A lo(ng day getting to) Ha(waii)!

Not being a parent, I can imagine there are a very limited amount of circumstances that a complete stranger can hold their hands out to you, demand you give them your baby and have you comply.

Christmas Eve, on a small plane on a short flight while you’re struggling with your luggage, a baby and a very pregnant wife is one of those times. There I was with Ana Marie on my lap cooing at her while her dad was putting all of the luggage in the overhead bins. Her mom was trying to find a way to get comfortably squeezed into a seat made for a not-eight-months-pregnant-woman.

Once the whole situating was complete it took me a little longer than it should to give back the girl. My friend describes this phenomenon as a side effect of being a Leo. I often go over the appropriate amount of time on hugs, eye-contact and holding strangers’ babies. I don’t know it’s past appropriate until the damage is done. Luckily, I eased the tension by saying things like, “what a pretty baby” and “I bet you’re regretting giving her to me now that I am not giving her back” and “no take backs” and “I will eat her soul.”

Miraculously, the flight to Seattle was not full. After people settled in I asked the flight attendant if it would be okay if I moved up to an open seat that had no one else in the row. “Well, that’s technically an upgrade, but – okay!”she said overly jubilantly. I collected my things and moved up two rows wondering why on Earth anyone would pay more for a mere two rows. But, when I sat down and my knees weren’t touching the seat back in front of me, I understood.

IMG_0333

Look at all that room. I could have comfortably kept a baby on my lap.

 

Also, miraculously Delta was going to leave 15 minutes early. Too bad to those suckers who couldn’t get through airport traffic or security quick enough! Normally I would consider leaving early a gift. This day, I couldn’t give a rip, I had a 4 hour layover in Seattle.

At SeaTac I did some yoga, knit a sweater, listened to all the podcasts and entertained my second toddler of the day who found my blue hair fascinating. Her father was chasing her around the airport pretending to apologize while declaring her “curious” – as though this wasn’t evident by the fact that she was 2 and touching everything – but obviously enjoying showing off his child.

Finally it was time to board. The plane to O’ahu was really large, my row number was in the 40’s. I was sitting so far back on this plane that I had to provide the drink service. Our flight crew consisted of a really pleasant and delightful young lady with a flower in her hair contrasted with an angry Mr. Belvedere who seemed to find his joy in speaking lethargically over the intercom to admonish us for going to the bathroom when there was turbulence. I am certain he was slow-talking only to interrupt people’s gratis movies. Like a waitress with perfect timing of asking you how everything is right after you just stuffed a mouthful of food in, my movie would suddenly be paused right in the middle of a grand declaration of love and British Slow Poke Rodriguez would announce that the captain had just turned on the seatbelt sign and that means we need to sit down and actually put on our seatbelts and that he and the crew were told to do the same so it meant to really put on your seatbelt and if we didn’t start behaving better he would turn this thing around and don’t make him have to put his martini down again! It was just like being home for the holidays.

I landed in Hawaii about 45 minutes early. Delta apparently had decided that for Christmas everyone would get to their destinations early. Unfortunately, Delta had not informed the ground crews and there was a mix-up with the gates so we got to sit in the plane on the ground for another half hour getting 5 minute reminders from London-Adolf that we are to remain seated and belted.

Andrew had arrived in O’ahu about 8 hours before me because he’d flown direct. He picked me up at the airport and we sat silently in the car heading to the AirBnB. We had much to share about our travel days but didn’t want to spoil our eventual blogs for each other. His is at andrewberkowitz.com/blog.

Today, being Christmas Day, there isn’t much going on. So, we decided to explore Ka’ena Point State Park. It was about a two and a half mile walk from the parking to the Point. When we first started walking there was a light and pleasant mist.

IMG_0336.JPG

Truly paradise, rainbow and all.

The other light and pleasant thing were the people. There were very few out at that time and everyone we passed was lovely and kind and wished us a good morning, or a Merry Christmas. It was just like not being home for the holidays.

At the end of the path was a bird preserve with Albatross – they are huge they look like a seagull and Arnold Schwarzenegger mated. There were dozens of them nesting in the sandy grasslands.

Just past the seabird preserves (second favorite only to strawberry) were lava rocks and breaking waves. We even saw a monk seal – which in the lava rocks was like trying to find a sloth in Costa Rica.

IMG_0346

Andrew saw the seal first. I kept asking if it was dead because it was really languid. It moved a little bit every once in a while as if to say “don’t worry” and eventually rolled over completely.

