I had a job interview last Wednesday, for a position in a play-school in 104 Reykjavík. I think it went all right. First impressions are not exactly my strong point, though. I tried my very hardest not to be super-awkward and socially weird, but it's difficult when you're not drunk, isn't it? I think turning up drunk to an interview for a job working with children would be a definite mistake, though. The stress had a fairly negative impact on my Icelandic. Hopefully they understood that I was kind of nervous and wouldn't normally say that I was samstundis when I meant stundvís. At any rate I understood what they were saying to me, and they appeared to understand what I was saying to them. If I were looking for a job in England, I suppose the simple matter of communication wouldn't be an issue, but here it seems like one of the biggest challenges. Or at least quite a major complication - the actual experience of being interviewed is quite bewildering all by itself.

The sort of artificial introversion required in such an exercise makes me quite uncomfortable. It's weird to be asked to say how fantastic you are. I mean, in my head, obviously I think I'm fantastic, but I come from a self-deprecating sort of culture and find it embarrassing to say positive things about myself. Of course that's a silly attitude in a job interview situation, but it's very ingrained. Being asked to explain how your personality makes you suitable, and what relevant qualities you have, is even worse. I would say that personality is largely just a word describing how you appear in the eyes of others, meaning that you yourself are in quite a bad position to say what sort of personality you have. It's like trying to describe your own accent, it's just the baseline, something you don't really notice or think about particularly. 

Maybe having been asked these things once I will be less startled next time. Haha, don't know what I was expecting really. Nah, but I think I said some good things - I'm portraying it as much worse than it was and probably overanalysing a bit. Just have to wait and see. I have applied for lots and lots of things, can't believe I won't get something sooner or later. Working in a play-school, although admittedly not a particular ambition of mine, would be a good, steady job and most likely more entertaining than office work. I still want to become a literary translator, but I was never under the impression that that would be happening any time soon. My most pressing concern is to get a salary and a job in a play-school is probably one of the best options open to me at this stage. The good news is that there are loads of these positions advertised, so there must be a fair amount of demand. Yeah, keep positive. 

Aside from wanting a wage, being unemployed is also really boring. When your friends are at work, and the most you are likely to achieve on any given day is making a nice dinner or doing some washing, morale can slip a bit. I did make an excellent dinner yesterday, though. I attempted Icelandic plokkfiskur (sort of mush made of white fish, potatoes and oniony béchamel sauce) and it turned out really well, except that I cut my finger with the potato peeler and kept bleeding all over the rest of the food preparation.

Also, apparently somebody nominated this blog for a thing. Thanks, whoever you are. Vote for me, I suppose!

Pub Quiz

So I thought I'd write something about the English Pub Quiz in Reykjavík, because it's been a fun thing in my life pretty much ever since I got here, but I don't think I've ever mentioned it on here before. This post will largely be a collection of anecdotes from my life, set in pubs, which I am sure you will all find fascinating, but let's open with a bit of introductory information about the quiz. It is generally on once a month, although not a set time every month. When I first came to Reykjavík, it was held in Den Danske Kro on Ingólfsstræti, which had a nice atmosphere but was far too small with not enough chairs. These days the quiz is held in Oliver on Laugavegur, which is a bit shiny, but at least everyone can sit down and there's a good two for one drinks offer. Currently it appears to be undergoing renovations, though, which meant the January quiz was sadly cancelled. 

I am generally a fan of pub quizzes, although I have yet to be on a winning team. Probably my best result was in Sheffield, when me and my friends Tim and Sam won eight pints between us, largely thanks to Sam's masterful ability to guess the number of pages in the barmaid's copy of a John Steinbeck novel. The heady thrill of winning free beer when we were already a bit drunk left such a positive impression that we went back to the same quiz every week afterwards. We never won anything again, but there were always free cheese and pickle sandwiches afterwards, and it was just generally a really nice pub, one of the few in Sheffield with real cider on tap. The Cobden View, if you're ever up in Crookes. I actually went to this quiz on the saddest birthday of my life so far. Sad because I spent most of the day working in lonely desperation on my masters thesis, and it really cheered me up and the boys fed me a nice dinner and Tim had made me a cake, so the birthday was saved.

Questions wise, though, the Reykjavík quiz definitely has the edge. Rounds are organised loosely by themes, not so much subjects, so you never get bored listening to loads of sports questions in a row; you can also take the theme as a bit of a clue about the answer. The first time I went, I was with Brynna and we didn't have a team, so we trailed around the bar trying to find someone who'd have us. We ended up with some Scots who seemed to be personally offended by my nationality, and just generally a bit aggressive. So it was kind of awkward, and the next time we made sure to have a better plan in place. By now I know enough people here that it's usually pretty easy to make up a team.

