desember

Christmas has already come and gone, and I’ve recounted my first Icelandic Christmas, but now I’m going to backtrack and quickly recap the first three weeks of December.


 

Final Exams

Of course the biggest event of early December was final exams, which this time around were spread out over nearly two weeks. That meant that we generally had a decent amount of time to study between exams, but it also meant that it was really tiring and got more and more difficult to maintain focus toward the end of exams.

By far the easiest and most enjoyable exam, both in terms of studying for it and taking it, was our oral exam for Málnotkun (“Language usage”). For these exams, we form groups of 3-4 students, practice discussing certain topics within our groups, and then each group has about 10 minutes to hold a discussion in front of our teachers and a prófdómari (a proctor, I guess). My group met up at Katleen’s to practice on one of the snowiest days of the winter, and when we’d had enough practice, we decided to wander out in the snowstorm for ice cream, because why not?  We trudged through snowdrifts down to Valdís, perhaps the best ice cream parlor in Reykjavík, and of course we took a selfie to commemorate the occasion:

ís í snjónum
ís í snjónum

After our oral exam, a few of us wandered down to Norræna Húsið (Nordic House), where we (tried to) read some children’s books in various Scandinavian languages and enjoyed the jóladagatal (which I described in this blog post).

This sort of started a tradition of communal eating or drinking to both celebrate the end of each exam and dull the pain of knowing there were more coming…

After our third exam, several of us enjoyed a jólabjór in Stúdentakjallarinn. After our fourth exam, a few of us had a pönnukökur and jólaglögg party at Gamli.

The night before our last exam, Erin, Katleen and I decided to hold a taco party, because why not? Erin was already done with finals, so she kindly offered to make tacos while Katleen and I studied together. So we munched on homemade guacamole and tasty tacos and in between discussed fascinating theories of second language acquisition and word formation. I think it was quite an effective combination, really. Every finals season should involve a taco party.


A gentle Christmas breeze

In between two of our final exams came a “snow hurricane,” a nasty winter storm that swept over the entire country and brought hurricane-force winds to Reykjavík (although the weather was much more severe in other parts of the country, including the Westman Islands, where several houses lost their roofs, and the Westfjords, where an entire abandoned house blew away). Residents of the capital area were warned to stay inside after 5 pm and not venture out until midday the following day. So I traipsed to Bónus to stock up on food, then hunkered down inside and studied while I listened to the wind howl outside. It was really quite convenient timing, in a way, as it essentially made me housebound at a time when I had to study anyway.

The other great thing about the storm was the flurry of headlines including variations of my favorite Icelandic verb, að fjúka, which means to be blown by the wind.


End-of-semester celebrations

We had jólabjór with a few of our professors at Stúdentakjallarinn after our very last final exam. Sadly we won’t have these professors next semester, but we decided that we’ll have to organize regular Stúdentakjallarinn get-togethers. I’ve been fortunate that the instructors at both my universities have been warm and approachable and have taken an active interest in students outside of class time.

I made apple crisp to celebrate our last Hitt Húsið meetup of the year. Hitt Húsið is a multifaceted community center for young people located downtown on Austurstræti. One of their newest programs is a Tuesday night meetup for young people learning Icelandic (which is actually a continuation of a group that my friend Siggi started last year). I’ve been going regularly since September, and it’s a great opportunity to practice Icelandic with actual Icelanders (and an every-changing group of fellow learners) in a cozy and supportive environment.

A few friends and I held a pönnukökur (Icelandic pancake) party to celebrate the end of final exams. We invited ourselves to Katleen’s cozy apartment, Erin showed off her pancake mastery, we drank jólaglögg, ate way too much sugar, and watched the jóladagatal and way too many Norwegian YouTube videos. In other words, it was a warm and cozy evening with friends, the perfect way to bid adieu to finals.


And yet more merry-making

We celebrated Vita’s birthday with a lovely dinner party at her dorm, which was interrupted by some fairly drunk language students a couple hours in.

I accidentally left my purse at Vita’s, which turned out to be a good thing, because it gave Vita and me an excuse to meet at Bókakaffi the next day, where we did what all respectable young ladies do: color!