After spending the day in the sun and humidity of Hawaii, and a long afternoon nap, I now understand this seal more.

Shoo Shoe

After months of having my leg out of commission, I am back to being able to run.

That’s a stretch of the term “able to”. What I mean by it is that the only things holding me back from running are my general laziness and ease to exhaustion through physical activity. But, in my mind’s eye I am still a runner. I still have dreams where I lace up and run for miles on end without pain, without getting winded, without becoming tired in the least, without spilling a drop of the bourbon I’m carrying and without any clothes. Not all dreams are nightmares.

I even signed up for training through a friend of mine which is going to help develop consistency. And I even broke down and got myself some new runners.

I have trained myself to run in zero rise (sometimes called zero drop – basically the heel and toe are at the same level), minimum (meaning light-weight) shoes (the stuff you put on your feet to protect you from broken glass and dog poo – or really poo of any animal). Unfortunately, there was a big backlash against zero rise shoes because people didn’t properly ween their running stride off of their high heel runners. So zero rise shoes are not as easy to find as they once were. In fact a lot of the shoes that were touting themselves as zero rise were actual a 2-4mm rise. Which is like having a glass of wine and claiming to have had nothing to drink – “Well, normally I’d have three glasses of wine, so one is basically the same as zero.” It took some digging, but eventually I bought new shoes.

Three times.

The first set of shoes was Merrell Vapor Glove 2. They were recommended by a friend and also had some good reviews. I went online and found them at Amazon. They had none left in my women’s size so I got the men’s 7 – I know it’s the same because Andrew and I wear the same size shoe. I got them a few days later and put them on. I like there to be some extra room in my running shoes to make up for swelling during running, but in this case when I say Andrew and I wear the same size shoe it’s because both of us could fit our feet in at the same time. These size 7s were generous to say the least. They were marked a size 7 because someone ran out of the stamps that say “Size 12” and didn’t feel like stopping the manufacturing line to go get more tabs and anyway, whose going to notice?

I noticed.

I returned them (by which I mean Andrew returned them, because postal things are hard) and went back on the hunt. This time I found a pair of Altra and it was Cyber Monday so they were pretty well-priced. Again I had to go with a men’s 7 because the women’s shoes were either sold out or not as fancy colored (I like dressing like a rainbow farted on me when I workout. It’s so when I collapse from all the effort I can be easily found.). When I pulled them out of the box I loved them right away – it’s possible this is because they are the color of rainbow wishes and unicorn dreams. Because they came right before I was headed to crossfit, I put them on and headed out.

Altras have a big toe box (that’s what she said) and my feet felt a little swimmy in them. Except for my left foot, which is slightly longer than my right foot (obviously to provide fodder for good cocktail party conversations), it felt slightly scrunched. Not enough to notice, really.

Now, some of you may remember that my second toe is longer than my thumb toe (if not, read this), this is why I call my second toe my “big toe” and my thumb toe my “thumb toe”.

Anyway, the scrunched feeling I had was just a minor irritation on my big toe, but nothing that looking at fabulously rainbow-of-fruit-flavor-colored shoes couldn’t cure. In fact I was so convinced, I even put them on for a 5k this past Sunday, because they would totally stretch, and after I ran a mile or so who would even notice?

I noticed.

And so did my toe.

IMG_0299

Blistered Toe With Black Nail (I feel like a chef describing a meal)

They didn’t stretch.

Aside from the toe pain from having a shoe that doesn’t fit – or maybe in light of seeing more black (nail) than rainbow suddenly – I have also noticed that I don’t really like how big the toe box on the Altras is. They are also not really a minimal shoe (even though they are zero rise) in that they have a cushion on them. They also feel heavy when running in them – though in fairness, that may have been the pounds of rainwater I was running through or the fact that I hadn’t run in months.

Either way, I am pretty sure that nail will be coming off in a week or so and that Andrew will get the shoes returned in time to get my refund (it’s like dating the postal service).

Luckily when I ordered the Altra I also ordered another pair of zero rise running shoes. They were $25.00 on Cyber Monday (which was at least one day before I realized I was spending too much money and put myself on a budget).

The brand is called Tesla. They are minimal in all sense of the word (no unicorns or rainbows were harmed or consulted in the making of these shoes). I wore them this evening on my 2 mile training run. My feet didn’t ache. They fit well without being too snug. Everything went fine.

Except for the part where I am not in shape and running sucks.

I’ll keep looking for a shoe to overcome that.

