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Great Gable

The day after we left Scotland, we went to Great Gable in the Lake District for a nice hike. There are many routes to the top, and Craig assured me that we would be taking one of the less strenuous ones. And I believed him.

We should have heeded the omen.
We should have heeded the omen.

Once we got past the sheep, who were clearly trying to tell us to just turn back, we parked up at a pub/ camping ground and made our way past several enclosures full of sheep toward the mountain. Unbeknownst to us at the time, those few minutes were the last bits of clear weather we would enjoy.

The fog is just starting to creep in.
The fog is just starting to creep in.

The path began with a gentle climb, and I was feeling like my walking poles were a bit over the top, like I was one step closer to turning into one of those Korean hikers I mocked for wearing $1000+ worth of gear to hike up a 200m high hill.

Soon enough, I understood why Craig had wanted to bring them. The path quickly grew steeper as the stony dirt became loose gravel. Not my favorite combination at all. As I gingerly made my way up the hill, trying not to slide/ tumble down, Craig regaled me with the story of a previous trip up Great Gable which entailed basically being stuck at the top in the cold rain. Lovely.

Eventually, we reached the top without breaking any bones and were rewarded with a lovely view for miles around lucky not to physically bump into any other hikers. With the weather continuing to worsen, our plans for a nice picnic at the top devolved into a quick couple of photos and an even quicker snack.

Apparently, there are magnificent views from the top of Great Gable.
Apparently, there are magnificent views from the top of Great Gable.

As we hurried back to the car, we passed a man carrying a bicycle. Then another. I stopped the third and learned that the four of them were riding coast to coast to raise money for GOSH, the UK equivalent of St. Jude’s. I guess they thought donators weren’t really getting value for money if they didn’t include any mountain peaks.

Iceland- what we did when we weren’t in Reykjavik

This must be the uncool part of the Blue Lagoon.
This must be the uncool part of the Blue Lagoon.

The morning after Withered Hand and Thorir Georg, I woke up feeling rough, having had a bit too much cheer the night before, but we were on the road to the Blue Lagoon just after 10. We arrived by 11, and it was clear even from the parking lot that this is a tourist trap.

Pictures of the Blue Lagoon are clearly all taken facing away from the sauna, café, restaurant, and gift shop. It’s like a mall that happens to have a lake outside. Entry is about £30 if you need a towel. There are many other extras, such as a robe and slippers, but we weren’t interested. We put the mud on our faces and relaxed in the hot water, but, really, it’s just wastewater from a power plant, and there are hot spring pools all over the country.

Me, in the most exclusive wastewater pool in the world.
Me, in the most exclusive wastewater pool in the world.

We paid an extortionate amount for a mediocre cup of coffee before driving into Grindovík, so Craig could watch a soccer match. At 6˚ C, it was too cold for me, so I hung out at a pizzeria. Once again, I didn’t hear any Icelandic. Everywhere we went, we heard lots of English and German, but very little/ no Icelandic. Next time, we’ll have to find out where the locals go.

Even the locals needed to warm up at half time.
Even the locals needed to warm up at half time.

After the game, it was finally time for some hiking. We (Craig) had found an 11-mile trail starting in Grindovík in our (Craig’s) pre-travel research. Unfortunately, we had the little problem of getting back to the car, so we just walked two hours out, and turned around.

The directions to spot the beginning of the hike weren’t clearly written, but we saw a marker and followed it to a good place to park. All along the way, the markers were closely spaced and often next to cairns, so they couldn’t be missed. My kind of hike. The walk was flat (another plus for me), but there were hills all around.

Craig and three cairns. Even we couldn't get lost with markers that close together.
Craig and three cairns. Even we couldn’t get lost with markers that close together.

The ground was moss-covered lava and was either extremely spongy or sharp and crunchy, with very little in between. It really does look similar to the moors, but even more otherworldly, because of the texture and complete blackness of the ground. Despite the flatness, it was hard on my knees because the crunchy areas were basically loose gravel. The “gravel” was just lava instead of another kind of rock.

Sunday morning, we were on our way north to Grundarfjörður by 8AM, so Craig could watch a 4th division game. The scenery was beautiful: mountains, craggy fields of moss-covered lava, lots of horses, some sheep, flocks of seagulls, and a lone puffin walking down the street. That was the only puffin spotted the entire week, and I missed it, because I was looking at a (completely run-of-the-mill) house.

How can they watch the ball with scenery like that?
How can they watch the ball with scenery like that?

The 2.5-hour drive followed the coast, but we only saw a few towns. Two-thirds of Icelanders live in Rekjavik, so the rest of the country is isolated and sparsely populated. Grundarfjörður is a whale-watching destination, but we could only find one place serving lunch on a Sunday in the high season. We paid over 5000 KR for a light lunch, further reinforcing my belief that only tourists go to restaurants. Again, the only other language I heard was German.

Monday was a busy day, so we had another early start. We drove to Kerið, a small crater lake, then to Geysir, followed by Gullfoss, before finally arriving at our second apartment, in Laugarvatn, a small town which seems to exist because of its location in the Golden Circle.

