We’ve arrived — northern Iceland

Stop the car, we’re here.

We climb out of the car and right away we notice the difference between the north and the south.

Southern Iceland is far more urban. There we can walk the streets armed only with English. We are met with warm smiles and easily understood.

Northern Iceland is rural. Here we must struggle to understand and be understood. The city sidewalks are gone now we walk the countryside.

There are a few exception.

Beautiful Akureyri — population 17, 304. Affectionately nicknamed “the capital of North Iceland”. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akureyri

Akureyri is my favourite Icelandic city.

It was here, in the 1800s, where my great-grandmother learnt to be a mid-wife. Later, she would use her acquired skills when she immigrated to Canada.

She, like many of her fellow citizens, didn’t choose to leave Iceland. No, she was forced to do so. Forced because the land they loved could no longer sustain them.

Immigrations wasn’t easy. They were squeezed together like sardines on those ships. In that dark space life continued to unfold — old people got sick, babies were born.

My great-grandmother devoted her life to caring for her patients.

They were grateful for her devotion. When she retired, they gave her a large, solid rocking chair. On the chair is a plaque — that, sadly, I could never read. Their sentiments were written in Icelandic.

The chair is one of my family’s treasured possessions.

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