Sunday, 10 December 2017

The Paperclip

Last night when I got home from work I was in my room watching YouTube videos and a TEDtalk appeared in my recommended list. It was the red paper clip story that I read about when I was younger. I watched the video and remembered that a few years ago I was in Birmingham City centre with my family, and a guy approached us and excitedly asked if we wanted to trade with him. He explained that he had been in a group interview for a marketing position and they had all been given a challenge to trade for 2 hours starting with a paper clip. He'd only been trading for 10 minutes and already had a packet of wet wipes which I swapped a body spray for. Coincidentally I was planning on buying a pack of wet wipes that same day but now didn't need to, and I didn't like the body spray anyway but felt guilty about throwing it away as it was almost full so it worked out perfectly!

Anyway after I'd watched the video, which can be found here, I jokingly said that I would only try this experiment if I ever found a big shiny pink paperclip. I work as a cleaner in a hotel and sometimes we find things in the hotel rooms that we can keep. In my last room today I found this;

One pound and 100 krona for size comparison!


A large, metallic, pink paperclip! It was a very strange coincidence but as I'm not someone who goes back on my word I'd like to try this as a fun experiment. Does anyone want to trade something with me for a big shiny pink paperclip? The only conditions are that no money can be exchanged, the item must be of equal or greater value than the paperclip, and it must not be perishable (eg. food) so that I can potentially trade the next item again. You do not need to be local to me, I am willing to trade internationally through the mail if needs be.

I'm just curious to see what happens!

Loppy x

Saturday, 9 December 2017

24 hours in Oslo, Norway

In March I had a crazy idea...I wanted a spontaneous trip to Norway. I found a super cheap deal for 2 nights in Oslo that I wanted to book. When I told my best friend she asked if she could come too, the only problem was that she couldn't make it the first night as she was working too late. No problem! We just went for 24 hours instead...

The night before our flight we took the coach down to London, where we were flying from the next morning. We had Starbucks while we were waiting for our coach transfer and spent the night in a Premier Inn. We checked that we had brought everything we needed for one night and Abbie had decided that shoe polish was absolutely essential for a 24 hour trip...

The next morning we got ready to board our plane!

The view from the sky was incredible...snow covered mountains, pine forests and large bodies of water. That view alone made this trip worth it.



On the train to Oslo we were mesmerised by the scenery; adorable little Scandinavian houses alone in fields of snow, pine trees dotted around looking like a perfect Christmas card scene. We were so excited to play in the snow in Oslo! We got off the train, ran out of the station and...no snow. Oh. Not exactly what we had in mind. We got lost on the underground system, we couldn't navigate the lines at all. We asked a lady standing by the chart and she very kindly told us which train to take in which direction, and how many stops until we get off.
When we got off the train our journey didn't end, we still had to find our hotel. Google maps took us the wrong direction at first but we eventually found the hotel. We still had the find the entrance though. It was tucked around the back of the hotel. We walked up to reception, the receptionist was talking on the phone and signalled that she would be with us in a minute. As she put down the phone she said something in a strange dialect neither Abbie or myself were used to. Panicked and confused, we struggled to form a sentence between us. The woman looked mortified and apologised 'Oh I'm so sorry! You speak English? You look a little Norwegian'
We smiled. 'I guess that's a huge compliment!' said Abbie as I checked us in.

Our room was lovely. A big, open room with a large industrial style bathroom. The nightlights next to our beds had photos of squirrels on them. We took half an hour to get our bearings before we ventured out for our Norwegian adventure.

We had planned to get a teapot full of hot chocolate from a famous hotel with good reviews. We were both hungry and we happened to walk past the hotel!
'This is it!' I was so excited that we had found it so easily. We looked at the menu and our faces fell. It was very expensive. And there wasn't a single vegetarian option on the menu.
We looked at the hotel next door and it was slightly cheaper with veggie options so we walked inside. The waitress came over to us and said they were not serving food yet, just sandwiches from the buffet. Defeated again, we left.
Around the corner we found a swanky looking bar and bistro, the menu was reasonable and had food we both liked so we entered. The bar tender surveyed us and led us to our table. He asked us something in words we didn't understand. Again, we both panicked.
'Oh sorry, you look a little Norwegian.'
'Thanks! It's the second time we've heard that today.' We laughed.
He brought the menu to us and then paused. 'Uh, it's only in Norwegian...'
'Oh, we'll try to figure it out!' And we did.

