Wednesday, February 25, 2009

YEA! I got my drivers license today

In Iceland you are required to get an Icelandic drivers license within your first 6 months in the country. We have been here 5 so I made it time. The challenges were their written test and the cost. You have to have a driving school instructor set up your lessons and then schedule your tests. The instruction which amounted to less than 3 hours cost $150. There are no instructional manuals in English so the couple before gave us one for Denmark which is not the same as Iceland and then 4 sample tests which are not much help either. The written tests cost $22 and I had to pay that twice as I failed the first time (my instructor says he doubts any Icelander who got his license before the new tests could pass the test the first time. The couple that was here when we arrived had to take the test twice too.) I met my instructor the day before the written test and asked him questions I had based on the materials and he answered but could not explain the discrepancies in some of the questions. I took the test the next morning and failed because I didn't know what a locked lateral position was for an unconscious breathing person. I was immediately rescheduled for a week later and I passed with no errors. Then the driving test was scheduled for today and I met my instructor for the 2nd time yesterday and we drove for about and hour. Then we met again this morning for 20 minutes of driving before the test. The examiner was the same person who administered my first written test which was a little stressing since he got after me for making notes after I failed the written test. They charge $62 for a 45 minute exam but before 30 minutes were up he said congratulations you only made two mistakes - going 40 km/h in a 30 km/p zone but quickly slowing down and the second was going over a speed bump too fast. There were children on both sides of the street (it is like Halloween here today) and I was going slower than the posted speed and paying more attention to them and did not see the sign or the new type speed bump I had never seen before. So with the eye exam and all other charges it only cost $266 to get my drivers license! The previous couple said it would cost $500 per person but that was before the economic crash in Iceland and our money is worth more now.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

No Universal Health Care for the USA!

Iceland is considered to have one of the best universal health care systems. For our first 6 months here we had to buy Icelandic Health Insurance but then universal health care kicks in for us too. Sounds good - no health insurance premiums and very low charges for services so everyone can have access to health care. Sure sounds great and it would be if it worked. But just an example of how it doesn't works in Iceland. Gummi, a friend of ours, called the hospital emergency number Sunday night because he thought he had pneumonia. The doctor never returned his call so he went to the hospital when it opened at 8 AM Monday morning. The doctor prescribed medication. Gummi said he wanted a chest x-ray because he was sure he had pneumonia. The doctor call to get approval for the x-ray. Sure enough one lung was full of fluid. They gave him more pills and sent him home. We saw him about 7 PM and he looked and sounded terrible and was having a very hard time breathing and it was mentioned he looked blue around his mouth. At midnight they were at the hospital because he could not breath. The Doctor was very upset Gummi had not been put him in the hospital in the morning because his oxygen level was too low. He called to get him admitted but they would not admit him. The Doctor then gave him steroids, muscle relaxer, and anti-biotic all via injection and sent him home with more pills to take. Valla, his wife, said she was up most of the night because his breathing was so noisy and if it wasn't she was afraid he wasn't breathing. He had to go back to the hospital again this morning to have his oxygen levels checked and they put him on additional medication. The doctor last night said he belonged in the hospital and yet he did not have the authority to admit him.

You have heard my opinion on universal health care before when we were serving in Romania. But Iceland is supposed to have the best health care of all Europe. Just a note about Romania again. This past month a missionary was hit by a speeding car and his face hit the windshield. He was rushed to the hospital and was told he only had a broken nose. They fixed the nose and sent him home. He stayed at the mission home so they could watch how he was doing. After a couple of days he started feeling worse so the mission president made several calls to Church health officials and determined it would be best to fly the missionary to Germany to have him examined. There they discovered multiple facial fractures and they had to insert plates and screws to fix everything. Thanks to good Doctors and care he is doing fine and back serving in Romania.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Emergency Preparedness

The Selfoss Branch was hit hard last May when an earthquake hit near the city of Hveregarði about 10 km from Selfoss. Most of our members live in Hveregarði. Then in October Iceland was hit hard with their economic crisis which has caused shortages and high inflation. Our mission president asked the branches to have preparedness meetings to help the members. The first was held as a joint meeting last November and it was an excellent meeting on purchasing food and how to use bulk foods. The Selfoss Branch conducted the second meeting around what do you do in an emergency and having both a 72 hour kit and food storage. We started with a sister describing the challenge they had during the earthquake and not being able to get into their house or garage to get anything they needed. We were asked to present a 72 hour kit which was fun trying to put together when you don´t know where to find those things. But we put together a good kit as a starting point. Then our Relief Society President put together a demonstration on the minimum foods required per person. There was a good discussion by all and a good start for the branch to keep focused on preparedness.

