Could’ve used it some days, but as long as I kept digging and carrying rocks, I stayed warm enough. We’ve had rain and more rain, wild winds, and lots of mud, which makes work cold and clammy and sometimes unpleasant.

Thursday evening I had an exciting night due to the wind- I never knew a tent could buckle, sway, shudder, twist, snap, and strain so much without giving out. It kept me awake for several hours, not only the booming noise of the above mentioned deformations, but also the rather unsettling feeling of the floor lifting beneath me, if only momentarily. (Maybe I shouldn’t have used those old socks as tent pegs…) I had some Wizard of Oz imagery going as well, the scene with Dorothy’s house whirling through the tornado as she watches helpless from her tent vestibule, er, window. We had a small hut where I considered taking shelter, but I wasn’t sure that my tent would still be there in the morning without me as ballast. There I was, half in my tent, half out, looking for the tent pegs that had been pulled out by a gust and trying to keep my tent from rolling down into the ravine, from about 3:30 a.m. until it was time to go dig some drainage ditches. I’m sure it was all quite comical, and at times I did just have to laugh out loud to myself, but it made for a long day of work yesterday. There’s no place like home, but rigid building materials are also nice.

But about my subject line. Funny thing about British English… it’s not quite the same as what I speak, and when you throw in an Australian, a German, some Swedes, some French, a Spanish girl, some Icelandic folks, and the Scottish contingent, it all gets quite muddled. When I say pants, they hear underwear, so me saying “Oh man, I got my pants all muddy” cracks them up. When they say jumper, they mean sweater, so when a big burly guy is asking if anyone’s seen his red jumper, I dissolve into giggles. But the Versatility Prize goes to the word “wee”. It can be an adjective, meaning little- “I haven’t heard that song since I was wee!” It can be a verb, meaning to urinate- “Fiona’s gone off to wee in the woods.” And it can also be a noun, meaning a bathroom break- “If I could have a cup of Swiss Miss and a wee, I’d be the happiest person alive!” They say tinned to-MAH-toes, I say canned to-MAY-toes, but it all works out in the end.

About the photos I’ve attached- we have a nice photo of a valley in the Eastern Fjords, taken during my week of exploration with my parents. There’s also a shot from Jökulsárlon, aka Iceberg Lake, where a glacial tongue calves into a lagoon which eventually leads out to sea. And there’s also a photo of the town Akureyri, Iceland’s second largest city with something like 17,000 people. Or I may have grabbed the wrong photos in my haste, and then it’s anyone’s guess… but it’s something cool in Iceland.

This week I’m tentatively scheduled to go on a four-day hike through the interior to mark the Old Kjölur trail with waymarking sticks. The whole walk is about 40 km, with four rustic mountain huts along the way so that I (and my two walking partners) don’t have to carry our tents and can instead carry food, water, lots of sticks and a big hammer. I’m very excited, although I’ll be more excited if the weather takes a turn and we see the sun for a while.

Best wishes to all, and goða ferð (good journey)!
shannön

My parents came all the way to Iceland to see this place I love during my week off, which was the week of Independence Day. (There's a certain value to being the only American leader... no one else really cared about the 4th of July. Go colonies!) We rented a car and drove the ring road, the single road that circles the entire country, where I could show them my favorite places and together we discovered new ones. One thing they repeatedly commented on was how vast the landscape seemed. We took this photo of a farm valley from the edge of the road.

My parents came all the way to Iceland to see this place I love during my week off, which was the week of Independence Day. (There’s a certain value to being the only American leader… no one else really cared about the 4th of July. Go colonies!) We rented a car and drove the ring road, the single road that circles the entire country, where I could show them my favorite places and together we discovered new ones. One thing they repeatedly commented on was how vast the landscape seemed. We took this photo of a farm valley from the edge of the road.

More vastness, anyone?

More vastness, anyone?

Known as the "northern capital", Akureyri is the second largest city in Iceland. (Yes, there's a hearse in the foreground- I didn't notice it when I took the picture.)

