Juliana Di Georgio

 

Faroe Islands

Hometown: Jacksonville, Florida
School: Home Schooled
Sponsor District : District 6970
Sponsor Club: Mandarin, Florida
Host District: District 1440
Host Club: The Rotary Club of Tórshavn

 

My Bio


Hej! Mit navn er Juliana! I'm absolutely thrilled to be heading to Faroe Islands next year as a foreign exchange student! I am very grateful toward the Rotary organization and all the people involved who have given me the opportunity to better myself through becoming a part of another culture. My favorite thing to do is learn, and most of my daily activities involve the process of learning; I have a proclivity for reading, though I'm also often found drawing, playing computer games, taking walks, writing, and playing the violin. I teach private violin lessons to a small number of students, and my parents are fully-fledged music teachers. My father teaches full-time, as well as work as a choir director and orchestra conductor, while my mom has some students while also being a consultant for a health and wellness business. My brother is also a violin teacher, though he mostly works as an intern at an architectural firm. My family places great value in hard work and studiousness, which is why I believe I'll have a fulfilling and successful exchange. Besides being diligent, I'm personable and diplomatic. I can get along with anyone, and I don't allow conflicting principles or personalities get in the way of what could be, at the very least, a cordial acquaintanceship. I'm ambitious, and I hope to change myself and others while on my exchange, so that global understanding can be achieved. Again, I thank the Rotary for giving me this chance, as well as my parents, my friends, and my adversaries. They have shaped me into a person who can be an ambassador, and they have prepared me for greater change. I am ready to experience Denmark and all it has to offer. Farvel, for nu!

Me, Sanna, and Maria on a boat

Me, Sanna, and Maria on a boat

Journals: Juliana - Faroe Islands

  • Juliana, outbound to Faroe Islands

    “$154 to send a 10 kilogram box. …It’s like twenty pounds, I think? Is that cheap? Cheaper than in the US, right? …Yeah. …Oh, it was just books and other stuff, everything too heavy for the suitcase. …Uh-huh. That’s right. Ah, my bus is here, I gotta go. Talk to you later. …Yes. …Okay. …Yeah. …Okay, yes, later. Bye.”

    I hung up the phone and swung my arm down to my side. I felt exhausted, which was weird, since I’d taken advantage of the fact that I had no school by sleeping in until I almost died of dehydration. I yawned and squinted up at the sky; it was gray and turbulent, spitting down waves of mist on the people who had to wait at the bus stop that didn’t have a shelter. Thankfully, the bus was on time — I quickly glanced around to see if a thaumaturge was also waiting with us — and we were quickly spared from the bone-deep chill of the Faroese summer.

    “I don’t want to go home yet,” I thought miserably as I flopped my soggy self into a bus seat. I didn’t want to go back to my room and see every possession I owned tossed higgledy-piggledy in piles all over the floor. By the dresser was the “give-away clothes” pile, under the cubbies was the “sentiment-filled but useless” pile, in the middle of the floor was the “most of these I don’t want, but I don’t feel like sorting through them” pile… and there were more. I didn’t want to see them, but I didn’t have the money to go anywhere else. So I stayed on.

    I needed a distraction from my thoughts. I opened my phone and went through my text messages.

    “Hey Juliana! Sure, I’d love to meet up. How about—“

    Next.

    “Thanks for contacting me! Yeah, that time sounds good. We’ll be there—“

    Next.

    “I want to see you too! Let’s get coffee—“

    Next.

    “Sorry, I’m taking a trip that day. But I’m free on—“

    I closed my phone. I was happy that everyone I’d messaged had replied so quickly. Host family members, friends, people who’ve helped me get through my year — I’d sent messages to them all and asked if we could get together one last time before June 24th, the departure day. I felt like a dying woman making plans to see all her loved ones before she inevitably succumbs to disease. Of course it’s not quite the same, as not only will I return to the Faroes some day, but modern technology connects us all; still, what you want and what you don’t want will always be present in equal measure in your mind: “I’ll definitely see them all again some day,” and, “What if this is the last time we’ll ever see each other?” You can’t keep one and toss out the other. Thoughts are ornery things.

    The bus ride felt like an eternity. Any amount of time in a vehicle longer than ten minutes is considered a really long time in the Faroe Islands, and it’s changed my perspective. From my home in Florida, it was twenty minutes to my college. Forty minutes to my friend’s house. An hour to the beach. Two and a half hours to Disney World. Even the seven hour car ride to North Carolina my family takes every year never seemed like a big deal, before now.

    My perception of the scale of the world has changed without me even noticing. I’ve been in ten foreign countries now. Back before ‘exchange student’ was even in my regular lexicon, when my only pastime was obsessively planning realistic goals for my life, I never even dared to dream that I’d visit more than three countries outside the US. In my mind, it just wasn’t possible for me. But it was, and it is, and I’ve done it. I’ve really done it.

    The bus dropped me off at the stop outside my subdivision. I slipped inside my house and immediately went downstairs to my room.

    I stepped inside, shut the door softly, and slid the “weird Faroese tchotchkes” pile out of my path with my foot as I paced over to my desk. I sat down heavily, sighing as I looked over the piles, the garbage, and the open, empty suitcase. The room was silent except for the sound of my own breathing and little, imaginary voices whispering in my ear, “You’re leaving soon,” coming from the things strewn all over the floor.

    I put my face in my hands. I’m leaving soon.

    I hadn’t bothered to turn on the light when I came in. I sat facing my dark room, my head casting a shadow on the wall from the light of my laptop’s screen. This had been my most important space for three months, and soon I would have to leave it behind forever.

    I’m leaving soon.

    Exhaustion settled over me like a giant pillow. I got up and went over to the bed, laid down, and shut my eyes, listening to the noise of the house. I could hear my host mom washing dishes upstairs, and the excited voices of Danish children meant my little host brother was watching television. My mom. My little brother. I had three moms, three dads, four brothers, and four sisters whom I hadn’t even known this time last year. And yet they were my family. They will always be my family.

    I’m leaving soon, but I’m not going home. I’ll never be completely at home ever again.

    But if that’s the price I have to pay to have homes all over the world, then that’s fine.

    Farvæl, Føroyar. Vit síggjast.


  • Juliana, outbound to Faroe Islands

    (**WARNING: This journal is long. This is the end of the warning.**)

    (**I LIED: HERE’S ANOTHER WARNING: Some dialogue was fabricated for comedic purposes. …Some.)

    —Paris

    I hadn’t really thought about going to Paris before; I’m sure there were times when I thought it would be cool to go into the Palace of Versailles — ~I’M IN LOOOOVE WITH ROCOOOCO~ — but for some reason I never really imagined myself in France. And yet, there I was going on this maskinferð with a bunch of Faroese students. Suddenly, we were all exchange students, in a way.

    (A little anecdote: Maskinferð literally means “machine trip.” All throughout the trip, we called it maskinferð instead of námsferð — “study trip” — because on the Friday before we left, our teacher gave us a warning that we shouldn’t engage in any funny business because military personnel were patrolling the streets of Paris, and they were carrying machine guns — only instead of saying “machine guns,” she just said “machine” by accident. So the word stuck, and whenever there was a trio of soldiers walking by carrying machine guns, whoever saw them first would shout to the rest of the group, “Maskin!” and we would all repeat it back.)

    So on Wednesday, I awoke at 5:00 in the morning (read: rose like a zombie from a coffin) so I could take a taxi to the airport. I checked in my luggage with my similarly groggy-eyed classmates, and within the hour, we got on the plane.

    Day 1 — Copenhagen.

    The flight to Copenhagen is less than three hours, so we landed pretty early in the morning. Most of us slept on the plane, and there are plenty of pictures on Instagram of us sitting with our heads lolling to the side, our mouths wide open. We grabbed our stuff, hopped on a train, and got off a bit farther away from the hostel than anyone would’ve liked. We walked a good distance, dragging our luggage in tow, and it was at this point that I realized I wasn’t wearing my brace, and my ankle was hurting. Badly.

    Foreshadowing!

    (Note: No, my ankle isn’t still sprained. I probably have a damaged ligament, and normally it’s completely painless and I don’t need to wear a brace, though sometimes it acts up. This trip was one of those times. Darn you to heck, walking tours!)

    We arrived at the hostel, but our rooms weren’t ready yet, so we stuffed our bags into an empty room and set off into Copenhagen. Our main group branched off into several smaller groups as we went searching for food. The group I was with went to a Shawarma restaurant, and then after that, we split into even smaller groups to go wandering around.

    Much shopping was accomplished. Because clothes (and food, and pretty much everything else) is so expensive in the Faroes (because one: socialism, and two: import tax), Faroese people in other countries go crazy while shopping. Most of the girls’ luggage bags were packed to be almost empty to prepare for their new purchases. I say “most” because mine wasn’t, as I knew I wouldn’t be able to buy much; most of the clothing chains I went to only had women’s sizes up to L, very few went up to XL, and even the XL shirts were too small for me. I went into H&M and bought a bunch of men’s XL t-shirts, and while they ended up being long enough to wear as a dress, they still fit snugly around my broad shoulders.

    Moral of this boring story: If you’re a girl in Europe and you’re not short and/or a human pipe cleaner, men’s clothes and “plus sizes” are the way to go.

    “But Juliana!” you might have said just now, “Aren’t Scandinavians generally very tall?” Yes, you are correct, lovely reader. But the height of the average Scandinavian man is still shorter than, for example, my brother, and the average Scandinavian woman is shorter than me; men average at about 185 cm (about 6’1”) and women at about 171 cm (like 5’7”). Just for reference, my brother is 218 cm (aprox. 7’2”) and I’m 180 cm (5’11”-ish. I tell people I’m 6’ for ease of reference). And I think, due to the exercise and healthy food I’ve been getting here in the Faroes, that I’ve gotten even taller.

    Yaaaaay.

    All right, sorry for getting off-topic.

    We got back to the hostel extremely late. There were six of us in one tiny room, but we all managed to finish our bedtime routines in enough time to get four hours of sleep.

    Day 2 — Paris.

    Got on the flight, landed in Paris, hooray! When we landed, the sun was just coming up, and the view from the airplane window was fantastic. Bright sunlight illuminated huge acres of vineyards, towering forests, and cute little neighborhoods of white walls and terra-cotta roofs. Even the blue sky was exciting, since it’d been a while since I saw a clear sky. I couldn’t stop asking my classmates, “Ert tú spent!?” (“Are you excited?”), because I was jumping up and down. In my airplane seat. Yes, I’m still an embarrassment to everyone around me, in case you were wondering if that trait ever went away.

    We arrived at our hostel, where, again, our rooms weren’t ready, so we stuffed all our bags into an empty room yet again. This time, though, that didn’t turn out so well because these rooms were absolutely miniscule. They were even smaller than the room I have all to myself here in the Faroes, and I was to be sharing a hostel room with two other girls. And the layout was horrible; you opened the door, and immediately to your left was a tiny water closet. Then came the shower, which lead directly into the room, and anyone who was in the room could see you showering because the shower door wasn’t opaque.

    THE SHOWER DOOR. WASN’T. OPAQUE.

    Has that sunken in yet? Yes? Yes, okay, moving on.

    After the shower came two single beds pushed together and a bunk bed crossing over them perpendicularly, and then there was a tiny space for our suitcases next to a small sink. Needless to say, we didn’t spend much time in that room.

    After depositing our junk in our genuinely awful rooms, we went shopping.

    FRENCH GOTHIC ARCHITECTURE, YOU ARE THE REASON I CAN LOVE. If you’ve never been to Paris and have only seen photographs, I can tell you that the shops, the cafés, the apartments with the little verandas, and all the people on mopeds are a sight that’s infinitely better in person. The atmosphere of a busy shopping district in Paris is so overwhelmingly comfortable, you might feel like curling up on the sidewalk and falling asleep to the sounds of the city. I know I did — well, I mean, I felt like it. I didn’t actually go to sleep on a sidewalk in Paris. You can’t even sit down at a café for ten minutes without being shooed away.

    Yes, I got shooed out of a restaurant by a snooty French waiter. Here’s what happened:

    While my classmates continued shopping, I felt my ankle acting up again, so I went to go sit outside a nice corner café where they could still find me if they needed to, as my phone didn’t have reception. A waiter materialized next to my table and I ordered a Coke. Drinking it took about two minutes, and I spent another five minutes just relaxing. The café was empty except for me and a Parisian couple on a date. There was a hot sun overhead and a pleasant breeze floating between the tall buildings. Even with the heavy traffic and honking horns, everything felt peaceful.

    The waiter materialized with the bill, revealing that my one glass of soda had cost the equivalent of 8 USD. Lamenting the fact that I hadn’t just ducked into the metro to use a vending machine instead, I paid him and left the extra coins as a tip. The waiter disappeared with my empty glass and I continued to sit there, enjoying the sunlight. I closed my eyes for a second, and when I opened them, the waiter was there again. I looked at him questioningly.

    “You finished your drink,” he said. As he had already taken my glass and money away, I knew this wasn’t a pre-emptive statement to offering me a refill. I just raised my eyebrows at him and stated the obvious: “Yeah?”

