This marks the two-month spot for me living in Iceland! Having lived only in the US but for a three-month stint in Edinburgh, Scotland in 2001, I find myself comparing my time here to my UK semester and thinking a bit about culture shock. Though I'm older and wiser now (sort of), a lot of the same experiences have occurred. The first month was the 'OMG' month. "I can't believe I'm here. Everything is amazing. Everyone is amazing. I need to see All the Things!!" and then the second month is Cultural Mishaps and Why Can't I Accomplish Anything Today. It took me a month and a half here to get an appointment to meet with someone for ten minutes. I got frustrated one weekend night by not having somewhere to go, but then realize after pacing around that I could also just read a book and not feel bad about staying in and enjoying my priceless free time here.
Then, as if by magic, my third month felt in Scotland felt like 'Gosh This is Not Bad' and Maybe I Could Live Here One Day. I remember singing in a magical concert with a choir, listening to my first James MacMillan work, and having other college friends visit from abroad. I wrote a really nice piece of music. Then it was time to go back to the States and re-adjust all over again.
Nerd moment! Studies have shown it is completely predictable how I will feel, using this Handy Homesickness Trajectory (more fascinating information from its source here).
The things which are irritating now (see paragraph below) will probably get better in the next month. And then if all goes well I will have lots of nice artsy friends, and won't even know how I could possibly not be in Iceland right now.
So, today I got scolded for using a glass drinking-glass instead of the styrofoam cups, which are down the hall in the "student coffee room you understand já?", and the lady's voice, while calm, seemed to emit 'I don't really care for you in my country, you unilingual immigrant'. I'm projecting a little more of my frustration into the situation being only the first week of language classes and not knowing my way around the building, but still. Guy just wants some water, and he'll even wash the glass when he's done.
For people whose second language is not English, I can see that it's much harder learning and growing into Icelandic language and culture than say, Americans (though we come with our own baggage, like Jersey Shore). I can't imagine how difficult it is to learn Icelandic when your only other language is something like Thai or Urdu; you don't even have English as a backup plan. I speak English with equal parts of thankfulness and regret. English is unfortunately the world-dominating language but one of my friends calls it "idiot-proof", which is a bit true- you can say what you want in only a few words, and you can butcher English to pieces but you still get your point across. In Icelandic it's a bit more old-fashioned, like 9th-century old-fashioned. Something I love about the language too.
Like I said, the things that are frustrating now are definitely going to get better. For example, there will be more days like this one recently, when I was lucky enough to go to a downtown festival marking the first day of winter, Kjötsúpadagurinn. Meat Soup Day. Many local business give out free bowls of traditional lamb stew to passers by on the street, and there are live musicians and performers. The townspeople form long lines for hot steamy soup, full of delicious carrots, a turnip-like veggie, and lamb, with lots of thyme. A great way to mark the first day of winter, which is done with much less hoorah than the first day of summer, but nonetheless celebratory.
There was also this fabulous lady giving some fun facts about the city to passers-by and a tour group; I only caught a few words of what she was saying but it's really all about the outfit anyway.
I also took the chance of a rare sunny crisp day to see the Einar Jónsson museum; he was Iceland's first sculptor, mostly active in the 30's, and he built himself this amazing castle-like museum on an empty lava hill outside of the city, with a beautiful apartment on the top floor. The apartment itself was incredible, with a spiral staircase, little rooms with lots of shelves, and preserved the way it looked in the '30's.
Little did Einar realize that the city would swell around him, so now his Dracula-like home is smack in the middle of the city with Hallgrimskirkja right next door.
Still makes a beautiful location, though. And with his type of sculpture, fixed somewhere between Expressionism, Symbolism, and Art Nouveau, I was unusually moved by his work and will definitely visit again. There's a garden outside that is open to visitors for free (the museum costs 500 isk and is only open on weekends).
Now that I'm getting more settled in to my new city, I'm going to take my Einar Jónsson moments, soak them up as much as possible, and work my way back up the U curve.