Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Sleepless In Iceland

Children, Camping and Insomnia in the Land of the Midnight Sun.

Iceland summer 2:00 am
I have trouble sleeping, not so much getting to sleep but rather staying asleep. When asked, I euphemistically say that I have “sleep issues.” My son calls them my “night terrors.” But whatever you want to call the condition, nine out of ten experts agree that when one has trouble sleeping it is important to maintain a regular sleep schedule. So that is what I tried to do on our recent trip to Iceland. 
One thing that is really refreshing in Iceland are the children. They play outside. If it is cold, and this being Iceland that is not unusual, they just bundle up. You see them outside in the drizzle or the sun, or in the howling wind. They run and skip, and there is chalk drawn on the sidewalks where they play hopscotch. Our first morning in Iceland we watched a large group of kids sailing and rowing boats in a cold windswept harbor with just a couple of adults in inflatables keeping herd on them like goslings. I was wearing long johns while I watched them.

Arriving in Akereyri, the second largest city in Iceland, we learned there was a mixup on our room and it wasn’t available that night, so we set off for the local campground. It was a large one with fifteen grass fields for camping. Being the recluses we are, we found a nearly empty field with just one other tent. We set up camp well away from them and settled in. In my effort to stay on some sort of regular sleep schedule, at about 10:30 I got in the tent to read and then hopefully go to sleep. 

As I am winding down I hear a diesel truck coming roaring towards the tent. I am inside so I can only hear what appears to be happening.  It sounded like it circled our tent three or four times and then stopped and went back and forth at several attempts to find just the right spot before coming to rest. 

The doors slammed open and a swarm of children burst forth. Minutes later another vehicle comes dashing into the field  honking its horn at the children who were now running in all directions, apparently including in front of the second vehicle. This car stopped and another gaggle of kids jumped out joining their pals. Together they are all yelling, shrieking, bouncing soccer balls off each other, the tent trailers, the cars, and pounding the ground like a herd of wildebeests. They were having the time of their lives. Then someone starts playing a guitar badly.

I finally unzip my tent to see what is going on and there is one teenage boy, two or three preteen girls, and somewhere between five to seven first graders (they never slowed down enough to actually count) careening around like they are in a pinball machine, poking each other with sticks, going in and out of the cars and making sure the doors are slammed securely every time. There are three adults whose job seemed to be to yell at the kids now and then and at the tent trailers they were trying to assemble. 

The quietest one of the bunch was a big black lab that was tied to the first tent trailer. He probably knew that any noise he made was sure to be drowned out by the general din, so what was the point?

In Iceland in the summer at 10:30 PM it is bright enough to do brain surgery, so it was hard to blame them for all the commotion. I am sure they were just like my family when we went camping with my cousins as children. And they were dashing about with so much energy I expected them to crash at any moment from exhaustion. No such luck. At about midnight, it being still light enough to do an emergency appendectomy, they were still going strong. I wasn't. 

I gave them my best stink eye to no avail. I hated Icelandic children. I wished I could have handed out smart phones, earbuds and Big Macs to the lot of them so they could quietly text each other and play video games like good American children. 

Finally at about 12:30 a.m. I stuffed earplugs into my head, strapped on my eyeshade and while I felt a little like I was embalmed, I fitfully fell asleep with the thought that at least everyone would sleep in in the morning.
Well the dog wasn't having any part of it. At 7:30 am sharp he barked just enough wake me and several of the kids up and the whole thing started again. Ahh...traveling. Two naps later I was almost back to normal and we pressed on.

3 comments:

  1. Not being able to sleep sucks! But what an adventure! :)

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  2. Enjoyed your BLOG!!!! As opposed to Sleepless in Seattle.... I remember sailing with you how you couldnt sleep until almost daylight and then slept in late bc not much rest during the dark hours. That is seriously difficult but as your friend says above, at least suffering from lack of sleep in Iceland paints a colorful adventure for the rest of us to laugh over in sympathy.

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