Thursday, October 30, 2008

Halloween with Kim's kids

Xan and I have been so focused on figuring out what we are going to do that I hadn't thought much about Halloween. In order to get the Halloween spirit, I decided to go and help my sister today with her six kids and all the Halloween stuff they had going on there. The kid's school had some school festivities going on including a pumpkin show in the gym showcasing all the kid's carved and painted pumpkins.

This is Arianna, the eldest. She is in the 6th grade working her way to middle school. He Halloween costume was Tonks, from Harry Potter. She's already read through the entire series several times. I barely made it through them once!

This is Timothy in the 4rth grade. He made his Halloween costume by drawing bones and taping them to a black shirt. Very creative!

He did a VERY good job. It is easy to tell that he is a skeleton.

It was crazy hair day at school and so Kim grew out Timmy's hair really long. Last night, the original plan was to shave half of one side off and leave the other half long. Timmy changed his mind last minute to get a mohawk. It will be all shaved after Halloween.

This is Christine, or Chrissy, as we all call her. She is in the 2nd grade. I think she is a medieval princess or person or maybe an elf... I forgot to ask her. Either way, I want a dress like that my size.

Kim found a hula skirt downstairs that we tried to convince Chrissy to wear and be Rapunzel but she didn't like it. Too bad. I think it looks pretty sweet.

Here's the Kindergartener, Gracie. She is like a little grown-up sometimes. She is Hello Kitty but she couldn't find the headband with the ears so she was a little upset at the time of this picture.

And this is her with her boyfriend Charlie. It was an unbelievable moment when they found each other at the pumpkin show. He came running up to her and yelled, "Gracie." She turned around at the sound of his voice and exclaimed, "Charlie!" They ran off together holding hands. I swear, it was like watching a scene from a chic flick or something. Apparently, they've been dating for years. They met in nursery and hit it off. Gracie says she's going to marry him. They stayed together pretty much all night holding hands.

And here's Sammy. He's got another two years before he'll go to school. He's proudly showing off his spider web project he made. In his left hand, he is holding a small plastic spider that is scary but not poisonous.

He was curious George and ran around making monkey noises.

The youngest doesn't like strangers (anyone he doesn't see on a weekly basis, which would be me) so I was nice and let him be. He was dressed as a puppy dog. The same costume that each of the kids have worn their first Halloween since Arianna.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

My latest favorite delay

Here's a post for anyone who wants a riddle. Xan sent out his new residency permit application for Iceland last Tuesday (over a week ago). He recently received an e-mail from the Icelandic Office of Immigration (the people in charge of issuing the permits) reminding him that Xan needs to have the university of Iceland send the Office of Immigration proof of enrollment. So, Xan e-mails his university contact and requests that she send the information over. He gets an e-mail back from her saying that he cannot enroll until he gets to Iceland.

The riddle is: How does Xan get enrolled after arriving in Iceland if he can't get to Iceland until he is enrolled???

I am sorry but this whole system that Iceland has for people to get residency permits has proved to be completely incompetent in my book. They don't answer our questions by e-mail, they have no direct phone number that we can call, they are not unified in their answers which constantly gives us opposing answers, and it really makes me wonder if anyone from America has ever succeeded in getting one in a timely manner! On a happy note, our future landlady in Iceland (although I guess she is our current landlady since we already paid a month of rent to help save our place even if we aren't actually living there yet) is getting very sympathetic with us and anxious for us to come. She is going to call the Office of Immigration tomorrow (which is about now, my time) and see if she can't get some of Xan's questions answered and help speed things up. I hope so.

Current news, Xan is in the process of keeping himself pretty busy lately. He has two more weeks to prepare for the physics GRE which is proving to be a lot harder than we thought it would be. He's been out of the physics program for three years now and has a lot of reviewing and reminding to do in order to get him ready. He also has a ton of reading assignments from a few books he already owns for his Icelandic courses. He has the class presentation to complete and a paper to write that relates to the presentation (which he'll do on ships which he already knows). And to top it all off, he needs to get his graduate applications started and finished for Fall.

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Unexpected Life in Limbo

As all of you know, Xan and I have been expecting to be somewhere but here in Utah for two months now, specifically in Iceland. Yet, here we are still in Utah. With no jobs, homework, and nearby friends (ones within 5-10 miles of us that are our age), many people have asked me about what we do with our time, where we live, and how we survive. Here are a few things to both answer the questions and share what I have learned from this experience so far.

