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5 posts from January 2007

January 31, 2007

Milestones

Nothing earth-shattering, but the other day we were out and about discussing the local landscape and Kelsey noted that something was "huge-big".  Standard Kelsey-speak except that huge sounded exactly as it should vs. the previous "hoo-ge" big that we often received.

Just another reminder that the little one is growing up.  No surprise, but, of course, a touch of sadness.  I love the words they make up as they are learning how to form words.  Not because they don't know the word, but simply that their little mouths can't yet pronounce it correctly.  So now everything is huge-big, but somehow, it just doesn't sound quite as grand.

It was then almost ironic that she slipped back to another old favorite on Friday afternoon.  She was having a play date with her new friend, Jo, and sharing her heart-shaped marshmallows.  NOTE TO GRANDPA & DIBBY:  Said marshmallows extremely popular and consumed within minutes; if any still left in the tri-state area, please send more! 

In the excitement of the early opening of the marshmallows (we just couldn't wait for Valentine's Day), Kelsey ran into the room to request more. 

"Please, please, can I have some more smashmallows to share with Josephine?"

My heart warmed up as Kels tumbled through the word she had used as toddler, but  I thought had long-since forgotten.  You can bet she walked off grinning ear to ear with her smashmallows while I watched and committed the scene to memory.  There is much to be said for their growing up, but even more to be said for these sweet moments of childhood.   

January 27, 2007

I've got class!

Well, literally, not figuratively.  I have been hired as the new ESL teacher at the International School! I am teaching a total of 4 classes/week or 3 hours a week of teaching and many more of preparation.

I have been toying with the notion of going back to school for years, but desperately needed more experience.  The opportunity came up so quickly, but with the most perfect timing and circumstances.   I am working with 8 children from six countries.  Translation:  I couldn't ask for a better learning experience.

Technically, it is not ESL, though, as English is a third language for some of the children.  Their ability to process and retain the information at this age is just so amazing.  I have said it before and will say it again: if you ever have the chance for your baby/preschool child to have a bilingual experience, I highly recommend it. 








January 23, 2007

Iceland Melts

Well, Reykjavik at least.  Sadly, the snow that has graced our landscape for more than two weeks is slowly disappearing due to the rising temperatures.

The snow began the first week we were back.  A few inches fell the first weekend and it was gorgeous.  More importantly, unlike last year, it did not melt by the next afternoon.  The following Thursday we had a whopper of a storm.  I learned something very important this day:  Icelanders, as a whole, have no clue how to drive in the snow despite many driving huge (mostly unnecessary) SUVs with properly studded tires.

The snow continued off and on for the next 10 days.  After the 6th snowstorm in 5 days, we simply stopped counting.  The most refreshing part?  Despite the lousy driving, nothing shut down.  Schools stayed open and life went on as normal.  The kids enjoyed sledding at recess and one learned how to maneuver the car carefully onto snow-packed sidewalks, as most street parking was non-existent.

Now that it has started to warm up here (in the 40s F!), it seems everyone back home is getting a dose of winter.  My advice?  Enjoy it.  Without seasons, we would have a pretty boring planet and snow is certainly a lot more pleasant than rain. 

Oh, and you want to see pictures?  Yes, of course, we have a few of the infamous Supreme Court Hill Sledding days, as well as a few International School of Iceland children enjoying their snow forts.  Check back tomorrow!

January 11, 2007

If you still don't believe us,

Here it is from the local paper: 

Food prices 62% higher in Iceland

Morgunbladid - According to recent figures from Eurostat, the average prices in Iceland for food and drink are 62% higher than in the 15 states forming the EU before its expansion. The highest food prices in Europe are in Iceland , which also tops the list when it comes to all household expenditures. These expenditures are 46% higher in Iceland than in the EU. Actually, countries outside the EU – Iceland , Norway and Switzerland – stand out regarding higher food prices, relative to the states in the EU. Norway is second after Iceland , with 52% higher food prices, and in Switzerland the corresponding figures are 40% higher. Andres Magnusson, Managing Director of the Association of Icelandic importers, exporters and wholesale merchants, said that the most obvious explanation was the high price of agricultural products in Iceland . He said that if Icelanders wanted to lower prices to a level comparable to that in the other Nordic countries, the protective tariffs for the agricultural sector would be the biggest component to work on. Magnusson added that there were other factors involved, like high purchasing power, disadvantageous purchasing and insufficient competition on the retail market.

Nope, we weren't kidding.  One can only hope this reaches the powers that be and it is realized that we do not receive enough COLA to live on the local economy.  Our food prices are much higher than Switzerland, yet their COLA is 10% greater than ours. 

Now, I am happy to pay more for better food and think that some of the food in the States is actually under-priced for the work that was put into producing it.   However, to be 62% above EU members?  For those of you who thought the EU was expensive, think again!

BTW, this should in no way deter future visitors, as after all, at least you would not have to deal with lodging costs (1 SMALL double room averages $200 USD/night)...but could you bring some groceries with you, pretty please??

January 03, 2007

Bessastaðir

Although I promised many moons ago, I never did write about last year's Presidential Christmas party.  I do not know when the tradition began, but at least as of 2005, Ólafur Ragnar Grimsson, President of Iceland and his wife, Dorrit Mousaieff, have hosted the children of the MFA (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) employees and of diplomats posted to Iceland.

Last year, although in a fog, I volunteered to take a friend's son as well as Caitlin.  I had never been to Bessastaðir, and had not a clue as to what to expect.  It was really quite traditional...a handshake with the President and his wife, dancing around the Christmas tree, a table groaning with standard Icelandic Yule-tide fare (laufabraud, smoked lamb, skyr torte).  We feasted (European-style, of course) upstairs, enjoying the views of the water from what looked to be a private library.

As it grew extremely quiet, we feared we had worn out our welcome and quickly tip-toed down the wooden stairs, past the carefully placed skin of the polar bear...perhaps a warning?  We headed towards the coat room, only to realize that no one had yet departed.  We continued through the long dining room and turned back towards the living room to find...Stephanie and Sportacus performing a private show for all of the children!

Sadly, while all else was much the same this year, S. & S. were apparently unavailable.  Instead, two young actors delighted (to some extent) the children with a tale of a fox and a mouse.  Kelsey was a little disappointed, and frankly, a little bit scared. 

Perhaps it is just the cultural differences, but the actors seem to be far more "in your face".  The Icelandic Santas* are very similar (none of that sitting still stuff for them!), and it has taken the kids a while to adjust to the more boisterous nature of the Icelandic imagination.  All in all, despite being extremely jet-lagged, the girls had an enjoyable afternoon.  And since the event began at  2:00 p.m. and ended by  3:30 p.m., it was still daylight while we drove home...always a treat during these long, dark winters!

*  More info on the Icelandic Yule Lads to be posted soon...we were quite overwhelmed with their presence (presents?) in December and simply didn't have the time to adequately describe.