Fund Times

Growing up we always lived hand to mouth. My parents never had a sense of saving. They also had a lot of gadgets and gizmos – if they had money, they spent it. I remember one time when we all went out to a celebratory dinner because my mother had managed to save $1000.00. I also remember many a night when it was pancakes for dinner because that’s what we had in our pantry.

With my ex husband it was much the same. We got credit cards for emergency only, but it wasn’t too long before going out with friends a week before payday became an emergency. After my divorce I paid off all my debts (excepting my student loans which are on a payment plan and should be paid off in 7 years), and promised myself that wasn’t going to be me anymore. I don’t even own a credit card these days.

I make pretty decent money.

But I also spend fairly well.

When I left the Company That Shall Not Be Named last year I had a nice little cushion. It’s gone now – having been put to its purpose of keeping me afloat in case of emergency. Now instead of a cushion, I am sitting on a bare bones wooden chair and my ass has splinters.

Yesterday I sat down with Mint and really looked at where my money was all going to. I knew in the recesses of my mind that I have been eating out more and spent money on vacations that are coming up. But I was afraid to find out just how much of a spendthrift I’ve been.

While I have been spending a bit of money on fancy food, it really has been mostly unexpected costs that have come up. I needed to buy a car ($3500 off of Craigslist), my medical bills increased (arthritis, sigh), it was completely unexpected that ModCloth was going to have such wonderful dresses (they also have a swipe left/right feature on their phone app – which is just… like Tinder only with greater potential of a lasting relationship), and you can imagine how floored I was by the unexpected need to buy more yarn even though I have an entire room in my house dedicated to housing all the yarn I already have.

Mind you, I have long-term investments and savings, but those are supposed to be long-term. So now I am recommitted to really buckling down and saving money again.

This might be the hardest time of year to do this. I mean, I am not much of one for Christmas present giving (giving being the operative word), but things are on so much sale right now. And, I have a store pass for Columbia. And I have to plan my meals for work.

I just hope I don’t have another yarn emergency.

Also, please be prepared for posts listing all the things I didn’t buy.

 

Baller

Andrew was worried about getting to the airport on time what with potential rush hour traffic – Iceland as an entire country has 1/6th the population of Portland, I am pretty sure they don’t have rush hour unless sheep are crossing the road. And speaking of sheep that was another hazard that might delay us. As well as snow, or lava – he was prepared for both. Which is why we got up at 5:45 for a 9:50 flight at an airport that was 40 minutes away. And when I say “we got up” I mean I woke up and Andrew got up from almost no sleep as he was too busy worrying about how to navigate the morning apocalypse on the way to the airport.

With gassing up, dropping off the rental car, scooting across the parking lot to the airport on foot, going through Delta’s ticket counter line and a weird quiz about packing (who packed your bag? when did you pack it? where did you pack it? what was on TV at the time you packed? what were you wearing? For a minute I thought I was on the receiving end of a dirty phone call), exchanging leftover Icelandic monies, finding the departure gates, queuing for tax credit (they give tourists back their tax dollars spent) and walking over to the passport check before our gate, we were at the passport check line at 8AM.

Unfortunately, the passport check line didn’t open until 9 – because the first flight out to the states was not until 9:50(ish). Apparently today was the day when all the older tourists migrate back from Iceland – and sit next to me – so it took a little longer than normal to board the plane.

You know when a Buzzfeed listicle sums you up perfectly, you are probably the cause of your own issues.

http://www.buzzfeed.com/christianzamora/things-people-who-hate-people-know-to-be-true#.hnpVGYplZ

This message brought to you by flying next to old people from Iceland to New York. I thought that we’d seen all the geysers in Iceland, but old faithful was sitting next to me on the plane and had to get up for the bathroom every time I dozed off, without fail.

I did get to see Hot Pursuit which was fun. And Dog Day Afternoon which made me cry. The flight attendant also managed to find  a gluten free meal for me instead of the lunch tray they were serving everyone else which seemed to consist of bread served on bread with a side of bread and a wheat cracker. Andrew took one bite of his bread sandwich and pushed it to the side as though it was fish soup.

We landed and went through Global Entry lines while mocking the people waiting for immigration. Then we had to wait for our checked luggage like animals. I don’t really understand why we had to bring our luggage in from one flight to the other – is that more secure than just having the airlines move it? Once our luggage was collected we breezed through customs with no line and a smile – Global Entry is the only way to fly. Even though our layover is half a day it is so nice to not have to wait with people – they try to talk to you… ugh.