The food was delicious, really good lasagne and ratatouille. I noticed a couple of men eyeing us from the corner with a confused expression on their face. Slowly, I noticed more people surveying us as they entered. Could they tell we weren't Norwegian? And then it hit me.
'Abbie...' She looked up from her phone. 'Have you noticed something about this place?'
She shook her head. 'Look at the rainbow bottles and the sign outside of the door...I think we're in a gay bar.'
'Oh my God! You're right!' We both started laughing

After our lunch at the gay bar (which was delicious), we went to explore more of the city. We found a little shopping centre with some posh looking shops and food stalls inside, and a bizarre statue of Kate Moss. We ended up in a district called Grønland, which looked strangely familiar...very much like Green Lane back home in Birmingham. We laughed at how similar the names were, and how alike the areas looked; lots of run down buildings and similar fast food takeaways.

Strange Kate Moss statue

We headed back to the hotel for a rest and to plan our big night out. We had originally planned to go to some bars and stay out all night in the hope of making friends with some locals...we were so exhausted that we decided against it. After watching some skiing on TV in Norwegian (and making up a storyline as we didn't understand the language), we decided to head to a waterfall which was supposedly very close to our hotel.

We walked for 45 minutes in the cold night. We did not see any waterfall, or even a river for the waterfall to come from. We were very disappointed. As we turned a corner, we heard rushing water, we searched everywhere for the source until we finally stumbled upon it. The Mølla waterfall. This is what we came to Norway for. The steps leading down to it were covered in ice and we nearly fell over many times as we rushed down to see it. It was incredible, slightly frozen with piles of snow on the rocks between the falls. There was a viewing platform near the top of the waterfall.

Mølla waterfall

As we walked along the river we found a few more waterfalls and even stumbled upon the Oslo padlock bridge that we had read about! The bridge was covered in padlocks with couple names written on them, but the highlight were the giant sculptures of a padlock and key. Over the bridge we found an art school and a creative district.

Padlock bridge


Walking back to the hotel we decided to get something to eat, we found a pizza place open. We stepped inside and looked at the menu and ordered a cheese pizza...the owner didn't speak a word of English! Abbie repeated very slowly 'a...cheeeese...pizza...please?' The man looked very confused. We managed to communicate by pointing at the menu and making gestures for a large bottle of coke. After about 5 minutes the man understood.

The next morning we had a few hours before we had to leave for the airport so we decided to visit the botanical garden and the Geological and Zoological museums nearby our hotel. The gardens were beautiful; covered in untouched snow with ponds frozen solid. The museums were great places to spend a couple of hours with lots of interesting exhibits about nordic wildlife and rock formations.

Botanical garden

Finally we boarded our plane back to the UK, exhausted but full of memories from our crazy plan to spend 24 hours in Oslo.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

My favourite Icelandic songs (great for learning!)

One of the best ways to accelerate your progress when learning a new language is to listen to music in your target language. Here is a list of some songs I've been listening to to help me learn Icelandic.

Hoppípolla - Sigur Rós
You have probably already heard of this world famous band. Hoppípolla (Jumping in puddles) is a beautiful slow song with easy to remember lyrics. The end of the song features some lyrics in 'Hopelandic' though, which is Sigur Rós' made up language. Brits will probably recognise the intro from an old BBC advert.

https://youtu.be/JAYb8ZyjzD0

Fröken Reykjavík - Friðrik Dor
Translating to 'Miss Reykjavík', this is a new take on the original version by Ríó Tríó. This is my favourite Icelandic song and it was playing as I boarded the plane to move here! The video has some stunningly simple graphics of Reykjavík and the lyrics are on screen to follow.

https://youtu.be/zWeYdpoQVVE

Viltu Dick? - Sykur
This song is catchy, explicit and a lot of fun. The chorus is easy to memorise and adaptable to sentences used in everyday life (ég vil ekki.../ég vil bara...). The verse is very fast though and features a few Spanish lyrics. In English the title means 'Do you want dick?', which starts to explain the nature of the song...

https://youtu.be/HTH4_eIR8E0

Reykjavík - Sykur
Another catchy song by Sykur, but near impossible to follow along to! It has a great rhythm that will get stuck in your head. The lyrics are in the description beneath the video. Hats off to any non native speaker who can sing along to this!

https://youtu.be/Q2qAcNTjv3k

Einn dans - Páll Óskar
An icon in the LGBTQ community, Páll Óskar's songs are popular here and easy to dance to. This one is my favourite and has a lyric video which makes it easier to learn the words as you listen.

https://youtu.be/cobIK3jXHHQ

Neinei - Áttan
I have to admit that I hated this song when I first heard it, it was played everywhere and I found it irritating but it's grown on me. The video is funny and the lyrics are shown on the bottom of the screen. It's a useful song for learning a couple of new phrases. You can follow the story line of the song from the video pretty easily.

https://youtu.be/e4FC6cqSmuo

Reykjavík - Emmsjé Gauti
Yes, another one called Reykjavík! You will almost certainly have heard this song if you've spent time in Reykjavík city. I often hear it on the radio, at bars, in cafes and shops. This is not usually the kind of music I like but it's pretty good. The chorus is repetitive and easy to learn.

https://youtu.be/Pzxo66k84Ow

Monday, 20 November 2017

The most common questions I get about moving to Iceland

I've been getting a lot of questions lately about my move, so I thought I'd post the answers on here. I'll update this page whenever new questions arise.

Q: Why did you decide to move to Iceland?
A: I came on holiday here and fell in love with the country. It felt like home here and I just knew I wanted to stay.

Q: How long after you're initial visit did it take before you moved?

A: 5 months.

Q: What do you like most about Iceland?
A: The language, the scenery and the slower pace of life. I'm still absolutely in awe of the mountains every time they catch my eye.

Q: What do you dislike most about Iceland?

A: The lack of fresh produce. It's really frustrating when I want to cook something but I can't find some of the ingredients, or I find them but they're rotting on the shelf in the supermarket!

Q: What do you miss most about England?
A: My friends and family. It's hard to keep in contact sometimes and I've missed some celebrations that I wish I could've been apart of. I also miss my Krav Maga and Clubbercise classes - I've not found anything similar to either of them here yet.

Q:What has been the hardest thing to adapt to?

A: How laid-back everything is here. It took me a long time to trust how things operate here as it's so different from home. When I set up my Icelandic bank account it took less than 10 minutes, I thought they must've missed something important!

Q: Do you think you'll stay in Iceland?
A: I'd never rule out moving to a new country but I'd like to think that I'll stay in Iceland. I would not like to return to the UK though.




I'd love to hear your questions, please leave them below!

Sunday, 19 November 2017

I quit my dream job and left for Iceland

As I write this I'm sat at my dining table in Iceland, staring out of the window at the mountains and wondering how I got to this point of my life.

It all started around a year ago. I was sitting at work (in my 'dream' job, which wasn't as great as I'd always imagined) and staring out of the window. I saw people walking down the street, people sitting on the roof terrace of the nearby bar drinking, and people running errands for work. I wondered how they ended up not being stuck inside working on a Monday afternoon, and how my life had come to this. I'd left my long term boyfriend a few months before and was now living alone. My rent and bills were high but my wages were low and I was working over 60 hours a week to cover my living costs. I hadn't had a holiday abroad in years despite the fact I loved to travel. I simply hadn't had the time, life had gotten in the way.

I took a break from working for a few minutes and started browsing the holiday app I often checked on my phone -  https://www.holidaypirates.com/So many cheap deals. It was so tempting but I knew I couldn't afford a holiday right now, and I couldn't miss out on the extra money from working overtime! A new deal pinged onto my screen, the deals sometimes only last a few hours before they expire so it's best to book them quickly. This one was for a 'chance to see the Northern Lights in the Land of Fire and Ice'. I was intrigued, it was always on my bucket list to see the Aurora. I clicked the link and read the details; a 3 night stay in Iceland for 2 people. I didn't really know anything about Iceland; it was usually in Eurovision so it must be a European country, and there was that volcano with the long name beginning with the letter 'E' that erupted a few years ago. I wasn't really interested in learning anything else about Iceland either, it didn't sound like an appealing country to me. However, before I knew it I'd confirmed the booking and £500 had been taken from my credit card.

Hallgrimskirkja


I had a friend who was visiting Iceland a few weeks before my holiday. When she came back she had so much to tell me about the culture and the things she'd seen. She'd done all of the usual touristy things; a northern lights trip, the blue lagoon and the golden circle. I had only booked the Northern Lights trip and was disheartened when she told me she didn't really see them properly, despite going on the tour 3 nights in a row. Even though she told me how beautiful the country was, I still couldn't get excited about visiting Iceland. She also told me the flight was only 3 hours (I hadn't bothered checking), and that Iceland probably wasn't where I expected it to be. In my mind it was north of Finland, in reality it is north west of the UK - quite close really.

