My Love-Hate Relationship with Iceland

My Love-Hate Relationship with Iceland

Article by David Brooks

I was originally going to title this article, “Why I like Iceland” But the truth is that title doesn’t express my true feelings about this country. The truth is far more complex.

There’s a great line in one of my favorite movies, “Lawrence of Arabia” where Lawrence is speaking to Auda, the leader of the Howeitat, who is very effectively convincing him to join him in his battle against the Turks – something he didn’t know he wanted to do but ends up agreeing to anyways. In the end, Auda, realizing that his mind has been changed for him, says to Lawrence, “You trouble me like women.” That line expresses how I feel about Iceland.To me, Iceland is like a difficult but beautiful woman, a woman that is mysterious and alluring, deep and brilliant, strong and proud, and yet sometimes shockingly callous, aloof, shallow and ignorant. Yet, I keep coming back. I keep trying to understand the mystery and get my mind around her many complexities.

I lived in Iceland for two years, from 2004-2006. And to paraphrase a famous quote from Charles Dickens, it was the best and worst of times. During that time, I don’t think I ever got comfortable with the people, the language, the culture and certainly not the weather. And to add to Iceland’s mystery and challenges, it is just a tiny island way out in the North Atlantic not far below the Arctic Circle. It’s cold and blustery and almost never warm – much like the people.

But every once and a while, the sun shines and the temperatures rise and the warmth and beauty is breathtaking, making all of the misery and hardship seem worth it.For this reason and many others, living in Iceland is not for the feint of heart. I believe it requires a high degree of emotional intelligence; either that or none at all. If you are somewhere in the middle, like I was, this chilly mistress will get in your head and make you doubt yourself in ways that can be cruel. In that sense I failed, at least initially. What I learned about myself while living in Iceland took me years to process and integrate. In short, I had to grow up and stop worrying about what people thought of me. I also had to learn patience. So, in a strange way, Iceland was a very real and direct part of my becoming an adult. But like a tough teacher or lover that forced you to be better, you resent the method but later, appreciate and respect the lesson.There is much to respect and love about Iceland. It is a country with an incredibly rich and long-standing history.

Take for example the Icelandic sagas, an amazing series of stories about life in Iceland, some of which were written almost a thousand years ago in a language that is still used in Iceland today. These sagas tell the tale of hardship, death, love, families and power. They also tell tales of a people that managed to eek out a living on an isolated, inhospitable island. The country had a parliamentary democracy in 938 A.D., called the Althing. And, Icelander’s were very early explorers, braving the cold, open ocean in small crafts. They scraped out a living on this tiny island for over a thousand years by what seems best described as pure gumption.

This deep respect for history is embedded in every Icelander, who by nature is reserved, proud and aloof. They know they are special even if the world does not. Maybe that’s what draws me to them, their deep abiding knowledge that they are unique and strong. There is a self-assurance in Iceland’s people born of the certainty of their lineage and the knowledge that they have endured much hardship and lived to tell the tale. And, the memory of this has forged its genetic imprint on every last damn one of them.

About the Author

David Brooks is a freelance SEO consultant, geothermal energy advocate and former Iceland resident. He is also a proud supporter of Iceland’s geothermal energy development and seeks to promulgate their expertise building and designing geothermal power plants.

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