Iceland. Ísland.

Ísland – Before I begin

Ísland. I heard about this country for the first time when it announced its bankruptcy in 2008. People joked about it, saying its people loved a lazy way of life without any economic pressure… Why is there even a country near the Arctic circle, and what kind of unusual way life those people have? Why is there even people there? So, I did research on this country when I was in middle school for geography class, and for the first time, I see why this country can exist thanks to the warm sea water from Atlantic, and its internal heat. Even barely nothing grows on its barren land.

On my most rebellious age, I started to listen to Bjork. This political and environmental activist and avant-garde musician made me imagine her homeland even more. She supports the independence of Scotland and protests against the nature development for economy in East Iceland. And until last semester I took classes about Scandinavian history, and in our final project we did research about striking of independence in Iceland and I did my individual paper about the perseverance of Icelandic national identity in the modern, globalized world. Icelandic Pagan tradition has considered nature as a crucial part of it, and such tradition distinguishes Iceland from the others. They still use a language that stopped evolving since medieval times without any loan words, an old patronym naming system.

Volcanos, hot springs, barren land, glacier. Half year of brightness, another half darkness. Extremely high latitude, but surprisingly warm in the winter. This is the nature Iceland survived on. The nature is the God, the sacred one.

Ég Mukk – 9 juni

I’m lucky.

I arrived in Iceland on my birthday.

This is the first time I come to a country where the language is not at all understandable. Listening to people speaking some language that I don’t understand, or English with strong, unique accent. Signs are all unreadable, long words with some new letters such as þ and ð. I tried to pronounce hl- and hr-, and all those signs.

This song “Ég Mukk” by Sigur Rós has very clean, wide soundscape. I walked the streets and visited every place. Here is the real version of that mysterious land I was curious about.

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I’m lucky. I’m lucky to be here, walking in a city which once only appeared in my dream. A dream, just like that floating boat in this video.

Jóga – 10 juni

Got up early for seeing the Viking landscape. Outworldly landscape.

This song title means “Yoga” — which has, surprisingly, had its music video filmed with this “emotional landscape”. Where people rest their body on, take a deep breath and connect to such constant miracle. “All these accidents that happened followed the dots” — because the formation of this island is an accident, a beautiful one.

I made a new Icelandic friend today. He is our guide for the tour to Glacier Lagoon and his name is Hreindýr. We discussed how disappointing that Icelandic nature becomes merchandise & part of the popular culture, and this sacred land which is important to Icelander’s national identity loses its meaning in tourism. I told him that while people take selfies and tourist photos in front of Skógafoss, I was listening to Icelandic national anthem and watching the landscape. And he told me how Icelandic football players are singing the anthem in a game. When I told him that I study in Minnesota, he said he has been to Minnesota before and stayed for three months, and he knew there were many Scandinavians there. We handshaked and said goodbye after 15 hours since our first greeting. I will miss him.

Crystallized – 10 juni

Sailing through the crystals under the arctic sun.

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Von – 11 juni

Another day in the city…

Visited National Museum today, and reviewed what I learned in my history class. This is the history of the real Vikings who settled in a place where there was no human at first, and I see how much they love and are proud of their country.

When I was in downtown, I can always see how multiculturalism has transformed this city so much. I saw a black guy performing in the city center where people surrounded him, an Asian staff in a souvenir store… the entire city is tourists-oriented.

I talked to another Icelandic guy today. He’s the owner of Punk Museum in Reykjavik(where I saw Bjork’s posters). He speaks different languages including Danish, Swedish and some German, and he also knows some Chinese. There are two German travelers who speak Swedish. We joked about the interesting differences of these languages and felt so blessed living in a lingually diverse world. He also expressed his attitude of Scandinavians referring Icelandic as Old Norse: “If they think our language is ‘Old Norse’, then why they can’t speak it?”

And I asked some question about the rising tourism and immigration trend. There are so many workers in tourist center who are apparently not Icelandic. He said that this trend is so powerful that they are in a fear of dying out, literally. There is one thing to point out: He is not xenophobic. He definitely loves to meet people from a variety of background. But each culture should exist only on its homeland, and none of them should put others in danger on their homelands.

I agree. I won’t allow beautiful traditional Chinese culture to die out on my homeland due to economic or political factors either.

In the evening, I listened to an Icelandic music recital in Harpa. One of these songs uses very straight-forward, protest-like, and somewhat funny lyrics with opera-like music to shout for feminism in Reykjavik. People laughed, but also applauded. Icelanders are humorous people, indeed, but also urging in doing important things for their homeland.

Von, in Icelandic, means “hope”. People say Iceland is a barren, icy, and desperate land. But there will be hope, if and only if we have something to hope for — and go for it.

Heima – 12 juni

No regret for anything going to Reykjanes. We saw a small, lonely church built near the seashore where I felt like I am about to fly, like those birds. A graveyard is built behind the church, and behind the graveyard is endless flower field. People born 19th century are rested here. I imagined how they looked like, and what they were doing at that time. Was it the same scenery at that time? A bird flies under the Icelandic flag and looked at the flag, like a patriotic blonde Icelandic boy. He doesn’t know why he is doing, but as a creature survived by this island and sea, he felt the strength and nostalgia his homeland provides.

