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Summer Day

 Sunny blue skies today. David and I went outside on the balcony of the bar to play the match game while soaking up the rays of warm sun, listening to Slightly Stoopid, and sipping glasses of ice water. It was DELIGHTFUL. He held his glass in one hand, tapping his chin with his index finger of the other, pondering which piece to flip next. He looked so grown-up and sophisticated. And then he wet his pants. The end. 🙂

WHEREEE DO I BEGIN.

I’ve been here for two months now, and I have a month left in Iceland. In the time that I’ve been here, 2 volcanoes have erupted, the days have reached about 18 hours of sunlight, and I’m wondering how the heck my parents survived raising my sister and me. Kids are difficult. So to all the parents out there, I have a new respect for you.

How my day goes is dependent on which side of the bed David wakes up. He’s a bit of a Mr. Jackal-and-Hide. Some days I take care of a smiley kid, and some days I can only “laugh at not crying” for some of the things he does.

I haven’t been updating my blog, but I have been keeping a handwritten journal. But before I continue with some of the entries, here is some background info as where I am and how I got here:

I worked with a girl named Melissa last summer at the cannery in Alaska. She is originally from the states, but got a job in Iceland through another cannery connection. She fell in love with Iceland and has now been living here for over a year, just got married, is learning Icelandic, and has her life here now. When we were working at the cannery she told me that if I ever wanted a job in Iceland to let her know.  So I did. And now I am working as an au pair for a family that runs a hotel called Hotel Hekla, about 20 minutes outside of a town called Selfoss. The kid’s name is David and he’s 3 years old. He speaks fluent English and Icelandic- yeah, he’s super smart for a 3 year old.

3/8/2010

I’m in Iceland. David is the cutest little Viking ever.

3/15/2010
 Scratch that last entry. David is a little terror. Today he was screaming at me and pulling my hair and biting me, and I have a mark under my eye from when he tried to gouge them out the other day. He just punched me in the mouth. He also threw a plastic stick at my head, and if looks could kill I’d be dead a million times over. This child is out of control.

3/19/2010
 David has been remarkably better the past couple days. I’ve been firm about punishing him when he’s naughty, so he’s starting to learn not to mess with me. I’ve introduced building forts, which he loves, and we’ve been feeding the horses.

3/20/2010  STINKY PETE
 This morning David wanted to hang up a picture he finger painted a couple days ago, so I got out the gummy stuff they use to hang stuff on the walls, and after hanging up the pictures he didn’t want to stop. Pretty soon we were hanging up placemats, play-dough toys, and an entire deck of cards. He would run down the hallway saying, “I’ll be right back!” and stick a card on my bedroom door, and then come sprinting back. After doing this a few times, he was on his way sprinting back and screeched to a halt in front of his brother’s door, squinted his eyes with a conniving smile, peered around the corner at his sleeping brother and whispered, “I see Stinky Pete!!” It was soo funny.

P.S. I saw the Northern Lights!

3/21/2010   VOLCANO NUMBER ONE!
 Last night Sigrun (the mom) knocked on my door at 2am and said, “Arianna, darling, I hate to wake you up but there is something really special going on!” I jumped out of bed and she led me to the dining room, where there was a glow out the window in the distance. “There is a volcano erupting. It just started. The last time it erupted was 189 years ago, and it’s only erupted twice in recorded history.”

So freaking cool.

I’m like Iceland for the fact that the land is so active, and it’s hard to forget how powerful mother-nature is when there are volcanoes erupting and geysers shooting up into the air.

