Covid-19… Guess by now it is (almost) everywhere. The virus which really has an deep impact on the world. Many countries are in lock-down, people are required to improvise and start working from home. And also avoid social contact and all. Some people have been asking me; ¨Are you still on Iceland?¨, ¨Will you stay there?¨. So with this post I would like to give an update on how I am doing in these very strange times..

So first of all: I´m not going back to the Netherlands and will continue my program as planned.
I think at this point the situation in Iceland is also better than back home. I´m keeping track of the numbers in the Netherlands and on Iceland. In the Netherlands I really saw the exponential growth and still daily there are every day more than 1000 new infections. In Iceland tho, I do not see the exponential growth. They have this really nice website where they show lots of numbers, and looking at it I think we might have hit the peak already. But don´t want to cheer too early, as I think  infections will go up again when the restrictions are gone.

Also they would like me to stay here and travelling home I would’ve to find a job which almost seems impossible now. Plus I would risk myself getting infected by travelling and with this put my family in risk of getting infected as well. Soon I’ll probably be locked in this country, if I’m not already locked in.. It might be tough to know I’m not being able to travel home if something happens there, but luckily for now everything is going well there and there is social media to keep in touch with family and friends.

The first infection Iceland was found February 28th. I heard it during my language class where they walked in to bring the news. Also right away they gave us the phone number to call if you would get symptoms and gave us the standard tips on how not to get infected. Also the next classes we had to wash out hands by entering the building and the tables were cleaned to avoid infection as much as possible. March 13th they announced a gathering ban and all school would be closed for at least 4 weeks, this was actually the Friday I left for my Southeast Coast trip.  From this trip I also have recording materials. So as I´m home a lot and probably won´t have much to do, I might have time to edit it into a video soon!

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I have been working from home now since almost 3 weeks I think. The first week was quit tough, I had a working space which I really disliked, especially on ergonomic level. I guess my internship at Health2Work last year made me even more aware of how crappy it was. the first week I improvised with borrowing my roommates desk chair and putting up my laptop a bit on books, but not having an mouse or keyboard that was all I could do. Then towards the end of that week I picked up my desk chair, mouse and keyboard from the office which made working already way more comfortable and last week I ended up picking up the office computer and screen. So my workplace is good for as far as it can go now!

Just with my tasks I have to be flexible as events I would work on are postponed until further notice or cancelled. But so far it had been working out well. These past weeks we challenged our repatriated students from the hosting and sending program to join a video and share some positivity. I´m quite excited about the results, check it out:

On the positive note, this past week I also drove out with Ragnar, who I know from the yes theory meetup on Iceland (mentioned here), to see some Northern lights! It was just amazing and I´m really in love with my pictures. It seems like the northern lights season will be over soon. But I´m so happy we caught this one. And of course, for people who will tell me to keep distances from people. If anyone in our close contacts would have showed any small symptoms I would not have joined. Also in the car we both covered our mouth and nose and outside the car we kept our distances. So we were careful.

Also I did an online meet-up / reunion with people who were in the same chapter as me in the USA. It was so good to see them again and just talk with them. I really miss those faces.

Further with this situation I’m just trying to get some fresh air by walking, running or biking. The weather here still surprised me tho. One day it seems to get warmer (finally spring?) and the next day it is snowing again. The weather now seems nice, so hopefully it will actually get warmer.

Right now it is Easter break for me. Unfortunately due to everything happening I cannot travel this weekend. But hopefully the situation everywhere will be better again soon!

Take care everyone! and Happy Easter!

Even before I left to Iceland Mathilde (who I know through AFS) told me that she and some friends were thinking on doing a roadtrip along the South East coast of Iceland. She was wondering if I would be up to and she would let me know when they were going. This would be planned very last minute as the weather in Iceland is not always too predictable.

