Saturday, November 29, 2008

Adjusting...

Xan and I were on our way to the grocery store this afternoon to buy a mop and a few other cleaning supplies. It was freezing cold but had blue skies and lower winds, and I turned to Xan and said, "Isn't this really nice weather today?" The crazy part was that I actually meant it! Xan turned to me and replied, "You sound like an Icelander."

Today, Xan and I continued to clean the attic. Yesterday, he ran a lot of errands while I stayed home and cleaned. I did my usual BYU approved cleaning to the attic and had thought that I was almost done. I mean, for anyone who has ever lived in the Foreign Language Student Residency, you know that those cleaning inspections are tough and require some good cleaning. But, I was very wrong. Xan, having grown up all over the world and being the child of a cleaning fanatic father, is having us desanitize and bleach down the whole apartment. Very smart but definitely not something that I have ever done before. It is a new meaning to the word clean that is a very good thing... but a lot of work. We got most of it done but still need to bleach the floors and vacuum the furniture since the last owners had a dog and there is a lot of dog hair on the couches, rugs, ect. Then, we have to buy apartment stuff like curtains, a kitchen table and chairs, a mattress (yes, he still sleeps on the camping pads in our bedroom while I sleep on the couch in the living room/kitchen), and lots of kitchen stuff so I can cook something other than spaghetti. :) I'm hoping that it just takes another week or two before we are not only moved in, but are situated and comfortable. :)

Tonight, we went out to eat with one of Xan's classmates named Alita. She's American and is really nice. I had fish and chips again and really like squeezing the lemon on the fries. Try it sometime... its really good! I took these pictures on our way back home.



Friday, November 28, 2008

Sylvia owns an adorable dog named stjarna, or Star. I really like her. She came up and visited us while we were cleaning the attic to get ready to move in. We still have some more cleaning to do but we hope to get that done tomorrow.


Like all dogs I know, she loves to have her belly rubbed.


Today was an absolutely gorgeous day outside. Here is a picture out of a window of the sun around eleven.


I decided it was too beautiful for me to stay inside so I went out for a walk to go to a bakery near our home that I had been wanting to check out. They had all sorts of breads, pastries, and goodies. I was thrilled to find out that they not only slice the loaf of bread for you, you can just buy half a loaf! Xan and I like bread but we don't usually eat it all before it gets hard or moldy. It tasted really good, too. I took these next pictures on my walk back home.




Xan had a bunch of errands to run today so he left for 3-4 hours. I had him take my camera in case he saw some good shots while he was out. Good thing! Check out these blue skies!





The sun doesn't really get very high. It stays along the horizon all day so sunrises and sunsets last a long time. This last pictures was taken around three in the evening and they sky is just barely turning a darker blue two hours later. I guess without the clouds the light lasts just a little longer. :)

PS. Xan checked the temperature and it was below 4 degrees Fahrenheit. It may look all nice but it was still cold. Blasted wind!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving in Iceland

Yeah, there is no Thanksgiving Holiday in Iceland except for the few Americans who try to celebrate by themselves. Turkey is pretty hard to come by around here and Xan and I figured that IF we could find a turkey (not likely) it would be too big and too expensive to be worth our while. We had decided to go out and eat puffin instead. But, one of the missionary couples here had luckily found a turkey a couple of weeks ago and invited all six elders, the other missionary couple, and us to join them for a huge Thanksgiving feast. Oh my! It was delicious! After dinner, there was a single adult activity that Xan and I decided to crash. He knows a lot of them and they're our age and older so we figured, why not? It was a lot of fun. We played different games. Of course, I didn't understand the commentary unless an English phrase or two passed my way but games are played by rules, not always by conversation so I was okay. :) Everyone was really nice.

I didn't take any pictures today. It was so windy! As Xan and I were walking to the grocery store, there were a couple of times I grabbed a fence instinctively because I really felt like I was going to be blown off my feet. It made our walk entertaining... but very cold!