3/23/2010  BEACH DAY- NICE IDEA…

This afternoon Emmi (one of the girls who works at the hotel and has a one year old daughter) and I decided to take Saga and David to the beach to collect some shells. As usual, it was a hassle getting him bundled up to leave- he was too wrapped up in playing with the dog to be doing silly things like getting his boots and jacket on.
 Emmi came to pick us up, and moments after I finished getting David ready, he tripped and fell, hitting his face on the wall. Needless to say he started screaming and crying. Once I calmed him down, we got out to the car and I opened the door to put David’s car seat in. The wind caught the door and flung it into David’s head. Oops. Needless to say he started crying again. From then on it was pretty much a chorus of crying kids in the back seat, as Saga had multiple bursts as well.
 When we arrived at the beach, David was asleep in his car seat, Saga was pointing and laughing at him, and Emmi and I were wondering what to do because it was SUPER cold and windy. But we decided to go for it. I woke up David and got him out of the car. He didn’t want to walk anywhere, and cried that he was cold as he clung around my neck. We walked closer to the water and I explained to Daivd that under the water there were fish and whales and octopus and seaweed… all sorts of cool things. And then I said there were also sharks. That scared him, and I quickly tried to fix it by saying that the sharks were way, way, WAY out there.
 Anyhow, we were only outside for about 5 minutes before none of us could take it anymore. Both the kids started crying because sand was flying in their faces, it was FREEZING cold, and so we started trudging back upwind and uphill to the car with the kids‘ faces buried in our shoulders. I told David it was like 101 Dalmations (his favorite movie) when they are trudging through the snow!
 When we got back to the car I just had to laugh. We had planned such a nice afternoon of finding shells, and Emmi had even packed a picnic! We ended up with no shells, two screaming kids, and probably frost bite. The contrast between we had in mind and what had actually transpired- I thought it was hilarious.

3/24/2010  CASTAWAY

This morning I got David ready for school and he wanted to take a balloon with him to hold in the car. Of course as soon as we stepped outside, the wind blew it out of his tiny hands and down the driveway into the bushes.
 “BALLOON!!!” he screamed and started crying, “BALLOOOOON!!!!!”
He sounded like Tom Hanks in Castaway when he cries, “WILSOOON!!!!!”
Luckily I was able to catch it.

FASHION EXPERT?

When we got to school I was taking his jacket off and David asked, “Are you going to be picking me up today?”
“Well yeah, of course I’m picking you up today,” I answered, “just like I do everyday. Is that okay?”
“Yeah-yes,” he replied, “but are you going to be wearing that?”
I looked down. Jeans. Black shirt. “Umm. Yeah. I wasn’t planning on changing. Why? Is there something wrong with what I’m wearing?”
“No,” he answered, “I just like pink better for you.”

3/29/2010  SCAVENGER HUNTS

I have found the best pass time activity EVER! I introduced scavenger hunts, and David is totally obsessed. I don’t even have to hide the clues anymore, he likes to hide them himself and then find them again.

4/1/2010 ROUGH DAY

Today David bit me SUPER hard. He broke skin through my sweatshirt, and I was wearing another sweater underneath! He would have ripped a chunk out if I hadn’t been wearing layers!

He’s in a terrible mood. This morning I got him some apple juice and set it on the table. He looked at me and screamed, “NO!! Just my Dad!!” And knocked the glass over, spilling apple juice everywhere. Unfortunately this happens quite regularly.

Also, he has the chicken pox. Ugh. Rough day. I want my mommy.

4/13/2010  FIRST FULL DAY OFF!!

Today was my first full day off since I arrived in Iceland. Melissa and I decided to go to a place that we like to call “Parliament.” It has a different Icelandic name that is impossible for me to say and even harder to remember, but it’s the place where the first form of government ever in the world was created.
 The road was closed to go to it, but we could “go at our own risk,” so we did. Stupid. We got totally stuck in the mud. The wheels on the passenger side were almost completely buried, and I couldn’t even open my door. We were in deep trouble. Deep shit. Deep mud.
 After freaking out for a few moments, a jeep pulled up next to us, thank the lord. A tall, lanky, 70ish year-old man with a cane and a black leather cowboy hat got out of his car with a rope. “Haloooo ladies!: He said with a chuckle, handing Melissa the rope. “Tie this under the car, and I’ll tow you out!”
His English was slow and heavily accented, but most elderly Icelandics don’t speak any English, so we were impressed.
 He looked as though maybe he had polio; he walked kind of bowlegged with one arm on his cane and the other on his knee, steadying himself. But he was jolly as I’ll get out.
 “Now,’ he said once the rope was tied, “I start driving, and when the rope pulls, back out SLOWWWWLY. SLOWWWLY, ok?” and then he added, “you understand, right?” just to be sure. He started his car and pressed on the gas. I held my breath as I watched the rope tighten. The Subaru’s engine roared. Nothing. Melissa tried again, and the Subaru lifted out of the muddy ditch in which it was sunk.
 We thanked the smiley old man and he said, “I am glad to help such lovely ladies! Have a good trip!” Oh my goodness it was so adorable.
 We continued driving about a quarter of a mile before coming to where the road was COMPLETELY covered in water. We decided that the old Subaru (which Melissa and her boyfriend, Oli, had previously nicknamed “Jeep-a-roo”) would not fair well, and turned around.