    He rocked on the heels of his feet, his expression agitated, staring at me. He didn’t move from his spot and didn’t avert his gaze. Slightly unnerved, I slowly reached for my bag and coat, and at that, he looked relieved and disappeared into the café again.

    What, was he afraid he was going to have to use force to remove me from his deserted restaurant? The force of your awkward stare was enough, buddy. Good job.

    Anyway, moving on to a more positive restaurant experience, we all headed to a restaurant later that night, where I tried escargot and cuisses de grenouilles for the first time. The snails tasted more like herbs and butter than anything else, and the frog legs really, seriously did just taste like chicken covered in tomato sauce. I liked them. Anyway, after that, nearly everyone else went partying ’til the early hours of the morning, but my ankle assured me that it would be unwise to join them.

    Day 3 — Notre Dame de Paris, the Panthéon, and Sacré Cœur

    The next morning, we walked to Notre Dame, passing by the Seine and giving me the perfect opportunity to sing “Out There” from The Hunchback of Notre Dame, much to everyone else’s embarrassment. We got to the cathedral, filed through the one open door, had our bags NOT checked by two security guards who were supposed to be checking bags but decided they were too busy talking to each other, and inhaled the sacred air of Notre Dame.

    Have I mentioned how much I love French Gothic architecture? Because I do. I was nearly drooling as I gazed at the high arches, mullioned windows, and detailed stain glass. Along the walls were religious artworks, old tabernacles, banners providing historic information, and other points of interest. Our group split off, and I ended up being disconnected from the main group because I was busy sight-seeing and hadn’t noticed everyone leaving in the gigantic, tourist-packed cathedral. I got a text from one of our teachers (thankfully my phone could still receive texts) telling me they were all in a nearby café. So I regrouped with them and we all headed back to church to attend mass at noon.

    I really wish we could have attended mass on a Sunday, because weekday masses, even those in one of the most famous cathedrals in the world, are rather lackluster. The readings were in French, of course, which all except a few of us couldn’t understand, and it was incredibly short with almost no singing. Even so, mass in Notre Dame de Paris! I’m very happy that I could have that experience.

    After that, we headed to the Panthéon. We saw lots of fantastic artwork and the graves of Viktor Hugo, Rousseau, Voltaire, and other famous people. There’s not much more I can say about it without describing each and every piece of artwork to you, so take my word for it when I say it was amazing. It’s hard to describe the atmosphere within the Panthéon, because there almost wasn’t one; there were very few people around, and the gigantic, echoey hall was quieter than a library. If only it smelled like a library too, because the smell of marble isn’t easy to convey through words, mostly because well-cared-for marble doesn’t have a smell. The whole place smelled like nothing, is what I’m saying.

    No smell, no sound, and towering white walls and statues everywhere. It was quite the austere experience. I loved it.

    Also, I bought a Little Prince plushy in the gift shop. Yay!

    The last stop of the day was Sacré Cœr. By the time we left the Panthéon, my ankle was on fire, so you can imagine my immense despair when I saw all the steps leading up to the cathedral. Still, I climbed, because I knew that if I stopped, a “salesman” would wrap a bracelet around my wrist and try to intimidate me into paying for it. I decided not to risk it for a moment’s respite.

    Inside the cathedral, mass was going on. They were having communion, and the sanctum was absolutely packed. Unlike Notre Dame’s mass, this mass had music and a choir, and it was glorious to behold. A woman’s strong, vibrating voice echoed around the giant cathedral, accompanied by a powerful organ. I would have loved to stay and attend that mass, but I thought my feet were going to fall off by then, so we departed.

    If you’re reading this, you probably know me. If you don’t know me, that means you’re an exchange student from the future, reading my journals for reference (HAHA, GOOD LUCK WITH THAT), in which case, hello from the past! But anyway, if you know me, then you know I have this habit of getting distracted and becoming separated from whomever I’m with.

    But surely I wouldn’t let that happen in a foreign country where I had no cellphone reception, right? Surely I’d be able to get a grip on my focus and make sure I was with the group at all times… right?

    By this point in the story, it had already happened twice.

    No, I’m not going to tell you what happened.

    Exchange student from the future, if you’re still reading this, I implore you to try to remain focused at all times. It’s important to your safety.

    Oh, by the way, on an unrelated note, we got done with our tours around three o’clock everyday, so in case you were wondering, you’re safe to presume that everything that occurred after we were done doing what I’ve described in these diary entries was some combination of dining out, shopping, touring the supermarket, napping, and clubbing. For me, it was probably some combination of the first, third, and fourth. Describing that would get repetitive, so just know that that’s what we did between and after being tourists.

    Day 4 — Versailles

    I can’t remember if it was this day or a different day, but at some point, a gypsy market appeared about ten meters down the road from our hostel. As I’ve already mentioned, our hostel was pretty terrible, which might have had to do with the fact that it was in a shantytown. Gypsies, the homeless, drug dealers, and prostitutes — literally hundreds of them — crowded into the street, promoting their “services” or showing off the salvaged garbage they were selling, or else beating the teeth out of each others’ heads in an attempt to steal said garbage. One of our classmates — hi, Jón — went to check out the market out of curiosity before any of us knew what was going on within it, and he came back visibly disturbed. We were disturbed, too, when he described the horrors he’d seen to us. We already weren’t allowed to go anywhere by ourselves, but this new situation upped the fear ante.

    I decided not to tell my mom about this situation happening right outside our living quarters until after the trip was over. A wise decision, I would say.

    …So we headed off to Versailles!

    Do you know what Rococo architecture is?

    Because I’M IN LOOOOVE WITH ROCOOOOCO. I love it even more than French Gothic. Walking through an entire palace full of pastel walls and gold trim made me feel like I was walking in the version of Heaven you see in comic strips: fluffy clouds with golden gates. Maybe that’s an odd comparison, but it was really, truly wonderful. It was my second-favorite location we visited on our trip.

    “Second-favorite?” you might have just asked your computer screen, as if it would magically supply answers to you in my own deep, soothing voice. “But Versailles was the first thing you mentioned in this journal! What could your first-favorite be?”

    Ha. Aha ha. Hahahaha. HAHAHAHA. AAAHAHAHAHAHAHHA!

    You’ll find out.

    Day 5 — Notre Dame de Reims and G. H. Mumm & Cie

    Notre Dame de Reims wasn’t actually on the itinerary; we just happened to be near it as we waited for the G. H. Mumm facility to open. Everybody else relaxed at a café or walked around while I ventured into the cathedral by myself. Unfortunately, I didn’t know about the existence of the Smiling Angel until we left Reims, so I didn’t get the chance to look for it. Still, the thousands of awesome carvings of holy people and angels were quite the sight. I was almost neurotically giddy, being on my fourth day of a nonstop, architectural eye-binge.

    Now here’s a funny(?) little story. I stepped into the dusty sanctum of the cathedral to find that it was almost empty. A few small groups of tourists wandered here and there, but there was nowhere near the crowd of Notre Dame de Paris. Then again, it was like eight o’clock in the morning, when most tourists are still in their caves.

    So, since the cathedral was so empty, I decided it would be okay if I prayed right in front of the altar — well, as close to the altar as I could get, since it was roped off. I knelt down on the stone floor, hunched over, and prayed for about a minute or so. I could hear a few whispers floating in my direction, but I did my best to ignore them. However, the whispers gradually got closer, and I found myself rushing to finish my prayers. When I finally looked up, I found tourists standing on both sides of me, staring down at me.

    I turned red as a tomato. They were looking straight at me, some smirking, some outright giggling. I think one of them may have even taken a picture of me, judging by the movement his hands — which were holding a camera aloft— when I looked up at him. Flustered and confused, I hurried to my feet and fast-walked out of the cathedral to rejoin my classmates.

    Tourists think praying is just hilarious, I suppose.

    Anyway, to the champagne facility!

    We arrived in G. H. Mumm & Cie and ventured beneath the facility, deep underground (“DOWN ONCE MOOOORE TO THE DUNGEONS OF MY BLAAACK DEEESSPAIR,” I sang as we descended. Since watching The Phantom of the Opera in English class, I can’t go down a flight of stairs without at least thinking of this song). A tour guide explained how the fermenting process worked and led us through different, cobwebbed chambers that showcased bottles of murky liquid that were in the different stages of becoming champagne. The murky stuff was the yeast, of course, and it looked absolutely disgusting, but when the tour was over and we returned to the surface (thankfully by elevator), a man was waiting for us behind a row of glasses filled with sparkling, bubbly champagne. It was a lovely sight. (I’m talking about the champagne, of course, but I guess the guy turned a good ankle, too.)

    I DON’T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT ALCOHOL SO I CAN’T REALLY DESCRIBE THIS CHAMPAGNE FOR THOSE WHO HAVEN’T HAD IT, SO ORSAKA SUM EG ERI BÝTT.

    But yeah. G. H. Mumm champagne. S’good.

    Day 6 — The Louvre and a boat trip in the Seine

    Ah, the Louvre. What can I say about the Louvre besides the obvious? It’s big. It’s got some pyramids made of glass. It’s chockfull of old, famous pieces of art. It’s also full of tourists taking pictures of themselves imitating the art, which was arguably more entertaining than the art pieces themselves.

    Posing in front of the Mona Lisa were faintly-smiling women crossing their arms loosely in front of their chests — perfect imitations, besides having a few eyebrows too many. In another chamber, posing next to a statue of an Olympic athlete mid-catch, was a petite woman wildly stretching her arms while pretending to catch an invisible discus. More than a few men had pictures taken of themselves pretending to take selfies next to statues of Roman emperors who were holding up edicts, which admittedly would often resemble the standard selfie pose. But probably the funniest tourist I took notice of was a grandmotherly Asian woman standing for a picture in front of a large painting of hell. She obviously was trying to look like she was standing in the midst of hell, but her face was just so utterly calm and composed that I nearly burst into tears of laughter watching her have her picture taken. Her expression wasn’t, “I’m in hell,” but rather, “ Hell is my vacation home.” I will remember this little old Asian lady until the day I die. In fact, she will probably be the last thing I see before I pass on.

    SO ANYWAY.

    When it comes to paintings, I adore hyper-realism. Paintings of humans mid-action with intense facial expressions are my favorite, and I don’t particularly care for posed pictures of static, dead-eyed, vacantly smiling models. (Sorry, Mona.) Therefore, I was delighted when I discovered what has now become my favorite painting: Atala au Tombeau (“The Entombment of Atala”) by Girodet. The intense expression on Chactas’ face as he held the dead Atala moved me greatly.

    AWRIGHT, LET’S NOT GET SAPPY.

    After the Louvre, we all went off to do our own thing before regrouping at night to go on a boat ride on the Seine, where we got to see the Eiffel Tower illuminated. Did you know the Eiffel Tower also sparkles sometimes? I sure didn’t. I’m so happy I got to see it at night, when it could look its brightest.

    After the boat ride, me and nine of my classmates headed to a nearby restaurant. It was nearly empty, the food relatively cheap (“15 euro for one entrée? What a bargain!”), but at this point I realized I had no money. I had used up all of my cash, and the French payment machines wouldn’t accept American cards.

    (For those of you who don’t know, American cards have a magnetic strip that you have to slide, while European cards have a magnetic strip AND a chip on the top that you can just stick into the machine. For reasons unknown, every machine except the ATM would only accept the chip method, and there were rarely ever any ATMs around.)

    So I fell into the depths of despair because I had to have my friend pay for my grossly overpriced meal. I know it’s stupid, but this kind of thing is important to me. But enough about that.

    Enter the waiter.

    This man was amazing. Here we were, ten foreign students sitting in a nearly empty restaurant with pockets full of spending money (sans me), and this man had the awe-inspiring effrontery to roll his eyes and mock us as we ordered our food. Why, you may ask? That’s a very good question. Maybe we pronounced the French foods wrong. Maybe we asked him to repeat himself one too many times so we could understand. Who knows?

    And the cherry on top was that he presumed that just because I — yes, me specifically — ordered in English, then that meant NO ONE ELSE at the table spoke French. Well, yes, that’s kind of stupid, but why bring that up?

    Because I was having a bad day; I was out of money, I had a headache, my ankle was killing me, I was starving, and I’d had one of those stupid and inconvenient exchange-induced existential crises when I was on the boat. I was a bit out of it. So when he came back with our food and asked, “Who ordered the duck?”, I didn’t reply right away.

    “Juliana,” said Katrin, tapping me on the shoulder, “isn’t that yours?”

    “Huh? Oh, yeah. Thank you.”

    The waiter looked at me reproachfully and muttered, “Réveillez-vous.”

    I had no idea what that meant — plus I was still in a daze — so I just thanked him and took my food. I didn’t notice Ragnhild, who was sitting a ways down the table, and who also speaks fluent French, looking highly affronted. She passed the news down the table to me that apparently, the waiter had ordered me to “wake up.”

    Wow, I didn’t realize French waiters hated getting a tip. BECAUSE HE CERTAINLY DIDN’T GET ONE.

