Friday, 30 September 2005
This hole, near the intersection of Bankastræti and Þingholtsstræti, appeared miraculously a few weeks ago. Sadly, I barely remember what used to fill it, though I once lived on this street and walked past this site many times a day. What will this hole's future be? We'll just have to wait and see...
By the way, this Uncyclopedia is a funny and unique take on Iceland and the world. Read and enjoy...!
Monday, 26 September 2005
A pretty statue by the town lake in Reykjavík, just the other side of the driving bridge that crosses the water. Unfortunately, some funny guy (or girl) marked over a certain sensitive spot with their black indelible marker. Kids, eh?
I'll have to add the artist and title of the piece later. Otherwise, all is well in our pretty little city. It's cold, with a crisp fall wind thrashing the leaves off trees and snow falling in the more northern cities. I'm busy with school and so have slacked off the blogging substantially. Not gone, though, just önnum kafinn í bili.
More pix soon...promise.
Saturday, 17 September 2005
Friday, 16 September 2005
There used to be a bench here at the intersection of Óðinsgata, Baldursgata and Nönnugata. As in yesterday there was a bench here, but now its gone.
The bench was always kind of odd because it raked slightly downhill which made you slip while you sat. It wasn't a very popular bench, but it gave you the feeling that this wide intersection had once been, or should be, a gathering spot of sorts. As a matter of fact, up until just a few years ago a popular neighborhood shop called Maggabúð had a home behind the two farther windows shown in the photo. I used to go buy milk for my amma at Maggabúð when we came to Iceland for visits when I was little and I know my mother and father, who were both raised within yards of this corner, have their own memories of the different businesses that used to flourish at this intersection including, I believe, a licorice factory. This used to be a thriving location, a gathering spot of sorts for the wider residential neighborhood. Now every one of the old store fronts has been turned into an apartment and we drive to supermarkets to do our shopping. A shame. Only one local specialty store has survived, aside from the very popular Þrír Frakkar restaurant, and that's the fish market on Freyjugata at Óðinsgata, owned and operated for years by a dedicated couple, of whom the husband happens to be my cousin. Oh, and right next door to them is the Venus sex shop, but that doesn't count somehow.
No, this bench wasn't very often used, and in the fall leaves would gather at its feet to rot over the winter. But there were a few old timers who sat there nearly every day, who met at the bench to chat and to watch the activities of the neighborhood take place around them, the children skipping and laughing, the tourists wandering by wtih their maps, well-dressed surburbians drive up for lunch or early dinner at Þrír Frakkar across the street.
It seems like, with this bench gone, an era is finally ending.
Wednesday, 7 September 2005
No fancy text today...just a pretty picture of University of Iceland students kicking a ball around on the front lawn of campus, with downtown Reykajvik in the backround and a big blue sky.
Oh, by the way, I've changed my comments to get rid of those pesky auto-spam-advert comments I just started getting. Thanks for the tip, Professor Batty!
Tuesday, 6 September 2005
Well, I'm back in the learning saddle again, this time to get my English teaching credentials. It's a pretty stiff year-long process which includes on-site assistant teaching at an elementary school. My first class, "Theories in Education" was yesterday, and it seems like it'll be very informative. I'm definitely going to pay deep attention during the courses on organization and curriculum developent because I have a tendency to create as I go, which can be exciting but not always very logical. My goal is to teach at the college/university level, though gaining momentum at the elementary level is definitely not a bad idea.
Life here in Reykjavik is pretty sweet these days. Of course gasoline prices are up to almost $7 a gallon, so we're walking a lot more, but the weather's good, etc.
There was a wierd spate of arson this weekend, but they were all minor fires probably set by stupid, bored and not too sober teens.
The country's politicians are gearing up for another round of elections, but since I can't seem to understand the Icelandic governmental system I have no idea who's running for what, or even when.
And finally for this post, there is actually a shortage of labor force here on the island: it seems there are not enough people willing to take on low wage jobs in preschool and after school care, restaurant and fast food, supermarket checkout and mail and newspaper delivery. Hmm...could it be because an hour's wages, buys you a sandwich and drink (but only at a grocery store, not at a restaurant) or a gallon of gas or half a pair of decent nylons? (i.e. an hour's minimum wage doesn't get you very far.)
