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And that is when I felt the full impact of the depression

Yesterday EPI and I made a decision to buy a freezer. We’ve been talking about it for years – EPI has been all gung-ho while YT has been somewhat less enthusiastic … where would we put it, and besides, things get stuck in the freezer and then they’re just … stuck there. For years. At the bottom. Atrophying.

But, you know, we’re in a depression and people keep saying you have to economize, buy whole lambs and make slátur and go to Bónus and buy frozen filets of haddock with the skin still on … just like in the dark ages when people didn’t have gourmet fishmarkets and preserved food for the whole winter except, well, they didn’t have freezers back then. So I said to EPI, all right, I can be flexible when the situation warrants, let’s do it [even though all my money is still frozen in a fund and my work situation is in the deep freeze, but that’s another story].

So we go online to check out freezers, and what do we see? SOLD OUT stickers plastered across most of the freezers that used to be on offer. Dang!

Clearly we’re not the only people in Iceland with brilliant ideas. [Who knew?]

So, nothing to do but go out and buy groceries. We’d planned to have one last dinner like the dinners we used to have before the depression – all Indian Tikka Masala curry made with chicken breasts [expensive here in Niceland] and organic coconut and Nan bread with garlic butter. And – most importantly – fresh coriander for our YT. It’s my favourite herb. I love coriander. When I die, I want my coffin to be decked with coriander [fresh]. Whereas EPI can’t even stand the smell of it, much less the taste. It’s the only thing we absolutely do not agree on. He wants my coffin to be decked in lilies. But I digress.

Bónus didn’t have any coriander. And neither did stupid old Krónan. And neither did Nóatún. In fact, the herb sections in all of them were empty save for a bunch of sorry looking faded green twigs crying into their little pots of soil.

And that’s when I felt my fragile shield of denial shatter into a million pieces: The dreaded food shortage was upon us!! That’s when I realized: for the last two weeks, on account of our foreign currency difficulties, no fresh coriander had been imported to this country. OMIGOD!!!

Yet as a testament to my incredible skill for adjustment, I enjoyed dinner nonetheless. EPI and I cracked open a bottle of Gewurztraminer and drank a hearty toast to the International Monetary Fund and the Icelanders’ amazing propensity for taking loans. Long live Niceland!

FREEZING COLD DAY
Or so I am told. AAH, who got her drivers license about a month ago, borrowed the car last night and stayed over at her boyfriend’s. She called in a panic this morning, late for work, because all the doors were frozen shut. Her first proper induction to winter driving, bless. It’s right at the freezing mark at the moment, 0°C [32F][funny – I always thought oC was 28F, oh well] and the sun came up at 8:50 am, will set at 5:32 pm.

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  • Jon October 25, 2008, 12:44 pm

    Well, if you send us a proper mailing address we can send you some goodies. Will they be able to get past customs? Or will those people confiscate for their own use? Give us a shopping list.

  • Kathryn October 25, 2008, 1:48 pm

    Hi Alda,
    How about emigrating to sunny Australia ?!! Fields of fresh coriander and yummy Indian curries at bargain basement prices await you…

  • Annie Rhiannon October 25, 2008, 2:44 pm

    You could get a greenhouse for your garden, grow your own coriander.

  • Ann October 25, 2008, 3:07 pm

    Yes, what could we send you? From California, there should be some things you would like, surely we could send some things to cheer you up, in exchange for the fun of reading your blog?

  • Gray, Germany October 25, 2008, 3:21 pm

    Hmm, the green house idea sounds good, but only if you built it on a geothermal hot spot. I’m an urban guy, and at a loss with plants (even my cactus died), but I’m somewhat under the impression that 0°C isn’t good for herbs…

  • maja October 25, 2008, 3:21 pm

    Yes, buy some seeds and start growing your own fresh herbs. I’m sure if you put the SAD light on them they’ll grow great! I’m growing rosemary, coriander, parsley, rocket, basil, majoram and thyme at home, but butterflies are eating millions of holes in my rocket. Bummer about the freezer, but hey, maybe you didn’t really need it that badly.