Xan is catching up in his studies so far. He still hasn't gotten everything organized in terms of making up for all the homework he missed but we're hoping he gets that settled by the end of the week. From the stuff that he has now, he's okay. The program coordinator has also been extremely helpful and has been supplying suggestions here and there for Xan to help make things a bit easier. In order to get his degree, he has to take 90 credits. (each class is ten) 30 of those credits are for his thesis. The other 60 are meant to be split up into two semesters. There are four classes Xan wants to take next semester so he is trying to work it out that he takes only 20 credits this semester and 40 credits next semester. That plan is part of the bit he is trying to get organized by the end of the week.

The last bit of news is that Xan and I have decided to move to the attic. The basement is good and all but the attic will give us more shelves, a larger kitchen, and more space. It also provides more windows to let in the little sunlight that comes (Oh, by the way, I saw the sun today. It rises and sets in the South... but I saw it!) and a balcony for me to get fresh air without having to leave home. This makes us hope even more that we are able to find a way for me to stay. The members here seem optimistic but nothing is final until the government gives the okay. They are apparently famous for changing their rules all the time and being difficult to work with so maybe within the next three months, they will change the rules in favor of me being able to stay! :) For now, I'm going to remain optimistic.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Sunrise

Well, I still have pretty bad jet lag. I feel asleep last night around 11:00 but woke up around 2:30 and couldn't fall back to sleep. I'm determined not to take any naps today in hopes that I'll be able to sleep longer tonight. So, I've been entertaining myself until Xan and I go out with some of his classmates to the National History Museum today. Here are some pictures of the sunrise:



This is at 8:30 am



This is at 9:30 am



And this one is of 10:30 am

The sun usually is down by around 4:30 pm. You probably could reverse the times to the lightest at 2:30, middle at 3:30, and the sun is down by 4:30.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Getting to Iceland

Xan and I woke up Sunday morning at 7:00 am. We got to the SLC airport at about 9:00 am and started checking in. Our itinerary was to fly from Salt Lake to Chicago to Boston to Iceland. And thus, our Iceland saga continues... Happily, Iceland let us through, although not without a few set backs we had to fix. We arrived in Reykjavik at 6:00 am Iceland time and 11:00 pm Utah time. We were ready for bed... but it was morning so we did our best to grudge through the day. I have to admit, I like it here. It's only been two days but its really nice. The air is supremely fresh and pure. The water is interesting. There are two options: scalding hot water heated by lava underground, or freezing water from glaciers. It is taking some getting practice to combine the two for a happy medium. The hot water smells like sulfur. Taking showers is weird because of it but strangely, I don't smell like sulfur afterwards. Even my hair that I washed smells like the shampoo... not the sulfur. Our apartment is a basement and is pretty nice. I would say it is comparable to the average apartment in Provo... a bit cleaner, maybe. :) Sylvia, our landlady, took us on a tour of the attic apartment which will be available in a few days. It is bigger, nicer, and more spacious and still within our original budget. We are still trying to decide which one we want. In the mean time, we're in the basement. We were both pleasantly surprised at how nice it has been here. There was about 6 hours of overcast daylight yesterday and today. Yeah!

Here our a few photos I've taken.



This one made me laugh. These covers were on the airplane to Iceland. You can clearly see how proud they are of their viking heritage!



Sorry it is sideways... I've tried a couple of times but it just wants to be sideways. This phrase was on the napkins. I've never seen this kind of display before. I enjoyed it.



Here is Xan... we were both exhausted. We left Utah in the morning, got to Iceland in the morning, so we had no night to sleep. We did our best to take cat naps and stay awake so we could fall asleep at night.



We don't have a bed yet but we do have a sofa bed and Sylvia lent us some pads to lay on the floor. The sofa bed reminded us of the 'chastity coaches' they had at the foreign language student residency back in Fall 2004 since it had a hard center. They were awful! They had wooden beam in between each cushion... so it was hard to sit close to that certain other person... thus they became known as the chastity coaches.



And this picture is my first glimpse of the the Atlantic Ocean. We flew into Boston in the evening after it was dark so I wasn't able to see it then. I took this picture on the way to the grocery store.

