I’m in Iceland! That still seems almost unreal, though I’ve been here for a week already. In the past week in Reykjavík, three things have become very clear:
Númer 1. Icelandic is hard to speak. I’m not talking about the grammar or the vocabulary which, since Icelandic is a Germanic language, are probably easier for an English speaker than in many other languages. No, I’m talking about actually making the sounds of the language. First of all, there are difficult consonant clusters – nn, rn, tn, ll, etc. These are the reason I accidentally ordered a Fanta when I wanted a water (Icelandic: vatn) and the reason everyone stumbled over Eyjafjallajökull when it erupted in 2010. To be fair though, these sounds are part of the reason Icelandic is so wonderful to listen to, so I really can’t complain.
Another difficulty in speaking Icelandic is the inhaling-já which peppers Icelandic conversation. In English, we generally speak while exhaling and thus get out of breath after long sentences. Icelanders, however, often inhale while saying já (yes). After about a week of concerted practice, I can finally do a passable inhaling-já.
Númer 2. Iceland is very, very small. The capital Reykjavík feels more like a small town than a city. I don’t even need to ride the bus because it takes no time to just walk from place to place in Reykjavík. I didn’t really realize how small Iceland was until our class met the former first lady of Iceland. Literally. Apparently a good friend of our teacher Ulfar, Jónína Leósdóttir is an accomplished journalist and author as well as the wife of the former Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir. Jónína talked to our class about her career as an Icelandic writer and her life with Jóhanna, the first openly lesbian head of government in the world. I was ridiculously excited to be meeting the former first lady, but it seemed like a usual occurrence for the Icelanders – and why wouldn’t it when just today the new president, who was formerly a professor at the University of Iceland, stopped by his university office next to our class!
Númer 3. Iceland is absolutely beautiful. With the ocean, the mountains, the glaciers, and the lava fields, it’s unlike anywhere I’ve ever been. Although the midnight sun has taken a while to get used to, I’ll deal with lack of night if it means experiencing this beautiful country!
Sjáumst! (See you later!)