Sometimes, though, if you turn up without a whole team planned, it can be pretty good. Once Ahmad and I went and ended up being joined by an American journalist who was here for a few days doing an article about Jews in Iceland. Which seems like quite a small topic, to be honest, but he had some interesting things to say on the subject. Anyway, we took him out the next night to show him a bit of Reykjavík. We started off with an evening trip to Laugardalslaug (a swimming pool) and then went to a few bars (Kaffibarinn, Hressó and Bakkús as I recall), before finishing up at Barbara. We drank beer and danced to pop music until our new American friend abruptly left with a young, young Icelander, who kept insisting that he was "nineteen on Sunday", so that was all right. I have shared this anecdote with people before, and it seems not be as funny in the telling as I found it at the time. The alcohol may have been a factor.

But back to the pub quiz. Once my team actually came second, which earned us a third of the entry money taken! This was a very exciting development and there were calls to immediately spend all of our winnings on more beer. In the end, though, most of us went back to Bjarni and Ewelina's flat to drink their beer instead (and eat their beetroot soup, which was incredible). The next month hopes of continuing our upward trajectory were sadly dashed, but I remain convinced that we definitely could win. The secret of success, aside from generally having people who know a lot of things, is having people on your team from as many different places as possible. Lack of an American has caused trouble for me in the past.

If you're an English-speaking visitor to Reykjavík, I would definitely recommend checking the facebook group to see if the quiz is happening whilst you're there. If you like that sort of thing.

Eurovision again?

Isn't it too early to be thinking about Eurovision just yet? Yes, it is. But the Icelanders would apparently not agree - they are already voting on who will get to be their 2012 entry. I saw a few of the acts competing for this honour, and I wasn't very impressed, but I suppose they can't do much worse than last year. Probably.

Barbecue Weather

Happy Australia Day! It was actually a few days ago, but I went to a celebratory beach barbecue today, down by the Viðey ferry. It's an event organised by my Australian friend, Kalli - this is the fifth year he's done it. During the time that I was there, only three of those in attendance were actually Australian, but for Iceland that seems like a good turnout. Especially considering the weather, which was cold and grey, with the wind and the drizzle getting steadily stronger. With a plastic cup of Kalli's home-brewed beer, home-made lamingtons (Australian cake thing), some pylsur on the grill and a little Australian flag stuck in my glove, though, the weather didn't matter too much. Despite the downsides of barbecuing in January in the northern hemisphere, it seems like a really fun tradition. Apparently somebody Kalli knows from Kastljós (sort of current affairs programme) said they might come down and film a bit of it. There's not a lot of news in Iceland. If they did come, though, it was after I left, so I will not be on the television either way.

Eventually I did become too cold to function, and Ahmad and I made our escape to Seltjarnarnes pool to warm up in the hot pot for an hour or so. Now I think I will have a restorative nap, before heading round to Stacey's this evening for drinks and Thai food. I would vote this a good Saturday.

Au-Pair Phrasebook

Being an au-pair means that you spend a lot of time telling children what to do and what not to do and asking them questions, usually about where various items of their clothing are. If you ever find yourself in a similar situation in Iceland, I have compiled this list of useful phrases, many of which I used on a daily basis. 


Hættu þessu. - Stop that.
Drífðu þig. - Hurry up.
Ekki lemja hana / hann. - Don't hit her / him.
Ekki stríða henni / honum. - Don't tease her / him.
Passaðu þig að þú dettur ekki. - Careful you don't fall.
Farðu varlega, það er sleipt. - Be careful, it's slippery.
Já bíddu aðeins, vertu svolítið þolinmóður. - Yes, wait a minute, be patient.
Þú ræður því ekki. - It's not up to you.
Vertu almennileg/ur. - Behave yourself.
Farðu í skó / peysu / úlpu. - Put your shoes / jumper / coat on.
Á ég að hjálpa þér? - Shall I help you? 
Passaðu bílinn / hjólið / manninn. - Watch out for the car / bicycle / person.
Ekki fara í götuna. - Don't go into the road.
Meiddirðu þig? - Did you hurt yourself?
Þú sullar út um allt. - You're spilling it everywhere.
Vertu góður við systur þína / bróður þinn - Be nice to your sister / brother.
Ég nenni ekki að hlusta á svona vitleysu. - I don't have time for this nonsense.
Þú verður að borða smá ávextir áður en þú færð snúð. - You have to eat a bit of fruit before you get a snúður [a round, cinnamon flavour cake].

