Friday, July 24, 2009

Goodbye Iceland....

I hope the following blog doesn’t bore you with its length - but this has been a hell of a couple weeks!

I was born a “Navy Baby” in Oxnard, California. Oxnard is the largest city in popular Ventura County. A county of approximately 813,000 people. I later lived all over Long Island, New York. An island of approximately 7,700,000 people. I also spent a lot of my childhood in and out of New York City; a city of approximately 8,300,000 people. I spent most of my years in Charlotte, North Carolina. A bustling banking city of approximately 716,000 people. So coming to Iceland, I couldn’t help but be fascinated by the thought of an entire country consisting of approximately 300,000 people. I’ve been in small towns, but never small countries. I have watched sporting events alongside more than 300,000 people! Regardless of its size, this is one of the most geographically stunning countries in the world!

I left America for my 2.5 month globetrotting adventure with no expectations. Whenever I found myself fantasizing about how wonderful, magical, exciting, and scary this summer would be, I quickly snapped out of it - pushed all thoughts to the side, and committed to just going along for the ride and being open to any and all experiences. Sometimes, when I need a laugh; I check out my horoscope on MSN. On July 15th it told me, “The future is always in motion, so don’t stress if you can’t quite make out your goal right now. Simply deal with events as they come along, and try not to control or predict the future too stringently. After all, life has many wonderful surprises to offer, but the trick is to be in a receptive state so you can appreciate those surprises. For now, put the past behind you and focus on the present. Aries, the future will be here before you know it.”

I didn’t leave America for some self encountering pursuit. I didn’t leave with the intention of coming back to the States with the answers to the rest of my life. I don’t expect to know where I will want to live mid-September. I have no idea where I will be employed this fall. I am clueless about how many voice-mails are stacking up on top of each other on my Blackberry. But I am so happy to admit that quite honestly, I don’t care. Iceland has taught me a lot about taking in the beauty of my surroundings. I grew up living in cities. I appreciate the accesability of an urban life. The normality in my life is hopping onto smuggy trains into Manhattan every weekend, cruising along busy pot-holed interstates, going through my daily grind with text messages and ipods tweeting into my ears; all the while not paying attention to all the beautiful things around. For the past 2 years the only mountain in my neighborhood that I admired was, East Rock. In Iceland I am surrounded by countless mountains thousands of feet high.

I don’t want to sound corny or too cliche. I am not proclaiming to have cut myself off from my real world the past three weeks. I haven’t unrealistically vowed to meditate every day, I am barely exercising everyday! I have absolutely no intention of abandoning Facebook for the rest of my journey, I can’t wait to replenish myself with USWeekly Hollywood gossip, at times I miss the hypnotizing red light blinking on the Blackberry, and I am excited (and dreading) returning in 5 weeks to the task of listening and deleting those voice-mails. But however pure I am still not, I have promised myself to just stand still sometimes.

While here, I hiked a ridiculously massive beautiful mountain named, Esjan. This mountain, the trail, and the peak is absolutely stunning. I have never “mountain hiked” or rock climbed before. I work out almost every day. I am a healthy 23 year old woman. So I thought, when in Iceland, do as the tourists (and natives) do - hike mountains! I successfully convinced my Icelandic friend Petur to join me. We started up the mountain, I bitched and huffed and puffed between our very frequent breaks, but once I got to the top - I felt like freaking Superwoman! The hike took us over 5 hours up and down. Most people do it in 3 hours. I reluctantly drank delicious ice cold water from the mountain streams, climbed rocks, slipped on loose dirt, dodged “mountain dogs”, devoured our snacks, and enjoyed a zen-ful nap at the peak under the sun and literally in the clouds. It was amazing. The way down, which I claimed would be a piece of cake, was just as difficult as the way up. Ladies, do not wear slick bottomed Pumas while hiking, no matter how cute you want to look! I had so much fun on the hike, I did it again 2 days later, sore glutes and all!

The boys and I went on a road trip to their grandparents summer house in Stykkisholmer. An extremely small fishing village of about 1,200 people on the western coast of Iceland. If I thought I stood out in Reykjavik, then I am like that purple elephant in the middle of the room in this town! It is immensely charming. We took a boat tour through the thousands of islands, puffin and eagle watched, and then sipped white wine while eating raw scallops brought up from the bottom of the ocean only seconds earlier! Can’t get fresher seafood than that! I can see this town being the location of a coffee commercial! It has that kind of charm where you want to wake up to the sounds of fishing boats docking, under mist-topped mountains (and dormant volcanoes), and have a cup of coffee on your pretty wooden deck.

Now - for the extreme stuff. Snowmobiling on the second largest glacier in Iceland, Langjokull. I knew it would be bright as hell and really white, but not until you have driven your snowmobile out deep into the glacier, hop off and turn around in a 360 can you see how intense a glacier is! Glad I had my sunglasses! It couldn’t have been a more beautiful, blue sky kind of day! Bjarni, Telma, and I followed most of the instructions given by the hot glacier guide, and none of us fell into a glacial rift. I really didn’t want to be that tourist on the news in Iceland that they had to rescue hundreds of feet down inside a glacial crack! (Yes, it happens every year) However; out of the 12 or so of us, neatly in our line, I asked Bjarni to switch snowmobiles with me so I could be closer to the front (and so I didn’t get left behind). I hop on, drive 15 feet and the “reliable” snowmobile dies! Damn karma. I didn’t touch any of the off-limit buttons - I promise! The older glacier guide smacked his lips at me and told me to hop in the driver’s seat of his and he will ride behind me. How polite. Of course out of all the snowmobiles out in our group, it was mine that broke down, and the tour guide that came to my rescue was the overweight older man who’s job was to ride in the very back as to make sure the rest of the tourists didn’t get hurt. So I am going so slow, puffing along, with him hanging on to the back while telling me not to go too fast. Great. Shortly later, Bjarni saw my disappointment and switched mobiles with me so I could gun it fast through the ice and catch up with all the cool people in the front of the line! ;-) Thanks B!

When our ride ended, and my face unfroze from the smile stuck to it, we dusted ourselves off and hopped in Bjarni’s jeep to continue our road trip. Good typical roadtrip music, Beatles, Eagles, Oasis, Coldplay, and Spice Girls. Bjarni’s Ipod. ;-)

We stopped at an area called Þingvellir which I will let wikipedia explain, HYPERLINK ""Þingvellir#Geography

Coolest part was standing between to tectonic plates that mark the North American plate and the European plate. Metephor can be inserted here. As I am hopping between the rift, Bjarni yells to me, “Passa! (translation: careful!) Don’t fall of the edge of the continent!” bahahaha!

The Blue Lagoon was another highlight of the week. It is so beautiful. The water is an odd color of blue and white and is luke warm. When you put your hand under water you can't see anything, so needless to say, I stubbed my toe a million times on rocks and other people's feet! Iceland is so wonderfully small that I ran into two Swiss guys I met in a hot tub earlier in the week in Stykkisholmer. Telma, the Swiss guys, and I enjoyed cold beer in the warm lagoon caves and ended the day with an AWESOME seafood meal on the water. Between the 4 of us, there were 3 nationalities and 7 languages spoken. While in the lagoon you heard the buzzing conversations of languages from all around the world! The tourists were everywhere! Very cool guessing game of which language which people speak. We drove them to their '4 star hostel' and I'm pretty sure people where confused seeing the Porsche in the parking lot.

While here I have been faced with the task of editing my resume. When I return to the States mid-September I need to have a source of income lined up fast! I am 23 years old, a little behind on my schedule for college graduation, but in this economy I find myself thankful I am a student and not paranoid about layoffs. I need to begin the dreaded chore of sending my very ameteur resume to businesses, government bureaus, and organizations that will undoubtedly look at it and throw it to the side as they skip over perfectly qualified intelligent job seekers (like myself) as they’re looking for a Harvard or Yale letter head. I’ve chosen very unconventional methods my whole life. My resume is proof of that. I went to a small private high school rather than a popular football team type high school. I financed myself through community college when I was 17, while my peers were driving off to fancy state universities. I attained my Associates degree from an online University out of Phoenix, Arizona. I am pursuing my bachelor’s in Criminal Justice from that same online university. I am proud of the roads I have taken. I have a lot of experiences under my belt that I am certain I wouldn’t have if I had followed the traditional path. Now get ready for this statement, the next unconventional decision I am pondering is volunteering abroad in third world countries.

With my desire to work in foreign policies, federal security, and humanitarian efforts; I need something to prepare me. I can’t keep sending my resume to the Department of State without some substance to it. Teaching english in Central or South America seems to be clearly an excellent choice to make. I can’t think of anything that would be more fulfilling. It’s definitely something that has been on my mind a lot lately. While I have my schedule for the fall wide open, why not! As I research more about this idea, I wonder why it costs so much to volunteer. Regardless of the price tag, I am going to keep learning about the needs of third world countries out there. I’ll make it happen - I always do.

I leave for ITALIA tomorrow! I am so excited and also very nervous! While in Iceland, although the culture is very different from the States, it seems as though I am still in Connecticut. I am with the family that I have been living with for a year and a half. I have the same sense of security while in Iceland as I do while in the U.S.. Italy is going to be a wonderful challenge for me, the language, the culture, the men. ;-)

Thanks for keeping up with me through Iceland - talk to you when I get to Italia!


Monday, July 6, 2009

Iceland has Michael Jackson fever.

In the USA I would never, let me emphasize, E-V-E-R be caught riding around in a pink and purple bicycle. Here, I am a different person. I look at the +$4.50 gas prices, smell the clean air, admire the hot europeans whizzing through town on their bikes, and hop on and ride until my hamstrings are pleading for mercy. I even have a cool lock and helmet, you guess which one I use. So, slowly I am learning the traffic rules, I am dodging less and less traffic with every practice ride, and I’m hopeful by the end of the week I wont look like a lunatic holding on for dear life!

My amazing boss gave me a month’s membership to FITNESS MECCA! Well really the name of the gym is, Laugar ( This is the nicest gym I have ever seen! You could totally walk in wearing a bag and come out, worked out, steamed up, massaged, exfoliated, waxed, hair cut/colored, nails done, make up applied, and ready for a red carpet event! This place has everything! You even have to enter using an eyeball scanner! Alright, maybe I am easy to impress (or I have just belonged to the crappiest gyms in the US) but I actually look forward to the gym now. But I must admit, my desire to work out for 3 hours every morning is also influenced by the sexy Scandinavian men sweating half naked with free weights in their hands rather than the 10 beers and detestable amount of alcohol pumping through their system as I saw them the night before crammed into B5!

Sigga and I have also enjoyed dinner at Sjávarkjallarinn (translated to “Seafood Cellar”). From the first sip of our hilariously named cocktail “pornstar delight” (which made us giggle like 15 year olds) to the 7 course “exotic menu” meal which began with raw zebra and included Icelandic lobster and lamb (among other delicacies), to the extravagant dessert (which turned our table into a cloud); we enjoyed every bite!

This week I also had one of the most fun nights I have had all year! Being that I only know a few people in this country, Sigga’s co-worker invited me to crash ‘guy's night’ with him and his friends. I am no fool and I know that when you are the only female invited out on guy's night, you better be well rested and ready to have a great time! The night spun into a hilarious commemoration to Michael Jackson with sing-alongs and dance moves from the pre-party, club, and to after hours Icelandic pizza rendition. I even met some traveling Americans and we toasted proudly (and obnoxiously) to the 4th of July (over and over again.) The dancing, toasting, shoving, laughing, and flirting is of much more value than the way I feel the day after!

