Saturday, March 31, 2007

Back from France!

We're just back from a great trip to France. It was a good vacation in which I got to see my family and relax before starting work on Monday.

My cousins had organized a 60 person surprise party at their place in Lyon, for their parent's 30th wedding anniversary (the dad was in on it, my aunt was not). It was a great night in the end, they had a whole series of skits prepared. Lots of eating (Lebanese food! 8 kg of pastries!) and dancing. We stayed in Lyon for a few more days, enjoy the nearby park, and eating much.

We then went to Paris for a few days, where we proceeded to walk around, eat, visit a few things, eat, etc...

There is a store in Paris that sells wines (some for quite cheap), named "Nicolas". They now have a few "bar a vins" open, where they serve food (mostly traditional French fare) and wine by the glass, for quite cheap. You can also get a bottle from their adjoining wine store and open it over food for a minimal fee. It's not a hugely impressive thing, just a small new discovery that I really enjoyed.

Another discovery I made was that brains are not very tasty. We went to a restaurant where I chose the veal head, based on a French man's suggestion, who said that the cheeks were quite tasty. Somehow it did not dawn on me that the head would include the brains... But I decided to try it anyway once it arrived. The texture is a bit of a problem, it's rather gelatinous; in the end it's edible but not that pleasant. The tongue, however, tastes better. All in all, this is good prep for next year's þorrablot.

The whole trip was very food-themed, come to think of it. In addition to all the great food in France, I got 4 kilos of Lebanese pastries from my parents (mostly for gifts), 1 kg of zaatar (dried thyme and toasted sesame), other spices, nuts, French pastries... Enough to last me for a while and give me more cooking options in Iceland.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

The pieces are falling into place


I've now selected one of the job offers. It's the one that pays better and that's closest to where I live :). I will be working on websites mostly, porting stuff to .NET technologies. I'm glad to finally work with .NET, since almost every job ad I've seen asks for this.

I'm gonna be working in a small company, about 30 people, a quarter of those being programmers. It implies a bit more responsibility, since I was chosen because of my academic background in part, in order to be able to make some decisions. So that's good. And my employer will pay for my Icelandic lessons, which is great.

We're going to France tomorrow, for a week, to meet my family :). And then when I come back, I start working at the new job. I will now be able to afford meat and wine and good coffee again, yippee!

In other news, yesterday J and I went to a free Tango lesson in Cafe Cultura, downtown. We were the only newbies I think, most people there had a good enough idea of what to do. Tango is not easy, but I'm looking forward to attending more lessons.

Oh, and after completing my medical tests (they wanted to make sure I wasn't bringing Aids or Syphillis or Tuberculosis to the island..) I finally got my Dvalarleyfi (residency permit) stamped into my passport, which I needed in order to work.

Tonight we had another dinner at J's Grandma, along with an uncle and his wife. We ate so much fish and potatoes and cream and jam filled pönnukökur... That was great :).

Alright, time to finish packing...

Bless Bless

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Some pictures

Mount Esja, as seen from the fifth floor of the city library

A purple house in the west side of town

A bird outside our apartment

Unemployed in Iceland?

Not for much longer, it seems... After a few weeks of job hunting, it seems that I might accept a job offer by tomorrow. I have had interest from two companies, and I'm trying to figure out where I should go. The job itself, the location, and the pay are all factors that I need to weigh properly.

Getting a job has been an interesting process. Luckily, Iceland's IT sector seems to be booming, with many companies looking for employees. I started sending my CV around before I even left the US, and continued sending it and replying to job offers in the newspaper. I had a couple of leads that seemed good initially but petered out by the end (some of them I know I will hear about eventually, but I'm tired of waiting at this point). Many people have been very helpful in helping me send my CV and apply to different places. My new landlord even gave me her boyfriend's email since he needs to hire people for his company! A lot of my emails did not get a reply, and many got the "We're not hiring at this point" reply, but in the end there were enough positive answers for me.

As of today, we finally have Internet. It took two weeks and a lot of calls until our provider (Hive) managed to get us connected in the end... Sometimes things here don't seem that much more efficient than Lebanon.

