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.