If it’s not scary, it’s not worth doing.
I certainy have to keep reminding myself of that. I even stuck a note on my laptop screen with that statement to keep it fresh in my mind.
I’ve been looking forward to this adventure for months and now here I am, completely exhausted, lonely, out of my comfort zone, a little lost, and a lotta homesick already. But it’s guaranteed that’s how every proper adventure starts, right? You have to rip yourself out of your comfort zone in order to grow and be changed by an experience.
April 29, 2014: The plane ride was smooth and safe, though there wasn’t much sleeping thanks to a wailing baby and some men who talked and laughed loudly any time the baby wasn’t crying. This morning at 7am I retrieved my rental car then drove along the coast in Kevflavik seeking any attractions my GPS pointed out. It was lovely enough, but for some reason I didn’t feel a connection with the area and wondered if I’d made a mistake by expecting too much too soon. Today was bitterly cold; the kind of chill-you-to-the-bone ocean wind cold. And gray; the kind of I-may-never-see-sunlight-again gray; and drizzly; and the kind of windy that makes me understand why the girls in Iceland wear braided locks so often. I visited a marina and watched a fisherman fold his nets for the next run. I saw the viking row-ship replica that was built exactly like one that was excavated in the 1800’s. This repica actually made a safe voyage in the 1990’s from Iceland to Greenland, Newfoundland and then America.
Once I finished at the Viking museum I tried to nap in the car but was too cold and tired to relax. I needed a pick-me-up so I checked to see if my sweet hubby back home would be awake yet and after a short Skype call where I blubbered like a nincompoop and he reminded me how I told him I’d probably do this for the first week or two, I decided to head up the coast to Reykjavik and see if I couldn’t find my couch-surfing host’s place and a cafe with wifi so I could start writing.
Now in Reykjavik (WRECK-a-vec) I’m even more grateful I wound up with a GPS unit though I hadn’t requested it. I would be so panicked in this city without one. The driving style here is as if each driver, including the monster semi trucks meant for snow, is driving a zippy little bumper car that only goes one speed: fast. If you’re in the way they either roar around you at the last minute instead of rear-ending you or lay on the horn. I actually sightly enjoy it, it reminds me of how Californians drive, but when I don’t know where I’m going and every other street is a oneway it can make a girl razzle-dazzle-frazzled in no time.
My hosts wouldn’t be home until 8pm, and it was only 3, so I parked on the correct street and hoped I was close to their flat since I couldn’t find it. I took a few deep breaths (I’d been awake for nearly 24 hours now) and packed my day bag so I could start walking toward a massive church I’d driven past earlier. I figured they had to have a water-closet I could use.
It was a fairly relaxing afternoon. I visited the church and went up into the bell tower (but no bathroom?!?), wandered around and forced myself to get lost while shooting some street art (though I was so tired and the sky was so gray I had little desire to do so), and bought a warm, green, second-hand wool hat since my own pitiful hat was worthless in this Icelandic wind. This new hat lifted my spirits a lot – it’s funny how just being a little warmer can change my entire outlook on the day. I found a cute little corner cafe called “C is for Cookie” and quickly learned it was one of Frommer’s top rated places in all of Iceland. My latte and brownie were absolutely divine though I couldn’t finish either thanks to my stressed out stomach.
The smells in Reyvjavik are beautiful and distinct and strong. It’s like the air here carries more scent than back home. Briny sea breeze, eggy-sulfer from the hot tap water that is funneled straight from geothermic locations, mouth-watering dinners being cooked in the many unique food joints, and an odd burned toast smell I keep noticing when I’m not even near a bakery. I’ll have to ask my hosts what that is. I started to wonder if I was having a mini stroke… 😉
While walking down Hverfisgata the day took a turn for the eventful. I heard a man running and looked to my right just in time to see him come running/stumbling out of an alley, miss the curb, and land on his face with a sickening thud in the middle of the street. He didn’t get up. A few cars swerved around him and kept going. I and several other pedestrians jogged over to him and he was still not moving. A man shouted in Icelandic to the nearest driver and made the universal finger-phone sign for “call for help!”. The nearest driver who would have hit the man if he hadn’t noticed him, jumped out and started the call. I couldn’t understand what they were saying but I think they were discussing if they should move him out of the street. Blood was beginning to pool around the unconscious man’s open mouth. Cars in both directions were honking and trying to speed around the caller’s stopped car and narrowly missing our little group surrounding the man. We all held our hands up to signal there was something going on in the road. One car even drove completely up onto the curb to get around the scene.
A new man got out of his Audi, a very slick looking businessman, and started talking to and shaking the unconscious man as he started to stir. The phone man and Audi man then helped pick up and move him to the sidewalk so cars could pass. Finally the injured man tried standing up and the gentlemen helped him. He was either extremely drunk or still reeling from the fall. His face was dripping blood and I couldn’t tell exactly where it was coming from but it looked like his lips were split from chin to nose on his left side. His left cheek was massively swollen and yellow and purple. I looked back at the puddle of blood that was now being picked up by passing tires. When I looked back, the man was staggering and trying to walk away though the others were saying he should stay. I decided I wasn’t being of any help and so I decided to it was time to go. I looked back as I turned the corner and watched the man stagger into the street again, cars honking, and off into another alley. I heard the ambulance and as they rounded the corner I flagged them down and told them which direction he was moving in and off they went.
I was a little disappointed in myself that my first reaction to the scene was to take photographs of instead of helping the man, though I resisted. I was the third person to reach him, and thus couldn’t help any further, but I still felt ashamed that I wanted to document it. I suppose that means I’d be a good war photographer? Ick, I prefer not to analyze that any further…
That event shook me up a bit so I decided to walk back to my car and see if I couldn’t sleep. It was 6:00pm. I was too cold and shaken up to sleep so I looked over my maps, tried to catch up on FaceBook (thank the heavens for TMobile’s free international 3G data) until 7:45 when Sigrun emailed and said she was home. I packed a night’s clothing into my day-bag and went to meet her. She is tall, blonde, lovely, and extremely kind. She is a teacher’s aide at a local elementary school and loves painting and music. I was so happy to finally meet her and have a warm place to stay that I hugged her immediately. I showered then we chatted while she made a tasty mushroom, onion and pepper pasta dish and then we went for a walk and she showed me more around town.
The sunset in Iceland right now comes around 9:30pm and is incredible. The vibrant colors that last barely 5 minutes in Colorado last almost an hour. The sun came out for the first time since I’d arrived and painted the clouds in a soft salmon color. There is that famous Iceland lighting!! We walked through the bustling streets until almost 11pm. My feet were so sore from walking as briskly as we did but the warmth from it felt very nice.
When we came back to the flat I got to meet Sigrun’s boyfriend, Andy. He’s wonderful and kind too. He’s from the UK, is a kindergarten teacher and studying to get Icelandic residency.
I finally dropped into my sleeping bag around midnight, texted Jason a goodnight or two and let the hum of the refrigerator lull me to sleep, a mere 36 hours since I last slept.