2018 is gone but not forgotten

Happy New Year! I am going to start this year with an overview of 2018, which was a year of big changes for me with new challenges.

Finished one school and started another

In February I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Media and Communications. It was a HUGE step for me as my path through the school system had been longwinded. At many points in my life I thought I might not get an education at all, that my ship had sailed, as I hadn’t had the opportunity to finish school at the same phase as many of my friends and peers.

I managed to prove myself wrong and finished my degree in 2 and a half years, as we did summer semesters as well, and I did it with a great mark as well!

On the night of my graduation I threw a big party where two of my best friends and one of my brothers were hosts and made sure to take the piss out of me and guaranteed a good time for all my guests. Another brother took photos at the party and played the guitar and even wrote a song to lyrics that my fiancé put together and they exclusively debuted it for us all. After the party I walked two houses down from the pub where it was held and slept, uninterrupted, in a hotel for the night (this was a big perk as my daughter was only about six months old and hardly ever slept throughout the night).

útskrift
A proud graduate

In September I started a new university in pursuit of a master’s degree. I am still studying at Leeds University Business School and hopefully will receive my degree in Corporate Communications, Marketing and Public Relations by the end of this year.

My studies are challenging at times and I think the main reason for that is both that I am not studying in my native language and secondly because I do have to manage it around running a family of five. Now, for example, I am preparing for exams and it’s proven quite difficult to manage that around the holidays. A house full of flue, the fact my fiancé is now back at work and my au pair still being in Iceland after visiting her family over the holidays are all contributory factors. It’s impossible to sit down and listen to lectures or get sucked into a case study with an active 18-month-old demanding time and attention.

leeds uni my
My lovely school in Leeds

There can be never enough travelling!

I went to a global conference with a friend from school in March. The conference is called LEAP summit and is aimed at entrepreneurs and the leaders of tomorrow.

My previous university sent us an email where we were informed about it and told we could apply for free tickets. This I did. Unexpectedly I got a ticket! I couldn’t bear the thought of going alone so I contacted a girl from my university. She is one that is not only someone I believe will be one of “tomorrows leaders” but already has made an impact. She had served as the youngest member of parliament in Iceland until recently and has done amazing things in her work, especially for women and young people. When she appeared in interviews her appearance was always immaculate and polished.

She’s adventurous so she applied as well and got a ticket. It dawned on me, I was going somewhere without my spouse and children! As much as I love them, it was long needed!

We planned the trip, booked flights to Zagreb and found a place in the city centre to stay.

I loved Zagreb and really hope I can revisit one day as we only stayed for a long weekend. The conference itself was inspiring and very educational. I highly recommend it to anyone in the need of some inspiration, who wants to meet young vibrant people on their way up in life or/and want to learn a thing or two about life and some business skills from world-class speakers.

However, me and my travel buddy found ourselves a little too old for the raves they threw at evenings etc. so we ventured into the city. We ate AMAZING food at ridiculously good prices, got top-notch service everywhere we went. We chatted to locals at bars, some that seemed quite upscale and then some that made us feel like we might want to make sure we never lost sight of each other. No matter what the place looked like though, the people we met were all nice, polite and talkative. We walked around the city centre a little as well and peeked into a museum where we both almost pissed ourselves. It was called “Museum of Torture”. It was horrible but educational at the same time. We agreed that the human species can be monstrous and it is scary to know that people have gone to such lengths to think up ways to harm each other. It was very dark in there and had scary music playing in the background, so we rushed a little through it as we felt genuinely afraid in there.

kirkja zagreb
A typical tourist picture from Zagreb. I didn’t want to bore you with all the food pictures I took!

The host of our flat was nice to the core. She messaged us before we arrived, showed us the flat, answered all of our questions and even sent us an email the day after with a list of restaurants we might be interested in. She was very helpful and friendly.

The biggest “travelling venture” would have to be the family’s big move to England. In June we relocated to Leeds so I could continue with my education. We love it here and as I have covered before I find the people here friendly and we all have a sense of community where we live. I meet the women from the neighbourhood for drinks or to let the kids play and my fiancé goes out with the blokes that live around here to watch football and have a pint of beer. While in Reykjavík I didn’t even know the people next door to me. I want to travel around Yorkshire more and hopefully the new year will bring us a bigger car so we can do so. At the moment we have a very small car and I would prefer everyone to be comfortable and be able to take our au pair on day trips with us as well. Therefore, we definitely need more than five seats. We had a great summer here and Icelanders even came over to try to catch some sun as there was a lack of it back home. Who would have thought it! People visiting England with the purpose of catching some rays!

sun in leeds
Catching some of the sun this summer!