    A more hilarious situation happened just a moment later. Guðrun had ordered a steak, cooked medium, but when it arrived, it was quite obviously rare. She politely pointed this out to the waiter, who scoffed and told her that what she was looking at WAS medium, even though the steak was plainly swimming in a pool of its own blood. Guðrun told him to take it back and cook it more, which he reluctantly. A couple minutes later, he returns with the steak, drops it in front of her, and leaves. A second-long inspection revealed the steak to still be as cooked as a cow in a hot room.

    Fed up, Guðrun picked up her plate and carried it downstairs to where the waiters were all waiting around, chatting. We all listened as we heard her set the plate down on the counter with a clatter and ask shrilly, “DOES THIS LOOK MEDIUM TO YOU??”

    Guðrun, tú ert mín fyrimynd.

    Day 7 — Choco-Story, the Eiffel Tower, and the Catacombs

    We started our last day in Paris at Choco-Story, a small museum showcasing the history of chocolate-making. After we viewed all the old pots and pans and machines for making chocolate since the beginning of its discovery, we shuffled into a small kitchen where we were given a short presentation on making chocolate. Afterward, we all bought some chocolates (sans me; no ATM had been found before that point), and then headed off.

    I found an ATM in time to finally eat something before we headed to the Eiffel Tower.

    At least to me, the Eiffel Tower looks small until you’re right underneath it. I don’t know what kind of optical illusions are involved, but I honestly felt underwhelmed until I was directly under its steel beams, at which point I became ecstatic. My feelings matched those of a little American boy who was standing with his parents, staring up at the tower, gesticulating widely and shouting, “HOW did HUMANS build SOMETHING like THIS!?”

    This day was pretty foggy, so when we reached the very top of the tower, we couldn’t see very far out over Paris. Still, what we could see was breath-taking; we could see Notre Dame de Paris, Opéra Garnier (“THE PHAAAAAANTOM OF THE OPERA IS—“ “JULIANA, PLEASE.”), Invalides, the Seine, an important-looking building with columns and stuff, and other places, I think. Again, it was foggy.

    There’s actually a champagne bar at the top level, and it charges twelve euros for a tiny little plastic glass. I know you’re supposed to try to get every experience you can, while you can, when you’re abroad (or in life in general, I guess), but I’m really not meant to live in a tourist hotspot. I’m cheap like that.

    We finished taking our selfies — I actually had my Little Prince doll with me, and I took a picture of it in front of the Siene — and went down the elevator, which I thought was one of the best parts: An elevator that goes diagonally? Amazing!

    It’s the little things, people.

    And now, the final stop. Have you been wondering what my favorite location was and is? Are you at all surprised that it involves dead bodies in some way?

    **

    “You’re actually kind of creepy,” said a new friend just recently in a pleasantly surprised voice.

    “I know,” I said, pleasantly surprised that this person had spent more than ten minutes with me without realizing this until just that moment.

    **

    The Paris catacombs. A sign stood in the entrance warning that children and people with nervous dispositions should avoid taking the tour. Luckily, as you all know, I am a master of keeping a calm disposition.

    HAHAHAHA.

    Let’s continue.

    So we descended. Down, and down, and down (“Don’t you DARE start singing.” “Ugh, FINE.”) a spiral staircase that seemed like it would never end. Finally, our feet landed on the dusty ground, and we began to walk through the tunnels. Unfortunately, there were no secret passages to crawl through like in As Above, So Below, but still, the set route was creepy enough on its own.

    They did a good job building suspense, since we spent quite a few minutes just walking through narrow, low-ceilinged, dimly lit corridors. Shadows creeped at the corners of our vision and strange noises echoed off the walls. (“All right, who’s breathing like Jason Voorhees?” “Well, you TOLD me not to SING.”) Pretty soon, we started getting impatient. Where were the skeletons?

    Ah. There they were. Thousands of them. Entire walls made of bones stacked on top of each other lined the entire passage for the rest of the tour. (“I find this tour to be quite HUMERUS.” “PLEASE close your face.”) Thirty minutes of walking through a wide, winding corridor full of smiling skulls, decoratively arranged into crosses or hearts or smiley faces. (That last one isn’t true.) Signs were put up at intervals to remind people not to touch the remains, but they neglected to point out that touching the bones would probably definitely curse you. I tried several times to pose next to the skulls, but the lighting was so horrible that most of the pictures turned out almost completely black. So the only thing I was able to take from the catacombs was corpse dust on my shoes.

    Wait, does that count as touching the remains?

    I am not long for this world. I leave this journal as a memento of my foolishness. There are some things man was never meant to tamper with— wait, this isn’t Creepypasta. My bad.

    So we had one last night of partying and supermarket-touring before settling into our hostel rooms for what was thankfully the last time. We cast offhanded glances at our possessions strewn all over the room, shrugged, and saved the packing for the next day.

    Day 8 — Going home

    We flew home.

    The end.


  • Juliana, outbound to Faroe Islands

    (Before we start, I’d like to mention that there was an error in my last journal: I said Runavík was two and a half hours from Tórshavn, when it’s actually only one hour. My host parents had a good laugh when they read it, because apparently driving two and a half hours in the Faroes without turning around would require you to drive into the ocean. Seriously, you can make a tour of the whole country into a day-trip.)

    One day, I was unexpectedly called to the school counselor’s office. I sat down in the guest chair, wondering what I could have done wrong, when the counselor in charge of the exchange students, Annie, turned to me and said something that immediately made my brain go numb:

    “The principal would like you to do some presentations about yourself and your experiences as an American in the Faroe Islands.”

    “… What?”

    “It won’t be difficult, as they’ll only be fifteen minutes long and the subject will be one you’re familiar with,” explained Annie. “And you’ve done presentations before, right? This would be a good experience for you.”

    “… What?”

    “Will you do it?”

    “Wh— Uh, I’m not sure,” I said, putting my hands up to my face. Just the thought of having to talk about myself to a group of people as if I was actually someone important was horribly embarrassing.

    “Who would my audience be?” I asked. “My classmates, or Rotary, or…?”

    “I don’t have the details yet,” said Annie. “I’ll have to ask the principal. But the group could be anyone from your class to the entire school. Maybe both.”

    “Both?” I echoed, my mind reeling from hearing the words “entire school.” “How many presentations would I be doing?”

    “Hmm. Four to six, maybe?”

    “What.”

    “Yeah, the principal was thinking maybe you could go to different schools to do the presentation as well.”

    “WHAT.”

    “You’ll do it, right?”

    I could already feel my stomach churning with anxiety. I knew I definitely should say yes, but I was insanely worried. What if I mess up? What if I say something wrong? What if my audience correctly surmises that I’m actually terribly boring under my flashy, exchange-student exterior?

    I told Annie I’d think about it and maybe ask some Faroese people what they might like to hear. She took me to talk to my Social Science teacher, who encouraged me to ask my classmates for topics to discuss. So I went back to my classroom and asked for some general ideas, which spontaneously erupted into a brainstorming session that turned the entire Social Science block into a Q&A session. My classmates asked questions ranging from my everyday schedule in the US to how the welfare system works to how to earn a scholarship at an American university. I collected a sizable number of topics to cover and took them home to look over, then decided the presentation was doable and called Annie to tell her I would do it. And then I became sick, forcing all thoughts of the presentations out of my foggy, congested head.

    On Monday of the next week, I went back to Annie’s office to ask her for some advice on how to organize the topics I’d accumulated. I met her in the hall, and as we walked to her office, she asked, “Have you finished writing your presentation yet?”

    “Well, I was sick, so I didn’t have much time,” I explained, stepping into her office and setting my backpack down. “I’ve got a rough outline. I’ll have it finished soon.”

    “You’ve been asked to make your presentation at a middle school tomorrow morning at 10am.”

    I dropped down into the chair next to her desk, my face contorted with horror. “Already?”

    Annie seemed amused. “Oh my, it seems every time you come in here, you get the shock treatment.”

    So I went home and got to work, blearily glaring between my written outline and my computer keyboard for five hours until my brain broke down.

    The next morning, I got to the middle school early and was introduced to the teacher who had requested me to present to his class. He led me into the biology room, followed by twenty or thirty of his sixteen-year-old students. They slowly filled up the seats, some even sitting on the counters. After they all had their butts on a surface, they turned to stare at me questioningly.

    The teacher told me “go ahead” in Faroese, and so I began.

    —I’m not going to include my presentation notes in this journal, since they kind of suck—

    It went off without a hitch. I didn’t mess up or have to take a prolonged break to find my place or any of the other things I was worrying I’d do, and the students were a great audience; they all watched and listened intently, laughing and sounding astonished at all the right points, seeming genuinely interested. I was touched by their prolonged control of their attention spans.

    There were only two questions, both from the same boy: “Do you like Faroese food?” and “Have you gotten used to using metric yet?” To the former I said yes, most definitely, and to the latter I gave a flat “no.”

    I’ve done one more so far; I presented to Annie’s psychology class, which was almost entirely composed of people from my class. Since they were the ones who helped me put the presentation together in the first place, it was kind of awkward, but they politely pretended they hadn’t already heard exactly everything I was saying, so it was fine.

    Even though I was able to do these presentations without any problems, the stage fright never went away. I never stopped being scared. Annie congratulated me after my first presentation and told me I had sounded like I’d done public speaking my entire life. But even though I’ve developed this skill thanks to college group presentations and Rotary, that awkward, shy feeling is rooted deep within my gut like a century-old tree. That shyness is probably an integral part of my personality, and I don’t think I’ll ever get rid of it without uprooting everything else my personality comes from. Still, forcing myself to accept the responsibility of presenting has taught me how to overcome however I’m feeling so I can accomplish what I need to do. I started building that skill up since before I even started with Rotary. It probably started when I had to stand up in front of my ASL class in college and fumble out my name, age, and what kind of act I’d do if I worked in a circus. I’m not kidding; I really was asked to explain that. IN SIGN LANGUAGE. I chose “unicyclist,” by the way, and since I didn’t know the sign for unicycle, I made this really awkward gesture— Wait, I’m getting off topic.

    In the end, I’m glad I chose to do the presentations. I haven’t received any more requests for my presentation as of this writing, but I hope that if I do, it will also go smoothly.

    Maybe I’m one of few in this, but I’ve always understood foreign phrases better if I could hear them said literally. For example, in sign language, you could say, “I went to the mall,” but literally you would be signing BEFORE MALL ME GO. For me, seeing the literal translation makes it easier for me to remember, rather than just seeing a bunch of hand signals and being told it means, “I went to the mall.”

    So that’s why it makes me kind of irritated that Memrise — the website I’m using to learn Faroese — had the phrase, “Eg havi tað illa,” and just put the meaning as, “I’m bad.” Okay, yes, that’s the connotation — you say it when someone asks you how you’re doing and you’re not doing so well — but LITERALLY it means, “I have it bad.” If you had put THAT as the translation instead of just, “I’m bad,” I probably would have been able to remember it when I was quizzed later. Whoever made the Faroese course on Memrise did this numerous times; the Faroese word for “because” is “tí,” and then it has “av tí at” marked as meaning “because” or “if,” while just “if” is “vissi,” and WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO MY FRAGILE BRAIN.

    I don’t know. Is it just me?

    Journals are hard to write. They usually stay on my computer for months as I slowly find things to talk about, but I’ve made a vow to write them more often, even if they’re short. So for this journal, I have everything I’ve written above and… what else?

    Hm. I didn’t want the journal to be this short. I can’t think of more things to say. I guess this is a good sign, if it means that I’ve become so integrated that everything I do feels like a regular part of my normal, everyday life. …’Cause that’d be pretty cool.

    …It’s probably that I’m just scatter-brained. Oh well.

    Hmm. I guess I could talk about how I’m now able to go on the class trip to Paris with my classmates, but since that’s happening in March and all my knowledge of France comes exclusively from Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Ratatouille, I don’t have much to say on that front besides, “I’m excited for it.” I COULD talk — at serious length — about all the trouble my teachers and I are going through to arrange for me to tag along this late in the planning stage, but I really only want to give the advice of, “Make absolutely sure you have your visa info filed with the Danish embassy early on in your exchange, or else you might just transmogrify into an alien of the most illegal variety.” Luckily, I was able to narrowly avoid this happening, since my counselor came to me some months ago and was like, “Yo, Denmark doesn’t even know you’re here.” She didn’t actually say “yo ,” but my brain automatically 90’s-ifies my memories. I need to get that checked out at some point.

    Anyway, I thought the info had been filed before I left and it hadn’t been. So, yeah, always double-check that stuff.

    Should I talk about Faroese people? Like, should I encourage you to read this journal in Morgan Freeman’s voice as I tell you random facts? That would be educational for all of us, since it’s been scientifically proven that hearing facts in Morgan Freeman’s voice makes you 20% smarter. (Not really, but only because science hasn’t proven it yet. Come on, science!)

    ~Facts about Faroese people~ (Cue Freeman narration)

    1. If you ask a Faroese person how their day went, they will describe it to you in minute detail. If a Faroese person asks you how your day was and you only say, “Not that good,” they’ll say, “Okay,” and then ask you four hours or more later why your day was bad, because they’ll have been waiting all that time for you to come forth with that information yourself.

    2. Wearing sunglasses indoors in the US makes people think you’re a tool. Wearing sunglasses at all in the Faroe Islands makes people think you’re hungover. Why else would you be wearing shades when the word “sunlight” has long since become only a fond memory?

