Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Great Cow War

On Wednesday Haley came up to me and said, "We don't have a lot of videos.  Can I make a video?"
Me:  "Make a video?  What do you mean?"
Haley:  "You know... I'll make my own video then we can watch it on t.v."
Me (trying to encourage creativity):  "Okay....I guess you could try.  What would this video be called?"
Haley:  "Oh yeah, I already know that.  It's called THE MAN AND THE GREAT COW WAR."
Me:  "That sounds interesting....Okay, well first you need to write a script."

With that we sat down and Haley dictated the script to me, line by line.  I tried to help her, but she wasn't really interested in any of my ideas.  She already knows where she wants to film it.  Maybe when Clint comes we can start filming.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Haley is 5!

I feel like I have committed a crime in the blogosphere by not blogging about my child's birthday.  Yes, Haley turned 5 last month and is now officially a little woman.  She never ceases to amaze me and I cannot get over her brains and beauty (the killer combination).   Haley has made a few friends the last 9 months and it was fun to invite them and see them all play together.  She wanted to play Go Fish and Old Maid, so those were the party games.  We made a creative, crazy crayon recipe and gave them out at the end only to find out that they don´t give away goodie bags at birthday parties here.  Instead, Icelandic birthday parties usually involve LOTS of cakes.  We only had one.  One little one.  Oh well...we´re learning.
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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Is there something I should know about?

It has happened to me three times now, so I'm wondering if this is an Icelandic cultural thing I should know about.  The first time, I was having a really hard day.  The calendar said it was LATE SPRING, but the weather felt like the dead of winter and every time I went outside I got grumpy.  Come to think of it, when I was inside I was grumpy too because I felt entitled to be outside enjoying warm weather.  Anyway, I was on my way home and an old man came up to me and the girls mumbling something in Icelandic.  I must have looked confused because he pulled out his wallet.  I thought he was giving me a visual clue (like a good ESL teacher) and asking me for money, and I tried to explain to him in my broken Icelandic that I didn't have any cash on me.  He kept repeating a sentence in Icelandic that was something to the effect of, "Life is hard (erfitt), but you're doing a good job."  He made it sound like he had been watching me and he thought I was handling it well here.  With that, he reached into his wallet and gave me 1000 kronur.  I tried to give it back, but he refused to let me.  I went home and told Colby that I thought I had just encountered a drunk angel.

Two times since then, two different old men have come up and literally just given me money because my girls are so beautiful.  One of them said that he really wanted to get them something, but he thought I would know better what to get them.  He made me promise that I would get them a special treat with the money (How did he know that I'd be tempted to save it?!).  I mean, I know my kids are cute, but.....I've never gotten PAID for it.  Maybe I should have some more kids and start a side business.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Cultural Norm

If Finland is a spitting culture and England is a proper culture, I think I've figured out what Iceland is.  It is a PEEING culture.  I cannot tell you how many times I've looked out my window and seen someone peeing in our back parking lot or out front in the bank parking lot.  It is unreal.  I have started tapping on the window just to make sure the perpetrator knows he is spotted.  Most of the time, the criminal is unashamed.

The other day's experience takes the cake.   I was coming out of Kringlan (the mall here) and was walking through the underground parking garage when I noticed a man standing next to his car in a suspicious position.  The closer I got, the more disgusted I became.  Not only was this man peeing in a PARKING GARAGE, but his wife and kids were patiently and nonchalantly waiting in the vehicle.  I don't even know what to say.  I guess some people are more offended/disgusted by spitting in public, so maybe I should just hold my tongue.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

"I want my mommy...."

The last 5 days have been a blur of fevers, runny noses, coughing, body aches and chills, and fatigue...for all of us.  Colby has gotten hit the least hard and today he commented, "I feel like I'm running an infirmary."  Haley threw up once but I think it's because she had 2 vitamins on an empty stomach.  I wonder when this will end?

Búsahalda Byltingir

The other day, I took the kids to a park near downtown to enjoy a few rare moments of precipitation-free fun.  We heard some banging in the distance, and immediately I knew what was going on.  There was really only one thing it could be.  It must be....It had to be....the Búsahalda Byltingir.

Darcy and I had just been having a wild ride on the see-saw, and I made her laugh so hard that she threw up all over the front of her coat.  It was time to leave anyway, so we made our way the direction of the banging of course.  I knew it would insight questions, but I wanted to see it firsthand for myself.  I had heard of the Búsahalda Byltingir from many sources and had discussed it in class when we studied about household items.  My time had finally come.  I was about to witness the Búsahalda Byltingir...that is... the Kitchen-Ware Revolution.

We finally got close enough to see the small crowd, each with their favorite kitchen appliance, gathered in front of what I assumed to be a very important building here in Reykjavik.  I saw one man with a plunger, banging it on a rail;  Another had a big kitchen pot and was banging it with a wooden spoon.  Most of the other people were booing and yelling as well as banging.  The chaos finally subsided when someone from the building opened the door, pointed to who I suspected to be the ring-leader and summoned the protester into his office.