So, to answer the first question: What do we do with our time? Our day usually begins around 9:30 am. That is the average time that I wake up and leave the room. (Xan is a VERY light sleeper so he usually gets his best sleep after I leave the room.) I'll generally shower, get ready, then turn on the tv. Xan gets up around 11:00 am and comes out to join me watching tv. Through-out the day, he'll study his physics books for the GRE test he'll take in a few weeks, snack on popsicles, browse the internet about amphibians and natural terrariums, and read his new books he got on poison dart frogs. I will study Chinese (yes, I actually am studying it again), read a new book Xan got me on physics, watch 24 or Charmed, study my cook's cookbook, make a fabulous dinner, and do stretching exercises. We try to spend a few hours a day in separate rooms to decrease the chance of getting too annoyed with each other. It sounds negative, I know. We are in love and should want to be together all day of everyday but trust me. It gets old really quickly. If we had normal lives right now, one of us or both of us would be leaving for about 8 hours 5 days a week. Our few hours a part separation works surprisingly well and keeps us enjoying the time that we do spend together. Our day usually ends around 2:00 am, although I occasionally fall asleep around midnight before Xan. We do run errands about 2 or 3 times a week. We have looked up and gone to a lot of local pet shops. We stop at almost every petco we drive by. Since 'How I Met Your Mother' season three has come out, we go to Costco frequently to see if it is there yet. And, on occasion, we get together with some of our old college friends for special events or exhibits. Overall, its really not that bad. Now that I'm out of school and don't have homework to stress over, I'm trying to actually learn all the basics of education. I want to relearn science, math, grammar, ect. Our days are very relaxed and leisurely. While I miss being busy sometimes, I'm trying to use this time now that I have this time and know I won't always have this time.

Second question: Where do we live? At the moment, I'm sitting in Xan and mine's room in his grandparent's basement in Kaysville. His grandparents are extremely generous in letting us stay here and have done everything they could think of and more to make us feel comfortable and welcome here. There is a half kitchen in the basement with a stove, microwave, sink, and refrigerator that I use to make our meals. His grandpa has a huge garden and orchard so we've enjoyed a lot of fresh produce, especially the peaches and tomatoes, but unfortunately, the weather is getting colder and most of the produce is disappearing. We alternate with living here and living at my parent's house in South Jordan. While his grandparent's are retired and are home all day, my parents both work so there are blocks of time where I can be the 'boss of the house'. With my mom working and having a really busy church calling, I like to be there so I can help with some of the housework (mainly the dishes and the cooking) to give her some breathing room. There is also a piano so I can practice. Unfortunately and fortunately, my dad got a new tv. While it is a sweet set up and awesome picture, I was having trouble remembering how to use his last setup and this new setup looks even more intimidating. I think there were about 10-12 remotes last time I looked. I struggle to know which one is which. :) Naturally, Xan and I both prefer to stay at our own family's place (him at his grandparent's and me at my parent's) since it is most familiar to us so we alternate to keep the best of both worlds.

And finally, the third question: How do we survive? I have to admit that I did not adjust to this lifestyle very well in the beginning. Most little girls dream of playing house, cooking for their family, cleaning their home that they so artistically decorated, ect. I was no exception. On top of that, I've always been extremely independent. My mom gave up figuring me out years ago. I was super excited to get married so that I could finally have a place of my own without sharing it with roommates. Of course, there still is sharing with my husband but like most men, Xan could care less about how the house is decorated, what I cook as long as he eats his required daily calories, and who cleans as long as it is cleaned. Since being married, Xan and I have basically been living off and with other people. It is a complete turn around from the life I led for the past 5 years of independence from living with my parents. I went from coming and going as I pleased, having my own kitchen food supply of prefered brands and snacks (I'm allergic to artificial preservatives so I have to make all my food from scratch and have A LOT of prefered brands), an incredibly busy and demanding job, a full school load, and an average social life ... to living either in his grandparent's or my parent's basement, sharing someone else's food supply and trying to scavange through the preservative free stuff, no job, no homework, no deadlines... It really is a complete turn around and I basically went crazy. I began to develop huge anxieties over the smallest things that would stay with me for days.

