Isolation in Iceland

Being alone and COVID positive in a foreign country, I am learning how resilient I am, AND how much I need other people—and we all need each other.

I got an official email from the Icelandic government telling me what health protocols to take. I am doing my best to keep others safe but without my people near, I have to leave isolation to get food and supplies. I can do this for myself, but it reminds me of how important other’s acts of kindness are.

I’m amazed at the delicious food I can find at the local Bonus grocery. So many delicious choices!

I’ve been able to set up a little office in my hotel room, and between naps, working via zoom using my iPhone and iPad. My internet connection is excellent, and I have easy charging stations next to my desk. I’m a bit slower than usual, and I’m finding extra time to pray for congregations and people I serve as I move through my work tasks.

How amazing I can be sick in Iceland and still work remotely.

I have a rent car, and I have learned to get about Keflavik. I can pretty much find every place I need without a map. I smile when I see the KFC (yes, that KFC) which is one of the signs I’m near my morning place to walk in quickly to get my coffee and morning roll. Everyday I find a new sight or item to enjoy. What Icelandic surprise will I find today?

I’m amazed that I’m being given the gift to “live” in a small town in Iceland for a week.

Every little text or email or phone call from home helps me get through the day. All sorts of people sending me kind words and offering prayers.

Why am I amazed at the difference those prayers and words make? They are not onlys (as in only a prayer or only a text)—they are tangible gifts of God’s love.

After nearly two weeks on the road, I had the hotel do some laundry. No laundromats in Iceland, it turns out. Folks have their own washer or share one in their housing unit. It was a great gift to have my neatly folded clean clothes delivered to my room.

Aren’t clean clothes amazing?

When I went to the hospital this past Monday hoping to get a “fit to fly” clearance, I prayed that if it were safe for me to fly (that is, not make others ill), I’d be able to leave. I’ll admit that I wept at what I believe was God’s answer—that I needed to stay away from others. I’m hoping for a “yes” tomorrow when I hopefully see a doctor. For today, I am thankful for the good gifts that God is giving me. In Iceland.

In Iceland!!!!

An even more unexpected lark

….which is what you get when you have a positive COVID test and can’t leave Iceland.

I hadn’t been feeling great for a couple of days. Like I was getting a cold. I was so hoping it wasn’t COVID—but the test I had to take to return to the US confirmed that I was indeed infected. My best friend, thankfully, had a negative test but was in a quandary of whether to leave me.

After many phone calls and waits in line it was decided she would stay another night in hopes of being able for us to leave a day later together—and, more importantly for her, to make sure I was okay.

We booked separate rooms in a local hotel and crashed for the night.

I was told I could go to the local hospital to see a doctor and get a fit to fly certificate which would get me on the plane. I was told, it being Monday morning, a busy day after a long weekend, the earliest I could see a physician would be late in the afternoon.

My best friend and I found a local coffee shop where we could sit outside and have coffee and Icelandic pastries. Masked. Except when we were eating, of course.

We drove back to the hotel, masked, windows down, enjoying some small town Icelandic daily life views.

We both had tickets rebooked home pending my status. Having given me good care, we decided it was best for my best friend to leave while she was still healthy.

I dropped her off at the airport on my way to the hospital to see the doctor. You know you have COVID in a foreign country when you know the way to the hospital without using a map. As a note, hospitals in Iceland also serve as urgent care as well as ordinary health care facilities. That’s where you go when you are sick.

I paid my $175 fee (free if I’d been an Icelandic citizen) and saw a lovely doctor, Sarah. She did another COVID test and I was still positive. Not fit to fly. She told me to go to bed and return if my symptoms got worse. I went back to my hotel, and with many, many tears, my best friend flew home without me.

Every one has been kind and sympathetic. Helpful as they are able. I am a woman with resources (financial as well as some travel savvy) so I have it better than most.

But here is my word to all of you who read this: I’ve been very careful these past two years. Masking when others didn’t. Vaccinated and boosted. I still got COVID, and I am quarantining in Iceland.

The pandemic isn’t over. As they say, we may be done with the pandemic but it’s not done with us.

Please stay safe.

Dandelions: A lesson in reimagining

I’ve never been a fan of dandelions. They’ve seemed like only pesky weeds (which is of course only another name for wildflower). Then I came to Iceland. It is peak dandelion blooming season. They are the spring wildflower that splashes Iceland yellow.

Apparently dandelions are well loved here. Turns out that Túnfífill (the Icelandic name) are healthy to eat from flower to root. I ate delicious Icelandic salmon coated in dandelion petals.

A woman we met told us how valued dandelions are in Iceland. They represent hope, love, and health. They also have a special meaning in this country of long winter nights. The yellow bloom is the sun; the white seed head is the moon; the dispersed seeds are the stars.

I think about the hope that dandelions would offer as the burst forth with the first color after a winter of gray, black, and white. Their little sun faces would promise that the sun would be returning for longer days of light (in fact, night never really showed up this trip; sunset was right after 11 pm and sunrise after 3 AM; it was never dark in between)

The love that dandelions offer, for me, is the generosity of joyful color that spreads with abandon year after year. Apparently they are among the hardiest of plants in this tough climate and return no matter what hardship or sorrow surrounds them.

The health is the very plant itself that provides nutrition not only to those who eat them but to the soil itself.

How very strange that I had to travel miles and miles to see that something I had thought common and pesky was actually a gift of great delight. I wonder. What else am I missing?

A slow local day

The sun is out today and so are we. I’m only having to wear two layers of clothing. Extra layers are near for when it drops below 50 (I know. I’m sorry. I wish I could send you the cooler weather. If it makes you feel better, it’s rained almost every day, too).

Outside our room is a small porch overlooking a river. After breakfast, it was the perfect place to sit and knit and paint with the sound of the flowing water the music in the silence.

After a quiet morning, we stopped at the local church to pray. The beautiful space had a rare unlocked door and was the best way to start our Friday road trip.

We were on our way out of town when we decided that it was necessary to stop and try the local pizza, especially since the pizza was baked in a thermal powered oven AND there was room to sit outside.

We drove a brief way down the road to visit a favorite potter and to catch up with her. During COVID she had taken to making soap from local ingredients scented with local plants. I couldn’t resist buying a few pieces of Iceland to take home.

With pretty sketchy directions, we went searching down back roads for a yarn store featured in the infamous Wool Trail brochure.

Somehow we found Uppspuni, where the owner spins and dyes wool from her own sheep. Once again, I couldn’t resist purchasing local; this time the home grown, home spun yarn was dyed with native Icelandic plants.

After a stop at a once again unlocked church for prayers, we made one pause for local ice cream. It was a bit tricky to make a selection since every option was in Icelandic, but somehow I could decipher enough for delicious choices.

To top an excellent day—none of these fabulous places were more than twenty miles away. It’s a delight to travel local.