Sunday, March 29, 2009

We got out of Reykjavik...

We just got back from a weekend retreat in the countryside with a local fellowship here. This was the first time in 7 weeks that we were able to leave the city! It was a good break. Colby spoke for two sessions , we went swimming in the rain, we were exposed to our first Icelandic dance party (I wish I had brought the camcorder!), and the kids made a new friend--Ying Ping from Hong Kong. I wonder if they will ever learn ICELANDIC.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

approval addict

Today in language school, I was called on to read some sentences to practice pronunciation. Whenever this happens, I feel hot liquid run through my veins, down past my knees. I took a deep breathe, and with confidence began reading. After I struggled through the last line, "kaffið er kalt og vont" (the coffee is cold and bad), the teacher began to shake his head and commented, "það hljomar ekki vel." My heart began to beat fast as I sensed I had not done something well (ekki=not, vel=well). Confirming my suspicion, the teacher repeated the sentence "það hljomar ekki vel" and translated: "This does not sound good." I began to feel a lump forming in my throat as the discouragement set it. As if it hadn't been enough already, he proceeded to write the sentence on the board, making a public mockery of my ignorance. "Það....hjomar...ekki...vel" He enunciated each word and reiterated what each one meant: "This....does...not...sound...good." I smiled nervously as I tried to take the harsh rebuke and began to feed myself some positive self talk:
"God still loves me......I have unshakable worth in Jesus...My value as a person is not dependent on my performance....Who I am in Christ is more important than what I do....even if I can't speak this stupid language!!!"

Sensing the difficulty of the moment, Colby put his arm around me and began to rub my back. Being the peace-maker that he is (he is a textbook third-child), he raised his hand and tried to compromise, "Now..was it just the last line that didn't sound so good?" Blinking back tears, I looked over at Colby, admiring his ability to bring moderation to such a bleak moment. At that moment, the teacher saw my despair and immediately started belly-laughing. "No, no, no....I was saying that cold coffee does not sound good...not you!" He spent the next few minutes making fun of me and even flagged someone over who was not in our class to share the humorous miss communication. Either way, it's a good thing that my self-worth is not tied to my ability to speak this language.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Little Girl Who Cried Wolf.

Last night, some friends here in Iceland invited us to go out to dinner. This was a pretty exciting event since we had not yet gone to a restaurant here together and we began coaching the kids on good restaurant etiquette. Anticipation was high and the girls both dressed up, picked out necklaces and bracelets for the big event. When we arrived and walked into the serene, candle-lit restaurant, immediately Colby and looked at each other and said at the same time, "Oh no...Were we supposed to get a babysitter?" There was the brief moment where I considered turning around and seeing if Diana or Johanna was available to babysit at that exact moment, but we walked through the quaint, fancy restaurant where our hosts were waiting. They insisted that they had intended for the kids to come, but it felt out-of-place to have small kids in such a nice, adult environment. We had another talk about how they needed to whisper as to not interrupt the quiet, peaceful environment.

Things were going well, and they were being respectful and courteous as everyone ordered. The girls had finally decided on splitting a cheeseburger when Darcy began to whine. Sipping on water seemed to appease her for awhile, but then she began to complain that she had to throw up. I laughed and explained to everyone about Darcy's culture shock. (quick interjection: Mom, this is called a link and you can click on it). I'm not sure why she always tells us that she has to throw up, but we just hand her a barf bag and go on with what we're doing. After a few minutes of hearing this repetitive phrase, I finally excused myself and took my little bulimic and Haley to the bathroom so Darcy could "throw up." Darcy stood with her head hanging down in the trash can while Haley took a potty break and had this conversation:
"Darcy, you don't have to throw up..."
"No you don't. You always SAY that you have to throw up, but you never do."
"But I DO."
"You are lying, Darcy."

Haley had successfully ruffled Darcy's feathers and she began whining loudly again. After one more stern talk, we walked out from the bathroom to the dining area where I made eye-contact with everyone from our table and winked as if to say We took care of it. At that moment, the most horrific scene unfolded as Darcy ERUPTED with vomit all over the dining room floor. I watched, paralyzed with disbelief, as each thrust of regurgitation produced a splattering onto the antique chairs, the table legs, and the carpet. Looking back, most mothers (Jennifer Clifton) would have quickly picked up the child and rushed her to the bathroom after the first splash, but not me...I just stood frozen watching the wincing looks of the customers and the ghost-white faces of our hosts. Everything went in slow-motion as it just kept, two, three times. Pause. Colby rushes over. Four, five, six. You can hear moans from the audience as she continues a seventh and eighth time. We literally just stood there and watched it all; we had no idea what to do.

