Jen's Journey: Kickin't It in Iceland (Part 2)

Jennifer Holton
Jennifer Holton

Former ODU women's soccer player and current assistant coach Jen Holton is playing professional soccer in Iceland this summer. She'll be checking in with with updates from her travels this summer.

For the last week or so I've been mulling over what to write about Iceland and have decided to share with you some of the cultural events as well as the daily activities that are somewhat similar to ours in America but also have many differences as well.  As I have slightly touched on, the town I am currently living in is very small, consisting of about as many people as the Ohio Dominican University population, roughly around 2800 people. 

The town however is one of the biggest tourist locations for travelers around the world because of its famous Blue Lagoon Resort in addition to its camp grounds, ATV tours, cave explorations, hiking trails, and harbor for fishing or just relaxing walks around the shore.  Grindavik also contains shops, restaurants, a gym, swimming pool, my favorite the bakery, and of course the town's professional soccer and basketball teams.  The town also has a few of its own festivals that just about all the townspeople play a role in and celebrate together for.  Even people that once lived in Grindavik and now live elsewhere come back to celebrate these festivals.  In fact, one of the biggest and most renowned festivals of Grindavik just took place this past weekend being known as the Fisherman's Festival Weekend. 

Grindavik is very well known for its fishing due to the fact that the town sits directly on the Southwestern coast of the country, just along the shoreline of the Atlantic Ocean.  Grindavik is ranked in the top 5 towns in bringing the heaviest fish catch to shore every year.  Fishing is a major way of life here with many of the townspeople working in the fishing industry.  It is very interesting because the family of one of the girls on my team actually owns one of the top fish processing companies in Grindavik. 

The fisherman's festival weekend is a weekend full of games, shopping boutiques, food stands, live bands, and competitions set up all down by the harbor for all to come and take part in or just sit and enjoy.  The entire town is split up into four districts which are then given a color and have to decorate their part of the town in that color.  The people get crazy with it because it is a competition and even create "zombie fishermen" which they set out in their yards.  It is somewhat like our Halloween but instead of wearing a costume, the people wear the color that their part of town is given and on Friday walk in a parade to the harbor where the band plays and food is sold.

Later that night the bars were crowded with the night life partiers which last until the bars close at 4am or 5am. Then the after-partying in the streets begins and doesn't end until 6am or 7am because the sun rarely goes down in the summer!  On Saturday, the town held a rowing competition, Iceland's Strongest Man competition, and continued with the live bands and shopping boutiques.  Saturday also was Election Day and that night the town dance took place and was the main attraction.  The dance was held in the basketball stadium and was jam packed with most of the town people.  The music was performed by a live band however mostly in Icelandic so understanding that was not very easy for me.  When a song would come on all my teammates would get excited but I had no idea what the song was, ha-ha.  I'm working on learning the language but let me tell you it isn't easy trying to learn the 2nd hardest language in the world!!

Besides the festival last week, I also went out to eat and see a movie here in Iceland; both activities having their similarities and differences from the U.S.A.  The restaurant that I went to was here in town and was called Mamma Mia's. Typically with a name like that one would think the restaurant served only Italian cuisine however, not the case. This restaurant was mainly a burger joint with a few pizzas, sandwiches, and salads on the menu. Just as in America, the waiter came to our table and asked for our order so I went ahead and ordered the "lobster burger" house specialty. It was a normal size beef hamburger topped with lobster meat and a homemade lobster sauce.

Here in Iceland the sauce is what makes the sandwich, most of these people love to cover their food in Icelandic sauces.  The burger was very good though and I had no complaints. The difference here from being at home however was that ketchup and other condiments were not left on the table.  If you wanted extra you had to pay extra for them.  Not too surprising because the cost of living here in Iceland is outrageous compared to home but still I mean ketchup? Really?  Another difference was that the bill was never brought to the table, once done with your meal you just walk up and pay the server at the cash register.  This may just have been because I was eating in our small town and crime rarely happens here but at home this is never the case.

Lastly, going to a movie here in Iceland one would expect the film to have been in the Icelandic language.  Wrong again.  The film was actually played in English since it was a film created in America and had subtitles that were in Icelandic.  This was really interesting to me however I wasn't complaining.  As I was sitting watching the film everything was basically the same as in the U.S.  The seats were big and comfy, they had candy and popcorn and the usual snack items, and previews before the film just like at home.  However as I continued to watch the film, all of a sudden the film just stopped, the lights came on and everyone got up to leave the theatre.  I was very confused but luckily I was with some girls on the team who had informed me that in Icelandic movie theatres there is an intermission for people to go use the bathroom and buy more snacks. 

Intermission lasted about 10 minutes and then everyone came back and the film played where it had left off.  I was a little annoyed with this at first but then thought hey this is a great idea.  Instead of having to leave in the middle of the movie to use the bathroom and miss some of the film, they just have an intermission for everyone.  I think it is a clever idea and one that could be potentially used in the U.S. to help sell more candy and snacks to customers as well.  One final difference was that at the end of the movie everyone exits up front where the screen is.  No one leaves where they came in from so no one has the ability to sneak into a second movie like we all try to do in the U.S., haha. 

So there ya have it, my last week in Iceland has been more taking in the culture and understanding their way of life since my team has been on a break from games until June 10th when we play our next match.  J Well, as they say in Iceland "Ég hef gotta fara núna"(I've got to go now). I'm off to training, will blog more soon!

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