Kerid Crater. I think it was formed by a penny dropped from a helicopter.
Kerid Crater. I think it was formed by a penny dropped from a helicopter.

Kerið was indeed quite small. We (and everyone else we saw) had a quick look and were off again in about five minutes. If it weren’t right on the way to Geysir, it wouldn’t be worth seeking out. Even being on the same road, it’s just a good chance for a quick stretch of the legs before continuing on.

Geysir is actually two geysers: one big but irregular one, and one smaller one which spouts at 8-10 minute intervals. We arrived just at the tail end of an eruption from the smaller one, so we watched the water bubble for 5-6 minutes before the next one.

If you spray yourself with water as you pan from left to right, you can feel like you were there.
If you spray yourself with water as you pan from left to right, you can feel like you were there.

It sprays water about 20-30 feet high, then the water is sucked down before a second blast. We thought that was a pretty good show, so we decided not to stand around in the cold hoping the big one happened to erupt while we were there. Last on the agenda for the day, Gullfoss is the biggest waterfall in Iceland. It’s not very high, but it has a lot of water and flows through a deep crevice. Live’s video, Heaven, was shot there.

Interesting factoid: the Hvítá River, which Gullfoss is part of, was once privately owned. There is a memorial at the falls of Sigríður Tómasdóttir, the former owner’s daughter, because, legend has it that she threatened to throw herself into the falls if plans to build a hydro station went through.

It's really much better in real life.
It’s really much better in real life.

No one was threatening suicide while we were there. The entire day was sunny, but with freezing gale-force winds, which made standing around being sprayed with water pretty unpleasant. In warmer weather, we probably would have stayed a bit longer at each site. As it was, we had a quick look, took some photos, and headed for cover.

On Tuesday morning, Craig was finally able to sleep in. The places we stayed weren’t furnished with blackout curtains, so Craig was up and moving by 4AM at the latest most days. We had a very lazy morning, and we finally got moving and started walking around Laugarvatn Lake after lunch. Within 15 minutes, the land had turned marshy. Stepping ankle-deep in icy water ended the walk for me. So, Craig went to a women’s football game in Selfoss, and I lazed around the apartment wishing we could get more than four channels on TV.

On our last full day, we headed back to Reykjavik by way of Þingvellir, the historical ancient meeting place of Icelandic chieftains. It’s a massive rift valley where tectonic plates meet. You can walk along it from the top or bottom. We chose the bottom, and walked along for about 45 minutes. The busloads of tourists all stayed topside, so we had the valley to ourselves.

At the bottom, far far from the tour buses.
At the bottom, far far from the tour buses.

In the end, the path petered out a bit and became more difficult to maneuver than I felt like dealing with, so we found a good place to scramble up, and continued following the path until it started raining. We turned back to the parking lot and went up to the top to get a good view of the waterfalls.

As hikes go, it wasn’t much, but it was a good end to our trip. We got to see a place of both historic and geologic significance and enjoy it away from all of the crowds. My only gripe is that there were so many people with tripods set up that we had a hard time getting a decent photo of our own. So, here’s a picture of an underground house we walked past.

The house would be much harder to spot, if there weren't a flag on top of it.
The house would be much harder to spot, if there weren’t a flag on top of it.

Don’t Miscarry in Utah

I clicked on the link to this article, because I think that a lot of students kind of fart around and mark time for their senior year, and the kids that need to be there could benefit from a culling of the herd, so to speak. A focusing of resources, if you will. However, the real subject of the article is proposed legislation in which miscarriages may become a prosecutable offense in Utah.

So, 12th grade may become optional because the government is broke. But it’s not too broke to investigate/ prosecute/ imprison women who have miscarriages, if the mother’s actions may have been the cause.

What about giving birth to a child with health problems? Will the mother’s prenatal care be investigated? Where will it end? While I’m not above giving dirty looks to pregnant women I see smoking or drinking, I’m not sure this is a road the government should go down. In fact, I’m pretty sure this road is a very, very bad one which should be avoided.

Several women close to me have suffered miscarriages, and I can’t imagine them dealing with that emotional pain while facing a criminal investigation into the events leading up to it. Not to mention, how horrible would it be to lose a pregnancy and be judged to be at fault for it? How many women go through that in their own minds already, thinking about what they could have done differently and if it would have changed anything? Now, compound that with a police investigation and, possibly, a criminal trial.

I realize that is not the intent of the law, but since the police cannot actually read people’s minds, you have to think that at least some women found criminally responsible for their miscarriage would have simply been guilty of poor judgment. OK, I think that’s enough of a rant about a proposed law (which one hopes will be quietly dropped from consideration never again to see the light of day) in a state through which I have never even driven, nor do I have any future plans to visit.

The End Draws Nigh (as does a new beginning)

Tomorrow is my last working day off of work, if that makes sense. I’ve been to my new school several times to clean up and moderately decorate my new classroom. OK, thus far “decorations” have been limited to classroom rules signs which I have posted. 🙂 Just trying to live up to my reputation. When I interviewed, I was asked how my director would describe me. When I said I might be considered a little strict at my school, he laughed and showed me the notes from his conversation with said director: the first word was strict.

