After our first 2 weeks in Reykjavik we all got sent of on our own journey's, I happened to be sent off to the farm where my great great great grandpa was raised, Sveinsstaðir just 20 min south from Blönduós. The farm is now run by Ólafur Magnússon and his wife Inga Sóley Jónsdóttir, they have three children, an eight year old daughter named Sunna, a 7 year old daughter named Salka and a 5 year old son named Magnús after his afi. Not only was I here at my family's old homestead I was here to help Óli, as I called him, to raise a new barn for sheep, to add and build onto the "family farm". This was a great feeling knowing that this whole place has been raised by decedent's of my family and I'm here to help keep it going. The house I'm staying in was built in 1929, and 86 years later I'm back to build the newest addition to the farm. Which made for a busy life here between pouring concrete and herding sheep up to the highlands, I've been getting pretty exhausted. But luckily my host family knows I'm not here to do all the hard work, they've taken time to show me around. After our first week of hard work, Magnús, Oli's dad, and his wife Björg had then taken me for a road trip from Sveinsstaðir to Akureyri and everywhere in between. It was a fantastic trip and it was nice being able to see so much of Iceland. Óli, after one long hard day of prepping rebar for our next concrete pour, decided to treat me and his family with a visit to the swimming pool in Blönduós, which was exactly what I felt I needed. The next weekend (the last weekend before I leave back to Reykjavík) Magnús decided to take me for a fly in his private Cessna to give me an even greater view of Icelands beauty, which could be undoubtedly the best way to tour. All in all, I am genuinely greatful for what my host family had to offer and sadly my time here is almost come to an end, this is truly an experience I have taken to heart. I couldn't have dreamed of a better 3 weeks on a farm here in Iceland.
I had these irrational fears of children and horses before travelling to Iceland. Kids made me feel awkward as I never had younger siblings and will forever be "the baby" of the family. Horses' size, strength, and capability intimidated me as I've only rode one (sneaking out when I wasn't allowed, no less) and she bucked me off.
But the fear wasn't very reasonable and my perspective mutated as I've seen the beauty and intelligence in these beings.
Bergey Jökla is the name given to the bright-eyed little girl that won my heart. We created magic together sitting down with an unflattened Cheerios box in front of us- my preferred canvas I always used in my own childhood- and tubs of felts and crayons as our wands.
Bergey would dramatically scribble and dot the cardboard much in the fashion of a maestro, and I would locate faces and features within and help pull them forward.
I quickly saw that she and I had so much in common, there was no way I would feel afraid or awkward with her.
Now that I've moved from the farm Bústaðir back to Sauðárkrókur farm I miss the little Bergey hum, her song of life, that would narrate her days. I miss playing with her and being weird and animistic and true to ourselves. I feel like the time we spent together recharged my inner child.
When it came to horseback riding, I was more than willing to face this fear, as I recognized that that's the only way to overcome it. I couldn't have asked for it to unroll more beautifully...
Kári and Magga, my host parents, got suited up and prepared the animals to ride them out into what was an extremely foggy evening. I was given the reins belonging to Jarpur; name meaning auburn. Respectfully handling and being in close proximity with the creature felt comforting like being with a friend. I mounted him and we set off into the farmlands, each step of Jarpur's symbolized a step forward in our unison and my trust of him. The wet misting of the fog on my face and the cool clouds of breath coming from my horse navigated the ride. We came up to a glacial river and Jarpur stopped and hesitated but I feel like we had an unspoken, almost psychic communication. He was kind to me and gently started through the water.
The fog was thick as pea soup, only the grassy field, cloud-like tufts of wool snagged on barbed-wire fences, and the view of his mane were clearly visible. A group of neighbouring horses came running over and ran to the same beat as us like a tribal drum. I distinctly remember at this moment thinking, "This feels more like a dream than being planted in the waking world." The surreal beauty of the moment had me suspended in awe.
In life back home, being caught up in unnecessary phobias had closed doors to beautiful experiences. I feel that Iceland has gifted me in opening me up and I've initiated new possibilities for when I return to Canada, and from now on.
Hraun didn't get its name from nothing - the farm is surrounded by a large field of lava and moss. Once you drive beyond the lava, the farm appears as an oasis, filled with yellow flowers and grazing horses, all along the Ölfus river. It is the first place I've stayed at a farm in this three week work/homestay period. I've never spent any amount of time on a farm before, so I wasn't entirely sure what to expect. Honestly, before I got here, I didn't even know what sort of farm it was. Now, three days in, it seems their work here is a little bit of everything. Their land extends almost all the way to the sea, and they make use of all of it. They package and sell dulse seaweed snacks, keep horses, grow turnips, and sell sand, amongst other things. My activities have largely revolved around the seaweed so far, but each day has brought something new.
