MOST AWESOME LETTER:
Giving Blood. Makes My Blood Boil.
I am somewhat livid. More than slightly confused. Feeling rather upset. Therefore, I need your help. Here is my story. Yesterday, I read on http://www.grapevine.is/ a news item regarding an urgent request for blood donations to the Icelandic Blood Bank Service. Now, being a public-spirited soul (as well as an Icelandic resident), this pricked my social conscience. Due to my suffering from a lingering cold, however, I decided to call them first to ask if this was an issue. As I live and work some distance from Reykjavík, I would have to take a couple of hours off work, unpaid, to visit the blood donation center.
When I got through to a nice-sounding lady at the Blood Bank, I did what I always do when discussing health-related matters; I asked if she spoke english. She sounded reluctant, but answered in the affirmative. The conversation went as follows:
Me: I want to give blood, but have a bit of a cold at the moment, so can I come today or do I have to wait until it clears up?
Blood lady: You have to be an icelandic speaker to be able to give blood. You must be able to speak and read icelandic or we cannot accept your blood.
Me: What? This is crazy. Why? But, anyway, I speak ok icelandic, so I am sure it would be fine.
Blood lady: No, you have to able to speak very good icelandic to be accepted. There is something you have to be able to read. And anyway, you would have to wait at least a week after a cold clears up, before you could give blood. Me: Right, I’ll pay a visit in a week or so, and see if I am good enough for you.
Now then, I was a little annoyed by this conversation, and it raised some alarm bells for me, regarding racism, xenophobia etc. I discussed this occurrence with some of my work colleagues (there are only two of us “bloody foreigners” in my workplace) and they were all appalled.
So, I need your help, Grapevine people. What is the Icelandic Blood Bank service’s policy on this matter? Why do we non-Iceland born residents have to possess such a seemingly high linguistic standard to be able to give blood? If it really is just related to the comprehension of one or two complicated forms, then why can’t we bring a friend or relative to translate these for us? And further to this, it begs the question, “are non-icelandic residents, therefore, not eligible to receive blood in this country, if the situation arose?”.
I am sure this last question is ludicrous, but it just shows you how weird reactions can develop in response to seemingly unreasonable policies. The “Icelandic System” has been happy to accept me as a home-owner, worker, husband to a native-born spouse and father to two particularly healthy, strong angloicelandic children. Obviously, this last point technically means that I already infiltrated the icelandic blood pool, through the back door, so to speak. Therefore, why is my blood not wanted?
Dear David, thank you for your letter, and for attempting to donate blood in a country that we hear really needs it.
You can rest assured that you were not our only reader who responded to the Blood Bank’s call for fluid (we have such awesome, giving readers), and that you weren’t the only one to got turned away for not speaking Icelandic. Nor were you the only one that got appalled as a result.
We got several such letters, so we decided to investigate. Our on-line news editor Paul F. Nikolov wrote some stories. There was a big discussion on our Facebook comments board, and on our website. Three of our readers—all certified medical translators—even contacted the Blood Bank and offered to translate the pertaining forms for free.
And guess what! They Blood Bank folks wrote us and told us they were going to accept their help and get the forms translated next month—subsequently English speaking folk will likely be able to donate blood in Iceland. It was all very lovely.
Check out ‘Old news’ on http://www. grapevine.is/ if you want the story, otherwise thanks for writing. Our readers sure are the best.
When there is ice at Greenland
then it’s green at Iceland.
When there is Hollywood
we stay in woolly hood.
When there’s a summertime blues
we are its rainy day.
When there is Disko-Island
then we are at Hangover-Iceland.
When there are polar bears in the world
we shoot and drink them.
And when it is nine-eleven
– then there must have been two red cards.
Dear Katharina: When we got your letter
then we wondered: Huh?
When we read it a second time
we kept right on wondering: Huh?
When we wonder about stuff so much,
we think: “What a wonderful world.”
I first would like to begin to thank you for this great magazine that has helped me keep up with what is going on in the Icelandic society today, where as I do not speak Icelandic f luently but I am learning as hard as I can.
I came here three months ago for a brief visit to see the country with my own eyes after being a big fan of the Icelandic music scene for couple of years. I fell completely in love with the country and so I decided to stay longer.
The reason why I send this letter to you is because I am searching for a person. About a week ago I stumbled into this bar called Factory, I had never been there before but someone recommended that place for me to go and see bands play. So I went there on a Friday night not sure if there was a band playing or who would be playing. I walked upstairs and noticed quite a lot of people, a girl was standing on the stage talking into the microphone and the whole room listening. I was not sure what was going on (it came to my mind that the girl could be a host for the band who was about to play) so I decided to grab a beer at the bar. The girl kept on talking for a while and then I realised that she must have been a stand up comedian where as most of the people were laughing at what she was saying. For me I could not understand anything what she was saying so I decided to just drink my beer and leave. After the girl finished another girl came on stage. And I swear that my jaw dropped on the f loor when I saw this other girl. Never in my life have I seen such a beautiful woman like her, and never in my life have I wished so hard that I could speak Icelandic fluently so I could understand what she was saying. I do not know what it was, but I could feel myself falling in love with her instantly. She had the most incredible smile, and a long wavy dark hair. After she finished her performance she came to the bar next to me and ordered a beer, I really wanted to talk to her but I felt intimidated and shy. I stood there for a while trying to decide what to do but by the time I had the guts to approach her I saw her put on her jacket and leave. Now for a week I have not been able to stop thinking about her. Maybe I am losing my mind, but I have never felt this way about anyone in my life, and I am sure that there is a reason for why I feel this way. I am sure that this girl is a stand up comedian, but I do not know here name. So dear Grapevine could you help me? She has long dark hair, and does not have the typical Icelandic look, dark skin and eyes. Is it possible that you might know who she is? If I could have her name I would like to contact her.
With best regards:
Crazy in love.
Dear Crazy in love,
here’s to you. Dear mystery brunette: if you read this, drop us a line so we can forward you Crazy’s contact info.
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