Posts Tagged ‘Iceland’

Farewell to Wayne

Wayne headed back to Portland today. He rivals Rob in his ability to defer to others, so when I told him I could take him to the Blue Lagoon today, he said, “Oh, that’s okay. I don’t really want to go.”

I couldn’t shake him from this. So, Rob ran him out to the airport and I sat around set waiting.

Today was one of the slow days. I was used in one shot. That was a fun one actually. Bessie had to go through set carrying a number of props. Normally we’d raise the set but because of the other scenes they had to shoot at that location it would have taken too much time. So Julie and I rolled through set on the family-sized puppet dolly. It’s a big flat cart that’s pulled with ropes. We just lie on it and get pulled around. Remember when you were a kid and someone pulled you in a wagon? It’s about as close to that as you can get and earn a paycheck.

This was before Wayne left. After he left, I studied my Icelandic lesson. The thing I couldn’t get him to believe was that we only get to go to the Blue Lagoon when we have company. And we like going. I was sad that I didn’t get to go today.

Let this be a lesson to the rest of my visitors.

Wayne at work

Wayne came to work with us today. He got to see a couple of stunts, which are always fun and he got to see some puppetry, so that was a pretty good mix. The puppetry today was fun, but unfortunately the details are really plot specific so I’m not going to go into them this time. I know, I’m a tease.

The puppeteers got wrapped early, except for Þor and me. Everyone else left around four-thirty. I sent Wayne with Emily to the pool. I went into the puppet shop to practise my Icelandic with Sigga and Tóti. At the end of the day, when we were getting ready to leave, I decided to try to use my Icelandic to ask, “Do you want me to close the window?” What I actually said was, “Will you me fasten this?” We got a good laugh out of that. I’m glad Sigga can explain why it’s funny. If this were really immersion, then she’d be laughing and it would be months before I understood what I had said wrong.


I’ll start this by telling you that it has a happy ending and there’s nothing to worry about. Suspense is great in novels, but not in real life.

Last week, I found a lump in my breast. (remember, happy ending) Daddi at work, made an appointment for me at Leitarstöð Krabbameinsfélagsins (center for cancer search). So, this post is about the amazing difference between a doctor’s visit in Iceland compared to the U.S.

I came to work for an hour and then headed off for my appointment. Because I hadn’t been there before, and I was nervous, I gave myself too much time to get there. I arrived about fifteen minutes early for my appointment. There were no televisions in the waiting room, but there were magazines, books of short stories and a play area for children. I was expecting to fill out paperwork.

No. They took my kennitala (id number) and asked me to have a seat. I picked up a magazine, and a nurse called my name. Really, that fast. So I followed her back to a changing area. They provide lockers with keys, for personal items, and hospital gowns in spring colors cut like kimonos. I sat down in the little waiting area outside the changing area and immediately the nurse reappeared and asked me to follow her.

I figured that, like the U.S., she was going to park me in an examination room, but instead she took me straight back and did a mammogram. We won’t go into those details because it would frighten the menfolk.

After that, I returned to the smaller waiting room, and after perhaps five minutes, the radiologist came for me and did an ultrasound. It turned out that I was right and there was a small lump, but that it was merely a cyst. She said it was nothing to worry about and that women get these all the time. Whew.

We finished up. I got dressed, and headed back for the reception area. There I encountered the rare Icelander who doesn’t speak English. We managed to handle everything in Icelandic. Fortunately the questions were straightforward ones like “What is your address.” Yay! These Icelandic lessons are paying off.

I took my leave and was back in my car by 11:30. In the U.S. I would have still been in the reception area, trying to ignore a television. What a delightful civilized country.

Wayne meets Eurovision

This afternoon our friend, Wayne, arrived from the U.S. The puppeteers had wrapped early so I was able to pick him up and bring him to work. He got to see a little bit of Stefán working in the lair. Rob had to work until seven tonight, so after showing Wayne around the building, he and I sat in the steambath for awhile. I don’t know about Wayne, but I needed the steambath.

Then, the poor fellow, we tuned into the semi-final rounds of the Eurovision Song Contest. This is really hard to explain. The best analogy that I can come up with is that it’s like Olympic figure skating for songs. You’re supposed to be judging the songs but you are really judging the costumes. Make sure you check out Finland. The final round is on Saturday and there is a huge party, even though Iceland has been eliminated. Look forward to that exciting installment.

Cake, rollies and dugar

Not much excitement today, initially. I helped Julie roll into a shot because her rollie cart kept getting stuck on the dugar.

Speaking of dugur…The ground at work is called dugar. It’s this vinyl stuff that they roll out onto the floor to create the look of the ground. I’ve been working on this show since 2004 and just found out that it’s the Icelandic word for vinyl flooring. I thought it was a brand-name of some specific flooring type. I felt better when I found out that all the other english speakers had the same misconception that I did.

