Spin the Globe with Justin Butner

A world citizen may provide value to society by using knowledge acquired across cultural contexts.


Friday, July 9

Very infrequent announcements break the quiet as I slowly make my way through the undulating centipede of the check in line at Keflavik International Airport in Iceland. My computer is balanced on a free luggage cart. A person’s cell phone rings and the volume stands out above all that is happening. The faces around are a mixture of stern to stoic to spaced to smiling. No one seems overly happy and certainly no one is acting boisterous. Even the children are well behaved. Decorum remains. It is as if no one in line to leave the country is particularly excited to do so.

I can assure you I am in the same boat, and soon, the same airplane. I have no desire to return to DC. Even saying “return to DC” seems a little foreign. I’ve now spent just under 4 weeks in Iceland. Of that, about 10 days were in Reykjavik, wandering, seeing the city and getting comfortable enough to give directions, checking out new restaurants and art museums, stopping to watch street performers of music and performance art alike, wandering around the bars, smoking on park benches, and then loitering around when the bars shut down, meeting locals, making friends, running errands, going to house parties and BBQs. I visited Rome. I visited Istanbul. I lived in Reykjavik.

I didn’t just live in Reykjavik the way that I live in DC. I immersed myself in Reykjavik. Walking the streets and meeting people, feeling no hesitance to wander into random small shops or to stop and take someone’s picture, and most importantly having the time to soak in it. I wasn’t running on deadlines with places to be. On my way back from breakfast to catch the airport shuttle I passed a group of people divided into smaller groups who had set up different scenes on the street all involving yelling at an invisible sports match on various media. The tailgaters wept as their team lost, the party girls knocked over bowls of popcorn, and the chefs screwed up their recipe from distraction. And I paused briefly and moved on, feeling unsettled about something as I did so. Now I’ve figured it out. It is the regret of missing something you want to see because you need to be somewhere.

Moving back into DC life is certainly going to bring back all the timelines and plans, the calendars and schedules of stress. In trying to optimize my life and schedule in all the fun and enriching things that I can, I miss out on all the beauty of the unplanned. I always have to drive somewhere, to meet someone. And I have to sit in traffic to get there, just as I am right now while waiting to check in. What does it say that the first time I’ve experienced a traffic jam in this country is in line at the airport to leave?

Perhaps they are trying to soften the blow when I get back home. An appreciated gesture, but one of foreboding. We haven’t taken off and I am already sad to be going.

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This entry was posted on July 9, 2010 by in Iceland.

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