With mud now up in the steering of the car, the steering wheel shook furiously all the way back to Melissa and Oli’s house. We decided it would be best not to go anywhere for the rest of the day. Kind of a bummer, but me made a nice fire outside and had some awesome tacos for dinner.

4/15/2010 ANOTHER VOLCANO IS ERUPTING!!!
 And consequently, all of the airports are shut down. Luckily the wind is blowing the other direction, so we haven’t had any ash. I can see this one out the window, too! Crazaayyyy. A volcano has pretty much been erupting every 2-3 weeks since I got here.

4/21/2010 THIS IS WHAT I WROTE
 Last night Emmi and I had a little Bachelorette party for Melissa, who is marrying Oli on Thursday (tomorrow), the first day of summer. Whoa whoa whoa. Pause. Tomorrow is the first day of summer? It snowed yesterday!
 Continuing: So we took her to a spa with a hot tub and a sauna and a steam bath, and then took her out to dinner. It was such a nice girl’s night!

4/29/2010 SCAVENGER HUNT DISASTER

Today I did a scavenger hunt for David, and he was in a totally happy mood until he found the surprise. He picked up the two lollipops and yelled, “No! Not this surprise!!” and chucked them across the room. I said, “Umm, excuse me? This is not okay. I thought I was doing something really nice by setting up a scavenger hunt for you, and you’re lucky you even get a surprise.” And then he went into his whole “Well you’re not my friend, nope.” thing and stuck his tongue out at me. I took the lollipops away and he went running to his mom. Little punk.

5/1/2010  BEST WEEKEND YET

Sigrun let me take David to Melissa and Oli’s house OVERNIGHT! So Friday Melissa and I picked him up from school and went to her house, and we made THE BEST chicken and vegetable stew and homemade bread stuffed with cream cheese and jalapenos.  OMG it was so good, and David even ate the chicken and tomatoes. Oli took us all to see the baby lambs at his brothers farm, and David got to pet the sheep and feed the horses. And then when we went back to their house Oli and David climbed trees and collected stones to build a fire pit, and we had a campfire.  David felt so cool being around Oli and helping him build stuff and climbing trees- it was definitely good for him to get some male attention.

Then Saturday we had a laid back morning and we played hide and go seek with David outside, and he played on the slide and the swing,. It was so cute, he wanted me to watch him climb up the slide so he called, “ARIANNAAAAA! COME HERE MY DEAR!“ It was too cute. Oli taught me how to say “don’t fall my darling!” in Icelandic,  so David was yelling “ARIANNA! WATCH ME MY DEAR!“ and I would yell back “EKKI DETTA ELSKANMINN!“ and David would laugh and laugh.

That night there was a BBQ to celebrate that Melissa and Oli are married (by the way, they are the cutest couple ever.). David ate about 5 bites of meat and then announced, “I’m full.” and totally conked out on the couch. Sigrun said that if David was already asleep and we were having a good  time that he could stay the night AGAIN,  so we put David to bed and went outside to shoot the paintball guns (Oli runs a paintball course). It was perfect weather and we just sat outside talking and shooting paintball guns.
5/3/2010  FREEZE DANCE

Oli brought David a small drum back from Egypt, and today David was banging on it, so I started like “tribal dancing” to it. He started cracking up. When he stopped I froze, and when he began again I continued dancing. He laughed and laughed and said, “Arianna, you is so funny.”
It kept him entertained for a while, and it was a good work-out for me.

5/5/2010                    SOUND THE ALARMS

David has been potty-trained for about a month now (no more poopy diapers for me!) and he’s all excited about “going to the bathroom like a big boy.” Most parents have to ask their kids if they have to go to the bathroom, but David has been really good about sounding the alarms. We’ll be eating breakfast in the hotel diningroom packed with guests, and he’ll yell at the top of his lungs, “I’M GUNNA PEEEE!! I’M GUNNA POOOOP! FARRE PISSA! FARRE CUCKA!!!!”  before darting to the bathroom. It cracks me up every time.

