Category Archives: Journalism

Screenshot from the BBC's timelapse of the eclipse.

The Faroese Solar Eclipse of 2015

Today a total solar eclipse occurred in the skies over the Faroe Islands and Svalbard.

Approximately 8,000 visitors came to the Faroes for the eclipse, the largest number ever on islands on the same day. It was also the largest number of foreigners in the Faroes since the British occupation during WWII. Every flight seat and hotel bed was booked, some up to ten years in advance. Concerts, parties, and other special events were organized to make the most of the special eclipse energy.

No fewer than forty airplanes, big and small, used the airport at Vágar today. A 45-meter MD83 from Denmark became the largest airplane that has ever landed in the islands.

The big day dawned cloudy and wet over most of the Faroes, dampening the experience for some eclipse-seekers. Others were thrilled just to experience a sudden, deep darkness in mid-morning. And for the lucky few who were able to witness the full eclipse, this corona was said to be extraordinarily beautiful.

Timelapse of the eclipse over Tórshavn:

The Total Eclipse, as seen by a plane over the islands:

On seeing and filming the eclipse, Faroe Islander Zacharias Hammer wrote, “The 20 seconds I was able to see the full solar eclipse through the darkening clouds this morning, are written as if with runes in my memory.”

(Tey 20 sek. mær eydnaðist at síggja fulla sólarmyrking millum myrkrekandi skýggini í morgun, eru sum skrivað við rúnum inn í mítt minni.)

News media from all over the world wrote about the solar eclipse, and therefore about the Faroe Islands. CNN even sent Tamara Hinson to write an article called “Out of the shadows: Solar eclipse shines a light on Faroe Islands.”

Personally, I’m torn between being pleased that the rest of the world is taking notice of this amazing place and being frustrated that it took a total eclipse of the sun to get it on their radar.

But what a day for the islands!

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Parrot Time – Faroese Edition

Norðragøta on the cover of Parrot Time's special Faroe Islands issue.

Norðragøta on the cover of Parrot Time’s special Faroe Islands issue.

This month, my love for the Faroe Islands had an exciting new platform — a special issue of a magazine!

Parrot Time is a linguistic and cultural emagazine published bimonthly by the Parleremo language learning community. The magazine’s editor-in-chief, Erik Zidowecki, contacted me based on our conversations about the Faroe Islands to ask whether I would be interested in helping him put together a special issue focusing on Faroese topics. Naturally, I was very excited to work on the project. With the help of four Faroe Islanders, we published eleven articles on subjects ranging from summer festivals on the islands and the new feature film Ludo to the presence of Danish in Faroese life and the Faroese perspective on the whaling controversy. I’m very happy with the way the magazine came together with such a wide variety of pieces and beautiful photographs.

From my article "Coming Home to Faroese" in Parrot Time's special Faroe Islands issue.

From my article “Coming Home to Faroese” in Parrot Time’s special Faroe Islands issue.

Coming Home to Faroese” was my main feature story for the magazine. By exploring the richness that learning Faroese has brought to my life, I wrote about the challenges and rewards of learning a language with a small number of speakers. Here’s an excerpt:

“I remember how it felt to speak Faroese down in Copenhagen, to navigate through the crowded city and yet feel as if I had never left the islands when I heard the language I had learned to love so well. The Danes and other foreigners that passed were none the wiser that something didn’t add up, that I was an imposter, that I didn’t belong. In a way I did. In that moment, I felt I could just glimpse, just taste, that feeling of being a part of something… smaller. Something more intimate. Of what it meant to know just from a language that you were home.”

The readable PDF version of the magazine can be viewed for free at the following address: http://issuu.com/abavagada/docs/parrottime_issue_011/3?e=6771516/9612833

In the Wake of the Grind — Who’s Who

In the wake of all the recent whale hunting action, there are now a surprising number of involved parties in the Faroe Islands. Here’s a little “Who’s Who” and update about each of them!

