Still Learning

When I decided to come to the Faroe Islands for a year, I knew that it would be important to try to learn the language. It turns out that there are quite a few other things that I need to learn, as well.

How to walk in the snow. This is a very important skill to learn. Even if I am getting a ride, I still need to get down the steps and out to the car. The important thing is to avoid icy patches, which sounds obvious to people who are used to snow. Yesterday I decided to walk to town to go to the grocery store and the bank. It took me longer than normal, but I made it. Except for the muddy slush on the main street, the town looked like a Dickens’ Christmas card. On second thought, Dickens’ Christmas cards don’t usually include so many boats.

How to drive in the snow. I haven’t mastered this one yet. Sunday, I drove to church, and when it was over there was snow on the roads (though not very much). Someone else drove my car down the hill, and then I carefully drove home. I haven’t driven up the main road out of Fuglafjørður yet. It has a couple of very nice hills. I plan to practice driving around town first.

How to shovel snow. This afternoon, it occurred to me that if I didn’t like the snow and ice that was accumulating on my steps, it was up to me to remove it (or else wait for rain). Fortunately, there was a shovel in my basement that served the purpose quite well. I also learned that if I stand close to the house to shovel snow, there is a good chance that melting snow will drip from the eaves and go down my back.

When it’s cold, wear wool. I only have two wool sweaters, so you will be seeing a lot of them. I ordered some wool pants from the LL Bean online catalogue, and I do hope they arrive soon. For about one third the cost of the clothes, they will ship them to the Faroe Islands.

I have also learned that the people here are very helpful, generous, and kind. I have given many of them the chance to help me out, in one way or another.

Thanksgiving Dinner

My Faroese relatives had their first Thanksgiving Dinner on Saturday. It was hard to decide whom to invite, since I have so many cousins here, so I started with those who had invited me to their homes and came up with a list of many more people than could fit in my small house.

Quite a few people asked me what Americans do for Thanksgiving. I don’t know about other people, but for us it has always been family and friends getting together to talk and eat (maybe I should say eat and talk and eat and talk). I think this fits in very well with Faroese customs. With Bjørghild’s help, we used tables from the church fellowship hall and chairs and pots from the Scout House. I also borrowed dishes, silverware, serving dishes, silverware, and coffee pots.

Some of the food I served was a bit unusual for Faroese taste, and there was a lot of leftovers of cranberry sauce and bruschetta. They all liked the lamb, turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and gravy, and I don’t think there were any leftover sweet potatoes. There were no complaints about the apple pie or the ginger/molasses cake. Did you know that their name for molasses translates to “dark syrup”?

We ended the evening with Skype phone calls to my children and my brother, who have been to the Faroe Islands and know many of my cousins.

On another note, today we are down to 6 hours between sunrise and sunset. Tonight I am taking leftover pie and cake to our choir rehearsal in Gøta. Even choir rehearsals include time for eating and talking.

Happy Thanksgiving

This year I will be celebrating Thanksgiving on Saturday, rather than Thursday. I have invited a few cousins for a traditional American Thanksgiving Dinner, and 24 people will make my little house quite crowded. Fortunately, the manager of the grocery store was able to get some of the traditional American foods for me, such as turkey, sweet potatoes, and cranberries. There are always plenty of apples here, so I have made apple pie. Since this holiday isn’t celebrated in the Faroe Islands, I have had to explain what it is:

When the settlers came to America from England, the Indians helped them plant crops. After the harvest that first year, they invited the Indians to a great feast, giving thanks to God for the harvest.

I think the only crops that they harvest here in the Faroe Islands are hay and potatoes, which don’t make for much of a feast, unless you add the lambs and the fish.

I’m glad I got my shopping done early, because we have had stormy weather all day, with snow, hail, and lots of wind – not the kind of weather for me to learn to drive in the snow. The days are definitely getting shorter. Today the sun rose at 9:04 a.m. and set at 3:24 p.m., at least that is what my computer program tells me. We didn’t see any sun today, and even when we do, it has trouble getting above the mountains. I have realized that my house is brighter during a snow storm, because the light reflects off of the snowy mountain-sides across the bay into my living room and kitchen windows.

It is interesting to watch the storm on the bay. At home, in California, we have what we call “dirt devils” when the swirling winds whip up the dirt in the fields like a small whirling tornado. On the bay here, the swirling winds whip up a spray of water that whirls across the bay just like the dirt devils. Sometimes a gust of wind blows a wall of spray across the water. I have tried to take pictures of the storms, but it is so windy I can’t hold the camera steady.

Breakfast on the Patio

This morning I ate breakfast on my “patio” in the morning sun. In September, I bought two folding chairs and a stool for my patio furniture, so I could take them outside when the weather was nice. Today was the first time I used them. I have learned to act quickly when there is nice weather, because it can change very rapidly. By the time I had finished my first cup of coffee, the sun had gone behind the shoulder of the mountain, and I was wishing I had my coat and mittens. However, there was no wind, so I finished my breakfast picnic in my back yard.

I have an extra chair and plenty of coffee, so you are welcome to join me next time.

Questions and Answers

Is the Faroese alphabet the same as the American alphabet?

No, there are some letters in the American alphabet that are not used in Faroese, and they have some letters that we don’t have. The Faroese do not use the American C, Q, W, X, or Z. The additional letters that they use are the ð, æ, and ø (sometimes called “umlaut O”). They also have an accent that can go over any vowel except e, which changes the vowel to a diphthong, for example á, í, ó, ú, and ý.

How high are the mountains around Fuglafjørður?

The mountains around Fuglafjørður are from 625 meters to 825 meters, or 1880 feet to 2500 feet. The tallest mountain in the Faroes is in the northern part of Eysturoy, and it is 882 meters or 2650 feet.

How long does it take to get to Tórshavn from Fuglafjørður?

In good weather it takes about an hour to drive to Tórshavn. The bus takes an hour and 40 minutes.

What sound does the letter ð make?

That is a very good question – one that I asked for several years before I found out. The letter ð (called “edd”) has quite a few different sounds. Often it is silent, especially at the end of the word, for example in the accusative form of this town, “Fuglafjørð”. In other conditions, between vowels for example, it is a “glide” that has a different sound depending on the vowels. It often makes the sound of an American “Y” (or Faroese “J”). There are other conditions when it sounds like a “V” and others like a “W”. There are a few words where it sounds like a hard American “G”. Actually the letter G is also a glide, which sometimes sounds like a Y or a V or a W.

Are there different accents in different places in the Faroe Islands?

Yes, according to books and teachers. For the most part, I can’t understand what people are saying, let alone tell the difference between accents. There is one sound that I can tell. The word for “no” is pronounced noy in Fuglafjørður and in the northern (and eastern) islands. It is pronounced like nigh in Tórshavn and the south and western islands.

Winter Storm

I have lived most of my life in the San Francisco Bay Area, and I have not lived in a place where it snows in the winter. I am finding the snow in the Faroe Islands beautiful and fascinating, so you will be seeing snow through the eyes of someone who hasn’t seen much of it before.

Tuesday afternoon a winter storm arrived and covered everything with snow. I was supposed to go to Gøta for choir rehearsal, but I wasn’t ready to learn to drive in the snow at night, even though my car does have snow tires. Fortunately, I was able to get a ride. Not only do I need to learn to drive in the snow, it looks like I will need to learn to walk in the snow. I was wearing my sturdy hiking boots, but crossing an icy street was worthy of a scene from a Three Stooges movie.

During the night it rained a bit, so by morning most of the streets were clear of snow, but it is still cold, and icy in places.

The days are definitely getting shorter. Today there were 6 hours 59 minutes between sunrise and sunset.

Ferry to Klaksvík

On TuesdayI went to Klaksvík, the second largest city in the Faroe Islands with a population of about 5,000 people. To get there, I drove to Leirvík, a small town on the other side of the mountain just south of Fuglafjørður, so I drove through one of the many tunnels in the Faroe Islands. The ferry makes a round trip about once an hour (sometimes even more often), and it is a car ferry with room for quite a few cars, buses, and trucks. There is a tunnel under construction from Leirvík to Klaksvík, going under the sound and under the mountain, and it is scheduled to be completed sometime in 2006. Since Klaksvík is a major commercial center for the northern islands, there is quite a bit of traffic between Tórshavn and Klaksvík. I went to take some more pictures of Heðin’s paintings (see Nov. 3 for details), and someone met me in Klaksvík to take me to the places I needed to go, so I left my car in Leirvík.