We had a long break while they shot some stuff with Stefan and Magnus. And then I spent an hour being Bessie’s live hands. The shot was fairly standard. Bessie’s had to come through the door of the Mayor’s office carrying a cake. We’d done this sort of thing a lot and the prop department made a lovely cake. It was very light.

But. Stefan had to enter the Mayor’s office, so there was a platform for him in the door. Normally, this is Hollywooded out (moved during the take) so we can get through, but Bessie was right behind him so there was no time. This meant that the only way we could get through without showing lots of head was to put one rod arm and one live arm on Bessie. We taped the rod hand to the plate.

At the beginning of the scene it was easy to hold this cake above my head with one hand. Now, you have to understand that I couldn’t hold it with a standard waiter grip because I had to make it look like Bessie was using both hands to hold the cake. By the time we finished that scene, and the different shots, my fingers were cramping from holding the plate.


Today was fairly low-key. We had a couple of shots this morning and were finished with puppet stuff by two o’clock. Emily and I left the building and headed out to do errands. While I love living in Reykjavík the fact that everything closes at five or six is very challenging when trying to deal with business things.

I went to the bank and actually managed to say, “May I pay these?” in Icelandic–oh, I should explain that you pay all bills at the banks in Iceland. It’s easy, unless you don’t get off work until seven p.m.

After that, we went to the turf house for seafood soup. It’s this delightful little house right by the thermal beach. They have amazing soup and are willing to let you sit for hours.


In one of those moments that seizes one in Iceland, I agreed to go snorkeling in Þingvatn. Sarah had gone scuba diving last month and had come back raving about how beautiful the lake was. A group of us opted for the lower skill snorkeling package. Nothing in the literature, or in Sarah’s account mentions the fact that the water in Þingvatn comes from a glacier. It was cold. Really cold. 2 degrees above freezing cold.

Granted, we had drysuits, but that only keeps the hypothermia at bay. They don’t actually keep you warm. Now with that said, the price of cold was well worth it. The water is unbelievably clear and blue. We could see the bottom of the lake thirty to forty meters below us with no loss of visibility, just deeper and deeper blue.

Poor Aaron, who had just arrived from the US this morning had a suit that leaked. He got soaked, but even he said it was worth it.

Naturally, I wasn’t able to take my camera into the lake with me, but the artic rafting website has some great pictures. Those people in the drysuits could be us. Just pretend. And the water really is that blue.

While we didn’t see any fish, because apparently the water is too cold for them to survive, we did see some scuba divers. They were magical; like mermaids. The airbubbles rose up from them like a school of jellyfish.

So. Bottom line is that I recommend this. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience–because I never want to be that cold again. But it was worth it. Once.

Happy Mother’s Day!

A very happy Mother’s day to both our mothers.

I’ll have to admit that, being in Iceland, this day snuck up on me because they don’t celebrate it on the same day. We were leaving to go snorkeling and one of the American’s said, “Happy Mother’s Day!” to her mom. My heart sank.

Rob and I looked at each other and he said, “I don’t suppose you ordered flowers this year?”

No. I didn’t.

So, this is a public apology for being a neglectful daughter. We’ll do better next year. And just wait until you come to visit! We’ll treat you so well…all of your friends will be jealous.

Staying longer

Rob just accepted a job as Assistant Post Production Supervisor, which means we’ll be staying in Iceland until at least the end of August. We’re both delighted that we’ll be able to extend our stay. Need I add, that this gives you more time to come visit?


We spent the day at Snæfellsnes with Dean Sharenow. Dean is Rob’s college roommate and is half of the bandKill Henry Sugar. (I’m listening to his music now and highly recommend it.)

The church at BudirThe view from the church at BudirThe weather was foul when we set out and I really wondered if we had made a mistake since you could not see the mountains, at all, because of the fog. Fortunately as the day progressed, the clouds lifted. We stopped at Búðir, which is a national park now, but used to be a fishing village. The only things left of the village now are the hotel and the church. Looking at the mountains, it is hard to imagine that the ocean is at my back.

Old turf house at BudirAs we walked back to the car, I spotted a roof sitting on the ground. Curious, I walked over to it and discovered a set of crude stone steps leading underground. Of course, I had to go down them. At the bottom, rough stone walls enclosed a tiny room. I imagine that it had been a turf house, but don’t really know.

In an attempt to go to Snæfellsjökul, we went on from Búðir to road F574. Now, those of you who have visited know that the more digits a road number has the worse it is going to be. The F means, only try this in a four-wheel drive. Dean had rented an appropriate vehicle, so we started up the road. It was gravel, single lane and very steep. Guard rails? Ha. We laugh at your guard rails, they obstruct the view when you are trying to look straight down the side of the mountain.

