A Travellerspoint blog

10 More Days!

Reading up on a lot of travel guides has me excited and nervous over...how to dress

Okay, I'm freaking out about what I'm going to wear over there. It was easy to pack for university in Ottawa as I just threw a lot of hoodies and sweatshirts and god knows what else into a box. After all, anyone can roll out of bed and go to classes, and everyone wears jeans and may or may not dress up to go out. Over there, I want to "fit in", but I know that no matter what I wear I'm going to stand out anyway. I'm saying to myself: what kind of shoes do they wear in Reykjavik? Definitely not sneakers, but that's my staple footwear! And what kind of tops do they wear? I don't have any cardigans; only hoodies and zip hoodies. I haven't even worn a bathing suit in four or five years! Should I buy these before I go? If I do, then I'll definitely (maybe) save money. If I don't, then will I stand out as less of a foreigner, sort of...yes, no?
Another part of me just says, just calm down and pack the essentials, like my passport and medication.

Posted by corneggs 10:00 Tagged packing Comments (0)

Krútta

Cuteness! ;) and No Regrets

rain -25 °C

Either I'm more aware of articles about Iceland in magazines, or more magazines have been publishing articles about Iceland. I read an article about the Icelandic stereotype of krútta in PRINT Magazine. It roughly translates into cuteness, as in how musical bands draw their own album art or show themselves knitting. I'd say it ties in with the whole indie/DIY culture, which of course stems basically from emo/goth. That's my view of the lineage of trends anyhow. Did I mention that Sigur Rós isn't really my kind of music? Yet I listen to other types of instrumentalist post-rock (yes, I've categorized them!). I've tried to listen to a lot of their songs and I've tried to enjoy them but I'm not having an epiphany so far. As for krútta, let's just say that I am repulsed by the idea. First of all, I hate knitting and other arts and crafts. Just staring at homemade things makes me want to barf. Maybe it's because it reminds me of my inability to draw or make anything handmade, or my love for industrial-type design. I remember my least favourite subject in elementary school was Art. I would be given foam, pom-poms, markers, pencil crayons,crayons, construction paper, scissors, stencils, sequins, googly eyes, yarn, and be told to go crazy. I would then proceed to take a plain white sheet of paper and draw a cloud or some other basic form on it and breathe a sigh of relief when it was over. So it may be a stereotype, but Iceland is into things krútta right now and I will be shuddering the whole time.

Right after putting down Print, I read the Authentic Rome article of National Geographic Travel. This just exacerbated the bad vibes I was feeling from the last article. I flipped through the Authentic Rome article, looking at the photos of beautiful piazzas in wide open, stately spaces and old architecture. Other than natural elements, every cityscape of Reykjavík is pretty dismal. No offence to anyone taking pictures of it or anyone living there, but it's all grey on grey. Of course, I have no regrets. I know I won't be having the visit-every-country experience that other exchange students will be getting. I won't be riding on bicycles in The Netherlands, eating lots of cheese and croissants in France, walking through timber houses and castles in Germany, riding the tube or buses in England or looking at art and architecture in Italy. One positive thing: At least I'm not going to a very hot place. Right now I can't stand cockroaches and other creepy crawly creatures. I'm still going on exchange to an amazing place. It's just that my experience will be...different.

I feel bad that I've been communicating to Icelanders without using their full alphabet, which includes accents and extra symbols. It's like writing: Hov r ju? So now I'm trying to add in the characters.

Travel Update: I've booked a plane ticket (I'm officially leaving on August 27) and I'm so close to getting my visa!

Posted by corneggs 17:44 Tagged armchair_travel Comments (0)

ES

Mourning the loss of a legend

rain

I must interrupt the stories of my travels so that I can bring to light the passing of a great legend in recent jazz history, Esbjörn Svensson. I was supposed to go see e.s.t. in one week. I don't know how or whether the band will continue without its namesake. It was him on the piano that got me listening to jazz (besides Chick Corea). His cheerful music cheered me up and pulled me through hard times. He was a true musician.

He will be missed dearly by all his fans. To think, "If only he could've lived one more week!" would be very selfish, but it's true. I was waiting to see e.s.t. for at least four years, but now I never will see them live. I can only listen to records and imagine.

It was so sudden that I still can't believe I'll never get to experience the magic. R.I.P., Esbjörn (as if I knew him personally). Your music will live on. It'll make me keep on loving jazz, and music, and keep on inspiring my dreams.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

On a brighter note, I'm confirmed for the geological excursion to Iceland, which is one of the main reasons why I wanted to go to Iceland in the first place! But I shouldn't get expectations up.

Posted by corneggs 17:39 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

This is Ridiculous

This is ridiculous.

June 4, 2008
I thought I would go in at lunch time, do two wire transfers, and be done by the end of lunch. So I go to Bank and Queen CIBC. They say they need to get a SWIFT customer code, which would take 2 hours. Okay. I’ll come back tomorrow.

June 5, 2008
They have the code, but for some reason they cannot get a conversion rate for the Icelandic Krona. This takes up 1 hour, and I leave without having done anything.

June 6, 2008
They have the conversion rate. It takes 1 hour and 30 minutes to do the two transfers. I sign the receipts, breathing a sigh of relief. It is done! Their computer systems freeze and it says that the transactions are not completed. They call the IT people and say that they’ll try it again on Monday.
After work, I go to the St. Laurent branch, one of the few branches in the city that close at 7 and are open on weekends. They say that the Bank and Queen transactions didn’t go through probably because it transfers that are over 5,000 ISK must be made at a home branch. Two options: go to Thornhill to do it through my chequing account or go to Rideau and Sussex to do it through my savings account. Sorry.

