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The endless cicle of frustrating Icelandic politics

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Last year the government collapsed over the revelations from the Panama Papers. Two politicians were implicated, Sigmundur Davið Gunnlaugsson and Bjarni Benediktsson. Sigmundur Davið, chairman of the Progressive Party and prime minister resigned from both posts after massive protests, which went on for weeks (so many days standing in the rain). The government collapsed and new elections were set for October, 29th. Bjarni Ben, chairman of the Independent Party did not resign and went on to run in the election. In the election, the Independence Party won the majority, with 29%, 3% more than in the previous election and formed the government with Bjarni Ben becoming the prime minister. Maybe the reader can start to spot the source of my frustration.

This September the government collapsed again, this time over the stomach turning scandal that Bjarni Ben's father had provided a letter of recommendation to a convicted pedophile for a process called "restored honor", which Bjarni Ben and others in the Independence party (among others the minister of justice) had been covering up.

Now after just one year there are again elections in Iceland (28th of October). Bjarni Ben is still the chairman of the Independence Party, even though there is yet another scandal involving insider trading and an injunction against the newspaper reporting on it, that I'm too tired to elaborate on, see here and here. The Independence Party is currently, one week before the election, polling between 23% and 25% and there is a chance they will again form the government...

Sigmundur Davið, feeling himself to be a victim of a leftist-liberal conspiracy and stabbed in the back by the Progressive Party founded a new party, Miðflokurinn (the Middle Party,) three weeks before the election. The party's logo looks like it could be from some hippie party from Lower Saxony:




They immediately started polling around 10%, even before they had a program. I saw someone with a Miðflokkurnn badge the other day and had the urge to go up to him and ask: "What is wrong with you people?"

As a none citizen I have no vote, I can only hope.


Bolurdagur makes me miss Aachen

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Karneval in Aachen is probably my favourite holiday. My friends here do not understand why, probably because their only experience with this holiday is me insisting to celebrate my birthday by forcing everyone to wear silly costumes. I love that Karneval is one of the few holidays with distinct local flavours (Brazilian Carnival, Mardi Gras, Venice Carnival, Fasching etc) a mix of folk and Catholic traditions. However, I find the Iceland version of Karneval pale in comparison to the one I know from Aachen a sad leftover from when Iceland was Catholic (until 1550).

Aachen - Fettdonnerstag (Weiberfastnacht, Fat Thursday)
In Aachen Karneval begins on Thursday at 11:11am. Traditionally this day was the day for women to take charge and throw all the "proper ways" for women to behave out of the window for one day. The only leftover from this origin is that women cut off the end of the neck ties of men (yes, not so subtle). These days it is the beginning of the street Karneval, everyone leaves work at 11:11am and goes out on the street to dance, watch perfomances and celebrate. I costume of course (yes we turn up to work in costumes and no this is not an actual official holiday, but custom to the point that banks for example close at 11:11am).

Iceland - nothing
and I always feel sad at 11:12am that day.

Aachen - the whole weekend after
Parties everywhere, crazy people in costumes everywhere and this:

I know it needs some more explanation. So the area around Aachen was taken over by Prussia after the Napoleon wars. Prussia was a very bureaucratic and militaristic state. The uniforms, voting for a "king of karneval", mock ceremonies political speeches (held standing in a bathtub and using rymes) were all pocking fun at the people in power. Unfortunately some of the biggest Karneval organisation now invite politicians and leaders of Germanys biggest businesses to give them a platform in their celebrations. This is what one sees in TV and it is dreadfully boring with a side of fremdschaemen at the obvious pandering and bad, bad humourless speeches. There are smaller organisations (or non-organisations as the Tropi Garde) which still is full of witty political commentary made by volunteers and no politicians or business tycoons are invited, but one has to find it.

Iceland - nothing


Aachen - Rosenmontag (Rose Monday)
So I was under the impression that this is an official holiday until I started googeling (or rather using duckduckgo for searching) facts for this post. Public institutions are closed on this day, public transport is running on a holiday schedules. There are parades, which means the city is closed for traffic. The parades include candy being thrown into the crowd of onlookers. We used to come home with bags full of candy as kids.