In the weekend of 14-15 March it was finally time. The Wednesday before Mathilde asked me if I were free that weekend. YES I WAS! On Friday after my language class Mathilde, Jen, Tommy, Mathias, Henry and I drove off  in 2 small campervans. In Iceland there are not many roads. There is only one main road that we had to follow, so navigating was quite easy. In Vík had a small break, from there we decided to drive straight to Diamond beach where we arrived around 10pm if I remember correct. The place we wanted to go was not very reachable due to deep snow, so we ended up in the parking lot of the Glacier lagoon.

When we arrived there there were some Northern lights visible. So while everyone was trying to organise and start cooking, I went out with my camera to take some pictures. I was not the only person. Many op my pictures got ruined due to people walking around with flashlights, but I’m very happy with the pictures I managed to take. In the biggest campervan, which was also our ‘living/dining/meeting’ room, we cooked pasta with pesto. A simple meal but for now it was good. I was happy when we could finally go to sleep after getting ready in the very smelly bathroom. For me this was the first time actually camping with a campervan. I think it was a very interesting, cosy and fun experience.

Northern lights

We woke up with really nice weather, after we had breakfast we went out for a walk. I did not realise how beautiful this place was the night before. We were at Jökulsárlón, or in English: The Glacier lagoon. As it was quite ice-ey, I put the spikes on my shoes. My parent’s put those with my stuff and I was actually wondering when I was ever gonna use them. But now I was the happiest person ever! It made huge difference walking on slippery surfaces.

Our campervans

The scenery was amazing. So much white from the snow, then a beautiful lake with many pieces of Ice which probably (sadly) broke of the glacier, some seals which I was actually surprised about because I didn’t know those were there and then, totally unexpected, there was this random boat in the middle of the snowfield.

Jökulsárlón - Glacier lagoon

Jökulsárlón - Glacier lagoon
Seals!

Jökulsárlón - Glacier lagoon

Jökulsárlón - Glacier lagoon

Jökulsárlón - Glacier lagoon

Jökulsárlón - Glacier lagoon

After walking around at the Glacier lagoon we went to Diamond beach. This beach is definitly worth its name.  There are many (big) pieces of ice which really look like diamonds. Diamond beach is something I had never seen before, it was beautiful (as how I would probably decribe most places we visited).

Diamond beach

Diamond beach

Diamond beach

Diamond beach

The next stop on our list was Svartifoss. To get here we had to hike for a while. As we arrived at the parking lot around lunchtime we first ate before actually going up. Again, I was super happy with my spikes here. Not everyone of our group had those, so some had so slide down as the others with spikes could just walk. Before getting to Svartifoss we passed another waterfall which was already very pretty. While walking you had a great view on the Icelandic landscape which was mainly white and empty at the moment. Then we got to Svartifoss. Svartifoss is one of the most impressive waterfalls I have ever seen. It was almost unreal how stunning it is. The waterfall consists of basalt columns which made it very special.

Svartifoss

Svartifoss

Svartifoss

From Svartifoss we continued our hike to the top of the mountain; Sjónarsker. There was a great view of the landscape here and we just sat down and enjoyed it for a while. Meanwhile feeling bad about not bringing water with us. Walking down again we walked into some lost French tourists who we could help in their own language as our group is pretty bilingual. Walking further we also once took the wrong path. But luckily we did not get lost and we could find back our campervans. There we decided we would stay the night in Vík at the campingplace.

Sjónarsker

Sjónarsker

Driving towards Vík we figured out that Fjarðrárgljúfur was on the way. So by texting people in the other van we decided to add one more stop to the day.  Unfortunately the other van missed the exit because they were discussing where the beautiful (lava field) landscapes came from. As they were driving in front we could still follow. With the next ‘turning possibility’ in 20 minutes driving we waiting until there were no other cars around and turned on the road. Not the most ideal, but it worked out and we only arrived like 15 minutesish after planned. Fjarðrárgljúfur is cliff, again as all other places very beautiful. I just must love the Icelandic landscapes. It is so unreal and something I’m personally not used to live around. So I also feel very lucky being able to live in this beautiful country for a whole year!