By the weekend before Christmas, most of my friends who were going home for Christmas had left. Thankfully, a few delightful friends remain. Last week, I invited myself to my friend Vita’s dorm for my annual vínarterta making endeavor. Erin came along too, and we also made dinner, enjoyed a serendipitous bottle of wine leftover from Vita’s birthday, and watched Snjókríli, an adorable documentary about baby animals in the snow.

Erin, Vita and I met up for a dose of Christmas cheer at the university choir’s Christmas concert at Neskirkja. Choirs are incredibly popular here, and joining a choir is a great way to meet people and pass the time during the long dark days of winter. Somehow in the year and a half I’ve been here, I had never made it to a choir concert, but this free Christmas concert seemed like a good opportunity to change that. Afterward we went to Stúdentakjallarinn for cheap beer and fried food. It was less depressing than it sounds. Kind of.


Other than that, there’s been a lot of reading, coffee shop sitting, city wandering, and knitting since the start of Christmas break. The first couple days after finals I always find it a bit difficult to wind down and shift gears, but since I settled in to a rhythm of cozy and quiet days and no more exhausting study sessions, it’s been lovely. There are still almost two weeks of break left, which means more cozy days, but the new year will also bring new adventures, as I’m starting a new job next week and then classes resume on the 11th. That means I should have plenty to blog about in the near future. But first I have to go make a champagne cake for New Year’s…

 

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réttir og gullhringurinn, or, getting out of RVK

(Preface: I guarantee that this post will make up for the lack of photos in my recent posts.)

On Saturday the 13th, I got out of the city for the first time since arriving a month ago.  The University of Iceland offers several “Introduction to Iceland” trips throughout the year, intended to provide international students with an affordable, convenient, and fun means of exploring the country.  A few of the other grantees and I all signed up to go on a day trip to visit a réttir (an annual tradition of rounding up sheep) and sightsee around Gullhringurinn (The Golden Circle).  I did the Golden Circle while on my Snorri trip, but it’s been more than two years, I was eager to get out of the city, and I thought the réttir would be an interesting experience.  So I sucked it up and willingly woke around 7:00 on Saturday morning so I could get myself over to the university and catch the bus.  I discovered that the only people up and about at that time are hard-core athletes, tourists just arrived or heading to the airport, and maybe a few people still stumbling around after partying the night before.  Otherwise, it is like a ghost town.  (One of these Saturday mornings, I’m going to drag myself out of bed early and go on a little photo walk around the city.  There won’t be crowds of people around to get in my way or to judge me for taking tourist photos.)

Anyway, by some miracle I got myself to the university on time, met up with Kelsey and Giedre, and before long we were on our way to our first destination: visiting Reykjaréttir.

The Réttir

 

During the summer, Icelandic sheep roam free, grazing and enjoying their happy little sheep lives.  Every September, the sheep are rounded up, sorted, and claimed by their respective farmers.  (In case you’re wondering, they can be sorted because their ears are tagged to indicate which farm they belong to.  It is kind of like how Hogwarts students are sorted into houses, except with sheep instead of human schoolchildren, farmers instead of a sorting hat, and no magical powers.)  For several days before the actual réttir, people have been out on horseback rounding up the sheep and driving them back toward home.  During the réttir, local farmers and families gather to help sort the sheep.  There’s a festive atmosphere; families come clad in lopapeysur and 66 North gear and some of them bring food and thermoses of coffee (or something stronger) and basically have tailgating parties, which was very interesting and amusing to discover.

To Kelsey's left, you will see a réttir tailgating party, complete with 66 North gear, lopapeysur, thermoses of coffee, and all sorts of Bónus treats.
To Kelsey’s left, you will see a réttir tailgating party, complete with 66 North gear, lopapeysur, thermoses of coffee, and all sorts of Bónus treats.

The sheep are sorted into pens that are separated by concrete walls, maybe 10 feet high.  The whole area is shaped something like a wheel, with the walls as spokes separating different pens.  If you want a good view of the action, you can climb up on one of the concrete walls to watch.  Just know that you are at risk of being knocked off by an overly exuberant tourist with a huge backpack.

