Sans une Langue

Updated: Jan 23

Pictured is my best friend from college, Bella, and her Faroese grandma, Amma.

I was fortunate enough to spend ten days in Iceland with my best friend Bella and her Amma. In an apartment not too far from Reykjavík's downtown, I enjoyed traditional foods of fish, jams, and wafers, while amidst a spunky cultural scene.

I spent time exploring with Bella in a car we borrowed from her aunt. Cleaning ourselves in natural springs, we drove for a couple days, setting camp whenever we grew tired, and making ham sandwiches whenever we grew hungry. With no sunset or data, we had no sense of time. Our days were long and free, and this added to the adventure. Amma taught me how to prepare pönnukökur, the Icelandic version of a crêpe, following the recipe she learned from housewifery school. We participated in daily coffee/tea time where we feasted upon cookies and desserts from a neighborhood bakery. Amma shared her life story of spirit and fight as I listened intently. But, her lack of English meant my native fluency in such, was a lack too. And so she reserved herself behind the words she did know as I performed my sentences, relying on body language. Seeing past her words, I felt close to Amma as we exposed ourselves with raw and honest movements. It was all we had. But moments of driving were most challenging. Amma kept slipping into dialogue and thought, forgetting that she was my navigator. Missing turns, left and right, and taking roundabouts more than once, I quickly relied on Bella to translate the directions Amma shouted last minute. Yet somehow, Amma trusted me with her car rather quickly; and I thanked her, "tak." She said, "Trust is important. If we don't have trust, what do we have?" I giggled in response to this passing of wisdom because I didn't know what else to do. She was warm and fuzzy for a place that was supposed to be cold and harsh. It was a comforting dichotomy. She shared her love with me as soon as I met her, and saying goodbye hurt in an unexpected way. She walked me to my departing bus, and squeezed me close, revealing her somewhat crooked teeth. She waited for me to be driven away as she placed herself on a nearby bench, with Bella to accompany her. She waved and smiled as I drove off. For a woman I have only known for ten days, I really did miss her. And to her teachings, I am forever grateful.

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