From Iceland with love…

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IMG_0041I’ve been thinking a lot recently about life, or to be more precise, about the many amazing opportunities we have had since we decided to become Christians and get involved with mission. For the past twenty two years we have (or to be fair, Chris has) flitted around the globe, met no end of interesting people, tried some really strange food – pickled sheep’s testicles anyone? And, generally had a ball. And, while all this is true, it hasn’t been a breeze. Far from it. Moving to another country, whether it be for a couple of months or several years, is hard. It’s especially hard if you move to a country that does not share your mother tongue. A few days ago, I was asked if I would like to contribute to a web campaign run by HiFx who are collecting tips from expats on ways to make moving abroad easier. My tip was:

Once you have decided which country and which region you want to live, contact local organisations for help. On two occasions we contacted the Pastor of a local Church and on both occasions their support was invaluable. Both Pastors helped us to find cheap accommodation and were instrumental in setting up employment opportunities. Fifteen years later, we remain friends to this day. So, don’t be afraid, reach out to someone in the local community and you may be pleasantly surprised by the response you receive.

If you are interested in reading more tips on living successfully abroad, you should definitely check out their tips page. Reading the tips from other expats made me think about our own experience of moving to Iceland, first in Dec 1999-Feb 2004 and again in Jan 2012. When we first moved to Iceland in Dec 1999, we spent two years getting ready financially, practically and spiritually. We got ready financially by clearing any outstanding debts that we had, car loans etc and by saving every single month until the day we left. We got ready practically by thinking about what household items might need replaced before we left. For example, white goods such as washing machines and fridges are ridiculously expensive in Iceland, so we decided to replace them beforehand. But, as we didn’t want to pay any import duty on them, we had to plan ahead and buy those items at least one year before our leaving date. Receipts will be checked by customs officials, so whatever you do, don’t lose them! This time around, I lost the receipt for a £16 electric kettle, which resulted in our container being retained at the docks in Reykjavík until I found the kettle on-line to prove how much it cost in the UK! We also spend the two years before we left researching every aspect of Icelandic culture and life. We prepared ourselves spiritually by signing up for a three-month mission training school just before we landed in Iceland in Dec 1999.

Looking back, I’m not sure that we could have done any more than we did. In fact, I’m pretty much convinced that there is nothing we could have done to prepare our little family for flying into the worst winter on record for almost one hundred years, waking up to an erupting volcano just two months later in the February and then finding ourselves at the epicenter of an earthquake measuring an impressive, 6.7 on the Richter scale in the June. Believe me when I say, there were more than a few startled sheep that day. It would be fair to say that Iceland and Icelanders have filled our lives with all kinds of surprises and adventures ever since.

I mean, where else can you have your photograph taken inside a gigantic ice cave?

Chris in cave in Hofn

Where else can you pop your head outside on a winter’s night and witness the northern lights in all their glory?

Northern LIghts over Church

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where else are you faced with the most exquisite land and seascapes at every turn?

The main settlement on the Westman Islands

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where else can you get a photograph of yourself and a cardboard cutout of President Obama?

Meeting President Obama

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is it all worth it? You bet it is…

This post was written in partnership with HiFX. Revenue from the post was donated to charity

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You know you’re from Iceland when…

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There are lots of lists doing the rounds at the moment on the subject of, ‘you know you’re from Iceland when…’ this one from the howdoyoulikeiceland.blogspot.com is one of my favourites. If you come across any more, send them to me and I’ll dutifully post them 🙂

CORRECTION ALERT! I have been reliably informed (by an Icelander – thank you Jóhannes) that one of the factoids below is incorrect. The bit about trolls is in fact wrong:

Trolls don’t live in suspicious looking rocks, it’s elves, or Huldufólk to be more precise. Trolls on the other hand get turned into stone when exposed to sunlight.

CORRECTION ALERT! I have recently been contacted by Bergþór, who wanted to clarify one of the points highlighted below:

“okay, you pretty summed it all up very nice there. But there where some aspects that I didn’t agree on like… You believe in trolls (when foreigners are in earshot), and think they live in “suspicious looking rocks”.
Here you are mentioning the Hidenfolk, or elfs they live in the rocks… trolls kom from Esja and/or Hekla”.

You’re suspicious of pink fish, and wouldn’t want to eat it out of choice.
But you like eating rotten fish (and sheep’s heads).
Despite the cold, ice cream is a very popular choice of snack.
You consider a Toyota Hi-Lux a “runabout” and an F150 a small car.
There is no such thing as having overly large wheels on your vehicle.
You know that Icelandic jumpers are actually waterproof and wind-proof so may be used in all conditions.
Driving 150km to the cinema is regarded as normal.
You classify route 1 as a “main road”
Reykjavík is a big city.
You like Opal as you’ve been conditioned to like the flavour from an early age with the same brand sweets.
You have an involuntary impulse to say “How do you like Iceland?” when meeting a foreigner for the first time.
You use a credit card for all purchases, especially for less that Kr100.
You have been caught speeding by the police at least 5 times in the last year. When you get caught speeding you get a “25% discount” if you pay on the spot with a credit card.
You have Christmas lights up in your room all year round.
You have an urge to be a student in Denmark.
You eat rhubarb jam with beef.
Soup is considered a dessert.
The biggest parties revolve around horse and sheep festivals.
Whilst waiting for the correct time to go to the bar, you make as many circuits as necessary in your car on a “Rúntur” around the town, stopping at regular intervals at the local petrol station.
Although not particularly interested in whaling or whale meat, you like to take part to wind up the international community.
You have a personal blog, and treat this as the primary communication system with your friends.
Cod liver oil is non-negotiable.
You think any plant taller than 15cm is a “tree” and 5 together are known as a “forest”.
You believe in trolls (when foreigners are in earshot), and think they live in “suspicious looking rocks”.
You can actually pronounce the beer Egilsgull.
You have never heard of Magnus Magnusson, despite him being the most famous Icelander (ok after Björk)
There is no such thing as a time when you can’t say “Haa?”
You like using the letters ð and þ, but get confused by the letter z.

How long does getting thin take?

Alan Alexander Miln. Winnie-The-Pooh and All, All, All. Chapter two.

“Then there’s only one thing to be done,” he (Christopher Robin) said. “We shall have to wait for you to get thin again.” “How long does getting thin take?” asked Pooh anxiously. “About a week, I should think.”

If only this were true! Happy New Year everyone and long live New Year resolutions 🙂