This week has been the week for drekkamunnur. My Faroese-English Dictionary says that “drekkamunnur” means “drop”. My translation is as follows:

Come in and have some coffee or tea along with cakes or cookies or maybe some bread and meat, and let’s talk for a while.

I have been visiting quite a few homes to take pictures of Heðin’s paintings (see Nov. 3 for details) , and I have had many cups of tea or coffee and conversation along with the paintings. There were several homes where I even had to try out my very limited Faroese. It is very rewarding when someone actually understands what I say in Faroese, but there are a limited number of topics I can talk about.

I have enjoyed being able to drive my car again, and I drove through some beautiful scenery. Here are the pictures that I wish I had taken so I could show you what I saw. Instead I will need to try to describe the views. The Norrona Ferry was in the Runavík harbor, and it looked like the ferry was nearly the size of the whole town. I did a quick calculation, and the capacity of the ferry with passengers and crew is greater than the population of Runavík. The ferry was on its way to Iceland, and I think it was loading or unloading cargo in Runavík. I also drove to Hellur (pronounced HEDler) and Oyndarfjørður, two small towns on opposite sides of a large bay, surrounded by mountains. Hellur has one street and a dozen or so homes, and it sits on a ledge of rock between the water and a steep mountain. To get there, I drove through the high valley in the middle of the island, and it was so windy that the creeks and waterfalls were being blown back up over the top of the cliff.

I am enjoying singing with the Gøta/Leirvík choir. However, this is the first time I had a choir rehearsal in the bathroom. I had downloaded some music files on my computer, and the altoes rehearsed in the bathroom, accompanied by music on the computer. In December we will have performances along with two other choirs in four towns: Gøta, Tórshavn, Vestmanna, and Fuglafjørður.

I need to add something to the Frequently Asked Questions section. Here is the answer, see if you can guess the question.

No, I am not going home for Christmas; and no, my children are not coming here for Christmas. I will be celebrating Christmas here in the Faroe Islands.

However, I have finished my Christmas shopping and my Christmas shipping. I mailed my gifts to America last Monday. I bet you haven’t finished your Christmas shopping yet.

By the way, if you read this and enjoy it, please feel free to log on and add comments. I enjoy knowing that people besides my children are reading this.

It’s Working!

At long last my car is working. It is great to be able to drive again. I picked it up yesterday afternoon. I also bought snow tires and had them put on, so I am set for the winter. To top it off, we had some sun here for a few hours this afternoon. Today there is exactly 8 hours between sunrise and sunset, but because of the mountains all around us, we only get sunshine in any one place for an hour or two.

Still Waiting

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I thought my car was fixed, sort of. Well, I was wrong. I am still waiting for my car to be fixed. The first part that arrived from Denmark was the wrong part, so it was sent back, and we all waited for another part to arrive. It came earlier this week, and today my car was supposed to be repaired, but I didn’t ever get a phone call to tell me that the work is done. One benefit of having a non-working car is that I do a lot of walking, and we have had nice weather this week, so I have been out walking every day.

There is one project I have been working on that is being slowed down by the fact that I don’t have a working car. A lot of artists in the Faroe Islands sell books with photographs of their paintings, and I am trying to help Heðin Kambsdal put together a book of some of his paintings. For the past week or so I have been visiting some of the people in Fuglafjørður who own his paintings and taking photographs. This has been a bit of a challenge for me. When I volunteered to do this, I forgot that I don’t speak the language. Many people here do speak English, but not everyone; and I have had some interesting “conversations.” It is also a challenge to find the right house, since many streets and houses aren’t clearly marked, and I have walked right into the wrong house. Once my car is repaired, I will be going to other towns and other islands to take photos. I have included a few pictures of his paintings.

This week a brand new ferry began sailing between Tórshavn and Suderoy (the most southern of the Faroe Islands). The new ferry, Smyril 1, sailed around the islands and into all of the harbors, as sort of an introductory tour. The ferry turned around in the Fuglafjørður Bay, very near my house, so of course I took a picture.