Wednesday, June 6, 2012


I'm in Iceland, by the way. Somewhere between turning the calendar page to June, saying goodbye to my parents, taking a bus to Dublin, meeting up with a few Irish friends, packing my bags and organizing a million pictures, I flew to Reykjavik.

 Iconic Reykjavik: Hallgrimskirkja church
IcelandAir prepared me with their planes named after landmarks and Norse gods, Icelandic catch phrases on the back of the seats, and landing to songs by Soley & Sigur Ros. If flying to Iceland came in a bit of a blur, by the time I had actually landed, I was rendered fully speechless. On the bus from the airport to Reykjavik I think my mouth was open the entire time. I had taken fifty pictures before even arriving at my apartment, my home for the next (and last) seven and a half weeks.

I'm settling into the place and preparing for a visit from two of my dear friends from Swarthmore. A million years ago when I was applying for the Watson, my friend Isa promised she would visit me in Iceland if I got it. It was a big if. We laughed it off.  And then, even when I miraculously got it, because Iceland was the last stop, it still felt like forever away.

Somehow we're here. Isa arrives tomorrow, and Katie on Friday, and together, we are embarking on the great Icelandic road trip. This will (hopefully) give me a good sense of the country--culturally, geographically, culinarily (?)--before I return to Reykjavik and conduct interviews for the remaining six weeks. I'm excited that I'll have people to split the cost of renting a car with, excited to have the opportunity to explore a new country, and most of all, excited to see two rather phenomenal women I haven't seen since our Swarthmore graduation.

They've made a good choice. I've been lucky to have seen a lot of beautiful places this year, but Iceland is beautiful in a way that is completely breathtaking. I walk Reykjavik streets of colorful buildings and I gasp whenever I turn a corner. I know people talk all the time about how pretty Iceland is, but I wasn't prepared for this.  Pretty doesn't begin to describe it, and I didn't realize that you don't need to travel anywhere for good views. You just need to turn your head. There is something profound and desolate about its watery, snow-capped mountain beauty and it touches my northerly heart in a way that makes me feel like I could stay here forever. And I haven't even left Reykjavik.

This is not to say that my first 24 hours here were not without frustration. I've noticed that often when getting off a plane, I fall in love with a place immediately, then become quite bitter over the next 24 hours. The plane-landing-honeymoon-phase ends and it's replaced with the logistics; trying to follow directions on foreign streets, the lugging of overstuffed bags, finding a grocery store, a sim card, a friend. Having no idea where I am or what I'm doing and remembering that I am profoundly alone in this.

It's a pattern this year. I end up grumbling my way around a new place for the first day, jet-lagged and grumpy, irrationally bitter at the fact that everything is in a foreign language (as if the signs are just there to spite me). Bleary-eyed and angry, I finally stumble into a grocery store and manage to recognize a few familiar food items. Or accidentally discover the art museum. I walk circles around my block until I understand it.

I keep discovering, until I realize that I'm not angry anymore. Or tired. And that I've kind of (sort of) figured (part of) this place out. And I've fallen in love again.


Last night I accidentally discovered a frozen yogurt shop that's within 3 minutes walking distance of my new apartment. This is a dangerous thing, especially considering that a cup of frozen yogurt costs about 430 krona (around $3) whereas an actual dinner is around 1700 krona (about $17)...and that's at a "cheap" place. The next seven weeks might be filled with a lot of frozen yogurt dinners.

The fro yo place is not in a touristy area. All the signs are in Icelandic, but last night I stormed in there anyway in my disoriented state. I might be forever known as the strange girl who bumbles into the fro yo shop nightly to grunt and gesticulate wildly at the gummy bears.

I'm okay with that.

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