Four-Year-Old Girls

Nei, þú matt ekki fá nammi í morgunmat. - No, you can't have sweets for breakfast.
Ekki sleikja skeiðina og þá setja hana aftur á pízzuna - Don't lick the spoon and then put it back on the pizza.
Ekki dýfa lakkrísinn þinn ofan í pollinn, þetta er ógeðslegt. - Don't dip your liquorice in the puddle, that's disgusting.
Jú víst geturðu labbað meira. - Yes, of course you can walk more.
Þú ert ekki einu sinni búin að smakka, hvernig veistu að þér finnst það ekki gott? - You haven't even tasted it, how do you know you don't like it?
Haltu áfram, við erum að drífa okkur. - Keep going, we're in a hurry.
Það skiptir ekki máli hver er á undan. - It doesn't matter who's in front.
Það skiptir engu máli, þau eru alveg eins. - It doesn't matter, they're exactly the same.
Það þýðir ekkert að gráta. - Crying won't help.

Seven-Year-Old Boys

Ef þú hoppar svona í polla þá verður þú blautur, og þá verður þér kalt - If you jump in puddles like that then you'll get wet, and then you'll get cold.
Við þurfum ekki að taka snjóboltann heim með okkur. - We don't need to take the snowball home with us.
Hvar eru vettlingarnir þínir? - Where are your mittens? (Best answer received = á þakinu / on the roof, usual answer received = ég veit ekki / I don't know)
Hvar er hinn skórinn? - Where is the other shoe?
Varstu ekki með húfu í morgun? Hvar er hún? - Didn't you have a hat this morning? Where is it?
Ekki þykjast vera heyrnarlaus. - Don't pretend to be deaf.
Af hverju eru skónir þínir rennandi blautir? - Why are your shoes sopping wet?
Ef þú hafðir verið duglegur að læra hefðir þú klárað fyrir löngu. - If you'd applied yourself to your homework, you'd have finished long ago.
Það heyrist ekkert þegar þú reynir að anda og lesa á sama tíma - I can't hear anything when you try to breathe and read at the same time.
Við förum núna, ekki eftir fimm mínútur, núna. - We're going now, not in five minutes, now.
Þú ert örugglega nógu gamall að gera þetta sjálfur - You're definitely old enough to do that yourself.

I would like to note that I also had lots of conversations with the children of a more stimulating and less adversarial nature, and they had a lot of interesting views and perspectives on the world. One time the four-year-old told me that if there were no police, there wouldn't be any baddies. Something to think about, even if probably not accurate. She also said a lot of things that were quite pretty, about things looking like gold in the sunshine and so forth. I told her she should write a poem and she replied, "I can't write." Which is fair enough.

Snow and that

Reykjavík had a pretty big snow-storm this morning. I went out on an expedition to the library just after midday and took a few photos. It's really not that cold, so it was nice. Of course, the downside to relative warmth and snow is that it is already turning to slush on the pavements, which will then freeze to form a treacherous sheet of death-ice. Makes leaving the house much more exciting.

In the graveyard.

In other news from the far north, the northern lights have been really strong recently. Stacey and I went out to Seltjarnarnes to look for them on Saturday night, but essentially just spent forty-five minutes standing on a snowy beach in the freezing wind, peering into a mostly clouded sky. I could see them from my window on Sunday evening, though. I heard that they've been spotted in Scotland and northern England as well.

Life update: still unemployed, making a lot of soups and stews.

Back in Iceland

Hello, again. I've been in England over the holidays, but came back to Iceland about a week ago. I'm currently renting a room in a house with some people that I met at parties last year, and trying to persuade somebody to employ me. My life is not particularly exciting at the moment. When I'm not submitting job applications I am mostly drinking tea, reading books and watching Sherlock on my laptop.

Still, last week was fun, seeing most of my Iceland-based friends again, going out and doing things (swimming, cinema, eating, drinking), going round people's houses. This level of fun is sadly not sustainable, because fun is quite expensive. Hopefully I will get a job soon. I would hire me, what with all my skills, so surely someone will see sense sooner or later.

My new location is a bit further away from downtown, near the graveyard - I thought it was 107, but apparently it was recently made part of 101. So I'm still cool. It's nice as well because my good friend Stacey lives literally a few houses up the road.

Of course the weather is mostly terrible. It's been snow, rain and high winds most days. I went out on Friday night and most of the pavements were like a skating rink. It was a proper adventure trying to get across town. Not so bad now, though. That is pretty much all I can think of to write at the moment. It's nice to be back in Iceland.