The sun doesn’t shine very long in the winter in the Faroe Islands, but when it does shine, it makes a triple impact, reflecting the snow-covered mountains in the bays and sounds. I love the way the snow-covered mountains are constantly changing colors, and those colors are all reflected back from the still waters of the bay. I keep taking the same pictures, over and over, but in the changing light, they always look different (at least, they do to me).
Every year Fuglafjørður hangs Christmas lights along all of the main streets. Here are a few pictures showing how it is done.
My life is getting back to normal, now that the book launch is over. Here are some pictures of Fuglafjørður that I have taken during the past week, but haven’t had time to post to my website. Last week we had snow and cold weather. The temperature was below freezing for about 5 days, but everything thawed on Sunday for my book signing party. I don’t see snow at all in the winter where I live in California, so when I am here in the Faroes, I take a lot of snow pictures. It is beautiful here, but sometimes I’m a little cold.
A few days ago I had my last sunrise in the Faroes for this year. Today the sun tried to shine, but it couldn’t quite make it up over the mountain pass along the road from Gøta. I have pictures of one sunrise and one almost-sunrise.
Fuglafjørður is surrounded by mountains, and here are pictures of almost all of them. As you can see, there is a lot of snow on the mountains this time of year.
My book was officially published on Sunday afternoon. For someone who has never done this before, it was quite a day.
We had the book signing party at the Culture House in Fuglafjørður starting at 3:00 in the afternoon. The room was set up for about 150 people, but by 3:30 there were about 300 people crowded into the room, and we set up extra chairs in all the available spaces. By “we”, I mean my relatives. I didn’t do anything useful, but they knew what needed to be done and then did it.
We started with speeches. Jóhan Heri is the one who first translated my father’s letters for me, and he made some comments about my first visit in the Faroes. Marna Jacobsen, my editor, talked about publishing the book. Then I made a few comments about coming to the Faroes and read several short excerpts from the book.
(The previous paragraph may not be entirely true. I have trouble following spoken Faroese, unless the person is talking very, very slowly, and I don’t really remember what Jóhan Heri and Marna talked about. However, it is true that I did read from the book, and people seemed to understand me. I have made some progress in learning this language.)
The family choir sang four songs, and I think we sounded wonderful. Heðin was the director.
Then for the next two hours (maybe more) I sat and signed books. Lillian stayed with me to help translate and to help me figure out how I should sign each book. I think quite a few people were doing their Christmas shopping. Many of the people who came were relatives, neighbors, or friends, but some were strangers to me. No, my hand didn’t get tired signing books, but my neck was sore by the time I finished.
While I was signing books, I had a slide show running with 398 of my favorite photos. Most of these were photos I have taken in the Faroe Islands over the years, but others were old photos from my father’s sailing days and family photos of Faroese relatives. There were even a few of me as a four year old with ringlets. My relatives also played music during the party and served refreshments. Bjørghild had to go to the convenience market next door and buy more food, since we weren’t prepared for 300 people. The editor brought 200 books, and we sold 200 books.
I love Faroese celebrations, and Sunday’s book-signing party will be a Faroese celebration. It will have all of the important components of a Faroese party – music, food, and speeches. Today we had the second choir rehearsal of my family choir, Lonin Choir, named after my grandparents’ home, í Lon. Everyone in the choir is one of my relatives.
Wednesday afternoon I talked with reporters from both of the daily Faroese newspapers, and last night each paper had a two page article about my book.
The book is actually finished, and I have a copy in my hand. For a novice, the whole process was amazing, and it is actually finished.
As my editor wrote to me, “The Missing Son has returned to the Faroe Island.” The book was printed in Tórshavn, and was shipped to Denmark for binding. It arrived back in the Faroe Islands with the Norrøna ferry on Monday, and on Tuesday I drove to Tórshavn to see the book and take a few copies with me. The book includes many photos, some of my photos of the Faroes, some photos my father saved during his sailing years, old photos of family in the Faroe Islands, and some old photos of my family in America. There is also a story to go along with it.