 

Vice Magazine – Ed Ou and Elise Coker

A duo of journalists have been spending a few months in the Faroe Islands to create a documentary about the whaling for Vice magazine. I have followed their postings in various Facebook groups and even had a chat with Ed myself. I am very excited to see their documentary, as I believe it will be one of the most balanced explorations of the grindadráp tradition to come out in international media so far.

Here you can listen to an interview conducted by Kringvarp Føroya with the two journalists.

The two were, of course, happy to have been in the islands during the Sandoy grind, where they gathered a lot of footage. They have also met with many Faroese whalers, families, and various other parties in their attempt to portray the multiple sides of the issue. Ou says that while the grindadráp itself will be the single biggest focus of their work, “we’re also showing other things, like daily life, we’re showing grocery stores, just people doing their thing, music, all that stuff… and that will like hopefully put the grind into context.”

Ed Ou and Elise Coker filming for a Vice documentary about the Grind.

Ed Ou and Elise Coker filming for a Vice documentary about the Grind.

 

“The Propaganda Busters” – Tony Marano and friends

"The Propaganda Busters"

“The Propaganda Busters”

American right-wing vlogger Tony Marano, or PropagandaBuster, has come to the Faroe Islands to show his support for Faroese whaling and disdain for the Sea Shepherd Organization. Marano, who is also very critical of many domestic issues in the United States, first attracted a large following for his videos when he came out in favor of Japanese whaling and other nationalist issues. Naturally, this made him very popular with a large segment of the Japanese population. Marano was even offered a Book + DVD deal, which has been released in Japan under the title “The Speeches from Texas Daddy.”

Marano had already attracted the attention of many Faroese with his posts and videos calling Sea Shepherd “the clowns of the floating circus.” His visit to the Faroes has been advertised in the Faroese media since its announcement. Since coming to the islands, he has been welcomed by the mayor of Tórshavn, Heðin Mortensen, and Hans Jákup Hermansen from the Faroese Whalers’ Association among many other Faroese.

Marano has spent a lot of his visit looking for and confronting “clown cars” full of Sea Shepherd volunteers.

While some grindadráp proponents are in fact against the Japanese whale hunt and disagree with Marano’s views on that issue, and others simply find Marano’s approach overly silly or “cheap”, others find him hilarious and are happy to see Sea Shepherd getting some harassment of their own.

Patrick Corsi wrote in the Facebook group, Whale Wars Faroe Islands / Hvalakríggj í Føroyum:

“I must say that although Tony is giving them back some of their own medicine, and in a funny way sometimes, I find his approach a bit cheap, turning this whole affair of the grind & Taiji into a circus act, when it’s something very important to the Japanese local fisherman and the locals of the Faroe Islands; I believe it deserves more serious and respectful consideration than clowing around like Tony is doing. I’m starting to feel that he’s just going from place to place looking for controversial subjects to fuel his “Texas daddy Propaganda Buster blog / business than doing it out of genuine concern for the locals of Taiji or the Faroe Islands. Well, just saying that won’t help me make new friends I suppose, and sorry Tony if you read this; at least you’re out there while I’m back home not helping much, but I prefer to be honest than to make new friends or holding back what I feel about all this just to be popular on Facebook, haha. So everyone & anyone I have offended, please forgive me for my respectful honesty.”

To which Anker Eli Petersen replied:

“Ahh well, humour is one of many means to fight fanatism. And I have to admit, that I find Tony’s satire quite amusing. Especially when he calls them “girly men” – an insult to the phony “bad-ass” image tey (sic) try to create for themselves. :)”

 

Faroese Public Opinion

Most Faroese people were happy to see a successful grind take place on Sandoy on August 30th. Some were almost as happy about the police actions against Sea Shepherd — when volunteers from the organization tried to interfere, which is illegal under Faroese law, several were arrested and Sea Shepherd boats were also seized.

Coverage of the event from Kringvarp Føroya -- click image for their story.

Coverage of the event from Kringvarp Føroya — click image for their story.

Katrin Petersen, a mother of three who lives on Sandoy, told me:

“Yes, I was there (at the Grind). And this time I also took some whale meat as well. I have otherwise been a pretty strict non-Grind-eater for many years. Because I was thinking of the contamination (of mercury). I thought that, “as long as I am of childbearing age…” But you know — these Sea Shepherd people provoke me! They shouldn’t be the ones to decide, whether we eat grind or not. And I am NOT against the killing, I have only been concerned about eating mercury…

So, I ate a meal of pilot whale for the first time in years — and mamma mia, it was delicious!

I think that the grindadráp went well. And also the work of the police went well. But — I think, it can’t go on like this, that we have three helicopters and 20 policemen there at the grind! So — it went fine, but I’m a little bit worried about the next time, the next year, and the next 5 years…”

(In the Faroese Original: Ja, eg var har. Og hesaferð fekk eg grindapart, eisini. Eg havi annars verið nokkso strict ikki-grindaetari í´nógv ár. Tí eg hugsi um dálkingina. Havi hugsað, at “so leingi eg eri í aldri at fáa børn…” Men veitst tú – hesi SS-fólkini provokera meg! Tey skulu so ikki gera av, um eg eti grind ella ikki. Og eg eri IKKI ímóti drápinum, eg havi bara ikki hug at eta kyksilvur….

So eg át eina grindamáltíð fyri fyrstu ferð í áravís – og mamma mia, tað smakkaði væl!

Eg haldi, drápið gekk væl. Og eisini arbeiðið hjá løgregluni gekk væl. Men – eg hugsi, at tað kann ikki blíva við, at vit hava 3 tyrlur og 20 politimenn við í grind! So – tað gekk fínt, men eg stúri eitt sindur fyri næstu ferð, næsta ár, og tey næstu 5 árini…)

Some Faroese are opposed to the whale hunt, and may stand with or separate from Sea Shepherd on the issue. After the grind on Sandoy, for example, I saw one Faroe Islander post an image of a famous Faroese waterfall, but with the water photoshopped to be blood-red like the sea becomes at a grind.

The Faroese media has also outdone itself with its least newsworthy Sea Shepherd story yet. Apparently, one of the Sea Shepherd volunteers had the audacity to hide… a geocache?

Must have been a slow news day.

 

Sea Shepherd

Captain Paul Watson, for his part, has written the following about the grind on Sandoy:

“What we observed and the documentation we have secured is priceless. The publicity from the arrests has been amazing.

The Faroese police in the beginning saw the potential consequences and they said that it was best if a Grind did not take place because otherwise it would play right into Sea Shepherd’s hand. They were right.”

He also happily posted a political cartoon that was drawn about the event on Portal.fo:

”The objective of Sea Shepherd is to get the Faroese people caught in all the traps that they lay out in front of us."

”The objective of Sea Shepherd is to get the Faroese people caught in all the traps that they lay out in front of us.”

Not only did Watson appreciate the publicity and footage from the Sandoy grind, he was also able to identify further silver linings in the situation:

“…Now that this slaughter has taken place, we can mention that over the last 85 days, Sea Shepherd boat crews have deflected three pods of whales away from the island before the killers could spot them. Unfortunately covering 18 islands is a difficult task, but I am proud of the fact that our volunteers saved those whales and made a valiant attempt to save these 33.

The positive side of this encounter is we now have evidence to implicate the Danish government and Sea Shepherd will take this evidence to the European Parliament to demand that action be taken against Denmark for collaboration with an illegal slaughter of whales. No European member of the EU may be involved with whaling, and although the Faroe Islands are not a member of the EU, they receive massive subsidies from the EU through Denmark. The Faroese may be exempt but Denmark is not and now we have the evidence that pilot whale blood in on the hands of Danish sailors and Danish Police. What is rotten in the Faroes is also very much rotten in Denmark.