Speaking of which, Andrew has the cure for the lack of Karaoke in the airport. It’s called Priority Pass or Player’s Plus or Baller’s Gateway. It comes with one of his credit cards that is super fancy (so fancy that the stripe is on the front of the card and we frequently have to explain to people how to run it). We are currently sitting in a lounge with comfortable seats, speedy wifi, free food, free drinks and barely a person. When I first sat down I was fed grapes by a manservant (or maybe Andrew put a raisin in my mouth when I asked him for some snacks). I could take a nap here if I hadn’t just drank my weight in free cappuccino. At least if I don’t sleep now I should be able to get back on Portland time swiftly.

Or maybe I’ll just live in this lounge, the food is pretty good and I bet they have a conjugal visiting area.

Iceland Day 3, and the rest

You know how on Gilligan’s Island for the first season the theme song went “…with Gilligan, the Skipper too, the Millionaire and his wife, the movie star and the rest…” the rest, like the two other people, which is SO MUCH MORE than the five we’ve already named so now it’s just THE REST. Eventually they changed it to “the Professor and Maryann.” But it still bugs me that it started off as the rest. Were there plans for others? Were there others on the ship that just didn’t make it? Or were they planning on killing off the Professor and Maryann?

Andrew and I went to Husavik to go whale watching and as he was buying tickets the lady at the counter attempted to warn us off from purchasing them or from getting on the boat. “This isn’t a good day. The swells are already 2 meters and it’s only going to get worse. People are having sea sickness and it’s foggy so you can’t see the horizon which only makes it worse”. It was like the part in a scary movie where people are moving into the house and the house says, “GET OUT” and the people are like – oh, that’s probably not even a thing…

I did go and buy some liquid sea sickness tincture at the apothecary which Andrew and I each took. When we got to the boat the woman who would be our guide warned us not to get on because the swells were 2 meters and there was fog and sea sickness. We got on. Already we were bundled up, but then we put on the coveralls and rain jackets that were provided with the tour. I asked Andrew about how long the trip was. “It’s a three hour tour.” A THREE HOUR TOUR!!!

I decided right there and then that I was going to be the Movie Star in Gilligan’s Iceland, because I was certainly not going to be anyone’s wife, and I did not want to be “and the rest”. Andrew opted for the Millionaire, so I started scoping the boat for a good selection for his wife and away we sailed (after a thorough search with the only candidate being a possibly single woman with the brattiest girl in the world as her daughter, we decided he’d make a better the Professor).

About an hour into the tour the guide got super excited because a bird flew by. It was The Last Puffin (which is the working title of a kid’s book I’m writing – or possibly an anti-smoking pamphlet). Puffins migrate at the end of summer and generally all at once. They left Iceland a week before we showed up and this one had not gotten the memo.

Maybe another 20 minutes in and the guide stated with glee, “Over at 10 o’clock. Over at 10 o’clock!” We’d been taught to think of the boat as a clock with the bow being 12 o’clock and the stern 6 o’clock and all the other numbers approximated between. I was already situated at 9 o’clock and didn’t have to move. But a lot of my shipmates did have to lurch over to my side of the ship. And then I saw it. A fellow traveler at 10 o’clock hurling over the side. I also saw the whale that was being pointed out, but the vomiting was a bit of a distraction. My sister used to be an EMT and my mother was a nurse and they always said that everyone has their bodily fluid that they cannot handle – for some it’s blood, others it poo, for me it’s vomit. It’s disgusting and even talking about it makes me reach for the sea sickness tincture. But there’s this man right in front of me on the ship not really thinking about anything other than “maybe I should have said no to the lox for breakfast.”

Ultimately, he and about half the boat went to the back of the ship (where it’s relatively calmer) as the seas got crazier and the whale watching more intense. We saw humpback whales, two of them, swimming and eating and diving right with each other. This is relatively uncommon as the humpbacks are usually solitary. They would dive for about 8 minutes then come up and breathe a few times before diving again. It was pretty cool. Then, just as I started getting too cold and tired for it all we started heading back and were served hot chocolate (to those who could stomach it). We got back to the dock, peeled off our clothes and went to find some hot food. I was relieved the three hour tour was only three hours and not three seasons.

Whale watching was surprisingly exhausting.

The next day we drove around the Northern Iceland area. There are crater-like mounds that were created by hot lava hitting land that had cold water in it.

These crater-mounds surround a lake. The scenery is gorgeous and my camera is not doing it justice.

These crater-mounds surround a lake. The scenery is gorgeous and my camera is not doing it justice.

There was lots of horses and some more sheep.