People around me, mostly other international students, have complained about the weather this winter. I must say I have loved it! I am dependant on public transportation to and from school and I do not feel like I can complain! My vision of England was rain, rain and rain! So, the few days it has rained I have thought “There you go, that’s what I expected…” but it never lasts many days in a row. Maybe I am wrong and maybe its because I am from Iceland but I feel like this winter (so far) has been mild and quite gentle to the bus catching student that I am.

Since I moved here, I have travelled back to Iceland once. The whole family went over at the beginning of November, as it was my fathers 70th birthday and he decided to throw a big party. The kids were sent to relatives and friends and I, my fiancé and my father-in-law went to a huge birthday party. I did a little speech in honour of my dad and then we drank and danced the night away. I was very pleased with my trip over as we only stayed for three nights and my father-in- law had never been to Iceland but he still managed to see the northern lights. It took some battering on his bedroom door and yelling encouragement to get him out of bed. When he emerged, he was wearing his boxer shorts and a furry hat in the freezing cold. We stayed in one of the summer houses my dad rents out to tourists and managed to relax in the hot tub twice. The only downside to the trip was that it was very short and I couldn’t meet a lot of the people I would have liked to have seen.

pottur
The lovely hot tub, just before we went in with a glass of white in hand

Illnesses and injuries

Weird category but fresh in the mind at the moment, as me and my two girls saluted the new year with a very hostile flue! I call it “the English flue”, as I don’t get sick often but man, this one knocked me right off my feet! I was in bed (on the couch to be accurate) for almost two weeks! My youngest one got hit twice and had quite high fever. She seems to be making this a yearly thing as she had RS virus during New Years Eve last year! My oldest had to cancel a trip to her dad as she was too poorly to travel. I don’t know what I would have done if it wasn’t for my fiancé as he waited us on hand and foot. He made sure we were comfortable and had everything we needed. At the same time, he made sure that anyone that was not ill, like my son, were also taken care of and had something to do and got to get out of the house.

I caught another foreign flue in the year of 2018, as my last one and a half day in Zagreb I wasn’t feeling right. Once I got home, I got even worse. That was “the Croatian flue”. Again, my fiancé was a star. I had such high temperature that he had to change the bed regularly so it wouldn’t start resembling a very unappetising, punctured waterbed! He brought me water and tablets to bed and tried feeding me but I do not believe I was very cooperative patient.

flue

In October I got food poisoning and that was a horrible experience. The only thing I laugh about, now, not then, is the phone call we had with some medical staff here in the UK. My lovely and very worried fiancé called some emergency service due to my condition. After a little while the person on the phone demanded to talk to me rather than him. I answered what felt like 100 questions and was told that I would receive a phone call soon from another member of staff. About 15 minutes later the phone rang. My fiancé tried to take it upon him to talk to the health specialist but again they wanted to talk to me. I was asked a lot of the same questions as before. As the person on the phone went through the information, she had from the previous phone call, it dawned on me a lot of the answers the first person had taken down he had answered incorrectly, even though I had given him the correct answers. Anyway, close to the end of our conversation, which took about 10-15 minutes, I was asked whether I could talk!?! Very surprised I asked: “Excuse me?” the person said: “Are you capable of expressing yourself verbally?”. For a moment I thought about saying nothing….. I also thought about asking what it was exactly that I had been doing for the last 10 minutes. Even though I can be a little sarcastic I decided to be polite and just answered “Yes” while I shook my head and rolled my eyes towards my fiancé.

Apart from my youngest catching the occasional flue (which is normal while developing an immune system) the rest of the family has been healthy. However, my fiancé took a tumble down the stairs in our house, with our daughter in his arms! In some immaculate way he managed to save her from any harm. He on the other hand, had cuts on his arms and a grace on his shin. He also fractured some ribs and therefore had to stay home from work for a week.

My brother gets amused and annoyed when it comes to the UK and all the health and safety procedures. He lived in the UK for two years and just couldn’t wrap his head around how scrutinising the health and safety topic is in this country. When he visited in September, he made a lot of fun of all the health and safety courses my fiancé had to do due to his new job. Therefore, when I told him about my fiancés accident his only reply was: “WHAT!!! Has he not done a course in “how to fall down stairs safely”?”

health and safety
Might be an idea to put one of these warning signs at the top of our stairs to prevent falling

All and all

When I look over the year 2018, I can truly say it was mostly good and I went through a lot of personal growth.

I have amazing net of people around me. We got great visitors over. Due to modern technology I have not been homesick yet as I can see my friends and family through a screen whenever I want. I have met great people through my new university and in my neighbourhood.

I have challenged myself personally and professionally.

I am in the process of learning that people visit me to see me, not to inspect my mess. I am also in the process of learning to let go and prioritise when it comes to school, home, family, friends etc. and am almost comfortable with placing the mess in our house at the bottom of the list at the moment so I can enjoy all the other things!