Réttir runway
Réttir runway

Speaking of tourists, it was interesting and a little disappointing to see that the tourists just about outnumbered the locals at this réttir.  I realize I was one of those tourists, and it’s not that I think the event shouldn’t be open to visitors, but it was still kind of a strange thing, to feel like myself and all these other visitors were there to watch this community tradition.

As far as the sheep go, I mean, for the most part, they were just sheep.  But!  There was one teeny tiny itty bitty baby lamb and it was definitely the cutest creature there.  Kelsey and I climbed up on one of the aforementioned spoke-walls to go stare at the lamb and take pictures of it.

IMG_3473

When we tired of watching the sheep, we wandered over to see the horses.

Fallegir hestar í sveitinni
Fallegir hestar í sveitinni
Giedre tried to share her snack, but the horses rejected it.
Giedre tried to share her snack, but the horses rejected it.

All in all, the réttir was certainly an interesting event to witness, although we had a bit too much time there and were getting quite cold by the end of it.  But it was all worth it for the little baby lamb.

Gullfoss

After we said goodbye to the sheep and left the locals to their festivities, we began our Golden Circle tour.  The first stop was Gullfoss (“Golden Falls”), one of Iceland’s most famous waterfalls located along Hvítá (White River).

When we arrived, we were quite chilled from two hours standing around at the réttir, so we piled into the visitor’s center and bought some overpriced coffee to warm up before heading down to view the falls.

The weather was certainly cooler and cloudier than the last time I was at Gullfoss, but it wasn’t raining so there was nothing to complain about.

Me, Kelsey, and Giedre getting misted
Me, Kelsey, and Giedre getting misted

Haukadalur

The next stop around the Golden Circle was Haukadalur (“Hawk Valley”), a geothermal area best known as home to Geysir, the geyser from which the word “geyser” has been taken but which is, ironically, no longer very active.  By the time we reached Haukadalur, the weather was beautiful and getting better every minute.  I wandered around with Giedre, looking at the bubbling mud pots and hot springs, waiting in anticipation for Strokkur to erupt, and climbing a rickety old ladder across a barbed wire fence to hike further up the hillside and get a wider view of the geothermal valley as well as the river and farmland on the other side of the hills.  I think I will just let the photos speak for themselves.

fallegir litir! / beautiful colors!
fallegir litir! / beautiful colors!

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Strokkur ("butter churn") erupts every 3-8 minutes.  I wish I had gotten a photo of the people holding cameras on sticks out in front of them, smiles frozen on their faces, waiting to get their perfect "I'm in Iceland!" pictures.
Strokkur (“butter churn”) erupts every 3-8 minutes. I wish I had gotten a photo of the people holding cameras on sticks out in front of them, smiles frozen on their faces, waiting to get their perfect “I’m in Iceland!” pictures.

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Haukadalur was dressed in its finest for us this lovely autumn day

Þingvellir

The last stop around the Golden Circle was Þingvellir, famous both for its historical and geological significance.  It is the site of the world’s oldest parliament; Alþingi was established there in the year 930.  It is also a place where the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates meet.  The plates are slowly pulling apart, and you can actually see the rift between them above ground.  And that’s all I’m going to say, because, once again, the photos more than speak for themselves.

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Þingvallakirkja (Þingvellir Church) peeking through the trees

It was a long, full day but I am so glad I went.  Getting out of the city, spending time with friends, and seeing some of Iceland’s most famous sights decked out in autumn colors and sunshine was good for the soul.

tíu dagar á íslandi, part 3

It’s a grey but mild day in Reykjavík and I am planning to enjoy a low-key weekend of homework and coffee drinking. I’m already a few weeks behind in my blogging, and more blog-worthy things just keep happening, so I better start getting caught up.  And I don’t actually have any coffee at home right now, so I think I will bribe myself into being productive by saying that I will allow myself to go out and get coffee after I finish this blog post and perhaps read a chapter from my grammar text.

