Thursday, May 18, 2017

comfortable discomfort

Along with the weather and the landscape, plans and decisions change too.

I'm noticing how here in Iceland nothing is ever set in stone and you just have to get used to a constant state of uncertainty. You can plan some things, but you can never be sure how it all goes. A storm can come, a road can get closed, the wind can blow you away.

Anything can happen. Nothing can happen too. Things change fast. 

I was planning to stay in Snæfellsnes for 5 months, but suddenly something made me realise that I should leave sooner. It takes a special kind of strength and patience to live in the middle of nowhere and I know that I won't be able to handle it for much longer. My city-bred heart reminded itself where it comes from. It is longing for a comeback to a bit more urban life right now and I need to follow it. 

Spring is here and everything is even more beautiful now, but I know that I have to move on.

Today I'm going for a short trip to Reykjavik. In June I'm moving there. Leaving the peninsula for the first time since I came here 3 months ago feels extremely exciting and I'm so pumped up for this I can't sleep.

Time has come for a new adventure. How am I going to feel like in Reykjavik? Am I going to find a job there? Am I going to stay there for 2 more months and go back to Poland or is it going to be a longer-term thing? 

Somehow I'm becoming less afraid of questions like this, maybe I'm slowly starting to feel comfortable in this seemingly uncomfortable state of uncertainty.

Will see what happens next.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

2 months

When I came here, I was captivated. The peacefulness, the otherworldly landscape made it all feel a bit like a dream. Then the reality of being stuck in the middle of nowhere hit me and for a while I was quite of a mess, there was a lot of anxiety and some issues started popping up. 

Right now, after 2 months, I’m still moved by the beauty of this land. I appreciate that I am able to work here with something I’m passionate about which is cooking. I’m also grateful that this whole experience allows me to rethink some things about my life and inspires me to make new plans for the future. With all this in mind, it’s so much easier to accept and overcome some drawbacks and obstacles I'm encountering. There are moments when I’m thinking that I should give up and maybe go back to Poland sooner than at the end of July. But it all passes. 

I guess it’s important to allow yourself to feel everything, the whole spectrum of emotions we have as human beings. For me, it gets tricky, cause at times I feel as though I’m on an emotional roller-coaster and the intensity overwhelms and confuses me. Here, I can observe all of those thoughts and emotions arising inside of me more clearly, without being pulled away from myself by the outside world. Cause it’s so easy to get out of touch with yourself while living in the city with all of its speediness and distractions.

Here you have to face everything head-on, cause there’s nowhere to run, not so many things to distract yourself with. Basically you’re stuck with yourself and you have to work with what you have. 

Everything is so unpredictable and changeable here. I’m watching the ocean, how it changes along with the weather. Sometimes calm, sometimes agitated. Sometimes the wind comes and blows everything away. After couple of hours it passes, the air gets warm and you can lie down in the sun on the mossy grass, enjoy the moment. 

This is how life is and I have to let go of the urge to have everything under control. Some things I can control, but most of them I just can’t and I need to accept this. 

Monday, April 10, 2017

emotional landscapes

Month and a half. After a period of relative peacefulness, last week this land decided to teach me a lesson.

I got my first glimpse of the more severe aspects of being stuck in the middle of nowhere. 

There is so much space around and at first it was very welcoming. It allowed me to breathe. Yet suddenly, for a while, it became hostile and imposing. The fog came and covered the mountains forming a milky wall of endless nothingness. What could be hiding in this fog? At the same time the ocean became agitated, heavy waves crashing - majestic and angry-seeming at the same time.

this is a photo of a light fog, when it gets heavier you can only see an infinite white abyss on the horizon

For many days I didn't leave the closest area of the guesthouse where I'm working and the house where I'm sleeping. It was even difficult to go for a walk because of the heavy rain and wind. 

In such circumstances it is so easy for the mind and the emotions to go astray. 

((You wouldn't have guessed it by the first impression that I tend to make on people (which is that of aloofness and distance), but the truth is that I am an extremely emotional person. The emotions and moods I experience sometimes go overboard and it has a potential to wreak quite a havoc in my life. This duality confuses me and other people a lot, because on the outside I seem to be calm and emotion-less and then all of a sudden I start freaking out or acting in a really weird way, I do and say bizarre stuff. For a very long time I wasn't even aware that there is something different in the way I experience and process emotions, as compared to let's say "normal" way most of adult people do. I had and probably still have a tendency to act on extreme emotions in situations where it's not the wisest thing to do and repress or not act on them in situations where it could be beneficial. This is an issue I'm working on and probably will for a very long time. I even consulted this with a psychiatrist at some point, who told me a very important thing - when it comes to mental health, we are all on a spectrum, it's never black or white. There are very few people, if any, who are perfectly sane or perfectly insane. Majority of people experience some abnormalities in one or more aspects of the way they are functioning, while the other aspects are working just fine for them. Just because I experience emotions more intensely than what is considered to be the norm, that doesn't mean that there is something "wrong" with me or that I'm "crazy". I have to accept that this is the way I am and only then I can start working with what I have, try to find a balance, not to hurt myself nor other people because of this. This also has a positive side - experiencing intense emotions and being hyper-sensitive at the core of my being is a great source of creativity for me and I think this is why I am able to be creative in some fields without having a lot of skills for it, to be honest.))

lonely, vulnerable alga

So yes, my mind and my emotions went into a weird spiral last week. I got stuck on some negative thoughts and couldn't find a way out, blowing mild issues and misunderstandings completely out of proportion which resulted in a breakdown. Thankfully, someone pointed out that I'm being irrational and right afterwards I got a chance to leave the area for the first time since many almost identical days spent doing almost identical things in the same environment of the guesthouse. We went on a trip to the town of Stykkisholmur, which is 50 km away and has a population of 1195 people. Looking at the landscape along the way and then doing the shopping felt truly amazing and extraordinary. I felt like a child in a candy shop.

the view from the car during the trip

This seemingly random, but for me very important trip allowed me to find some new energy. The crisis defused and now I know that in order to feel better when things get stuck, I just have to do something that will allow me to look at things from a different perspective. I have to change the rhythm once in a while.


It's interesting how here, in this situation of being in a remote place far away from everything, many issues I thought I had already put behind me or dealt with, they start popping up unexpectedly. There are still demons and ghosts haunting me. Maybe instead of fighting I should become friends with them, so they become something that is going to help me and push me forwards instead of getting in my way and dragging me backwards?

the view on the way back to the guesthouse

What other things is this land about to show me and teach me?

in times of crisis, I have always turned to music to find some comfort. this record by of Montreal which deals with the issue of psychological breakdown etc., it has been with me for the past 10 years and this time too I blasted this song really loud for myself

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

first month

It’s been almost a month now. 

Am I living the dream?

I have to say yes, I am. But it is a strange dream, not the kind where everything is nice, easy and comfortable all the time. That would be boring. 

my favourite place to go for a walk, it's only ~15 minutes by foot from the guesthouse

I’m making my teenage fantasies come true. 

I remember being a confused & depressed 15-year old who got so much into listening to music, probably because it could serve so well as an escape from everyday reality. Icelandic music resonated with me back then, apart from Björk I used to be a heavy listener of Sigur Rós and múm (and I wasn't the only one, it’s interesting how a lot of Polish teenagers were super into bands from Iceland in the mid-00s). 

I dreamed that one day I could visit this magical land. It seemed like such a far-fetched idea back then, the flights were extremely expensive and it felt so unattainable, remote, located on the other side of the world.

Then I forgot about those dreams for many years, Iceland was no longer priority on the list of places I wanted to travel to. 

old summer house no one currently uses became my hiding place/studio 

Yet somehow I ended up here, now at the age of 28. And it feels so right to me to be here at this precise moment. Every time I go outside for a walk, breathe the fresh air and look at everything around me - it feels soothing, like taking some kind of a remedy and filling myself up with energy. 

soon this grass is going to become green and the scenery will change

All in all, it's great. Of course, there are some downsides and difficult moments, but I have learned by now that nothing ever in this world is perfect, because why would it be? Perfect is not interesting to me. The real problem would arise, if the downsides would become stronger than the positive parts of it all. Just like it did in my previous job - it was not worth it for me to accept all the bullshit just for the sake of having a steady income (which wasn't even that steady).

Friday, March 17, 2017


Time to talk about the difficulties.

Work is always work, even when you’re doing something that you truly love. If you’re getting paid money for it, then it’s inevitable that not everything is going to be pretty, easy, nor smooth. Certainly there are going to be parts of it that you’re going to hate and compromises that you will be forced to take. 

every day I try to take a walk/run for a bit along the coastline

Being a chef is a hard profession. It’s a combination of labour that is physical (all the manual tasks you need to perform), intellectual - sometimes even scientific (you need to have knowledge about the products, their various contexts and methods of preparation), creative (I truly do think that creating a dish carries a lot of similarities to creating a work of art) and emotional (you have to think about the people who are going to eat your food and colour your perspective with their needs and expectations).

Even though I question myself all the time (like we all do, especially women), I’m finally growing to accept that I do have a culinary talent and that I do have a potential to become a proper chef or even establish my own place one day in the future (accepting this is scary, cause it means that I really have to do something about it not to waste this potential, no excuses left). But it’s going to be a long road until I get there and lot of hard work. Right now it all depends on me - do I really want this? Am I going to be strong enough not to give up at some point?

I have to try.

I have a complicated relationship with quitting. I give up a lot. Most recently I have quit a full-time day job back in Warsaw. Sometimes quitting and giving up is amazing - it means leaving all the stuff you don’t longer need behind, growing from the experience and moving on. But sometimes it’s terrible and means giving up on your hopes and dreams, sabotaging yourself.

Back in Warsaw, as a hobby I had been organising pop-up dinners almost every month for about 2 and a half years. The last one I organised was in February, shortly before my departure.

Even though there were a lot of extremely hard moments in my bibimbap-making "career", I never gave up on doing this. I couldn’t give up, because I loved it too much.

Right now, I see my cooking at the guesthouse as the next episode in my culinary adventure.

I'm sure I wouldn't be able to do this right now if I didn’t have previous experience with the pop-up dinners, where I sometimes cooked for more than 40 people during one evening. Here, the most so far was 11 orders at the same time. 3 different dishes to make almost from scratch.

It was overwhelming, but I made it all and got compliments.

I think I'm also able to do this, because I get in the so-called “zone” when I’m cooking. The state of flow

At the same time it’s hard, cause I feel as though I get hyper-sensitive to distractions too while in this state. My senses are sharpened, which may have some negative consequences. For example something random like a loud sound of the dishwasher makes me want to cry with irritation. I may become extremely angry and snappy at people without any rational reason behind it. People walking into the kitchen, talking to me - I want them to disappear, to just get out. I may have moments when I feel like I’m falling apart, dissociating or disintegrating.

And that’s when some skills I learned while attending CBT therapy for my depression, they really come in handy. On top of doing several things at the same time (cooking always means doing a lot of things at the same time), I also become my own therapist and start talking to myself in my head:

Please breathe, you are feeling unwell and overwhelmed, because there is a lot of stuff happening at the same time and you are angry and scared. You are angry because you are scared that you are going to fuck up and that it is going to be proof that you are not good at what you’re doing after all. You are scared that you’ve been lying to yourself and you’re not only a bad cook, but also a fucked-up, hopeless person in general. Please don’t be so hard on yourself, you’re just a human being and humans are imperfect, they have good and bad moments, strong and weak sides. Everything is going to be fine, just allow yourself to be present. And please don’t transfer any anger of yours onto other people that are around - it’s not their fault if they irritate you right now, just tell them that you’re feeling vulnerable at this moment, they will hopefully get the message and might even help you.

Now it’s low-season at the guesthouse, so there are not as many people to deal with as there will be in the summer, but on the evening when I had those 11 orders to prepare at the same time, in the meantime I also had to: pick up and talk on the phone at the reception, prepare a gin&tonic, give people beer from the fridge, deal with some of the payments, answer some questions etc. 

After it was all over, I felt extremely exhausted, but also satisfied, as though I've just run a marathon or passed some very hard test. And I think that this is what matters most. That at the end of the day, when you're going to sleep, you feel good and satisfied with what you've done that day. 