I learned I can write in English as I started this blog, where I surprised myself with two things, firstly, how well it’s going and secondly, how personal it became. It has a life of its own and that is quite therapeutic.

I learned that even though I cut out people that harm me and/or only bring negativity into my life I am not becoming the parent that rejected me.

Through #metoo I learned a lot of the behaviour I had received when I was younger was not okay and for the first time in my life, I am able to see how I was done wrong and why some of these incidents were wrong. For that I am grateful, as if it doesn’t have a name its hard to put a finger on it and work through it.

metooprimary

We said goodbye to my mother-in-law, who passed away, in a beautiful ceremony early this summer.

I am grateful for my loving and supportive family. I have the most amazing kids and my fiancé is one of a kind. I wish I could give him a portion of all the support and encouragement he oozes over me on daily basis.

We recently discovered that I am pregnant and for the ones wondering, I still am. We have another scan tomorrow and are being closely monitored due to my history.

I am grateful I have lived another year. I am grateful for the lessons I went through. I am grateful for the people that are on this journey with me.

Now I look forward to new lessons, a new year and new milestones! Hopefully 2019 will bring me a baby, a degree, joy, love and some travelling.

(I also desperately hope it brings me a job at the end of the summer).

Again, a VERY happy new year to you all!

photo of fireworks
Photo by Anna-Louise on Pexels.com

Bans, Bins and Bureaucracy

I live in Leeds and I have lived here just over 3 months. I had been to England often before and had certain thoughts and opinions on this and that, some which have changed, others have been reinforced. I have also learnt a few things I didn’t know until I lived here and I am sure the people of Leeds and England will keep surprising me in the coming year.

People in Leeds are friendly

I say Leeds as from what I understand, people are not as concerned about the next person everywhere in England. Doors are kept open, bus drivers are thanked as people step out of the bus, strangers greet each other, people help others out in the streets (I have had total strangers offer to carry stuff to the car with us, pick stuff up that I drop etc.) and so on. I am told this video explains the difference between people from the north and the south pretty well.

Where I live (which is not that far from the city centre) is a real sense of community. I am already involved in “mummy”/” wives” groups. We have been to a charity event where I knew surprisingly many faces and we have had the people from our neighbourhood over for an open house in order for us to get to know them and for them to get to know us.

Even while seeing my doctor to get contraception (as we definitely don’t need another child at this point in time!) I felt like I was talking to a friend, or at least a friend of a friend. She told me all about how much older her husband was and that the fact he could be too tired for sex (due to age). She stressed that this was definitely not her fault as she was still sexy and up for it. She also told me that they had children quite late in life so I didn’t have to worry, there was still time for us to add more kids to the family. She was brilliant!

people sitting bus seats
Photo by Negative Space on Pexels.com

Carpets DO make sense

I used to think people from the UK made life way too hard on themselves. Coming from a country where most of the floors are wooden or tiled I couldn’t get my head around all the carpets. In a country where people tend to wear shoes inside and it rains A LOT it seems absolutely mad to have carpets on all the floors. I felt so bad for people having to drag a hoover around, even up and down stairs! Since I moved here however, I have learned most people do not wear their shoes inside. I have also learned about the cost of heating. I have therefore accepted the extra exercise while cleaning and seen the practical side of carpets. They keep it a bit warmer.

Things concerning children are expensive

Most things in the UK are cheaper than back home. If you see a delirious, dehydrated and exhausted person carrying 4 big bags from Primark, 2 from H&M and 3 from Tesco, you have most likely run into an Icelander that is making the most of a short visit to the UK. To my surprise things concerning children (other than clothes) are just as expensive and in some cases more expensive than in Iceland.

We brought an Icelandic au-pair over with us as we simply cannot afford the childcare in England. The average day nursery costs 232 pounds a week for 50 hours! In Iceland I would pay less for a full month in nursery, it would cost me around 195 pounds a month for 40 hours a week. Included in that price the children have breakfast, a healthy hot lunch and an afternoon snack. In each class we have at least one member off staff with a Masters degree (5 years in university) in childminding, teaching or upbringing etc.

Our au-pair is also a lot more than just a childminder. She helps us with things around the house, makes sure we as a couple get date nights and is simply a great addition to the family!

School meals over here are around the same price as back home. I find this mind boggling as I know for a fact that all the ingredients are cheaper, and the labour is cheaper. It might stem from governmental support though, maybe schools in Iceland get more support in this area than UK ones.

My kids have to take the bus to school as we live quite a distance from their school. Each week we pay 6 pounds per child which adds up to 12 pounds a week. In Iceland we would be paying 9 pounds for the same.

