It’s been a while since I last wrote about daily life in Iceland. In fact, it’s been almost a year, half a year. Anyhow, things have happened since then:
Australian actor Russell Crowe sported a hat emblazoned with the Icelandic flag. It made the national news. The Reykjavík city bus company expanded its operations. That caused quite a stir. And Iceland’s national hospital received some much needed additional funding.
But let’s not waste everyone’s precious time with trivia. Here is the real news: I became famous.
Or infamous, rather. An occurrence that set in motion a chain of events resulting in me circling Iceland in three days, hobnobbing with high-ranking ministers and gaining first-hand knowledge on plastic surgery procedures. And my friends worried my life would be bland and eventless when I moved to the Icelandic countryside!
It all started when I was hired as part-time manager of a small academic institution in Blönduós, Þekkingarsetur, while keeping my part-time position as the head librarian of the district library. Previously, I had given up my job as the part-time manager of the Sea Ice Center in Blönduós. But nobody really knew that.
Thus, locals started wondering whether I was planning to take over the whole town. Or if nobody else was applying for cultural management positions in the Austur-Húnavatnssýsla district.
“I don’t mean to be rude, but you can’t be the only one they’ve got,” the librarian in Hvammstangir, the next town over, commented on the matter.
Regardless. The fact that I’m a working mother in Iceland (I have a little boy and a girl) sparked the interest of a journalist writing an article on the subject for a German magazine. Combining a career and motherhood is extremely difficult in my home country, unlike in Iceland. I’ve written about this before. It is one of the reasons why Germany has one of the lowest fertility rates in the world.
And so, at the end of July, I found myself giving interviews and posing for a photographer in front of various Blönduós landmarks. Which didn’t exactly help my reputation. But the finished article caught the attention of friends of mine based in Munich, who then came to visit. So it was worth it.
(My picture appeared right next to Vigdís Finnbogadóttir’s, by the way. Former president and the world’s first woman to be elected head of state. She must have felt pretty smug.)
Cara and Lars arrived in September. Right at the time when an early season blizzard ravaged the Þingeyjarsýslu district and other parts of northern Iceland, causing significant financial damage and costing the life of thousands of sheep.
I had promised to take them on a road trip around the island. And we had the most wonderful time driving from Reykjavík to Höfn in Southeast Iceland, marveling at glaciers, volcanoes and movie sets. Plenty of them. (Can’t blame them. I keep forgetting how much Iceland looks like Iceland in the south. The scenery is breathtaking.)
But when it started snowing by the time we reached Djúpivogur in the East Fjords, I got spooked, cut our trip short and drove all the way to Blönduós in one day (approx. 600 km). My friends thought I was overreacting, of course. But when they saw broken electricity poles and power lines scattered all over the Mývatn region, they understood. Never underestimate the weather in Iceland. Conditions can get very bad, very quickly. And the last place you want to be at when a blizzard hits, is in your car on some remote mountain road.
Now. How does the adventurous road trip connect to hobnobbing with ministers and plastic surgery? It doesn’t, really. Truth be told, all the hobnobbing came down to was me shouting: “Thank you so much for coming,” at Katrín Jakobsdóttir, the Icelandic Minister of Education, Science and Culture, as she was leaving the house after the formal opening of Þekkingarsetur a couple of weeks ago. I called her Katrín, though. First name. Then again, everyone does. This is Iceland.
And the plastic surgery affair is really a whole other story.
A snow storm is raging outside my window as we speak. My contribution to the “renaming Iceland” tourism marketing campaign: Snowoverloadland. It has been snowing for weeks around here. I don’t even remember what my car looks like. Locals say there hasn’t been as much snow since 1995. And winter has only just begun. The events just keep on coming, don’t they.
Katharina Schneider – [email protected]
Katharina Schneider is filling in for Katharina Hauptmann.