sunnudagur, maí 06, 2007

going home

I am still not entirely sure what it is about the Land, but once it got under my skin (something that took all of a half hour on a sunny spring afternoon five years ago), I couldn't keep myself from going back. I went to Iceland as a tourist three times in 2002, and by the end of yet another trip in 2003 I had a tentative job offer. I moved "over the stones" at the beginning of autumn 2004.

I thought the love affair might change once I moved there. "You'll get sick of it and be out in two years," my dad predicted. I stuck up for my decision (I had to) but at the time I wasn't sure either. And once I got to Iceland to live, life was tough for a while. I had a new job to navigate, an apartment to find, a car and furniture weaving its way through Iceland's Customs machine, and 4-5 hours of Icelandic language homework a night. But the cultural changes were the hardest: the shock of the sound of the morning news on Rás 2, the totally different selection of foods, the stomach-churning price levels, the lovely officemate who rarely spoke to me at work yet was my long-lost friend the first Friday night I saw her in the line outside Rex, and heated workplace debates I could barely follow over whether to pay for spouses at the Christmas party.

But after just a few months, I was beginning to settle in and when I went back to Boston that first Thanksgiving it was with a feeling of pride at having made it in the new country, and also a little difficulty leaving the place. I remember sitting in my parents' place near Boston, feeling like I was missing something, texting my friends in Reykjavík, and checking Morgunblaðið online to see what was happening in the Icelandic news. (Not much, you might think, but that was when I missed the great Tire Fire of '04.)

Then last summer after a gorgeous sun-drenched week on the Black Sea, when our charter flight full of Icelanders touched down back in rainy and foggy Keflavík (and despite having to work the next day), I found myself joining in the hearty applause that erupted throughout the cabin. Whenever I travel now, even back to where I was born, I put myself to sleep thinking of the sea and mountains outside my bedroom window. And now, high over France on my way back from sunny Athens, I just can't wait to get back to that rainy windblown place, to say "Góðan daginn" to the taxi driver, to be home.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Nafnlaus said...

Do you think it was harder to move to Iceland than, say, for an Asian to move to Boston? Would it make a difference between moving to Reykjavik vs moving to Þórshöfn?

8.5.07  
Blogger JB said...

I can't speak about what it's like for an Asian to move to Boston.

It's certainly easier to move to Reykjavík than anywhere else in the Land because it's the capital and everything bureaucratic goes down here. So easier from a logistical standpoint anyway. I can't speak about the social adjustment of moving to a smaller Icelandic town.

8.5.07  
Anonymous Nafnlaus said...

So more generally, do you think it's harder to adapt to emigration to Iceland than to another country? You had a post recently about a bout of xenophobia directed towards you.

9.5.07  
Blogger JB said...

I don't know, my only other experience was a short summer stint living in Czech Republic. But I wasn't there long enough to really get a handle on settling in there.

I will say that one thing that's tiresome about being an immigrant in Iceland is always having to justify the move to locals. It gets old. Since I can't lean back on the "it was for a girl" (seemingly the only acceptable answer) I am often not believed. Now I just say "Best í heimi!" or "Lífið er gott á Íslandi". But I don't think immigrants to Boston would be forced always to justify their choice. Americans (at least coastal ones) are much more used to the idea of immigration in general and see it as a natural process.

14.5.07  

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