So, my caffeination (and therefore my overall well-being and sanity) depends upon this.

Let’s get going and try to recap August 25 – 29.

mánudagur / monday (25. ágúst)

On Monday morning, there was an orientation at the university for all Icelandic as a Second Language students.  We all gathered in a classroom in Háskólatorg and were given an overview of the placement testing and the two programs – the one-year practical diploma program (for students who don’t pass the placement test or just want to do a shorter, slower-paced, more practically-focused program) and the three-year BA program (for students who pass the placement test and are interested in studying the language in a theoretical as well as practical manner).  This meeting was the first time I got any idea of the variety of students in the Icelandic language programs.  There were students from all over the world with a wide variety of backgrounds and reasons for learning Icelandic.

At the end of the orientation, we were each asked to fill out a sheet with our contact information; information about previous studies in Icelandic and/or other languages; self-assessment of our current skill level in reading, writing, speaking, and understanding Icelandic; and our goals for learning Icelandic.  They never told us, however, exactly how that information would be used.

I had already gotten some tips regarding the placement test from Elliott (last year’s Fulbright-Árni Magnússon grant recipient) and other friends who’ve taken it in the past, but after the orientation, I was feeling more confident than ever about not wanting to fail the test and place into the practical program, and less confident than ever that I actually could pass the test.  So I spent the rest of the day studying and studying and studying some more.  It was difficult to know what to focus on, but I tried to review verb conjugations, case declension, etc., and I spent a fair amount of time pushing through Icelandic Online, level 2.  And while perusing Icelandic Online, level 2, I happened upon this photo:

Heima
Heima

That is, in fact, the house where I now live, and the woman in the middle is my cousin.  Did you know that Iceland is a pretty small place?

þriðjudagur / tuesday (26. ágúst)

Útlendingastofnun, or, the joys of being a foreigner

I hoped to spend Tuesday morning studying as much as possible before the 2:00 stöðupróf (placement test), but I got an email in the morning that the photo-taking contraption at Útlendingastofnun (The Directorate of Immigration) was finally back in working order and I really needed to get over there as soon as possible so as not to delay the process of establishing legal residence any further.  So I gave my brain a rest from studying and walked over across Hringbraut (and this time, I managed not to get lost or defeated by a door).  There were probably 12-15 people in the waiting area when I arrived, and I was nervous about getting done and over to the university in time.  No, I didn’t want to be deported, but there was no way I could miss the placement test either.

Thankfully, before too long, the employee (I swear she was the only person working there) asked if anyone was there just to have their photo taken for a residence permit.  Several of us raised our hands, and she directed us to form a line.  She said nothing about forming a line based on the numbers we had already taken to determine our order of service, so, feeling fully like an entitled American, I scurried right up to the front of the line.  Within 15 minutes, I was done and on my way over to the university to determine my fate.

Stöðupróf, or, the determination of my fate in two hours and ten pages

I had been warned to expect zero English in either the written or oral instructions for the placement exam.  For better or worse, this was not the case.  The instructions were written in both Icelandic and English, and the proctors were willing to answer questions in both languages.

Apparently the exam has changed just since last year, because Elliott said there was no listening component, but our exam began with a short listening portion.  We were given the opportunity to read through the first ten questions, then we listened to a brief (and, thankfully, very slow) dialogue.  We had a couple minutes to think and try to answer the questions, then they played the dialogue a second time.

After that, there were maybe 40-50 multiple choice questions that tested our knowledge of grammar, vocabulary, and overall comprehension skills.

Finally, as I had been warned, there was a short writing section.  We were asked to write 8-10 sentences about what we’d like to do in Iceland this winter.  My writing was extremely simplistic, and I tried to write simply enough that I could control my grammar, but also to throw out a few more difficult words and sentence constructions that, while grammatically imperfect, hopefully showed a slightly wider range of knowledge than I would have otherwise.