  • Gray, Germany October 25, 2008, 3:24 pm

    “How about emigrating to sunny Australia ?!!”
    As if the Aussies would fall over themselves to let foreigners in! I know some folks who tried and only got the cold shoulder.
    🙁

  • cactus zonie October 25, 2008, 3:31 pm

    I agree with Jon. E mail me your P.O. Box or something.

    A 95-minute movie with 10 minutes of ads and a small popcorn costs $15. I have enjoyed this site for at least 2 hours this year, and I could easily consider donating a few dollars in the form of a care package from Arizona.I have already received more entertainment here than I would have from the movie. The other 100+ hours of enjoyment I receive here is FREE 🙂

  • Jessie October 25, 2008, 4:29 pm

    ^^ Ditto to the above. A friend of mine actually grows coriander on a farm in upstate New York, and I’ve picked it with her. It’s a great ingredient to have (but not so fun when the smell stays on your hands for days afterward!). 🙂

  • trev london October 25, 2008, 4:54 pm

    Sorry to report, but we’re off for a curry in an hour. This one’s so good, we walk past 4 others to get to it. Chicken Tikka Masalla is actually an English creation. The story goes that in the 50’s, in Veraswamy (one of the first – on Regent Street and still there) a gentleman complained his chicken tikka was too dry and could they put a sauce on it? They rustled up a mildly spicy, creamy tomato sauce and he was so pleased, several other diners asked for it. They put it on the menu and the rest is history. I think something like 2.4 tonnes of it is consumed on an average Saturday night in the UK! My buds need fierer things these days, so it’s Naga Lamb tonight and suffer the consequences tomorrow (sorry about that!). The sort of curry you can’t stop to think about when eating – you just have to carry on and glow afterwards. And ponder the ever expanding waistline.

    Herbwise, I buy the growing ones in little pots in the supermarket. Water them and they keep fresh for weeks. They quite often take in the garden.
    Seriously – you should set up a P O Box No alda. I think you get so much you could auction the surplus.

  • Lee, London October 25, 2008, 7:12 pm

    A friend phoned me this morning from Reykjavik with disturbing news: the pet shop had run out of her house rabbit’s favourite flavour of Vitakraft rabbit drops – the wildberry flavour. Only the yoghurt flavoured ones remained, but those unfortunately don’t meet the pampered rabbit’s gastronomic standards. The shop assistant explained the difficulty of securing supplies in the current economic climate. I’m now wondering whether to pop into Selfridges, buy a couple of packs of Vitakraft wildberry rabbit drops – and airmail them to Reykjavik. My good deed for the week…

  • portkins October 25, 2008, 8:14 pm

    Hi
    I am searching for info form someone on Iceland what is happening economically.
    The news reports can’t always be trusted etc.
    Are all the shelves bare as we hear?
    Is inflation rampant and your pay is going up daily or weekly?
    besides the demonstration what is the general attitude of the people?
    Not to worry and it will get better?
    Thanks

  • Ranger October 25, 2008, 10:35 pm

    The news here in the US is election-and-Palin-wardrobe oriented. You are a window into the world for me. Well, you and the BBC. If you incur any scarcity/hardship, please do set up an address, separate from your own, where we can share with you. Others have said the same thing and I am positive they mean it as much as I do. This would not be like a Care Package. This would be an effort at evening out the world’s supplies of *stuff.*

  • cactus zonie October 25, 2008, 11:36 pm

    All those plasma tv’s , granite counter tops , stainless steel refrigerators . Just go to Craigslist and see how WalMart now has competition ! It’s the good old garage sale ! The great big sell off of *stuff* is under way. This will further fuel the recession.

    Your’re right. Let’s even it out. I wonder if Alda would be mad to see several cargo containers dropped off on her lawn? 🙂

    As Peter Schiff of Euro Pacific said , “when the depression hits , it will be slightly cushioned by all the *stuff* we have amassed in the past on borrowed money”

    What I really like about Schiff is that he leaves out all the spin and tells it like it really is. While he was on CNN recently talking about the financial meltdown with a few other economists , he was repeatedly cut off by the CNN staffer conducting the interview. He kept saying the “D” word. He said “Recession is an understatement”. They finally just quit asking him anything and let the others keep doing their cheerleading. Blogs are the “New Media”. CNN and the like are the old school.

