19 January 2006

What I never wrote- First days in Iceland (part 2)

(If you're just arriving, part 1 is here)
J met me at the airport in typical fashion, armed with my favorite aloe yogurt and ready to haul my the suitcases into the car. At his apartment, he had made space for me to be there, emptying half the closets, drawers, and shelves, and filling them with hangers, towels, and little treats. I unpacked that morning and tried to make sense of where I was in the jet-lagged haze, reassuring myself that when I went out to buy shampoo, everyone wasn't staring at me as the strange-o foreigner. I felt like everyone must be able to tell I didn't belong there.

The next few weeks were difficult, exciting, frustrating, and hopeful. I had 7 weeks before I was flying back to Boston for J's brother's wedding, and I hoped to have success before then. As an American I had to have a job to be able to live here, and the Schengen rules only would allow me to stay three months per six months as a tourist. If I didn't find something during that time, I would have to come back after the wedding for the remaining six weeks and hope that I would be lucky then, otherwise I would be stuck in the States, with no job, no clue what my next plan would be, and no home of my own.

The ever-present knowledge of that meant that many days I would wake up and wish I could just stay in bed- it seemed so hopeless that I doubted it would ever work. Part of the reason I decided to go ahead with this move here was to force myself into a situation where I would HAVE to overcome my fears of walking in and talking to people I'd never met, and my fears of not having the structured plan for everything that was happening next. I had been feeling a sort of vague dissatisfaction with my life in the States, as well. While I loved living in Boston and I will always love New England, I needed a new working environment and new challenges. I had always thought I would live abroad someday too- my mom had grown up in Brazil and France, so our house had been full of the artifacts of an international life. The idea of living somewhere that things were always new or interesting in their unfamiliarity interested me, and of course, let's not forget J, who was increasingly content with his decision to come here.

So, back to last summer... My days started having somewhat of a routine almost immediately. I'd get up with J and we'd eat breakfast together then I'd read the newspapers online and trying to make sense of all the long Icelandic words, searching for companies that had English-language websites and would hopefully be sympathetic to my lack of local language skills. Everyone here said that THE thing to do was to just go see the companies, so I started walking into offices, saying I was interested in working there and asking if there was someone I could talk to about it. In almost every single place I did this, I was greeted with a little bit of puzzlement, but I always got to talk to someone. Most companies here are so small that it usually was the CEO or something too, and while most of them were apologetic and said my lack of Icelandic was a bother, they offered me their business card and some other ideas and sent me on with a smile.

I did have a few odd experiences though, like the first place I went to where they had no reception desk and I ended up talking to some guy who didn't want to give me his name. That one set me back a day or two while I worked up my courage to do it again at a different place. I also found a business that was advertising for all sorts of people, but didn't list an address. I found it in the phone book, but when I went to the location, I passed a travel agency and a furniture store without seeing a thing that resembled the type of business I was expecting. Another pass at the section of street yielded a door I had overlooked before- an entrance to an apartment building. The buzzers were all named, but none of them were any of the names I had found on the website, and none were the name of the company. I pass that place every day on the way to work now, and sometimes I wonder what the deal with that was. From that one I learned that if you can't find their street address anywhere on their website, there's probably a reason they aren't sharing the information.

More tomorrow.. this is ending up to be longer than I anticipated!

Ship sighting: We just got some spiffy IKEA stools that we put below the windowsill in the living room, so now it is my new favorite place to write. I can keep an eye on the harbor traffic and post it as it happens that way! Right now I can see one of the Eimskip ships, Selfoss on the way out. The Eimskip fleet is all named after Icelandic waterfalls, some of which I have been to, like the namesake of the boat that brought my things, Skógarfoss. I haven't been to the actual waterfall of Selfoss yet though.


ECS said...

How many people were confused by that last link? :-)

They looked so proud with their medals, the Selfoss gymnastics team, that I had to give them a link, and I was wondering if people actually look at the links anyway.

Go here if you want a look at the actual waterfall.

Alda said...

Enjoyed reading this post and the last one. Looking forward to more!

steffán said...

:-) I did look at the link and was kind of... confused actually!