Now, maybe this would not have been such a big deal if we were at a loud Applebee's or a bustling Wal-Mart where Joe the Janitor shows up quickly to mop up the mess. But here we were at Madonna's Ristorante where the only server they have is having to leap over the puddle to serve the other customers. He handed Colby a bucket and a rag, and might as well given him
a sandwhich board that read, "My child has just puked in the general vicinity of your pleasurable dining experience and stolen your appetite." I put the dripping child in the stroller and ran her home where we could escape the shame...the whole time hearing, " didn't BEYEVE me!"

My favorite memory of the evening was Haley's reaction to the whole event:
"I. CAN. NOT. BELIEVE. IT! Darcy was NOT lying. I was lying. I was LYING about LYING."

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Hvað er þetta? (What is this?)

Þetta er tengdamamma. (This is...)

Og Þetta er tengdamamma mín. (And this is my...)

Today, both of my language teachers explained to us that Icelanders call a staple remover and a mother-in-law by the same name. The word "tengdamamma" is literally the word for mother-in-law, but the likeness that many mother-in-laws bear to the sharp teeth of a staple remover has resulted in the name being given to this otherwise harmless tool. Below is what many Icelanders apparently call a "tengdamammahús". I'll let you figure that one out. When asked about my mother-in-law, I answered, "Tengdamamma mín er mjörg skemmtileg."

Monday, March 16, 2009

User Error

This is a correction of the weekend post when it seemed our computer had gone crazy. It turns out that by changing the name of a folder I also changed the main identity on the operating system. All my information, including my address book and settings, were hiding somewhere out there in the hard drive. A trip to the Apple store this afternoon led to a joyful, full recovery.


A humble Christian studies his own infirmities and another's excellences
and that makes him put a higher value upon others than himself.

Thomas Watson (from A Godly Man´s Picture)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Birth of Kolbeinn Jón Jónsson

Yesterday Anna Pálsdottir and I finished up Level I of Beginner´s Icelandic. We have grown to enjoy our teacher, who in the vernacular of my father is a ´real character´. It is a great to have a teacher that really loves to teach language, enjoys people, and is extremely jovial. He is really fun, and a brilliant mad scientist of a linguist. He has a modest goal of cleansing Europe of it´s unrefined use of language and bringing all people´s everywhere back to the Icelandic from which it came. I have similiar goals in life and enjoy his exuberance.
We received our test scores for the course yesterday and mine came with a new moniker and the elusive ink, ´giraffe stamp´. God often gives people a new name as He calls them into new pursuits in His kingdom. I have received mine at the hand of a linguist prophet and pray that it comes with all the blessings of Abraham, who was called Abram; Israel, who was called Jacob; And Paul, who was called Saul. Next week we start Beginner's Level 2.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

System Failure!

I turned my Macbook on this evening and everything was different. It was like someone stole my computer and replaced it with a different computer that doesn't really work now. A lot of my files were still there, but some were in different places. The more I try to use it the worse it seems to get. Worst of all. My backlog of e-mails and contacts from Microsoft Entourage are gone. I will be at the Apple Store as soon as it opens. We are now without skype, and thankful that we still have our Toshiba. Where is Mila Thomas when you need her?

Patterns of Reykjavik

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Time Magazine: 10 Ideas that Are Changing the World

And #3 is...worth checking out.

The whole article is interesting, but I was amazed to see this in the top ten.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

This is how we feel (kind of)

The other night we came back from Icelandic class and proudly told Dagny (who babysits for our evening class), "eg hef rum i svefnherberginu"---"I have a bed in my bedroom." We are able to have such riveting conversations at this level, and it reminded me of this video:

I think this might only be funny if you've studied Spanish...

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Friday, March 6, 2009

We are pitiful...

Well, it happened again. This time-- only worse. It was Wednesday night, and we were having company over for dinner. I needed a shower, but I hate showering if I haven't worked out yet that day. Yes, I know that's a little neurotic, but I somehow feel like I don't deserve a shower unless I earn it by sweating. So, I put on sweats and went out the door of our apartment to put on my shoes which were outside in the hallway. Colby followed me out the door to discuss something with me while the girls were running back and forth, in and out of the door way. We told them to stay inside the apartment because they were being loud, so they complied obediently....shutting the door behind them. As soon as the door slammed shut, Colby and I jerked our heads to look at each other with wide eyes...the door's default mode is always set on lock.

