My last 24 hours in Iceland. Back in Reykjavík, this capitol of maybe 200,000 people. I am done with tourist sightseeing, with the frantic pace of the camera-clad. For my last 24 hours I am just living.
I find I know this city rather well. Not once since returning have I cracked open a guidebook. I order coffee and beer in Icelandic and actually understand the questions I’m asked. Hop on and off the bus with the locals as they head home from school and work. Browse the newest titles to be translated into Icelandic in the local bookstores. Journal in my favorite cafe where the barista actually recognizes me! Yes, I know this city about as well as a tourist can. The next step would be to become a long-term exchange student. (And I even know the Icelandic word for that! Frá ferðamaður til skiptinemi. Be impressed. I am!)
So what’s included in my Reykjavík farewell tour? It was a stunning, gorgeous, strip-off-your-itchy-Icelandic-sweater warm autumn day. Everyone was out walking, pushing their classy strollers that are a hybrid of classic pram and soccer mom, walking dogs, chatting with friends, sipping coffee at cafes, and just soaking in the soon to be hibernating sun. So I did what everyone else was doing – I found a seat at the cafe in town to see and be seen on a warm day, the Cafe Paris. As I people-watched and marvelled at the mix of humanity, white lupines, and just-turning fall colors, I pondered my proximity to the Alþing, Iceland’s parliament, a humble stone building just a stone’s throw across the grassy square from my cafe table. I cannot think of a more humble and accessible national government building, except maybe in the Faroes, the humblest of them all.
Took a final soak in steaming hot water at the local sundlaug. My fibromyalgia muscles will miss this piece of Icelandic social life the most. I cannot determine when I passed over from standoffish tourist to friendly, relaxed and chatty with the locals out for their daily dip, but it happened somewhere between Ísafjörður and Heimæy, unseen and unnoticed.
Wrote odes to the Faroes and reams of poetry in my favorite cafe, a ramshackle, laidback affair on the main shopping street. I can now ask for regular coffee, know to get my free refills myself with my little handless ceramic mug, and am actually considering buying one of these local handicrafts as a souvenir (the barista mentioned that would not be a problem!) Sat among locals gossipping, reading the piles of newspapers, and typing furiously away on their laptops.
Tomorrow will be my final Icelandic meal and I have a picnic of my favorites planned, foods I will be unable to attain in the States. I will walk to the local bakary for vinarbrauð (“friend bread”, my favorite pastry here), the real chocolate covered cinnamon roll, and hverabrauð. Pop into the grocery corner store for my last skyr, that amazingly creamy yogurt I’ve had for breakfast every day I’ve been in Iceland. And a sandwich of flatkaka með hangikjöt (flat bread with smoked lamb). I am already bracing for the tears of farewell to be shed.
I am laying the groundwork for further Icelandic study. Still actively learning new vocabulary (today shrimp from a waitress excited by my learning and even more excited I’m from Portland – apparently so is her martial arts coach! Small world.) Purchased four of the Harry Potter books in Icelandic with the goal of actually reading them. (Purchased them at the fleamarket for cheap, will purchase an English-Icelandic dictionary back in the States where books don’t cost a fortune.) I am also contemplating tackling Faroese, as it’s very similar. There is an intensive language course for beginners every summer in Tórshavn. Something to ponder for the future…
My relaxing day in the footsteps of the locals has soothed me, resigned me to the fact I must return home. I know I am comfortable here. I know I am on the right track learning the language – it is starting to come easier. Now the trick is not losing what I’ve gained.
And irony of ironies, “Homeward Bound” just came on the cafe sound system. Oh, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel have it right. I am truly homeward bound.