Sea Shepherd Update: A Tale of Two Grinds

Faroese Whalers: 1 — Sea Shepherd: ???

The occupation of the Faroe Islands by Sea Shepherd has continued throughout the summer. From my perspective, there has been surprisingly little actual conflict. Until August, most of the interactions between the Faroese people and Sea Shepherd were petty, as Faroese people would accuse Sea Shepherd of minor crimes and mischief and share photographs of them driving and sitting around. Sea Shepherd volunteers, for their parts, seemed to be rather bored by the lack of action. To the surprise of many, they didn’t even disrupt Ólavsøka, the Faroese national holiday.

Tjørnuvík

Our photoshoot in Tjørnuvík, which was filmed by Sea Shepherd for unknown purposes.

I myself was filmed by Sea Shepherd activists while taking photographs one day in the sea by Tjørnuvík… which had absolutely nothing to do with whaling. I can’t wait to see this footage show up in some sort of propaganda. I’m genuinely looking forward to it.

In the last month, however, things have really heated up…


July 30th, 2014
Sea Shepherd prevents a possible Grindadráp at Haraldssund

First, there was a pod of pilot whales sighted at Haraldssund on July 30th. Because Haraldsund is not an approved whaling bay and the weather was terrible that night, the decision was made to wait until the morning to decide what to do with the pod.

Even then, some Faroese believed that the decision had more to do with fear of Sea Shepherd than with practical concerns. For example, commenters on Norðlýsið wrote:

Screen Shot 2014-09-05 at 12.51.05 PM
My translation for non-Faroese speakers:

Kristian Olsen: Why not just say it how it is? You don’t dare to take the pod, what a bunch of idiots, it’s an embarrassment to call oneself Faroese these days. 😦
If it isn’t wise to go with small boats, so much the better, because therefore the SS boats can’t go either! And one would easily be able to stop all of the SS people south of the tunnel so they can’t disrupt anything… no, what a shame I say. And there are very many who agree with me about this.

Pauli Steinberg: Kristian, sometimes it’s worth it to use your head. I hope of course that we have many grindadráp this year. But tactically, I think it would be fortunate, so to say, if no grinds happened while the SS people were here. They came here and thought we were barbaric, undeveloped vikings who killed whales with our bare hands. Almost all of them are going back home with completely different thoughts about us. No, I think that we should be kind and hospitable with the SS-ers. The grind which is possibly coming in to Hvannasund should be observed and sent out again, because we are a people who study whales, we are used to doing that. And let the SS-ers go home happy with their weeks in the Faroe Islands. But I also think that the political authorities need to stand up and prevent such people from invading our land.

Ólavur Petersen: It’s a nice thought, Pauli Steinberg, but the only thing that would accomplish is that Sea Shepherd would say, “No whales where (sic) killed in Faroe Islands while we were there,” and if we let this one go, they will be right. To make it so that Sea Shepherd is right is one of the worst things we can do.

Katja Eyð Rafn Kristinnsdóttir: Pauli Steinberg and they will come back again for the next many years with the same thought. So no grind the next 40+ years.

This is Haraldssund, where the grind came on July 30th. The causeway completely blocks the channel between the open ocean and Klaksvík, so the whales could not have been driven in towards a whaling harbor. The possible plan the next day would have been to drive the whales back out towards the sea and around the island of Kunoy (on the left).

This is Haraldssund, where the grind came on July 30th. The causeway completely blocks the channel between the open ocean and Klaksvík, so the whales could not have been driven in towards a whaling harbor. The possible plan the next day would have been to drive the whales back out towards the sea and around the island of Kunoy (on the left).

The official decision was to wait until the next morning for a decision on what to do with the grind… if it hadn’t swum out to open sea on its own by then. But that night, the Sea Shepherd crew took their boats to the scene and chased the pod out into the open sea despite the bad weather. Many commented that it must have been everything they had hoped for — the successful prevention of a grind at dramatic personal risk. Such interference is against Faroese law, and Sea Shepherd was therefore reported to the police.

Livar Nysted, a Faroese ocean-rower and artist, watched most of the situation unfold from the mountains. In an interview with the Faroese media about the incident, Nysted complained that nothing was done to prevent Sea Shepherd from driving the whales to sea, and said it was unbelievable and embarrassing that “70 hippies” could “put us in our place.”

Grind-free seas off the village of Æðuvík. No grindadráp occurred during my two-and-a-half month stay in the Faroe Islands.

Grind-free seas off the village of Æðuvík. No grindadráp occurred during my two-and-a-half month stay in the Faroe Islands.


August 30th, 2014
Grindadráp on Sandoy:
33 Whales Killed, 14 Sea Shepherd Activists Arrested

The showdown both sides were waiting for finally occurred last week. A small grind of 33 whales was sighted, pursued, and slaughtered on Sandoy. The Sea Shepherd volunteers on Sandoy went to the sea to try to prevent the grindadráp and were arrested by Faroese police with help from the Danish navy.

——–

The arrest of 14 Sea Shepherd activists generated a lot of international media coverage. As The Telegraph reports:

“Fourteen animal rights activists have been detained on the Faroe island of Sandoy in the North Atlantic while trying to stop a controversial dolphin hunt, their organisation has said. The activists were detained on Saturday when attempting to save a pod of 33 pilot whales, members of the dolphin family, as the mammals were driven to shore to be killed by waiting hunting parties, according to environmental group Sea Shepherd.

“The 14 have been under arrest since Saturday, and three of our boats have also been seized,” Lamya Essemlali, president of Sea Shepherd France, told AFP.

Large numbers of pilot whales are slaughtered each year on the Faroe Islands, an autonomous territory within the kingdom of Denmark. The method involves the mammals being forced into a bay by flotillas of small boats before being hacked to death with hooks and knives.”

It should be said that the method of killing described by The Telegraph is in direct opposition to how the Faroese say the whales have been killed there for many years. According to their laws and animal welfare regulations, “a regulation spinal lance must be used to sever the spinal cord, which also severs the major blood supply to the brain, ensuring both loss of consciousness and death within seconds. This, in addition to the supplementary use of the traditional whaling knife, if necessary, is the most efficient and humane means of killing beached pilot whales safely, with many participants involved at the same time.” (whaling.fo)

The Faroese say they are continually researching and implementing new technology and methods as they seek the most humane way to kill the pilot whales for their own consumption, and compare their methods to those used in commercial slaughterhouses.

Those further interested can also read Killing Methods and Equipment in the Faroese Pilot Whale Hunt, the English translation of a working paper by Senior Veterinarian, Jústines Olsen, originally presented in Danish at the NAMMCO Workshop on Hunting Methods for Marine Mammals, held in Nuuk, Greenland in February 1999.


A release from the Sea Shepherd organization about the event states:

“Despite being a member nation of the European Union and subject to laws prohibiting the slaughter of cetaceans, Denmark has officially shown its support of — and now direct collaboration with — the Faroese whalers by sending the Danish Navy to defend this archaic, mass slaughter of whales in the Faroe Islands alongside Faroese police.”

Arrest


Update: See what the August 30th, 2014 grindadráp meant for the Faroese people, Sea Shepherd, and others involved in the Faroese whaling controversy.

The Sandoy Toilet Paper Crisis

In all of the petty exchanges between Sea Shepherd and the Faroese this summer, the Sandoy Toilet Paper Crisis was probably the biggest and the strangest.

"Sea Shepherd steals on Sandoy" coverage by in.fo.

“Sea Shepherd steals on Sandoy” coverage by in.fo.

It all started when the mayor of Sandoy, Brandur Sandoy, posted a sign saying that Sea Shepherd was no longer welcome to use the facilities. He claimed that Sea Shepherd had been misusing the facilities and had stolen toilet paper and other items.

However, I have not read that he had any evidence for these claims. And the way that in.fo wrote about the closure made it sound as if it had more to do with opposing the Sea Shepherd organization’s work than about a scarcity of toilet paper.

My translation:

“In addition to using and misusing the hall, they have also stolen toilet paper and other things in the building,” he said.

Brandur Sandoy, who is also a member of parliament, personally thinks that the government has been unbelievably passive on the topic of Sea Shepherd, which he is seizing.

“We win nothing by letting ourselves be oppressed and watch, while Sea Shepherd drives the pods of pilot whales back out to sea, so we can’t get them.”

Brandur Sandoy says, that he plans to do that which is in his power to do in order to show the parliament that the Faroese in the question of Sea Shepherd ought to have been handled otherwise than it has been until now.

(- Umframt at tey bæði hava brúkt og misbrúkt hølini, hava tey eisini stjolið wc-pappír og annað í húsinum, sigur hann. Sjálvur heldur Brandur Sandoy, sum eisini er løgtingslimur í samgongu, at landsstýrið er ótrúliga passivt í málinum um Sea Shepherd, sum hann tekur til. – Vit vinna einki við at lata okkum kúga og hyggja at, meðan Sea Shepherd rekur grindirnar út á hav aftur, so vit ikki fáa fatur í teimum.




 Brandur Sandoy sigur, at hann ætlar at gera tað, hann er mentur, fyri at vísa løgtinginum á, at føroyingar í spurninginum um Sea Shepherd áttu at havt handlað øðrvísi, enn gjørt hevur verið higartil.)

+++++++++++++++++

The Toilet Paper Scandal

The Toilet Paper Scandal

In response, the Sea Shepherd land crews on Sandoy denied the claims and said that while there was a shortage of toilet paper in the facility, it had nothing to do with them and they had in fact been bringing their own toilet paper to use there.

The Sea Shepherd members then bought 200 rolls of good toilet paper and tried to give them to the mayor of Sandoy. They claimed the move was a goodwill gesture, but the way Paul Watson wrote about it made it clear that it was intended to humiliate the mayor. He titled the post:

The Great Sandoy Toilet Paper Scandal

Or How to Deal with a Constipated Mayor who is Simply Full of Shit.

Paul Watson then spent several paragraphs mocking the mayor for misspelling the name of the organization on the signs, where it was written “Sea Shepard.” As far as I know, Paul Watson does not speak or read Faroese, but he felt that it was fair game to mock a Faroese person’s spelling in English.

“Amazing that he could not spell Shepherd being that he lives on a group of islands called Faroe and Faroe means “sheep” and there are more sheep than islanders in the entire country. For future reference Mr. Mayor think of Sheep herd and simply drop one “e” to get Shepherd.”

He then wrote that when they tried deliver the paper,

“Mayor Brandur was not very grateful. In fact he was downright grumpy and seemed to be somewhat constipated, which of course was understandable, seeing the hygienic pickle he was in. He locked himself in his office or maybe his bathroom and would not come out, hoping that every one would go away.”

+++++++++++++++++

The mayor, Brandur Sandoy, told in.fo about the exchange but strangely avoided using the words toilet or paper:

“Yes, they were here in the municipality, but they got the same answer as before — that they are not welcome to use our facilities. That, which they had brought with them, they were asked to take with them again when they left.”

(Jú, tey vóru her í kommununi, men tey fingu sama svar sum áður – at tey ikki eru vælkomin at brúka fasilitetirnar hjá okkum. Tað, sum tey høvdu við sær, vórðu tey biðin um at taka við sær aftur, tá tey fóru.)

The mayor said that the facilities in question were being closed anyway, now that the peak tourism season has ended.