Today, I decided I was going to go out and explore some of the land closer to the road. Elsewhere, I had been warned to exercise precaution when exploring the lava fields. The thick moss that grows over the tops of the rocks can sometimes disguise a small hole as solid ground, and it's possible to seriously hurt yourself. While I took this advice to heart (falling into a moss-covered lava crevice would be just my luck, honestly), I figured that as long as I was extra careful, I shouldn't need to worry. It was with that in mind that I embarked on my journey. I had already taken some pictures when I came across what looked to be a small cave. I grew incredibly curious, and against my better judgement I decided to check it out. I stepped slowly towards, checking to make sure the ground underneath me wasn't going to give way. As I came to realize that the ground there was pretty stable, I became more confident, and began walking at a normal pace. This was, evidently, a bad move, because it was shortly afterwards that I lost balance and slid forward, descending into the cave. This all sounds very dramatic, but I should probably clarify that the cave was pretty small. So much so, that I was able to crawl out without any difficulty. That all being said, I'm pretty sure my life flashed before my eyes as I fell. It was definitely an experience I won't soon forget.
I traveled with the daughter of my host, Maja, and her husband Arnar to the tiny fishing village Hjalteyri. It has 43 inhabitants and most of the homes are marvelously preserved from the late 1800's. The factory there, founded in 1937, used to be the largest herring meal and oil processing factory in the world (fascinating, I know) it is now closed and is an artist studio and a diving center. I had researched the water currents of the Eyjafjörður fjord and wanted to come here to collect sea water (on the West side of the fjord, away from Akureyri, the water here is the purest ocean water and the least diluted by glacier runoff and affected by pollution that I could feasibly get to on a quick afternoon trip). Why was I collecting sea water? To boil it all down and make sea salt! An interesting souvenir to bring home!
The Ólafsfjörður fog devours the small fishing town in a blanket of vapour. Clouds roll down the mountains, cutting off the horizon with an opaque wall of white – as if drawn by some lazy artist who found a new commission and dropped her hobby piece, the sky left featureless in her absence.
I’d imagine – if not for the town being accessible only by tunnels which themselves tumble out of the mountains – you’d be able to see cars punching through the fogbank; suddenly appearing out of thin air. Transported into the tiny bubble of Ólafsfjörður and captured. Made heavy with dampness, as the wet air slaps its spongy stroke onto any dry surface it can find. No car in Ólafsfjörður goes outside without a coat of water drops, whether it rains or not.
This weekend my family gathers there to mourn the passing of a brother, father, grandfather. I am invited for the reunion however, not to the funeral – nor should I be, I didn’t know the man. I am perhaps only family in the way everyone in Iceland is family – bound together under a legacy of our grandparents’ hardship against rough winters and volcanic fire. A shared sense of something like guilt, but not quite, just the feeling that others had to suffer before us to make our lamb-stuffed stomachs and drunken revelry possible. The only cure for this feeling might be more lamb and wine.
Tents are erected on wet valley grass, children scream and play football, adults turn to the bathhouse for release from a long week. The ever-present smell of Ólafsfjörður's fish factories doesn’t bother them the same way it does me – a punch in the gut and a muffled retch with each strong gust of wind from the sea. I’m saved only when evening arrives, and the mouth-watering aroma of roast lamb burns away everything else.
Death marks a calendar justification for the family reunion – but it doesn’t mar the tone of the occasion. There are maybe sixty of us in all, with enough food and drink for twice that.
“Are all these people related to us?” The flow of Icelandic chatter – between a pair of recently introduced cousins – is broken. I pick up a word or two occasionally, but never enough to know how serious the conversation I’ve interrupted is. This makes my questions short, anxious.
“Yes, in some way or another. It’s basically a big clan meeting, you see.”
I laugh, “Better make sure the chieftain knows what we want before his trip to Thingvellir.”
A drunken adult says almost the same sentence back at me – perhaps mistaking my own voice for that of her conscience – and adds; “That’s what it is though, really, except these days we don’t have to butcher Gudrun out back to solve a land dispute.”
Gudrun manages to smile warily, consulting her glass for some assistance in understanding why my new cousin finds butchering her so hilarious.