Anyway, when all was said and done, I felt fairly good about the exam.  I was certain about probably 80% of the multiple choice questions.  The listening section, to my utmost surprise, was actually the easiest component of the exam.  The most difficult thing was not knowing exactly how the exams would be scored.  We were told at the orientation that there are no grades; you either pass or you fail.  But they gave next to no information as to how the exams would be scored.  They also didn’t explain if/how our written self-assessment/statement of goals (see Monday, above) would be taken into consideration.

I left feeling like I had done the best I could given my current level of knowledge.  I did wish that I had not been sidetracked by health problems in the months before I moved, though, because that kept me from having more time and energy to study.

Kaffitími

After the placement exam, all of the new 2014-2015 Árni Magnússon Institute grantees met up at Háskólatorg.  We had been emailing each other over the past couple months, but this was the first time we had all met face-to-face.

I already knew Kimberly, a fellow Snorri alum from Canada, and I had met Kelsey a couple days earlier.  The other grantees we met that day are Giedre from Lithuania, Matyas from Hungary, Piotr from Poland, John from the UK, and Aurora from Italy.  (There are two other new grantees, Lucie from the Czech Republic and Franzi from Germany, but they were busy that week taking exams to pass directly into the second year of the BA program.)  It’s always a little bit strange meeting people for the first time and knowing they will be a part of your lives for the next however many months and perhaps beyond.  And it’s difficult now, just a few weeks later, to remember that first conversation and those first impressions.  There’s something about moving to a new place and embarking on an adventure like this that turns acquaintances into friends very quickly, and perhaps not even friendship in quite the same manner as I would normally describe, but camaraderie, familiarity, ease.  It’s difficult to explain, but I’m sure others have experienced this and understand what I’m trying to say.  In any case, it was great to finally put faces to names, to start getting to know one another, to speculate about the placement test results and to meet other people going through the same challenges (and fun bureaucratic rigmarole) of assimilating into a new culture.

Kvöldmatur, bjór, og Captain Planet

After kaffitími, I walked over to Daniela’s and we decided to make dinner in her dorm’s IKEA showroom kitchen.  Dylan, famous founder of Sofar Sounds Reykjavík and fellow inhabitant of Daniela’s dorm, joined us to talk and sample Daniela’s stores of Icelandic beer.  And at one point Dylan and I sang the Captain Planet theme song.  It was a good night.

miðvikudagur / wednesday (27. ágúst)

On Wednesday morning, there was an orientation for all international students held at Háskólabíó (the interesting public movie theater / university classroom hybrid on campus).  I recognized the building from Icelandic Online, Level 1, when Daniel and Ewa go there on a super awkward is-it-or-is-it-not-a-date?

Anyway, there are a LOT of international students at HÍ.

I was talking to someone and mentioned that I am from the States, and this guy sitting in front of me overheard and turned around.  “You’re from the States?!” he asked exuberantly.  I confirmed.  “Me too!” he exclaimed.  I asked him which state he’s from and I believe it was Virginia or another state along that other coast.  Then this guy got out of his seat and came to sit right next to me.  “Is this your first time living away from home?” he asked.  “Uhhhh, no, not exactly,” I answered.  “Oh.  It is for me,” he stated, clearly both thrilled and terrified by this fact.  It was a rather amusing exchange.  We did not become best friends.

After the orientation, we were treated to complementary appelsín (an orange-flavored soda), lakkrís (licorice) straws, and Hraun bars.  Mmm.  Hraun bars might just be my very favorite Icelandic nammi.  I am sure I will end up discussing them multiple times in my blog this year.

I had lunch at Háma with some friends, then went home to decompress from the overly social morning (As an undeniable introvert, I can only be around other people – especially huge groups of other people – for so long before I feel the need to enjoy some solitude).  I spent the afternoon resting and learning some new vocabulary from the IKEA catalogue.  I also learned a great word from Ásta’s father: grallaraspói.  It’s a combination of grallari (clown) and spói (a type of bird).  I can’t remember exactly how he explained it, but I think it conveys a notion of frivolity and ridiculousness.  When I googled the term, the first thing I came across was an article about Justin Bieber.  Grallaraspói.

fimmtudagur / thursday (28. ágúst)

