Print Story The Iceland Diaries - - The Wrap-up
By BadDoggie (Thu Sep 09, 2004 at 01:26:31 AM EST) (all tags)
Tuesday, 17 August

I'm an idiot.

But I'm not stupid.

I could've stayed another week. Saturday is the huge party but I'll be behind the bar in a bistro in Munich. Some people I've gotten to know are going out tomorrow night but I'll be working in Munich.

I never saw the whales or puffins. Or the glaciers close-up. There's a lot I didn't do.

But there was a hell of a lot that I did.

Poll: Having read this, do you want to visit Iceland?

The Iceland Diaries:
Preface, Day 1, Day 2, Day 3a, Day 3b, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6a, Day 6b, Day 7, Wrap-up.

Going Home
I don't want to. I don't know why. All I know is that I don't want to.
Unedited bit written while rather groggy in the Keflavík airport:

It's 5:41 now and I'm sitting in the Keflavík airport, drinking soda water and waiting another hour to board the plane. Actually, I'm waiting for another 18 minutes to pass in the hopes that the duty-free shop opens up before the planes all depart.

I got lucky with the suitcase. I knew it was a bit over 32 kilos and I still had a grocery bag with crapola in it but then I saw the sign on the conveyor which listed the max weight as 40kg. I asked the girl if that was correct and she said that the limit was 20kg. I showed her the tickets that clearly stated I was en route from the U.S. and that limit doubled. w00t: Bullet dodged and less to carry in my hands.

I'm sorely tempted to allow myself to pass out right here and now in the vain hopes of missing my flight so I can stay another week (and make Saturday's big party), but while I could probably get the office to agree to working from here, there ain't no rooms to be had and since the weather has become much more typical in the past day, I'm even less prepared to rough it outside. Also, I'm pretty sure BEIG has a boyfriend.

So off I go.

And off I went -- not happily, mind you. There's so much I didn't see. I missed the museums, the glaciers, the live volcano(es), sections of protected wilderness, other cities, and the list goes on. In my defense I only had a week, but I also knew damned well I'd be back. It could be as soon as mid-October for a couple weeks. When I talked to Charlie the photographer last week, he told me that's a good time because of a lot of musical and party goings-on. It sounds great, but it means my only chance of seeing whales or puffins will be in a restaurant.

I almost started weeping like a child in the plane, thinking over and over "I don't want to go. I don't want to go." It was kinda freaky, really. The flight back really sucked. I needed to get a couple hours' sleep in the plane but the Icelandic biddy next to me decided that what I really needed was her elbow in my side or back every 47 seconds. The even older Icelandic crone behind me was fascinated by the tray table in my seat and would open it every five minutes, letting it fall into place. Then five minutes later, she'd slam it back up. I tried my usually line, "If you touch that fucking tray table again I'll rip your arm off and beat you over the head with it." That only got me a blank stare and a "Hvað segir þú?"

I went to the back of the plane in search of a seat but alas, the plane was full. I was shattered when we arrived in Munich, but my adventure wasn't over. As I sat on a bench waiting for the luggage to arrive, two plainclothes guys came over to me and asked me for ID. They started questioning me and I was having trouble answering them because I was 1) exhausted; 2) not yet sober); and 3) surprised at being questioned while waiting for luggage rather than being stopped as I try to pass through the green line. Another strange thing was that there was no passport control.

As I started to talk and make sense, some guy came by and recognized me. We'd sat next to each other and talked when I was on my way to the U.S. He'd done his three weeks of wandering, was sunburnt to hell and told me that the weather he encountered -- especially during the first two weeks -- was everything the weather I'd experienced wasn't. He recognized the cops and they all said hi to each other. I changed tactics, ignoring the cops and talking to him instead. I told him about the weirdness of being questioned by cops while waiting for the carousel and we talked some more. The cops sat down and relaxed.

My luggage came out last, as usual, but at least I wasn't searched. I don't think I could've repacked it. I ran into the same guy outside in the main hall. His girlfriend was mother-henning him over the sunburn. I told him to hold on because I had something for him. I pulled the tube of SPF-50 sunblock out from my hand luggage. He was thankful; next year's trip for him is in Morocco or something like that.

