fimmtudagur, ágúst 26, 2004

picking up the car

Well, I picked up the car today, after a lot of hassling. They don´t make it easy here, but it´s all done and I have some shiny new Icelandic plates: TE-700. They have the Icelandic flag on them too, looks pretty cool.

The people at the shipping company (Eimskip) here are so backwards/incompetent, they almost make the Boston guy who works for them look good. I had to go there 5 times in all to process the car, but their incompetence saved me some money. The girl (she is probably about 21) who ran my customs paperwork *subtracted* the cost of the shipping from the amount on the bill of sale, and then charged my duty based on that. Sheesh... but that saves me a few dollars. :-) They have the monopoly on all shipping from Iceland to North America, so no wonder they can get away with so much backwardness. Makes me want to open a competing shipping company.

One thing they did today was overcharge me for the duty by around $1600, then 4 women bantered in Icelandic for 10 minutes, realized something was amiss, and had to refund and re-charge the amount for the proper amount. (I had to pay the $1600 to register the car later at the RMV´s inspection station.) But this is the kind of business I was dealing with... you´d think mine was the first car they had ever processed.

I also had to deal with annoying dockworker man, insulting the RAV4. Said, "Man, you could have shipped a better car." I basically told him off at that point... enough was enough. I told him my BMW was back in the States... then I signed the car out from some slothful guy in a shack and got the keys, and then dockworker man took me in his truck down into this immense field of imported cars... probably 1000 cars there, sitting by the harbor.

The car was looking the same as when I left it off in Everett - pretty amazing. I had already picked up the "red plates" (temp plates) from the RMV and slapped those in the window, and drove on outta there... went to get gas/air and then up to see an old, grumpy man at the local inspection station. He spoke only Icelandic, and the garage was amazingly clean. He gave me the license plates and a drill and a piece of scrap wood and I had to pop some holes in them in the right places while he put the car through an amazing battery of automated tests, including a loaded metal cylinder that the wheels have to spin to make sure the tires are good, a machine that steers the front wheels automatically (up on the lift), and an emissions test.

Then I asked "Allt í lagi?" (Is everything in order?) And he said "Já, já." (Yow, yow = yes yes.) And I put the plates on and paid him big dollahs and rolled on back to work.

RZ is running well. I bought some gas - 14 liters or so for 1500 ISK... let´s see, that´s roughly 3.5 gallons for $21, or almost exactly $6 a gallon. Wahoo!

Last night I had a really great night - for the first time since I´ve been here I got out of the city. Þorgeir and I took his electrician´s van up north to Borgarnes. He had to do a quick job at an aluminum smelting plant while I studied Icelandic in the car. Then we went on to Borgarnes, where his daughter Hilda goes to a tiny farming school. We were taking some furniture to her, and the three of us had dinner at a gas station/ rest stop/ restaurant. (Lyle, we stopped at the same place on the way back from Snæfellsnes.) It was so awesome to leave Reykjavík behind, and drive through this countryside. Nothing I have seen anywhere looks anything like it does here. It was raining and sunny and I saw a huge rainbow, and horses in the fields, and clouds disappearing out over the Atlantic in the setting sun. Sheer ash-covered mountain slopes that go straight up from the road´s edge, with clouds clinging to the tops. And quiet, so quiet...

I´m taking Icelandic every morning and really enjoying the teacher. She is very challenging and sharp and has been studying the language all her life, so knows a ton about etymology and the evolution of the language. It´s really a fascinating language - a time capsule in many ways of a language very much like Old English. I have hours and hours of homework every night but I do really enjoy it and I can feel some words and ideas settling in in my head. I´ve never experienced that before... makes me want to study all the more.

So with that I´m off to start tonight´s work. I´m feeling better now that "ég á bíl" (I have a car.)

The hardest part about being here has been that emptiness of missing my closest compadres. In many ways, it´s been one of the toughest transitions of my life. But things are gradually getting better...


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