Thursday, 27 October 2005

Raising Voices

Here is just a sampling of the nearly 50,000 women (and a couple hundred men) who took to the streets of Reykjavik on Monday to protest wage discrimination here in Iceland. At 2:08 pm, many thousands of women left their jobs for the day to meet up in front of Hallgrímskirkja and march down Skólavörðurstígur.

Why the odd time of day? Well, some clever statisticians figured out that that is the time of day when men, on average, make what it takes a woman to make for a full 8-hour work day. Not such a pretty picture, is it?

The date, October 24th, commemorates thirty years since women throughout Iceland walked out of work, all work. Even the daily chores of home and hearth. Iceland basically shut down for a day. The men were in shock, the children hungry. It was an amazing moment in Icelandic history...

The day was successful in raising awareness, once again, of women's place in modern society. But it's ultimately up to us parents, aunts and uncles and instructors to teach our children, boys and girls alike, to respect and value each other as members of the same nation and, ultimately, the same human race.

P.s. the signs say "We deserve better"

Saturday, 15 October 2005

Castle & Sky

This attractive crenelated building, named Galtafell (meaning Hog Hill), was built in 1916 by Petur Thorsteinsson for Bjarni Jónsson, brother to Iceland's most famous scuptor, Einar Jónsson. It's actually for sale for $1.9 million, if you're looking to buy property in Iceland. It's 4700 square feet and in an absolutely lovely location. Think it over...

I had thought that this building had housed the consulate to Malta here in Reykjavík because I was in University with a girl who lived here: her father was some kind of consulate and Malta always stuck in my mind. But it seems its been a guesthouse for a while now. Just goes to show how creative our minds can be with bits of information.

Malta is very interesting, though. It's a country with an only slightly larger population than Iceland, with 400,000 citizens who are jam-packed onto two rocky islands totalling only 115 square miles. Talk about crowded.

Without meaning any disrespect to my own island culture, I have to say Malta's history kicks Iceland's Viking butt any day. Thought to have been settled by an ancient civilization in the very early bronze age, more than 7,000 years ago, Malta has been changing hands ever since: from Vandals to Arabs to Brits, the country has been plucked from the Mediterranean as a prize by countless land-hungry rulers, and pawned for trade a number of times. Icelanders, on the other hand, have written a couple of famous books and have managed to cling to their lava rock for about a thousand years or so. A mean feat in itself, but slightly less fantastic sounding than the saga of the Maltese.

Back to the house: this castle style was very popular here in Reykjavik in the early part of the past century, and particularly at the intersection of Laufásvegur and Bragagata (on the lower left edge of this map). There are three large and impressive structures with castle tops there, including my daughter Valentína's pre-school alma mater, Laufásborg. Though a slightly odd design element, the crenelations definitely add an interesting touch to the mid-town Reykjavík scenery.