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The holiday end

There are times in our lives, when our destiny changes in an impredicatble and irreversible way; and these seem to occur on the spur of a moment, but in reality they are the result of a long preparation. One such turn in my life occurred one day in late August, at the Icelandair check in desk, at Keflavík airport. When the Icelandair employee told me for the third time that it was not possible to further delay my travel back to Italy, because my ticket would expire the day after, something gave way inside me.

--I will be back soon --I told to the lady beyond the desk, and I went to the toilet. I carefully tore up the ticket in small bits, I threw it in the toilet and flushed. Then I went to catch the bus to Reykjavík.

When I arrived downtown I went to the Salvation Army Guest House. The receptionist gave me the same room again; there were four beds in it, but now it was for me alone, since tourists were beginning to go away. Along the city roads you could meet the last cyclists coming back, deadly tired, from their tours of the interior; the tourists of the package tours were long gone. In this way Reykjavík was all for me, for my thirst of knowing everything about the icelandic way of life.

September in Reykjavík has an hartbreaking beauty: the daylight quickly becomes shorter, but the sky is still bright and the clouds run over it like in the summer (Icelandic sky) However, if I wanted to become an Icelandic, I needed to stop living like a tourist and to find a job. The Reykjavík Employment Office was perfectly organized, as all icelandic offices, with kind clerks and large billboards with job offer notices posted. At the begining I had the impression that finding a job would be easy; but I soon realised that I did not have the required qualifications. My Icelandic still halting was not good enough for a clerical job; as a fisherman I was not qualified (I suffer from seasickness); as for the job of regrouping sheep (Icelandic sheep) on horseback in the deserts of the interior, the job easisest to find in September, I cannot ride a horse and anyway was not attracted to it. Having ruled out these jobs, the only offer was for a cod cleaner, at the frozen fish factory on the outskirts of Reykjavík: this was not what I had decided to stay for.

In the last days of September the first winter storms came, and walking along the streets of Reykjavík was much less attractive; moreover, even at the Salvation Army they started very kindly pointing out that if I wanted to stay, I should pay the bill. On October 1 I got to the bottom of my despair. Before surrendering I decided to visit the Employment Office for the last time. In October the job offers are scarce; the big billboards were desperately empty; even the cod cleaning job was gone. Alone in a corner sat a yellowish sheet of paper, which looked as if it had been there, covered by the other job notices, for the entire summer, and may be even longer.

The notice said: Seeking a keeper for the Dyrhólahey lighthouse. Good salary, lodging provided, bewitching surroundings, small workload. Contact the Maritime Office of Southern Iceland, address..... It looked like what I had been looking for. However, when I took the notice from the billboard and addressed the lady at the counter to get some more information, she stared at me for a long time before answering. Given the cool attidtude of the icelandic people --they do not allow their feelings to leak out-- this was really surprising.

At the Maritime Office I was received with polite but evident surprise.

--Are you really interested in the job of keeper of Dyrhólaey? This position has been vacant for a long time.

--Why? It looks like a good job.

--Indeed, the salary is good, but ... the location is somewhat lonely.

Trying to understand how an Icelander could find a location lonely, I was caught by a doubt: was Dyrhólaey in the asteroid belt?

--Where is Dyrhólaey? --I asked.

--Eight kilometers from Vík í Mýrdal, the largest town on the southern icelandic coast.

I knew very well that the icelandic idea of a town is very different from ours; nevertheless, having a built-up area no more than a two hours' walk away looked conforting, and also for this reason I told the clerk I wanted the job, without further investigating the reasons of her strange attitude. There was a daily bus service to Vík, which went counterclockwise along the Ring Road, essentially the only icelandic highway we would consider fit for driving. The next day, having payed the hostel bill with the advance of my first salary, I took the bus.

next up previous
Next: The lighthouse Up: No Title Previous: No Title

Andrea Milani
Fri May 5 08:45:48 MET DST 1995