    3. Faroese people are so mystical and magical, even Danish people don’t know that they exist, let alone that their country technically owns them.

    4. Faroese teens have a “tradition” of taking screenshots of the embarrassing Snapchats you send them and then posting them on your Facebook wall on your birthday. That picture you took of you making a quadruple-chin that you sent to them with the timer set to two seconds? Oh yes, they screencapped it, and you’ll be seeing it again. And so will all your Facebook friends. Happy Birthday, sucker.

    5. Faroese people eat three of what the average American would call a “light snack” a day. I have no idea how these people stay alive.

    6. Faroese children are inherently hardcore. There’s a kindergarten near my house that has a playground built in tiers along the side of a hill next to a ravine filled with sharp rocks. Do you think there’s a fence providing a barrier between the five-year-olds and the sharp rocks? Oh, and what, have those kids grow up to be wimps? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

    7. Faroese people don’t use umbrellas, because if they did, the wind would carry them away like Mary Poppins.

    8. You may think you’re being ignored by your Faroese friends, but you’re not. They’re always watching. Listening.

    Waiting.


    …for you to find out what they were really thinking. This will usually be two months after the fact, and you will find out from their sister’s boyfriend’s cousin’s friend’s babysitter.

    ~These have been true facts about Faroese people~ (End Freeman narration. …Or don’t, I’m not judging. I like this voice too.)

    Hm, what else… How about I talk about my feelings? Well, THAT would be fun for 100% of nobody. If I were to stick to the positive, I’d be able to say, “Yeah, I’m happy; my family and friends are nice, the food’s good, there’re pretty mountains and stuff, so life’s pretty grand right now, yeah,” since those things alone are enough to content me. If I were to focus on the negative instead, it’d probably just be something dumb like, “I HAVE A GIANT ‘NOTHING’ IN MY HEART BAAAWWW” or something equally melodramatic and unimportant.

    (Yes, I do indeed read my old journal entries and think, “Did I seriously write this twaddle?”)

    Huh.

    I guess I’ll write more for you guys after the Paris trip. Síggjast!

    ——

    ———

    ————

    —————

    I have had the following conversation at least four times since arriving here:

    “Hvussu eitur tú?”

    “Eg eiti Juliana. Eg eri ein skiftisnæmingur frá Amerika.”

    “Oh, it’s nice to meet you!”

    “Nice to meet you, too.”

    “How long have you been here?”

    “About half a year.”

    “Oh, cool! Yeah… So… Do you have a Faroese boyfriend yet?”

    “…What?”

    I guess the Faroese take their “men outnumbering women” problem very seriously.


  • Juliana, outbound to Faroe Islands

    I woke up early on the 24th to have my host mom drive me to Argir to pick up a gift. Specifically, I was picking up a gift I left outside someone’s house; due to a convoluted string of events, I presumed that it was a Faroese tradition to leave gifts outside people’s houses. In the Faroe Islands. Where the climate is 99% rain. Where you can literally just walk into people’s houses unannounced, and they’ll even invite you to stay for a cuppa.

    Yeah, I know. I feel plenty dumb.

    Anyway!

    So I went to Argir to pick up the gift, which was completely ruined from sitting outside for two nights.

    …Yeah, I feel really dumb, okay.

    At six o’clock that evening, my host-aunt (Rannvá’s sister) and her family came. The nine of us sat down to eat roasted duck, caramelized potatoes, boiled potatoes, and gravy. The kids finished first and disappeared from the room, occasionally reappearing to see if we were done eating yet so they could open presents. (In the Faroes, presents are opened on the 24th.) After we finished eating, we danced and sang around the Christmas tree, me awkwardly trying to join in when I recognized the song. Then the kids dove into the present pile, and as we were in the middle of unwrapping, Santa Clause arrived.

    A be-Santa-suited man came up to the house carrying a large bag over his shoulder. I didn’t recognize him, but I figured he was a friend of the family since he knew I didn’t speak Faroese well; he wished me a Merry Christmas in English as he handed me my gift. The gift was a beautifully-crafted silver pendant, shaped like the Faroe Islands on a fine silver chain. It was actually a gift from my host parents, and I’ve worn it pretty much every day since.

    After unwrapping gifts, we prepared to eat rís a la mand, which is kind of like rice pudding. Rannvá asked me to stick an almond into one of the plates of pudding, shooing the kids out of the room so they couldn’t watch. After I had carefully hidden the almond, the dishes were placed at random at the seats around the table. Then, everyone was invited to sit down, and we sang a song while passing the plates in a circle around the table. Once the song ended, everyone started to eat, carefully chewing their pudding so they wouldn’t accidentally swallow the almond if they got it. Whosoever got the plate with the almond would receive a special Christmas gift. After everyone cleaned their plates, Rannvá announced she had gotten the almond, and she received her gift, which was a beautiful jigsaw puzzle.

    At midnight, I went to the Christmas mass at St. Mary’s Catholic Church with my host parents. When I entered the sanctum, I could hear a live violin playing. I looked up into the choir loft and saw a small troupe of violinists, a cellist, and a… lutist? I still don’t know what instrument that was, since the player wasn’t playing loud enough to hear.

    The musicians were quite skilled, but they seemed woefully uninformed of what songs are appropriate for a church environment. “Oh, what, did they play ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ or something?” you might be thinking. No, they didn’t. They played the theme from Schindler’s List as both prelude music and the song for communion.

    …I’m not kidding.

    Anyway!

    On Christmas Day, my host aunt, uncle, and cousins were still here relaxing and whiling the day away, but I didn’t get to see them because I pretty much slept until the next day.

    On the day after Christmas, it’s generally expected that anyone who’s old enough to drink should go out to a club and party. …and instead of doing that, I slept until I almost died, and then we went to my host-grandparents’ (Egon’s parents’) house. The grandma didn’t seem to speak very much English, but the grandpa was fluent, and he regaled me with stories about his time working on a fishing boat in Iceland, proving to me that grandpas are pretty much the same in every country. (“When I was your age, I was hauling a fishing line for sixty fathoms, all day, every day! And for only two measly fish per cast!”)

    On the 27th, we travelled to Runavík (about two and a half hours from Tórshavn) to stay at my host-aunt’s house. The night we arrived, there was a Christmas party with pretty much every family member and friend to the family in attendance. Because there wasn’t enough room at the table, all the kids ate first, and they ate what looked like pasta (I was’t eating with them, ‘CUZ I’M AN ADULT NOW), I guess because younger Faroese people aren’t partial toward the taste of traditional Faroese food: dried sheep, dried whale meat, dried whale blubber, and dried fish, served with cold potatoes, boiled eggs, mini meatballs, cucumbers, onions, red bell peppers, and tomatoes.

    After dinner, I Skyped my parents to wish them a Merry Christmas. There were shrieking children in every single available room, so I Skyped them from the laundry room, though children would occasionally burst in for absolutely no reason anyway. We stayed overnight, and on the next day, we went to my host-grandparent’s (Rannvá’s parents this time) house where we ate roasted sheep and potatoes yet again. Are you seeing a theme here?

    Of course, it was all delicious. I wore the same pants home from Runavík that I had worn TO Runavík, yet somehow they were much tighter.

    But the eating doesn’t stop there!

    The days passed quietly, as I was mostly sleeping then waking up to get fat on holiday sweets then going back to sleep, until it was finally December 31st. That night, we had roasted fermented sheep, potatoes, and vegetables. Neither Símun nor Eva seemed too keen on the sheep; Eva actually left the room because she couldn’t stand the smell, and I’ll admit, fermented sheep is reeeeaaaally strong. The smell sticks to your hands and clothes and the flavor sticks to your tongue. So she and Símun ate bread with Nutella while Egon, Rannvá, and I ate the sheep. And it was delicious.

    At nine o’clock that night, we walked to a gathering place where all the neighbors were preparing the New Year’s torches. The torches were two-meter-tall, lightweight timbers with one end wrapped in gasoline-soaked cloth. A few men took turns dipping huge armfuls of them into a flaming oil drum, then passed them out to the neighbors. I guess fire safety either isn’t a thing here or is extremely lax, because I saw people letting their six-year-old kids hold torches, which they proceeded to wave around while people hurried to get out of the way.

    It was incredibly windy that night, so the torches kept going out. Egon received two torches and took them over to the side of the road where he could hold them over the ledge and shield them from the wind until it was time to march. Someone lit a flare so everyone could see better and not accidentally set someone on fire, and shortly after it expired, the march began. Egon handed me a torch and we followed the procession down the road.

    Our little parade had to take regular breaks to huddle together and relight the torches. Mine especially couldn’t seem to keep a flame for more than thirty seconds at a time, but I didn’t particularly mind. It was still pretty when it wasn’t ablaze; when the wind blew against it and ignited the embers, they glowed and flickered like fireflies buzzing in a black, crumbling beehive. Several times I got distracted while looking at it and almost walked into someone’s torch-ignition huddle.

    After many breaks, we reached the middle school Símun and Eva attend, where the biggest bonfire I’ve ever seen in person had been constructed, composed of and fenced by wooden pallets and people’s dead Christmas trees. We stood around with our torches for a while, and then at somebody’s call, everyone tossed their torches onto the heap. People kept walking in front of me, preventing me from tossing mine, so I gently stepped forward and stuck it into a gap where nothing was on fire yet.

    Behind us, people started setting off fireworks. It lasted for several minutes, and when it was done, I checked the clock on my phone. It was only just past ten.

    After watching the bonfire for a bit longer, we walked to a neighbor’s house, where they were serving soup out of their garage. I stood there and chatted with the neighbors for a while, but after a short time it got seriously cold, so I walked home. My host family came home one by one a short while later, and then, just before midnight, we went back to the neighbors house with our own fireworks in tow.

    Right at midnight, all of Tórshavn was illuminated by fireworks. Hoyvík is on a mountain, so you have a pretty good view of the city. It was amazing to see fireworks in the distance that were almost at eye-level. I stared out over Tórshavn for a long time, and with every ear-splitting bang and blinding flash of light, I felt an increasing sense of peace. Last year was a good year. This is going to be a good year too.


  • Juliana, outbound to Faroe Islands

    (The following is a series of vignettes illustrating certain events that occurred or thoughts that I’ve had during my stay here, since, as I state in the first essay, I’m bad at connecting my thoughts in a fluid manner. All of these essays were written at different times and in a different order than presented here; in fact, the order is completely random, with stories spanning from early October to now, mid-December. Just don’t think too much about it.)


    I’ve been asked to write journals more often, but I feel like if I did, they would be very short. I don’t really have a way of connecting the random things that are funny or interesting into a flowing narrative. I try to upload pictures to Facebook when I can, but it’s really difficult. How is it difficult, I’ve just pretended you’ve asked? Well, have you ever looked up at the sky at night and saw a velvety, inky-black canopy completely awash with silver clouds, glittering stars, and a moon so full and beautiful it’s like God Himself is smiling at you from the heavens? And then, when you try to take a picture of it to treasure for all eternity, you get a completely black photo with a few blurry pinpricks of light here and there? That’s how it’s difficult. The Faroe Islands’ beauty can’t be accurately represented by a photograph. It probably can’t be accurately represented by mere words either, but I’ll try, since there’s one scene that, no matter how many times I see it, is just too beautiful to not at least attempt to share.
    Some might think I’m being ridiculous by saying this, but I can’t stop thinking about it. Even if it’s silly and I’m the only one who thinks it’s special, the scene still holds tremendous importance to me. I don’t know why. I really don’t know why. It just does.

    In order to witness this scene, there have to be some very specific conditions in place. I’ve witnessed this scene only twice, very briefly, once while I was living in Argir and once more now that I’m living in Hoyvík. I’ll just go ahead and describe it so you can see what I mean.
    Tórshavn is on the island of Streymoy, and across the water to the east is the island of Nólsoy. It’s not that big, with a population of less than 300 people, and most of the island is dominated by an incredibly steep mountain called Eggjarklettur. Since we’re approaching winter now, all the grass in the Faroes is yellowing. The sight of a deathly yellow tone all over the ground and people’s roofs was slightly depressing to me at first, until I saw what it could look like on Eggjarklettur.

    When I was in Argir, I was walking down the street to buy a drink at the gas station, and that’s when I saw it for the first time. It was cloudy and raining slightly, and I had to keep my eyes carefully shielded by my hood so my mascara wouldn’t get smeared by the drizzle. I was focusing on my feet for most of the walk, but as I was nearing the station, I felt the rain stop and lifted my head. The clouds had parted to reveal the sun, but it wasn’t shining on Streymoy at all. All of the light was pointed at the mountain in Nólsoy.

