Tag Archives: Travel

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.

Advertisements

180° – Reflections from Half a World Away

My summer in the Faroe Islands is over, but much remains to be done. I left the Faroe Islands a few weeks ago, and after detouring in Denmark, England, Wales, Man, and Ireland on the way home, I’m finally back in Missouri.

There’s still a lot of summer left here — and here, summer means the concrete’s so hot you can watch your footprints disappear in seconds, sweating is natural and welcome, and the lake water’s so still and warm, you can almost fall asleep in it, lying on your back beneath the stars on a sultry dark night.

Summer in Missouri -- what's always been familiar suddenly feels unfamiliar.

Summer in Missouri — what’s always been familiar suddenly feels unfamiliar.

It’s been a strange transition.

I was able to readjust to some aspects of life off the islands (trees, large buildings, busy roads…) along the way, but it still hit me surprisingly hard to look out of the window of my Chicago – St. Louis flight at endless, hazy blue and realize that it wasn’t the billowing sea I was looking at, but land… an unimaginable amount of solid land.

And then there was the moment I stepped out of the airport — still clad in jeans, wool socks, hiking boots and a long-sleeved shirt (though I had taken my heavy sweater off moments earlier) — and into what felt like a solid wall of heat and humidity. I found myself gasping for breath. The heat index on my first day back reached nearly 42 C.

In quiet moments, I’ve felt a strange longing for the cold blue fog of so many summer nights in Gøta.

And this from the girl who, just a few months ago, had a secret fear of falling off the islands — so unused to the lack of a whole continent as a cradle. The girl who once saw a photo of Greenlandic children wearing thick sweaters in July and swore, shivering, that she’d never live in such a terrible place. The girl whose only reference point, the first time she was enveloped by a rush of bright summer mists, was the cinematic white-out that signals entrance into some other, higher dimension.

Summer in the Faroes -- an experience I would never have imagined.

Summer in the Faroes — an experience I would never have imagined.

I guess I’ve come 180 degrees… and back again.

Though I’ve now left the Faroes behind me physically, I doubt I’ll ever get them out of my mind or my heart. I certainly hope to maintain a lifelong connection with the nation and with the wonderful Faroese people who welcomed me into their homes and lives.

More immediately and concretely, I am not yet finished with the project that took me to the Faroes this summer. I had more I wanted to see, do, process and share than I could ever have accomplished during my short stay. So as the summer progressed, I made the executive decision to focus on the first two.

Over the next few months, I will be editing photos, transcribing interviews, thinking, and writing, writing, writing. Rather than being the end of my Land of Maybe blog, my homecoming is closer to a beginning. So please stay tuned — there’s so much I can’t wait to share with you!

Faroese High Summer

High Summer has come to the Faroe Islands. The yellow buttercups and marsh marigolds have been joined by white clover, purple ragged robin and lacy umbels of angelica. The days are at their longest, the hills at their greenest, the weather at its finest — but keep calm, we’re still talking Faroese standards.

The Faroese version of a "Beach Day" at the G! Festival -- not exactly for the Miami crowd!

The Faroese version of a “Beach Day” at the G! Festival — not exactly for the Miami crowd!

Yesterday the G! Festival began in earnest, my lovely host family finished painting the upstairs and the outside furniture, and Norðragøta was loud with the sounds of seagulls and drunk festival-goers, our house full of guests stuffing themselves on bollar and home-made rhubarb jam, and hundreds of sheep baaaa-ing as they were herded down off of the mountain Tyril to be sheared.

House Painting in the Faroes

Painting houses in the summer weather.

As Jonhedin Herason Trondheim told me at a G! Festival planning meeting, “Yes, our summer is great. And it’s long. But it’s short and we have to fit in festivals, painting our houses, everything!”

Summer Fun at the G! Festival

Summer Fun at the G! Festival

Is it any wonder I’m struggling to find time to update my blog?

G! Comes to Gøta

The G! Festival, one of the biggest and most anticipated music festivals in the Faroese summer, takes place each summer in my own home village of Gøta! There’s camping in Norðragøta, a few events in Gøtugjógv and the bulk of the action will happen on the stages of Syðrugøta, just a short walk away.

Preparations for G!

Preparations for G! in Syðrugøta

The main event begins today, but the festival spirit arrived yesterday afternoon with the most eager of the campers, who line up in anticipation of the opening of the camping area, sometimes 6-7 hours early (even though there is plenty of room for everyone!). Some of the groups have camp names, like “Flower Power” (who decorate their tents with flowers) and “The G! Spot” (what a pun). This year, like last year, the first campers on the scene were “Skopunhagen” who entertained other early arrivals with beer contests and quizzes before taking their rightful position at the very front of the line.

Herri from Skopunhagen is ready for the Tent Rush at G!

Herri from Skopunhagen is ready for the Tent Rush at G!

When the gates open, there is a mad rush to select the best spots and pitch your tent as quickly as possible. The frantic, confused efforts made it fairly clear that most of these people had not used their tents before and had also done a fair bit of pre-gaming. But that’s just part of the fun!

G! Tent Rush

G! Tent Rush

G! Tent Rush

G! Tent Rush

G! Tent Rush

G! Tent Rush

Residents of Gøta (except for yours truly, who was out in the field getting trampled to bring you these photographs) watched from windows and streets throughout the village, taking their own photos and videos of the “Tent Village” that springs up over the course of an afternoon to join Gøta every year for G!

G! Tent Village in Norðragøta

G! Tent Village in Norðragøta

 

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

CJLCQ_7DTWV