Thursday was a pretty low-key day because I woke up with a sore throat.  I think I was just exhausted from everything.  In the afternoon, I went to meet Kelsey at Ingólfstorg, but that didn’t actually happen due to miscommunication and the lack of established cell phone communication at that point (we all had to go get Icelandic sim cards).  I ended up wandering around the square for a while, buying some olives from a guy who was selling Mediterranean food, and going home to make pasta salad.  In the evening, I met up with some friends at Loft Hostel, was schooled by Daniela in how to pour a proper German beer, and realized once again that I don’t understand the point of going somewhere loud and crowded to talk.  Not my favorite thing.

föstudagur / friday (29. ágúst)

On Friday morning, I was surprised and very happy to find a piece of mail from Útlendingastofnun addressed to me delivered to the house.  Finally, I had my dvalarleyfi (residence permit/ID card) and kennitala (my national identification number).  I was finally a legitimate, Iceland-dwelling person!

Results from the placement test were supposed to be posted on campus and online in the afternoon, so I met some of my friends on campus and we all wandered around waiting and worrying together.  I was simultaneously trying to figure out why my registration for the university hadn’t been finalized.  The institute that awarded my scholarship was supposed to pay the registration fee on my behalf, but the day before I had gotten an email stating that I needed to pay as soon as possible.  I was standing at the student service desk trying to sort this all out when my friends noticed the results had been posted.  So I was trying to focus on figuring out the money problem, while sort of watching out of the corner of my eye to gauge what the results were.

Finally, I was able to walk over to the lists and discover that my name was on the lists for the BA program courses!  It was a relief, but unfortunately I couldn’t fully enjoy the moment since I still had to figure out the money issue.  Thankfully, with help from a very kind and patient woman at the Árni Magnússon Institute, we got it all sorted.

A bunch of the other international students were going out that night to experience Reykjavík nightlife, and while I didn’t want to go with them, I did join them for a “pre-party” in what has been dubbed the Gamli Garður party attic.  When I had had my fill of socializing, I walked home and enjoyed a quiet evening with the house to myself as Ásta Sól and her family were gone overnight.  I happened upon “Austenland” on TV and learned some good words from the Icelandic subtitles while eating a box (not a whole box – not quite, anyway) of mini Hraun bars.  That evening was my first introduction to the legendary Icelandic wind.  It was so noisy all night that I kept waking up and was quite tired in the morning.

Well, that might not be the most thrilling note on which to end, and I apologize for the lack of photos in this post.  Bear with me; I promise there are some beautiful Iceland photos coming soon!

þrjár vikur, part 1

I’ve canceled my Netflix subscription in anticipation of my move, and my brain can’t absorb any more Icelandic language study tonight, so I guess that means it’s time to blog.

I am moving to Iceland in three weeks.

Three weeks!

Twenty-one days.

I can’t even wrap my mind around that.

The past five weeks, since I last posted, have been full of challenges and blessings alike.

In early June, I went in to see my doctor about a concern that had come up, and while that concern turned out to be nothing to worry about, the lab work she ordered came back with some abnormalities indicating a different problem.  Obviously, a new, potentially serious health issue is about the last thing I was expecting to have to deal with in the last couple months before my move.  It probably comes as no surprise that this discovery has added a great deal of stress to my life.

I was hoping to be done with work around July 18, giving me a full month to focus on preparing for my move. The problem was that my employer-provided insurance only extends to the end of the month in which I stop working.  So if I had stopped working on July 18 as planned, I would have only been covered until July 31, leaving two weeks of insurance limbo.  I chose to work until August 1 so I will be covered until the end of August, which means I won’t have any gap in insurance coverage (I’ll also be covered as soon as I get to Iceland).

Anyway, I was told that I would need to see a specialist for evaluation.  Then I was told the first opening was August 22 (just to recap, I am moving to Iceland on August 17).  I didn’t take that news so well, but once I calmed down, I started strategizing.  I was put on the wait list for an earlier appointment, I asked my primary care provider to order any additional testing that might save us some time, and I asked her for a referral to an outside provider, hoping I could get in sooner elsewhere.  Thankfully, she was on board with ordering the additional testing, and someone on whom I wish many blessings canceled an appointment with a specialist at my regular clinic, so I was able to get in last week.

