The Klipphopparpingvin Descendants


Tynan, of Cafe Manila fame, told us a joke this morning. San Geraldo “got it” right away. Very unusual. First, there’s the fact that Tynan grew up in the English Midlands and San Geraldo only understands about half of what he says (the other English staff at Cafe Manila, and I, understand the other half). Second, San Geraldo usually doesn’t “get” any jokes without some explanation from me, which means that by the time he does “get it,” the joke is no longer funny.

I will eventually get to the joke, but it was about a penguin and that made me think of San Geraldo’s Norwegian ancestors.

Bergen, Norway
No one in San Geraldo’s family had ever been back to Norway since his mother Alice’s parents settled in the United States. Alice’s father met her mother on the boat to New York in the 1920s. She was from Bergen. Before our trip to Norway with Alice in 1998, San Geraldo had done a lot of research and managed to find every address that his great-grandmother Ingeborg had ever had in the city. Alice had a cousin who still lived in Bergen. They had never met. We learned that the cousin had children (our generation) who also lived in Bergen. San Geraldo’s second-cousin Inger and her husband Jan Olaf met us at our hotel our first day. It was love at first sight. San Geraldo had sent Inger all Ingeborg’s addresses and Inger and Jan Olaf took us for a walk around Bergen to show us all the houses.


When we arrived at the final address, we came to a tall fence at the edge of a large park. Inger turned around and very dramatically (it’s genetic) said, “Jerry! I have terrible news! Ingeborg’s last house is now the “pingvindam!”


We learned that “pingvindam” means “penguin pond.” In 1960, Ingeborg’s house — and the entire neighborhood — had been razed to create the Bergen Aquarium.

On our last magical night in Bergen, we had dinner at home with Inger, Jan Olaf, and their three amazing kids. Inger gave us “lovely parting gifts” and cards. Ours was a postcard from Bergen Aquarium. On the front was a photo of a Rockhopper Penguin (in Norwegian, klipphopparpingvin). On the back was a heart-warming note from Inger that ended with “And Jerry: Don’t forget where your ancients come from!”


Back to Tynan
“One morning, a penguin walks into a shop and asks, ‘Do you have any prawns?’ “
The shop owner says, “No.”

“Next morning, the penguin returns to the shop and asks, ‘Do you have any prawns?'”
The owner says, “No.”

“Next morning, the penguin is again at the shop. He asks, ‘Do you have any prawns?’ “
The shop owner shouts, “No! And if you ask me that again, I’ll nail your flippers to the floor!”

“The following morning, the penguin walks through the door. ‘Do you have any nails?’ “
“Do you have any prawns?”

Author: Moving with Mitchell

From Brooklyn, New York; to North Massapequa; back to Brooklyn; Brockport, New York; back to Brooklyn... To Boston, Massachusetts, where I met Jerry... To Marina del Rey, California; Washington, DC; New Haven and Guilford, Connecticut; San Diego, San Francisco, Palm Springs, and Santa Barbara, California; Las Vegas, Nevada; Irvine, California; Sevilla, Spain. And Fuengirola, Málaga..

29 thoughts on “The Klipphopparpingvin Descendants”

  1. I suppose there are worse things one's "ancestral" home could be… the house site where I was born is now the office of the rural water district. By the way, the distant cousin has a fetching hairdo…

  2. How great to be able to trace your ancestors – and to locate every house they lived in! What a special trip that must have been for you both. And thanks for the laugh!

    1. Jo:
      The trip to Bergen was amazing for so many reasons. Jerry even had the names of the church and the bishops that baptized and confirmed his grandmother. Their portraits were in the entry and the original baptismal font was there. It was pretty amazing.

  3. I love family reconnection stories….
    I was always gullible…Even when Paul spun a long improbable story about pulling his favorite rocking chair behind him as his family escaped from Hungary in '56 it took me far to long to realize that "my elbow was being pulled". He felt it was one of his missions in life to help me develop my sense of humor. (I do have one, it was just a bit different than his.) And Paul located many of the houses his ancestors owned in the 1700s on Castle Hill in Buda and we visited and photographed them. What fun!

    1. Kristi:
      The trips back to Hungary must be magical, too. I've given up on "developing" Jerry's sense of humor. He told me yesterday (again) I need to take more care here because in Spanish my humor is usually not understand. I told him it's usually not understood in English either.

  4. Also, the title of this post made me instantly think of Kipp Kopp, the chestnut children – a series of Hungarian children's books I may have blogged about once. If I were more clever and less lazy I could probably come up with a limerick here.

  5. Ha! Hilarious!
    Hey, King Philip II of France, a Capet king, married a few times, and one of his wives was named Ingeborg! I had never heard of that name before, and my students always fall off of the chairs laughing uproariously at the thought of someone (Danish, in this case) named Ingeborg. Wait 'till I tell them I've heard of another!

  6. I vaguely remember you telling me that San Geraldito had Norwegian ancestry! At the time I thought you were pulling my elbow

  7. Aaaaww 🙂 Trip down memory lane!! How nice!
    But oh my God!! – At LEAST you could have posted an updated picture after publishing that very flattering (yes, being ironic!) picture! Oh Lord!! LOL!

  8. somewhere around here I have a souvenir of Bergen. When I was young my cousin was in the Navy and Bergen was one of the places he sent a souvenir from. Another was Malta. No idea why the US Navy would have been in Bergen in the late 1960's…nor why I remember any of this.

    I laughed at the joke too. 🙂

    1. HK:
      Bergen would have been a nice place to be stuck for a while! What kind of souvenir do you have? I've got two amazing sweaters (among a few other things) that I don't get to wear much around here.

  9. I laughed. And I laughed at Bob's comment too. And Distant Cousin Anders looks very distinguished, though maybe a little too much like the distant relative everyone hopes wont turn up at family gatherings. Love his hairdo.

Please share your thoughts...

%d bloggers like this: