Monday, June 18, 2012


Another month disappeared into sunsets and days of work and nothing but work.
"You turned into an icelandic slave, that's how we are," nodded the woman at the woolshop when I met her for a chat last week. "How do you like it to be an icelandic slave?"
Work is the best drug, I told her, and she nodded again with a sad, warm and knowing smile.

Meanwhile I am able to do conversations in Icelandic. Full of mistakes, but speaking, just speaking, even to the policeofficer, after my riding equipment was stolen. Either you row your boat alone, or you will drown. No one will take an oar, you have two hands, use them. So I learned to speak, to not drown.

Maybe my way to learn the language is the most peculiar one: as there is no one to talk to (apart from the disabled persons I care for in my work, but their language is more a matter of imagination than of understanding) I read. I read like hell, read books, internet, read the national newspaper every day and my favourite pages are the minningargreinar.

Minningargrein is an Icelandic speciality, a neat and touching one - and a window to a people's soul that they are not willing to open in direct contact. But they reveal it - quite strangely - in public. (well, a blog is very much the same.) When someone dies, family members and friends write articles about the person and send them to the newspaper to share them in public.

It is like someone telling you stories (I love listening to stories), gives you the opportunity to take a look into the fraenka-society you are not enabled to enter. You will read about a long familylife, discover exciting stories about passion, about people moving from one place to the other, about coincidences, about dramatic accidents you have been reading in the news like the captain of the sunk trawler, you will find funny, strange and sad memories, and much too often read about a brave and short fight against cancer in young age  - and about unbelievable personal drama, like the flight controller who drank himself to death, with his ex-wife living next door who didn't want to leave him for the sake of the kids. First time that I read about alcohol in a minningargrein. Or the man who committed suicide 20 years ago, and his sister writing a minningargrein in memory of that day to remind about the numerous silent suicides in Iceland.

This one touched me the most: - some Jói died at the age of 51 in his home, no facts about his family, no one left behind, a lonely person without history (though icelandic) - but his neighbour (or lover?) wrote these lines in memory for him:
Jói í kjallaranum.
Jói heimilisköttur okkar.
Svo viðkæmur.
Svo erfitt.
Erfitt að
Ég þekkti þig ekki
og þó þekkti ég þig.
fallega brosið tþitt,
hlyjuna í þér.
Brosið fyrir börnin mín,
og brosið fyrir mig.
Uti að skemmta sér.
Biðið aðeins,
ég ætla ad rugla.
Þad var Jói.
og fann ekki.
Alltaf til staðar
og þó í burtu.
Nú forstu burtu
og ég vona
ad þér líði vel núna,
því þad áttu svo margfaldlega skilið.

(Jói, in the cellar, our cat, so sensitive, so difficult, I knew you and didn't know you. Your beautiful smile, the calm inside of you. Your smile for my kids, and smile for me. Out on party. Wait, I'm just going to confuse. That was Jói. Searching and never finding. Always on the spot and soon gone. Now you are gone and I hope, you feel better, as you gave it back in so many ways.)

These lines mesmerize deeper than 10 minningargreinar.
They remind that there is always a warm, caring heart next door.