I have been busy planning my book signing party. I have been to many parties my relatives have given here in the Faroes, and I think it is time for me to give a party. Of course, many of them are helping me, and I couldn’t do it without them.
The book signing will be at the Mentanarhús in Fuglafjørður on Sunday, 23 November, from 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. My editor will say a few words. Then I will give a speech in Faroese and read a little from the book. A choir made up of my relatives will sing several songs. There are about 40 people in this choir, called Lonin choir, named after my grandparent’s house, í Lon.
After the choir sings, I will start signing books. We will serve refreshments. There will be music by several family members – accordion, guitar, jazz piano, and classical guitar. We will also have a slide show running with many of the photos used in the book and many of my favorite photos of the Faroes. Books will be available for sale at the discounted price of 200 króner.
The book will be generally available in bookstores in the Faroes on Monday at a price of 260 króner. In Fuglafjørður it will also be in the grocery stores and Ribarhús. For people who are not in the Faroe Islands, I understand you can order the book from the website for the Rit og Rak bookstore in Tórshavn – www.ritograk.fo . They also have ordering instructions in English.
Some people ask what my next book will be about. This one took me about 7 or 8 years to complete, so don’t hold your breath. At least, wait until next year to ask me about it.
Part 1 – What language is that, again?
I have been visiting the Faroe Islands off and on for more than eleven years. I doubt that there is any place else where one can learn this language.
My first few visits were for a few weeks at a time during the summer. I knew that I couldn’t learn the language during a short visit, but I did try to learn a few every-day, common words. Since many items of food were already labeled, I decided that was a good place to start. There were canisters in the kitchen labeled for flour, sugar, tea, and coffee. There were labels on milk, eggs, butter, marmalade, lunch meat, cheese, and I would try to pronounce these rather strange words.
Years later I learned that most of the words I learned during these early visits were Danish words, since items imported from Denmark logically had Danish labels. When learning Faroese, it is very important to ask:
“What language is that, again?”
(Incidentally, the photos have nothing to do with the story. They are just nice pictures.)
Usually I look at Fuglafjørður, the mountains, and the bay from the windows of my little house beside the bay. This week I took pictures from higher up the mountainsides and from across the bay, to show some different views of Fuglafjørður.
There are not very many hours during the day this time of year when I can take pictures of scenery in daylight, but we have had several days with good weather during the daytime. Maybe I should save some of these pictures for next week, in case it is too stormy for pictures.
Eleven years ago this past June, I began a very unusual journey – a journey into the past.
My father was born in the Faroe Islands in the town of Fuglafjørður in 1896. He began sailing full time when he was 14 or 15 years old, sailing all around the world, and finally settling in San Francisco. The last time he was in the Faroe Islands was in November 1916. Some eighty years later I made my first visit to the Faroe Islands, not knowing in the least what I would find there. I had a piece of paper with a few names and a stack of letters (in Danish) written to my father from the Faroe Islands in the years 1917-1924. I couldn’t read the letters.
The story of this journey is the subject of my new book, Saknaði Sonurin (The Missing Son), which will be published in Faroese in the Faroe Islands later this month. The book tells the story of my finding my father’s family and their welcoming me with open arms, like a long lost child. It also tells about life in the Faroe Islands in the early 1900’s, from the letters my father received from family and friends. There is also an unexpected love story, with letters from my father’s sweetheart, who wrote to him for seven years, always hoping he would return to her.
I will have a book-signing party at 15:00 on Sunday, 23 November, at the Mentanarhús in Fuglafjørður, and everyone is welcome. We will have books (of course), music by my family in the Faroe Islands, many of my favorite photos of the Faroes, and old photos from my father’s sailing days. I promise to make a speech in Faroese.
Maybe someday I can publish the book in English, for those of you who can’t read Faroese.
The storms and snow and wind have left us alone this week. Some days the pavement even has a chance to dry. Early one morning when I looked out of my window, the sky was clear and the morning sun was just beginning to paint the sky a little orange. What a view I have from my windows.