Sunday, April 24, 2011

Explorations in the (only) Mall

The mall was named SMS, a moniker we could make no sense out of because we were not schooled in the Faroese language. We immediately transformed it to S&M in our minds and it stuck somehow. From there on out we always referred to the mall as S&M and though there was no reason for it, we derived a great deal of amusement from saying, "I'm going to S&M" or "Let's go get something at S&M." It was not the first mental gyration we'd perform with the language, nor would it be the last. We were beginning to make the place our own. Was this how languages and places evolved over time. Probably not...... but maybe.

The SMS shopping center was about four hundred feet long and a hundred and fifty feet wide. It had two levels with a central concourse and was spacious and well lit, a perfect location for upscale establishments. There were clothing stores, a well stocked music outlet, a grocery store on the bottom floor and all manner of people strolling up and down, talking animatedly, pushing baby carriages, smoking cigarettes and enjoying themselves. We spread out and each performed our own exploratory surveys. I found an ATM and withdrew some money then contemplated a bank of pay phones that lined a wall. The phones were of the European variety, with signage in Faorese. I was unable to intuitivley grasp the dialing procedure and decided to cross that bridge when I got to it. There was nothing I needed except for groceries, which I would purchase just before leaving, so people watching became the order of the day.

Five facts became apparent after just a few minutes of observation. First was that there were very few fat people, and by very few I mean none. And by fat I mean of the corn fed American variety. Were I in an airport or a mall in middle America at least thirty percent of the people would be overweight. Here maybe one percent of the people in the mall had a BMI in the high range. Second was that there were very few tall people. Bear in mind that I'm six foot three inches tall so anyone taller than me was 'tall' and anyone shorter than me was 'short'. I saw one person taller than I. On the whole the men seemed to average about 5' 10" and the women an inch or two shorter. Third was that fifty percent of the people were smokers. A blue haze in the sunbeams let in by wide windows in the walls testified to the amount of secondhand smoke in the air. This was definitely a departure from what I was used to in Hawaii and would turn out to be a price I would have to pay for seeing the Faroe islands as if I lived there. Fourth was that a favorite hair color of brunette women was deep magenta, either in highlights or in a wide band somewhere in their hair. Fifth was that only twenty percent of the people were blonde and only five percent were what I would call the full on Scandanavian type. Blue eyes and straw blonde hair existed but were not as prominent as I expected.

Since I'm describing things with broad brush strokes let me add that I saw several people of Asian or Indo-European descent (in my opinion) and one of African descent. Safe to say that the predominant race was Caucasian. This is indicative of nothing, except perhaps that the Faroes are, indeed, a bit isolated from the rest of the world, and my mentioning it should not be interpreted by readers as anything other than a report of what I was seeing that afternoon in the mall in Torshavn.

Next stop was the grocery store where I roamed the aisles and perused the labels of all the products. They were all of mostly European origin, I assumed, but it was easy enough to select rough approximations of items I was looking for. Bread, cheese of many types, cold cuts, fish, snacks and candy were all there to be found and I stocked up and got in a checkout line. The person at the cash register spoke to me in Faroese and smiled. I smiled back, looked at the total on the register readout and handed her the amount in Faroese bills. She gave me change and I spoke my first words of Faroese. "Takk Fyri," I said, which means thank you very much. In her eyes I registered awareness that I was a foreigner and also an acknowledgement that I'd spoken to her in her home tongue. Only 558 words to go until I'd be able to have a rudimentary conversation.

Everyone collected outside and we piled into the car for the trip to Leynar. Clouds were beginning to accumulate around the peaks and the temperature was dropping. Offshore to the southwest wind whipped up whitecaps between Stremoy and the small islands of Koltur and Hestur. We had experienced beautiful weather for two days but I felt this was bound to change. I was reminded of the old saying, 'climate is what you want, but weather is what you get.' This would hold true for the Faroe islands, in spades.

(To be continued.)
(Please join my blog and comment. It's great to know you're reading. Mahalo and Aloha, D.)


  1. Doug, there were a few chuckles in the third paragraph about having no american corn fed overweight people... and about your height. Having a husband that is 6'2", I get that benchmark however 6'2" is very tall nowadays (at least in America) for some reason! Maybe they're making men shorter?

  2. Hi. Thank you for another exciting post!

    It sounds to me like the typical Scandinavian mall. The way you observed the people and the surroundings sounds very much like I interpret my reality.

    Absolutely love the way you guys changed it to S&M instead of SMS (which only makes me think of text messages by the way). Besides S&M makes me think of the (weird) relationship some people share with shopping...

    Again, thank you for your pixels.

  3. Dear Caely,

    Thanks for reading and letting me know that you are. I just got a vital picture from Bonnie of us in front of Tinganes. Will post it soon. Another episode is in the pipeline.

    The story is a little slow right now but is going to pick up steam and speed. it really is going somewhere. We're only at day two in the Faroes. Lots to cover yet.

    Say, Caely. You should check out the Stockholm Open Disc Golf Championships this summer in Stockholm. You can see what else makes me tick.

    Aloha and Mahalo. More soon.



  4. Such a radical departure from my reality here in CT. Thanks for the tour of the S&M!

  5. Eric,

    You are welcome. Thanks for coming along for the ride. Been banging my head on another post. Will get it done by tomorrow.

    Your the fuel for my fire.



  6. It's the bog ordinary locations like shopping malls that are the best squinty window onto local culture.

    6 foot 3, eh?

  7. Hi Ruth,

    Someone told me I'm too effusive with thanks to readers. I told him to piss up a rope. So forgive me if he's right and I'm wrong, but I very much appreciate the feedback and cogent comment you took the time to write.

    I think you're right about the ordinary places. We live so much of our lives there and walk about without armor or camouflage.

    190.5 centimeters. 18 stone. (Not far from corn fed territory, but I carry it well:)