I’ve never been without friends and family celebrating the 4th of July. Independence day has always been arguably my favorite holiday. No pressure of gift exchanging. No cold weather. Just being with loved ones, hot dogs, and fireworks offers a sweet satisfaction. Here I have found comfort toasting to Independence day with fellow wandering Americans. In any normal bar in the States, I would have not been so friendly and inviting to random Tommy Hilfiger-wearing white guys, but when you are abroad there is something to be said about meeting a fellow American and the bond shared, especially on a national holiday.

In conclusion, obviously I am doing wonderfully here. Adjusting well. I am no longer jet lagged, and more importantly no longer hung up on situations out of my control in the States. This summer is a lesson about fate. Last summer I wouldn’t have dreamt (in my wildest dreams) that I would be spending a summer abroad in over 3 countries. Now I am gladly accepting that I have very little control over my life. No one really does. No matter how hard you try to make things work out in one manner, or persuade people to think the way you do, you’ll be a winner at a losing game. So I've decided to just sit back, shut up, love earnestly, appreciate the beauty surrounding me, and “expect nothing, live frugally on surprise” (Alice Walker).

Love and miss you all....



Wednesday, July 1, 2009

It is hilariously obvious that I am a foreigner. From the colorful clothes I wear, to the sandals on my cold feet, to my tan skin and dark eyes; I cannot even pretend to be an Icelander!

I am fortunate enough to live across the street from Perlan. ( Every misty morning I get to run through beautiful trails combed through the “forest” surrounding this awesome building. I had to de-emphasize forest because in Iceland there are barely any naturally grown trees. As I have been told, Icelanders began planting trees throughout the city about 30 years ago. You can tell they were planted because they are perfectly aligned and they usually don’t grow taller than the houses because of the strong winds from the Atlantic. Alright, back to my running story....In the U.S. I hated running outside. I would easily become bored and preferred people watching in the gym while on the treadmill. Now, one of my favorite parts of my day is the morning run through Reykjavik. I keep thinking of different routes to take. Every time I find something new. Today I found an AIRPORT! While running I heard,(through my Italian language lesson on the ipod) a roarrr and saw an airplane glide past me! I felt like a kid waving at it! (then I quickly pulled my hand down!) 

A thought came to me today. Iceland has an estimated population of 304,367 as of July 2008. A small percentage of them tourists, I might be one of the few (if only) Boricua on this island at this moment! Doubtful but definitely possible.  

I’ve also enjoyed the European-esque cafes scattered around central Reykjavik. Cappuccino and Icelandic pancakes may become my daily treat. 

This week I also had my first experience at the very hip mall near my home. I wandered around for a couple hours giving myself a headache converting krónur to dollars and starting getting depressed as I began to realize how expensive this country is, economic turmoil and all. However I did find a grocery store tucked inside the mall but I wasn’t so delighted to see a pig as their logo (I prefer the mascot of the grocery store “Food-Lion”). So I start roaming through, and checking items off my list. Hoping that I am correctly reading the expiration dates (backwards) and crossing my fingers that the Icelandic labels are matching my presumptions of the food. At checkout I had 30,000 krónur and was very pleased it was enough. The currency here is hard for me to figure out. I fish out correct paper money and the accumulating coin money stuffed into my wallet, hand it to him (crossing my fingers the amount is correct) and then wait for the guy to bag my groceries. When he starts to ring up the next customer I realize, I was supposed to buy the bags while he was ringing up the items. I look back at the long line impatiently waiting for me,  smile as sweetly as I could, hand him some change for the plastic bags, start bagging my goods, and my apples spill e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e. Great. 

This first week has been so fun. It is so cool feeling like I live here for a month rather than touring. I live in a home, not a hostel. I drive a car, not sitting atop an embarrassing sight-seeing bus. I have a job and a schedule. I’ll soon have a gym membership. It’s wonderful. I have only 25 days left here and I am trying to squeeze every drip of fun out of it.

