Posted by: jeanne | July 1, 2013

(a year in advance)

in exactly a year, i will be starting my residency in olafsfjordur. i will have dealt with the timing of the journey, i will have gotten tickets, i will have packed and repacked a dozen times to get the weight of my checked bag down within limits.

at this point, i am preparing in the following ways:

every now and then i try to find out how much the ticket will cost.  it’s too early by several months to actually get a price, because they only book 331 days ahead, and it’s 360+ now.  i look at my itinerary and try to decide whether to fly in just in time to get there (stay in reykjavik the first night, take a bus to akureyri, stay in akureyri the second night, take a bus to olafs), which means flying on a sunday, which is never a good price.  or do i go when the prices are best, which means thursday or maybe friday at the latest, and then have 3-4 days in a hostel somewhere between reykjavik and olafsfjordur.  (in iceland, hostels cost up to several hundred bucks a night (and this is completely understandable, because summer is short, and it’s tourist season, when they make most of their money, so prices for a place to sleep are fair game), but there are ways to keep this to a minimum.  like, if i brought a tent i could stay in campgrounds, and there is one in every town.)

i’m working in back and forth emails with my residency director to arrange a public art project i would like to do.  i have discussed this in a few posts both here and here.  it’s the conceptual stage at this point, but every time the idea changes, i get to do more research and send emails to more people.  i have been studying up on horticulture and which plants grow in north iceland, and i have been studying icelandic folklore and fairytales, and reading up on huldufolk and their ways.  my residency director has been contacting the owners of possible sites and various city officials to see what is possible, and i have been restraining myself from contacting anyone that she should probably talk to first.  i am very conscious of being a stranger, and want at all costs to avoid a colonial attitude. 

i’ve been learning icelandic hahahahahahaha.  i have been listening to icelandic tv in the background, watching a few youtube videos on icelandic vocabulary, have been skimming thru an icelandic language primer without doing the exercises, and follow an icelandic writer on facebook, dutifully translating and sounding out everything he posts.  but it’s having an effect.  i can hear some words now when i listen, and i can tell some forms of words, and i know a tiny bit of vocabulary.  i will never be able to have a conversation, but i might be able to tell what people are saying, and i should be able to puzzle out written signage and menus and the newspaper.

except that, even tho they say icelandic is just like old norse, it’s not.  they don’t spell it the same way; they don’t mean it the same way.  the vocabulary has completely changed since 800 ad, slang is untranslatable by google translate, and icelanders love references, allusions, sarcasm; things that you need to be one of them to understand.  so i will try to avoid embarrassing myself and irritating them by trying to speak icelandic, and will try to behave the way i do in ireland, as if i’m the butt of every joke.

i’m still collecting little bits of the things i’ll be taking with me.  i got a good pair of boots, i got a wax jacket from my sister (thanks suse) and rewaterproofed it, i’ve found thermals, i bought a travel towel, i’ve got my backpack and my rolly bag and found a nifty cosmetic kit i can use for art supplies.  they’re all stashed away until it’s time to start packing and unpacking my bags.

and finally, i’m trying to get my novel up to speed so that i can be writing the part i want to be writing when i’m in the place where i want to be writing it.  it has taken me far longer than i hoped to get as far as i have, and the work i have is hopeless and needs extensive revision (rewriting).  nonetheless, i will start as i planned when i get to my residency, and try to salvage the rest of it when i get back.  after all, it’s three novels in one, why not?

so, a year in advance, i’m ready to go.

i only have to nail down a whole network of people and arrangements for a public art project that is secondary to the real reason i’m going, which is to write.  i only have to figure out the best timing and buy my tickets.  i only have to get everything together and pack it up several times.  i only have to arrange for things to run smoothly when i’m not home for 5 weeks.  it’s all ongoing, and will take a whole year to work out.

more later.


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