June 9, 2008
Bank and Queen call me back, saying they were unsuccessful. I now have four out of my ten free transactions per month used up by their “attempts”. They suggest maybe a certified money order and registered mail, but I doubt either the school or the Icelandic Directorate of Immigration would take anything other than the SWIFT wire. I can always check, but when will they reply to my e-mail? It’s more than 75% a no, so I don’t want to get my hopes up.
I come in to work early (at 7!) to get off at 3 so that I can rush to the Rideau and Sussex branch. Silly me, I knew all along that I needed that customer code before dealing with any transactions, but I thought that was to obtain the SWIFT code (which every branch I’ve asked except for Bank and Queen readily has) and not the contract number…or is that the conversion rate? Anyway, the bank closes in 30 minutes so I have no time to get the number anyway. Come again tomorrow. Or not, because I normally work until 4, which is when they close. And I can’t leave work early again because it’s hard for me but maybe I’ll try on Wednesday. I talk to the teller at this branch and they said that there was no reason why the St. Laurent branch nor the Queen and Bank branch couldn’t have done it. It’s weird how the latter froze and the former just didn’t want to “touch it”.
Walking through the streets I come across a TD bank saying that they close at 6 and sometimes 8 and are open on Saturdays—most banks are, I believe. They even advertised it on TV. I see new hope on the horizon. I ride the bus home, get my TD card which hasn’t been used in years, ride the bus back to the TD branch nearest my workplace so that I could get the contract code today and tomorrow I can come straight after work to do the magic. I get to the branch—at least it’s large and has a desk specifically for customer service. I go into a private financial counseling room, which gives me great pleasure. I give them my debit card, which is still valid, thank god. SWIFT wire? No problem. Except for the fact that the banker can’t find any trace of Icelandic Krona currency on her computer screen, and therefore she suggests I go to a Western Union.

So this is where I am at right now.
Action Plan:
June 10—go to HSBC, which closes at 4:30, and see if I can get a bank draft going through SWIFT
--e-mail housing and directorate people to see if I can pay the fees any other way
--send documentation to parents to see if I can send it through them
--the problem with this is that I need a copy of the receipt to be included in my permit application and I also need proof of sufficient funds through a bank statement. If they see that these two don’t match up (i.e. somebody else has paid for things that I am supposed to pay through my own bank, my signature isn’t on the transaction)
June 11—I will try to go to work 30 minutes before so I can get out early so that if lucky and the bus comes on time, I will be able to go to Rideau and Sussex before the branch closes and I will PLEAD with the people to let me stay after hours and if they say no I will throw a tantrum and show them this documentation of my woes and have everyone sued and/or fired
June 12—I think my parents will try and get a contract number…
June 13—If June 11 didn’t work and I find I can’t send money orders or whatever, I will have to find a way to get back to Thornhill.
June 14—Sit in the bank in Thornhill all day trying to get this to work. If it doesn’t work, I HAVE TRIED MY BEST TO DO TWO SIMPLE WIRE TRANSFERS, EH.

Update: June 11, 2008
So I didn't do everything on my Action Plan. No kidding. It's both impossible and a full-time job. BUT I went back to Rideau and Sussex today and did the same thing again -- the transaction didn't go through but at least the computer didn't freeze. Then the teller got creative and tried sending the amount in Canadian currency instead of converting it into Icelandic krona. It. Worked.
Now I just have to hope that I've sent enough in because I have no way of knowing the fee that the banks there charge and if they charge more than the amount I sent to cover myself, then gah. Never again SWIFT. Never. Never. Never. Until I have to again.

Update: June 18m 2008
I went back to the bank and ended up paying $105 more than I would've if I did the whole thing the first time around. I e-mailed the immigration people about it and they haven't replied back. I guess they're satisfied. They didn't say anything about refunding extra money to me, either. Does it seem like I'm too stingy with financial matters? I don't want to come off sounding like I am. Because I'm not. But I am. Oh, and those of you who know me know that I'm indecisive too.

Posted by corneggs 14:57 Tagged preparation Comments (0)

Why Iceland?

sunny 8 °C

Yes, indeed why Iceland out of all the places. People in the "know" say that it is totally awesome that I am going there. Others look at me funny and ask, "I know you've told me before but why Iceland again?"

I tell people the stock phrase "because it's good for geography" so that people would nod their heads. I sometimes wish I had picked somewhere warm, or France so that I could practice my French, or The Netherlands or England. Y'know, all those typical study abroad places. I know I'm not mentioning Asia. That's because Europe is much more compact and I'm just so westernized. I also always feel weird going to Asian places that is not Cantonese-speaking. Do I look like one of them? Do I look Chinese enough so that they will or will not try to say something in their own language? In Europe, I stick out but I'm not constantly self-conscious and don't always ask: Do I fit in or am I viewed as a foreigner? Am I a foreigner or should I be trying to fit in?

But back to that nagging question. I guess I just didn't want your typical junior year study abroad experience. I never really even thought Iceland was a plausible exchange place until I started crossing off all the places I couldn't go and the best choice for me was the land of fire and ice.

Sometimes I read tourist tip forums and I read people complaining that they've always wanted to visit Iceland but they never feel like they'll be able to afford the weekend. That scares me. I'm going for 32 weekends on a student budget. I will no longer read those things because they just depress me. Another worry is that I've been looking at so many pictures of The Country that I'm afraid I'm going to get there and think, "This place didn't look this bad in the picture." I love reading up about places but once you start being able to recommend attractions you've never been to, you know that you have to stop researching or else it won't come as such a great surprise/delight. At least that's what I fear/think.

On another note, I'm waiting for my letter of acceptance so I could start my visa application process.
Countdown: about 4 or 4.5 months

Posted by corneggs 23:54 Tagged preparation Comments (0)

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