Then after touring around we found our second hot springs. This one too was man made and more of a warm springs. That didn’t deter us from spending about an hour and a half in the water. We went home ready for napping.

We stopped by the grocery for some food. Surprisingly, for a Scandanavian country, they still had carts that were Andrew sized. Apparently, Andrew is the approximate size of an average Icelandic toddler.

We stopped by the grocery for some food. Surprisingly, for a Scandanavian country, they still had carts that were Andrew sized. Apparently, Andrew is the approximate size of an average Icelandic toddler.

After a light nap and some dinner we went out on the town. As we were about to leave the bar I learned they were having pub quiz in only 30 minutes. I sat back down and told Andrew we were staying. Over the next half hour every human between the age of 16 and 25 in town was in the pub. Andrew and I were the oldest people in the bar. It got so full I decided the excitement of Icelandic trivia was outweighed by the quiet and peace of the house we were staying in and the promise of more knitting. Well, this is not my 40th birthday present for nothing, it was time for my Metamucil.

The next day we drove back to Reykjavik.

During all of our driving and for some time each evening, I was knitting the sweater pattern that I had picked up in Alafoss on our way up to Akureyri. By Friday night I had joined the sleeves to the body and only had the decolletage and neck left to knit.

Saturday we wandered the streets of Reykjavic. Andrew guided us through research he’d done on the Interwebs and a snarky guidebook he’d found in the AirBnB that had commentary in it such as – if you are injured by someone in Iceland here are emergency things you might need, and also, consider your life choices and what got you into a fight in the first place. Before we left for our walkabout Andrew commented on my clothing choices out of concern for my warmth. I commented on his conversation choices out of concern for my independence. We left the house in good spirits and teased each other every time we had to remove or add a layer of clothing. Overall, though, the weather was lovely and despite his posts to the contrary, I packed and dressed exactly right during our time here. Our walk through Reykjavic was scenic and included the infamous Icelandic hot dog which tasted like a hot dog with bonus lamb meat. I had about 2/3s of one, Andrew had about 2/3 of a lamb.

IMG_2858

The mountains in the background had rolling clouds on them adding amazing drama to the picturesque European buildings.

IMG_2859

Andrew “smiling”

IMG_2861

Icelanders are into their bathing. Not just hot springs but also pools. Our first night in Akureyri our landlord invited us to the pool with him – which at the time I thought was a bit weird. During our drives I was doing a lot of scenery watching and knitting so it was a while before I noticed that not only were there highway signs for gas, food, and lodging, but also signs for swimming pools.

Also seen here are signs for music, Animal husbandry, and emailing.

By the time we got back to Rejkyavic I realized what a culture of bathing it was and was ready to experience it. The pool in Reykjavic is huge. It is out doors and has a lap pool, a children’s lap pool, and a variety of hot tubs ranging in temperature and salinity. After testing out several, Andrew and I dozed lightly in the 38 (Celsius) degree saltwater offering with about 20 other people. I played a game of “American?” and in my head was basically singing the Madeline Kahn song in History of the World Part I, “Yes,  no, no, no, no, no, no. Yes, no…”

That evening we went home and I put the finishing touches on my Icelandic Lopi sweater.

I knit this in five days. Some days I had more time to spend on it than others. I would guess that total knitting time was 20 - 25 hours.

I knit this in five days. Some days I had more time to spend on it than others. I would guess that total knitting time was 20 – 25 hours.

And this is what I did in Iceland instead of blogging.

Sunday we drove the Golden Circle – again, self-guided. Some of the tours were 15 hours long and that sounded like an awfully long time to put up with people we don’t know when one of us is an introvert and the other one of us hates people (and one of us likes hot chocolate but only when one of us orders it for the other one of us and never has one of us order it for one of us selves – read Andrew’s FB photo-blog if you want to [kind of] understand this).

We got to the park where the tectonic plates are literally pulling apart from each other and there was not really that much to look at. I mean, the scenery was magnificent, but that’s par for the course around here. Apparently there is some interesting scuba diving available here, but the most interesting thing for us about scuba is Andrew’s fear trepidation anxiety concern worry aversion to getting his face in the water. We hopped back into the car and headed to Gullfoss (gold falls).

IMG_4042 IMG_4048 IMG_4053 IMG_4054

I grew up in Niagara Falls and every weekend I would walk from my house to the falls and wander around Goat Island (sadly, there are no Goats on Goat Island). I was not expecting to be as awed by Gullfoss as I was (sadly, there is no gold at gold falls). They were mesmerizing and astonishing and breathtaking. We hiked all the way down to them and just sat for a bit.