+++++++++++++++++

Minor Update:

In a letter to Oyggja Tíðindi where he argued that even bad publicity for the Faroe Islands is better than no publicity, Ingi M. Helmsdal wrote the following:

"An Interesting Toilet Paper"

“An Interesting Toilet Paper”

“Shortly after there was a grind on Sandoy, and the police sent many helicopters and officers to support the grindadráp, but truthfully also to search for the vanished toilet paper roll, and we have heard, that a diver found this roll on the bottom of the sea, unused. The foreigners undoubtedly felt threatened, and therefore they threw the toilet paper in the sea without using it. Today it is quite valuable, and could doubtlessly be resold abroad.”

(Stutt eftir var grind á Sandi, og løgreglan sendi fleiri tyrlur og løgreglufólk fyri at stuðla grindadrápinum, men sanniliga eisini fyri at leita eftir horvnu WC-rulluni, og vit hava hoyrt, at ein kavari fann hesa rullu á havsins botni, óbrúkta. Tey fremmandu hava ivaleyst følt seg hótt, og tí hava tey blakað WC-rulluna til havs, uttan at brúka hana. Í dag er hon sera nógv verd, og kann ivaleyst seljast fyri mill. Uttanlands.)

???

When it becomes very difficult to separate truth and satire, you know a situation that started out silly has really gotten ridiculous.

The Missing “Missing” Women of the Faroe Islands

Faroese Population: 48,228

Of Which Male: 24,937

Of Which Female: 23,291

Difference: 1,646

A quick look at current Fareose demographics reveals an oddity — the country is short on women. Though the gender imbalance has fallen from a 2012 high (when there were over 2,000 more men than women in the country), there’s still a striking and problematic discrepancy, especially when you consider that the missing women are mostly in their twenties and thirties, prime ages for dating and having children.

Media coverage and common sense would have you believe that the Faroe Islands is facing an enormous problem in the near future, as fewer women means fewer babies. Population growth could stagnate or reverse if no incentives are made for the women to come home, or if new women aren’t found elsewhere, such as from Thailand or the Philippines. In other places, gender imbalances are also known for leading to all sorts of sociological ills, such as increased violence against women.

A young Thai-Faroese woman attends the Joansøka festival in Vágur, Suðuroy, with her boyfriend and another friend.

A young Thai-Faroese woman attends the Joansøka festival in Vágur, Suðuroy, with her boyfriend and another friend.

But since coming to the Faroes a month ago, I’ve seen none of that. Okay, so I’ve seen a few ethnically Asian women here and there. Mostly beautiful, with very cute children. And maybe they’re the reason that I can buy coconut milk and curry paste in even the smallest Faroese grocery store. If that’s the case, I’m grateful to them. I have a hard time living on meat and potatoes alone, even smothered in tasty Faroese gravy.

Otherwise, though, the country seems to be missing its ‘missing’ women. Everyone knows where they women have gone — Denmark, mostly — but where are the holes they’ve left behind?

I’m just not seeing many schools shuttering for lack of children, restless single men, women left behind by all their friends and desperate to get away. Yes, everyone knows someone who has “gone down” to Denmark to study or work, and most families have at least one member away across the water, but it’s young men they’re missing, too. And most are hoping to come home to the Faroes in due time.

Graduates of the Studentaskúlin (junior college) in Eysturoy gather on the beach in Gøtu as part of their graduation ceremony. This year's graduating class was more than two-thirds female.

Graduates of the Studentaskúlin (junior college) in Eysturoy gather on the beach in Gøtu as part of their graduation ceremony. This year’s graduating class was more than two-thirds female.

Most people I’ve asked about the lack of women know that the issue exists, but in an almost abstract sense. They all know women who have gone abroad, and they understand why — to get certain types of educations, pursue certain careers, to marry foreign men with whom they’ve fallen in love —  but they’re not seeing dramatic effects, and they don’t seem too worried about the future. They don’t believe they’re in a society on the verge of collapse, instead they are optimistic that, despite some problems, things are moving in the right direction.

Take this all “with a grain of salt,” because I still need to do some actual background reporting on this issue, gather statistics and hard facts and talk to the experts. So far, I just have my own observations and those of the many women who have so far made time to talk to me.

