Sunday, January 22, 2017

Harmonikuball



 Sunday morning. On weekends I enjoy sleeping in, sipping several cups of tea and coffee while reading in my comfy chair overlooking the ocean, and cuddling a bit with the cat. Then I’ll sneak out for breakfast at the bakery while much of the town is still asleep. With the first dawn of light, I’ll start thinking about what the day will bring. On Saturdays I often enjoy a leisurely jog to Hnífsdalur and back, which I did yesterday. But there’s something special on the agenda today.

At noon I help set up chairs and tables for the Accordion Ball. It’s a ball for senior citizens that’s held every 4-6 weeks and it’s becoming quite popular among the old folks in town. Entrance is free, there’s free coffee, tea and cake, and everyone working is a volunteer – from the musicians playing, the coffee-makers, the manual labor like myself, and even the venue is rent-free. I love old folks and I’ve been doing volunteer work for a couple years now, but this is my first job in Iceland and it turns out to be quite an experience. 

At 2pm everything is ready and the first folks start trickling in. The ladies are wearing nice dresses and carrying plastic bags with their dancing shoes, which they quickly slip into. The men are wearing dress shirts and ties to match their sparkling eyes. Everyone looks quite smart and they’re obviously looking for a good time. The music starts up – an accordion and electric bass duo, and after half-time a singer arrives to add a bit of spice to the mix. Nearly everyone hits the dancefloor at one time or another, and some just can’t stay away from it. I’m sitting at a table with some friendly folks. I’m by far the youngest in the room and their motherly instincts are kicking in, and I get lots of cooing and coddling and back patting. It’s fun to listen to them gossip too. I meet so many people today, and hear about so many others, and I only understand the half of it. This is the best way for me to practice my Icelandic since this generation doesn’t speak much of anything else. 

One lady asks me to dance and we do the polka and a few other songs, before she switches back to her husband. I polkaed as a kid when the polka band played at the numerous weddings I recall attending. Sure brings back memories, just wish I could remember how to dance! I’m quite awkward on my feet and the folks poke fun at my rubber-soled hiking boots. But basically I just enjoy watching and listening to the music. I even recognize a few songs, since some of the classics work in any country, in any language. Some of the folks are pretty good dancers and I can imagine them on the dancefloor back in the day, flirting with one another. I wish my dad could be here, he would be having an awesome time. 

At half-time there’s a sort of intermission and everyone crowds around the table with coffee and cake. After a 15-minute break the band picks up again and the dancing continues. They even play a bit of overtime before the finale comes and everyone gathers in a circle holding hands to sing the last song together. Sorry I don’t have a picture of that, but I was right there along with the rest of them, swinging my arms and mouthing the words to some song I don’t know!

Afterwards I help put away chairs and tables, clean up a bit, and lock up. I end up with the rest of the cake in my possession, amounting to two complete cake pans full. Luckily I can give away most of it by the end of the evening since there’s no way I’ll be eating this all myself. Let my friends gain some weight along with me; after all, misery loves company.

PS: Just some random pictures here from the last few weeks.
Jan. 18th blizzard




Friday, January 6, 2017

þrettándinn

High noon in Ísafjörður today

Today is þrettándinn, the last day of Christmas, celebrated with elf dances, bonfires and fireworks. The festivities rotate every other year between Ísafjörður and Bolungarvík and this year it’s in the latter. As luck may have it, I have a ride to Bolungarvík today but Helga and I are there quite early for a swim and a bite to eat at Einarshúsið. This place is the only restaurant in Bolungarvík (not counting the food you can get at the gas station) and it’s only open for 3 hours a week in the winter, on Fridays from 6-9 pm. It’s the highlight of the week here sometimes in the sleepy Westfjords, at least for me. Helga and I like to go there for dinner after a swim. They only have one meal on the menu. Bennabítar (“Benni bites”. Benni is the owner, but I don’t know if he really bites). These consist of chicken wings, chicken wings with fries, or just fries. At most, one other table is occupied. This is life in the Westfjords. I love it.

We decide not to wait for the festivities as we’re quite tired already, but as we drive by we can see the little elves all bundled up ready to dance!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Goodbye 2016


The day starts out clear and still. Everything is peaceful and white after the snowstorm yesterday. By evening though it starts to snow like crazy again. G and I head to the traditional bonfire at 8:30 pm. We get there just in time to see them light it and we stay to the bitter end. A small group of adults sings Christmas carols. 
 

There’s a small fireworks show. The young guys enjoy throwing gasoline on the fire. Kids are throwing snowballs at the fire or just rolling around in the snow, or playing with sparklers. Wish I had some marshmallows. By the way, the Icelandic word for those is sykurpúði – sugar pillows! 

We head back home to watch the traditional Áramótaskaup on TV at 10:30 pm and head out just before midnight to watch the fireworks. It’s still snowing and there’s not much wind. A perfect night for fireworks! We head up the far edge of the avalanche wall and watch the fireworks over the town. All the craziness below and the solitude where we stand, with snow falling heavily on our heads. 

Gleðilegt nýtt ár!
 

Last hours of daylight in 2016