Almost two weeks since I returned from Iceland. Back into routine. And still feeling healthier than when I left home weeks ago. I have slowly been figuring out how to incorporate the lessons of my Nordic adventure into my daily life.
Of course, I cannot replicate the Icelandic sundlaug – as my husband so deftly put it, do I want to bankrupt us? Building a series of hot pots in the backyard would kill us in construction and upkeep costs. Yeah, he has a point. So, as mentioned previously, I have been experimenting with less piggy bank-smashing ways of soaking in the miraculous hot waters that ease away much of the unbearable fibromyalgia pain. Phase one, if successful, is the least expensive – a good long hot soak in the bathtub.
Test run #1 was a rousing success. While I had the house to myself, I drew a steaming bath, setting the water as hot as possible, put on some haunting Faroese folk music, and settled in to simmer. My strategy was almost too successful – after 20 minutes the water was unbearably hot and I had to get out and cool down before stepping back in. This actually replicates the hottest of the hotpots in a typical Icelandic sundlaug. You are supposed to rotate between the various hotpots, all set at different temperatures. However, it quickly dawned on me as I stood dripping onto the bath mat in the chilly air that one bathtub can only replicate one hot pot.
Last night, for test run #2, I decided to tone down the temperature a bit, aiming for a hot, but long-term bearable soak that wouldn’t turn my skin red. What I got was luke-warm and disappointing. Apparently I overcompensated. So after a few minutes of determination not to waste the water, I gave up. Test run #2 fail.
I have not given up. Test run #3 begins tonight at 20:00.
I’ve also noticed other hints of life in Iceland sneaking into my daily routine, often unintended. My morning coffee is suddenly stronger, never mind I am using double the beans in my grinding. This may not last solely on economic grounds. I continue to slip back to Icelandic in my daily conversation, earning bewildered, confused looks from the bus driver and checkout clerks, probably wondering what the crazy woman means when she cheerily calls “Takk fyrir!” My weekly bread baking suddenly uses much more rye. I even found instructions for how to duplicate the hverabrauð Icelanders bake in the ground, by creating a steam bath in my oven at low temperature. Alas, I also discovered my roasting pan is too shallow. One more item to add to my Christmas list.
Some of the changes are intentional. I refuse to lose my current level of fitness from weeks of hiking and walking. I feel fantastic, with so much more energy. This is such a blessing, as fibromyalgia is a monster that saps my energy. Somehow Iceland and Greenland tamed it a bit and I think walking more is the answer. So now I am walking everyday into work, the full 45 minutes. I even walked on Monday in a raging downpour, bundled up in my hiking waterproofs, a living advertisement for REI. They really are waterproof!
I continue to study Icelandic, not because I think Icelandic is a highly useful language in my daily life (surely Chinese or Spanish or even Hindi would be more practical), but because I was beginning to internalize Icelandic by the time I left. I could comfortably order food and ask for directions. Newspaper headlines began to decipher with a quick glance. I don’t want to lose this, so I am working 20 minutes a day on retaining and learning Icelandic. Besides, Icelandic is kind of cool – and affords unique bragging rights!
Next step – figuring out if it’s possible to make skyr at home. Okay, some things may not be so easily replicated in the United States. I can live with that. Maybe.