I had pulled over into one of the small streets of Thingholt and was talking to a friend. Typical Icelandic goodbyes take anywhere from fifteen minutes to an hour, an unusual aspect of the culture. I think it may have something to do with a belief that there's always the possibility that the person you're talking to may suddenly flee the island. (In fact, yesterday I learned a friend had suddenly departed to Finland, forgetting to tell friends, family or co-workers.)
My friend and I sat in my car talking, and I looked ahead at befuddled rock 'n' roll couple standing in the rain. Just standing there. The woman trying to shrink into the hood, the man turning his collar up and shaking. Out of compassion, I turned off my headlights and pretended they weren't there.
Then, as I went to pull away and turned the lights on, I realized they were old friends of mine. Why were they standing in the rain shivering for half hour stretches? I assumed they were having a very rock 'n' roll fight or something. So I asked them, "Are you having a very rock 'n' roll fight?"
"No, we're here to check out an apartment."
Ah hah. No doubt this couple had too raucous a lifestyle and were being evicted for their loud goat roasting soirées. Or they had decided not to pay rent in favour of a particularly tight and expensive pair of jeans.
"We're going to buy a place."
"You're going to buy an apartment. You can't afford a hard-boiled egg, and you're going to buy an apartment." (The man had come over to my house and, starving, had begged for a hard-boiled egg.)
And then I realized that Iceland has indeed become the promised land.
If you read this website frequently, you may know that Iceland has a ridiculously strong economy. An article forthcoming in the print edition of Iceland Review will suggest that Iceland's boom may make the Celtic tiger look like a kitten. Part of this boom: locals can now get 100% loans to buy a house at 4.2% interest.
This is some kind of cross between "It's a Wonderful Life" and a tripped out Huey Long campaign speech. Anybody here can now buy a home.
Reading about it is one thing. But when a 24-year old guy who can't afford a good jacket is buying an apartment next to the embassy, you can't help but be impressed.