    The first thing I thought of was Mars, the planet: bright orange, streaked like marl, giving off a tremendous impression of distance and mystery. The yellow grass on the mountain was the same color as a pumpkin under the glaring late afternoon sun, and the water beneath the cliff was glittering like it was frothing with diamonds.
    The smell of damp earth and fresh ocean air, the wind whistling in my ears, water dripping gently from the sky onto my hair, and the strangest sensation that I was just across the fjord from Mars… that’s what I felt that day. I had to stop walking completely to take it all in. I was wonderfully overwhelmed, but the moment passed before I could properly digest it. Beauty in the Faroe Islands isn’t hard to find, but true moments of perfection like this are frustratingly ephemeral, like the time I was on the mountain in Vestmanna and got to enjoy a view of the cliffs over the sea for about two seconds before being consumed by fog. The sun disappeared behind the clouds again, and all of Nólsoy turned dark and yellow once more. I stood there for a while longer, the orange light of the mountain stuck inside my eyelids as I tried to blink and clear my head. Slowly coming back to reality, I remembered my original goal, and strode off to abate my Red Bull addiction.

    I was lucky enough to see Eggjarklettur in that state one more time.
    Having moved to Hoyvík, I now take a different route to and from school. The busses that take this route drive along a ridge that gives the passengers a nice view of the fjord (called Nólsoyarfjørður. Don’t ask me to pronounce that) and Nólsoy itself. Since it’s been getting dark around four o’clock lately, the sun is always going down around the usual time I leave school. The clouds have been hanging low and dense, so I haven’t seen the sun at all as of late. But on this particular day, I did.

    The bus is always packed with students when leaving school; you’re lucky if you can get on the bus at all. That day, I managed to clamber on and squish myself in amongst the horde of exhausted, chattering students, holding onto the bar by the door for dear life. The doors closed, almost clipping my backpack, and then the bus got us on our merry way. I shifted uncomfortably, trying to turn around while also trying not to hit people with my bag, so I could look out the window. I thoroughly enjoy bus rides when the vehicle isn’t packed, but it’s almost unbearable after school. Wedged tightly between an unwashed third-year and the door, I hugged the pole that kept me balanced and prayed the bus ride will be over soon, but as I gazed out the window, I suddenly felt time stop.
    There it was again: Mars. Just as majestic and positively alien as it had been before. The setting sun broke through the clouds and turned the whole sky shades of blue and pink and silver. Nólsoy, with its little village and lofty mountain, looked like it was glowing. The ocean, which was white with sunlight and sea foam, beat itself relentlessly against the craggy rocks at the mountain’s base, sparkling with offending brightness, but I could have stared at it until I went blind — and for a moment, I thought I was going blind. My vision was getting blurry. Was I crying? I touched my face, confused, but my cheeks were dry. And that’s when I realized that I was getting dizzy because I hadn’t been breathing; subconsciously, I had been trying to avoid inhaling the essence of the smelly third-year behind me. I groped around for the edge of my jacket so I could hold it up to my face and hopefully prevent my imminent asphyxiation, and when I glanced up again, the sun was gone, and so was my personal Mars.

    —A Nothing

    “Juliana,” I’ve just pretended you’ve said, “you always seem so happy about everything that’s happening on your exchange. Aren’t there ANY times when you feel down?” Wow, thanks, you hypothetical personification of my desire to complain. But in all honesty, yes, there are. It’s a difficult feeling to explain, because it’s not as acute as outright sadness, anger, loneliness, or fear, it’s just . . . nothing. It’s not the kind of nothing where it’s just the absence of a something, but the kind of nothing where the nothing IS the something. There are just some days when I feel a nothing stuck in my heart like a splinter. I get up and think nothing, go to school and do nothing, and get home and feel nothing. Sometimes the feeling of the nothing digging into my heart and rubbing the surface of my soul is so chafing that I feel like crying, or else just dropping everything and falling into a coma for a few days. The nothing is hard to get rid of, and it’s exhausting to have. It pulls my heart down and makes it hard to walk with my head held high. Exactly what gets rid of it is unclear, but taking a nap, chatting aimlessly with someone, or even just encountering a random friendly animal chisels away at the nothing, bit by bit, until it crumbles away. I don’t know where it comes from, where it goes, or how it comes back, but when I wake up in the morning and feel it in my chest, I don’t let it stay there. I vow to make my heart full of something by the end of the day.

    —The Guts

    One of my fondest memories of this year was the first English class we had after Halloween. A few people, including myself, had brought in some pumpkins, and we were planning to carve them after we were done watching the movie we were “studying,” Inglourious Basterds. For those of you unfamiliar with this movie, Inglourious Basterds is a World War II movie that's idea of subtlety is showing a two-meter-tall Jewish man beat Nazi officers to death with a baseball bat on screen. Other precious moments free of discretion shots are fresh corpses being scalped, swastikas being carved into very-much-alive people’s foreheads, and Hitler being shot in the face repeatedly, amongst other things. You get the idea.

    Why did we watch this movie in English class? Because it was set during the time when the Nazis were occupying France, and our class is going to Paris in the spring (sans me, because, unfortunately, money laundering for fun and profit is illegal). That’s the best connection I could make, and I’m like the fourth-best English-speaker in that class.

    Anyway, as I’m sitting there trying to pretend I can’t hear the sounds of some poor woman being tortured on screen, I’m looking around at my classmates. They’re sprawled on the floor, or playing Candy Crush on their laptops, or asleep; they’re not even phased by the cinematographic masterpiece of splattered blood and human giblets in front of their eyes. I’m mildly impressed by their grit, wishing I, too, could not squeal in horror as people are blown to smithereens before my very eyes, no detail spared in editing, but alas, I guess I’ve always been more partial to psychological torture.

    Aaaaanyway, once the movie was over, class was almost done, and Sharon (the teacher) asked me to demonstrate quickly how to carve a pumpkin for the class. So I took up a carving knife and chunked it into the pumpkin’s flesh, and as I started sawing away, I heard small gasps and groans from the people nearby. When I pried off the pumpkin’s lid, I even heard an, “Eww!” And this is why this is my favorite memory so far.
    My classmates — those same boys and girls who were either laughing at the ludicrous violence of the movie, or else sleeping blissfully through it — were pulling faces and telling me how they couldn’t even believe I was TOUCHING the inside of a pumpkin — because pumpkin guts are GROSS.
    The Faroe Islands. Home of the grindadráp. Home of the everyone-owns-sheep-and-slaughters-them-every-autumn. Home of seeds-are-gross, apparently.
    I love my class. I couldn’t have asked for better people to spend my year with.

    —The Movies

    A few days after its premiere, Katrin (my classmate) and I went to see the third Hunger Games movie at the movie theatre. It was my first time watching a movie in this theatre, and I was very excited to see what a different culture’s movie-going experience was like. I love going to the theatre, and the prospect of getting to see how other people from across the globe enjoy the same thing as I do made me extremely happy.
    Katrin got the tickets ahead of time so we could head in without delay.

    First things first: ASSIGNED SEATS. Second thing: INTERMISSION IN THE MIDDLE OF THE MOVIE SO YOU CAN GO BUY MORE JUNK FOOD. Okay, moving on.
    Upon entering the cinema, I already could see the biggest difference between Faroese and American theaters; there were kids everywhere, most of them probably no older than twelve or thirteen, and they weren’t accompanied by adults. They were running around everywhere, talking loudly and screeching randomly. Seeing their unbridled behavior sent a wave of foreboding sweeping over me.

    We bought our candy and stood around waiting for the doors to open. I people-watched as we did, spying some young girls huddled in a corner, kicking the door to the shop repeatedly and laughing when it hit someone, apologizing with gleeful expressions on their wicked little faces. I felt my heart sink. What dimension of cosmic horror had I wandered into?

    We entered the cinema. All of the seats were taken in a matter of moments. The previews came on, some of them in Faroese, some of them in English with Faroese subtitles. I watched them in rapture. Just as I was forgetting about the little beasts in the snack shop, Katrin whispered to me, “My hair smells like popcorn.”
    I turned to her. “What? Why?”
    “Someone behind us is throwing popcorn and some landed in my hair.”
    I twisted around in my seat. Three rows back and slightly to our left were two young girls, maybe ten or eleven years old, tossing popcorn into the crowd below for no other reason than, I expect, to be annoying. I felt something in the pit of my stomach come to a boil. Where was their etiquette? In an American theater, if a child was throwing popcorn and their supervisor wasn’t doing anything to stop it, you could rest assured that SOMEBODY was going to get up and either chew them out or throw them bodily from the theatre. No one seemed to be filling this role now. I was suddenly depressed.

    The cinema was no longer the sacred Hollywood-viewing ground I recalled it to be.
    Fine. If that was the way it was going to be, then I’d just have to be the necessary evil. I was too far away to scold them, so I had to come up with some other method to get them to stop. Katrin saw the look in my eye and said warningly, “Juliana, no,” but I ignored her. I was just about to throw a Lion bar at one of the little twerps, not into her face but maybe her jugular or pancreas, when Katrin put her hand on my arm and said, “Juliana, you’re a grown woman. She’s like eleven. Are you really going to stoop to her level?”
    In an instant, my head cooled. I immediately understood what she was trying to tell me. The theater-defiler was just a child, and I was a fully-fledged adult. I felt ashamed that I was about to retaliate and be just as bad as her.
    So I vowed to bring some Anthon Berg chocolates with me next time, so I could pelt any unholy little brat that crossed my path with chocolate-coated retribution like a proper, sophisticated young lady.

    —The Language

    My new host dad, Egon, came and picked me up from tutoring one night. My new host parents always speak to me in Faroese unless I ask for a translation, and I always try to speak Faroese in response. I almost always get it completely wrong, and the rest of the time I still get it wrong only slightly less so, but still, I was improving. As we drove home, we passed by SMS (the mall), and I noticed they had their Christmas lights up. I decided to point them out in Faroese.
    “Jólaljós!”
    Egon looked confused. “Jólaljós?”
    “Ja, jólaljós!” I pointed toward SMS, and in a moment he understood. He laughed and said, “Oh, you mean, ‘jólaljós!’” Turns out I was pronouncing it wrong.
    (How you’re supposed to pronounce it: Yo-lah-l’yo-ss. How I was pronouncing it: Yule-ay-l’yo-ss.)
    “Yes, that’s what I meant,” I said, with great dignity in my voice. Egon laughed again and the car went silent for a moment. Then he said suddenly, “Rannvá ger døgurða,” which means, “Rannvá is making dinner.”
    I contemplated his words, then said hesitantly, “Døgurða?”
    Egon nodded. “Ja. Døgurða.”
    I asked him what that meant: “Hvat merkir hatta?”
    Egon stared at me blankly. “Døgurða means ‘dinner’.”
    I stared right back. “What? Really?”
    “Yes. You knew the word for ‘Christmas lights’ but not for ‘dinner’?” I shrugged, and he continued, “But dinner is every day!”
    When I told my host mom a little later, she also said, “But dinner is every day!” This turned out to be prophetic of my future endeavors in Faroese.
    Eg havi málkunnleiki!

    —The Old Woman

    I actually forgot about this woman until Katrin came into class one day and started relating the events of her morning to Guðrun. She spoke Faroese the whole time, but concluded her story by spitting the words, “Crazy elders,” in English with a contemptuous voice.
    Interested, I asked her who she was talking about. She told me that there was an old woman who frequently rode the same bus as her in the morning. This old woman had the habit of staring at any person under the age of twenty-five like she was trying to set them on fire with her mind. She wouldn’t even try to hide it, either. On this morning, Katrin and Anja had the distinct displeasure of having to sit next to her — like, literally right next to her — and she still openly glared at them for almost the entire bus ride.

    As Katrin was telling me all this, a memory suddenly stirred in the back of my mind. I had the very strong impression that I had also had an encounter with this woman. I asked Katrin what she looked like, and as she described her, the memory returned to me.

    It was about a month ago. I got on Bus #1 to go to tutoring as I always did, noticing that the bus was unusually full. The only seat that wouldn’t require sitting next to a complete stranger (an act abhorred by most Faroese people, as well as myself) was in a row that faced the front, with a row that faced the rear right in front of it, so that the people sitting in these seats would have to look at each other. I sat down facing the front, and in the rear-facing seat diagonal from me sat an elderly woman.

    I wondered immediately if I had accidentally stepped on her foot or smacked her with my bag or something on the way to my seat, because she wouldn’t stop stealing unsubtle, prolonged glances at me with eyes full of unmasked loathing. She didn’t say a word, but I wished she would; listening to her yell Faroese obscenities at me would have been preferable to the feeling of her eyes attempting to telekinetically bore a hole into my skull. Half of the ride went by with me wondering desperately if I had somehow wronged this old woman in some horrid fashion when I suddenly got a call from my host mom. I picked it up.
    “Hey, I’m on the bus. Can I call you back in a few minutes?”

    She agreed, and I hung up. I noticed, out of the very corner of my eye, that the old woman had shifted to lean back in her seat, so I decided to take a quick glance at her just in case this meant she had decided to stop having a one-way staring contest with the side of my head.

    Oh, no, she wasn’t quite done yet, though the expression on her face had changed dramatically. Judging by the look on her face, the devil himself had just burst from the floor of the bus and taken the seat diagonal to her — a look as if she was totally mortified, but also couldn’t quite believe what she was looking at. I was completely bewildered. What was wrong with this woman? Curious as to what she would do next, I stared right back at her, keeping my face blank. She didn’t look away, but her expression slowly and smoothly changed from some form of abstract horror to something more neutral. Catalepsy, maybe?
    The bus shuddered to a halt and opened the doors for the new passengers. The woman briskly gathered up her belongings from the seat next to her, but instead of getting off the bus, she simply moved to another seat, her back to me. I stared at the back of her head in disbelief. Was she really, seriously afraid of me ….. because I was speaking English?
    ……I had “American Woman” by The Guess Who stuck in my head for the rest of the day.