Thankfully, I have a loving, and VERY patient, husband who got me through the first month and I have adjusted and overcome my anxieties. (Good thing, too. We don't plan on leaving for another two or three weeks.) I think the biggest thing that changed were my expectations. I simply (easier said then done) stopped expecting to leave by the end of the week, stopped expecting to get my own place, stopped expecting things that I could not control, and it worked. I have realized that no matter how hard one plans and prepares for certain events, life is still unpredictable. Xan put forth so much effort to get to Iceland on time and has been preparing for the both of us to go to Iceland since January. Both of us have put in so many preparations yet we are still here. While I always knew that God has his own plan for us and life may not turn out the way we expected, I hadn't realized until now how hard it is to 'enjoy' life while we find his plan for us. It is not enough to simply endure until things fall back into place, but I have to live and find things to be happy about until things fall back into place. Xan and I still don't know what we are doing but we do know that we are where we are supposed to be for the time being. I know I say this every blog but I'll keep saying it until it happens: Hopefully we'll tell you what's up soon. :)

Until then, only 5 people guessed where we are going to go. Indulge me! (Trust me. I get excited over the smallest things lately.) Guess if you think Xan and I will end up going to Iceland for his master's program or if Xan and I will end up in Saudi Arabia for the temporary professor position. Leave a comment. :) Go down two entries if you need to review the details of each option.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Bell Tower

Today was a very exciting day. Our friend Zhenya played the organ for the forum at BYU. She's working on her Masters in organ performance. She's extremely talented. The speaker was a former president of South Africa and it was REALLY good. Xan says it is on his list of top 3 or 4 in his 10 years at BYU where he went to most of the devotionals/forums. Anyway, after the forum we ran some errands (including getting my diploma!) and visited his grandma down in Payson while Zhenya had work and class. Then she took us up to the bell tower.

We had to climb 100 stairs to get to the top. If you refer to the picture above, the instrument is located in the black section.

I was extremely tired and a little dizzy when we got to the top. It was harder to go back down, though...

This is a shot looking up at the bells. It was hard to see them all but it was fun to watch them ring. The bells themselves don't move but the ringer does.

Here is the view from the top.

It plays like an organ. The larger bells are controlled by the petals.

The higher bells are played by hitting them with your fists. It's really entertaining to watch. This is Zhenya's first year playing them.

She is extremely generous and insisted I try it out. It didn't take very much convincing, to be honest. I mean, come on! Who has heard the bells from the bell tower reaching all over campus and hasn't wanted to play them??? I chose to play Truth Reveals Upon Our Senses. I only messed up once when I forgot the D was a flat. :) Of course, I only played the soprano line. Zhenya helped by playing the petals and giving me the bass line.

Now I have played a hymn on an organ in a Catholic cathedral in Salt Lake City and in the bell tower of Brigham Young University. :) All thanks to Zhenya!!!

Thanks for all those who have guessed... and keep on guessing. We actually received another bit of a possibility today. Xan ran into Friðrik while we were leaving campus. He is an Icelander working on his masters degree here. His dad does a little work with China and MIGHT have a position for me and my sweet Chinese skills. It's an extremely slim chance with the Icelandic economy suffering more than we are in America. The Icelandic krona (their currency) has dropped 40%. It sure helps Xan and I out, however. The apartment we want to rent went from around $1200 to $650. So, it depends on a lot of factors of how well his dad's business is doing to see if its worth hiring me. Apparently the minimum wage is still a significant amount compared to here. The funny news is that if I do get this job, I will likely have a specific work permit/visa that qualifies me to bring my spouse, even though Xan's permit/visa can't bring me. Hehehe.

Things we do know... we are still undecided about which country we will choose. It probably will stay this way for another week or two while we wait to hear more about the job offer for Xan in Saudi, and the maybe job offer for me in Iceland.

Friday, October 10, 2008

A Guessing Game!

Xan and I have more news about our future. It is one of the most diverse futures, far surpassing anything I could have thought up. All of mine seem to revolve around one area... Asia. 90% are specifically China related. Our current future has wider boundaries than just one topic. Xan and I are currently facing two options. One thing to keep in mind while you read them is Xan's future career plans. He has a BS in astro-physics and a masters in Comparative Literature emphasis in Old Scandinavian language and literature. He plans on applying for programs in both humanities and physics and ultimately become a professor. He hopes to be able to do a double PHD but will settle for the best offer. So, the future question is will he be working humanities or physics. The current question is what do we do this year.