This week is all about settling in, orienting ourselves, and adjusting so I don't have all the energy to take all to cool shots I was hoping for but they are coming.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Our last day before we leave the sunlight. :)

I have about 12 hours before take off. Yeah! I have to admit, everything feels so surreal and dream-like. But then, that's how it always is for me right before a big change. I'm sure some of you know the feeling. Xan and I are pretty much packed... just waiting for the laundry to be done to finish. I found a good informational video about Iceland for those who don't know much about the country. They mention in the video that it is very expensive but recently, the economy has pretty much crashed so our guess is that the prices are probably close to America's or maybe just a bit more. Lucky for us! Not so good for them.



Xan has been doing his best to prepare me for what Iceland will really be like when we get there. Cold, dark, and windy. There will be very little daylight, maybe 4 hours a day. It will look more like this:



Wish us luck! I'll try to post pictures from our arrival in the next few days.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

We have our plane tickets...

Xan and I bought our plane tickets today. We are leaving THIS SUNDAY morning at 11:00 am. We'll get into Iceland Monday morning in time for Xan to go to his classes. Yep, he's going to be tired but he'll manage through. I'll make sure to take some pictures to post on the blog. Xan says that the airport is in the middle of nowhere and it takes about 30 min. of driving before any signs of human life become visible. (Xan says there is moss growing so there is some form of life out there.)

But, I was on Youtube just now, finding sweet shots of my future home, and found a video of Xan's summer program he did in Iceland summer 2006. One of his classmates there, Nathan, was getting a minor in film and put together this video to help promote the program. Watch it and see if you can find the one short shot of Xan. (Hint: He's wearing his gray jacket and has a beard)



Doesn't this video make you wish you would fit in our suitcases!? It is sooooo beautiful!

On a side note:
We found a new home for my snake. Again, a huge thanks to Hugh and Kristi who have been caring for her since September. Here's a shot of Akash from September:

We transfered her to my friend Emily's house. Emily and her husband currently has five snakes, two lizards and two ferrets (not too mention that they breed their own rats for the snakes). It was really fun to play with their pets. They had a couple full grown ball pythons so I could see how big Aakash is going to be someday. This is a video of Athena.



She was so big and fat! I think they said Athena was 3 1/2 years old. Aakash is just about a year old. I have a couple more years to go before she gets this big. We also played with her ferrets Harley and Davidson.



They were a lot of fun. I'm still not sure which one I would prefer out of cats, ferrets, and sugar gliders, though. These are sugar gliders, for those who don't know:



Still got time to decide. In the meantime, Xan and I will be doing the final pack, eating foods we will miss, and I'll be baking to try out my new recipe books (I'm making a pumpkin pie right now.)

Monday, November 17, 2008

The moment I have been waiting for for months!

Xan and I are super excited to announce that we received that long awaited e-mail from Iceland letting us know that his permit is ready to be picked up. What does this mean?

WE'RE ACTUALLY REALLY GOING TO ICELAND!

We still have a few odds and ends to figure out still. We probably won't be leaving for a week or so but we are really hoping to have Xan in class for next Monday. (And we're hoping to not miss the huge BYU vs. Utah game... but we still want to leave ASAP)

Friday, November 14, 2008

My New Career Choice

First off, we haven't heard anything new yet from Iceland. Still waiting... What's new, right? :)

Secondly, I have been thinking more about graduate school and what I would like to do with it. For a while now, I've been thinking of being a high school teacher and teaching world history, geography, and hopefully Chinese (since there are more and more high schools offering Chinese programs). The down side to this plan is that I won't be able to focus on Asia. Not that I have anything against the rest of the world; I actually would love to learn more about other areas. But, my focus has always been Asia since my college career. High School's focus is more on Europe. But it seemed like the best option I had so far. And then Xan said something that has made me think hard for a long time.

We were talking about his graduate school possibilities for his PHD. His top four schools are: Cornell - humanities, Sydney - humanities, Texas A&M - nautical archeology, and Hawaii - physics. He's applying to other places, too, but these are his particular favorites in terms of program options and resources he would have. He admitted that if he was accepted into Hawaii, he would have a really hard time saying no to them. They have these awesome observation centers. Let me post some pictures of them:

(Notice how the clouds are BELOW the peak. They get snow up here, too.)