Thankfully, the specialist was great. He was patient, clear, asked me many times if I had more questions, and not in a flippant “anything else?” while walking toward the door way, but in a sincere and patient way that frankly I haven’t seen in a lot of doctors lately (or ever, really).  He was understanding of my timeline and willing to try rushing orders for the additional testing we need to do (he mentioned putting the order in “stat” and I felt pretty special). Best of all, though, he reassured me that there is no reason to cancel my move.  He feels quite certain that whatever is going on (there are a few possibilities) is something quite manageable.

The last few weeks have reminded me in many ways of the experience I went through the summer after my junior year of college.  It took an entire summer of being nauseated and dizzy and overall miserable, four months of testing and doctor’s appointments, before I was diagnosed with a migraine disorder.  I remember the fear and exhaustion that came with not knowing what was going on.  Within the same week, same day, even the same hour, I could go from feeling incredibly hopeful to wondering if I’d ever feel normal again and, maybe if I was lucky, back to feeling hopeful again.  Thankfully, we seem to be moving much faster toward diagnosis and treatment this time around, but I have certainly experienced that same rollercoaster of emotions, only heightened by the whole moving-to-Iceland thing.

Of course, I would never have chosen to move overseas and embark on this great adventure when I’m not feeling my best.  In my ideal scenario, I would be feeling fabulous my last few months in the States, full of energy and able to put in many hours of focused language study so I would be as prepared as possible to start school next month.  That hasn’t been the case, but I suppose now is just a good a time as any to start working on my “Þetta reddast” attitude.

I don’t know exactly what is going on with my body or how it will affect the next few weeks or the next year or three.  I don’t know why all this is happening now.

But I do know that as stressful as this whole issue has been, there have been some tremendous blessings for which I am extremely grateful:

I am grateful I had the opportunity to ensure continuous insurance coverage simply by working a bit longer than I had planned.

I am thankful to have wonderful coworkers who have been tremendously kind, supportive, and understanding of my absences for medical appointments and my sometimes-unexplained emotions as I swing from moments of feeling overwhelmed to moments of feeling hopeful.

I am thankful that an American friend of mine who lives in Reykjavík connected me to another American (a Washingtonian, even!) living in Iceland who has had similar health problems and is totally willing to share what she’s learned about dealing with it and navigating the Icelandic health care system.

I am grateful for another friend of mine who sent me essential oils to help with my health.

I am unbelievably grateful and relieved that not only do I know where I will be living in Iceland, but I’ll be living with an Icelandic family – and one that I already know!  I know there are some international students starting at the University of Iceland this fall who still don’t have their housing lined up.  If I had to worry about finding housing on top of everything else that’s going on, I think I would really be (even more of) a basketcase by now.

And finally, I am grateful to be moving to a country with readily available, affordable health care.  I will be living in downtown Reykjavík with easy access to primary care, specialists, and (hopefully I will never need it) hospital care.  For the first six months, I will need to purchase a medical cost insurance plan, but it should only cost about $200 or so ($200 for 6 months?  You read that right, my fellow Americans).  After six months, I will be fully covered under Iceland’s national health care system and will pay the same low fees for care that Icelanders pay.  It has not escaped my attention that had I received a Fulbright to study in a more remote area of the world, I would very likely not be able to move forward with my plans to relocate.

So, a lot has happened in the past five weeks, and there’s a lot that needs to happen in the next three weeks both in terms of getting medical answers and crossing more items off the never-ending “things to do before you move overseas” list.

My friend Nicole, a fellow lover of Iceland, recently posted this quote, and I don’t think she’ll mind me borrowing it:

“Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear.”

Do I have fears about the next three weeks, and about getting settled into my new life in Iceland?  Absolutely.  But I have no doubts that this is what I am supposed to be doing, with or without a few extra challenges, and that there are beautiful things awaiting on the other side of this fear.