We're all stuck in our 5km worlds for now, so travelling and experiencing other cultures has to be done vicariously through The Ryan Tubridy Show.
For the past few weeks, Ryan’s been hearing from Irish people living abroad about their lives in pandemic times away from th’aul sod. On Wednesday, he spoke to photographer and videographer Cat Gundry Beck, who’s been living in Iceland for the past two years. Cat is in Reykjavik for the landscape, which is definitely photographic:
"It’s a very harsh, volcanic landscape, but it’s also very alive, so there’s all these, you know, bubbling mud pots just out in the nature and all these steam things rising from the ground. It’s just a beautiful place, really unusual."
One of Iceland’s main dishes is called kjötsúpa – Cat describes it as a meat soup that’s apparently very similar to Irish stew. This titbit led Ryan to wonder whether there were any connections between Iceland and Ireland. A lot, according to Cat:
"So actually the first settlers in Iceland were Irish monks. And then the Vikings went and took a lot of Irish people and brought them over to Iceland. So I really see it in the culture here – the sense of humour, the sense of community. It’s really similar."
Cat’s found it very easy to get into Icelandic culture, she told Ryan, especially when you start learning the language. And as anybody who has even a passing acquaintance with the music of Sigur Rós will tell you, Icelandic sounds like a really hard language to learn.
"It’s very difficult. It’s a very difficult language grammatically, but I’m getting there."
Cat joined a choir and she has an agreement that for the two hours a week she’s with them, they will all only speak and sing in Icelandic. And they have sung with Iceland’s Eurovision entry from 2019, Hatari. Sadly, Cat doesn’t mention whether they got the leather bondage gear on for the session with the choir or not.
Iceland’s experience with Covid-19 has been milder than Ireland’s, judging by what Cat has seen:
"There’s only two people in isolation at the moment with Covid. And then we had 1,084 cases. But there was a lot of testing done in the country. So, it was one of the most tested countries in the world."
People in Iceland, Cat says, are very familiar with lockdown procedures, given that the country experiences pretty severe ice storms in winter and people have to stay indoors for days at a time. But the restaurants are open and the choirs are still singing, so they’re further along the road than we are.
You can hear Ryan and Cat’s full chat, including the importance of forgetting your yoghurt, by clicking here.