The idea of going to Manitoba, in the dead of winter, was a joke. Maybe not a joke, but it was incredible, too far away from Iceland’s spring to be considered seriously. The days passed and it became necessary and tickets were bought as we flew in from across the continent to see our old friends. It was not just time to relive the past: that was impossible and unnecessary - it was time to create new memories.
We took highway 7 through terrible Teulon to Arborg, a town of 1000 people who all know each other but who stay optimistic despite that. The first stop was at the vendor behind the new bar, Eldhús, where you can buy beer at almost any time by ringing the bell. The locals drink Blue or Club and when in Arborg, you do as they do. We were received by the most gracious hosts as though we were long lost cousins and felt at home. Food was in abundance and the first evening saw us go to the new old bar, the one that replaced the one that burned down three years ago, perhaps the greatest tragedy. Our host Joel’s friends came with us and it felt like we met half the town, útlendinga being welcomed by one and all.
The next day, we discovered this place known as New Iceland. A land grant by Governor General Lord Dufferin, a great fan of Iceland, created a special territory for those escaping the volcanoes and famines to the west. We saw the 20 million bee harvesting operation, the Icelandic farms, the Geysir Hall and the world’s 13th biggest lake, Lake Winnipeg. The frozen surface extended past where eyes could see and no matter how far one ventured, they were no nearer the other side. As some returned to the city, Winnipeg, to find another Gamli survivor, my great Cypriot friend Constantinos and I took a ride through the backroads, beer in hand and admired the fields aslumber, waiting for the next year’s crop to fill them again. The evening is spent at Jon Finnson’s Bible Camp where we watch hockey and drink beer, a very Canadian, very Manitoban and very New Icelandic thing to do.
The next day is New Year’s Eve and a trip to see Stinky the cat is all we need before we head into the city again for the night’s big party. Last year, we were in Reykjavik to see fireworks explode for hours on end, but tonight we’ll be at the Vietnamese Paradise to create some own fiery magic of our own. Manitoba’s largest hotel chain, Canadinn has two rooms for us and we order too much pizza to drink with our vendor bought Blue. We are the party as we arrive and create havoc and the night spins deep as the DJs do. The year is at its best as it ends and 2010 arrives with noise and drinks. At three we return to the hotel to continue the party. It lasts till 5 and when the morning comes, it is absolute ass.
A great party that took everything we could give it leaves us nothing for the next morning but we manage to see the Forks, Portage and Main and the new museum of human rights that is being built. After a nice lunch, we visit the Museum of Man and Nature and Man and itoba…it is a day to laugh at lame jokes. After three hours, two references to Icelanders and one tired bunch, we head to Tim Horton’s and Valour Road then start the goodbyes.
Back to New Iceland for one last night before we all disappear again to our different corners of the world until the next time. We watch Canada’s women beat the American’s with Laura Fridfinnson who should have been on the ice but offered us her expert analysis instead. After a movie and a Corner Gas marathon, we lose members quickly and by noon we are all on a plane to escape from -41 winds and ice. This reunion was so quick, but so necessary. And next year Europe shall host us.