There have been many protest here in Reykjavik the last 9 months.  Most of them have been in City Center which is an open green space in front of the Parliament Building.  A lot of people here are still angry since the big crisis that went down last October.  A lot of people here have lost their jobs. Iceland is changing, and it has definitely been an interesting time to be here.  If you are interested, you can read Icelandic News in English at: .

Thursday, November 5, 2009

On Reading Old Books like the Bible

John Mark Reynolds is the director of the Torrey Honors Institute at Biola University, that beloved institution where I did my MA. During my time studying there he was one of my favorite lecturers and he recently wrote this article "On Reading Old Books like the Bible". It is thought provoking and definitely worth taking ten minutes of your time to read it.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Chronicles of Language Acquisition

The last 9 months of my journey learning (what is said to be) one of the hardest languages in the world...

February:  I can say my name, how old I am, and where I am from.  My Icelandic is as good as Darcy’s English (2 year old level). I feel completely overwhelmed by the complex grammar structure of this language.  There are 48 words for the number one.  FOURTY-EIGHT. Colby has studied 2 languages with similar grammar and gets it immediately.

Although the grammar is ridiculous, I am learning new words every day.  The city is coming alive…words on billboards, businesses, magazines now have meaning to me.  With each day I feel like I am adding a brushstroke of water to one of those “magic Color Wonder” pages.   

Colby and I watch t.v. with Icelandic subtitles while we work out at the gym together.  It´s a great way to reinforce what we´ve been learning in class, but unfortunately, the only thing on at that time is soap operas.  I never thought the day would come that we would have discussions about the latest plot in The Bold And The Beautiful.

March:  Not only are we taking a class every morning, but now we are going to language school at night twice a week.  Halfway through the month, I hit a wall and stay in bed for a week fighting off what I think is a virus.  After talking with our supervisor, I realize that it’s not a virus and I am experiencing physical ramifications of mental stress.  Realizing that I need to be mentally tough and fight through the exhaustion, I continue to go to class even though just hearing Icelandic makes my head spin and throb.  Can’t I just speak English the whole time we’re here?  Is this really worth it?

April: Colby’s Icelandic is flourishing and I feel like I’m losing the race.  I call Nancy in tears and she “talks me down off the ledge” reminding me that language learning is not a competition (What?!?  I thought everything was a competition!)  and it’s okay if Colby is ahead.  I’ll eventually catch up.

I can speak sentences now, but unfortunately, I start a sentence in Icelandic and at some point—without realizing it—finish the sentence in Spanish.  I don’t even know what words are Spanish and what words are Icelandic anymore.  I regret even learning Spanish.

May:  I meet Edna who is from Latin America.  Perfect.  I switch between Icelandic, Spanish, and English as I’m talking and she understands everything I’m trying to say.  We are now in an Icelandic Level 3 class.  We are reading short stories (a page long) every day.  I feel encouraged because I’m probably on a 2nd grade reading level.      

June:  I have developed a small language route—frequently visiting the same shops and practicing Icelandic.   I stop by a cozy Christian coffee shop a lot and talk with one particular generous employee.  The other day the conversation went longer than it ever had—back and forth, back and forth, just like a surprisingly good game of ping-pong.  I couldn’t believe it.  I was actually speaking Icelandic.  At a three year old level, anyway.

July:  From what I’ve heard, if you are to graph language acquisition, after a sharp spike there comes an inevitable plateau.  This month I can feel the plateau. 

August:  I am starting to wonder if we are even going to be able to stay here in Iceland.  We don’t have VISAs, and we will have to leave soon if we don’t get them.  Language learning comes to an abrupt halt.  We’re not sure if we will have to learn another language soon…sigh.

September:  We are in Finland all month.  I imagine what life would be like if we were to live there instead.  Colby found a word 29 letters long on the back of a cereal box.  We get our VISAs.   We return to Iceland on a Saturday and start another language school on Tuesday.  The new class is SO advanced and SO fast and I feel like I am comprehending very little.  I cry the entire way home from school on the 2nd day.  Here we go again…

October:  I have recruited more people to pray for me and the challenges of being here.  I am working harder than I ever have at studying Icelandic.  There are even note cards by the toilet…not a second wasted! 

I am forcing myself to use Icelandic out in public even though almost everyone speaks English.  The other day I was trying to get a library card and accidently asked the librarian if the card was pregnant (ofrisk) instead of if it was free (okeypis). 
Last week Thora told me that my Icelandic had improved since we had last talked.  It has put a skip in my step and every day I can feel things starting to click and stick.  I can feel that I’m on another spike on the graph and it feels so good.  Colby and I frequently talk to each other in Icelandic when we don’t want the kids to know what we’re saying (at least we don’t think they understand…). 

I just figured out last night what one of the “warning signs” in the gufubað is saying and realized that I have been breaking the rules for the past 9 months.  Oops.  They should have really put that in English if it was so important.

Today in class we were sharing a folktale from our country.  I chose the story of Johnny Appleseed and spent over an hour the night before preparing for my turn.  During my presentation I was trying to express that Johnny Appleseed always carried a bag full of seeds with him wherever he went.  Unfortunately, the word seed has many shades of meaning that the dictionary didn’t exactly distinguish for me… and I instead told the whole class that Johnny always carried with him a bag full of SPERM. 
Oh well.  I guess this is how you learn…