01 March 2010

not done yet

Over the past few months there's been some serious Iceland-or-not debate going on here, and for a while I thought I might be leaving the country. And yet, I'm still here and plan to stay for a while. Based on the world media and the currency and the dirty politicianing it might seem like the last place someone would choose to stay, particularly since I arrived here by following someone else's dream of living here.

And yet, over the past nearly-five years, it's somehow become my own place. Living in a foreign country with a fairly obscure language and sometimes a mysteriously different culture can be frustrating at times but there's just so much here that's impossible to find in one place anywhere else. Most of these are the sorts of things that don't cost money. For example, during my time here I've worked in three different offices, and each one has had sweeping views of mountains and bay. It's not possible to gawk at the view constantly during the work day but whenever I'm eating lunch on the Fridays when the rescue squads are practicing in the harbor, or look up while I'm on the phone to the cloud-spotted Esja, it's a spark of wonderful in my day.

At home, I can open the window on clear winter nights and take photos of the Northern Lights directly from my kitchen, resting the camera on the windowsill. Whenever it's stuffy, an open window brings a swirl of that only-in-Iceland air that's the first signal that I'm back when I arrive at the airport. It's that tap water I always miss when I'm in places like Paris, some of the most grungy-tasting water I've ever had in a major city.

On my way to work I often take the "long way", a 10 minute trip instead of 8 to my office. I wait at a stop light opposite a dry dock where I can watch the comings and goings of boat needing maintenance, then continue along a seaside road with the same huge view I enjoy all day at work. When I run, it's along similar paths where the wind is a near-constant training partner, but where the music of my run is the surf, accompanied by what might be some of the best sunrises and sunsets in the world.

A few Saturdays ago, I joined a sixsome on a trip whose goal was to hunt for hot pots and soak in as many of them as possible. Our first stop was a place I'd visited back in the autumn of 06 and hadn't been able to find again afterwards. A small shed offers basic changing room comforts, including a heated floor. From there, two different pots offer soaking options, or you can lie in a shallow pool where the water spills over and admire the view of the protected valley. It was a day when the sun finally felt like it had returned after the long darkness, so I lay for as long as possible in the gravelly pool with my toes turned to the sky. This is a good way to spend the weekend.

Then, let's not forget the people I've gotten to know here and who enrich the experience immeasurably. I've gotten lucky with a work environment that provides freedom, inspiration, and a trustworthy group of people who've been great companions on so many trips to Norway, Holland, and the UK. There are the Icelandic friends who've included me into their local traditions, festivities, and families, the cheerful choristers who've given so much Icelandic practice and companionship on trips all over the world. Then, there are the friends from other lands I've made here that can commiserate on how odd it can be as a foreigner here. Many of them have moved away but the connections continue as they revisit Iceland or I visit their new homelands.

The future here is definitely a bit unknown and the situation may require reassessment as the battles over IceSave and EU membership resolve, but for the time being I'm soaking up the returning sun and the dazzling view over the turquoise ocean to the snowed mountains. Simple things like that are what make life worthwhile to me.


Nandinho Jr. said...

Oh I so understand you! I don't have an easy time trying to explain all friends and family that I left behind and do miss a-lot, why would I want to be out-there in a lone-island in the middle of no-where. When I try similar arguments of yours, they don't seem to "see" it. You probably need to be here, try them, feel them to really see that in terms of life quality you won't get that much better anywhere else. I do miss home and how things are at done at home - social aspects, innumerable concerts, ... - but the quietness, easiness, "natureness" type of life you can get here is so appealing...

It is also true that the country is now going through some messed up stuff and when that resolves a proper reconsideration about where we stand should take place.. but in some way, almost none of the "good thing of iceland" are really affected by the mess.. it's a weird place - hard to get here - hard to leave.

Professor Batty said...

Hang in there!

Scuppie said...

Love your blog!
I'm a college junior thinking about going to Reykjavik next fall. I need to find an internship/program to go through outside of my school, but I've heard it's such an amazing place to live. I was wondering if you could tell me more about your experiences there? what industries might be appropriate for an english speaking internship, youth culture, etc ( I speak no icelandic)
my email is

Anonymous said...

I went to Iceland as a kid and loved it--the nature, the beauty, the delicious food.. Your blog definitely makes me want to return.

I'd love to feature you as a blogger on www.pinkpangea.com - a site where women travelers exchange travel advice with the experts–other women travelers.

Send a picture of yourself in Iceland and related insights to rachel@pinkpangea.com.

Looking forward to hearing from you,

ECS said...

nandinho: Do I know you or is it pure coincidence that your name resembles someone I know? :) I've mentioned what you've said in earlier posts, about how difficult it is to really describe this country in a way that people actually can understand.

batty: so far, so good!

scuppie: My experiences here are what I'm describing in my blog :) If you need more info, you can contact me via my email address in profile.

pink: not sure I count as a "traveler" after having lived here for nearly 5 years, but I'll look into it!

opm said...

I've visited Iceland and fell in love; I can't imagine how i must be to live there. Best of luck in whatever you decide.