For the first few seconds, there was just the stunned silence of realizing that our keys, our cell phones, our....CHILDREN!!!.....were all inside the apartment and we were locked out. The denial stage: this cannot be happening to us. You can guess how the conversation exchange between Colby and I went as we entered the anger stage: "Now look what you've done!" Next, enter the bargaining stage, where we make every attempt to teach Haley how to unlock our door. She needed to stand on a chair, and turn the lock all the way to the right in order to free us from the disaster. I could hear Darcy in the background, jiggling Colby's keys and trying to fit them in a key hole. " don't need keys....Darcy...STOP!" We watch from behind the door as Haley is wiggling the door handle, completely ignoring the lock that is right above it. Next thing I hear is Darcy with her battery-operated magic wand attempting to cast a spell on the door. When that didn't work, she starts pounding and trying to kick the door down. "Okay...Darcy, that's not going to help honey...Darcy...NO!!...Darcy, you need to go sit on the blue chair." I shake my head in disbelief while Colby is trying to enforce a time-out from behind a locked door. Haley is crying at this point, way beyond her frustration level.

Okay, time to try something else. Colby gets a new idea. "Haley, try to unlock and open the patio door! If you can go on the patio and throw the keys down, I'll go outside and catch them." The patio door?? I can't even unlock the patio door...this is impossible. For the next ten minutes, Colby attempts to enact his idea, and I have moved on to asking neighbors for help. No such luck. The neighbors don't have the number for our landlord, Haley cannot unlock the patio door, Darcy will not stay on time-out, and I have entered the depression stage. I picture our guests Jon and Marissa arriving, and us still in the hallway. Colby borrows the neighbor's car to try to find the landlord while I am left to wallow in my misery. Finally, I have entered the acceptance stage, and make up a tentative plan in my mind, instructing Haley how to get them bread and peanuts for dinner, while we have take-out pizza with our guests on the other side of the locked door.

Somehow, after close to an hour, I muster up the strength to have Haley come to the door and try to unlock it again. Just as the neighbor, on the phone, locates a business that REMOVES doors for us, the miracle occurred. I have no idea how she did it, and she has not been able to do it since, but somehow she unlocked the door. Darcy was freed from time-out, and the reunion was dramatic, as expected. Before I moved on to quickly making sweet potatoes and meatballs for our guests, I made sure to put the number for door removals in the fake plant outside our door.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Doodler

Darcy has been interesting to watch lately. After we had been here a week, she began to revert a little bit which is a very normal thing for kids to do in transition. She was a little more whiny, a little more needy, and began to ask if she could watch a video that we used to get from the library called "Baby Songs" because she was a baby again. I had been prepared for this kind of behavior and was warned that she may starts to have lots of accidents again. Instead of having accidents, however, Darcy had been constantly telling us that she has to throw up. Before meals, after meals, during rest time, the constant reminder is... "But, I might throw up!" Not trusting her claims but wanting to appease her, we finally started giving her a barf bag to carry around. That, in conjunction with a little water in a medicine cup, has appeared to have a placebo affect and cure her. She has been picking up language a lot and it is adorable to hear her bravely try new phrases. She has come a long way since our first day here when Andres and Lilja were over, helping us move in. After hearing them speak in Icelandic a bit, she looked up at me smiling and remarked with perfect ego-centrism, "They are saying the wrong thing..."

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Life in the Middle #2

"And this icelandic phrase just means, Thanks for the foot. You say it as a courtesy after meals ."

Well that's wierd, I thought, Why in the world would you say thanks for the foot after a meal. Is there some sort of old cultural explanation to this? I have got to ask a question on this one.

"So are you saying that "Takk fyrir matinn" means thanks for the foot and you say it after a meal? Is that like our vocabulary word maturinn, the foot?"

"Yes, maturinn means 'the foot', it is with the article. It is deifinite. Here it just is matinn, or foot. Thanks for the foot."

I watch as Annie flips to the page in her notebook where she has drawn a wild picture of the human body and adds the parts as we learn them in class. Beside the foot she writes in 'maturinnn'. This just isn't making any sense to me. Why do they thank someone for the foot after the meal.Usually if we have wierd phrases like this he gives some historical explanation about how the phrase developed, why isn't he doing it for this one. I have to ask again, maybe he didn't understand me?

"So does this come from some history of people eating sheep feet or something, that explains why they say, "Thanks for the foot" instead of "Thanks for the food?"

"I don't understand what you mean. That's what I'm saying, "Thanks for the food (pronounced foot). It is something you eat,I don't know what you mean about sheep feet. The word is matinn, it means food (foot)."

"Ok, so 'matinn' means food and 'maturinn' means foot."

"No, they are the same word, they mean food (foot). One is indefinite. One is definite."

Oh, now it is making sense. I heard him wrong on the same word in two different lessons. Annie, the teacher, and I all realize what has happened and we begin to laugh. I look over and Annie is scratching her label out on her picture of the human body with a sigh.

Language students hear the darnedest things. Or was that, Kids say the darnedest things. Or maybe being a language student is just like being a kid again.