jólafrí í bandaríkjunum

I did something spontaneous. People who know me well are undoubtedly shocked to hear this, but it’s true. On Monday the 15th of December, I decided to go home for Christmas and bought my tickets, and I left the next day, after a slight delay caused by my first real blizzard.

Were my tickets ridiculously expensive? Um, yes. Was it a crazy thing to do? Yes and no. Do I regret going? Not at all.

It’s not that I thought Christmas would be so terribly awful here (not at all!) or so terribly exciting in the States. I just decided that after a difficult semester, I needed to take a breather, and I needed to get off of this rock to do it.

The aforementioned blizzard was experienced by yours truly that Tuesday morning. I looked outside, thought, “that doesn’t look so bad,” and set out for the university to get a couple quick errands done before I had to leave for the airport. A couple blocks into my walk, I should have realized what was coming. By the time I reached Háskólatorg, I was no more than a walking icicle (grýlukerti! what a fantastic Icelandic word). My leggings were soaking wet from the snow that dripped off my (inadequate) coat, my scarf was crusted in ice, and my hands were frozen. Somehow my ancestors survived in such conditions here and then in even worse conditions in North Dakota, but I don’t think I’m cut out for this kind of weather. (I took the bus home, by the way.)

After lugging my suitcase through two-foot snowdrifts and barely catching my bus, I made it to the airport and we boarded just a couple hours late (random language victory: I bought a snack at the airport and I said “Góðan daginn” to the cashier. She read off my total in English and then apologized and read it off in Icelandic).

After a quick stopover in Seattle, the beautiful green-and-purple-pattern of the PDX carpet was under my feet, and after my parents fetched me, I slept happily in my bed all night (it was even more comfortable than I remembered). The first thing I did the next day was go to the doctor. I’ve been dealing with a health problem since October and have been less than satisfied with the health care I’ve gotten in Iceland, so I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to see my regular doctor. She had very generously been helping me as much as she could long-distance using the clinic’s online messaging system, and when she found out I was uninsured in the States, she invited me to come back to the clinic at the end of the day rather than having to pay for another office visit. I could write ten lengthy entries about my experiences with and opinions on the Icelandic health care system, but it’s probably safer if I don’t. Suffice it to say that despite the hefty price tag, I felt a lot better after that appointment.

Even with the short notice, I was able to get together with a lot of friends while I was home. I had dinner with Dr. Tennant; watched The Santa Clause with the Lovealls (my “second family,” the family I used to nanny for); had coffee with Evelyn; played Scattergories, discussed all things Iceland and Sweden, and explored a sketchy store-slash-potential-money-laundering-front with Gretchen and Björn; went to Powell’s with Alyssa and met her kitty; visited Jeff and Christina and Christina’s pregnant belly and sweet Charlotte, who has grown so much since I saw her in August; visited my former Clark coworkers Heather, Jon, and Kate; had lunch with Tammy; and enjoyed a chat with Jill while she cut my hair. I even had a chance to practice my Icelandic a bit when I went to visit my Icelandic friend Edda. When I saw her in August, I could barely string a complete sentence together, so it was gratifying to see how far I’ve come and enjoy chatting with her in Icelandic. And I got a wonderful unexpected Christmas gift when I told her I needed to buy a winter jacket while I was home and she responded by taking me the same day to the Columbia Employee Store, which might as well be called Paradise, where I found a fabulous jacket for $156. The jacket I came thisclosetobuying in Iceland costs about three times that.

I guess I was too busy talking to people to take pictures with them, but I at least got one of the lovely Tammy!
I guess I was too busy talking to people to take pictures with them, but I at least got one of the lovely Tammy!

Of course I also enjoyed just being home with my parents. My sweet mama made a Thanksgiving dinner one night since I wasn’t home for Thanksgiving:

Þakkargjörðarhátíðar... bara pínulítið seint!
Þakkargjörðarhátíðar… bara pínulítið seint!

I also enjoyed visiting my sister and taking selfies with her Persians:

Other things I enjoyed whilst Stateside:

  • The fresh and plentiful rainbow of fruits and veggies at Chuck’s (seriously, I came thisclose to taking pictures just because it was so beautiful)
  • Low prices everywhere (hello $13 Target dress!)
  • Playing my piano
  • Eating Burgerville waffle fries – twice (or was it thrice?)
  • Coffee: Ordering in ounces, being able to get iced drinks, being able to get drinks that are bigger than 12 ounces, going to my favorite coffee shop after having been away for four months and having the barista greet me with, “hey Julie, do you want your triple iced americano?”
  • Driving (although I don’t miss it when I’m in Iceland)
  • Realizing that somehow between when I left in August and when I returned in December, gas prices became lower than I ever remember them being before
  • Did I mention the low prices everywhere?

I figured it might feel weirder to be back in the States after being gone several months, but it really didn’t. I just saw a few things in a different light and came to appreciate things I had never thought much about before.

Aðfangadagur og jóladagur


On Christmas Eve, my parents and I went to the evening service at church and came home and ate our inexplicably traditional lasagna. My sister didn’t want to come that night, so we had to wait to open gifts until Christmas Day (which we never do). It was okay, though, because we were light on presents this year anyway. Having spent so much on my ticket home and being currently dependent on grant money, I didn’t have a lot to spare, and my parents are trying to save some money for my mom to come visit me in the summer, among other things, and my sister has had some unpleasant medical bills lately.

Malcolm was upset that the borrowed fake tree was too small for him to properly sleep under.
Malcolm was upset that the borrowed fake tree was too small for him to properly sleep under.

I was perfectly content to have a quiet, simple Christmas. There are much more important things than having piles of gifts under a perfectly decorated tree.

kisan mín

Another reason I do not regret my last-minute decision is because going home afforded me one last chance to see my sweet kitty. I didn’t know for sure that it was the last time I’d see her, but given her condition, I knew it was the likeliest possibility. She had declined significantly since I left in August, keeping mostly to my parents’ room and moving minimally. While I was home, she came out into the living room a couple times, which my mom thought remarkable, not having seen her leave the bedroom in months. I got to hold her and pet her and feed her her favorite human snack, peanut butter, and some milk too. I got to spoil her and show her that I still love her even though I had abandoned her in August. I talked to my mom a few days after New Year’s and found out that Mahtob became very lethargic on New Year’s Eve and they had to make the decision to have her put down. I’m sort of selfishly glad I wasn’t there, but I worry what she must have thought about her human of 17.5 years not being there to comfort her when she was so ill. I’m grateful to my parents, especially my mom, for taking such good care of her whenever I’ve been away from home – when I went to college, when I moved to Lopez, and especially since I moved to Iceland.




I probably won’t be in a position to adopt another kitty for quite a while, and that’s okay. I don’t think my heart could handle it quite yet. Instead, I will continue my now-habit of walking past Gyllti Kötturinn as often as possible so as to catch glimpses of Baktus, Reykjavík’s cutest, most personable, and most Instagram-savvy cat.

I flew out of PDX on the 29th and arrived in Iceland early on the morning of the 30th, just in time to sleep a bit, unpack, and celebrate New Year’s. But that’s a story for another entry…