1) Go ahead and go to Iceland. If you have kept up with my previous blog than you know that our residence permits were denied. We found out some more bummer news to go along with that. I cannot get a residence permit. Apparently only doctorate students, members of the EEA, athletes, coaches, and people on specific work permits are allowed to bring their spouses. Xan is none of these. He is a master student. Yeah, we don't get it either. But, rules are rules. Good news. I can use my existing passport and be able to stay in Iceland for 3 months out of a 6 month time frame. Xan is reapplying for his residence permit and hopefully will be able to leave mid-November. So, this leaves us with our sub-options.
A) Xan and I will leave for Iceland together mid-Novemberish. I'll fly back to the states and live with my parents around mid-decemberish. This will allow me to come back before the Christmas rush and be involved with helping my mom out with preparations rather than coming in the middle of the stress and whatever else. Xan may and may not come with me. It depends on our financial situation. (plane tickets are expensive...) I'll stay here and probably get a temp. job until mid-Marchish when I'll be able to fly back to Iceland and stay until the mid of June. That should be about the time Xan will be done as well. The pros to this option is that Xan and I will be together more than the next option and allows me the most time in Iceland. The cons are that Xan will be more than half a semester behind in school and will have to juggle taking care of his adjusting wife, setting up our apartment, preparing for finals that he barely has time to study for, and it will also be more expensive due to my two airplane tickets.
B) Xan will leave for Iceland by himself while I stay with my parents, find a temp. job until mid-marchish. The pros for this option is that Xan is more likely to pass his classes, I'll be able to enjoy sunlight, earn money that will allow us to take cool trips mid-Junish, and save money on additional trips back and forth from Iceland. Cons are obvious. Xan and I will have less time together and we'll be apart for about 4 months. Which is really only one month more than option A but it weighs a lot when your in that last month.

2) Go to Saudi Arabia. Xan's mom called this morning with news that she might have found a job for Xan starting January for a semester. It would be at a university in Saudi Arabia most likely teaching physics but we don't have anything official. The dean of the university is in his parent's branch there and it was one of those, 'hey, I might have a position for him,' kind of deals. The pros would be that there would be no time apart from each other, Xan would be making money, we would have access to the red sea which is awesome for scuba diving, the university might provide us with an apartment, and the university has major connections with Xan's top schools of choice such as Harvard and Cambridge. The cons are that he would miss out on the Iceland program which would hurt him when he applies for PHD programs in the humanities area.

So, those are our two options that we have to choose from sometime in the near future. I have left this decision for Xan to make since my occupation stays the same either choice which is sitting at home keeping busy one way or the other. Xan is going to go ahead and act on both for the present. He's e-mailed his resume for the Saudi position and is working on his residence permit for Iceland while talking with his professors to do any work he can now to help him for his finals. He'll then pick his best offer.

So, let's open it up for guessing. Which do you think Xan will choose?

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Iceland update and Hogle Zoo

Quick Iceland update: We finally found some stuff out! Good... and bad. On Monday when we checked our e-mail we were told that our residency Visas had been denied. We were shocked and didn't understand why. Here's the answer. Back in July, Xan sent the Iceland gov. an e-mail asking them if certain documents he was about to send would fulfill the requirements for our Visas. No response. So, a week before our wedding, we took a guess and sent what we hoped would be enough. It wasn't. About 2 or 3 weeks ago, we received an e-mail saying that they still needed a few more documents in order to process our Visas. (Sidenote... the Icelandic government rarely e-mails us directly. They mail the university of Iceland a letter and the university e-mails us.) What the university forgot to mention was that there was a 15 day deadline to get them the documents or our visas would be denied. So, not knowing we were up against the clock but very anxious that we send the right documents this time, we sent another e-mail asking if certain documents would fulfill requirements. (such as proof of financial support, residency, enrollment to the university, ect.). Once again, no response. So, we guessed again. (Although this time I think we got it right) Well, the documents arrived a couple of days late apparently so we were denied... and extremely frustrated. Tuesday morning proved to be a lot better. Xan had sent an e-mail to the university to see if they could do anything about this situation. Apparently what had happened is that the lady at the university who is supposed to be playing mediator for us went out of town. That was our missing link. She feels TERRIBLE for what has happened and is working on fixing the situation to get us to Iceland. The good news out of all of this is that Xan and I haven't had to spend any of our money yet. We plan on fitting in a few extra trips (like Egypt and/or Greece and/or Spain) to make up for all of our limbo time now. We were already planning on visiting his parents in Saudia Arabia after Iceland but depending on how long it takes to get the Visas accepted, we might do that first. So many things up in the air still. :)

On another note, Xan and I went to the Hogle Zoo. One of our favorite places considering the vast amount of pets we want to own someday. Our recent focus has been on learning how to build our own natural terrariums. You know, the ones with all the real plants, flowing water, and natural looking aquariums. It's been fun.
Here is a picture of the poisonous frogs he wants to get. They are not poisonous when kept in captivity.They look more like Ninja masks but they are supposed to be frog masks.

The Penguins were adorable. I think they would be fun as a pet but a little higher maintenance.

Well, all you BYU Cougar football fans... we ran into a real cougar! They are having a great college football season this year. We asked him how he thought BYU would do against the Utes, and this is what he had to say... Bring it on!

Well, I have tons more pictures but if I posted them all you would have no reason to go to the zoo yourself. :)