Embracing our Icelandic culture – the 93rd INL of NA convention Friday night opening ceremonies
Embrace your heritage.
That was the rallying cry of the 93rd Icelandic National League convention.
I drove for three days from Victoria, BC to Brandon, MB. To embrace his heritage, Henry Bjornsson drove from Seattle. Claire Eckley was late coming from Minneapolis because she was caught in a storm. Joan Eyolfson Cadham and friends came from Foam Lake, Elfros and Wynyard. The gathering of the clan was taking place.
In Brandon, Harold and Norma Jonasson, along with Bob Isleifson and the club volunteers, were taking care of the last details, preparing for over 170 attendees.
Over a year in the making, the convention was coming together.
At conventions, food matters and the free breakfasts that had been arranged were outstanding. I was fed ham and cheese omelettes, vegetable omelettes, light breakfasts of peach yogurt with fruit. The coffee was good enough to please even Icelanders, the world’s coffee connoisseurs.
There were coffee breaks with pönnukökur, rúllupylsa, vínarterta. The skyr with cream and sugar was outstanding.
Entertainment is always important. The Kaffi Tima choir warmed up the crowd at the meet and greet. Entertainment is a way for a club to show off young talent and the young talent on show wowed the crowd, none more so than Ari Jakobson who styles himself as a crooner. Heather Jonasson presented a magical program on the flute. The three national anthems were sung by Heather Jordan, accompanied by Theresa Thordarson. That’s easy to say, national anthems sung by…just try singing, O Canada, The Star Spangled Banner and Ó Guð vors lands one after the other. And do it well.
Awards are always a big part of conventions. They’re the once a year opportunity for the Icelandic North American community to honour people who have worked for years as volunteers. I was pleased to see my friend Gunnthora receive the Laurence Johnson Lifetime Achievement Award.
There are the lectures and speeches, of course. They provide the backbone, the justification for all this music and eating and talking and hugging and even kissing. Icelanders are notorious kissers.
The presentation that had me rapt was Ryan Eyford’s “It Seems So Far Away to Iceland: The Correspondence of the Taylor Sisters, 1880-1930.” Everyone knows about John Taylor, the minister that led the Icelanders from Kinmount to the promised land of New Iceland. He had three nieces. Susie married a Lutheran minister, Haldor Briem, and moved to Iceland. She never returned to Canada. Ryan is working with the letters from her correspondence with her sisters.
Alana Odegard gave a talk on her seven years in Iceland. She went through the things about Iceland she misses, and to much laughter, the oddities of Icelandic society. She never adjusted to svið. She discovered that Icelanders don’t believe in planning too far in advance. Everyone dresses well. She misses the ocean, the language, Icelandic candy and the swimming pools.
There was relief to hear that the Snorri Program is fully booked. Nelson is continuing with his massive Silent Flashes project. Lögberg-Heimskringla is doing well. Harley Jonasson laid out the ambitious Riverton Heritage project. Johann Sigurdson and David Collette are organizing the Fara Heim Expedition. They’re taking a sailboat around the northern seas searching for evidence of Viking landings. If anyone would like to join them, they can do so by paying a passenger’s fee. Peter Bjornson and Tammy Axelsson reported on the Gimli Heritage museum and Peter is promoting a new project of collecting rocks in Iceland and Canada, shipping them to the opposite country and building cairns with them.
The heavyweights of the conference were Donald K. Johnson and Ambassador Þórður Ægir Óskarsson. Don, as he has so many times before, contributed financially to the conference. He explained the current financial situation in Iceland and spoke about the possibility of Iceland adopting the Canadian dollar. This was Þórður Ægir Óskarsson’s first INL convention. He has a good sense of humour. Given the financial situation of Iceland and Europe, the effort needed to deal with our many desires and demands, he will need it.
The last day there was a highly successful bus tour to Bru and Grund.
As for me, I drove a long way, it cost quite a bit, six nights in hotels, gas, meals. But I got to see a lot of friends, had a chance to make many more friends, caught up on community news, heard a lot of interesting talks, saw places I hadn’t seen before. I even gave a talk in which I got to expound on life in 19th century Iceland, one of my favorite topics, and the major subject of my blog site, wdvalgardsonkaffihus. The convention flattered me by choosing my book of Lake Winnipeg folk tales, What The Bear Said, for their online reading club. Pretty hard to beat that.
Next year the INL convention is in Seattle. It’ll be a shorter drive from Victoria. A longer hike from Nova Scotia or Ottawa. It’ll be worth the trip. I’m sure of that. I’ll see you there.