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Newsletter Managing Editor



Rob Olason


Washington, USA

Growing up in Blaine, Washington’s Icelandic community in the early 1960s, Rob’s view of the world was firmly centered around Iceland. He was accustomed to hearing older relatives speak Icelandic with friends and out-of-town visitors in his presence and figured this was a typical situation for most children in the US - a perception he realized was false as soon as he started school.

As a teenager in 1972, Rob traveled to Iceland for the first time with his afi, Skapti Olason, on a tour organized by the Icelandic Canadian Club of British Columbia. It was an eye-opening journey that allowed the small-town boy to discover Iceland decades before it became a trendy tourist destination. The group listened as the guide told humorous folktales and shared saga lore, they slept in dormitories along the route, and they sampled the local cuisine, which featured plenty of seafood and a seemingly endless variety of lamb dishes. The identity of one lamb dish in particular remains a mystery to this day, as Rob’s afi refused to translate the name, instead whispering in his ear, “Don’t ask.”

On Rob’s second trip to Iceland, forty-plus years later, he stumbled upon Nelson Gerrard’s photo exhibition “Silent Flashes,” which was on display at Harpa. The photos of early Icelandic settlers in North America and the accompanying texts proved that Rob’s childhood recollections were accurate after all; he had grown up in Icelandic North America. Reconnecting with that world, first discovered in childhood, has been a passion ever since, and it’s a passion that Icelandic Roots allows him to engage with.

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