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.

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