In the “evenings” (again, hard distinction between day and night here) I am still finding myself adjusting to the time difference and earnestly trying to fall asleep. So thoughtfully I brought with me a couple random DVDs of the Sex and the City series (my guilty pleasure and aid to insomnia). While watching I realized out of the 20 or so DVDs in the pretty pink velvet case I threw 2 DVDs in my suitcase with a hidden reminder in them. Carrie reminded me, “the thing about needs; sometimes when you get them met, you don't need them anymore.” I smiled, closed my eyes and heard her say one more thing about relationships; “There are those that open you up to something new and exotic, those that are old and familiar, those that bring up lots of questions, those that bring you somewhere unexpected, those that bring you far from where you started, and those that bring you back. But the most exciting, challenging and significant relationship of all is the one you have with yourself. And if you find someone to love the you that you love, well, that's just fabulous.”

Monday, June 29, 2009

Introduction to " Ísland "

It went something like this....arrived at JFK, slowly got through security, made sure 3 little men had all 6 little shoes on, looked up and saw hundreds of people staring at the t.v. with their mouths open. Michael Jackson had died. A terrible beginning to a long journey. R.I.P. <3

However, the flight with three boys was nice and smooth. They are so well behaved and little guy held my hand when we took off (my least favorite part of a flight) so that was sweet. ;-) 

Iceland is beautiful!! When we were landing I looked out the window of the plane and saw fields of purple “Alaskan lupine” everywhere! Thankfully I brought a “heat wave” with me and 60 degrees is treating me very nicely. I’ve been to the original Geysir and the very active Strokkur geyser. We went to Gulfoss which is a very strong, very beautiful waterfall. Thankfully there were signs everywhere that they were conducting a rescue training* mission, not a rescue mission. I’ve also climbed down into Kerið crater.  Such a cool surreal feeling standing in the middle of a volcanic crater! Iceland has every single color of the crayon box splattered around! It is overwhelmingly beautiful here! This country has more water than they know what to do with! Heated pools and hot tubs everywhere! And I am allowed to take the longest and hottest showers and baths I want! Apart from the smell of sulfur in the hot water, I am loving the abundance of agua. 

Along with the plentiful water situation there is also more sweets than I can even think about eating. Ice cream shops everywhere. Dessert after meals. Candy snacks. Brownies. You name it. Within the first 3 days I have had my fill of sweets for the month! 

Saturday night out on the town was interesting to say the least! In a country of only 300,000 people, I  think most of them where downtown at the bars! It was packed! I was shocked! Along with Miss. Iceland 2006 and her gorgeous friends we were invited to the national handball team’s party. It is strange getting ready to go out for an evening and seeing the party you will be attending in the news paper, and then the next day on the news. Fun time but I was mostly hanging on to people for dear life, probably 3 times more pushy and bumpy than any NYC venue. I wore my drink instead of sipping it, but it was a blast. The more surreal part of the evening was bar hopping at 3 a.m. and it being as bright outside as 3 p.m. Ladies be warned: If you find yourself in Iceland mid summer, you must look as great coming out of a club as you did going in because the midnight sun here is not forgiving! ;-) 

Another brilliant idea the Icelanders have is their movie process. You buy popcorn and candy pre movie - sit and watch half of it - then the movie pauses for 15 minutes - potty break and more candy - and then the rest of the movie is shown. And let me throw in there, everyone took the same seats after the break, there were no arguments over seat snatching! Brilliant. The U.S. should definitely follow this example!

And now it is Monday and my week of being a foreign “Au pair” with the boys has commenced. This morning I brought the youngest boy to his preschool for the first time. Your heart has not been broken until you see how scared a four year old is on his first day in a new school. Bless his heart! 

