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Going for it in Niceland

I read an interesting quote this evening. One of those ‘Aha!’ quotes that just hits you in the solar plexus for being absolutely true. It was in an interview with a foreign national living here in Iceland, and he was asked what it was that he liked most about it. His response was that he liked the fact that Iceland is a small society and that the Icelanders push you to go to the top. They want to see you do your best here.

I had never thought about it in quite that way, but I agree with him. You can do anything in Iceland. Figure out what you want to do, then go do it. It’s easy – there’s hardly any red tape, people make decisions quickly, they’re easily infected with enthusiasm, and you will always know someone who knows someone who can pull a string or two to get you what you need. [Within limits, of course.] There’s always a way to do what you want to do. I think Icelanders really understand that.

Take for instance the incredible amount of cultural activity here. People getting together to make music, or performance art, or theatre, or dance, or writing books, or poetry, or whatever. Two Christmases ago, for instance, a relatively well-known writer who happens to live in my area was a common sight outside the local supermarkets and corner stores, selling her latest book of poetry. And by no means was it some cheaply-produced tome; it was gorgeous, printed on heavy glossy paper, with a bright fuischa cover, and totally modern design. And exquisite content.

EPI and I stopped to chat with her one evening, while we bought a copy. She preferred self-publishing, she said. That way she could pick her own paper and choose her own layout and pocket the profits herself. So you stand outside some stores in December; no big deal. And anyway, it afforded great opportunity for conversation.

Things are hardly ever a problem in Iceland. The natives are generally a laid-back bunch; one of their stock phrases [normally uttered with a careless shrugging of the shoulders] is þetta reddast! – which loosely translated means ‘ it will all work out in one way or another’. As good a philosophy as any, I guess, used in moderation.

And as for insisting on doing your best – I couldn’t begin to seek socio-analytical answers to that one, but I know it’s true. Which is perhaps why Icelanders, despite coming from a nation of merely 300,000, are so visible in the international arena. Because they’re used to doing their best and just going for it.

BUT DOES THE WEATHER PUSH THEM TO THE TOP?
Don’t know about that, but I do know it’s cold and dark right now. Today temps dipped to below freezing and the sun appeared. Which was a relief – seeing the sun, I mean – but it brought another rather grave problem: when the weather is cold and dry in the winter, the small particle pollution is a killer. Driving along Miklubraut today [one of the main arteries] was almost like driving in a desert storm – a cloud of dust hung in the air to the point of making visibility blurry some distance ahead. I kid you not. They have discussions every year about the studded-tire problem [which tears up the asphalt and causes the pollution] and they are banned after a certain point in the spring, but the sad fact is that there are a few days each year where they are absolutly essential. Not to mention for those who drive outside the city where the road conditions tend to be very treacherous in winter. Anyway. Gas mask needed today for pedestrians along Miklubraut. Ugh. Current temps -1°C and sunrise was at 10.25, sunset at 16.03. Oh, and HAPPY THANKSGIVING to all my US visitors!

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