Icelanders are very proud of their reputation for being well educated, with 100% literacy. But maybe the nation is educating itself out of a labor force...that is if a family's (modern) basic needs cannot be met with the minimum wage rate in this social democracy where it is now.
Just for fun, here's an example of modern life for a person who makes 1000 kronur per hour, decent wages for the above-mentioned jobs:
(Skip this if you don't like math or depressing social news)
Full-time wages per month, pre-tax: 160,000 kr.
Taxable income of that total: 90,000 kr.
Total of above amount after 40% tax: 54,000 kr.
Net monthly income (70,000 + 54,000): 124,000 kr.
(Union fees are deducted from your wages, plus other bizzare little amounts I'll never understand.)
Rent: av. 60,000 kr. for a two bdrm
Food & sundries: 25,000 kr.
Heat, water and electricity: 5,000 kr.
Phone, basic service: 3,000 kr.
Hot school lunch: 5,000 kr. per kid
Gas (just a guess): 10,000 kr.
Car lease: 13,000 kr.
Total: 121,000 kr.
That leaves 3,000 kr. for emergencies, entertainment and clothes. Hmmmm...
This is close to a real case scenario...I know someone, a single three-child parent, who gets a 140,000 paycheck once a month. She is well educated and is working as an accountant at a government-run museum. She has finally taken over the lease on a car because she had to move into a government-assisted apt a long way from where she works to be able to afford rent. Her son, 12, has a rare form of behavioural disability and needs, if not constant, then a lot, of care. She drives to work and back only. Swim classes for her 10 year-old daughter cost 8,000 a month and the government let her know last year that the special music classes they recommended for her son's development were not subsidized, and that she owed them months of backfees. She barely makes ends meet each month but just kind of grins and bares it. In all fairness, she receives some kind of bare baones alimony from her ex monthly and about 60,000 kr. per child every three months from the state. Thank god, eh? Of course I've heard that Hawaii is pretty expensive too...
(photo from Jónas Hallgrímsson: Selected Poetry and Prose)
Saturday, 3 September 2005
While cruising through GummiE's blog, I found a link to this site about a very important issue that I know has affected me personally. Check it out.
The above (generally content-looking) bums, by the way, most probably do not have blogs...
And one more thing: I have to say that offers of Hurricane Katrina disaster relief by Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, who God's own Pat Robertson said should simply be assasinated(watch him say it here), and Cuba's intrepid Fidel Castro prove very ingenous "diplomacy". Even Kofi Annan's UN relief-offer announcement the other day had a hint of irony and slight deprecation. Suddenly the lion has a thorn in its paw and all the "mice" of the world are offering to help pull it out, even the Evil Communist Enemy mice. Because its about people's survival, isn't it? Even if those people don't, in general, wear suits to work...
Friday, 2 September 2005
This is one of those fancy French pay potties being erected on Vegamótastígur just off Laugavegur in Reykjavík. I think this is the second one in town, the first being all the way downtown at Ingólfstorg, where all the little skater kids practice their ollies and slides.
While I was taking this picture, one of the worker guys kind of guffed and mumbled scoffingly, "You're taking pictures of this?"
I replied, "Yes, of this monstrosity."
"Monstrosity? What do you mean?" he questioned, sounding kind of offended.
"I mean that it's ridiculous and that on weekends there are going to be more guys peeing on the outside of it than ever pay to go inside." And I pointed at the two bars just a few yards away.
But I guess they're good for tourists, eh? I mean the locals know that all you have to do is go up to the second floor of Mál og Menning, the big bookstore at Laugavegur 18, and use the toilet there (when you go up the main stairs its through the door to the right.) Or of course just pop into just about any coffee shop, grab a latte to go and use the facilities.
But its nice to offer this kind of service, at a 100 kronur per pop, to our friends from other countries. Valentina tells me that you have to be 10 years old to use these auto potties by yourself. That's good to know.
I've just never actually seen anybody use the one at Ingólfstorg, and this one is in a much stranger location, propped up on an odd side street that runs between Laugavegur and Skólavörðurstígur, just a wall's width from the midtown jailyard (that's the jail wall in the photo). Are there going to be signs posted throughout town directing visitors to this unit, or are the city planners just hoping people will stumble upon it by happenstance, or maybe find out by word of mouth?
Anyway, its already been tagged with grafitti and I guarantee by the end of the weekend it will have been put to use as a relief station, just wrong way out.