When the lamb, waffles and coffee run dry, the clan must return to their tents. Iceland’s summer sun is unrelenting though, and the frivolous fixations of intoxication make 3AM the perfect time for me to explore the fog-soaked mountains. While the others tuck into sleeping bags and begin the squeaky wiggle of trying to get comfortable on an air mattress, I fetch my camera and begin climbing.
Thick air and a light head make the hike harder than I’d like, but I set my sights on a lookout that pokes through the clouds. The silence is complete, save the wind and one lonely flagpole tapping out a quiet, erratic rhythm as wire brushes on steel. The lights of the city are on, but the town may as well be deserted. The streets are empty, houses are silent, windows are dark.
I take a photo. The shutter click is deafening. I keep hiking.
It’s hard to tell what’s fog and what’s cloud. I’ve never seen fog that hangs twenty meters above the ground, but I’ve never seen clouds that come down so close to earth either. The walk takes a decent while, the silence only broken by single, long bird calls from birds I can’t see. A little bit of isolation shock begins to set in, as I realise how far I am from the warm atmosphere of drunken family I occupied a few hours ago.
As the city below sinks away I try to take another photo, but find I can’t lift the camera to my eye.
I am terrified.
I can’t bring myself to give up the peripheral vision required to look through the viewfinder – animal hindbrain blazing with paranoia. I can’t see into the fog, so I don’t know what’s waiting in there. I’m alone, on a thin mountain path, exposed and vulnerable. The fog brings to light my most childish fears – images of being torn apart by blood crazed mountain cannibals. Nightmare fuel.
At the same time every reasonable thought in my head is attempting to find purchase on my mind. This is serene – I say to myself – meditative. But the feeling of loneliness is palpable. Just as the wall of fog whitewashed the horizon earlier, the whole mountain in front of me now looks like an unfinished painting – a strip of gravel path on a canvas of white abyss. The fear accompanying this feeling of blindness is so primal that I can’t uproot it.
My eyes are wet. I am terrified of the Ólafsfjörður fog.
But surely the lookout isn’t much further, so I break into a sprint. It comes soon enough, but it’s a hollow reward. The weather of Iceland is temperamental at the best of times. The lookout is no longer puncturing the fog. It’s now buried in it.
I sit at the peak; catch my breath and quick point the camera at myself, and more importantly at anything behind me. Children’s fears have children’s solutions. Ghosts can’t get you under blankets, and mountain cannibals won’t come out while they’re being watched, be it by camera or human eye.
It is beautiful up here, that’s undeniable. Like the moon, or at least some place otherworldly, because the world can’t be seen outside of my tiny bubble. It could not exist; I could relax in total peace. Alas, the mountain cannibals await just that very thing, I’m sure of it.
I wish I could say I calmed myself in meditation on the lookout – enjoying the peace that can only be found when occupying a hilltop in solitude. But no, eventually the wind picked up – and along with the smell of fish came the familiar sight of city lights.
I ran home, to my tent, to my clan, to the squeak of air mattresses.
Far away from the mountain cannibals of the Ólafsfjörður fog.
A group of 16 Snorri participants; 12 girls & 4 boys; 5 from the US and 11 from Canada, arrived in Iceland early in the morning on June 14. After wonderful but busy 2 weeks at the University of Iceland and different visits like to the President of Iceland, Canadian and American Embassies, the Icelandic Parliament and events such as Höfundur óþekktur concert at Harpa, Icelandic Night and river rafting, the big day finally arrived. June 26 all 16 Snorris each took on a different journey to their relatives outside of the "big" city; very exciting but a bit scary at the same time. This is where they are staying (some at more than one place for the 3 weeks): Akureyri, Svalbarðseyri (the farm Hallandi), Grund farm Eyjafirði, Selfoss, Egilsstaðir, Seglbúðir farm by Kirkjubæjarklaustur, Blönduós, Sveinsstaðir in Húnavatnssýsla, Sauðárkrókur and Bústaðir farm, Einarsstaðir farm Þingeyjarsýsla, Njarðvík, Hveragerði, Hafnarfjörður, Mosfellsbær, Reykjavík, Ísafjörður, Vestmannaeyjar, a farm by Þingvellir National Park and Höfn í Hornafirði.
Lots of adventures and life-changing experiences.
Góða ferð Snorrar!
Snorri West er 4 vikna sumarferðalag um Íslendingabyggðir í N-Ameríku fyrir ungt fólk á aldrinum 18-28 ára. Þátttakendur heimsækja byggðir Vestur-Íslendinga í Vancouver, Victoria, Seattle, Nanaimo, Pt. Roberts og Blaine ásamt því að taka þátt í grillveislum, fara í fjallgöngur, á tónleika, fagna þjóðhátíðardögum og njóta lífsins.
