Iceland Postcard #2

Poster for Tu Jest Za Drogo / Úff Hvað Allt Er Dýrt Hérna [Photo via Borgarleikhúsið, used with permission]

by Mingming Shi

Tu Jest Za Drogo / Úff Hvað Allt Er Dýrt Hérna / Ohh How Everything Is Expensive Here

Have you ever watched a live play on stage with simultaneous subtitles on your phone? I had never imagined I would enjoy a play in Polish, (which I understand very few words of), at Borgarleikhúsið (City Theater of Reykjavík) while keeping an eye on my phone screen for English subtitles.

The storyline of Tu jest za drogo is simple, and many with foreign backgrounds in Iceland can understand and associate the story with themselves. The setting of the play is in the year 2026, featuring a young couple from Poland, Nadzieja and Eugeniusz, heading to work at a fish factory in Iceland and dreaming about their upcoming wedding. However, life did not go as expected, as they encountered eccentric people and other adventures, not to mention hair-raising prices in the country, as the name of the play suggests. Interestingly, Pawel Bartoszek was the mayor of Reykjavík in this play. In reality, he is a Polish-Icelandic politician.

Besides laughter, the play also brings thoughts. What else can immigrants do in this country, in addition to working at physically demanding jobs like in house construction workers, factory laborers, and waitstaff, or being frontline employees in Iceland’s hospitality sector, including tourism? How does moving to a new country affect the viewpoint of your current relationship with your partner and family? Will you all grow up together or decide to say goodbye to each other?

As an immigrant myself, however, I did not have any Polish friends until I got to know Aleksandra, who is an actor playing the leading role as Nadzieja, and who is also a regular customer at the little food stand where I am working. She has a big smile and optimistic personality, and it was a great experience to see someone you know on the stage. However, this was not her debut. Last year, she and her team starred in Co za poroniony pomysł! Úff hvað þetta er slæm hugmynd! Oh such a bad idea! at Tjarnarbíó, (which means “pond cinema” in Icelandic).

I do recommend everyone book a ticket to see this play, and it is probably particularly interesting for those with immigrant backgrounds. Please refer to this link for further information.

(Just a reminder: get your smartphone well charged before arrival and mute it. 🙂 )

I Met Diego, Finally!

Iceland is, without exaggeration, a land of cats; and I am a cat person, (given my profile picture!) on Over the Circle. It is way more exciting to meet a cat who has often been featured on social media, even more than human celebrities. And there always seems to be a new member added to the list of Iceland’s famous cats from time to time. 

Have you ever heard about Diego, in those furry stars in the country? The first time I got to know this kisa (“kitty” in Icelandic) was because my husband saw him next to a supermarket in Skeifan, a neighborhood in 108 Reykjavík. He thought this cat might be homeless, because this animal almost finished all the snacks given by him in one gulp. However, luckily, he was told by other netizens, (who are apparently also cat fans), that this cat has a home in the neighborhood, and his name is Diego. Besides enjoying popularity mainly through being allowed to stay in many shops in the community, and sampling snacks from his people, Diego also has a page on Facebook, “Spottaði Diego” (Spotted Diego), where over seven thousand fans have shared stories and pictures of this lovely cat.

And I also bumped into Diego one evening when I was in the supermarket where he is usually seen. What a surprise! He is a very beautiful cat with long and soft and well-groomed fur. He stayed quiet, calm, polite and friendly when I met him, unlike some well-known felines who are indifferent to humans (no, I am referring to one example in 101 Reykjavík, not at all…). 

Diego [Photo by Mingming Shi]

The Oldest Icelander Passed Away

Dóra Ólafsdóttir, who was the oldest Icelander, passed away in early February at the age of almost 110. Dóra was born in July 1912, two years before the outbreak of the First World War, and she had survived both the World Wars, The Spanish Flu, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

I never met her or her family in person, yet what struck me the most upon reading about her life was not only her longevity, but also her attitude towards life, lively personality, and cheerful and kind humor, based on what I have read online. When asked how was like to be the oldest Icelander, she responded “It is a bit strange, when one doesn’t hear or see well”, “I think this is enough”, and her comment on Katrín Jakobsdóttir, the Prime Minister of Iceland who visited her last year, even made me giggle, that “I found her so young”, “She reminded me of a very normal Icelandic, young girl.”