    The US has borrowed TRILLIONS to fuel our ownership society and Iceland has done very much the same. Iceland is paying the price now. We in the US are not to far behind.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jB9fuIvksLw

  • cactus zonie October 26, 2008, 12:35 am

    I ‘m not a member of the “Black Helicopter crowd” , but it sure is interesting to peek into those conspiracy theories. Hmmm , was Iceland brought down?

    ” Why did the Neocons do it? Maybe because Iceland shows that being a social democracy is the only way to produce a high standard of living for everyone. ”

    http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2008/10/8/213852/964

    Read the comments on this blog.. Very interesting. Number 9 got my attention…..

    “Obviously, by Bear Stearns’ standards, the Hunts were not so much under capitalized as under-leveraged! Debt is king — until it’s not. If not happens I wouldn’t want to be within 500 miles of the New York metro area.”

    Yikes !!!

    http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/03/31/the-north-atlantic-conspiracy/

  • Kathryn October 26, 2008, 1:33 am

    Gray, Germany, With respect… Australia is far easier to emigrate to
    than say, the US or the UK, or western Europe. We have a relatively
    high rate of immigration with people from literally every corner of
    the globe. I have friends that have recently emigrated from Sri Lanka, the UK, Malaysia, Peru, Chile and Sweden, all within the last 5 years.
    It was a semi-serious comment only. I know how much Alda loves her
    country – Iceland is home afterall. That said, Australia is also a great
    place to live and work !

  • alda October 26, 2008, 2:22 am

    Thank you, everyone!! I’m just so touched by your concern — but really, we have everything we need here (except coriander – but that’s hardly life threatening). Although I may have to set up an Amazon wish list if you keep pushing it … 😉

    As for surviving the depression, I’m hatching a plan. Stay tuned.

    Kathryn – emigrating to Australia sounds delightful at this point. Honest! But I fear they wouldn’t have me … I don’t have an especially in-demand skill, unless you need bloggers … ?

    Annie – I’d have to get a garden first …

    maja – I suspect that by the time those seeds came up they would have started importing coriander again. That said, we’re all into economizing these days, so it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea.

    portkins – I’m hoping to find a way to address some of the issues you mention – come back in a few days.

  • Vikinsson October 26, 2008, 2:38 am

    I was just thinking about what happened and why. The world has been investing in the wrong thing. We’ve invested in money. It doesn’t matter if it was real estate, stocks for this commodity or that pension fund; the only concern was value and what it would bring in the shortest time. We only wanted the money. The name of the investment was unimportant. We have no motivation to do what is beneficial or useful, only in how much money it represented, real or more often imagined and inflated. Last man in is the looser.

    It is time to invest in things that matter. Things that bring true prosperity and a better future. The money will follow. So for Iceland I would now invest in a lot more greenhouses. And as many things that will sustain a population and be sustainable for the next generation. That idea has worked very well for the Icelandic energy sector now that electricity and heat are a cheap and plentiful commodity. That didn’t happen overnight but you are way ahead of the rest of us on that. Do it again.

    Bailouts and protection rackets only serve to perpetuate the same mistakes and thoughtless short term choices. The bubble has burst. The western model that only works under perpetual growth and over consumption isn’t sustainable and certainly not kind to mother earth.
    I think I just wrote my next blog entry…….
    And I still maintain that the Iraq fiasco is a much bigger factor in this than the math would suggest.

  • cactus zonie October 26, 2008, 2:57 am

    ” We’ve invested in money” Another words , worthless printed paper notes.

    Well said , Vikinsson. I believe that the next hot investment commodity is renewable energy and recourses . Greenhouses are certainly a part of that. Renewable energy will create many jobs. 🙂

  • cactus zonie October 26, 2008, 4:27 am
  • Sirry October 26, 2008, 5:10 am

    Maybe you weren’t meant to get the freezer. It costs money to run it, so the price of food would have gone up even more. You might want to bring that up with EPI. The freezer also because of increase in energy might add to global warming…although I’m not sure about that in Niceland, but that would be an argument in the USA.
    I just spoke with my best friend back home in Niceland, and she said it feels worse now than i.e. the recession in the 70’s and mid to late 80’s.
    She’s feeling it and she’s already agonizing over the holidays. But then again, she’s a sinlge mother 2 kids.

