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The Iceland Diaries, Part Six

She followed this up with a question about the Indians, delivered in the same earnestly curious way. Who were these people who once lived on our land and now were gone? Where did they go? And were they really bad people? I remembered that some of the television shows we once watched together so long ago had stories of cowboys and Indians. And the Indians were not portrayed very favorably. Oh, how tied we all are to our past, even if it is not our own or the result of our intentions. This is our national heritage. It reminded me of the black man who had wanted to sue us all for having owned slaves, even if we or any of our ancestors had never owned one. But we are all responsible for that past, in some unnameable way. Now Imba was gently seeking answers to these simple questions. And I had none. Only to say that the Indians, for the most part, were good people, peaceful souls who were only defending their own territory, which any one of us would have done. And in so doing, acquiring a reputation for being savages.

And what about these places called reservations, she wanted to know. They were not on good land, she said, why did they do that? I could see she was not going to allow me to escape. I had never before been asked to account for the ways of my country in quite this way. Just then Gretchen and Tom and Enid drove in.

Imba put everything I loved for breakfast on the table. Could she possibly remember? The custard made from the milk of a cow that had just given birth, which has an indescribable flavor. Unnur often made it for me, with a special smile. Hard boiled eggs. A brown bread unique to Iceland. A big wedge of cheese. So much it was hard to choose what to eat. We ate until we were satisfied.

We had only been in the country for two days and already I had seen and heard all that I had hoped for. Frodastadir. Imba. Torvi. Hvammur. Hvitarsidu. More than I had hoped for. And I had tasted the custard, the lamb, the red cabbage, the potatoes. But this was just the beginning of the trip and we had 800 miles to cover before flying home again. My friends were anxious to set forth. I would have been happy to stay there with Imba for the duration, even if it meant explaining why America had slaves and what on earth they did to the Indians.

Updated Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

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