As I say I just find all this surprising as almost everything else is more expensive in Iceland, considerably more! Beer on draft for an example is a whopping 7 pounds!

gold coin
Photo by Public Domain Pictures on Pexels.com

Utility bills are your currency for most things

With everything you may need to apply for or need to set up you will be asked for a proof of address. That proof of address is a utility bill which is an electric bill, gas bill, water bill etc. It amazed me how important it is to drag an old bill around. I had to do this to open up a bank account and to get a phone and phone number. This is something I am not used to back home as one is registered to a certain address and that is in a database companies can access, and to be fair where you live just doesn’t seem as important to companies there. They just want to make sure you are who you say you are.

Due to this we hit a massive hurdle when we were applying for schools for our kids. We knew which area we wanted to live in but couldn’t start applying until we had a house. We started renting our house in March but by then all schools were full, the councils website told us they had been filled by January. Nonetheless we applied to 10 schools and with the application we needed to send a utility bill, which we didn’t yet have as we still lived in Iceland! What a mess!

Bureaucracy

The utility bill is just one example of the bureaucracy in England. In Iceland most things are done online and usually you can do them from the comfort of your own home. In England one seems to have to get actual documents, fill them out (block capital letters please so the people receiving them can read them…. Oh, wouldn’t it be easier to receive a typed document via the internet?), sign them and send.

One has to jump through ridiculous hoops as well. For an example while applying for schools for the kids we had to provide the application itself (of course), birth certificates (Ok, I understand that one), copy of their passports and mine (don’t see why as the birth certificate should have given all the details needed), proof of address in England (understood due to priority being given to the children living in the schools area), proof of baptism (as most of them were religious schools), signed papers from their (at the time) current school saying they know that they are leaving. Last but not least a letter from our landlord in Iceland stating that we are actually moving! (This one is so far beyond my understanding that I can’t comprehend it! As ANYONE would fill all those forms out and send them just for the fun of it, having no intent of moving, but for some odd reason is renting an empty house in England!?).

tired-exhausted-woman-with-paperwork@2x

I am international when it suits

It’s a little frustrating that Iceland is not in the EU, it is however in the EEA. This allows Icelanders to move within Europe as freely as EU members, we do not need visas and all the same rules and laws apply to us as EU members. Except when it comes university tuition fees! Even the school itself told me I did not have to attend a gathering for international students as I wasn’t one. I replied with: “Huh, that’s weird as I pay as one!”. I got the explanation it was to cover police, visas and the general system here. It’s a surprising contradiction and, to be honest, I seem to be international when it suits.

Wasps live forever!

…or so it seems. This section is only here as I HATE them! Back home I wait for the first overnight frost and after that I know they are all gone. That happened over a month ago! The flying bastards are still hovering around here. We even got a pest control expert over this week to get rid of 2 nests as we have had quite a few inside our house and one morning this week I counted 23 of them on my bathroom window (the outside of it, thank god!).

Hosepipe ban is a thing!

I had never heard of this, but it makes complete sense!! When it is hot and dry for a while the government may issue a hosepipe ban. The ban is supposed to save water in these circumstances.

close up colors equipment garden
Photo by Mikes Photos on Pexels.com

Bin days are something to be excited about

In my neck of the woods the bin people come up to the house, get the bin, empty it into the bin truck and then bring it back. Therefore, I never paid attention to when they came. Over here it is different. One has to put the correct bin out by the side of the road. My fiancé gets very excited when it’s getting close to bin day, thinks out loud whether it is general waste or the recycling bin (he only really knows after having a look at what the neighbours are putting out). He then makes sure to tell me loud and clear “It’s bin day tomorrow! It’s the grey one/green one!”. Like I really need to know so I can run out with the emergency recyclables (or general rubbish) I have been hiding away!

People don’t say what they mean

I am quite straight forward, and I believe Icelanders can come across rather direct. They generally say what they mean and mean what they say. However, I have learned that people in England tend to be a little passive aggressive in their ways or say something completely opposite to what they think just so they don’t offend anyone, and to avoid coming across as rude (God forbid!). For example, I have noticed that people can moan and complain about their food at a restaurant and even pick the service apart, but once someone comes over and asks how everything is everyone replies in perfect harmony: “Lovely, thank you”.

Coffee vs. tea

When English people visit Iceland and ask for tea rather that coffee they are faced with a dusty box, dragged from the back of a cupboard, fruit flavoured and an awkward Icelander who tells them to mix it themselves as we usually have coffee and are not entirely sure how to make a proper cuppa. Now that I live in the land of tea I see the opposite. When I ask for coffee I am faced with a host that looks like a deer in headlights. Very often instant coffee is pulled from the cupboards and apologies are made for it probably being to strong or weak. I find it amusing and can relate 100% and therefore smile and am just thankful to get some caffeine.

happy coffee
Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

 

All these different things are, in their quirky ways, a part of what makes England what it is. Most of it I love and other things I have learned to live with as one has to adapt when moving to a new country. I had a few more things on my list but I will save them for another time. But “this has been lovely, thank you”.