I caught the S-Bahn home. The escalator in Karlsplatz (where I transfer to the U5) was out of order. Small comfort: I only had to go down those stairs. Greater comfort: the up escalator at my home stop was working.

Because I haven't written enough yet
I've traveled to many countries, have lived in a few, and I have friends and opportunities in many more. I've never moved to a country that I hadn't traveled to first, and I needed at least a few weeks to decide whether I could indeed live there. Inside three days I knew I wanted to give Iceland a try. I've already looked into it and if I'm lucky, I'd only have to jump through a lot of hoops, but I expect that much like UKia, my EUia status will be trumped by my USian-issued passport.

I told Stefán about this and he was at the same time both beaming with pride and incredulous. He (like most of his countrymen) is very proud of his home, but (also like most of his countrymen) himself wants to leave, at least for a few years. "Why would you want to live here?" he asked me. "I can't tell you what it is. I just got this feeling." And there you have it. I still can't explain it.

That doesn't stop people continually asking me why I want to go back. It couldn't be the prices and it can't be the weather. It sure as hell isn't the food and beverage selection. Reykjavík is certainly no metropolitan paradise. There's not much of an IT career waiting for me in Iceland. And learning a language spoken by fewer people than live in a single suburb of any major city? So what gives?

I could start with the scenery, which even in the crappiest photos (made crappier due to bandwidth concerns) look fantastic. I'd certainly like to see that every day. It's clean -- very clean. There's a very good social system which is important to me even though it's next to impossible for me to benefit personally from it.

Central south Iceland from about 10,000 feet

Then there are the people: one often hears about how friendly Americans generally are to tourists. One also hears about their friendly and occasionally ignorant curiosity but that's irrelevant. Scrape the surface though and there's not much left -- out of sight, out of mind. People I talked with were much more open and "real". I got to know many and met many more through them. I was invited to private and family functions and got more invites from people in Iceland than from GMail.

But the main reasons I want to go back I can't express even to myself much less explain to anyone else. I've met others who have been to Iceland and understand this feeling and who likewise can't clarify it. On my third day, I thought, "I could live here," and the feeling never went away. The last time I had that feeling, I upped and moved to Regensburg.

More unedited scribbling from the plane back to Munich:

It's with a heavy heart that I leave here and almost unbearable anticipation of my return come hell or high water. More than ever before, I'd like to ignore my responsibilities to myself and to others, risk everything and stay here. There's nothing outside a dozen pinball machines tying me to Munich these days and I've been contemplating leaving the city for some time now despite my good job and recently improved social life and circle. Not even Regensburg had this effect on me. Still, I'm not making the jump without seeing the place in worse weather.

I initially decided to write the diaries for some fun on HuSi and k5, figuring I'd have a few funny anecdotes. I ended up writing them mainly for myself. Writing publicly forced me to churn these out almost every day and not wait so long that I'd forget what happened. It also forced me to edit a couple minor details out. The diaries let me remember and relive my experiences and kept them fresh. I can't believe I've written 25,000 words about a one-week trip, about half of them while there. If you've read these diaries, I hope you enjoyed them; I'll probably write another series after my next trip.

So I've been studying Icelandic pretty intensely for the past three weeks and I have another four weeks or so to get the basics down. There's a bloody steep learning curve. Along with the book and CD I bought (Teach Yourself Icelandic with CDs), H�sk�li �slands (University of Iceland) has a free Icelandic course on-line (even steeper learning curve due to tempo of speech). I'm also lurking in a couple Icelandic IRC channels and occasionally trying out my skills there with the aid of my book and also a great on-line Icelandic dictionary. I'm such an idiot for not buying a dictionary while I was over there.

My determination to learn the language is paying off. I've made very good progress already, but practicing speaking is leaving my tongue numb and trying to remember the subset of rules I've learned so far leaves my head ready to explode. I've looked ahead in the book: chapter 8 introduces a lot of new rules as well as past tense for verbs. I will learn this language if it kills me... and it just might.

That's what just one week in Iceland did to me. Visit at your own risk.

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The Iceland Diaries - - The Wrap-up | 13 comments (13 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
WIPO by ad hoc (3.00 / 0) #1 Thu Sep 09, 2004 at 02:35:15 AM EST
Wanted to before. Want to even more now.