  • Andrew October 26, 2008, 11:25 am

    Is there any posibility of growing your own vegetables – in a greenhouse obviously? Or doing your own fishing?

    Also, I saw “your” latest demo calling for the PM’s resignation (on BBC TV). Who was the ‘former Finance Minister’ who was there? He seemed to hit all the right notes in his speech.

  • hildigunnur October 26, 2008, 12:12 pm

    euww, coriander! 😛

    This is, btw, how many Icelanders feel, today.

    (my daughter’s the girl with the camera, furthest right on the photo 😀 )

  • Don in Seattle October 26, 2008, 8:16 pm

    Hi Alda,

    I made it to the demonstration yesterday afternoon, and looked for you, but a good half of Iceland are blonde, attractive women like you. I don’t know what was said, and it looked like the square was about 1/4 occuppied, so I;d guess perhaps 300 people. Needless to say, it was cold and windy, which didn’t help the turnout.

    I walked about town after it ended at 3:45, and everything seemed normal. A lot of people at the flea-market, people in the bars and cafes; pretty much the usual weekend afternoon stuffl, from what I saw.

    On the walk back to Hotel Saga, passing the City Hall building, I saw a large crowd coming into town along the road next to Tjormin, so perhaps there was another demonstration, as I believe there is some sort of official building down that road.

    I want to relate this to you and your readers. I flew here from Minneapolis on Icelandair (how else?) on Friday night. While in the gate area I spoke with 3 Icelandic ladies who had been there for shopping. They had encountered rude treatment while shopping in the mall, once it was learned they were Icelandic. I’m not exactly sure who did the mean act, but it was a relative of someone who has money lost somewhere in one of the Scandanavian countries, because of the Icelandic bank problem. There are many, many Scandavian descent people in the Minneapolis area.

    They told me in no uncertain terms that if they leave Iceland again, they will say they are Swedish or something else, anything but Icelandic. It has gotten that bad. They were really nice people, a grandmother, mother, and her daughter, just out to shop, and treated badly once it was learned they are Icelandic.

    The flight was wide open, as a tour group of 120 Icelanders had booked to fly in on Tuesday and leave on my flight, and canceled the entire 120 seats last week.
    Icelanders are not leaving in droves for shopping as they did last year.

    As for those of you who are interested in what it is really like, I drove some today out past Selfoss, stopped in Selfoss, Kringlan Mall here, as well as the flea market in Reykjavik and the central city area. Everything looks and seems normal. Stores are fully stocked, people are in cafes and restaurants, a lot of people in the mall and markets. Everything looks normal.

    I used my ATM card ( from a US bank) at the airport, and it worked fine. I looked at the on-line statement, and ISK 10,000 took $83.04 out of my checking account. I did another ISK 10,000 (different US and Icelandic banks), and that checking account was charged $83.51. I used my charge card for 2 bottles of wine at duty free, but that has not yet posted, but it worked fine.
    So the exchange rate right now is about ISK120 to USD 1, which is almost twice what it was a year ago, and almost 50% better than the rate of 80 to 1, which is about what I received when here 8 weeks ago.

    I had dinner last night with some good friends who live here, and they have started to notice shortages of certain exotic items in stores. The kind of things that would need to be reordered to be restocked. Instead of leaving the shelf bare, other everyday items are now in that space. Thus the shelves are full, but now with all that used to be offered. They feel that within a few weeks real shortages will begin to develop. Perhaps you can comment on this from your perspective.

    I went to Hagup food store in K-mall, and Noatun near my hotel, and both seemed fully stocked. Plenty of fruit, vegtables, perishables. It all looked normal to me.

    I didn’t see much inflation in the prices. A hot dog at the famous hot dog stand (and with the always long line still there) is still ISK250, as it was in August. If anything beer is cheaper. A pint at the English Pub (next to Cafe Paris) is now only ISK500, but the same here at the hotel is now up to 750.

