Takk, Ice(less)land!

Since receiving my bachelor’s degree roughly thirteen months ago, I have been consistently seeking H-1B visa sponsorship to legally work in the United States while interning, volunteering, and running long-distance races. I have applied for hundreds of jobs and even to a graduate program to no avail. Highly goal-oriented but without a full-time job and on the verge of being forced out of America, I felt depressed like a helpless child with no purpose in life. I needed to put myself in an environment where praising God could come more easily; thus, I searched for a nature-driven destination to travel for a few days. After juggling with several options, with the help of an amazing vacation package deal, I landed on Iceland. I researched and discovered renting a car to be the only realistic method of transportation, as metro stations appeared to be available only in Central Reykjavik. I figured I would be encountering wondrous landscapes and planned to soak up the greatness of God to bring a ray of hope into my job situation.

Once I arrived at the Keflavik International Airport and picked up my miniscule car, I headed to the Blue Lagoon, only fifteen minutes away. The sceneries of the highway with almost no man-made object were breathtaking, and I became elated and relieved from the stresses of the real world. Upon reaching the Blue Lagoon, one of the world’s top twenty-five wonders, I ran into a college friend who currently works and studies at Emory University. We looked at each other and, after a brief pause, realized the accuracy of the banal expression “small world.” She had begun her honeymoon with her husband, whom I met last year with her at a gala event. As much as I love hot baths, I seldom stay in hot water for over ten minutes, but I did not even think about exiting the geothermal hot springs for three hours. Befriending and chatting with numerous strangers and employees inside may have played a role. I drove to the National Museum of Iceland in Central Reykjavik following, expectedly getting lost around the area for a couple of hours and even coming close to a car accident because of a driver’s lack of focus on the road. Though many exhibits were closing soon for the day, most museums in Iceland required less than an hour to be carefully examined due to their teeny buildings. I stopped by exhibitions of the Northern Lights and settlement history featuring wax figures, the Sun Voyager, and Hallgrimskirkja, the nation’s largest church, prior to returning to my efficient three-star Icelandic Health Hotel back in Keflavik. I can safely say I got lost over a hundred times on day one.

The next day kicked off with a whale-watching tour, my most anticipated and desired event. However, the tour shaped into the worst nightmare of the trip. Based on how the Elding website promoted the event, I expected to be surrounded by various kinds of wild whales, but I only saw a few from miles away and vomited five times due to seasickness. The nausea lasted for days. After waiting out the symptoms in my car for twenty minutes, I entered the Vikin Maritime Museum next to the harbor, succeeded by the National Gallery of Iceland that for whatever reason displayed a painting of a North Korean soldier and the infamous Icelandic Phallological Museum that garnered hundreds of penises from different creatures. I will refrain from describing the latter. When I returned to my hotel, I registered for the Golden Circle all-day tour online for day three. With the help of a tour guide, I quickly grasped the history and culture of Iceland, in addition to witnessing some of the most beautiful sights I have been exposed to even on the Internet. The tour consisted of walking around Iceland’s largest lake, Thingvallavatn, most powerful waterfall, Gullfoss, splendid Geysir, monumental Sumartonleikar i Skalholtskirkju, and the country’s primary and the world’s third-largest power plant, Hellisheidi Power Station. I met a fellow amiable and bright lone traveler from Russia, and we shared a large portion of the tour. Standing a foot behind the continuous spouting of Geysir marks the most awe-inspiring memory of this travel, as I could be wonderstruck by God’s creativity and perfection. Rather than heading back to my hotel immediately after the tour, I moved to the top of Perlan for an opportunity to pray to my Father looking at His astonishing creation. I had never felt so peaceful since my college graduation, and I had no doubt He brought me to this majestic place.

I woke up the next morning under the weather, so I slept in and took this final full day lightly. I drove to the Viking World Museum near my hotel to start the day, followed by a three-course meal at Apotek in Reykjavik. I ate (minke) whale for the first time, and, despite its smooth texture and high quality of taste, I felt guilty consuming my favorite animal; nonetheless, I could not let that prevent me from experiencing one of Iceland’s most popular delicacies. After shopping for gifts and absorbing more arts and settlement history from the Sculpture Museum and Reykjavik 871±2, I went on the Taste the Saga tour at Olgerdin. Not much of a drinker, I only signed up to visit the brewery, but the bridge that connects to the factory broke down and the group instead drank diverse beers only available in Iceland while learning about the country’s alcohol backstory all night (though always bright in the summer).