If you click on the title you will be linked to a site that shows the earthquakes that have taken place in our area over the last 48 hours. Luckily they are all very small so no damage but it is interesting to see how many take place in this area. The city of Hveregarði is just above the "e" in the city name and the city of Selfoss is just above the last "s" in the city name. We are hoping the constant quakes are what will keep us from experiencing a big one while we are here. One of the blue dotes is just about on top of where we live. We have also been told the magnum is building in the the volcanoes so again the need to be prepared.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Do you trust the tour guide or not?

Yesterday was our preparation day which means it is also a day where we have some time to see the area. Five of the 10 missionaries in Iceland are new and the other 5 had not been to Gulfoss in the winter, so we decided to see Gulfoss and the other main sites on the Golden Circle.  We also decided only to do the trip if the sun was out.  When we got up I checked the weather forecast - a cold day with temperatures at the various sites at minus 17 C but even worse were the winds.  I checked out windchill factors and discovered we would be experiencing minus 10 F so I called all the missionaries and said dress for the temperature and windchill.  I planned to see Gulfoss (picture) when the sun would be it's highest and we got there as planned.  The only problem was the weather forecast was off considerably - the windchill was more in the area of minus 35 F.  Needless to say no one wanted to go on the hike down to the water falls as the wind was also blowing the water off the falls at us.  We went into the gift shop/cafe to warm up and ran into a friend who is a tour guide.  When we told him we were on our way to Þingvellir he said good as the winds are per the forecast over there and you can take the back road.  According to on-line road conditions it is impassable.  He said no it is open and you could even do it on summer tires.  So off we went in my Skoda and the Toyota van (the van only holds 9).  When we got to the back road the impassable sign had been moved off to the side and the road looked good.  About half way or 10 km the conditions got bad as the ruts were so deep you could bury the Skoda and the road had become one lane.  I drove one wheel on top the center ridge and one in the rut which seemed to work good for awhile and then the edge gave way and we plowed off the road.  All six young Elders were more than excited to push us out to no avail.  Finally we hooked up a rope and pulled us out.  The van has four wheel drive which helps.  We had a few more difficult looking places but we made the rest of the trip without incident.  As I asked - do you trust the tour guide?  What he failed to tell us was he was driving a four wheel drive jeep with 38 inch wheels.  When I saw him later he was shocked the road was bad and said the road must have blown in after he went by - a possibility considering the winds except we didn't notice any wind as we were working to get the car out.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Elder Gérald Caussé in Iceland

This past Friday, Iceland was blessed to have a member of the Seventy conduct training sessions with all the missionaries in Iceland (our zone conference) followed by a training session with the Branch Presidencies and Branch Mission Leaders. Elder Caussé then held a fireside for all who wanted to attend. He is a marvelous instructor and taught with the Spirit inspiring all who listened. We were also blessed to have our Mission President and his wife - President and Sister Olauson of the Denmark Copenhagen Mission who also taught us great messages about our Savior and His love for us and all those we are here to bring His gospel. In the picture we have from left to right the Assistant to the President Elder Soelberg, President Olauson, Elder DeCelle, Elder Caussé, Elder Teodoro, Elder Higgins, Elder Smith and Elder Fillmore. Elder DeCelle and Elder Teodoro are the two Elders serving with us in Selfoss. Elder and Sister Koyle, Sister Olauson and Eileen and I were out for earlier pictures but then went inside to get lunch on the table. It may not look like it is afternoon by the shadows but this picture was taken about 12:30 PM. As a missionary and a member of a Branch Presidency, I had the blessing of being taught by this great servant of the Lord in all meetings.