By Gunnlaug Birta Þorgrímsdóttir from Búðardalur.
Here in Manitoba, Minnesota and North Dakota every single person has opened their arms for me and the other Snorris. It has been so sweet and I feel like home when I am here. The weather has been pretty warm and the mosquitos have been pretty agressive, but despite that the trip has been fabulous. Meeting my relatives in Winnipeg has to be the top though. These wonderful people Vaughan, Ainsley and Lorraine Bloomer hosted me and Vala for 5 nights. They told us many stories about their life and happenings and in that short time I made friends and family for life. We have also done some fun activites, we went to a zipline park, zoo, boat rides and interesting museums. At the stay in Brandon we got to see a musical ride whish was awesome. I had never seen anything like that in my life. In Winnipeg we visited the Icelandic Collection in the University of Manitoba. It is really remarkable to see that the library has a specific room for Icelandic books and treasures. Luckily for me I am studying Icelandic and have an interest in the language so I might be coming back to Manitoba in a few years to study here or perhaps teach. Being able to talk Icelandic to people who did not grow up in Iceland and did not learn Icelandic as a first language is really fun. Back when I was a kid I got mad because I had to study other languages to be able to talk to foreign people but nobody had to study Icelandic to be able to talk to Icelanders. Now I see that people choose (it's not an obligation) to learn Icelandic because they have Icelandic blood running through their veins and they are so proud of that. I had a wonderful talk with Rosalind Vigfusson, Jóel Friðfinnsson, John Johnson and others, and they all spoke nice and flawless Icelandic. This trip has changed me perspective on the world in ways I can‘t describe, I have made some promises about coming back here sooner than later and I tend to keep them.
Icelandic as A Secret Language
For me, one of the most interesting parts of the Snorri West program was meeting people of Icelandic descent and hearing their stories. It is amazing to meet these people. Some of them have been to Iceland 1-2 times in their lifes and they speak Icelandic fluently. Most of them learned from grandparents or parents. I also met people who wish that they had learned Icelandic. The reasons why they didn't learn to speak Icelandic are many, but I heard from more than one that parents had used Icelandic as a "secret" language so they could speak in front of their children and the children would not understand. Some people spoke Icelandic when they were younger but then they started school and just spoke English at school. It is wonderful to see how proud people are of their Icelandic heritage and many keep the Icelandic traditions, for example they celebrate Þorrablót and make food like kleinur and vínarterta. In the summer there are Icelandic celebrations in the USA and Canada and they take place on the same weekend. Deuce of August is a Icelandic heritage celebration in Mountain, North Dakota. It was the 117th time that the Deuce took place. We went to the Deuce on Saturday and participated in the parade with the newspaper Lögberg-Heimskringla and then we went to the Heritage Program, where there were speakers from Iceland and USA and a choir from Kópavogur, Iceland. Hecla parade was on Hecla Island on Sunday. In the parade, there was everything from Zumba dancing Viking to Icelandic X-files. The Icelandic Festival of Manitoba "Íslendingadagurinn" is a celebration in Gimli, Canada. It was the 127th time Íslendingadagurinn was held. We walked in the parade with Lögberg-Heimskringla, volunteered in the Snorri booth, saw the traditional program on the main stage and listened Fjallkonan, some speakers from Iceland and Canada and then went to the reception of the president of Islendingadagurinn. All of these Icelandic celebrations were amazing and fun to experience. It is great to see that people continue to celebrate their Icelandic heritage in this way.
A note from the editor: The Fjallkona of 2016 is Karen Botting, a former Snorri Plus participant.
Yesterday evening Vala and I went to what our host family (Barb and Eric) called “Music”. It was in Winnipeg Beach, and on the way there from Gimli we passed Siglavik, Miklavik and Husavik!
Every week, in a small café down by the harbour in Winnipeg Beach, people of all ages and origins gather with their instruments and play music together (mostly Celtic music). The youngest was a beautiful girl called Kate (she was maybe about 9/10 years old and was there with her grandmother and sister, all of first nations’ descent), the oldest an ancient looking toothless woman called Marian (I have no idea how old she is, but she plays with passion). They both played violins, so did two others and then there were people with flutes, guitars, Celtic drums, a ukulele and a strange looking electronic, strummy, keyboard thing.
It was amazing. They played song after song. Jolly, Irish songs that made me smile from ear to ear. Some of the songs sounded like memories I had just forgotten, some also had Icelandic lyrics that Vala and I could remember and then we sang along happily (Lok lok og læs og allt í stáli, Þá stundi Mundi, Lífið er lotterí).
When they played Ring of Fire everyone sang along and then Kate (the young girl) sang Folsom Prison Blues. It was wonderfully absurd to hear her sing about how she shot a man in Reno just to watch him die.
They asked us for an Icelandic song and we first sang Á Sprengisandi and later I taught them to sing Ólafur Liljurós with us. They truly nailed the “Villir hann, stillir hann”!
After more songs, including the Gimli Waltz (Kátir voru karlar) we all thanked for the entertainment and said our goodbyes.
Vala and I then stayed a bit longer as we received an invitation to join a couple on their boat in the harbour. From there we saw two beavers eating grass in the twilight.
What a wonderful evening with wonderful people. The woman who extended to us the invitation was of Swedish descent, the girls’ grandmother was part Scottish and the girl and her sister turned out to be part Icelandic. I don’t know what everyone else had in their genes but they all had music in their hearts. It was the perfect evening, one of many in this trip.
Ásta Sól Kristjánsdóttir
Blog editor and Manager of the Snorri and Snorri Plus Programs