The Viking Land

I have arrived in Iceland!

I flew into Reykjavik last Friday morning, after a 1 hour flight to Minneapolis (where my carry-on with my wallet, phone, and passport was accidentally taken but then thankfully returned after 20 minutes, just in time for me to catch my next flight. Phew!), a 3 hour flight to Boston, an 8 hour lay over in Boston, and then a 5 hour flight to Reykjavik. My friend Melissa, who I met in Alaska and has been living here for the past couple years, picked me up and we drove an hour outside of Reykjavik, through the pretty, snow covered country, to the hotel, which is just outside of a town called Selfoss, where I willl be spending the next three months working as an au pair.

We went to pick David, the three year old boy, up from school, and it was a bit of a rough start. I walked through the door to find a boy curled up in a ball in a chair with his hands over his eyes. Melissa said, “David, look who’s here to see you!” and David yelled, “NO!” Melissa carried David out to put his shoes on, and he kept his eyes covered the entire time. I covered my eyes, too, and told him I wouldn’t look at him while he put on his shoes. He smiled and from then on we were buds.

Since then, he has been calling himself Big Simba and chasing me around the hotel, we’ve played with his tool set and put together puzzles, and this morning he turned from Simba into a Dalmation puppy and we’ve been spending the afternoon hiding from Cruela Devil. He’s also been teaching me a few words in Icelandic, but I can’t pronounce any of them because the people here speak like they have new retainers in their mouths. I tried saying the word for jam yesterday, and David just laughed and laughed and laughed.

Unfortunately David has also had plenty of cranky moments and tantrums, and sometimes it’s a little wearing. The day before yesterday was particularly bad- After hitting and screaming and pulling my hair, he went into the hotel kitchen and knocked over the entire island of shelves, exploding trays and silverware everywhere, and then ran off. I almost cried.

But besides the tantrums everything is going really well. It looks like the surface of the moon here. It’s flat and open with random mountains and volcanoes jutting out, and I think there are about three trees in the entire country- I wonder where they get their oxygen. But when it snows you can’t tell where the land meets the sky, and when it’s sunny the land turns into stripes of deep blues and oranges with full arched rainbows stretching out over the country. It’s incredible.

So I’ve only been here for five days and it’s mostly been adjusting to time change and routine, but I’m sure I’ll have plenty of good David stories to write about in the future!

Now that we’re back, we can tell them that we…

-Drank the tap water

-Walked barefoot

-Ate the fruit

-Walked alone at night (I only did it in Mastatal)

-Got a piercing

-Swam in the rivers

-Ate street meat

-Drank unpasturized milk

-Drove outside of Bogota

…so we basically broke all the rules.

We’re Back!

Sorry this has taken so long. Once again, I’ve been journaling but haven’t had a chance to update my blog. So I just added a couple of updates below.

Jasmine and I flew into the states on February 7th, and it’s been a bit of a culture shock ever since. It feels really strange to ask for directions or order food in English, and it’s been particularly difficult to remember to throw toilet paper in the toilet, not in the trash can.

On the flight back, we made a Top Ten list of our adventures, so here it is:

10. Relaxing on a raft on Lake Apollo with blue skies above and turquoise water below.
9. Sleeping in the Cabanas in Mastatal, Costa Rica, in the middle of the wild jungle.
8. Boat ride from hell to Isabella in the Galapagos, where almost the entire boat was throwing up.
7. Zip lining through the tall trees of Moneteverde, Costa Rica
6. The small town dance in San Miguel, Costa Rica, where the DJ auctioned off a chicken and a bottle of whiskey
5. Salsa dancing for 6 hours straight in Melgar, Colombia
4. Eating a turkey that we killed ourselves for Thanksgiving.
3. Taking the bus to Puriscal, but ending up walking over landslides, climbing mountains, and walking through coffee plantations
2. Volunteering with the kids on our last night in San Jose and eating pears during mass
1. Swimming with the penguins in the Galapagos.

