All of us might wish at times that we lived in a more tranquil world, but we don't. And if our times are difficult and perplexing, so are they challenging and filled with opportunity.

Robert Kennedy

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

This is the End...my friends.

What a long strange trip it's been...and it all ends today. Weird, huh?
I can't believe it's been 2 years since I've seen the U.S. of A. but I will tonight. I think traveling for a bit after leaving Moldova was a wise move. It helped me relax and settle and readjust to the semi-western world. I know there is still a long road ahead but I got to take the trip of a lifetime and I am grateful for that.
I will arrive in NY Tuesday evening and stay with my dear friends, the Putnams in Brooklyn for the night. On Wednesday morning I will wake up and travel home to Pennsylvania to see my parents and siblings. Mom is waiting with my favorite dip and chips, because that's the kind of Mom she is. 
Then the job search begins. I will work with my brother at the restaurant for a few days to get me out of the house and help him out but I will still be searching for something permanent hopefully in the LA area. Yes, heading back to CA. Unless something magical opens up in the UK or on the East Coast, I think I'm meant to be in CA.
I have learned a lot these past few years. Things about me, what I'm capable of, what I can and cannot handle and mostly what I don't want to be. I guess that's something. Unfortunately, it did not provide me with the answer of what I want to do. I still have time to decide, but the pressure has begun.
I wish all Americans would get the chance to live in developing countries to see how good we have it. I know it's cliche to say, but we are some lucky sons of bitches to grow up where we did. The 'land of opportunity' is such an understatement. People all over the world are literally dying just to step foot on the land we call home. And there we are fighting about stupid petty things. I think the major lesson I have learned is kindness. I have been reading these job websites and so many of them say "you must have a thick skin." Why? Because you are in a position of power and don't have the time or necessity to be kind to people? I worked for many people like this in the past that mistake cruelty for respect and if I have taken anything away from this experience, I will not be around those people any longer. It's not about having a thick skin, it's about what you're willing to tolerate. Just basic human kindness goes so far. The overwhelming Irish hospitality granted me memories of a lifetime. I was surrounded by natural beauty and historical landmarks and what I remember is the kindness. Isn't it funny that when we meet someone really kind these days our first reaction is "what's wrong with them...are they creepy?" So, kindness...that's my goal.
I guess I am going to have to break down and buy one of those phones everyone's so crazy about. Going this last month without one has been really liberating. Not knowing what time it was, only relying on once a day internet to communicate...the good old days. 
But real life is approaching. I have had a really good run. I don't regret anything I did for a second. Even my worst memories in Moldova caused me to learn something. I do know that I am 40 years old and yesterday I sat in the bottom of a lava canyon in a geothermal spa. I'd say I'm a pretty damn lucky girl.

Thanks, California friends - for keeping up with me and the weird time change to chat with me into the night and keep me posted on the theatre goings on in that part of the world.
Thanks, theatre kids - my entourage of crazies who I get to watch grow up in front of my eyes. I love that you still keep me in your thoughts. I know you're always in mine.
Thanks, College friends - It's been nearly 20 years and you're still my family.
Thanks, Too Faced friends - for staying with me long after I left the company. Even traveling across the world to reunite with me. Thanks, Juli for sending me boxes of my cravings and keeping me sane with the tiniest of gestures and at the same time contributing to charities halfway around the world.
Thanks, new Peace Corps friends - for becoming family and getting me through this very strange transition for the past 2 years. I know we will all be relying on each other in the months/years to come.
Thanks, besties - you know who you are. Never stopped supporting me once.
And most of all, thanks, family - for loving me through Skype and loving me because of these crazy things I do and not in spite of them.

That's all for now. Hard to believe but time for a new chapter to begin.
Signing off now, this American Idiot is going home.

Peace.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Leg #6 - Iceland

It was hard to say goodbye to Ireland. I am so lucky that I got to spend nearly a month there. And I know I didn't see everything I wanted to. 
I left on Thursday morning. My hostel my last night in Dublin was so wonderful. I'm so mad at myself for not staying there the first time around. I wonder if it would have changed my opinion of the city. The guy who ran it was SO nice and so interesting and I am just sad I missed out. Because of this, I stayed way too long chatting and cut it seriously close at the airport. The bus to the airport took a really long time as it made a lot of stops and I just didn't plan ahead and forgot that I was checking my bag because it was filled with liquids and you know, they need time to get bags to the plane. So they told me that there was no guarantee that my bag would make it to Iceland at the same time as me. Ugh. I ran to the gate and of COURSE it was the furthest one away. I checked in at C21 and my plane left from A102. Isn't that always the way? But I made it. Arrived in Copenhagen, Denmark. It is a beautiful airport which is good since I was there for 5 hours. However, holy SHIT is Denmark expensive. 
Had to have a Danish in Denmark...
I innocently bought a hamburger fries and a coke and paid in Danish Krona (via credit card) and it printed out the US equivalent $42.00. AHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!
Iceland Air is absolutely wonderful. I'm so happy I get to fly it again next week to NY. And flying over the Arctic Ocean was just something I never dreamed of seeing. I arrived here in Iceland at 9:00 at night however, with how far North we are, the sun wasn't even close to setting. I got a bus from the airport to the center of the city which is about an hour's drive. The sunset was ridiculous. I watched it from my hostel and it didn't fully set until about 12:30am. 