Im adjusting wonderfully here. I love sharing my Icelandic vocabulary with natives and seeing them giggle at my pronunciation. I love eating delicious Icelandic lamb for dinner.  I love going to bed and waking up and always seeing the sun shining. I love the sulfur smell of the hot water, the beautiful home I get to live in for a month, the really cool dishwasher, and the european plug outlets. I love the serenity of this island and knowing my "summer of a lifetime" has begun.

26 more days to enjoy this country...

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The preparation...

There are four days before I embark on what I believe will be the summer of a life time. I have always been fascinated with other cultures; the excitement of traveling, the thrill of an unknown destination, the smell of unique cuisines, the conversations with the stranger sitting next to me on a plane, the pleasing discomfort of a new pillow to rest upon, the confusion of public transportation systems worldwide, even the way the sun and moon always look the same when they rise and fall over whatever country I find myself in. It is no secret I have a love affair with my passport. This love affair started not with my foreign exchange boyfriend when I was 19 who invited me to Sweden, my first European excursion. But it started with that first feeling of terror, when the jet engines began to roar, and I was 30,000 feet over the Atlantic Ocean completely content and petrified with mini juice cans, pretzels, and a microwaved airline dinner. This adoration of travel was only further brewed once I landed back in the United States; I felt like I could take on the world. I realized that I had gone someplace and gotten myself back home, safely. Since then I have been to only a couple of other countries, Spain and Jordan. However my dreams have taken me all over the world. 

In four days I take off to Reykjavik, Iceland. I'll spend four weeks amongst one of the most physically fascinating countries I may ever see. I am thrilled to spend time bundled up in my fleece sitting in their lovely parks, swimming in heated swimming pools, trekking across chilled glaciers, and invigorating blue lagoon. I am excited to stare in awe at the waterfalls, natural springs, lava landscapes, and midnight sun. Years ago, if anyone had told me that I would have the opportunity to see one of the most geographically beautiful countries in the World, I wouldn't have believed them. Under the circumstances of which I will be visiting are surreal. For two years, an Icelandic family has basically adopted a young all-american-puerto-rican lady and taught me everything about their culture. I will spend my days with three of the most handsome young boys I will ever meet and their beautiful Scandinavian mother. I get to experience this exotic land with my own personal little viking tour guides. Everyday I realize, I may be the luckiest nanny in the world. 

After 4 sunny weeks in Iceland I travel to Sardegna, Italia. The circumstances of which I have been invited seem to be out of a novel. A sweet friend of mine (a true Italian gentleman) is waiting to introduce me to troves of people, show me the most beautiful beaches in the Mediterranean, stuff me with the most delicious pastas of Italy, share with me bottles of native "vino", and teach me one of the most melodic languages ever spoken. I have nothing to complain about!

When four weeks of bliss in Italy ends, I will be happily on my way back to the United States. Myself, my mother, 4 aunts, 2 cousins, and a best friend will be ready to take a much anticipated vacation to Puerto Rico. My family's island. After two days of touring where my grandparents lived, we all board ship and will indulge ourselves aboard the Royal Caribbean for 7 days. I am so thankful that my first cruise will be shared with people I love and people I will have missed dearly. 

When I say out loud (or quietly type) my planned summer, I can't help but pinch myself. Every day of this summer has fallen into place almost effortlessly. I am truly blessed and immensely thankful. When I wake up to reality and float back down from the clouds, I will find myself terrified of the future. Economic stress has made job searching more difficult than normal. An exotic summer abroad doesn't come cheap and I will most likely be feeling the strings tighten financially. Although I am terrified of what the fall brings, and how little control I know I have over it, there is a part of me, deep inside that is serene in knowing - it will all come together. For now, I will continue to thank the Lord daily for the opportunities, soak them all up, remember each kind (and unkind) face I'll meet, enjoy when I am lost and lonely, laugh at my foreign language blunders, and remind myself this is going to be one of the best summers of my life. 

I love you all and I can't wait to share all my experiences with you through this screen.