REYKJAVIK, ICELAND: The first boat bearing immigrants from the United States landed at several western Icelandic ports from Reykjavik to Husavik this morning just as the departure of the last groups of Icelanders for the warmer climes of Brazil, first reported in these pages, was shown on local television.
Many of the Americans, who described themselves as "the first wave" told media representatives of their delight at hearing of the so-called Viking Abdication, the flight of nearly half of this island nation's population from the long cold nights of fall and winter to the long warm days of Brazil's constant summer. To the Americans the prospects of clean air and water, and long sulfurous geothermal baths together with the social and cultural opportunities of the fabled long nights have trumped the complaints of the fleeing natives.
Unspoken, for now at least, is the political aspect of flight from a country whose policies have come under increasing criticism from the international community.
"We can't say too much as long as we still have family back there", said one man who asked to reamin unidentified. Even communication with those "back home" has been limited due to the possibility of intercept or, as another of the "bauterfolk", ("boat people" as the locals call them) expressed it, "with Iceland being so high on the U.S. government's list of suspected terrorist supporters: you just can't pick up the phone and call Auntie Em."
On hand to greet the boats were representatives of several Icelandic social agencies and citizens groups formed to counter economic and demographic losses due to the flight of the "solfuglar" or sunbirds. On hand were ample supplies traditional snack foods: hardfiskur (hard chunks of dried fish or, more familiarly, Icelandic popcorn), and the famous black bread, baked in the geothermal in-ground ovens at Hveragerdi, legendary for its diuretic properties.
And with the first exchange, "Komdu saell!", "Say what?" the Americans began another, far more complex journey - into the mazes of "Islensk" the language of the ancient sagas, eddas, and their new home.