Our next stop was Geysir (pronounced Kay-sir in Iceland, Gai-zer in America, and Gi-zer in retirement homes and England). Geysir is the original geyser that all other geysers take their name from. It is basically an occasionally spewing hot spring (insert your geyser spewing joke here) and has been active for 10,000 years (insert your geezer spewing joke here).

No jaunt around Iceland would be complete without a hot springs dip so off we went to Secret Lagoon. This hot spring, in Fludir, was probably the most natural we have bathed in. The water temperature was slightly more variable, there were fewer tourists and it seemed most of them were brought by an Icelander. Andrew is a great tour guide. I drove us home – having no knitting left to do. Andrew napped – having more than a half hour in a moving vehicle.

We had a nice dinner at Resto, a seafood restaurant about 3 minutes from our lodgings. Andrew turned his nose up at my fish soup because it smelled like fish. I questioned his taking me to a fish restaurant, and his upbringing in Alaska. Then we relaxed at home for a bit before taking a night stroll on the water.

Today is our last day here. Andrew worked out at CrossFit Reykjavic and now we are in a coffee shop relaxing, and one of us is catching up on blogging while the other one of us is drinking hot chocolate that one of us bought for the other one of us and now that one of us is done blogging one of us wants to go to the pool so that one or both of us can get our soak on.

Then we will find some dinner, pack up, and in the morning say bless (Icelandic for goodbye) to a lovely island.

Tomorrow we have a 7 hour layover in New York. I would like to reiterate my idea of airport karaoke to any enterprising entrepreneurs out there.

Horsing Around

Downtown Reykjavik

Downtown Reykjavik – Everything looks so European

After a pleasant and well needed nap, Andrew and I went off to explore downtown. We needed some snacks for the house and wanted to get a real sense of the culture, the buzz of the town, the taste of the local flavors, so we went shopping and then found some dinner at Tacobarinn.

Icelandic is a very nuanced language. When spoken by the locals it sounds like Elvish (Elvic? Elven? Elverican?). Often if there is a double letter in a word it means that the letter is pronounced with a throaty “h” sound (Takk means thanks and sounds like tahhkh). They also have letters that we don’t have in English like ð, and Ð and sometimes a combination of letters is pronounced differently for example Hv sounds like “kv”. So, sometimes words look like they sound a certain way (and by inference mean a certain thing) but then you find out that it’s something completely different. For example this  is pronounced slip-fell-ah-gid and not slip-felatio and is a paint store and not whatever you thought a slip-felatio store might be. Tacobarinn, on the other hand, is exactly what it sounds and looks like. Andrew and I spent our first dinner in Iceland at a Taco Bar (it was delicious).

We called it an early night and prayed to the Gods of Jet-lag that we’d be able to sleep through the night and feel rested on Iceland time.

Apparently, sarcastic god prayer works in Iceland because that is just what happened. We got almost 12 hours of sleep and hit day two in Iceland feeling human.

Our first stop was to a place called Alafoss. Foss means waterfall. And apparently Ala means “What you won’t find here:”. We did however buy some lovely Icelandic yarn from the Alafosslopi yarn company (I am going to knit an Icelandic sweater while on vacation). And when I say we bought yarn I mean Andrew bought yarn because I forgot to tell my bank that I was in Iceland and I am sure it was a surprise to them that after paying for my coffee in Reykjavic that morning, I was 20 miles away buying yarn.

Our trip to Akureyri was extremely cloudy, as in we were driving in the clouds. Visibility was maybe two car lengths. This was daunting to me as there are sheep all along the roadways and the driving pamphlet I got at the rental place warned about sheep crossing the road. I was afraid that I was going to drive into a cloud in our Yaris and come out on a Serta. I eventually got used to the conditions and let Andrew lay back for his traditional I-don’t-know-how-to-stay-awake-on-a-drive-that-takes-more-than-a-half-hour nap while I listened to some podcasts on the bluetooth. During the drive we stopped a few times and took in the views and attempted to touch sheep.

Beautiful scenery after we chased some sheep around.

Beautiful scenery after we chased some sheep around.

Our house in Akureyri is on top of a hill right above the downtown. The landlord walked us around and then invited us to come for a swim at the public pool. Iceland is big on pools and swimming. He also told us to crank the heat as much as we wanted – it’s pretty handy to live on top of a volcano/geyser. My first order of business was to call my bank and get them to reactivate my card. Our second order of business was for Andrew to call his bank and do the same as he’d received a voicemail stating they were concerned about some charges. At no time while I was using Andrew’s phone or while he was waiting for me to hang up so that he could call his bank did it occur to either of us that we were calling the same bank and could have used the same call. Let’s blame being tired.