Look at that view!
Esja overlooks Reykjavik


At the end of November I found myself at Luton airport with my mother, about to board a plane for the first time in years. I was always scared of flying, and this time I was worried a volcano would erupt underneath the plane before it landed. Although I didn't say anything to anyone, I slightly regretted booking the deal.


Reykjavik in Twilight


A few hours later we arrived in Reykjavik, it was raining. Not as cold as I expected it would be, but not warm either. I wasn't expecting much, but unexpectedly, I fell in love! The locals seemed to whisper their strange language out loud, everyone seemed so happy, and no one was in a rush to go anywhere.


Thingvellir


Before I knew it I was happily embracing this culture and missed it when I returned home. It prompted me to book more trips to countries I wanted to visit, but nothing could top Iceland. Within 6 months of that holiday I flew out to Iceland another 3 times (alone!), the final time being a 3 month volunteering trip that I quit my job for. I never thought I'd be happy to be 'unemployed' but I'd never felt more alive.


Black Sand Beach, Vik


I now have a job in Reykjavik - just hotel housekeeping, and an apartment just outside of the city. I fell in love with an Icelander while I was volunteering and my life has never felt more complete. I am 1,000 miles away from home and 1,000 times happier - even without my dream job!

Booking that deal to Iceland turned out to be the best thing I could ever have done.


Bathing in Reykjadalur hot river!

*This post was not sponsored, all opinions and recommendations are my own.

Spiced red lentil soup (Recipe)

In the autumn and winter I crave warming, comforting soups, stews and curries most evenings. As I am from Birmingham, I really enjoy Indian food which is widely available back home, but not so much in Iceland! This soup is one of my favourite recipes, and results in something similar to Indian dahl.

Serves 6

Prep time - 5 minutes
Cook time -25 minutes

Ingredients:

  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or finely chopped
  • 1 red chili, finely chopped (optional)
  • 500g bag of lentils
  • 1 medium potato
  • Vegetable stock cube
  • 2 tablespoons of garam masala
  • Cumin (optional)
  • Turmeric (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon of paprika
  • Cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
  • Salt
  • Pepper
Method:

  • Heat the oil in a saucepan. Finely dice the onion, garlic and chili and fry until soft (not browned).
  • Add a full kettle of boiled water to the pan with a crushed stock cube.
  • Add the bag of lentils
  • Peel and cube the potato into small cubes and add to the pan.
  • Add the spices. For the optional spices, start with a teaspoon full and adjust to taste.
  • Turn the heat down to medium and leave to simmer for 15-20 minutes. Stir the soup, when the lentils start to break down and the potato is mashable the soup is ready.
  • Mash any visible potato cubes into the soup.
  • Add lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste.
  • Serve with bread or rice and enjoy!
This makes quite a thick soup, similar in texture to dhal. Add more water after cooking if a thinner consistency is required.
This soup freezes well. I usually make a large batch and freeze in individual portions for a quick dinner on weeknights.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Icelandic words (in the order I learned them)

When I first visted Iceland I was intimidated by the long words and strange letters that surrounded me. Slowly I started to work some out and understand the meanings. I visited Iceland a few times before I moved here. These are the some of the words I picked up in my visits and first few weeks of living here.

Takk - Thanks

Jú/Já - Yes
Nei - No
Kaffi - Coffee
Te - Te
Eldur og Ís - Fire and Ice
Ís - Ice cream
Skyr - Type of Icelandic cheese that is eaten as a thick yoghurt
Lopapeysa - Icelandic wool sweater
Góðan daginn - Good morning/good day
Bjór - Beer
Hæ - Hi
Bæ - Bye
Bless - Bye
Jæja - Well (can also be used with lots of different meanings)
Ég er frá Englandi - I am from England
Mamma - Mom
Pabbi - Dad
Fram - Out/leave
Ísbjörn - Polar bear
Kónguló - Spider
Köngulóarvefur - Spider's web
Kisa - Kitty
Mjólk - Milk
Smjör - Butter
Súrmjólk - Sour milk (natural yoghurt)
Kex - Biscuits
Ostur - Cheese
Brauð - Bread
Paprika - Bell Pepper
Lauk - Onion
Hvítlauk - Garlic
Sveppir - Mushrooms
Varuð - Caution
Ananas - Pineapple
Api - Monkey
Afi - Grandfather
Amma - Grandmother

Áfram - Go