Despite losing my apartment key, countlessly getting lost without a GPS, throwing up on the ship, and catching a minor cold, I cannot think of any of my previous travel experience that comes even remotely close to how much I enjoyed this lone trip to Iceland. The Keflavik International Airport made me check in my luggage and assured my bag would fly directly to Atlanta. I was taken to the back of customs for additional questions about my visa status during my layover at the John F. Kennedy International Airport, and on my way out through the baggage claim, I just happened to walk towards my luggage, standing by a sign. Had I taken a different route, I would have lost my bag due to the misinformation from Iceland. I had more to thank God even after leaving Europe. With the support of benevolent Icelanders, this voyage put me in an exponentially brighter mood, and I would do it a thousand times over. I understand why the World Happiness Report ranked Iceland the second-happiest country in the world earlier this year. Takk, Ice(less)land!

The Rain Whisperer

I thought this to be simply bad luck the first several times. Despite the weather forecast, the rain seems to begin its sprint to the bottom only when the sky senses my elfin moped and me in proximity. One night, when I lived in a sequestered and outdated house on North Decatur Road until February of this year, I turned my scooter on to head to McDonald’s; almost immediately, I was struck by unforeseen drops of intense rain. This irritating concurrence had already taken place numerous times, but this particular moment originally made me wonder, “Maybe this isn’t a coincidence.” The suspicion gradually turned into a fact, as I would repeatedly start my moped seconds before heavy rain and hop inside seconds before the end of the round. When I go shopping, the clouds oftentimes send their sticky army to the ground when I am transporting thirty to forty miles per hour until my clothes are irreversibly flooded. On my way to church hours after my most recent marathon in March, the rain resumed and soaked me that I could hardly sit or focus on the gathering. Following my weekly meeting with my internship supervisor, I hurried over to church to serve at a monthly conference for women, and with two minutes left on the ride, I was mauled by a random thunderstorm, giving me no choice but to volunteer the entire night in my utterly wet and gross shorts and T-shirt. Minutes after I began serving outside, the rain left and the sun reappeared.

The inadvertent rain whisperer

I became convinced that this series of unfortunate incidents was staged, and last week reinforced my theory. Only when I stood up to leave work on Monday did I see the resurgence of thunderstorm. I had no choice but to suck it up and ride back in the rain, except the traffic doubled from usual and I took a free shower in my cheap outfit for forty minutes. Three days later, I attended my best friend’s brother’s high school graduation, and towards the end of the celebration and party, I told the friend, “It’ll start pouring as soon as I leave. You just watch.” After saying goodbye to everyone on the scene, I skeptically walked to the exit only to observe another overwhelming thunderstorm. I remained inside for twenty minutes, but the dark clouds conquered the sky and refused to leave anytime soon. I sprinted to my moped and took off, and within seconds, my entire body was waterlogged. The rain slowed down when I became wet enough to give up on feeling dry, and upon my arrival at the North Decatur Building at Emory University to receive my new I-20 and travel signature for my next week’s trip to Iceland, the pouring stopped. I told my international-student advisor and brother, both of whom work in the building, that the rain will continue when I am ready to leave, and I was unsurprised to see me accurately predict the future again. The rain halted soon after I returned to my apartment. On Sunday, a close friend and I had lunch across the street from church. Towards the end of our dining, the rain reentered the scene; I told him to refer to me as “the rain whisperer,” that no matter when I leave, the rain would explode as soon as I get on my scooter. The friend left first, while I waited until the rain paused. Like I foretold, seconds after I got on my moped and rode off, I was inundated until I reached home in twenty minutes. Again, the rain stopped as I walked inside.

People with whom I share these stories laugh. I do too when I think of how ridiculously fictional and hyperbolic these events sound in words, but sadly, I never lie. My post-college life has been filled with rejection after rejection, misery after misery, and nightmare after nightmare with hardly anything to celebrate, and I do not believe for a second for this unintentional rain-whispering to be coincidental. I asked God and Mother Nature each of the countless times the rain blew me away, “Are you having fun?” At least individuals can be entertained by my grief and discomfort. I might as well make the most of this unwanted gift and visit regions in the world that do not receive much rain on my moped. I would become an instant hero.