We walked downtown for dinner and found a Spanish tapas restaurant called Goya. If you ever have the pleasure of being in this area, go to any restaurant that isn’t this one. The food was mediocre at best. I did, however, get my bacon fix for the day in bacon wrapped dates and try horse for the first time. It tasted like overly soy-sauced meat. Also on the menu was a caramel beef item. It sounded interesting but was basically like eating a cow sundae. I also ordered a house mojito – they used Sprite in it. I can’t warn you away from this restaurant enough.

IMG_4017

I was ready to pull the Trigger on this one.

After dinner we walked around a bit and climbed to a beautiful church. Iceland is a Lutheran country but has one of the most outwardly declared Atheistic populations. This did not surprise me as there were not that many churches in the area. After gawking at the church for a bit we kept walking and happened upon a botanical (Icelandic for “mostly just wildflowers”) garden.

Ornamental Cabbage

Ornamental Cabbage

Coming up, whale watching…

Ice Pack

I get kind of deranged about laundry. I don’t really know what it is, but it seems like the world’s most monumental task. Be it the trek downstairs to the washer or the inevitable switching of loads culminating in the dreaded folding and pairing and ultimately putting away. There are times where one load of laundry will take me a week. I call those times “every”.

When you add that to the decision-making-fatigue inducing packing for a trip to Iceland where it’s summer and a balmy 56 degrees, rainy and windy, and I wasn’t really sure I’d be able to be ready in time for our trip. It was Saturday evening around 4 and all my clothes were piled on the bed. I had just finished knitting a sweater that could double for a kevlar jacket in heft (and potential bullet stopping – though untested), and sitting on the bed with an open suitcase trying to figure out how to eat this elephant.

Iceland is a land of volcanoes, hot springs, mountains, waterfalls, puffins, whales, sheep, horses and, as the name conveys, ice*. Last year I traveled to Alaska around this time of year and froze half to death. This was mostly because I had packed for Las Vegas – though, to be fair, I had gone to Alaska straight from Las Vegas. I knew the weather was going to be comparable – think Portland in the late fall – and wanted to be sure I took advantage of what I’d learned in the prior year.

So there I was looking at all of the clothes I own in the world and trying to figure out what to take, how to layer, how many sweaters I should bring, how would it all fit in my carry-on luggage (I don’t like to check bags, they just get lost if you have a connection – and sometimes if you don’t). Andrew was attempting to offer helpful advice like, “well, you really only need one sweater” which was about the stupidest thing I’d heard, save for that morning when he asked me if he should make bacon – like, what’s the alternative**?

Bound up with the inability to get anything done, I went to the living room and put on Charlie’s Angels II – Electric Boogaloo. Every 25 minutes or so I would go back to the bedroom with a specific clothing item in mind to fold and put away. I started with underwear. I knew that I would need bras and panties and knew about how many to bring balancing a 10 day trip with the potential to do laundry. Next was gym clothes, this got me half way through Charlie’s Angels and my clothing pile. Sadly, I only brought one workout outfit with me to Iceland; because, even though it is a big CrossFit community with some celebrity, I am currently on the injured list and will not be doing much working out. As such, I was not even half-done with packing. Oh wait, also I needed two swimsuits for all the hot springs! Ooh, and toiletries and makeup and contact lenses. Yes, for those of you playing at home, I was now basically packed for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit shoot (I mean Emily DiDonato and I are practically twins, amirite?).

Eventually, I had everything packed, including 5 sweaters and a jacket and was ready to call it a night. Our Sunday flight was leaving at noon and we’d be in Iceland at 0830 Monday – Iceland uses military time. This has caused Andrew to start looking to me after noon to tell him what time it is. Mostly, we’ve only needed the time to know that the grocery store closes at 630PM not 830PM – with a two hour layover at JFK.

We went to board on Delta and made sure to be one of the first in our section – so that we wouldn’t have to check our bags like a bunch of suckers. We scanned our etickets and not unexpectedly, the light turned red and buzzed. As international travelers we had to show our passports. This took an exceedingly long time, and by the time they checked us in, they had stopped allowing carry-ons and were checking our luggage (for free) to Iceland. Andrew can get stressy when things that are unexpected happen. Me, I am pretty laid back and go with the flow. But this time, somehow, our roles were reversed. Why the fuck did they need to check my bag – no one on the plane said they were out of room, I know because I was listening for it. They were just guessing, and my bet was they were wrong. And, now what? Now, because of these two people randomly making a decision that isn’t theirs to make, I was going to be naked in Iceland. I was so angry and shaken. Andrew was trying to do what he could to relax me, switching off between explaining we had travelers insurance that would pay for a new wardrobe*** to cracking jokes about frostnip. It wasn’t until I was seated, buckled in and the plane was somewhere over Idaho (and I had a complimentary glass of wine) before I got over the luggage.

