21 December 2005

The Iceland Diaries IV -- Day 6

þriðjudagur, 20 Desember 2005

I'm an idiot.

I could've gone on the South Coast & Þórsmörk tour with Iceland Excursions but I blew it.

I woke up in time but sat there thinking about the tour too much. I figured there was no light for a good half of the trip and since it starts off at 8:30a.m. The first stop is Selfoss and that's only about half an hour away. Since it doesn't even begin to get light before about 10:30a.m. (sunrise is after 11:15), what would be the point?

Then I decided to go anyway -- after al, it beats wandering round doing nothing and and I'd certainly be able to see some of the sights even if the weather turns crap(pier). I called them to hold a seat and pick me up at a hotel close to here (where I stayed last time, a 3-minute walk). I'd called 10 minutes too late.

I went out for a cigarette and across the steet is a small playground for the house-size elementary school at the corner. The kids were being gathered up to go back inside. I saw the teacher hosing them off. It's two bloody degrees outside and there's a woman with a water hose spraying off the kids (who admittedly had been playing in a mud hole).

I read a bit and kept trying to get the camera to do effects it thought I could do without, insisting on giving me a perfect depth-of-field no matter how tight I made the aperture.

Around noon I decided I'd give the Super Jeep Safari tour a go. It looksed somewhat interesting and again, beat the shit out of wondering what to do. It says "Guaranteed daily departures at 13:30" right on the site.

When I called I was asked to call back in five minutes. OK, but that didn't sound too good. I gave the girl an extra five minutes and called back at 12:15. They're not going today since I'm the only one booking. Haa... Isn't there a guaranteed departure? "We can't go for just one person unless you'd like to pay for three." Some guarantee.

"Have you ever been on one of our tours before?
"Well perhaps you'd like to go on the Golden Circle tour. That's leaving today."
"Heyrðu," I said, "I'm speaking with you in Icelandic! Does it really sound like I've never been here before?"
"Well, yeah. OK."
"I'll call back Thursday about the South Coast trip."

I should've told her to call me if others book.

"But Doggie," I hear you saying, "Weren't you planning on going out to the middle of nowhere and shooting pictues for the duration of sunlight during the solstice?"

Yeah, that was the plan. Except that the weather is shit and I have no model. Nature pictures are great but they'd be a lot better with a person in them, ideally a Hottay. Or two. Or more. I'd also like to get some idea of where to go for better views, another reason to go on an overpriced tour.

I got a call from Og Vodaphone. It was some woman at the real tech support section finally asking about the problems I'd had with calls and even sending SMSes. I told her it was already sorted. "But what was the number you couldn't SMS?" Forget it, honey. It's working now. It took a while for someone in Germany to get through (can't use the 01081 cheap call service) but it's OK now.

The idea of travelling anywhere outside the city shot by both the strage versions of "guaranteed departures" and the constantly changing weather, I decided to hit Kringlan, the other mall. Maybe there's a camera shop there or some electronics store with CF cards bigger than 512MB; I need more cards for New Year's, having left one of my 3 1G CF cards at home. They'd be sufficient if not for the RAW format images which eat 7MB on top of the 2.3MB JPG.

I stopped at Aktu Taktu for my burger of the day. The 750kr meal deal quickly became 948kr, which got me larger fries (oops) and "cocktail" sauce which I'm used to being included in the price. The burger was small (very flat) and bare. The fries were lukewarm, barely seasoned and somewhat soggy. I had to drown everything in ketchup. Not recommended unless you're in a hurry since they have a drive-through, and not really even then.
Aktu Taktu
Aktu Taktu cheeseburger meal (T1): Give it a miss.

I headed off for the Hlemmur bus station intending to go to Kringlan. I got a Number 2 which was just about to leave and saw Vogar, the area with the outlet shops that tourists don't know about it. Same stuff as normal, considerably cheaper. There's a 66°North shop there, too. Unfortunately, I never noticed the Kringlan mall stop and after another five minutes noticed we were approaching Smáralind.

Fine, I need to go back into Vodaphone anyway. I'm going native which means using some of the phone's abilities, such as Web access. While my Nokia includes settings for Bahrain, Hungary and Saudi Arabia along with the more useful UK, Germany and France, Iceland is conspicuously absent. I couldn't make changes to the key settings and trying to use vodaphone.uk or .de as the gateway failed.