Iceland - Bolludagur (cream puff day)
Cream puffs are eaten that day. Imagine a donut bun filled with marmalade and cream. Yum, yum, yum, yum!


Aachen - Dienstag
People are going back to work and/or slowly recovering from 4 days of partying. There are still some things going on, but it is winding down.

Iceland - Sprengidagur (bursting day)

Saltkjöt og baunir, túkall
Salted meat and yellow beans, two krónur"

old Icelandic song


This is the day you eat salted meat and yellow peas for lunch until you burst. From 2009 to 2013 IKEA offered salted meat and yellow peas for 2ISK (less then 1 cent) to honour the tradition, especially as a response to difficult situation for many Icelanders after the economic crisis. People ate so much that they puked, so they changed it in 2014 to 995ISK and this year they are selling it for 495ISK, which is still cheap (4€).

Aachen - Aschermittwoch (Ash Wednesday)
As I mentioned above, Karneval has folk as well as Catholic roots. Ash Wednesday, the beginning of lent is when last years palm branches (from Palm Sunday before Easter) are burned and the Ash used to mark the forehead with a cross. For the purpose of Karneval we say

Am Aschermittwoch ist alles vorbei
Ash Wednesday everything is over


The party is over, lent starts and after almost a week of constant partying people feel inclined to fast.

Iceland
... is confused here. They call it Ash Wednesday (Öskudagur), but this is the day the kids dress up in costumes and go through town from shop to shop to ask for candy, basically mimicking Helloween (not the same as Carnival, people!)




Goodbye Hlemmur

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Hlemmur is the terminal bus station for Reykjavík centre close to my house. I always had a soft spot for this station as it has a nice retro look and it was one of the few non-commercial places where people could meet and hang out.



As it is a place where many people wait for connections one would think that having an indoor place for people to wait, buy tickets, check the time table and so on makes sense. But then this is Stræto. The company which never replaced the shelter at the bus station next to my work which got flattened by a storm in 2015.

Stræto decided that Hlemmur is not cost-effective (Stræto is a private company) and gave/sold (I'm not certain which) it to the city. The city decided to ask for ideas for Hlemmur on Betri Reykjavík, an online citizen consultation forum and it was decided that Hlemmur should be changed into a food market. This leads me to conclude the following:

People who have time to use a platform like Betri Reykjavík ∩ People who go to work by bus = 0


and/or

People who have time to use a platform like Betri Reykjavík ∩ People who care about the availability of non-commercial spaces = 0


I'm bitter, because the whole winter Hlemmur, the bus station where I wait for the bus to work, had no inside waiting option, while the bus station from work in the middle of a freaking field did not even have a basic shelter.




Aaaand she's back!

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Hello again! My many, many readers (ehem) probably wondered what happened to me the last few months. After I celebrated my 15 years of Stockholm syndrome I had a bit of an existential crisis and did not particularly feel like blogging. But just like the sun, I'm back bitches!




15 years of Iceland in my life

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This month 15 years ago I moved to Iceland for the first time. Starry eyed and excited to discover this country full of volcanoes, horses, glaciers and adventure.

I left several times, for studies, to travel and live somewhere else (China and South-America) for a year, but coming back was always the path of least resistance when it was time to return to grown up life. Sometimes I had applied to several jobs in several countries, but Iceland was the one that replied, sometimes I was offered a job in Iceland before I had even started looking. Suddenly I noticed I had fully migrated to Iceland in a similar manner as normal people end up returning home after mucking about in the world for a bit.

My relationship with Iceland is complicated. It is the place I have considered home the past 15 years and the place were I have felt least save from all the places I have visited. It sometimes feel like living in a house and forever be treated like a temporary guest, even though you have lived there for years.

I had a small get together for my 15 years of Iceland and here were some ideas for names of the event:

  • "Christina has been 15 years in Iceland and really doesn't know how to feel about it but definitely needs a beer" party

  • Christina's celebration of Stockholm syndrome

  • Sunken cost fallacy feast

  • Christina drinks to a multitude of bad life decisions




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