Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Coming Home

The moment I stepped out of JFK airport, I was struck by how different it felt. The evening was soft, as if silk had been woven into the air.   The whole ride to Pennsylvania, I watched the sky change colors and the clouds dance in and out of its stage on the horizon.  It must have something to do with the angle of the sun and it’s position in the sky, but the sky in Iceland is just different.  Last summer I had really missed watching the sunset and the stars come out since there was over 22 hours of daylight.  On the drive further into the country I stared out the window thinking that the constellations were more beautiful than I remembered. 

The first morning that I woke up in America, the phone rang and it was Colby in Iceland.  “What do you think?” he asked.  As I started to answer, I stepped out onto the porch in my pajamas and felt the morning sun on my face.  “A-MER-ica! A-MER-ica!  God shed his grace on Thee!”  I sang in response.  “And crown Thy Good with—“
“Okay, okay, I get the picture, “ he cut me off , clearly embarrassed from the other side of the ocean as though the neighbors could see him too. 

I proceeded to tell him about the adventure of landing, meeting his parents at JFK, and driving through the mountains.  Throughout my first weeks home, I talked with Colby frequently and shared different observations I’d made about the land that I grew up in but have been removed from for some time:  

1.     1.  TREES.  My first day in the states I took a walk and was blown away by how many sounds were in the background.  Lots of birds, lots of buzzings, lots of life teeming in the branches.  In Iceland, no trees makes for pretty silent nature walks.

2.     2.  Grocery stores.  When I took the kids grocery shopping for the first time here, I was like a kid in a candy store.  “Haley, LOOK!  These shopping carts are HUGE!  Wow, I feel like I’m steering a boat!”  Walking down the cereal aisle was like a dream come true.  (Haley:  “Woah.  They have a cereal that is made of chocolate chip cookies?!”  Yes, Haley.  Welcome to the land of abundance.)  We got a few looks from people who I’m sure we’re trying to figure out why three English-speaking American girls were so excited about things like Honey Bunches of Oats and Oatmeal Squares.  I packed up the cart with as many gallons of milk as I wanted, an entire package of toilet paper, and 5 different types of cereal not worrying how I was going to get them home! After paying for our items, I pushed the cart out to our car and Haley looked over at me very concerned:  “Are you sure you’re allowed to do this?”  Since we’ve never had a car in Iceland, she’s not familiar with the practice of pushing the cart out to your car to load it.  I assured her that I was not stealing the cart and all was well.

3.    3.  Southern Hospitality.  I can't get over how much strangers talk to you here.  My first day in VA, I was called Darlin' by a man in the grocery store who let me steer around him in the aisle, and have had multiple conversations with people who have just started talking to me in line.  If you've ever been to Iceland, you understand why this feels so foreign.  Colby and I were checking out of a line at Old Navy and the check-out clerk asked me, "Do you want a bag for that, Hon?"  Colby nudged me as I stared right past her and asked if I was going to answer her.  "Oh, sorry...I didn't realize you were talking to me."  I responded.  "I haven't been called Hon by a check-out clerk for nearly two years."  

4.    4.   Church Culture.  Now, remember, the kids were pretty young the last time they were in America.  Our first Sunday going to church together was slightly embarrassing.  The other kids around us were so well behaved, clearly used to the drill.  My kids, on the other hand, were so....let's just say-- untrained. I was tempted to pinch them when they wouldn't stand up for the singing, but luckily was rational enough to think of the consequences before doing that.  The funniest part was when the song leader told everyone to greet the people around us.  After a few minutes of fellowship, we resumed to our pews and Haley looked up at me.  "WHAT was...THAT?"  She asked, genuinely bewildered.  "Mom, what just happened?"  Oh Haley, remind me to give you a lesson on church culture before next Sunday's service.
5.  The Lingua-Franca.  “Hello!”  the little girl said as she rode past on her bike.  My jaw dropped because it sounded so foreign to hear perfect English come from a little girl’s mouth.  “Haley…did you just HEAR THAT?!" I exclaimed, in an effort to draw attention to the comfort of her mother tongue. " That little girl spoke ENGLISH!”    Haley looked up at me, unimpressed.  "Mom…that’s what she’s SUPPOSED to speak."


Andrés Björgvin Böðvarsson said...

I suppose there's no place like home :)

About the hospitality thing in Iceland (or lack thereof), the new mayor of Reykjavík, comedian Jón Gnarr (no, it's not a typo or name calling, he actually is a comedian) has announced the city council's intention of assigning a special "Good Day Day" (Góðan daginn dagur) when everybody will be urged to greet each other, especially strangers, with the words "good day" (góðan daginn). Quite ambitious!

I hope y'all enjoy your time back in A-MER-ica, and I hope you won't stay away for too long :)

Josh and Jadey said...

I definitely love America, changing seasons etc. I actually have never lived anywhere else. However visiting Iceland was great, not sure how I would do living there. The main things I remember about Iceland were when I was outside I could only hear wind. However some of the sights I saw in Iceland were breathtaking. I agree though with the grocery store, no choices. However the more and more I learn about agriculture etc you are probably eating healthier there.. So glad to have you guys back.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I saw your blog today and I couldn´t help smiling when I read it. We are so much what we are used to. - When we lived abroad I experienced so much of what you are saying, but in my way. Landing in Iceland in the midnight sun not having to feel the darkness hovering over me every evening - hearing the quiet sounds of "nothing" in stead of the huming of insects and birds all the time. Walking down the cereal ile in the store and buying so many different kinds (Iceland had much more than we had where we lived at that time ;o) It´s a good feeling to be in familiar surrondings :) I hope you will have a blessed time in the States. - Praying for you all!
Linda (Sveinbjörn´s wife)

Anonymous said...

I read this and smile, because I think every single emotion and experience you just described had happened to me, almost exactly. I think I may have said it before, but for me it was a bit of a culture shock coming home, but a good one none the less. It was the sweetest feeling stepping out of the airport into the warm San Diego evening, that was cradled with the smell of the sea and the remnants of heat from the day before. I remember last summer, Jon and I drover down the coast of California, and anyone who has done that knows how stunning that drive is, but after being away from home for so long, I had tears in my eyes just from the beauty and my appreciation of my country and state. Till this day, I appreciate my country so much more than I ever did, the beauty and majesty of it. There really is no place like home, and I know EXACTLY where you are right now, soak it all in.


Veroníka said...

Ha, ha. Laughed out loud reading the part about the girls at church. Thanks for blogging Annie, it makes my day. :)

Anonymous said...

Annie - I am laughing...You write the BEST blogs...Seriously, you should be writing books...Its so cool to hear the differences from Iceland to America. And it makes me think back to all the different missionaries over the years who stayed at our home while we were growing up. And I wonder now how weird things were for them being back in America and its just bizzare the things we take for granted. Your blogging - I agree with the person ahead of me - Made my day!!!! Love it. Your girls are cute...

beckers said...

write a book. id buy it. your writing style, no matter how much time i actually have to read your blog, always leaves me wanting to read more!
love you garmans, have fun in PA