I went to the shop and an Og Vodaphone Hottay sorted me out. She had to set something in their system for my number and then went to work on the phone itself. The picture fails to capture her overall Hottay-ness but it was a surreptitious photo and she was lost in concentration, hiding the same frustration with this damned phone I often feel. But she succeeded it. I got onto Slashdot but had trouble with GMail, the main site I want to be able to check because the "News for Nerds" has had so little "Stuff that Matters" over the past five years.
Vodaphone Hottay
Vodaphone Hottay checks out my equipment

I walked around a bit more, found nothing interesting except a USB light for the computer for only 400kr (at Tiger) so I grabbed a bus back to town. It stopped at Mjödd (a major bus transfer point) and hopped off, both because I'd wanted to stop here anyway and also having seen a particular sign:

OK, a BSOD would've been more amusing but I see enough of those on the Munich public transport system. You take what you can get.

I remembered that Aldakalda had said that she couldn't make apple pie because there's no shortening in Iceland but I was sure I'd seen it once. There's a Netto supermarket in Mjödd, a pretty large European chain known for lower prices and decent variety of goods. Sure there was a Nóatún in the penis mall but I wasn't thinking of shortening then.

After quite a hunt I found the stuff hiding between butter and margarine in the chilled dairy room and got a photo so I wouldn't have to write anything down.

The bus back got caught in traffic on the last stretch to Hlemmur. The only other passenger was some kid whose parents kept calling him. He told them he was still in the bus and almost at the stop. The woman asked if he wasnted to get out there and he took her up on the offer. Then she asked me if I wanted to get off, too. Not yet. I want the stop at Vitastígur. She tried again in English and I tried again to say "Not yet". We were locked by traffic again about 50m from the actual stop but right at the alley I wanted. I asked if I could get out there and she opened the door.

I walked up back to the apartment and set the VCR to tape a couple shows, one in Swedish and one in Danish. Cop shows, I think. They're subtitled and since both my Danish and Swedish suck, I'll HAVE to understand by reading the subtitles.

The it was off to 22 to post. Bjössi was there and I offered him a Sambuca, asking if he'd forgotten me the other day, not an easy thing to do. No, he was just lost in thought. Or something. I sat down with a beer and got to checking a few sites inclding the ex-pat's site on which I found a thread about pulling a car out of a snow bank. Before it got to the payoff I recognised tags as being from Maryland. When the inevitable occurred, I laughed so hard that the people at the next table looked over so I replayed it for them. They laughed and started talking about where that had to be. I said (in Icelandic) the tag is from Maryland in the US. They nodded: silly Yanks. Then I said that that wasn't the worst part. Oh really? "Ég er frá Maryland". Much more laughter as I slid down in my seat.

One of the girls (the Hottay) asked where in Maryland I'm from. She has relatives in Richmond, VA and friends in Bethesdull. "Þú talar mjög goðar íslensku!" We talked for a bit and then I went back to writing as they went back to their conversation.

Atli came in as I was finishing and we talked for a bit. He's shopping for gifts and has no idea what to get but the stores are open until 10;00p.m. for the last days leading up to xmas. The hardest gift is for an ex-girlfriend who's now with a guy he despises. I tried to essplain that his revenge intention -- angering th guy and making the girl feel bad -- just ain't gonna work. He nodded but was dead-set on it.

Atli's leaving 22, too. Since telling them wasn't working he resorted to not coming in on his work days. It turns out the upstairs disco isn't closed; it was blocked until 1:00a.m. for a private party on Friday and running normally Saturday. Hmm... They're short-staffed but I don't really want to work in the kitchen; perhaps I could tend upstairs on Friday, though all the bars may be closing at 3:00a.m. this Friday/Saturday due to a legally enforced xmas quiet day. Still, it could be a lot of fun again. As he walked by to leave I asked Bjössi if he needed help but he was lost in some other thought and didn't know. I have to leave my number at the bar.

I was home before midnight and the VCR was still taping. Sandra had made some diinner for her and her kid who once again asked if he could have some Coke. WTF? It's just a bit late. I'm just not going into this. I had some various types of smoked salmon I'd bought earlier at Netto. The results: Birch-smoked is great, Beech-smoked isn't as good and I'm really tired of taðreykt (sheep-shit-smoked).

Earlier Sandra had said that xmas would take place at home. Her mother's bringing Peking Duck (duck for xmas yes, but Peking-style?), amma Kristin is bringing ham and Sandra is cooking hangikjöt which you actually cook earlier. It's smoked (yes, taðreykt) leg of lamb, cut into as many pieces as you want. You dump it in a pot with water and maybe a bit of sgar and cook it for half an hour, then let it cool. No veg, no spice, nothing. It's served cold with a warm, white sauce and some potatoes. I'll apprise in a couple days.

I drank some more voddie & Coke and made an early night of it, wondering when the hell I was actually going to do something more interesting than review a bunch of hamburgers. Rósa's singing tomorrow night around 9:00p.m. and I have the camera. I may go on the South Iceland tour on Thursday. Maybe work Friday night and deal with family issues Saturday. I'm finding a car and fucking off Sunday or Monday for a few days though I have no idea where to. Maybe up north to the West Fjords.


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