Delta was actually quite lovely. They had a bevvy of free movies and games available. Andrew and I started watching Gravity together on our respective screens. I was about a half hour in before the sucktastickness of it made me have to switch up. For me that is saying a lot, I have watched a number of movies to the end just to see what happened. I still list Hudson Hawk as a favorite – yes I know how bad it is and I abhor Andie MacDowell, but still…. Having said that, I could not continue with Gravity. Andrew continued with it while I watched Birdman; it was disappointing, predictable, trite and ephemeral, but, at least it was well acted – then again that may be what it was about. I then watched Boxtrolls while Andrew read things about why start-ups succeed or fail or charge too much or charge too little. Boxtrolls was amazing. If you haven’t seen it, do. The story is great, and sad, and funny, and touching. After a quick layover in New York we got on the flight to Iceland. Neither of us had slept a wink on the first flight.

I immediately got on my computer to do some work reading and fell soundly asleep after about one hour so that when we landed I was pretty well rested from the four hour nap and ready to conquer the day until we could check into our AirBnb, was what I’d hoped to be able to tell you. Instead, I watched Interstellar (really good and took up most of the 5 hour flight) followed by Tomorrowland (note to self, stop watching George Clooney movies – they are crap). Andrew went in and out of pretending to sleep and catching up on some reading. We landed at 0830 which is Portland for 0130 and were completely fried.

Customs at the airport felt like 1984, the year not the Orwell novel, it was a breeze. We collected our luggage from the carousel (I was delighted and shocked) and then headed outside for a 500m walk to the car rental place. Those 500m made me rethink the shorts with long socks and my “kevlar sweater” it was rainy and windy and cold. As we neared the storefront it looked closed, but as it turned out they were open. Only all the electricity, as in all of the electricity in all of Iceland, had gone out. They manually processed our information using cell phones and paper and just as all the paperwork was filled in the lights came on. We got in the car and headed to a pharmacy – I was having ear issues from the plane ride and needed some hydrogen peroxide.

Andrew has T-Mobile because he travels out of country a lot and he likes to have data and text overseas – which is very convenient; I like my phone to work when I am in the states – we all have our tradeoffs. Google maps guided us to the nearest Pharmacy and I wandered around the store for 20 minutes before asking the woman at the counter for help.It turns out that hydrogen peroxide is kept behind the counter with the other heavy drugs and comes in varying strengths (3% or 6%). I got the 3% by the pharmacists suggestion. I left the store and came back 10 minutes later after Andrew and I had struggled in the car to open the bottle. I’d heard of the Norse strength, I hadn’t realized it was required to ope a bottle of peroxide. I brought the bottle back and everyone in the store tried to open it. The pharmacist then took it into the back room and used the hammer of Thor to release the cap.

We easily found our way to Blue Lagoon through an amazingly scenic volcanic rock drive, and walked about a bit. A quick stop at the WC confirmed that my seemingly over-emotional response to baggage-check-gate was hormonal. We were about 40 minutes early for our appointed time so we went back to the car for a nap. Neither of us could sleep. Too much Arctic summer sun. So we went in about ten minutes early. Blue Lagoon is man made but also the largest tourist attraction here, so we had to go. It was delightful. Andrew and I painted each others face with silicon mud and wandered around the hot water for almost an hour. On our way back to the car I was rethinking the long socks and kevlar sweater.

Iceland and I had warmed up to each other.

I still don’t know whether I packed properly.

*Were you told that stupid story of how Iceland was named Iceland to keep people away from it and Greenland named Greenland in order to entice people? Although it was what I was taught in school it never made sense to me. Like, once people got to each land, wouldn’t the name tomfoolery be discovered? Well, it turns out this was all nonsense (as I had suspected) Iceland spells Iceland “Island” – as in, “this is an island”, which it is.

**In retrospect, I suppose the alternative was that I make bacon, but that was not the vein in which the question was asked.

***Again, hindsight 20/20 (or as my friend Mandy says 50/50) – I would be excited about a new wardrobe!