    — Halloween

    Halloween isn’t quite a thing in the Faroe Islands, though apparently it’s been becoming more popular amongst the young people over the years. There is no trick-or-treating, but a few bold young adults might put on a costume, or at least some kind of special effect, just for the occasion.
    Faroese children actually do something akin to trick-or-treating on Føstulávint, known in English as Shrove Tuesday or Fat Tuesday, the day before the start of lent. They go door-to-door and ask for candy, though sometimes they get money or fruit, which they condemn. That has nothing to do with what I’m talking about, though.

    So on Halloween, I dressed the same as I always did (because rain), but I tied up my hair so people could see the design I drew on my face with an eyebrow pencil. It was simple, just some curlicues and little flecks and dots, but it was enough to make people gawk on the bus and in the school hallways. Sure, some Faroese people dress up for Halloween, but apparently they do not do so to go to school.

    Only one other person, as far as I could see, put on any sort of effect for Halloween. (Hi, Katrin.) Everyone else asked why I had drawn on my face, and when I told them it was Halloween, they replied, “Was that today?”
    I was feeling a little bit put out — Halloween has always been my favorite holiday, even more important to me than Christmas or my own birthday — until Katrin (who was dressed as a goth) told me that the nightclub Rex was letting people who were dressed up into the club for free the next day. Clubbing is a quintessential activity in the lifestyle of a Faroese teen, so I was eager to participate. I told my friend Nadine, an au pair from Germany, about it, and we went shopping for more complex costumes the next morning.

    Nadine and I decided to go as a pair with an angel/devil theme. You can probably already guess which one I was, but I’ll tell you anyway that I got some nice, cheap black horns and black wings from a small costume shop hidden away in a back alley. Nadine embellished her own costume a bit by painting her face like a candy skull, and I drew some cracks on my face like a shattered porcelain doll (they turned out looking more like tear tracks, but oh well), and Katrin added some vampire fangs and cat ears to her goth ensemble, so when the three of us showed up at Rex, there was debate on what we were supposed to be, but no one doubted we were in costume. Nadine was worried that we would be the only ones dressed up, but we were pleasantly surprised to come upon a whole club full of people in well-done and clever costumes, from Trojan soldiers to zombies to superheroes to scantily-clad policewomen to some random guy in a Pikachu pajama onesie.

    You had to be eighteen years old to get inside. I was quite amused when the security guard stared at the date on my ID for a good three minutes before letting me in. I tried helping him along by saying, “Just a hint, there is no 23rd month,” but he ignored me.
    Once inside, we danced for nearly four hours. The DJ played such timeless classics as Anaconda, Talk Dirty to Me, Wiggle, and Blurred Lines while an old (and bad) horror movie I’d never seen before played on the overhead screens. It was a bizarre experience, but it was fun. I’ve never been to a club in the U.S. — I’d had only two weeks of being eighteen before leaving on my exchange, after all — so I can’t compare any experiences, but even so… well, again, it was fun. I don’t have much more to say about it.
    After dancing until we almost collapsed, we ate some pizza and went home. It was probably the best Halloween I’ve ever had.

    —The Skin

    SOMEONE WANNA EXPLAIN TO ME HOW FAROESE PEOPLE CAN EAT THE FLESH OFF A BOILED SHEEP'S FACE BUT REFUSE TO EAT THE SKIN OF A POTATO.

    —The Grade

    Faroese high-schoolers get a grade report three times a year. Their grading scale goes from 12 to -2, with 12 being “awesome,” 7 being “average,” 4 being, “you put in the minimal effort,” 2 being, “you’re an idiot and you don’t care,” and 00 and -2 being, “I personally hate you.” Getting a 00 or -2 is like getting an F- — a simple F (a 2) would have sufficed, but the negative is there just to make you feel really, REALLY dumb.
    Seeing how I rarely do anything pertaining to regular classwork in class, I already had a feeling I wasn’t the model Faroese student. Still, I show up to class, participate in group projects, and write essays, so I expected to get at least a 4 in everything. My expectations were not met.
    See, I actually did get at least a 4 in everything — except math. In math, I got a 00. I stared at the mark, puzzled. Since the “minimal effort” required to get a 4 means “at least showing up to class,” I really didn’t understand how I could have gotten less than that unless I had said something immensely dumb that had somehow brought down the class’ collective IQ, which I didn’t think I’d had. I showed the mark to my classmate, who shrugged and said, “I guess the teacher just hates you.”

    WELL THAT’S COMFORTING.

    Anyway, each subject gets two grades, one for written assignments and one for presentations. I somehow got two 7’s in Faroese, even though my Faroese teacher told me (several times) that my essays written in my new language were mind-numbingly terrible due to non-conjugated verbs and repeatedly referring to female and neuter objects with male adjectives. (Please keep in mind that this was my Faroese teacher, not my Faroese TUTOR, who said this. My tutor is awesome.) Religion and History only had grades for written, and they were 4 and 7, respectively. I got a 4 for written and a 10 for presentation in Political Science, a N/A in Spanish, and two 7’s in art. I was perplexed as to how a teacher could grade someone’s artwork as “average,” but then I supposed she perceived my misunderstanding of the directions as lack of attention or effort.

    English. I love English class. Of course, English is the only class I can use to prove that I’m only half as stupid as I look, so I always put in some extra effort when doing English assignments. After I got got my first essay back with a 12 scribbled in the corner, I felt pretty confident that that effort was going to pay off.
    I did indeed get a 12 in written English. But I got a 10 in presentation.
    I knew it wasn’t because the teacher was being mean — Sharon is one of the nicest people on this planet. Sure, she’s tough, but she’s fair, and she cares a lot about us. Just a few days ago, she noticed that one of her students wasn’t eating lunch, and when he told her he hadn’t brought anything and had no money to buy something, she tried to force her own meal ticket on him. She cares that much.

    So I sat there for a few minutes, putting my brain through the wringer to try to figure out what I could have done wrong on a presentation to dock me two whole grades. Katrin, who has perfect English, was sitting next to me, so I asked to see her grades, and she too got a 12 and a 10. It was quite the ponderous situation, but in the end, I forgot to ask Sharon why and it quickly escaped my mind altogether.
    And so, on a scale of -2 to 12, my total average was 6.3. I’m lucky my grades here won’t count for anything back home.

    — The Homeless Men [Subtitle: In Which I’m Too Polite for My Own Good (Sub-subtitle: I’m Thankful That I Can Say the Worst Experience of My Exchange Was Something Only as Bad as This)]

    The downtown bus stop, called Steinatún, is near a homeless shelter of sorts. It provides a place to sleep for the night, and during the day, its inhabitants walk to Steinatún and take a seat on the benches, where they smoke, drink, and chat merrily with the people waiting for their buses. They’re harmless — most of the time, though of the times they’re not, I’ve only heard stories — but they can get rather loud and… intrusive.
    One day, some time ago, Katrin and I were standing at the bus stop and speaking in English when a man approached us. His clothes were noticeably clean, if only because his face and hair were exceptionally dirty. He had very long, curly, grizzled hair on his head and face, and his eyes were crinkled with a permanent smile. He looked positively jolly, like some kind of trailer park Santa Claus.
    I was examining the bus schedule, remarking to Katrin when I supposed I would be going (at this point, I still couldn’t read the schedule very well), when I turned slightly and noticed this man standing next to me, looking at me. I quickly backed up, and his smile widened in a friendly way. He spoke to us in surprisingly good, if somewhat alcohol-slurred, English.

    “Where are you from?” he asked us. Katrin’s English is absolutely flawless, so he definitely thought she was a foreigner as well.
    “I’m from the U.S.,” I told him. “She’s from here.”
    “I see,” he said, looking very interested. “Why are you here?”
    “I’m an exchange student.”
    “How long have you been here?”
    I told him. If I’m recalling correctly, it was around two months or so, at the time.
    “I see!” he said again. “Welcome to the Faroe Islands!” He offered me his hand, which was covered in dry dirt, and I shook it warily.

    Then, he began to talk — or, more accurately, ramble. It was hard to follow his train of thought as he jumped from one thing to another: from U.S. politics to American talk shows, from American tourists he’d met to Faroese social issues. He told me a joke about Florida that he’d heard on The Daily Show — which I won’t repeat since it’s kind of inappropriate, but sort of funny — and at this point I realized he was a nice enough guy. He was just… weird. Really weird.

    About a month passed. I had just gotten off the bus at Steinatún and was waiting for the one for Argir when I noticed this same man walking nearby, a plastic cup of beer in his hand. I quickly put my head down; while I wasn’t threatened by him, I still didn’t particularly want to listen to him babble for twenty minutes before my bus came. As I was flipping through the apps on my phone with my head still down, my eyes caught a pair of shoes walk near me and then stop. I kept scrolling, pretending to be distracted, but they still stood there, facing my direction. I didn’t want him tapping me on the shoulder — the dirty hand I had to shake last time floated into my mind — so I glanced up for a half-second.

    A half-second was all it took; he caught my gaze and widened his smile. I noticed he was wearing the exact same clothes he had been wearing before: a leather jacket over a navy blue t-shirt, plus blue jeans and sandals. His curly hair clung to his face from the rain. I decided to brush him off, but I realized too late that there was space next to me on the bench, which he quickly occupied.
    “I recognize you!” he said cheerfully. “You’re from England, yes?”
    “No.” I was trying to sound rude so that me might be put off and go away, but he was not deterred.
    “So you must be from America, then! Welcome to the Faroe Islands!” By the way he was talking, it was obvious that he didn’t remember me from before — possibly because of the drink in his hand.
    “Yeah,” I said. I turned my attention back to my phone, praying he would take a hint, but instead I heard him continue on, saying happily, “You have the most beautiful hair!”
    “Oh, thank you,” I said offhandedly, though I was honestly flattered. I quite like my hair, and I like when other people like it too. But what he said next threw that emotion out the window.
    “You and I,” he said, gesturing to himself and then me, and then to his own curly hair, “could be father and daughter!”

    I felt the smile I was maintaining twitch at the corners. “I already have quite a few fathers now, so I don’t need another one,” I prevented myself from saying. Instead, I just laughed vaguely and said, “Ah.”
    “Because of the hair!” he clarified unnecessarily, laughing. My smile shrunk into a grimace. “Right.”
    Another drunken man suddenly shuffled over, his clothes spattered with mud, and the first man took to introducing me to him, speaking Faroese as he did. He got up to let the other man sit down, and after he had sat next to me, he turned to me and held out his hand in greeting. His fingers were bleeding.

    My mind focusing meditatively on the hand sanitizer in my backpack, I shook his hand. “Hi. Nice to meet you.”
    The man mumbled in Faroese. I cocked my head to the side to try to convey my confusion better as I said, “Sorry? I don’t speak Faroese well.”
    He mumbled again, looking disappointed. Wondering if it would be socially acceptable to flee from the scene, I looked up at the first man and saw he was already deeply engaged in conversation with another young woman, whose smile was not doing a good job of hiding her uneasiness. I wasn’t sure whether I should feel bad about feeling the same way as her — it wasn’t like these two men had done anything wrong, exactly — but I quickly decided I’d had enough. I got up, said a quick goodbye to the man sitting next to me, and moved to hide behind the wall on the other side of the Steinatún bus stop, where I poured a liberal amount of Purell on my hands.

    My last experience was not too long ago, maybe a few weeks or so. I was standing at Steinatún again with Katrin (why are you always there when these things happen, Katrin?) when I saw, out of the corner of my eye, an older man stumbling along the sidewalk. He was quite obviously inebriated, his eyes wandering around, looking over the people standing and waiting for their bus, their pale faces sticking out like moons in the dark of the night. I noticed him pause briefly while looking at me, so I turned my back to him and tried to start up a conversation with Katrin to distract myself. Not a moment later, he was standing next to me, his shoulder pressed against mine, looking into my face. I was just about to back away, but before I could, his hand shot out to shake mine. As it did, it brushed, not quite briefly, against my bosom.