The singing caveAbout a third of the way up, we paused at Songhellar, or the Singing Cave. Apparently a man named Bardur Snaefellsas lived in this cave with the “dwarf-voices” or echoes, while he built a farm at Laugarbrekka at Hellnar. The cave is formed from a lava bubble, so has a nearly perfect parabolic arch at the top, which makes a great echo. It has a crazy amount of grafitti carved into the walls dating back 1753. It’s so nice to know that vandalism is not a result of modern times.

Sadly, the road became to icy for us to continue up to see Snæfellsjökul. As a seeming reward for our good sense at turning back, the clouds lifted affording uninterrupted beautiful views of the coast from above. I did not even try taking a picture, because it trying to do it justice seemed like a futile effort.

Friendly horsesFor the rest of our drive, we travelled under blue skies. We stopped to visit with some horses, who came up to the fence to be petted as if they were dogs. They are small enough that it really does feel like petting a dog. A very large dog, but still.

After we got back from Snæfellsnes, we went to a party at Jodi, Sam, Julie and Sarah’s. It was fun, but we were there very, very late.

Moss photos

Don’t miss the photos of moss. You can sink your finger in all the way up to your palm. It’s amazing.

Catching up on the last couple of days

Monday, April 17th, we stayed with Tóti and his family. His wife, Hannahlið, made a fantastic vegetarian meal, which was a really pleasant surprise. After dinner, Rob and Tóti ran some errands and I stayed behind to teach Marsibel (their daughter) how to make a puppet. She’s been out of school with a cold and then the holiday so she was really bored. The exciting part of this is that she’s seven and doesn’t speak english yet. That’s right, I taught puppet building in Icelandic. And mime. She was really good about figuring out what I meant and helping me learn new words. Hannahlið was standing by, but didn’t need to help as much as either of us thought she would.

Dog friendsDog friendsThe funniest part about the visit was the reaction of their very large dog to Audrey. Their dog was horribly jealous and tried to sleep in Audrey’s little basket. Have you ever seen anything so ridiculous?

So on Tuesday, April 18th we left Tóti’s house and met Bernd, then went for coffee at Bláa Kannan (the blue pot). Then Rob and I took Audrey for a walk at the Akureyri Botanical Gardens, which were completely covered in snow. Someone had gone through the park before us, leaving a single trail of footprints. Audrey bounded between the footprints like some kind of snow porpoise.
After stocking up on groceries for the road, we went to Bernd’s for coffee. Bernd and his family live in a valley outside of Dalvík, north of Akureyri. Jodi, Sarah, Julie and Sam met up with us there and we had a grand time talking about travels and puppetry. Just in case you don’t remember, Bernd Ogrodnik is my friend who did Strings (Go watch the trailer) and he has a number of the puppets at his place. He also has a fantastic workshop that is the envy of every puppeteer who has seen it.

Jodi, Sarah, Julie and Sam continued on their way while Rob and I stayed around for the night. Great conversations with Bernd, his wife Hildur and his intern Ava. It was a lot of fun.

On Wednesday, April 19th, we planned to drive up to the northern most part of Iceland but that plan changed. Bernd is working on a new show and as we were walking to the car he asked if I wouldn’t mind ducking into the workshop (Seen from above in this photo) and showing him some fast connections for shadow puppets. Well…you get two enthusiastic puppeteers in a room and the conversation will quickly become more involved. We went through the connection pretty fast and then moved on to a story issue and some other concerns he was having with his new show. Rob went for a hike with Audrey but when he came back, Bernd, Ava and I were still working. We wound up staying through lunch and leaving around five o’clock.

At that point we revised our plans and drove straight to Egillstaðir where we stayed at Gistihús Olgu. Road 1 was long and wild. I won’t try to describe it, but will just give you a collection of photos. Not all of these are from the drive to Egilsstaðir.

On Thursday, April 20th, we got up and began our drive around the southern part of Iceland. We had planned to stay at Skalafell, but realized when we reached the glacial lagoon, that it was still early in the day. We had driven to Skaftafell when Eve was here, so we’d be seeing landscapes that we had seen before. Rather than staying we decided to head back to Reykjavík and have an extra day at home.

And here we are.


Well, I have my doubts, but I was tagged by Joy and by the rules of the game, I have to tell you six random things about myself and then go and tag six more people.

  1. I’m writing this with a towel on my head.
  2. There is a poodle asleep on the sofa next to me, but neither the poodle or the sofa are mine.
  3. I have tried to learn Icelandic, German, Italian, Bengali, Mandarin and American Sign Language.
  4. I cannot ski.
  5. I have no problems climbing heights, but have trouble descending them.
  6. I do not like cooked carrots.

I am tagging Jason, Clarissa, Buster, Chris, Maggie and Steve.

Why? Because I want all of you to post more often and this is an easy way to get a post out of you.