Today, we are children again, listening to fairy tales and re-narrating them to ourselves in our sleep. We are at the edge of this world, where no one else’s happiness can reach.

And there is hardly anyone. Purple flowers blossoms everywhere on both side of the road.

IMG_7943IMG_7948IMG_7944IMG_7947It took some effort to get to the beach, where giant rocks stand. I walked across uneven rock field, difficult to follow the path, but eventually found out one for my own.

IMG_7975.jpgIMG_8010.jpgGiant things far away from you always look like easy to climb up. But it isn’t. So I didn’t climb. But I found the debris of a lighthouse nearby. This is the first lighthouse in Iceland which was destroyed in the storm. Now inside of the lighthouse, the nature has reclaimed itself by layering grass and tundra.

Tundra can be easily found on the barren land of Iceland.

Also some incredibly strong flowers. They are definitely unlike those turnips growing in Netherland. No one cares about them— but they made their way out and exist, drinking sunshine and raindrops.

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Nattura – 12 juni

Another example to prove Icelanders living on nature: Just with the volcanos, hot springs, they enjoy comfort and heat even in winter. Hot water is used to warm the streets in downtown Reykjavik, so the snow just melt by itself and no one needs to clean it up. Some hot water is stored in Perlan, a landmark near my hostel. After water is used, it is cleaned and sent back to underground for a balance. In summer, while the sea is not warm enough, they use hot spring to warm up the sea water and import white sand, creating a beach resort.

Texture of Iceland… 

Now it is the all about my first encounter with Iceland, the real Iceland, the reality behind all those myths. And both reality and the image have touched deep inside of me.

Birthday

Just before my 20th birthday, on my way to the airport for my flight to Iceland, I saw a passage about Natalie Portman. She has the same birthday as mine, June 9. And she is such a flawless individual that I can never become.

I have been thinking about my future sometimes but most of the time I am in chaos. I have never been extraordinary in any field since I was young. Now, maybe also after graduation, in a country I was not born in… I have to handle everything.

I have made many mistakes so far. I met wrong people and made wrong decisions… I blame everything that happens to me, believe that all my problems is others’ fault, while never try to fix it. In real world where we set standard for great people, discriminating each other while calling for equality… I don’t fit in with any these standards. And thus I am negative, hard to feel confident about myself. At this point I will tell “I wish I can be as pretty, skinny and I wish I was born Jewish like Natalie” so that I could be flawless like her.

For 20 years I was a negative individual. Maybe this is some bad luck when I was born, I was not able to befriend with everyone and I was always judged of being grumpy… so I try everything to please people around me, but at the same time I lost myself. While people left me alone, without actually thinking about me… I haven’t actually do something to achieve a better me. I don’t know what “being yourself” means, is that remaining as an imperfect person, or becoming a gem?
I complain a lot here, because I always feel uncomfortable with my life. I wasn’t born and raised in perfect conditions for “prodigies”… and I have to live a life worse than those who I admire. I mean, I have to. I feel myself someone in a empty church with all windows and doors sealed. This is where I was. I hit myself against the wall, screamed, and try to rip everything off the wall… and one day I broke a window… and the sunlight came in. Now it is actually the time to look around me where it was dark, to find something new. And I have to find an exit.

I’m glad that I know so many great people here in my college. They help me to know to that I’m not alone, and I’m not as badass as I have imagined… I find a direction for my studies and I am going further and further. I will be traveling in where I love, doing what I love. Someone is going to appreciate me. But I don’t break the window and find the exit — I never will.

I will not be the same as Natalie. But I am gonna be respected by some people as extraordinary.

One day.

Imagine.

Love of people is a necessity for me, just like the love of food, music, and nature. I fall in love with someone for many reasons, such as the culture he/she belongs to, his/her talent in art and music, etc. And I try to connect to them, so they have a place for me in their hearts too. However, it isn’t always like this.

However, it isn’t always like this. Isshi, visual rock musician from Japan, passed away 6 years ago. My Norwegian friends and Finnish friends always hang out with the people who do the same things like them, which is not what I am doing. I am so tired of forcing myself loving something I am not interested. I will miss the speech by Erik Johansson in Helsingborg, while I planned to travel in Aarhus, Denmark. I wish I can hear him speaking his mother tongue, Swedish, and say hello.

Life is always like this. Imperfectness everywhere.

—–

But it isn’t that important now. I sat on the balcony and watch the sun, imagining Erik speaking Swedish to me, while I use my elementary Norwegian skills to reply him. Dreams are perfectly beautiful only when they don’t come true yet. My imagination of having a strong relationship with my favourite people lead me to somewhere I may never be, creating thousands of beautiful nights with tears. It is just so nice when I can do this. love someone without letting anyone know.

And thus I am good.

Hi again.

