Sunday, October 16, 2011


Sauðamessa (Soy-thah-mess-ah) (literally: Sheep mass) is a festival in my town that started about 7 or 8 years ago for no apparent reason. The most I could find out was that maybe it was to celebrate all of the sheep finally being into their respective farms from the réttir and léttir (sorting of sheep and gathering of sheep, respectively). Why is it in my town? Many years ago, Borgarnes used to be the slaughterhouse capital of the Borgarbyggð area, but now all the old slaughterhouses are being used as storage (although they look abandoned).

"Lokað Hjáleið - Closed Detour"

The festival starts off at 2 in the afternoon (if you notice the sky changing dramatically, it's because of the weather, not my camera exposure. It takes 4 minutes to walk to my house to the park, and in the time it started raining and hailing sufficiently enough to soak me and stop before I got there). Everyone gathers near the old folks home where sheep are penned in, then let loose to be chased down the street, hopefully staying on the street, and into the park, a 5 or 6 minute walk.

Everyone walks down the street after the sheep, then of course the sheep don't follow the road, so now everyone runs. It's quite hilarious, as you can see by this man's expression.

As you can see here (this is my host father, by the way) much waving of arms and shouting is involved in getting the sheep off of the hills and back onto the road – only to be chased back into the road because they just ran across it into someone else's yard.

The road pictured here is not even the right road they are supposed to be on.

Then there's a hill, and almost everyone sets at a dead sprint to keep the sheep from going anywhere else and into the pens at the bottom of the hill.


Here I have a picture of lots of people. It's kind of ridiculous to see anywhere near this amount of people anywhere in Iceland at one time and place.

And here's me in my just-finished Icelandic wool sweater (lopapeysa). I swear I was much happier than my face shows (my butt was not, I just ripped a huge hole in my pants and the wall I'm sitting on was terribly wet).

Also, here are some socks in a tree. I don't know.

Sauðamessa is basically the best thing ever, because once the sheep are all in the pen, free kjötsúpa (kyuht- soup-ah, meat soup, very traditional) is served, and a sort of talent show starts in the park right on the other side of the wall I'm pictured sitting on. Traditional Icelandic wool products are sold like sweaters, gloves, and hats, all hand made. Then they sell waffles and homemade hot chocolate which are amazing, even if you do spill your hot chocolate ALL over the table. Somewhere, someone is getting that joke.
My school did a sort of fashion show where they put on accessories and walked around the stage. There was an eating contest (I heard my host father won 3 years in a row, but for some reason didn't enter this year), it rained some more, and there was some traditional Icelandic singing. After this there was some sort of event at the high school back down the road. I'm not really sure what was going on there, but I know there was a bucket of blood, tractors, forklifts, and more sheep.

Afterwards my parents had a gathering and there were way too many little screaming kids, and I met one of my host-cousins, Védís, who incidentally is the coolest nerd ever. She is fantastic, seriously, go look at her artwork here. We got along really well.

Thhheeeeeeennnn there's the Sauðamessaball. It starts about 10 PM, I got there at 11:30, and by then almost all of the 200+ people there were drunk beyond belief. It must have been a logistical nightmare, because the barn it was held in is about a 10 minutes drive from Borgarnes. There's lots of hugging, apparently I made an "Icelandic Oath" as soon as I got there, then I never saw the guy again. No more details, because if I say more it will make Icelanders look like gross drunks that like to party in barns and roll on the ground. Which is partly true, but shh, forget it, I didn't say anything.

The next day is spent sleeping and eating left over kjötsúpa.

Last week I went to Reykholt, the home of one of the famous saga men, Snorri. We spent most of the time just driving around. There isn't much of a story there, so I'll just put some pictures.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Of Monsters and Men

Remember that video I posted called Little Talks?
Yeah, well good.
Remember how I wasn't sure if Icelanders were into it yet, or something like that?
No? Well I'm sure now.

I went over to my AFS contact family's house and the mother was humming Little Talks. She was kind of surprised when I said "hey!" really loudly while she was humming.

Anyways, go check them out for real this time. They're starting to play all over the radio here, and bound to jump across a sea or two in the bear future.

Just sitting at school now, typing, browsing the internet. I am sorry to admit I am not going to continue with my dance class (shortening my schedule even more, lol). I don't need to take it, and, honestly, I'm a horrible dancer. It also didn't help that the teacher would walk to the other side of the room when I ask for help (and when she does she speaks Icelandic).

I would go to the grocery store (Netto) and get a little something to eat but the rain is a little too horizontal for my tastes. I think I would fly away. Maybe I should have packed those bricks in my backpack...

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Iceland Culture Review #1

There's quite a lot to say here. Quite a lot. I'll say a lot here, then make another later with everything I forgot in a few weeks or when I learn more. Probably both.