Fjarðrárgljúfur

Fjarðrárgljúfur

Fjarðrárgljúfur

After visiting Fjarðrárgljúfur we drove on to Vík. the campingspace. Here we cooked Chili and rice which was super good. The campingspace was apparantly closed, but we could park and stay there.
Positive side: we didn’t have to pay,
Negative side: we did not have running water or a bathroom….
So don’t be surprised how happy we were in the morning when we drove down the hill and found a public bathroom. Or as I would say, the best public bathroom ever! After eating breakfast and freshening up we went to our first stop of the day: Reynisfjara.

Reynisfjara is the most beautiful, but also most dangerous black beach of Iceland. The beach is known to have sneaker waves. These waves are very unpredictable and have a strong current. Due to the snow we could kinda see how far the water could go up. So I tried to stay more towards the white parts. I did check out the cave, but of course keeping an eye on the water. Also the basalt columns were amazing to see from up close. Love how the earth can make stuff like this.

Reynisfjara

Reynisfjara

Reynisfjara

Reynisfjara

Next up was Dyrhólaey. From here you have a amazing view on the black beach / Reynisfjara. Also you could walk up the mountain. Again happy with my spikes. The path was pretty bad. Only Mathias and me ended up walking to the top. I was just very very curious to the views. Which were again amazing. There was also a very cute lighthouse on the top and we could see up to Vestmannaeyjar / the Vestman Islands. Somewhere this year I’m still planning to go there and visit Diljá and her family. Diljá was once an AFS student in my mom’s side of the family.

 

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Dyrhólaey

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Dyrhólaey

Dyrhólaey

Then we went to Sólheimajökull, one of the glaciers on Iceland. It was a short walk thare accross the lagoon which was frozen now. This made it a bit harder to see where the glacier started and where the lake was. But it still looked amazing. I’m actually very curious on how this place would look like in the summer / warmer months. Now everything was white, but think then it might even look more spectacular as you really see the difference in glacier and non-glacier.

Sólheimajökull

Sólheimajökull

Sólheimajökull

On the last part on the way back to Reykjavík we visited some of the watefalls. Skógafoss, Kvernufoss, Seljalandsfoss and Gljúfrabúi. Again, all beautiful places. Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss were very touristy. Many people standing there and taking pictures. We just checked it out, but did not stay too long at those places.

Skógafoss

Skógafoss

Skógafoss

Seljalandsfoss

Kvernufoss made a real impression on me, it was a small hike there, also passing some real Icelandic horses, and the landscape was just magical. I could’ve sat there for a very long time just enjoying the view and the sounds.

Icelandic horses

Kvernufoss

Kvernufoss

Kvernufoss

Gljúfrabúi is a cliff with a waterfall behind it. I’m super happy I took my rain pants with me, and I realised that my shoes were waterproof as well which made me even more happy. Pictures did not work out the best way within the cliff due to all the water around us. But it was just amazing.

Gljúfrabúi

Gljúfrabúi

Gljúfrabúi

Back in Reykjavík we dropped of our stuff, divided the leftover foods and we cleaned the campervans. Then we went for dinner to KFC/Taco Bell and returned the campervans. This weekend had been absolutely amazing. I really want to thank Mathilde, Jen, Tommy, Mathias and Henry again for letting me join on this trip.

Can’t wait until I get a chance again to explore more of Iceland again. But with the current situation on the world I think that might be for a while. This trip was before all the Covid-19 restrictions. Soon I’ll try to write an update on the situation here and how I’m handeling it so far. Take care everyone!!

Í dag er fimmtudagur tólfti mars árið tvö þúsund og tuttugu. Ég heiti Anke og ég er frá Hollandi. Ég tale Hollendsku. Núna er ég á Íslandi. Ég bý í Reykjavík. Ég er að læra Íslensku í Dósaverksmiðjunni.