Last week, J and I met some of the expat bloggers in Iceland. It's interesting meeting people after reading their blogs for so long when they don't know much about you (I did a lot of blog reading before deciding to move to Iceland) but they're quite nice people and it was a pleasure meeting them.

We also went to a couple of parties on the weekend, which was fun. The usual socializing and drinking (not too much though, it's too expensive here :)). Being able to walk from downtown to our apartment is a great thing. In fact, we've been walking around so much more these days. Hopefully having Internet at home will not turn us into couch potatoes...

We're leaving on Friday to France, where we will meet my family and assorted relatives and friends. Fun! After we return, in the beginning of April, I will hopefully start working at my new job (wherever that will be) and then start my Icelandic lessons a week after that.

Bless Bless

Settling in

(This post was originally written around the 10th of March. Since I did not have Internet access at home then, I simply saved it as a document, and I'm finally publishing it now).

So, it’s been about 10 days in Iceland so far. By now we’ve settled into our cozy apartment, and we have become regular clients at the local supermarkets and bakery. There’s one nice supermarket (Nóatun) and a crappy one (Krónan). We´re going to the second one so far since it’s the cheapest one, though it’s still much more expensive than the US. The bakery (Björn´s bakery) makes pretty good bread.

This weekend, we met an Italian friend of J downtown (a 10-15 minute walk from home). We went to a couple of places and had some beer and chatted with some fellow foreigners in Iceland.

We went to visit the National museum too, which is quite impressive not only in its material contents, but more so in its presentation. It’s right by the University, where we’ve been stopping by almost every day with a laptop to check our emails (we still don’t have Internet at home). We have a TV here that the owner had left in the basement. There are 3 channels available (and a fourth one that needs a subscription). One of them plays the same video clips during the morning / day, and most of them seem to show lots of American stuff, including a lot of trashy stuff such as Trading Spouses, the story of Britney and Kevin, etc.. I did see today some home improvement show (in Icelandic) which was peppered by 5 minutes segments showing people how to clean their toilets using certain brands of cleaning products.

Work wise, I’m still looking around though there is a place I kinda like already. It’s a bit frustrating not having Internet here since it helps with that stuff (and with online Icelandic lessons!)

Velkomin til Íslands!

(This post was originally written on March 3rd, but I could not post it then because of network problems)

This Thursday morning, we (my wife J, and I) finally arrived in Iceland. After a good week of packing / cleaning / going to work, it was a relief to be finally on that plane. We were unable to ship some stuff on the last day but thanks to an ever helpful coworker we'll be able to work it out soon :).

So.. Iceland! It's still not a huge culture shock since I've been here before and it's quite a westernized country. It's good to be in Reykjavík again, I like this little town.

We've been staying at J's aunt's for a few days. They've been very hospitable (and such good food :)), and the partial immersion in Icelandic is helping me (they usually speak to J in Icelandic, and to me it's 50/50, so I often have to ask for clarification). I've also shown them pictures from Lebanon and prepared a Tabboule salad for them. Intercontinental cultural exchange :)

Two nights ago we met J's grandma, who is our only remaining grandparent at this point. It was good to meet her, and hopefully as time goes by I'll be able to communicate with her in Icelandic.

Today we went to a relative's 85th birthday. The place itself was quite small (maybe 55 square meters) and full of people. There were SO MANY DIFFERENT CAKES. Kannski (= maybe) about 10. Some were really good too. And coffee of course. I'm told this is quite typical for notable occasions in Iceland. And we also signed our names on a guestbook, which had signatures dating back to over fifteen years. Cool.

We have also found an apartment! It's the western part of town, barely still in the 101 postal code. A cozy little place, quite expensive but then this is Iceland. Hopefully we will move in there tomorrow, provided our bed-borrowing plans work out.

As we will be settling in this new place, there are many things ahead of me:

  • Moving on with the job applications
  • Finishing my residency paperwork
  • Getting used to the Icelandic keyboard layout
  • Figuring out where/when to take Icelandic lessons (according to J, this can be solved by going to eat twice a week at her aunt's place where her uncle will correct my Icelandic ruthlessly :))
  • Trip to Paris at the end of the month!
  • Taking pictures of Iceland to justify our recent purchase of expensive camera lenses

More to come,

Bless Bless