iceland is like summer camp

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They weren’t kidding when they said this place is homey. Quite literally, anywhere we go — cafes, tourist spots, geysers, car rental place — we bump into people we’ve met. And, every Icelander knows every other Icelander. No kidding. We wanted to go to a penis museum, but the 7-hour drive was judged too far. (But not by much.) Our new host (see below) had the curator as a Spanish teacher.

We’re now staying at Audur’s. It’s a gigantic step up from Sabrina’s: we have our own room, two beds, a host that’s not scarily insane, and no kids who practice with your toothbrush.  Only real detriment is the lack of a sink in the bathroom. (It’s awfully weird.) And while Audur and her boyfriend are certainly doing their utmost to make us feel comfortable, we’re just not yet ready to brush our teeth in the kitchen sink.

Audur and her boyfriend aren’t married. Neither, it seems, is anyone else. It’s just not a big deal here — some marry, many don’t, and children don’t really factor into the decision. (This seems to be a Scandinavian thing, though I’m not really qualified to say.)  But the ‘progressiveness’ — at least from a Western vantage — is somewhat selective. Vegetarianism is rare. Animal rights activism is spotty. There aren’t any blacks (seriously), and only a couple dozen of any minority, so racism isn’t much of a problem. (To qualify: we’ve just been asking locals, and mostly in Reykjavik, so I could very well have no idea what I’m talking about. (Qualification to qualification: 60% of the population lives in Reykjavik.)) But until recently, there were roughly ten thousand Polish immigrants in the country, doing menial labor & c. When everything went batshit, they stopped paying these Poles  in euros, and they rioted. We’ve seen a good deal of bitterness among the locals towards these Poles. (“Thieves” is a common invective hurled.)

Okay, ambassador meeting has been postponed until Monday. We were up early, rented a car, and did the Golden Circle, which sounds a lot more ominous/exciting than it is. We visited, in order: a scenic spot significant only for its geology — two teutonic plates meet, though you would never know unless you overheard the cute French guide next to you — and the fact that the Icelandic parliament used to be here — a thousand years ago; a geyser, which, I’m sorry, is boring (okay, we ran like scared little girls the first time it exploded); and a waterfall, which was actually stunning.

That waterfall — or the tourists at the waterfall, rather — bring me to my first short rant: the cameras. I fully support ‘recording the moment’ and/or the manufacture of genuine art viz. photography. But it’s taken way too far: many abandon the actual experience for its preservation. The site becomes, first and foremost, fodder for the lens, an instantly-saved and -stored digital phenomenon to be (ostensibly) enjoyed/cherished later. (Which never happens, or if it does, causes great pain and boredom to the poor souls subjected to the slideshow. And digital photography stretches those slide shows very near to infinite in length.) I once traveled with a friend, Uri, to Prague. We visited the museums, natch, but he never even saw the displays. All he did was snap photos of the displays. Something very real is lost when we’re substituting an encounter with nature/art/whatever for a pixellated static image of said encounter.

Whoa. Sorry for that. I’ll get back to strippers and puffin-impersonations. And, exciting news — The Reykjavik Grapevine is interested in an article. (If anyone reading this has any solid ideas/angles, do let me know.)

Written by menachemkaiser

21 August at 13:47

Posted in rants

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