Góða Ferð!

As you read this, Mark and I are heading back to the US for the summer, not to return to Iceland until late August. Never fear, I have a lot of catch-up posts and photos to cover, so you won’t have to give up reading me ramble cold turkey. But for the time being, it seems only appropriate to leave Iceland with a (Björk) song.

Takk for the splendid year, Iceland. I’m already looking forward to next year.

It’s the final countdown.

Last five days in Reykjavík until August! That means:

  • Getting the Little Free Library installed (hoping against hope for this one to come together in the last days!)
  • Submitting visa renewal paperwork
  • Packing for our months in the US
  • Packing away our winter clothes and miscellany for the summer
  • Saying goodbye(s)!
  • Finishing freelance writing projects
  • Returning all my library books

Etc. etc. etc.

This seems as good an excuse as any to revisit this, which sounds/looks a lot like I feel right now:

The End of Days

As of August 1, 2012 I am officially unemployed. (A state of being which has also been referred to as, depending on the speaker’s mood, “fun-employed,” and “none-mployed.”) This means a whole host of things to me–like, “don’t fall down a flight of stairs because you don’t have health insurance any more,”–and it means a lot particularly in light of the fact that I have held a job of some sort–at least part time or seasonal–since I was 15 years old. (I started at the full-time job I just left five days after I graduated from college.) But mostly what being unemployed now means is that the Countdown to Iceland has officially begun. Time to get real.

This month (or roughly 25 days–22 now) of “getting real,” and getting ready to move to Iceland, was hypothetically going to be one delightful, lazy spree of sleeping in, going out, spending more time at the gym (got to up my swimming skills before I get to all those lovely geothermally heated pools), gallivanting around art galleries and favorite bars and unseen New York neighborhoods, and doing all those little home-bound crafts and hobbies (sewing!) that I’ve managed to set aside and aside and aside in the last few crazed months.

Oh, and packing.

And saying goodbye to everyone. (Which, I’ve found, is a lot like some sort of hilarious death march. Saying goodbye to someone over The Last Drink or The Last Brunch until For-ev-er–or at least nine months from now–carries this honestly awful heaviness and finality and everything you do and say in the space of that encounter has to be Totally Meaningful. I have to keep reminding myself–and my friends, and my family–that I am “not dead,” just moving to Iceland for awhile, and will be back in less time than any of us think.)

And storing all our books. All 1,200+ of them.

And selling our extra furniture, duplicate books and DVDs, and anything else we think we might be able to get a little money for and won’t miss so much when we come back.

And booking plane tickets.

And getting a replacement computer.

And letting in realtors and prospective tenants so that my landlord, who lives in Greece every summer, will not miss out on even one possible day of rent-getting when we move out.

And watching our number on the housing waitlist creep slowly, ever-so-slowly up the chain (we’re Number 30! we’re number 30!).

And figuring out what e-readers I’ll be able to use in Iceland. (Not the Nook, which I own, FYI.)

And getting an international driver’s license.

And buying a year’s supply of contacts because who-knows-how-that’s-done-in-Iceland and I’m not sure if Icelandic state health insurance (which we’ll be covered under after six months in the country–whoot!) will cover optometrist appointments.

And visiting Mark’s family. (I had my AZ farewell in July.)

And getting a cargo quote for shipping belongings to Reykjavik via Icelandair.

And figuring out which books get to go in my own personal book box. (This will take at least a week, if not more.)

And eating everything we have in the kitchen so as not to waste any food. (Use the whole buffalo!)

And etc. etc. etc.

Sudddenly, 25 22 days of free time doesn’t seem like a lot to get ourselves together and move out of the country. But it will be fine.

Because it has to be.


Vocab in Action: Húsnæðislaus

Við erum húsnæðislaus: we need a place to live.

I believe this industrious little mouse is an architect. Solution to the housing crisis right here.

This vocab word came up in the course of my Icelandic lessons today. I was pleased not only because it’s another example of an Icelandic word that succinctly encapsulates a whole state of being or concept (other good examples: umhverfisvænn: environmentally friendly; aðfaranótt: the night before), but also because it’s relevant to my own current state of affairs. (We’re slowly but surely moving up the university housing waitlist, though–number 46 as of today! Out of how many, for how many available apartments? Who knows!? But progress, all the same.)

I’m still working on declining adjectives, so I’m not sure if there’s supposed to be a different ending on ‘húsnæðislaus’ in that example sentence, but I think that’s right. Vocab in action!

(It’s worth noting that this word does not just mean “homeless,” (vegalaus) as far as I can tell, but seems to represent its own discreet concept.)

On Recognized Relationship Statuses: Sambuð

Mark and I have been doing a lot of paperwork these days, particularly to prepare our residence permit applications. For various reasons, these have to be submitted separately. However, I was delighted to see the range of options that are recognized by the Directorate of Immigration in response to the typical “marital status” question:

(Click to enlarge.)

I’ve been filling out a lot of forms over the last year, and can tell you that “cohabitation” doesn’t generally rank among the status options. A typical governmental form seems to offer the options of “single,” “married,” “divorced,” and sometimes, happily, “domestic partnership.” (I recently filled out a form that also included “engaged.”) I’m not sure why it would matter more to an official agency that I am divorced than it would that I have been living with the same person for multiple years, but it does, apparently.

So thank you, Iceland, for recognizing committed, but non-legally binding partnerships as being of worthy of your recognition.

In a New York State of Mind

Picasso's Bust of Sylvette (NYU Campus)

Picasso’s Bust of Sylvette (NYU Campus)

When I first moved to New York, I found that I was a bit of a magnet for encounters-with-strangers. I’d be sitting in the park reading, and a teenage evangelist would sit down with me and start parsing biblical passages. Riding the subway, a young man once put his headphones on my head and asked me to listen to a song he had written. Homeless people tended to tell me their stories when I gave them change. It became a bit of an epidemic, and in certain cases, a bit of a liability. It also didn’t seem to happen much to other people I knew who had just moved to the city. Several of my friends speculated that I tended to “look available,” by which they really just meant that I made eye contact and didn’t get up and walk away when people started talking to me.

Eventually, this started happening less. I’ve lived in New York for almost ten years now, and I have to say that over that time, I’ve found myself becoming more wary of what people are going to say to me when they stop me on the street (it’s often unpleasant; frequently offensive), or what someone might do if I don’t respond the way that they think I should. I’ve also just gotten much more used to carving out my own space–mentally, as well as physically–in an otherwise cramped and crowded city. I still cultivate relationships–albeit casual ones–with people I don’t know very well: the guy who works on the deli on my corner, the lady at the check-out counter at the grocery store, the sensei who runs the karate studio down the block, the maintenance staff who work around my office at NYU. But over time, I’ve become less ‘available,’ less open to random encounters with people I don’t know.

But I’ve been thinking that lately, I’m reverting a bit–as if now that I know that I won’t be in New York soon (eight weeks and counting), I’m suddenly much more willing to engage in those encounters all over again. Just last week, I found myself stopping in at the hair salon near my office, just to say hi to the hair dresser and beautician who have worked there for years. I chatted with a man about his adorable 15-year-old Norwich terrier who was walking leash-less down the sidewalk. I talked to retired woman working the counter at a thrift store about her six years training as a Buddhist and her aspiration to become a chaplain on a cruise ship. Sitting at a bar this weekend, I helped a waitress remember the convoluted take-out order that a difficult customer had placed a few minutes before. It feels refreshing, honestly, to be “available” again, and the right state of mind for both leaving this city, and starting again in another one.