Since it is the end of our rather unproductive vacations, Stafford and I have planned to do things which we should have done at a leisurely pace throughout the past two weeks. I still haven’t convinced him to accompany me to the robot art exhibit. 🙁 Hopefully, the French comic exhibit he chose will be just as good.

Laundry Time

So, as I may have mentioned, my month off of work has been rather slothful. My cat is making a silent, but pointed, statement about the laundry pile on the floor. He has pushed all of the clothes into a semi-circle around his head and upper body. He is now slowly rolling from side to side, stopping at each item to touch it several times with the nearest paw. It’s like watching some kind of weird geriatric stretching video. Or, maybe if the subject of an episode of Hoarders came out with a line of exercise DVDs…

At any rate, I will grudgingly take it as a sign that it’s time to make the two-block trek over to the laundromat. Stafford has some super-exciting product launch to attend tomorrow, but I suppose washing clothes, dropping some pants off to be altered, and going to Korean class will be just as awesome. Not that I’m bitter that he didn’t even try to get a plus one. What kind of party requires everyone to go stag? Hrmph.

It’s Facebook Official

In case you’re wondering, my head has not shrunk, I’m just farther away from the camera.

In semi-related news, I will soon be single, in the legal sense. PBMX told me he would file jointly, but then got himself hospitalized. He has been in the hospital ever since (a month? six weeks?), but he should be getting out this week. He has promised to file the papers this week. Fingers crossed. If I sound unsympathetic, it’s only because this has repeated itself so many times.
Update: OK, I wrote this about two weeks ago, but forgot to post it. PBMX is finally out of the hospital, after a week’s delay for unspecified reasons. He’s now convalescing at home, so I’m still no closer to being divorced…

Other Than Not Being Able to Hear, My Ears are FIne

Went back to the ear doctor for some tests today– air pressure, beeps, and speech. My problem is speech, since I can’t use the phone on my left side. However, since I’m a foreigner, she used easy vocabulary, which I could easily get since it was one carefully enunciated word at a time. That I can do. Normal conversation, not so much. It’s not terrible, but it’s gotten noticeable. If it hasn’t gotten better in a few weeks, I’ll head over to the International Clinic and pay their outrageous foreigner fees.

I’m a Survivor! (cue music)

Yes, I have survived an entire week without the internet at home. In the process, I suffered excruciating withdrawal symptoms and discovered there are about four or five more hours in a day than I realized. 🙂 Now, it’s back to business as usual, of course, and there are no longer enough hours in the day.

Computer gremlins were not the worst thing about last week, unfortunately. Mr. PBMX drama continues ad nauseum. In his bid to show me when I asked him to procure a copy of our marriage license, he got himself hospitalized and lost his apartment and was homeless for a few days. Apparently, his mother is trying to divorce him as well. Or else, sleeping on the street was preferable to spending time with her. She’s a pretty miserable bitch, but I think I could suck it up in those circumstances.

So, I am now waiting with baited breath to see if he will actually send me the paperwork (which he claims he has in his possession) so that I can finalize our divorce. I hoping to keep our separation under three years, if possible. I dream big.

Karl is helping me to keep it all in perspective– I’ve never been hospitalized against my will, therefore, my life is pretty good. 🙂

I have a new bon mot from school: a summary of a book apparently involving Nate the Great and a drug dealer. 🙂 I’ll try to get it posted in the next few days.

To Be a Cat Lady or Not To Be a Cat Lady

A couple of years ago, I discovered a baby yarn that looks like terry cloth. Of course, not in Korea, just online. Since it was not locally available, naturally, I lusted after that yarn in an unnatural way. The only thing that stopped me from ordering a sweater’s worth (as in, adult sweater, for me) was that it was only available in hideous baby pastels.

Then, last weekend, at Dongdaemun, I saw something even better. What could be better than terry cloth yarn, you ask? Mink blanket yarn! It looks like gigantic pipe cleaner yarn, but feels like a mink blanket. And! It was available in a purple/ lavender/ white variegated colorway. I snapped up a sweater’s worth without even asking the price (so, undoubtedly got the foreigner/ rube “special”). Well, it IS NaNoSweMo, right? Right. and if it’s knit on 10mm needles, I can get it done in a month. Or a weekend. Whichever.

I will not take a photo, because it is a sweater which screams, “THIS IS WORN BY A DIVORCED CAT LADY!” I will say that it is an over-sized cardi and it took me about 10 hours to knit. My kind of sweater.

In addition to my sweater success (I thought I would run out of yarn, but I finished with about 1/2 a row’s worth left over), my weekend was full of surprises. One of which was unexpectedly having a favor for a friend turn into 350K with a promise of future paydays. 🙂 A little something to offset the won’s swan dive. I also used Korean today and… actually had a conversation. About politics. Okay,the guy obviously was experienced with foreigner Korean, but still…

AND I put off the church lady that has decided to be my friend, at least for another week…