Known as the “northern capital”, Akureyri is the second largest city in Iceland. (Yes, there’s a hearse in the foreground- I didn’t notice it when I took the picture.)

My mom and dad on a short little hike near Lake Mývatn. We were pretty fortunate with the weather, getting some gorgeous days so that they could see how amazing the landscape was, and some not-so-nice days for contrast.

My mom and dad on a short little hike near Lake Mývatn. We were pretty fortunate with the weather, getting some gorgeous days so that they could see how amazing the landscape was, and some not-so-nice days for contrast.

We also revisited an old worksite of mine from 2005. Descending from the peak of this crater is a path we tried to erase last year- the new path we opened is the lighter line to the right.

We also revisited an old worksite of mine from 2005. Descending from the peak of this crater is a path we tried to erase last year- the new path we opened is the lighter line to the right.

My parents were troopers and hiked to the top of the volcanic crater with me, where we circled the rim. It's not easy, but it's so worth it.

My parents were troopers and hiked to the top of the volcanic crater with me, where we circled the rim. It’s not easy, but it’s so worth it.

After each excursion, we'd climb back into our little Polo and return to the open road.

After each excursion, we’d climb back into our little Polo and return to the open road.

...waving and baa-ing at the residents along the way.

…waving and baa-ing at the residents along the way.

The Eastern Fjords of Iceland are incredible, but while the passengers are enjoying the view, the driver is clutching the wheel and trying not to skid down the sharp gravel switchbacks.

The Eastern Fjords of Iceland are incredible, but while the passengers are enjoying the view, the driver is clutching the wheel and trying not to skid down the sharp gravel switchbacks.

This tiny little fishing village, called Breiðdalsvík, is perched right on the sea.

This tiny little fishing village, called Breiðdalsvík, is perched right on the sea.

We've circled around to the southern side of the island and reached the Iceberg Lake. The blue color of the ice is caused by the refraction of light as it penetrates deep into the highly-compressed ice. No matter how deeply you dig, the ice will still be clear.

We’ve circled around to the southern side of the island and reached the Iceberg Lake. The blue color of the ice is caused by the refraction of light as it penetrates deep into the highly-compressed ice. No matter how deeply you dig, the ice will still be clear.

My mom took this photo on the beach just outside the lagoon.

My mom took this photo on the beach just outside the lagoon.

Helloooo from Iceland!

Helloooo from Iceland!

Sunset in Höfn, with the mountains of Skaftafell National Park off in the distance.

Sunset in Höfn, with the mountains of Skaftafell National Park off in the distance.

Fishing and tourism are still the primary drivers behind Iceland's economy, and there's just no way to make fishing an easy or safe profession. For those that have grown up in this country, though, it's just part of the deal.

Fishing and tourism are still the primary drivers behind Iceland’s economy, and there’s just no way to make fishing an easy or safe profession. For those that have grown up in this country, though, it’s just part of the deal.

We also paid a visit to Ingólfshöfði, also known as Puffin Island.

We also paid a visit to Ingólfshöfði, also known as Puffin Island.

These guys are very closely associated with Iceland, and have long provided a food source to coastal villages (though their hunting is now controlled to prevent population depletion). Visitors are sometimes taken aback to see puffin on the menu, but the Icelanders say, "Well you eat chicken, don't you? At least until the moment they are caught and killed, the puffins live free."

These guys are very closely associated with Iceland, and have long provided a food source to coastal villages (though their hunting is now controlled to prevent population depletion). Visitors are sometimes taken aback to see puffin on the menu, but the Icelanders say, “Well you eat chicken, don’t you? At least until the moment they are caught and killed, the puffins live free.”

When I think of Southern Iceland, this is what I see.

When I think of Southern Iceland, this is what I see.

Another iconic bit of Icelandic imagery- rock formations off the coast of Vík.

Another iconic bit of Icelandic imagery- rock formations off the coast of Vík.

And a small, hilltop church (complete with lupine) in the same town.

And a small, hilltop church (complete with lupine) in the same town.


Back to Iceland 2006