This is what my language class often starts with. I´m almost halfway of my course and I´m slowly starting to understand some stuff. It is funny when I hear people talking and I understand some words they are talking about. Although my Icelandic knowlegde is very standard. But it is a start! I´ll keep practicing and hopefully I´ll be able to speak and at least understand the language within this year.

These past weeks I have kept myself busy. February 28th and 29th about 19 strangers from all over the world booked tickets to Iceland together. I got to know about this when I saw this post in a facebookgroup of Yes Theory. Yes Theory is a youtube channel that has a huge community. While preparing for Iceland I found this post from Isabel. Since she was 8 years old it was her dream to one day see the Northern Lights in Iceland. She saved her money in a glass jar to fulfull her childhood dream. Then she met Jordan, who also dreamt of seeing the Northern lights, they started talking and a couple of hours later they booked their tickets to Iceland. The post was talking about how they would love to meet new people and they were inviting people they didn´t know to join on their trip. And because of that message, 19 strangers (including me) met up on Iceland. Ragnar, a local on Iceland, had organized many tours around the island for the group. Due to prices and knowing I´m still here for almost a full year, I did not join the tours. But the first night Ragnar did take the ones who were already on Iceland out to hunt some Northern Lights. Unfortunately it was not a big succes, after driving for a while it got very foggy outside. On the 29th I went with the ones who aleady had arrived into the city and up the Hallgrímskirkja.

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I even spotted my own house. Somewere in the middle of the picture you see a square white building with the sign “center hotels”, if you look left next to that building you see the red roof of my house.

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Outside of my work hours I have spend quite a lot of time with the group while they were in Reykjavík. The group was amazing, we all connected very well while we didn´t know eachother.  We even spotted some Northern Lights at the shore, which was also for me the first time of really seeing them. Hjálmdís, also a local, invited all of us to come to her home and try some local foods (lamb, brúnaðar kartöflur, sósa, malt og appelsin, harðfiskur, kæstur hákarl and brennivín). I´ve had a great time with these people and can´t wait to meet them some day again. I´m pretty sure at least one of them will make a video of the trip. I´ll share it in one of my blogs when they finish it.

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Last saturday I went to the Pálínuboð of AFS, which is a potluck. There were volunteers, students and their hostfamilies. Rebekka, a girl from Germany who I´ve met through my language class, also joined. In the morning we made bananabread that we brought in the afternoon. There was a lot of sweet food, and luckily also some salats and rice. I ate so much that afternoon, but it was really nice.

On sunday I slept in, the weather outside was beautiful. So after I got up slowly and did some laundry I went to walk around to the harbor which is really close (read 5 minutes walking) from my house. In the afternoon I went with Mathilde to the Listasafn Reykjavíkur Hafnarhús. This is one of the locations of the art museum. At this specific museum they have the shoplifter: chromo sapiens exposition from Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir. This exposition is like cotton candy with many many colors and it is very fluffy. That is how I would explain it, it was super cute!

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Due to the great weather Mathilde and I went for a drink and afterwards we continued to her place from where we went watch the sunset with some of Mathilde´s friends. On the way there I took an amazing picture of Hallgrímskirkja. After the sunset we all ate together at Mathilde her place and watched a movie. It was a great day.

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This week I managed to complete my registration on Iceland. At the office I had the first meeting with IPOT, the Icelandic Pool Of Trainers. We talked about some events coming up and now the preparations for those can start. I’m really excited for it!

This is a short update on what I’ve been up to. I’m keeping myself busy and for the following week this will still be the case. This weekend I’ll go with some people to the south-east coast of Iceland. It will be the first time for me to really get out of Reykjavík. I’ll try to keep my blog updated on my adventures!

By the way, I almost forgot to mention this. So this morning I was at the office and then my desk and computer and just the whole building started shaking. I have experienced my very first earthquake here! It was a very weird experience. Luckily it wasn’t too bad and as far as I know there is no damage. The earthquake not that long and was with a magnitude of 5.1.