Woke up this morning feeling well rested. Showered and felt much better. Walking around Reykjavik is very disorienting. I don't know why, I just don't feel as comfortable here as I did in Ireland. I guess it's just, well, at the risk of sounding stupid, foreign. It's incredibly beautiful. It just feels like a different world. I guess it is.
I sit down at lunch and this is on the wall at my table...can't get away. Home is calling me!

Old town Reykjavik.

The Concert Hall

Sitting on the lava rocks.
Um...

Beautiful cathedral that looks like a rocket ship.

It is extremely expensive here so I'm sticking to a Subway regiment so I've basically cured my cravings for sandwiches for a while.
The next day the majority of people checked out of my hostel room so I could really get situated (finally). 2 really nice Canadians checked in and we had breakfast together. I then went on a small tour of the South Coast of Iceland. Why did I not think a country named literally 'the land of ice' would not be cold? I guess I figured everywhere is cold in August. But it's cold. IT'S COLD!
Our first stop was at the Strokkur Geyser. It goes off every 2-4 minutes. I had never seen a geyser before so I was probably more excited than normal...


The next stop was the Gullfoss waterfall which was so beautiful. But it was SO COLD. I didn't stand outside for very long since I only was in a sweatshirt in jeans and sandals and it was about 48F. 


Shivering


That's a glacier right there.
"This cold doesn't feel like there's global warming..."
"Yeah, the glacier used to cover the whole country...so shut up!"

And the last stop was at ├×ingvellir National Park. This is a beautiful country. 




I know next week when I'm sweating in the Northeast of the US I'm going to be missing these temperatures. When I got back into the city, I hunted down Hamborgarafabrikkan, a rumored awesome gourmet hamburger joint that Iceland's favorite frequent fisherman, Eric Clapton always goes to. It was a holiday in Iceland so a lot of things were shut down so I didn't know if it would be open, but it was. And MAN was it good. A burger topped with garlic mushrooms, brie and bernaise sauce. Jenn was a happy girl.




Got another lazy day on Sunday. It was a holiday weekend so a lot of things were shut down. So I walked around for a while and then napped. I know, exciting stuff but I know I'm heading home in a few days and won't have this 'laziness' available to me for much longer. I did get the chance to visit Iceland's 'best' hot dog stand. It opened in 1939 and has been visited by James Hetfield (Metallica), Anthony Bourdain (No Reservations) and of course, Bill Clinton. Supposedly it's 'the best hot dog in Europe.' I can't argue with that. I don't know what they put on it, but it was freaking GOOD!




Got to take a long nap in the afternoon before joining two girls from my hostel for dinner back to the hamburger place again. Flavia (Italy) and Sharon (Canada) and I walked down to the water to watch an Icelandic sunset. This takes place at about 12:30am so it was a late night.



And then on Monday I woke up excited as it was finally my Blue Lagoon day, the reason I came to Iceland. A spa located in a lava field about 40 minutes outside of Reykjavik. It is geothermal and ranges in temps from 98-102 Degrees F and the waters are rich in sulfur and silica which makes them a milky blue color. My friend Sharon (from the hostel) and I arrived at 11am. We were outfitted with a robe and slippers and wristbands. Everything for your day goes on the wrist band. You swim up to the bar in the water, they scan your wristband, you eat at the cafeteria, they scan your wristband. With our admission was included a volcanic face scrub and moisturizing algae mask. We swam up to the bar, they handed us a freezing cold piece of volcanic scrub which we dipped in the water and rubbed on our face. The spa is huge, like a giant bathtub situated between many lava rocks. There is also a hot sauna and a steam bath on the premises and you have to shower before you go in the waters at all times. The temperature outside was 52F so it was always a sprint to dash for your robes when you exited the water. It was amazing!


Walking through the lava rocks up to the spa





Me and Sharon with the volcanic scrub on our faces.
After hours in the geothermal waters, we headed back into the city both dead tired. Ate some Thai food quickly and were in bed by 8:00. 
Holy shit...I am going to the U.S. Tomorrow!!!!!!