    Two strong urges immediately dominated my mind, causing me to freeze. One was to grab Katrin and run. The other was to beat this man, who was easily a foot shorter than me, into a bloody pulp.
    I shot a look at Katrin. She hadn’t noticed what his hand did, focusing instead on the face of the swaying, blotto man standing beside me, an exasperated expression on her face. Once again, I found myself marveling at the Faroese’s grit.
    He told me his name, which I don’t remember because I was still deciding on whether to let him live. His gloved hand was still stretched awkwardly in front of my body, so I took hold of it briefly while looking into his eyes, my face unsmiling. I decided that getting into an altercation with a homeless man would be unpleasant for everybody in the vicinity, so I ignored what had happened, reasoning it could have just been because he was unsteady from his drunkenness. But I kept my guard up, just in case.
    “Hello,” I said quietly, still unsmiling. His eyes immediately narrowed at the sound of my English.
    “Where are you from?” he asked, his accent thick.
    “The United States,” I replied.
    “What’s your name?”
    I allowed my suspicion to show on my face. “Juliana.”
    I didn’t intend to tell him any more than that, but he didn’t ask for anything more… in English, anyway, because then he started speaking Faroese.
    “I’m sorry?” I said, bemused. “What are you saying?”
    He repeated himself. I looked to Katrin for help, and she replied to him in Faroese. Then she said to me, “He asked what you were doing here, so I told him you were a student.”
    I didn’t see any harm in that, so I just said, “Oh, okay,” and turned back to him. He said something else.
    “I’m sorry, are you speaking English?” I asked the man, though I knew he wasn’t. At this question, he became visibly frustrated. He asked me once more, in English, “Where are you from?”
    “The United States,” I said again, confused. He then started speaking a different language — Danish, it sounded like.
    “I still can’t understand you,” I told him. I felt my own irritation growing. “Please speak English.”
    “Yes, English!” he said. Agitation was written all over his face, exuding from his body language. He demanded of me, yet again, “Where are you from!?” His voice was just below a shout.
    “The United States,” I reiterated coldly, my voice low.
    “Yes, I know that!” he said. His face was blotchy with anger. He stared into my eyes, as if trying to figure out if I was lying. I stared back, keeping my face stony to hide the anxiety bubbling in my stomach. I offered a silent prayer up to God, hoping that this man wasn’t about to punch me, or worse.
    He spoke again, this time in neither Faroese or Danish. What was that, German? I raised my eyebrows at him and said blankly, “What?”
    “Juliana,” said Katrin suddenly. I turned to look at her. She had evidently formulated our escape. “There’s still time to go to that shop you wanted to visit.”
    “Ah, okay,” I said, and as I did, the man left in a huff. Barely sparing a backward glance, I followed after Katrin, the both of us moving as fast as we could without running. We made it to the stop up the hill in enough time to catch our bus.

    “I’m sorry I couldn’t think of something to say earlier,” said Katrin, taking me aback with her apology. “I was trying to think of a place we could get away to while also letting us catch the bus.”
    “Don’t be sorry,” I said. My anger and anxiety had died down, and I could feel myself shaking from the adrenaline rush. “I’m just glad you were able to get us away. Thanks for saying something.” I told her what he had done before shaking my hand; her reaction was just as horrified as mine.
    The bus slowly crested the hill, and as we prepared to board, I asked, “What was he saying when he wasn’t speaking English?”

    “Oh.” Katrin frowned a little. “He was asking you different things in Faroese, Danish, and German, like he was testing to see if you could understand him. At least, I think so; it was kind of hard to tell, since his words were so slurred…. But when you didn’t understand him even when he tried German, he said, ‘Then why the HELL are you in the Faroe Islands?’”

    …I know what you’re thinking: Why didn’t I just brush them off or tell them to get away from me at the very start? Because drunk people can easily become violent people, and I didn’t want myself or anyone around me getting hurt. I feel like I did a good job of handling these situations because everyone involved emerged unscathed, and that’s all I was thinking about. Again, I’ll say that these men were (probably) perfectly harmless — but alcohol changes people. I didn’t want to provoke them into doing something they’d regret.

    —The Language (Part Deux)

    Lots of people have been asking me how my Faroese has been going.
    Today, I was struggling to understand the IPA printed in my copy of ‘An Introduction to Modern Faroese’ until I noticed I was holding the book upside down. Turning it right side up did not improve anything.
    Yeah. That’s how it’s been going.

    —The End

    On some days, searching for happiness just doesn’t work out. No matter where you look, the world isn’t smiling at you. That’s why you have to become your own happiness, so that no matter what you do, you’re making yourself happy by knowing that you’re doing something. Once you learn how to do that, you don’t need happiness from anything else.

     

  • Juliana, outbound to Faroe Islands

    I wrote this when I was supposed to be working on my presentation on U.S. politics.

    Well, my good people, it’s been a fantabulous two months here in the Faroe Islands. I don’t even know where to begin, but since my last journal was pretty much just excessive whining about airplane travel, I’ve decided I should at least start with something positive. It’s always easier to talk about the unpleasant. It’s more difficult, and thus more rewarding, to look on the bright side.

    Shortly after I arrived in the Faroes, I climbed a mountain in Vestmanna, a nearby village. It was, as described by the veteran hikers, an “easy walk,” which meant I only occasionally had to climb on all fours and there was only a 40% chance of me falling off a cliff and dying. It was one of the greatest moments of my entire life thus far, and what I saw when we stopped for lunch will stay with me forever: We were walking along the edge of the mountain with the open ocean directly below us, though we had to take the guide’s word for it because the fog was so incredibly dense, we couldn’t see the people walking ten feet in front of us. Our group of twenty or so people, mostly elderly people who have more guts than I’ll ever have, sat down on some rocks and ate our lunches facing the thick screen of mist that hid the ocean from view. As I was just digging into my scrumptious convenience store sandwich, the fog lifted completely, and all the breath escaped from my lungs.

    We were a thousand feet above the ocean, staring over the turbulent waters in the fjord below. Craggy mountain faces streaked with waterfalls were to our left, and the Atlantic ocean stretched out to our right. This raw, powerful scene hit me like a tsunami, and all I could do was stare at it, speechless, feeling simultaneously small and insignificant yet incredibly empowered. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to enjoy this view for very long; after about ten seconds, the fog descended on us again, and the rest of the hike took place within the clouds.

    Not long after this, I started school. All the students crowded into the auditorium, where I presume they were sorted into classes, because they all kind of just left in clusters, and I was left standing there awkwardly, not knowing what to do. The principal came up to me and asked me something in Faroese. I told him something I soon got very used to saying: “I’m an exchange student from the U.S., and I have no idea what’s going on.” He then guided me to the counselor’s office, where Allie (an exchange student from Oregon) and I were put in classes. Allie, being 16, was put in year one, and I, being eighteen, was put in year two.

    When I arrived in my classroom, I learned that having no idea what was going on wasn’t exclusive to me; literally nobody, not even the teachers, knew that there were two exchange students from the U.S. in their school. I was asked by each of my teachers in turn, “So . . . what exactly are you supposed to be doing, since you can’t understand Faroese?” to which I would always reply, “Good question.”

    When it came to the students themselves, I wasn’t exactly sure how to approach them; I was told many, many times by people who had been to the Faroes (and even some who hadn’t, strangely) that Faroese people in general are shy about speaking other languages, even though they’re often very good at them. My host mom even told me that when she went to Denmark for university, all the Faroese people in her class, though they were fluent in Danish, didn’t speak a word for their entire term unless they had to. With this knowledge at my disposal, I had no idea how I could possibly become friends with them, being a rather shy person myself.

    Turns out, I needn’t have worried. My classmates, though noticeably softer-spoken than American teens, were very warm and welcoming. They often help me with my Faroese when I ask, and they’re all very good at English, though they won’t admit it. Lately, some of them have taken to speaking to me in Faroese to see if I can understand them, which I’m very grateful for; I’ve learned more Faroese in these past two months than all the Danish I learned in the seven months I thought I would be going to Denmark, and that’s mostly thanks to them. Unfortunately, due to various circumstances, I’ve missed all the get-togethers they’ve held for the class so far, but I’m determined to go to the next one.

    One I’m particularly interested in is the “bindiklubb,” which means “knitting club,” though it’s more like a house party than a club. When I was invited to one, I anxiously asked my host sister, Maria, if I should learn to knit for the occasion, worrying that I’d be judged since I’d never even touched a knitting needle in my entire life. But Maria just asked me, totally surprised, “You mean they actually KNIT in your class’s knitting club?”

    “You mean people DON’T usually knit in knitting clubs?” I asked, equally surprised.

    “Not really,” said Maria. “Mostly they just eat cake and gossip.”

    So you can see why I’m eager for the next one.

    While my classmates and teachers do mostly speak to me in English, I try not to let myself take that for granted. I have tutoring with an eighty-something-year-old guy named Eilif, who’s a polyglot and works as a translator, three times a week, plus I try to do some self-studying when I can, though that has sometimes proven to be counter-productive. From what I’ve seen, the more in-depth a source on Faroese appears to be, the less factual it actually is. Even Sprotin, a Faroese-made online dictionary, often needs to be checked behind. I discovered this just in time when I was using it to complete a translation for my Faroese class; as I was working, I asked a nearby classmate to help with a word Sprotin couldn’t find. After he told me the word I was looking for, he read over the sentence I was working on and pointed out a mistranslation that Sprotin had given me. When I got home that day, I asked Maria and Sanna (the younger host sister) to check what I had translated so far, and they told me that a sentence Sprotin had told me meant, “I’m stressed enough as it is,” actually meant, “I’m very excited for this.”

    And that was the moment I stopped trusting Sprotin forever. So now when my teachers tell me to use Sprotin to figure out the handout, I’m just like LOL NOPE NOT UNLESS YOU WANT ME WRITING ABOUT SPINNING WHEELS WHEN IT’S ACTUALLY ASKING ABOUT SCOTTISH PEOPLE.

    (Long story.)

    Anyway!

    Even though Faroese doesn’t have a Rosetta Stone or even an option on Google Translate, it’s much easier to understand than I thought it would be. It’s a Germanic language like English is, so while the grammar rules are still baffling, it was rather simple to read something by picking out the roots of the words, and once I got the rhythm of the language down, listening to conversations became easier, too. I often sit and listen to my host family or my classmate’s conversations in silence, and usually one of them will turn to me and ask, “Do you understand anything we’re saying?” Most of the time I don’t, but I actually understand a lot of the subtext.

    Some of you might know that when I was at FSCJ, I took two semesters of American Sign Language. During my second semester, I participated in a day-long work shop led by several Deaf teachers, and during this workshop, no one was allowed to speak OR use sign language; you had to communicate ideas and stories entirely through gesture. I think about this day very often, because it taught me something incredibly important; you don’t need to hear (or see) words in order to understand what’s going on. When I listen to people’s conversations, even if I only know a few words, I can always tell how what they’re talking about makes them feel. Also, people use body language a lot more than they realize; if you sound angry and you suddenly make a gesture like you’re choking someone, it’s not that hard to figure out what you’re saying.

    Still with me? Not getting bored yet? All right, let’s keep going.

    Let me tell you that it’s really not hard to make me happy, and when you eliminate any stress factors, it’s almost impossible to make me sad. Fortunately for me, the Faroe Islands are a land without stress. Nobody is ever too concerned about anything, and the phrase, “What isn’t done today can be done tomorrow,” is often spoken. The Faroes are called, “The Country of Maybe,” because when something is suggested to a Faroese, they usually won’t say yes or no, just “maybe.” It’s because they really don’t care either way. To be completely honest, this mentality irritated me at first; I’m from a family whose only fuel source is high octane stress. Everything had to be planned and decided either ahead of time or immediately, or else there might not be a chance later. It was hard shifting my thought process to fit this more laid back way of thinking, but I think I’ve mostly gotten the hang of it now. The only thing here that regularly causes me brief stress would probably be the busses.

    Before coming to the Faroes, the closest thing to a bus I’d ever been on was the tram at Disney World. I had no idea how to read the schedule, no idea where I should get on or where I should get off, no idea which one was the right bus, and no idea that the bus drivers here are apparently sadists who slam on the gas as soon as your foot is in the vehicle. The first two weeks or so of navigating Tórshavn entirely by bus were absolutely terrifying. I get lost a lot (see the Washington D.C. airport part of my first journal for another example) and trying to figure out the busses by trial and error wasn’t helpful. More than once I had to call my host mom to pick me up because I had no idea how to get home.

    Other than that, my exchange here has been nothing but a real life pipe dream of puppies and marshmallows and heavenly Scandinavian chocolate. I was worried that I would cry often, but so far there has only been three instances of waterworks; once in the middle of the supermarket because I had literally forgotten to eat that day, once at the orientation in Gjógv because whoever was in charge of the music played Leaving On a Jet Plane (which makes me cry anyway), and once more on September 11th. Our history teacher showed us a clipshow of various American news sources showing the disaster happening on live television, and one of the clips was of the same channel I had watched with my mom on the actual day of the event. Seeing it again triggered some kind of PTSD-flashback in my brain and I had a complete and utter meltdown. I was horribly embarrassed to go to school the next day, but my classmates, being the wonderful people that they are, made me feel better about it.
    I will now briefly cover some troubles I’ve been having. I know there’s a possibility that future exchange students will be looking at my journals for reference, so I feel it’s only fair. I’ll still try to keep it short, though, because often times, things that seem like problems are actually much more insignificant when you view them at a later time.

    So there’s this girl who likes to tell me her opinions on American political and social issues. To any exchange students reading this, if you’ve been on your exchange long enough, you’ve probably met someone exactly like her, as if every exchange just needs at least one in order to be complete. Ordinarily, I would love to have a conversation with someone like her because I love to debate. However, a conversation is not an option when talking to her. In fact, you can’t talk to her. You can only have her talk at you. And not only are a majority of her opinions based on incorrect facts, but she also occasionally blames me, personally, for some of America’s problems, as if I’m Barack Obama himself; “Your government makes its people pay off the national debt, but that doesn’t work! Why do you do that?” I dunno, lady, but if I’m ever president, I’ll be sure to look into it, okay?