On my last day in Quito my dad told me to write down everything I had learned. I was suprised at how much I wrote about what I had learned about myself. I guess that India opened my eyes to the world, and this trip opened my eyes to myself, which is just as important.

So now I’m home in Neraska, I’m freezing my butt off, and I leave for Iceland on March 1st to au pair for three months. From the Equator to the North Pole.  This should be interesting.

2-4-2010

On Monday we went snorkeling in a place that Claudia, the bar owner on the beach, had highly recommended. Claudia was about 50, had long, brown, wavy hair, tanned leather skin, bright blue eyes, and a raspy smoker’s voice,. “It’s pricey but it’s worth it. It’s about 40 minutes out by boat, and he takes a wave into a little cove where it’s perfectly still, it’s like a clear, turquoise pool, it’s gorgeous.” She spoke with her hands, occasionally putting them on her hips when she wanted to make a point, “And there are lava arches jutting out of the water and it’s so still that they reflect, and let me tell you, the pictures just turn out awesome.” She put her hands on her hips. “then you’ll get out of the boat, paddle around a little bit, you‘ll see some turtles, maybe some sharks if you‘re lucky, maybe some rays; then you’ll get out of the water and eat a tuna sandwich, drink some juice. You’ll be tired after the first snorkel, so let me tell you, that sandwich will be the best damn sandwich you’ve ever tasted. Then the boat driver will take you to some rocks and there’ll be penguins. You can jump out and swim with the penguins.”

Ok hold it. Swim with the penguins? We were sold.

The snorkeling trip was just as she described, only it was cloudy, the boat ride was super bumpy and painful, and the sandwich wasn’t the best damn sandwich I had ever tasted. We tried to get some group photos on the rocks, but the guide didn’t wait for everyone to get in the picture. Someone would walk over to hand him a camera and he’d take the picture and hand it back before they ever got in it!

After hiking around the lava formations for a bit, we put on our snorkel gear and one by one hopped into the biting water. I sat on the side of the boat, scooted myself to the edge, and without realizing that my swimsuit was caught on the boat, I jumped. My swimsuit went up my butt and I dangled off the side of the boat for a few seconds while our guide laughed hysterically. My swimsuit ripped and I flopped in clumsily, completely embarrassed. Luckily only a small part of my swimsuit tore, and while I probably won’t ever wear it again, it was still in enough shape to snorkel around for the day.

We saw turtles, a stingray, I followed a school of huge fish with bright yellow tails, and after an hour or so, we swam out to some rocks where the penguins were. Hannah led the way and I followed, keeping my face in the water and following her feet. When her feet stopped kicking and she came to a halt, I looked up. She had her hands on the rocks and was nose to nose with a penguin. I paddled to her side and watched the other ones. The penguins looked at us and cocked their heads, but didn’t show any sign of alarm. They just looked around, occasionally opening their beaks to call. It was amazing!

Boat Ride from Hell

Yesterday we left Santa Cruz by boat for Isabella. There were us 9 volunteers, 5 adults, and 6 young kids, making 20 of us. Here’s a timeline of the 2 hour boat ride:

2:15pm: We push off from the dock. We have not even left the harbor- heck, the motor wasn’t even turned on yet-and one of the young boys is looking green. He is sitting in the back corner, leaning over the side.
Jasmine turns to me and says, “I think this boat ride is going to go on our Top 10 most memorable times.”

2:30pm: Carrots and rice chunks fly across the aisle. The four year old across from me has just spewed his lunch all over himself, his mom, the floor, and some life jackets.

2:40: The waves are getting big. There are white caps, and there are some definite 5 and 6 foot swells rolling by. The boat is like a roller coaster, hitting waves and then crashing down ,and I’m thinking my tailbone is going to be sore the next day.

2:45:Every child is sloshed over the shoulders of their mothers, who are also trying to hold their stomachs. I hear a horrible rough coughing noise, and turn to see a 4 year old girl in her father’s lap, holding a plastic bag to her mouth, snot running out of her nose and into her hair,, and she’s crying and screaming hysterically while gagging.

2:50: One of the moms is at the back of the boat leaning over the side vomiting, and Yumi, one of the volunteers, has her head buried in her arm, looking like she’s not doing so well.

