Thursday, June 16, 2011


If the color green had an official scent, it would be the way the air smells in the yard in front of our place right now. It’s just about ten o’clock at night, the light outside looks like it would at five in the evening if we weren't so close to the Arctic Circle, and it rained a few minutes ago. Everything is cool and fresh, and each blade of grass and leaf practically rings with life, issuing forth that glorious smell of summer in Iceland.

My boyfriend has trotted downtown to meet his friends at the pub, but I start my new job tomorrow and want to be fresh for the little tourist souvenir shop downtown in the morning. It’s been almost two weeks since I arrived in Iceland, and tomorrow is June 17th, Independence Day.

The first week was rainy and cold, and people kept making jokes like, “If summer comes, we should go camping/go to the pool/go fishing, etc.” My mind spent the first week teetering between jet lag, exhaustion, getting used to speaking my second language more than my first, and going through that lovely phase that happens whenever a person moves to a new place and wonders, “Oh no. Have I made the wrong decision?”

Then, literally less than twelve hours after I finally broke down and cried to my extremely nice and understanding boyfriend, came The First Sunny Day, and all my concerns went flying in the same direction as those nasty old storm clouds. We got in the car (loaned to us by said boyfriend’s mother who was on vacation), pointed it away from the new set of clouds looming in the east, and drove northwest-ish to Hvalfjörður (“Whale Fjord”) and the surrounding area.

Maybe it’s a genetic thing, maybe it’s because I was born here, or maybe it’s just the nature of the country itself, but my body has ten times the energy it usually does whenever I come to Iceland. In most parts of the U.S. I’m generally sluggish, with bouts of excitable energy, and I can force myself to exercise from time to time when I start to notice a little excess weight gain here or there. But, jet lag aside, turn me loose in a grassy area of this Arctic island and, depending on what shoes I’m wearing, I turn into a frolicking machine. I can also accomplish tasks and run errands during the day, and still have it in me to go out after dinner, all of which is highly unusual for me. And this walk that I took to the corner store a short while ago, meant to help me wind down, filled me with so much of that vim and vigor I’ve heard so much about that I might have to do some jumping jacks before I’m able to fall asleep tonight. I suppose the sunlight and blue skies this late at night may have something to do with that as well.

So now that I’ve come back down to earth after relocating to Iceland from America, the summer of new challenges is spread out before me like a picnic blanket with the words, “Are you sure you can handle this?” scrawled across it in ants and mustard. Challenge #1: I’ve moved in with my boyfriend (who is 100% Icelandic*, compared to my 50% Icelandic, 50% Austrian, 95% raised in the U.S. of A), which is the first time either of us has ever lived with a person we’re dating. Challenge #2: I’m now living and working in the land of my birth for the first time since I was newborn into this world of ours, and hoping to increase my Icelandic language abilities to the point where I’m able to follow even just one grammar rule with any amount of consistency. Challenge #3: I am also attempting to prepare for beginning my Master’s program in the fall. Hopefully this Master’s program will be the one Old Nordic Religion at the University of Iceland here in Reykjavík. I’ve been accepted and everything, but now that I’m here it seems there have been some changes made to the courses being offered and I’ve got to talk to the head honcho of the whole shebang before I agree to fill the ample brain space I have available with Old Norse grammar and other such grueling medieval subjects.

I’ve decided to skip the jumping jacks and go straight to eating chips, drinking kókómjólk (the greatest chocolate milk drink the gods gave man), and watching Harry Potter before I go to sleep. No shame!

* Retraction: It turns out he is 80% Icelandic, 20% Danish. You learn something new about the people you live with every day. :)