    The second thing is a bit more of a problem than the first. Plenty of American TV commercials for food will mention how their product will “satisfy” or “keep you full” longer, which is basically marketing-speak for, “We crammed a bunch of chemical junk into your food that will make you think you’re eating less but is probably making you fat.” Americans with good metabolisms process these foods without too many side effects, but when they go to other countries that don’t pack their foods with garbage, their bodies take a toll. That is, they’re hungry. Constantly. Now, this is really, really common for American exchange students, but my body takes this a step further because I have always had a very high metabolism. The result? Suffering.

    I am not exaggerating when I say that I am in actual, physical agony at least twice a day due to hunger. When I wake up in the morning, having gone at least six hours without eating, I’ll be so hungry that my ribs hurt. Breakfast is always bread and cereal, which I’ll eat twice as much of as everyone else, and then when I go to school, the cafeteria has sandwiches, fruit, vegetables, and candy, which I buy in bulk and eat without showing anyone because I’m embarrassed of how much I can put away. Once school is over, I either go to SMS (the mall) to try and find something cheap to eat (which is impossible, since almost everything here has an import tax) or go straight home to scrounge for something I can put in my stomach without preparation. During dinner, I eat until I feel full enough to be sick, because I know that if I don’t, I’ll be hungry again in about five minutes. After dinner, I try to go to bed as quickly as possible so I can be asleep when my body gets hungry again. And so, almost constantly, I am feeling either pain, weakness, or nausea due to my high metabolism, and I am spending more and more money every month trying to pay my food bills. As of this writing, I’m talking to my counselor and host family about what I can do. I know we’ll find a solution.

    Let’s finish this journal on a brighter note. Here are some things people, here and back in the U.S., often ask me!

    Q: What’s your favorite part about the Faroe Islands so far?
    A: To name one thing as the best would be an insult to everything else.

    Q: What classes are you taking in school?
    A: Math, religion, politics, history, English, Faroese, Spanish, and art. I’m lucky and don’t have to take Danish.

    Q: Do you understand anything in school?
    A: HAHA NOPE.

    Q: Are there mountains everywhere?
    A: Everywhere except within the city itself, where they have very steep hills instead.

    Q: How big are the Faroe Islands in comparison to the United States?
    A: The eighteen islands’ collective land area is about a third the size of Rhode Island.

    Q: What do you miss most about the U.S.?
    A: My dog. And maybe tumble driers.

    Q: What about the Faroes was unlike what you expected?
    A: I honestly thought no one would have cars here. I don’t know why I thought that, but I was wrong anyway.

    Q: What was the first new word you learned after arriving?
    A: “Útsøla” = “sale”

    Q: Have you petted a sheep yet?
    A: Not yet. They’re faster than they look.

    Q: Have you seen a whale hunt yet? Do you plan to?
    A: No and yes.

    Q: What do the Faroese think of Sea Shepherd?
    A: They’re hoping Paul Watson will come here someday so that they can be the ones to arrest him.

    Ah, there are so many more things I want to talk about, like how I’m learning Spanish from a Danish textbook and putting my answers down in Faroese, and how interesting it is to be constantly surrounded by English-speakers whose concept of English word connotations are different, and how some people still call me Yuliana and the people in my Spanish class call me Huliana, and how I’ve fallen victim to fashion trends so I wear leggings as pants now, but alas, this journal is far too long! I’ll see you all in the next one.

    And now, I leave you with this analogy:

    There once was a man who tied a baby elephant to a tree. Though the little elephant kept tugging at the rope keeping it tied, it just wasn’t strong enough to break itself away. The man kept the elephant there for many years, until the elephant was an adult, bigger than the tree itself. And yet the elephant never tried to break itself free again because it remembered that it couldn’t, all those years ago. The only thing preventing the elephant from escaping was the memory of struggling in vain, even though now, the only thing holding it back was a thin rope and a twig.

    So if you feel like you have a problem that you can’t overcome, just think: a year from now, when you look back at that problem, will it still look like a tree? Or will it look like a twig? Believe that you can overcome anything, and you will.

     

  • Juliana, Outbound to Faroe Islands

    When I reached the word "flight," I burst out crying again. I was sick of everything already. I had no idea flying could be so stressful -- I couldn't remember the last time I'd been on a plane, but I'm sure I'd had more than an hour to find my next flight, plus I'd had my family with me to help me. This time, I was alone. My phone had died on the way up the escalators, so I couldn't even call someone if I missed my flight. I felt sick, and crying made me feel worse, but willing myself to stop wasn't working....


    Well, my adventure began before I even arrived in the Faroes. I said goodbye to everyone in Jacksonville and went through security, feeling pretty optimistic. I bought a water bottle and a chocolate bar to eat on my flight and went to sit down by my gate. Everything was feeling awesome, and I couldn't wait to just get on that plane and see everything there was to see.

    The flight from Jacksonville to Washington DC was fine, if not a bit cramped. I spent an hour and forty-five minutes wondering how much blood was in my torso from not having any in my legs. When I landed in Dulles, I knew I only had an hour to find my flight, so as soon as I got got off the plane, I shook the feeling back into my feet and started looking around for Scandinavian Air.

    I went up to an information desk and asked where the flight to Copenhagen was. I had no boarding pass and checking in online didn't work, so I had to quickly find where I was supposed to go so I could get my stuff together. The woman at the desk stared at me and asked me why on earth I was asking for Scandinavian Air in the terminal for United. She told me I was looking for Gate B and pointed me down the hall, which turned out to be the wrong direction.

    I went back down the hall and then down a tunnel that led to an underground area with a train to take me where I was supposed to go. I stared at the maps, but I've always been a poor navigator. I had no idea where I was. I gleaned that the train led to Gates A, B, D, H, and Z, so I stood with everyone else and waited.

    The train's first stop was Gate A. I got off for a second and contemplated walking to Gate B, but since I couldn't even read the map anyway, I got back on and hoped it would be faster. I checked my phone. I had less than thirty minutes to find my gate. I prayed I'd get there soon.

    The next stop led to Gates D, H, and Z. I was perplexed. Where was B? Was I supposed to get off at A and walk there? Did I miss my chance? Would I be able to get back? That airport was more foreign to me than the Faroes have been so far. So many things were running through my head, my chest welling with despair, and I simply started crying. I was sore all over from my heavy bags and coats. I had a massive headache and no way to relieve it. I was dehydrated and hungry. I had dropped my water bottle and chocolate bar on the way down the tunnel and couldn't retrieve them. I felt miserable and anxious and the tears just wouldn't stop.

    I got off at D, H, and Z and planned to just walk to B, but I had no idea how. I was lost. Something in my gut tugged me to get back on the train and wait, but I hesitated. My mind was completely blank. Nothing made sense to me and I couldn't even understand that B was probably going to be the next stop, since it was the only one that hadn't been visited yet. As I tried to make sense of things in my brain that was throbbing, I heard the intercom say to stand clear of the doors. I panicked, and ran back inside. It was a good thing I did, because it finally did lead to Gate B. I checked the time again. Twenty minutes until the plane left.

    I made the very poor decision to run up the escalator, and I ended up tripping on my coat and hitting my knee, hard. Now I had an aching leg to deal with, and I started crying again. I kept running, all the way up the two flights of escalators, and came out into a very long hallway filled with gates. I pulled myself together and approached another information desk.

    "Excuse me, sir, where is the flight to Copenhagen?"

    When I reached the word "flight," I burst out crying again. I was sick of everything already. I had no idea flying could be so stressful -- I couldn't remember the last time I'd been on a plane, but I'm sure I'd had more than an hour to find my next flight, plus I'd had my family with me to help me. This time, I was alone. My phone had died on the way up the escalators, so I couldn't even call someone if I missed my flight. I felt sick, and crying made me feel worse, but willing myself to stop wasn't working. The man looked at me in my absolutely pathetic state and smiled sympathetically. He told me I was looking for B40 and pointed me down the hall. I thanked him in an almost-comically high-pitched voice and started running. My backpack thumped against my back and pulled at my shoulders, the handle of my violin case rubbing painfully in my hand, but I kept running, my teeth gritted.

    B40 was about fifteen gates down the hall, or at least it felt like it. When I reached it, I didn't even look for a clock, because I saw what looked like a message from God on a big blue screen: "On time."

    I stood in line and my tears finally stopped. I was going to make it. I was going to be fine. The fear of the unknown had gripped my chest like a vice, but now that I knew I was in the right place, I was so happy I could have collapsed. When it was my turn, I handed over my passport and waited again while the woman prepared a boarding pass for me. By this point, my stank was so bad it could've killed a cow. My dehydration was even worse due to sweating while running. No more one hour layovers. Ever. Again.

    I got on the plane, pleasantly surprised that I was as close to First Class as one could possibly be without being in it, so I had a lot of leg room. I fumbled around trying to store my stuff in my disorientated state, but the man sitting next to me, a Swede named Arne, helped me out. As soon as the plane was safely up in the sky, I took off my boots and shriveled up in my seat. I was a dry husk of a human being, and I could taste the blood in my mouth from splits in my lips.

    I spent the next eight hours talking with Arne. He was very nice, extremely helpful, and slightly drunk, so he was a cool flying companion. He talked on and on about his grandkids, his house in Italy, the trips he'd taken, and lots of other things I only half-remember. He knew a little bit about the Faroe Islands (he at least knew where they were and about the British occupation during WWII, which was refreshing), so we talked about them too. When we arrived in Copenhagen, he even offered to walk me through customs, but it turned out it wasn't necessary.

    I nervously approached the desk and handed the man my passport. Arne had told me not to tell them I was an exchange student or that I'd be staying for a year, or else they'd give me a hard time.

    "Where's your final destination?" the man asked.
    "The Faroe Islands."
    "Are you an exchange student?"
    I didn't want to lie. "Yes."
    "And will you be there for a year?"
    He directly asked what I was planning not to tell him. I answered truthfully again: "Yes."

    He stared at me for a moment. I stared back, trying not to look scared or frustrated or anything else like I truly felt. I hadn't slept at all on the plane, and I know that when I haven't slept, my eyes become red and vainy, so I might have also looked like an insane super villain. The man looked at me for a few more seconds, then opened his mouth to speak. I felt my knees tremble.

    "That's cool." The stamp hit my passport with a dull thud and he passed it back to me through the glass. Stunned, I took it back, squeaked, "Have a nice day!" and passed through customs into Copenhagen airport.

    I met up with Arne again at baggage claim. He explained to me the layout of the airport and how to get where I needed to go. This was his final stop, and his baggage came out before mine, so when he grabbed his bag, he simply gave me a cheery wave and disappeared before I could properly thank him. I regret not having stopped him to say anything.

    I grabbed my bag and checked it in. I grabbed a bottle of water from 7-11 and chugged it. Images of etiolated plants danced through my head as I did. More haggard than ever before, I lugged my unkempt, unwashed self up the escalator to security.

    On the other side, the Copenhagen airport turned into a mall-sized liquor store. Everywhere I looked, there were large, shining bottles of wines and spirits stacked like bean cans in a supermarket. I accidentally made eye contact with one of the tall, handsome Danish clerks, and he stopped me and told me his pitch.

    "Uh... Jeg forstår ikke dansk," I muttered, looking at my shoes. I was very aware that I had not showered in over thirty hours.

    "You don't understand?" he asked, his accent flawless. "I was simply asking if you were interested in our buy one, get one half off sale on [liquor brand]." I lied and said I wasn't old enough, then hurried off to find my gate.

    This was it. The final leg. In a little over two hours, I would be in the Faroe Islands. My head was fit to burst, my arm muscles were killing me, and a quick inspection of my knee revealed a shiny purple bruise from where I'd tripped, but I honestly didn't care anymore. My excitement was mounting and I didn't feel tired anymore. I got on my plane and shoved my airline food meal down my throat. I had no idea what it was, but it was delicious.

    Two hours later, I was staring at the glorious mountains and valleys of the Faroe Islands. White waterfalls trickled down the mountain faces like veins keeping the islands alive, and I swear I've never seen a more beautiful sight in my entire life. I stepped off the plane right onto the tarmac and walked into the tiny airport.

    After collecting my luggage, I left the terminal and ran right into Mirjam, my Youth Exchange Officer. She gave me a hug (which must've been unpleasant) and dragged my suitcase for me. We got into her car and drove to Argir, a village that's merged with the capital, Tórshavn. She explained various things along the way, but honestly, I was half-dead by this point, so I barely remember anything. I arrived at my host family's house just after noon and settled in.

    My host dad Eyðun (pronounced Eh-yuh-n), host mom Katrin, and host sister Sanna (pronounced like sauna) were all there, but host sister Maria was helping out at a wedding, so she was not. We sat around and chatted, then I went to unpack my things while Katrin and Eyðun prepared dinner. We sat down and ate roast beef, fried potatoes, chips, and home-made cheesecake, then went on a ride around Tórshavn to see various places. I fell asleep after seeing my new school.

    I got home, took a much needed shower, and collapsed on my bed. I barely had a chance to think about anything before I fell asleep and slept like the dead for the next sixteen hours.

     

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