The Unexpected Journey of a Belgian Maker

Here I am, on the deck of the Smyril Line ferry, about to arrive in Torshàvn, the capital city of the Faroe Islands. The wind is blowing on that cluster of land I couldn't even show on a map a couple of weeks before.

August 24, 2022

By Navid O'Lari

(you can see the picture and videos on my instagram, there are day to day publications starting from here:

April is coming to its end after those 4 days of travel on the road and sea, I'm about to take my last transportation, the ferry from Torshavn to the island of Suðuroy were the town of Vágur sits next to the ocean.

For the next 5 weeks, I'll be working at FabLab Vàgur, located in the school buidling, where I'll work alongside Tina, the Fabmanager.

For the next 5 weeks, I'll try to blend into this Arctic society, their living rythm and survive the isolation, as someone who's been living in a big city his whole life.

For the next 5 weeks, I'll participate in the missions of the Fablab : to share the knowledge and skills to build your own things ; prototyping, experimenting, exploring new techniques... by using the different tools of the Lab, like the lasercutter, the 3D printer, the vinyl cutter, the plotter etc... We will host at the Lab some workshops for the students, but also their teachers and for curious locals who want to learn how to use those techy tools.

But for the next 5 weeks, we will also embark into two consequent projects :
- making a permanent treasure hunt in town, a 1h30 interactive story based on a local tale
- building the first Escape Room on the Faroe Islands, onboard a historical ship from 1884

Day 0, Mon 25th of April, noon
I've finally set foot on Suðuroy. Tina, my colleague – and soon to be friend – is there to pick me up at the ferry station in Tvøroyri and bring me to Vàgur. Fortunately, it's an off day here. We do stop by the FabLab so we can take a picture to mark the end of my trip.
We arrive at Marianna's place where i'll stay during my time here, and fall quite quickly asleep.
The adventures begin tomorrow.

The front door of FABLAB Vágur

Day 1 of work
Discovering the Lab, testing the machines, getting ready for the work to come.
So many possibilities !

Day 3
Youngsters are there for the first workshop, one that I hold dear : Treasure Hunt design !
After playing a short one we prepared for them, they had to make one of their own, split in 3 teams.
They had to learn to use different codes and hiding techniques and riddles to do hide their treasure.

Day 6, May day.
The town is quite. I spend the International Workers day wandering in the hills and next to the Ocean. Unbelievably, on the other side of water stands the American continent.
Taking a slow day, not knowing that its gonna be my last one before a long time.

Day 7
With Tina, we met the people from Miðlatun (the Culture and Tourist Information Center), in order to discuss the Treasure Hunt project for the town. We are all excited for the adventures to come !

Working with treasure hunt

Day 9
First out of two workshops for the teachers. We showed them how to use InkScape, a vector drawing softwar that would allow them to make files for the Vynil cutter (to make stickers and custom t-shirts), but also the lasercutter/engraver, to make a wooden keychain !
We want them to be excited by the possibilities of the Lab so they could come and use it for or with
their classes.

Day 11
I finally met Johanna. She's gorgeous ! This Sloop from 1884 is still used for excursions in high sea, and we will have the incredible opportunity to design our Escape Room to be set onboard !

Day 16
We've been working on both the Treasure Hunt and the Escape Room, side by side.
The youngsters have been helping us with some of the riddles for the Hunt, while many locals have been participating on the Escape Room design.
Tonight, we are giving a boardgame design workshop to people outside the school : we will make a Puluc, an ancient Mayan game !

Day 20
The Treasure Hunt map is almost ready in English, and we've started the productions of the 7 riddles that will be placed around town. We also have our storyline : based on the local tale of Snaebjörn, we will have to retrace his journey through the island before his escape from the authorities.

Day 21, expedition day !
I'm finally visiting another place !
With Tina we are going up North, to FabLab Kambsdalur, to visit Johannes (the fabmanager there) and ask for asistance. Thanks to him, we got access to strong magnets that we couldn't get delivered on time, he also helped us make a wooden piece with the CNC milling machine

Day ... I don't even know
Time is flying fast, but our many projects are going slow.
We have a hard time finding specific pieces and objects for the Escape Room. We have to build or own sandtimers for instance. Isolation is also becoming harder for me as I'm drowning myself in work. There is only one pub in town, open two nights a week. I do need a pint !
The rythm is so different here. Coming from Brussels, I've been used to speed, noise and crowds.
I'm a bit lost on that rock in the middle of the ocean.

Luckily for our project (and for my mental health), we can count on our friend Alex to support us and also to make a magnificent Game of Tafl ; on Jakob to creat a perfect Mjolnir ; on Christian to build the Viking chest and it's transport case, on Irena and Rogvi for the electronic parts and all the people I'm forgetting, hoping they'll forgive me for that.
And Tina of course, supporting me through all this.

Day 28
Finally ! The Great Escape of Snæbjørn from Suðuroy, the Treasure Hunt/Urban escaperoom is ready to be played (in English at the moment).

Navid at the shipyard

Day 30, Towel Day !
Even in this small remote place, we can find geek people who appreciate the work of Douglas Adams, most famous for his book serie The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy !
After a day of hard work on the Ecape Room project, we celebrated the authors special day by
playing boardgames, having an Apero and watching the movie based on the book.
Don't panic !

Day 31 to 34
Finally some tourism. I had friend from Belgium who came to visit me, it was about time to take some rest from work and visit around the country. I was finally taking some time to appreciate where I was : on those arctic rocks, surrounded with landscapes I had only seen on postcards.
I was happy to be there, and even happier to be there with something to do, hopefully something to bring to the community and not just as a consuming tourist.
I was proud to be somehow part of those landscapes, on my very small scale of course. Hoping that the work I was doing in the FabLab could have even a slight impact.

Day 35, WE DID IT !
After weeks of work and efforts from so many different people, we managed to open and test the very first Escape Room of the Faroe Islands !
The Cryptic Waves, based on seafarers culture and Nordic myths, set on Johanna, a ship from 1884.
But that's not the most important part, no.
What matters is how we did it, and with whom.
That project couldn't have been possible without all the people who gathered around it, whose sole motivations were to build something with the community, for the community.
We got fundings from the Municipality, help from many teachers, from people from town, so much support from locals who were excited by what we were doing.

Cryptic waves

Day 42
I'm back at OpenFab, my fablab in Brussels.
It took me again three days and a half to get back.
I think I took most of the transportations humans have invented through the ages. Except for the plane. I took the helicopter from Suðuroy to Torshavn, then the Ferry for 2 nights at sea, then a local train, a night bus, then 3 trains to go through Denmark, Germany and finally Belgium.My head is full of memories, and my bags full of souvenirs that my new friends gave me before my departure.
This morning, before getting to the lab, I walked in town.
There were so many people packed in the streets. So much noise.
Everything was going so fast, as I was walking in slow motion.
I miss the sheeps, and the ocean, and the soothing voice of the wind in the hills.

Navid O'Lari