They have these huge telescopes that Xan would have access to. One of them is dedicated solely to graduate's use and is bigger than BYU's largest. Some of the other even bigger ones have some time set aside for graduates but only like 15%. As he was showing me these pictures and explaining why it is so awesome, he said something like, "How could I say no to going and playing to get my degree." The point was that it wouldn't be work for him. It would be fun.

So, I started thinking, what kind of work do I consider fun? To save you the trouble of reading my entire thought process and get straight to the conclusion: An Asian Studies Professor. This means that now I'm looking into teaching college level. I would like to teach Asian history, geography, culture, and language. Who knows if it will work out where I will be able to teach ALL of these subjects but I'm pretty sure if all else fails, I'll make it as a history teacher and focus my classes on Asian history.

With this new goal in mind, I've looked at the schools Xan is applying to and the less prestigious schools near those schools and I was very happy to find a lot of really good programs and I have the right background for it: a BA in Asian Studies. So, pretty much wherever Xan goes (besides Sydney... financing being the problem) I'll be able to get my MA... if I get accepted, of course.

Thirdly, the GRE really isn't as bad as I thought it would be. Of course, I'm not shooting for perfect scores, which helps. I definitely have needed to review my math skills but they only test on basic math skills. There isn't any advanced stuff. THANK YOU!!! So, I'm planning on taking the GRE around Christmas time. And if that doesn't work, and since I won't be applying to any graduate programs until Fall 2010 after we know which school Xan gets into, I'll have time to take it another time. This is relying on the hopefull fact that Xan and I will have a better idea of where we will be and what we will be doing in a year than we do currently. :) Keep your fingers crossed!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I found this photo on one of my friend's profile in Facebook. I wish I remembered which friend... but it is way too funny to keep to myself. Now, I'm not posting any political views or anything so I don't want any political debates or discussions about this. It's for fun. I'm just an Asian Studies fanatic. When I lived in the Chinese house summer 2007, we loved finding this kind of stuff and making fun of Chinese propaganda. I still have our favorite chant in my head... 毛主席,毛主席,万岁,毛主席。It means, "Chairman Mao, Chairman Mao, Live a thousand years, Chairman Mao." Enjoy!

For those of you who aren't into Chinese propaganda, this is supposed to be a picture of Chairman Mao being supported by the workers, soldiers, students, and peasants. They are the ones represented by China's four stars on their flag. The Communist Government is the big star.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Finally, a bit of good news!

We have some news! Xan's residency application will be complete on Monday. We finally figured out what documents the Office of Immigration needed. We found out last week with Sylvia's help (our landlady that is on my favorite people list) that there was a problem with three aspects of Xan's application. The first was that they had lost the proof of insurance that our insurance company had sent them. That was easy to fix. The insurance company sent another one. The second problem was the whole drama of Xan not being enrolled at the university that I ranted about last update. Sylvia found out that the university didn't have a copy of Xan's receipt proving that he had paid tuition. So, we scanned that to the university and Xan is now OFFICIALLY enrolled. Yeah! The third problem was the trickiest to figure out. The Office of Immigration was not accepting our bank statement that we sent for our proof of financial support. Europe uses bank books. You can google it 'cause I'm not 100% what they are but basically they are books that the Europeans have that they can have their bank statements printed onto by either a banker or an ATM. Iceland wanted a copy of our bank book. Well, we Americans don't have bank books. What we were able to work out after A LOT of figuring it out was we had the bank stamp the statement and sign it and included his business card in case Iceland wanted more verification. We sent that today and it will arrive on Monday. His application will be complete!!!

But, this doesn't mean everything is resolved. Now, we have to wait for them to process the paperwork and issue the permit. It is still possible that they take their 'four to six weeks' to process. Hopefully, they won't. They have said that there aren't very many other visas to be processed right now and they are VERY aware of our situation since Xan e-mails them all the time. We are really hoping to be gone by the middle of this month.