The Vagar Airport arrivals concourse was also the departures concourse. It was a large rectangular building with a small entrance lobby which opened onto a spacious glass walled waiting area that looked out onto the runway and contained a concession stand, souvenir store, news stand and a few displays of Faroese cultural items. About thirty square tables with metal chairs allowed passengers and their loved ones to wait in comfort for departing or arriving flights. Security was present but there were no oppressive choke point searches or endless lines of shoeless passengers filling bins with their personal items. Comfortable was the word that came to mind. It was a throwback to an earlier time and not the worse for being so.
The Faroese language was dominant throughout, as one would expect, yet careful listening revealed that many people, both workers and travelers, were speaking english when necessary. The concession stand had a large variety of food for sale but what caught my eye was a type of hot dog, thin and long, that was held in a long crispy one piece bun carried in a piece of paper or a napkin. Ketchup, mustard or mayonaise was squirted down a perfectly sized hole in the open end of the bun and then your choice of hot dogs, cheese filled, hot and spicy or regular, were slipped into the hole, wrapped in paper and handed to you. I filed this appetizing delicacy away for future research.
On one wall of the Atlantic Air ticketing booth a large map of the Faroes showed a tight group of eighteen islands that covered a space in the North Atlantic that was seventy miles from north to south and fifty mile from east to west. It was like looking at a Rorschach Blot test. The names of each island all seemed to end in 'oy' and all of the place names were composed of ninety per cent consonants with a few vowels sprinkled in for good measure. Trying to guess how to pronounce any of them gave me a headache. The knowledge that it took me three years before I felt at ease with Hawaiian place names put things in perspective. I resolved to try to learn the correct pronunciation of every word, but would not beat myself up if I got them wrong the first few times.
Closer examination of the map revealed a pattern in the layout of the islands. Each was in general, separated from the next by a fjord or narrow channel of water. The channels were oriented from northwest to southeast. I tried to imagine what forces had contributed to the shaping of the islands and the channels between them. Glaciers? Geologic uplift? Several hundred miles to the northwest was Iceland, a land mass created entirely by volcanic eruptions. Could the Faroes be volcanic in origin? It was at this point that first noticed the similarities between the Faroes and the Hawaiian Islands. The notion was vague and nebulous at first, but would later grow more substantial as I learned about the unique archipelago we had come to visit.
Bonnie's plane arrived and I was reunited with what I began to think of as 'the gang'. They walked from their plane to the terminal with the same wide eyed fascination that I must have displayed an hour earlier. As they collected their baggage Bonnie introduced me to a tall, blue eyed young man with soft brown hair and a very quiet, yet attentive demeanor. Páll Georg Hammer had responded to Bonnie's ad in Socialurin, on of the major newspapers in the Faroes, and had agreed to act as a liason and guide for her endeavor. Páll dove right in and got us organized and sitting at two tables. He then explained that he would have to take Bonnie and the majority of our luggage to Leynar, a small village on another island, where he had rented a house for us to stay. They would offload the luggage and Páll would return for the rest of us. We helped them load up in a small blue sedan Bonnie had rented and waved as they drove off, then returned to our tables to pass the time until Páll returned.
As would become my habit during our time in the Faroes, I got out my notebook and began to jot down my impressions of the place, our trip thus far and impressions of the team Bonnie had assembled. Larina, Bonnie's daughter, was a high strung young woman with brown hair and a petite frame. She was pretty and pert and had been brought along by her mother because Bonnie wanted someone to connect with the youth of the Faroes. Louie was Bonnie's brother and closest relative. They shared a tight bond from their youth and Louis' cosmopolitan nature would allow him to merge smoothly into the club scene and city life in general. Christof Putzel, Bonnie Carini's nephew, was a budding film-maker fresh off of the success of Left Behind, an award winning documentary about AIDs orphans in Kenya. Cristof had the most journalistic chops and a mindset that was focused and sharp. He had an eye for details and the quiet confidence of youth. Gabe was a tall, handsome, dark haired Hawaiian youth and friend of her family that Bonnie had recruited to mix with the locals and report. He was a direct counterpoint to the stereotypical blonde haired, blue eyed Scandanavian and as such would attract a great deal of attention from many young women throughout the following weeks. Gabe was an accomplished SCUBA diver and Ukulele player whose outlook on life was simple and to the point. Hang loose and go with the flow.
The last guy on the list was the writer. I wanted to help wherever I could, but in reality what I most wanted to do was observe and absorb and document everything we experienced on the trip. Mine was the easiest job on the crew because it was exactly what I wanted to do. Years ago I had written one novel with a friend and was in the middle of another when I decided to drop everything to travel and work with Bonnie. My mind was geared toward the big picture and the overarching view. What, I wanted to know, was the story? Any additional help I gave to the effort would be a plus for her team, but I think Bonnie knew I would be the recorder of things. She knew also that I was a person of like mindset when it came to one of the reasons for her travel to the Faroes - The Pilot Whales and the Grindadrap.
(To be continued...)