    If I didn’t know about the financial crisis, I would think that everything is just the same as before. It sure looks that way from what I see. My friends though, are very worried about the near term future when shortages develop. I hope it does not become as bad as they think it could get.

    That is how I see it, from one who has been to Iceland 48 times in the last 10 years. It is clear and cold tonight, so I’m off to give the Northern Lights a view if possible.

    All the best to the good people of Iceland.

    Don (in Reykjavik)

  • alda October 26, 2008, 8:37 pm

    Don – thanks for the report. The demo yesterday started at 4 not 3 (didn’t I tell you in the email I sent you?) and yes, the idea was to walk up Tjarnargata, to the government’s official meeting place (where they entertain guests, hold negotiations, etc.).

    Yes, life here is very normal – still. I agree, many people are worried about the future. I think the general consensus is that the real troubles will set in around December or January. I think most people will get their wages at the end of this month, but after that it’s uncertain whether businesses will have the funds to actually pay their employees.

  • Andrew October 27, 2008, 2:45 am

    The Herald (a Scottish newspaper) has reported that Icelandair is suspending all flights to Scotland at least until end of March on the grounds that nobody has any money to travel. Is it really like that?

  • Rozanne October 27, 2008, 4:58 am

    I love fresh coriander (we call it cilantro here in the U.S.), too. Someone suggested that you could grow it under the SAD light. LOL! It might work, though.

    You know I’d be happy to send you a package of goodies from Oregon–pears, apples, hazelnuts (that you can share w. Polly), cheeses, wine, beer–we’ve got it all.

  • alda October 27, 2008, 9:41 am

    Andrew – Icelandair is suspending a lot of its flights, and some of those were decided before all this went down (fuel costs, and all that). But, yes – people here have definitely cut back drastically on travel. Not sure if it’s because they don’t have the money to travel, but a major incentive for Icelanders in the past was to go abroad to shop because everything was a lot cheaper. That’s not the case any more, so people are staying home.

    Rozanne – Thank you!!But I honestly don’t want people to get the idea that we’ve regressed to developing-country status … we still have mostly everything in the shops here, including pears, apples and hazelnuts! 🙂

  • PhilippeP October 27, 2008, 10:25 am

    Sirry > as electricity is (almost??) 100% made of geothermal energy, it does not hurt global warming to use a freezer in Niceland … The same would apply to growing coriander in an heated green house if needed 🙂

    BTW , now that it seems that automotive industry is about to deliver electric vehicles, I’m pretty sure Niceland would be the perfect market for these as (almost) everything is never very far for 2/3rd of the population(I allready saw a lot of Toyota Prius around in Reykjavik).

  • Don in Seattle October 27, 2008, 10:39 am

    Yes, Alda, you did say it started at 4pm, but I was walking into the city center anyway, so when I arrived at Austurvöllur about 3:15, whatever was going on had started. Someone was on a temporary platform, at the far end of the square, facing Hotel Borg, speaking. When he stopped at 3:45, everyone there just went their own way. There was no group march to the other location. I just happened upon that as I walked back to my hotel. It seemed to me that they were two seperate evevts.

    Andrew, Icelandair made some deep cuts to the winter schedule many months ago, due to high fuel prices. Long before any financial problems in Iceland. I fly back to Minneapolis tomorrow, and that is the last flight until May. We are hoping that some service will be reinstated, as there is strong demand to come here right now, given the present exchange rate.

  • SOe October 27, 2008, 11:12 am

    The strangest thing regarding “Sold out” which ever happend to me in Iceland was nearly 2 years ago . I went to 5 different stores and NOBODY had onions! ONIONS! I could not believe it.

  • Barry October 27, 2008, 12:22 pm

    It seems that there were, in fact, two demonstrations in Reykjavík on Saturday – one at 3.00pm and one at 4.00pm

    Iceland Review reports this today http://icelandreview.com/icelandreview/daily_news/?cat_id=16539&ew_0_a_id=314365

  • alda October 27, 2008, 12:32 pm

    Barry’s right – there were two demonstrations, as has now transpired. It was all a bit confusing.

  • Kate October 27, 2008, 2:26 pm

    I can always offer a sample of coriander essentail oil or any other if you wish 🙂