Some things to share:

1. Sonam’s photos will no longer be on my blog for personal reasons.

2. Plans for the summer! An adventure to the North is coming. I will travel alone in Iceland, Denmark, Sweden and Norway. From June to August! Photos are coming up.

3. I’m doing well after all. It is a very stressful semester, so sorry for any complaint on this blog. 

28.04.2017

For the first time, I searched “is this world getting worse?” 

Recently I can’t help remembering the past, I listen to the music, watch the films that are part of my childhood memory. 

Unfortunately my effort is never going to revive the old time. If the places I dreamed once can be found in the true world, they will always gonna be impure. 

Because the world is getting worse, or maybe it’s because of me. As I grow up I can’t help seeing the dark side of everything. What for? I don’t want anyone see the bad thing of me, especially people I like the most. But no one wants me to be like that. Totally unnecessary effort of self-torture. 

I just want to be happy by myself now.

22.04.2017

I was thinking about doing visual kei makeup and kimono for Prez Ball in order to look unique. But I know it only makes me a weirdo and people will be staring at me, because I have done this in a new year ball when I was in high school. 

So, tonight I stayed with myself. I called my parents about my thoughts, and they told me that if I don’t fit with this world, I should choose to fit with myself because I’m going to create a new one. 

09.04.2017

IMG_2173This is my phone number. I have been using it for 10 years since I got my first phone. It was in primary school, when we trust people and make new friends easily. When we graduate in 2009, we told each other: we are friends now and forever. I promised from my heart that even after several decades, they are able to stay in touch with me.

I still believe that one day someone who has my phone number will remember me, and want to message me, how are you doing? As we grow up, we all moved to different places, greet new people and find new experiences. We learn the stradegies to stay on the top and not get defeated, we learn what the others are actually saying… Our focus is more on ourselves.

I still use that phone number. Sometimes I pick up unknown calls with some expectations and excitement, but all I get is spams. I wonder where these people, the people I once trusted and wanted to be friends with forever, disappeared.

Time keeps killing us.

01.04.2017

This one is serious.

Mom just skyped me yesterday that she and my dad plan to move to Hangzhou, my dad’s hometown due to the health condition of my grandpa and grandma. They will soon find new jobs and say goodbye to the apartment in Beijing, where we have lived since I was 4. 

I had my personal room in this home until last year when my parents decided to refurnish the entire home. At that time I just enrolled the college in another country. The bed I used for 10 years and the desk I used for about 15 years were all sold. When I was back for summer — I don’t see anything that evoke my memory about my home, where I played with my friends, quarreled with my parents, …

My grandparents… I love them. I love their food and pocket money, but most importantly, they devote themselves to their children as well as the children of their children(that is me and my cousin). They are getting older. One day I will see someone who I have get used to seeing them every year disappear… Things we think will always be here are eventually going to fade away. The house, the school we treated as second home, the city we live in, and at the end our family. 

Your time is limited. Use every second to love, stay alive. I’m serious.

Clean

Attempt to take clean photos, like these on life magazines.

Life may be imperfect, but we express our hope via photography.

We travel like normal tourists. We followed the map, plan everything ahead of time, etc. We are kind of busy, but it doesn’t stop our eyes from discover good angle, and capture every unique moment.

March 19, Myrtle Edwards Park
March 20, Mt. Rainier
March 21, Chihuly Garden and Glass
March 21, Space Needle
March 23, Seattle Public Library
March 20, Pike Market
March 24, Argosy Cruises
March 25, in my hotel
March 24, Gum wall
March 25, The Quad in UW

Let me sit and rest a while.

img_6469Weeks ago, friends of mine were on their trips to some Carribean islands while I had two midterms to work on. It was such a pain when browsing a news feed filled with smiley faces, bikinis, coconut juice and sunshine, when I was still struggling with seasonal affective disorder and so many deadlines.

I silently deactivated my Facebook account temporarily and reactivated it one week ago. When it is finally spring break, I took my camera with me and began my trip to Seattle.

This is how a day I had as a “life traveler who enjoys the beauty of life, who love beautiful things and people”:

Use Google Map to explore the best places to see, and the best restaurant to eat. Find the best route to everywhere. When finally arrives at a place, I post “My Story” on Instagram first. I take photos, and then leave immediately and move on to the next place. When I am tired, I sit down and find electronic outlets for my phone. It is hard to tell what I have really learned besides running to everywhere with my roomie. What is the thing we are enjoying?

It is hard to tell what I have really learned besides running to everywhere with my roomie. What is the thing we are enjoying? Hard to tell. It is harder and harder for a heart to calm down nowadays, when people love good appearance so much, while people with knowledge are ignored.

But it is also about myself: for years, I enjoyed pleasing people so much as a loner — when people like my photos on social media, it can make my day. And so, I try to take good photos to please my friends, especially the ones I want to get closer to. What’s the meaning of that? I haven’t really get closer to those people simply because I was not good enough.

I want to be better. I want to stop living in a world with so many people watching me. Life is so tiring, so meaningless like that.

Travel alone, live a happy life, learn a lot of things and tell no one. People ruin beautiful things.