2:51: Yumi loses her stomach, too. It’s not even an hour through the trip, and 5 people, a quarter of the boat, are puking.

3:15: The crew man comes around with a trash bag to collect the used barf bags, and quickly hands new ones out before another person vomits..

3:30: The sleeping boy in the back corner abruptly wakes up, opens his mouth, and erupts like a volcano all over himself. The dad hands him a bag, but it’s too late; the boy has puked all over the seat and all over the dad. The man is overwhelmed by the smell and starts throwing up also. Now the smell has filled the entire boat, and everyone who was sick before gets sick again, plus a couple more. Farina pulls out a bottle of hand sanitizer and begins sniffing it to mask the smell, and I tune into my ipod to covr the sound, listening to The Lonely Island’s I’m on A Boat

3:50: Farina is still smelling her hand sanitizer, I’m still listening to I’m On A Boat, and we are all wishing that we were not on this boat. Finally, we see land.

4:15: We pull up to the dock, and some people are still puking. Yumi can barely get off the boat she is so sick. We are all very happy to be back on land, out of the stuffy, smelly, crowded, puke-covered boat.
Hotel from Heaven

Jasmine and Hannah and I grab our bags and walk down the dock, where we are immediately greeted by taxi drivers and hotel solicitors, nagging us relentlessly.. Normally I would have just walked by them without acknowledgement, but one woman handed me a business card that looked intriguing. The three of us agreed to look at it while the other six wanted to stay behind and find their own. So we packed up a van with our bags, and drove off, a little skeptical of the hostel that awaited us.

We pulled up to a small hotel, about two minutes walking from the town, and practically right on the beach. We were showed to a room- the corner room of the third story, and gasped when they opened the door. It was an elegant room with 3 large windows, 2 of which faced the ocean. It’s amazing. People pay hundreds of dollars for a view like this. We have hot water, the strongest shower I’ve had on this entire trip, a TV, an incredible view, and we’re paying ten dollars per night. We are in heaven. After agreeing to stay here, Hannah and I turned to each other, screamed, high fived, hugged, jumped up and down, and we are still pinching ourselves. Today we were on the beach, and I pointed to our hotel and said, “Man, whoever has that corner room on the top floor of that hotel is super lucky…. Oh wait… that’s us!” We scored big time.

After paying for our room, we walked up the road to a small bar on the beach, owned by a hip, spunky, middle-aged woman from Argentina. The bar is right on the beach, with tables set up in the sand next to a volleyball net, and we chatted with other travelers from Canada, Australia, and Denmark. It was a lovely night, perfect, and came back to our room and fell asleep to the sound of the ocean.
———–

This morning we woke up and had a leisurely breakfast before heading to the beach. We spent a few hours walking around and swimming. Isabella Island is very secluded, therefore the white sand beaches are pristine and stretch for miles. So gorgeous. Once again, I had to pinch myself.

In the afternoon we took a tour into the highlands to see a volcano. It was pretty and there was a great view, but really not all that exciting. But after, we went to the Wall of Tears, and that was really interesting. The wall itself is pretty cool, but the story behind it is really interesting.

In the 1950s, Isabella Island was where the worst criminals were sent. It was like the Alcatraz of Latin America. The prisoners were forced to build this wall, which would later be used to hold them inside. They had to carry drinking water and rocks for miles. Some of the rocks at the base were over 300 pounds! The wall was built out of rocks without cement, and so it was really dangerous. Prisoners frequently fell, and because there was no medical help around, they were simply shot. 

In the early 1950s, 40 prisoners overtook a ship and escaped. They went to the town and robbed the stores for food and water to survive on the boat, and then headed to the mainland in Ecuador. On the way they seized an American cruise ship, and ended up in Esmerelda, Ecuador, where they all split off into different directions.

There were 5 men who stayed on Isabella, and were later found innocent of the crimes they were accused of. One of them still lives on the island, and is 97 years old.

Our taxi driver who told us this story grew up on the island, and said that he can remember seeing the prisoners from when he was 5 years old, and said their shoulders were always bruised and cut from carrying the rocks. He even watched the seized boat leave the harbor when he was 9 years old.

The story was fascinating.