Let's talk a little bit about the habits and behavior of Icelanders (stereotype time!)

Icelanders take off their shoes when they go almost everywhere. I know this is commonplace in many, many cultures, but I thought I'd mention it. you take off your shoes before you change to go into the pool, when you go into a house, and when you enter your school (if it's not too reasonably big, and elementary schools (grunnskólar) always take off shoes). This can lead to shoe-related complications if one does not have easily put-onable shoes.

Icelanders say "yeah" a lot, but right before there do it they inhale very loudly and try and say "yeah" as they inhale. I can't find a video, but if you want to look it up, go for it. Send me a video if you find it.

There is lots of nose and mouth tobacco. While this is considered "redneck" in some parts of the States, it is quite common here.

It is completely normal for a ~25 year old man to date a ~15 year old girl. This happens quite a lot, and puts my dating range down to the 10 year olds, sadly. No, I will NOT be dating any ten year olds. Ever.

Now, onto food.

Icelanders eat skyr a lot, which is a sort of jogurt, only thicker, usually mixed with sugar and fruit, as I've heard the original, plain, skyr is pretty bad, even for Icelandic tastebuds. I like this a lot.

Hot dogs. Oh my God. Hot dogs. They are everywhere, served at every gas station (bacon wrapped hot dogs as well), and almost everywhere else. Almost everyone eats them almost all the time. The preparation are as follows: battered and fried onions (think french friend onions, y'all) on the bottom of the bun, if ketchup and remolaði (remoulade) are to be added, these go on top of the onions. Then comes the actual hot dog, which is a lot like any other hot dog except it's not quite as disgusting when you think about it, and the skin is a little bit thicker, giving you a little "snap" feedback when you bite down. Mustard is then to be added, if desired, on top of the Íslensk pylsur. There are many different types of synnepsósa to be put on top of your hot dog, namely hot dog mustard (pylsur synnepsósa), a sort of brown thing. I don't like mustard in any circumstance, so I can't give you any insight.

Speaking of sauces, there are rediculous amounts of sauces for everything, and many are not to be used on certain objects. People look at you funny if you put vegetable sauce on a hot dog or hot dog remolaði on a hamburger. Usually one would put kokteilsósa on a hamburger, possibly with hamborgarasósa. Garlic sauce (which is pretty much mayonaise, a little mustard, and garlic) is a usual combination with hot and cold sandwiches - it is one of my favorite sauces so far.

On to candy. This is something that fascinates, as well as excites me. The Icelandic culture is obsessed with candy and icecream, MUCH moreso than in the States. It is completely normal to see 40+ year old men sitting around a sjoppa (hot dogs, candy, food, sometimes movies) eating hot dogs, licking ice cream cones, possibly eating bragðarefur (icecream and various candies mixed in, literally means tasty fox. wat), and buying mixed bag candy. It is completely normal to see 40+ women walking their dogs at night eating icecream. On Saturday at almost EVERY store that sells mixed bag candy, the candy is half price off. So that means you can stuff a pillow sized sack full of gummy worms, licorice, and chocolate for about the price of a nice coffee. This candy fetish the Icelanders have has not been doing wonders for my skin, but it's oh so good.

Also on candy, there's licorice in everything, and it annoys me. A typical candy tasting experience goes along the lines of:
"What's this?"
*takes a bite*
*is licorice*
I bought a huge bag of candy last Saturday, getting about 3 of everything Hyrnan (a gas station/food store thing) had, and, I kid you not, at least 80% of the bad must have been licorice. And the remainder was chocolate that had licorice inside of it, cleverly hidden.

Then there's this stuff.



No really, the food is really good, just not that stuff.

Most Icelanders don't like Sigur Rós (or say they're "okay"), and even less Icelanders like Björk. They think she's crazy.

And on the topic of music, go watch this video:
It's kind of like the Icelandic Lonely Island, except more crass, often singing about transvestites and priests that do cocaine.

Yes, there are swear words in there. No, I don't know what they are. If you get bored after 2 minutes feel free to stop it (if you don't want to see the singer get his arm chopped off, that is).

Also, there is this new Icelandic band popping up on the global music radar that I find is too good to share. It's very upbeat, catchy, and in English.

All the exchange students are pretty fond of it (I think), but I really don't know about the natives. It's bound that I'll hear it in the next few weeks somewhere around my school at least once.

And of course: Icelanders love to drink. There is no "it's 5 o'clock somewhere" funny business here, it's "go hard or leave our country." Totally normal for people to be wobbly at 11 am, drinking from little aluminum flasks most likely filled with the famous Icelandic brennevín, commonly known as black death, but literally translates to something like burning (or furnace) wine. I don't know why it's called black death, but I am curious. For more information, see the wiki.

Bless bless, takk fyrir að lesa!