From Iceland — My Airwaves, My Winnipeg

My Airwaves, My Winnipeg

Published November 12, 2014

It was a weird fate that I wound up in Iceland this year.

In dramatics that could rival a Woody Allen film, tickets were purchased in April with the intention of having a “lover’s vacation.” The premises for such a vacation spectacularly fell apart in the seven months leading up to the party.

Romance dead, I swore to be open to everything else this great Nordic country threw my way. So Iceland (and inevitably Airwaves) became something to look forward to, to put mental energy towards, and I did research with the loving attention one might spend cultivating a budding relationship.

Who needs a man, right? This is what I told myself. Instead, I wanted to really know this place, to find myself in it without a lover or social crutch; just my mother country, its people, and me.

See, I’m one of those Western Icelanders whose great great grandparents got nervous about an erupting volcano back in the day and somehow managed to find themselves in Manitoba—the greatest Icelandic outpost on the Canadian prairies.

Perhaps, then, it isn’t so strange that my first impression while driving a rental car from the airport to the capital was that there was something vaguely familiar about it all.

In fear of being charged with cultural appropriation, however, I kept this initial observation to my Facebook friends and myself. But as I spent more time roaming around, certain truths revealed themselves. I noticed things. The similarities between both places felt a bit uncanny.

Maybe it makes sense: Canada has the largest ethnic Icelandic population outside of Iceland itself. You established your largest colony in my home province that now boasts over 100,000 Manitobans who can trace a connection back to this rock.

But we moved in the 1800s, right? It’s been a while. So it was surprising how many similar social niceties and quirks still seem to exist between both places, despite space and time and an ocean in between us.

Let’s take care of the obvious: Manitoba is cold and our cities are small. That’s not what I’m talking about. There is something in the details.

Take, for example, the way Icelandic people will queue for an ice cream at midnight, in the dead of winter, the way Manitobans, in all seasons, will stop at nothing for a Slurpee—a cold, slushy drink—unhindered by the fact that our temperatures sometimes rival those on planet Mars.

Or, perhaps it is the way that people are known for being really “warm” (read: friendly) in a place that’s known for being cold. Or how when your town is this small, you can know everyone (or at least know of them) yet it is still permissible to silently acknowledge/ignore each other because saying hello to everyone you know and see can take too much time out of a day.

I can’t speak to similarities in the dating life for aforementioned reasons, but it didn’t surprise me that it seems pretty similar too. No game, no shame, and then suddenly there are babies.

This point is admittedly only a hypothesis. Despite brazenly downloading Tinder for the first time at Keflavík Airport and being assured “it’s a match” with a number of local guys, I didn’t have any wild sex this country, and prairie people, are known for. Perhaps I must return to do more research…

After 10 days though, the similarity that struck me most about these two entities is the intense level of cultural output. That, and both Iceland and Manitoba are full of understated creative genius that far too often goes unacknowledged in the bigger scheme of Europe or North America.

Why is this?

When it’s this grey and cold for nine months out of the year, perhaps our time is generally spent flexing creative and productive muscles because if we didn’t, we’d probably go insane.

Whatever the reason, thank god for the creative buzz because it’s life affirming. It’s the perfect salve to soothe us through the dark times. For this Manitoban, at least, it was the motivation required to come to Iceland anyway.

Are you an Icelandic Manitoban? Am I nuts? What did I miss? Shoot me a tweet @LauraBeeston and let’s plan a reunion for #Airwaves15.

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