“No, no, I don’t see it,” says Bára Joensen, a mother of three who lives in Norðragøta. “The only thing is that some are getting foreign women. But I haven’t really noticed that there are more men.”

Jóna Venned walks with a friend outside of the SMS shopping center in Tórshavn. Jóna has been abroad to work in Switzerland and travel and visit friends in several other countries. She will leave next year to study in Denmark, but plans to move back home to the Faroe Islands afterward.

Jóna Venned walks with a friend outside of the SMS shopping center in Tórshavn. Jóna has been abroad to work in Switzerland and travel and visit friends in several other countries. She will leave next year to study in Denmark, but plans to move back home to the Faroe Islands afterward.

“I think the circumstances have changed and it is a lot easier to be a woman in the Faroe Islands compared to what it has been. It is kind of conservative, it has always been conservative,” says Jóna Venned, a 24-year-old from Tórshavn. She says the society is continuing to move towards greater equality in homes and workplaces, and that there is also an effort underway to make it easier for single parents to live in the Faroes.

The Halfway Point / By the Numbers

Time for just a quick update:

I’m about halfway through my Faroese summer, and nowhere near ready to leave. Right now, I’m wandering around in a bit of a midsummer haze. My days and nights are flipped almost completely upside down. I can’t remember the last time I went to bed before 4 am or got up before noon… I think it’s been a week. Mostly to break the cycle, I’ve planned a trip to Tórshavn and Nólsoy tomorrow, so I have to get up in time to take the 8 am bus.

I think it’s time to say I’ve learned what I’ve needed to learn and met the people I’ve needed to meet in order to really do the bulk of my work here. Of course I could still keep learning and practicing and preparing forever, but the halfway point is a good time to wake up and realize that I need to really get started on serious formal interviews, writing, and such.

In three weeks, things are going to start getting really crazy here. My last few weeks in the Faroe Islands are going to see the G! Festival in my home village, the Ólavsøka national day and festival in Tórshavn, and my best friend here taking off work for a few weeks so that we can travel around and see as much of the country as possible. So I’m going to try to get some of the work done now, before the summer really lights on fire…

Foggy Sunrise

Here’s what my halfway point looks like, by the numbers:

Days spent in the Faroes: 34
Days left in the Faroes: 39

Photos taken: 8,814

Faroese words I know: 2,000+ (ability to speak badly, unlocked!)
Manual gears acquainted with: 5 (ability to drive badly, unlocked!)

Faroe Islands Visited: 9
Vágar, Streymoy, Eysturoy, Borðoy, Viðoy, Kunoy, Kalsoy, Suðuroy, Koltur

Faroe Islands Unvisited: 9
Nólsoy, Hestur, Sandoy, Svínoy, Fugloy, Mykines (plan to visit)
Skúvoy, Stóra og Lítla Dímun (maybe not this time)

Blog posts published: 12
Blog drafts sitting in the edit queue: 8 (!)

Formal interviews conducted and recorded: 4
Formal interviews planned for the coming week: 4

Cups of tea consumed: 69+
Containers of garlic cheese consumed: 7
Bags of “chokoflager” cookies consumed: 4

Potatoes peeled in the correct Faroese style: < 2
Potatoes peeled in Miranda’s roughshod redneck style:  > 15
Potatoes eaten unpeeled: > 15

Hours spent watching Dagur og Vika, reading Portal.fo and listening to Útvarp Føroya: 20+
Words in the “Comprehensive Faroese Vocabulary” Memrise course I’m helping create: 1,107

Faroese (and fellow Faroe-phile) Facebook friends: 58
Times mistaken for a Sea Shepherd Spy: 3+

New Definition of “Good Weather”: 10°C/50°F (and not rainy or foggy)
New Definition of “Hot Summer Weather”: 15.5°C/60°F (and maybe some sun)
New Definition of “Grass Green”: #00FF00
New Definition of “Large”: 500-inhabitant villages
New Definition of “Busy”: 8 cars in a parking lot

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