Tuesday, December 22, 2015

It's the End of the Year As We Know It: What I Learned From My Brief Time In Iceland

Merry Chrimbus, History Fans!

Having not listened to very much new music, I have no "Best of 2015" lists, and I already gave my Star Wars critiques to Jason and Kyle, so now we are left with a boring recap of what life has been like for me here in Iceland. It's been a lot like Star Wars, just less outer space and light sabers.

Many people have asked about the food in Iceland, and honestly, it's a lot like the United States. Lots of fast food. People eat a lot more lamb and fish. But MOST of our garbage food are still available (please send Cheez-its, Ruffles Sour Cream 'n Cheddar, McDonalds) just in different ways. People aren't so stoked on ketchup and prefer mayo. Oh and they LOVE licorice here. Having secured a position at a local eatery that caters to the late night drunks, I can guarantee I've sustained, if not worsened, my diet that I have developed in the service of the Great Trash Lord.

You are all invited to my funeral in 10 years.

The weather is dark and gloomy. Yesterday was the shortest day of the year, giving us barely 4 hours of "daylight," or, more appropriately, graylight. I hope all of you Americans are thanking your lucky stars for your warm winter. Everyone back home is under the impression that Iceland means extremely cold. Well, I'm sure that is true in some parts of the country, but for the most part, Reykjavik is tolerable. It's the wind that kills you! Plus, it's rainy a lot. It brings to mind the words of the great Alan Milner, "wind cuts like a knife/rain soaks to the bone." In fact, I make sure to alert my friends here that, yes, it's cold, but it's been colder.

It has been difficult to assess Icelandic culture because I have landed in the midst of the international community, and aside from facing the drunken crowds at 4am, have had very little contact with Icelandic folks. Although, I met an Icelandic guy the other day who loves Modern Life is War and Cursed. So that was tite!

Instead, I've been getting to know people from all over the world. Moeen tells me stories about growing up in some rough neighborhoods of Tehran, Neshmiya explained to me the process of arranged marriages in Pakistan, Ramon breaks down Spanish politics for me, Fraser and Jensen rub in how superior Canada is to the United States, and they ALL are amazing people with great stories.

Ladies, he's single! But watch out, he's a heartbreaker!!

Knowing that I would have missed out on the majority of these people had I come last year has really given me a new perspective. Perhaps there was a reason for my getting rejected last year, and I can't help but to think it has to do with all of the incredible people I have had the privilege of meeting. It seems an odd year to be in our program because so many people have been taking sabbaticals at critical moments. But with this new perspective, I keep my eyes peeled and believe that I will be directed to where I need to go.

My last final was a week ago Monday and boy, was it a whopper. I have only one final grade (8.5 out of 10) but still waiting on the other two classes. So far so good!

I still don't have an answer as to what I will do with this degree. But I love being here, I love learning about these things. As difficult as Old Norse has been, I have been coming along and doing well. Next semester sounds like it will be even more intense!

I have been toying with the idea of going to the Orkney Islands after I finish here to get a second masters (I am only 3 courses and a dissertation away) at the University of the Highlands and Islands. Two Viking master's degrees?!? WHO WILL BE ABLE TO STOP ME THEN???

As far as practical lessons from class (aside from improving my Old Norse translation skills), I have really developed an interest in historiography and memory studies. Icelandic history is such a convoluted web of copies and re-interpretations and political manipulation. So, I would like to focus on how and why manuscripts and stories were interpreted the way they were throughout history, and how the stories were remembered. If the sagas were originally oral stories, why were those versions written down? How do we explain the variances of texts when it comes to a collective memory? When a story is remembered differently, how do we explain which version is written down, and wherein lies the truth, if there is such a thing? These are the questions that have been popping up. And as my thesis draws closer, I hope to apply these questions to one particular person, Kalf Arnason, who we have discussed at length here on History Books.

Exciting stuff, huh??

This last week has been tough, as most of the Spaniards flew home, some for good, some just for the break. The Canadians abandoned us for North America. The guesthouse is a ghost town, and the idea of being so far from home over Xmas is starting to sink in. A big thank you to my wonderful cousins for sending me Xmas cards and to my incredible father for MAILING ME A GUITAR!!! It will certainly be a lonely holiday, but it helps to know people are thinking of me. I don't necessarily miss the United States, but I miss the people I care about very much. It's daunting to think it will be a year before I see most of you, but you are always welcome to come visit me here or in Oslo! Wink, wink, nudge nudge.

That's it for now, History Fans. We are going to get started on some translations for next semester.

Enjoy the holidays, tell your family and friends how much they mean to you, and we will see you in 2016.

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