28 October 2008


Somewhere along the way since my last post, it became winter here, with well-below-freezing temperatures, several snowstorms last week, and the glorious chaos that is the Icelandic approach to winterizing the roads (basically it seems to be "it'll melt eventually so why worry?" resulting in some interesting skating effects on the way to work). It's a bit harder to love Iceland now compared to the golden and seemingly endless summer, but there is a certain majesty to the sprawl of Esja all covered in white, the clear blackness of these Arctic nights.

In the past weeks it's become clear that the worst of what's happening here is yet to come, the unemployment, the inflation, the wariness of Iceland on the world markets. So far it really doesn't seem like much is different in the small corner of the country that I occupy. My friends are still all working and doing most of the things they always did, the choir goes on, the shelves in the grocery stores still stocked with a few spot exceptions reported, the plans for Christmas parties and annual dinners are in progress. Life as usual.

There have been the occasional story from this person or that of being unable to find Cheerios, or green onions, or my trip to Krónan last week that yielded not a single lemon. These stories of shortages usually are followed up by walking into a competing store and being confronted with a literal wall of Cheerios, or six boxes of lemons, so it seems to me that it's more the typical shopping experience here rather than a sign that the shortages are upon us. To further test the stories on the international wires against the experience here, I asked my hair goddess N (seriously, if anyone is looking for that perfect person to cut your hair in rvk, she's the one) if she was having trouble acquiring supplies for her salon, she said that she'd been worried about running short on hair color during the holiday season when everyone's wanting to look their best, but she'd had no trouble at all. It was even a British company providing her products, and they'd been very agreeable to working with them however and whenever they could pay.

So life goes on here, admittedly more frigid outdoors than before, but it remains cozy inside as I've turned to a more domestic style of life- it's all about baking and cooking and movie nights with friends lately, which has not felt like any sort of compromise in fun at all. It's the time of year that is more about those kinds of activities naturally anyway, and when you throw in a bit of musical practice and some concerts, it's hard to argue that the quality of life is suffering.

The one thing I've thought about a lot recently is how as an Icelandic tax payer I will be paying for the failures of these banks, but then I realize that as a resident of America my taxes there were going to things I didn't personally agree with, and that people worldwide are having their taxes siphoned off to pay for their country's banks collapsing. I guess that's how it goes in any modern society- you pay for things you don't agree with, things you never will use, but you also pay for things that you get to enjoy and take advantage of every day. Somehow it all feels more immediate here since we're all so much closer to the people who're deciding things, exposed to the winds of international forces much more than I ever felt I was in America.


Paul said...

I'm a transplant Hong Kong, where my daily life is unaffected by the bank crisis. However, I looked up 2003 news stories about Hong Kong during SARS. At the time, it was described as a "city of untouchables". Everyone was frightened and suspect, people fled the country, Hong Kongers abroad where shunned, and people were dying. It was seriously scary.

A 'crisis' can come from any direction, and no one should be giving Iceland grief for their misfortune.

sars news rewind

Food, she thought. said...

As always, such a balanced view.

hexe said...

Thank you for continuing to provide a daily view. When a crisis hits, we imagine the world stops spinning, but as you said work and life go on. You make adjustments and keep moving.

Brian said...


Thank you for everything that you put into your blog! You have a beautiful gift for writing. I recently recalled your early posts about ship traffic through the harbor, you gave each ship a personality, where they otherwise seemed so mundane. And I was here when you felt the blog had run its course and briefly lost its way. The fact is a blog doesn't need to have a higher purpose, simply writing about life where you are at is purpose enough. And you do that superbly for your little slice of Reykjavík, plus now I can spell "Reykjavík".

BTW, I have started blog reading from an iPhone and wondered if you could set "Allow Blog Feeds: Full"


ECS said...

paul: has the bank crisis touched where you live at all? There's tons of banks there so I'd be curious to read a post about that!

food: there's a reason I don't write often here, and it's because I don't want to write unless I feel like I can be balanced.

hexe: it's kind of creepy how stuff does keep going in spite of the stories of disaster going round the world.

brian: thanks for sticking around in spite of my sporadic posting tendencies! The only problem with writing about the crisis is that I've felt a bit like now I can only write about that and can't just have a "I went swimming" kind of post.

As for the feed..I actually used to have it on "full" but I like seeing where everyone's reading from and I can't do that if I syndicate the full posts :) Hope you can handle it.