Kynningarfundur verður haldinn í Sendiráði Kanada, Túngötu 14 fimmtudaginn 12. febrúar kl. 20. Veitingar í boði sendiráðsins. Einnig verður upplýsingaborð á Útþrá í Hinu húsinu fimmtudaginn 19. febrúar milli kl. 16 og 18.
Frekari upplýsingar og umsóknareyðublöð má finna á www.snorri.is
Umsóknarfrestur er 20.febrúar, 2015
Snorri West er á Youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2gpFYfhBpko
& Facebook - www.facebook.com/snorriwest
Would you like a North American Summer Adventure?
Snorri West is a 4 week summer travel to the Icelandic settlements in North-America for 18-28 year olds. Participants visit settlements in Vancouver, Victoria, Seattle, Nanaimo, Pt. Roberts and Blaine, as well as taking part in hikes, BBQ’s, concerts, celebrating national holidays and enjoying life.
Intro Night at the Canadian Embassy, Túngata 14, Thursday February 12 at 8 PM. Refreshments provided by the Embassy. Snorri West will also be part of Útþrá at Hitt húsið (Center for young people Pósthússtræti) from 4-6 PM Thursday February 19.
More information and application forms on www.snorri.is
Deadline February 20, 2015
Snorri West is on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6x1bSshSEGM
& Facebook - www.facebook.com/snorriwest
Gleðileg jól my Snorris!
Please help spread the word on Snorri Programming as usual.
Our deadlines are:
Snorri: January 14
Snorri Plus January 28
Snorri West: March 3
I will be on maternity leave until December 1, 2014. Please contact Ástrós Signýjardóttir with anything regarding Snorri - astros(at)snorri.is
The sea salt smell, the buzzing sounds of tourists, the rainbow of docked vessels; this is Reykjavík's old harbour.
I couldn't be happier spending the majority of my days working by the water. Perhaps because it reminds me of my native port city Halifax. Or maybe it's the flutter of excited tourists which in turn inspires me. Whatever the case may be I've found a new love for the Harbour working at the Elding whale watching company.
My day starts at the cozy boardwalk kiosk, selling tickets and answering questions about the company's tours. Elding offers a variety of activities for those eager to enjoy the ocean. From puffin and whale tours, to sea angling and trips to Viðey island. I then make my way onto one of the tour vessels working as cabin crew - a job which delightfully combines whale spotting on the upper deck and coffee-slinging down in the saloon. The cetaceans we see are plentiful, most commonly the Minke Whale, the Humpback Whale, the White-Beaked Dolphin and the Harbour Porpoise. And of course a special shout-out to the Atlantic Puffin of which the majority of the world's species comes to Iceland to get "jiggy with it". Folks here are really into puffins. I'm still not sure why.
I often take living by the sea for granted. I'll rarely go the boardwalk back home, complaining that it smells bad and there are too many tourists. However having spent the last three weeks immersed in this environment I can say I've rethought my stance. I can see now why would-be land-locked tourists are so in awe of the ocean. I can't ever imagine living away from it.
-Hannah Goodman from Halifax, NS
I am in Höfn for my work experience part of the Snorri 2013 program. Höfn is a small fishing town in the south east part of Iceland. It's surrounded by the ocean on 3 sides , the population including the surrounding country is around 2,400 people. I'm a city girl so I haven't experienced small town life nor have I lived close to the ocean so these are new experiences for me. Höfn has shown me that a small town has lots to offer, just different things than a city would. Here I am able to look out my bedroom window and see the mountains.
I have enjoyed my time here, it's very relaxing, has great landscape and the people are very friendly. I like that I can walk to most places in town, where as at home I have to drive everywhere. I was taught to drive a standard car though. It was a little scary but also something I never thought I would learn. I've have spent time with my family and they have shown me the old family farm, we have driven to the mountains and gone to the glacier lagoon.
Living on the ocean is a lot different from my home in Alberta, the weather in Höfn can change quickly and there is more rain than I thought. The scenery is beautiful, with the ocean, mountains and the glacier Vatnajokull, which is the largest glacier in Europe. I have enjoyed going for walks and taking pictures of the town and surrounding area.
Life in a small coastal town has been a great experience and I have learned a lot. I have a better understanding and appreciation of life in a small town. I'm enjoying my time here but I'm also looking forward to seeing the city back at home!
-Eden Lane from St. Albert, Alberta