<AOL> by ambrosen (3.00 / 0) #2 Thu Sep 09, 2004 at 02:44:35 AM EST
Had a friend who spent a year there, and never managed to go out and see her, but that didn't matter too much, as I got a new girlfriend who had Icelandic family and would reasonably expect to visit them some time, then that relationship went phutt, so I'm without an excuse to visit. Will do so some time, anyway.

[ Parent ]
Nice place, Iceland by jump the ladder (3.00 / 0) #3 Thu Sep 09, 2004 at 03:18:08 AM EST
But it's depressing in the winter with the short days and long nights and the  shitty weather. Maybe live there during summer months first?

+1 FP by gzt (3.00 / 0) #4 Thu Sep 09, 2004 at 04:01:02 AM EST
I was on an Iceland kick last year after watching 101 Reykjavik and both my roommate and I were like, "Dude, we must totally get like an internship in Iceland and seek justice and glaciers!" Looks like I have another reason to lust after that land...

WIPO: by ti dave (6.00 / 1) #5 Thu Sep 09, 2004 at 07:01:28 AM EST
Yeah, but I'm bringing my own food.

I don't care if people hate my guts; I assume most of them do.
The important question is whether they are in a position to do anything about it. --W.S. Burroughs

Which bar do you tend? by ti dave (3.00 / 0) #6 Thu Sep 09, 2004 at 08:11:21 AM EST
Mebbe one of my old watering holes?

I don't care if people hate my guts; I assume most of them do.
The important question is whether they are in a position to do anything about it. --W.S. Burroughs

Unlikely by BadDoggie (3.00 / 0) #7 Thu Sep 09, 2004 at 08:38:48 AM EST
Stragula. Close to Westend. More a bistro than a bar. But starting mid-October we have poetry/literature or music every Saturday night (or every other Saturday night). It'll be full.

The sad thing is that I earn more money working alone on a shitty night (<


"Eppur si muove." -- Galileo Galilei
"Nevertheless, it moves."

[ Parent ]
IAWTP by ti dave (3.00 / 0) #8 Thu Sep 09, 2004 at 08:44:59 AM EST
I'll be a server during Oktoberfest.

Oh, man. That's kinda like "I'll be a Palestinian Homicide Bomber during Yom Kippur."

Good luck, dude!

I don't care if people hate my guts; I assume most of them do.
The important question is whether they are in a position to do anything about it. --W.S. Burroughs

[ Parent ]
Money. by BadDoggie (6.00 / 1) #9 Thu Sep 09, 2004 at 08:52:20 AM EST
And meeting people.

But mostly the money. I speak at least enough of almost every major language heard from the shitballs tourists and that alone should make me good cash. I know what the work is like and have a lot of acquaintances ther. I also have a little experience carrying a dozen full Ma


"Eppur si muove." -- Galileo Galilei
"Nevertheless, it moves."

[ Parent ]
You better learn to brew and distill by georgeha (3.00 / 0) #10 Fri Sep 10, 2004 at 02:04:15 AM EST
to avoid the high booze prices.

Any distilling tips? by BadDoggie (3.00 / 0) #11 Sun Sep 12, 2004 at 08:34:59 PM EST
I wouldn't mind making moonshine, but I don't want to kill myself or my friends, I don't want something that tastes as bad as rotten shark (fusile oils, etc.) and I don't want to have to age the stuff for months in hard-to-get barrels.

Ideally, I'd need something rather inconspicuous that would fit on a small balcony. And how do you disguise the unmistakable stench of fermentation and distillation?


"Eppur si muove." -- Galileo Galilei
"Nevertheless, it moves."

[ Parent ]
I've only brewed, never distilled by georgeha (3.00 / 0) #12 Tue Sep 14, 2004 at 11:08:04 AM EST
but I reckon you'd want to use the cheapest grain you can buy (maybe potatoes for vodka)?

Fermentation smells yeasty, bake the occasional loaf of bread.

I'm not sure of distilling, maybe you can work something up with an electric hotplate and some lab glassware.

[ Parent ]
Iceland rocks by Mangudai (2.00 / 0) #13 Tue May 10, 2005 at 11:18:38 AM EST
Nice reading this, i myself live in Iceland and i sort off agree with most that you are saying :)

The Iceland Diaries - - The Wrap-up | 13 comments (13 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback