As I write this I’m on a train from Leppävaara to Kupittaa. I was gone exactly 90 days and the Finland I left has changed completely. What hasn’t changed is the weather. Yeah it’s gray cold and wet. If I don’t catch the Corona virus I will catch a cold.
I get to do a lot of fun stuff and some with hopefully beneficial effects on the communities. I need a couple days of to collect my thoughts and recuperate from this traveling. If I would have come back two days earlier I would have had a a taxi drive from Helsinki-Vantaa airport back to Turku. But here we are – on a train – going home. And not empty handed. I had great time even considering awful times we live. Met new people. Got to try new things. Got new ideas which will carry me into the future. You don’t get chances like this often. So I took it and didn’t let go.
Covid-19. It has put the whole World in turmoil. I have spend almost the all of this time while pandemic has been taking place in relative safety in Isafjördur, the Westfjord. But now is time to go back home. My flight plan has changed drastically. I have to make a little detour to Stockholm which in normal circumstances would be just fine but the corona virus situation in Sweden is a bit worrisome.
My journey to home starts with a flight from Isafjördur to Reykjavik. I was thinking about driving down myself but that would have been more expensive solution and the other thing is that for car rentals ask for credit card, one which I don’t have at the moment. So I’m flying instead. Funny thing is that it cost double what I paid to get here, about 120 euros.
From Reykjavik I’m taking flybus straight to Keflavik airport. I will be spending the night at the hotel next to the airport, my flight is the next morning so I have to spend a night in Reykjavik. The same thing was when I got here in February. Connecting travel between Reykjavik and Isafjödur seems to be like that. I wonder if it is deliberate so the tourists have stay for the night in the city.
Next morning I’m going to eat a huge breakfast before the flight which leaves Keflavik at nine AM. I got my previous flight ,which was supposed to be in tenth of May, reimbursed. My flight is going to be in Stockholm around two PM local time. I’m going to have to stay there for about three hours before getting connecting flight back to Finland, Helsinki-Vantaa airport. I could have had a flight straight to Turku in normal situation, but for that date there weren’t any in the situation we are in right now.
In Helsinki-Vantaa I might have a royal treatment. I might get tested for covid-19, but I’m not sure about that, but I’m supposed to get a free taxi ride back home paid by the state. If the offer isn’t valid anymore, I just hop on a bus. Hopefully there are those. If not I have to figure something out. I’m sure journey works out fine, I just have to stay safe and vigilant for possible situations, where the virus might be lurking.
When I eventually get back to Turku I will be quarantined for a fortnight. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. I just order the food and other stuff delivered from the supermarket nearby and try to put together my remaining CBQ presentations. If I pass them I’ll be then officially the Artisan of Ancient Techniques. Huzzah!
It’s my last week at Isafjördur (officially). These last weeks have been really busy I must say, even with the school closed and I’m doing my projects alone most of the time at Fab Lab. Today school opened again, partly and of the sudden there were four people at the Lab. What a strange feeling.
Other thing is putting together all the documentation for things I’ve done here. You are supposed to document your work while you work. It would be ideal situation. I do have a lot of notes and pictures but making a coherent document out of them is a task it self.
Coronavirus is still a dangerous. It has forced me to change my travel plans back home. The flights to Finland are all cancelled but I can fly to Stockholm and from there back to either Helsinki or Turku. I’m not so keen on the idea of having to fly to Stockholm. We have to see how it goes.
I would love to say that the Fab Labs in Iceland are all familiar to me. Unfortunately they are not. I have seen the people occasionally through various web streams but that isn’t proper way to get to know them and the labs. Fab Lab Isafjördur, where I am doing my internship, is in the North Western corner of Iceland, but there are all and all nine Fab Labs in Iceland. I hope I get a chance to visit few of them, and see more of Iceland while at it.
Westfjords has been quite lucky with Covid-19. But as expected the virus finally started to spread in the North too. I have heard from the news that in a village of Bolungarvík which is just 10-15 minutes drive from here has had virus outbreak in a nursing home. In a small village like that getting sick is almost impossible to avoid. I’ve wanted to visit Bolungarvík earlier. They have Natural history museum there which would have been nice to visit. That plan is now out of the question.
In Isafjördur has also had a lot of covid-19 cases. Fab Lab has so far managed to avoid the virus. Mainly because we have been monitoring the situation from the start. Iceland has had most of it’s virus cases in Reykjavik and it took almost a month before it got to Westfjords. Main things are the remote location and the weather. The winter has been really harsh. Some days you could not go out due to weather. When winds blow through the fjord, you don’t want to be outside.
Otherwise time here has been really busy at times. Nordic Fab Labs have been working together with hospitals and universities to find solutions if there have been need for assistance. Trying to keep up with all the information and demanding issues is quite taxing but at the same time rewarding too.
Easter has been really quiet. Isafjördur used to have a music festival in town during Easter but but this year only way to have it was through streaming it live on the Internet.
There was news that Iceland has reached the peak of the virus pandemic. I don’t think the peak has quite yet reached Westfjords though. But we are getting there. Keeping safe, social distancing, washing hands. They are working so far. In the meantime I have been lucky to have a lot on my plate. I practically live in Fab Lab but not literally. You have to have down time too and go out to the Nature, when the weather happens to be good!
Covid-19 keeps us busy at the fab lab while other are working from home. Fab labs in Iceland and abroad are coming up with different ideas how to help people doing the real work, saving people’s lives. That has been the focus lately. Otherwise time is spend mostly in isolation so the virus so people won’t get infected. The weather has been quite effective motivation to stay indoors too. And if you go out you need to protect yourself from the elements. The wind here blows so hard that if you don’t have a ski mask or some other cover, your face will get a frostbite in minutes.
There were few days before this storm really warm and sunny days that I thought the spring has come. Just in two days all the snow was melted. I could not believe my eyes how fast it was gone. But as soon as the snow was gone the weather changed again and here we are, stuck indoors. I don’t mind isolation or the bad weather. Being here has been, in spite of everything, really eye opening experience.
The school adjacent to the Fab Lab has closed it’s doors. People are constantly reminded to wash their hands or use hand sanitiser, not to touch their faces and practise social distancing. The Fab Lab in Isafjördur is still open but practically nobody comes by anymore. This leaves me a lot of time to pursue my own projects and task given me by Þórarinn, the lab manager in Isafjördur. I live in the same building where the Fab Lab is so I can use the lab when ever I want. If nothing else, I pop into the lab to make some coffee.
From the first week on I’ve been able to follow the lectures of the Fab Academy The lectures are streamed every wednesday and the Fab Academy has participants all over the world. The idea behind it is for “students learn rapid-prototyping by planning and executing a new project each week”. I’m not participating in the projects but I get learn every week something new on top of all what I have learned from Þórarinn.
The Covid-19 pandemic has forced us to change our plans for my visit here drastically. We had discussed visiting Westfjords Heritage Museum, which isn’t open during winter but we hoped to we could have private tour and maybe there would be interest to do a project together. There are a lot of artisans and craftsmen who know about old ways of making things. We had plans to go meet them too. All these plans have been pretty much cancelled now. A lot of is up in the air at the moment and things change rapidly almost daily basis. But the situation we are now living in is something we just have to adapt to.
One thing I’ve found interesting is the response of the fab lab community and other makers to the pandemic. There are numerous projects going on around the World which try to help medical personnel to cope with shortage of medical equipment. People are 3D printing valve ventilators, face shields, and a lot of other equipment needed in this crisis. I printed out one of those valves but if one wants to contribute you really need more expertise and knowledge about the demands of medical equipment. Face shield is not hard to do but a valve ventilator needs to be a lot more precise and meet all the parameters placed for medical equipment. When people’s lives are at stake, you can’t take any chances.
My internship in Fab Lab Isafjördur has turned out to be a lot different than I originally imagined it. I’m using a lot of the time following the community response to Covid-19 pandemic. There are Facebook groups discussing about what is needed and coming up with solutions. Fab Academy and Fab Labs around the World are following the situation and helping local hospitals and medical personnel. Remember to wash your hands, don’t touch your face and stay away from the crowds. Let’s flatten that covid curve.
While I’ve been living in Iceland I have stayed at the ‘Menntaskólinn á Ísafirði’s’ dorm next to the school and the Fab Lab. At summertime dorm is the Hotel Edda. Due to ‘COVID-19’ our dorm is partly going to be used if need be as a quarantine ward. One wing of the dorm is closed down and the residents, including me, are getting new rooms. The one I got first was a much bigger than my previous one and with a balcony. It had so much space which was even amplified with the fact that there weren’t any furniture that I didn’t know what to do with it. Well, I didn’t have to contemplate that very long because I was asked to move again the next day. This time I got a room which were meant for teachers. Now I even got my own kitchen.
Even though Isafjördur is quite isolated place and no cases of Covid-19 has been reported here, the treat is taken seriously and measures to keep Fab Lab safe place to work and people to visit are being implemented. You have to constantly remind yourself and others to wash hands and/or use hand sanitiser and not touch your face. And don’t panic! I can’t fathom why the toilet paper is in such high demand. It’s crazy to read about how people are hoarding things like no tomorrow.
On Friday the 13th I got an email from our principal from Raseko that I were to end my internship immediately. I can understand the reasoning behind that decision if I were doing my internship in some high risk area but I can’t imagine more safe place than Isafjördur right now. Well maybe Greenland or South Pole. Anyway, luckily for me I was able to convince my principal, with blessing from my supervisor, Þórarinn Bjartur Breiðfjörð Gunnarsson at #fablabisa and the principle of Menntaskólinn á Ísafirði, Jón Reynir Sigurvinsson, that my return to Finland is unnecessary and counterintuitive thing to do at this moment. While reading the news from Finland when Finnish government is doing hard and necessary decisions, I am confident that my decisions to stay in Iceland is a right one. No one can be certain how the situation is going to develop, but I listen to experts and follow the news. As long as I stay healthy and me being in Iceland isn’t going to cause any trouble for my Icelandic hosts, I’d rather stay here, isolated in this fjord while winter storm close down roads and airfields, like it has today.
Hello my fellow students, staff and other faculty members. This is already my third week in Iceland and time has gone by so fast. I’m going to stay here for three months but I already wish I could be longer. I wrote a lengthy piece about my travel from Turku to Isafjördur, you are more than welcome to read about it here. Short version about is that trip went (almost) without a hitch. Locals here have told me that the weather has been especially tricky on this winter and it almost ruined my plans to get here. But I was lucky and it didn’t.
So what have I been up to all these weeks? First week was mostly getting settled in and getting to know the place. The Fab Labs manager, Þórarinn B.B. Gunnarsson, is a modern day Renaissance man. His vision and ability to guide you are exceptional. He won’t give you the answers you seek, but he certainly helps you find them, so you get to realise your own vision.
I have some experience using the equipment at Raseko’s Fab Lab in Naantali, so I’m familiar how things work. On first week we went through the instructions of the laser cutter here and I started doing first projects with it. My job has also been to help other users with their projects concerning the laser cutter. I must point out that when you come to Fab Lab as an Intern or otherwise, you don’t have to know anything about equipment or programs here, you will get help and advice to use them. On the first week it was fun to see how diversely Fab Lab is used here. There are student and teachers, different businesses, artists. These are tools meant to be used and everybody are welcome to use them.
On the second week, we had three other students for nearby town of Flateyri coming for a week doing their internship training. So, the first thing we did was getting the storage room tidy. Managing the order is a on going project but these guys made it easier by coming up with a new system to keep track what we have in the storage. We also made a usb mount and keychains for the usb keys used in 3D printing. That was a fun week. I do enjoy the sense of humor people here have.
On the third week I’ve continued using mainly the 3D printers and learning to use them more efficiently. I’ve done small projects with the printers and that is going to be my main focus for weeks to come. There are couple small CNC machines and one bigger one, which are also going to be on the menu.
It’s interesting to see what next week brings. It’s funny how even the little gems of knowledge, which I’ve been getting every single day, can be so rewarding. Until next week, see you there.