(this is one of my favourite videos of all time)

Monday, March 13, 2017


Proste sprawy. To niesamowite, jaki spokój może odczuwać człowiek, kiedy spełnione zostają jego najbardziej podstawowe potrzeby - ma gdzie spać, ma co jeść, może zarówno pracować, jak i mieć czas dla siebie.

Wokół roztaczają się majestatyczne krajobrazy, a problemy i niepokoje, które miało się jeszcze miesiąc wcześniej zaczynają przypominać rozmywające się we mgle zjawy, które niewiele już znaczą. Powidoki.

Teraz widzę w pełni, jak negatywnie wpływała na mnie praca, którą wykonywałam przed wyjazdem. Wmawiałam sobie, że wszystko jest w porządku, że nie mam na co narzekać i że powinnam się cieszyć, że zostałam przyjęta do miejsca, które dodatkowo mogło uchodzić za “prestiżowe”. Być może to wszystko było bardzo lekką formą syndromu sztokholmskiego, być może stał za tym podobny mechanizm psychologiczny w skali mikro. Oczywiście praca miała sporo zalet, ale w pewnym momencie negatywy zaczęły przeważać. Niepokój i niepewność, czy zaraz i tak człowieka nie zwolnią (przy umowie śmieciowej/samozatrudnieniu mogą to zrobić w każdej chwili), władze obiecujące różne rzeczy, po czym niewywiązywanie się z tych obietnic, brak realnych możliwości rozwoju, niekompetentne osoby na wyższych stanowiskach, klimat polityczny. A do tego wszystkiego bardzo smutne poczucie, że to, co się robi i za co dostaje się pieniądze - że mogłoby tego w ogóle nie być na świecie i nie byłoby to jakąś wielką stratą.

Myślę, że “większości osób" taka sytuacja by nie przeszkadzała i mogłyby w niej funkcjonować przez długi czas. Nie dziwi mnie to, bo tak często wygląda nasza rzeczywistość i niby skąd ludzie mogliby wiedzieć, że życie może wyglądać zupełnie inaczej, niż to wszystko, do czego są przyzwyczajeni?

Ja już wiem, że wolałabym więcej nie znaleźć się w podobnej sytuacji. Jednak jestem wdzięczna za to, że miałam możliwość spróbować i przekonać się na własnej skórze. A potem, że zebrałam się na odwagę, żeby odejść.

Dzięki temu znalazłam się tutaj.

Czuję się trochę jak w sanatorium, jest tu dużo łatwiej zadbać o siebie i naładować się energią.

Jeżeli chodzi o moją tutejszą pracę, to ponieważ jest to małe miejsce, można powiedzieć, że stałam się szefową kuchni. Dostałam pewne wskazówki co do tego, jak mają wyglądać potrawy, które przygotowuję, jednak dużo zależy ode mnie i mogę eksperymentować na własną rękę. Dostaję od gości komplementy, co pozwala mi ugruntować pewność siebie i wiarę w to, że tak, mam talent oraz wyczucie kulinarne i chcę to wykorzystać w tym życiu, bo czemu miałoby się to marnować. Oczywiście pojawiają się myśli typu - “a może wcale nie mam talentu, tylko dużo szczęścia i jestem po prostu uzurpatorką?”. Zaobserwowałam jednak w ostatnich latach, że chociaż mało ludzi się do tego przyznaje, okazuje się, że takie krytyczne wobec samej siebie myśli ma absolutnie każda osoba stąpająca po tej ziemi. Chodzi o to, żeby nie stać się niewolnikiem tych myśli. Chyba najlepiej po prostu się im nie przysłuchiwać.

Mam wrażenie, że będę chciała tu zostać dłużej, niż pół roku. Myślę dużo o tym, że nasza współczesna rzeczywistość jest bardzo chaotyczna i dzieje się wiele niepokojących zwrotów, ale jednocześnie zaistniało sporo możliwości, których dotąd ludzkość nie miała. Jeżeli ma się odwagę, to można w bardzo plastyczny sposób wpływać na własne życie. Zamiast podążania wydeptanymi ścieżkami, według schematów poprzednich pokoleń, dużo łatwiej jest teraz żyć po swojemu i znajdować nowe rozwiązania. Dzięki technologii mamy dostęp do prawie nieskończonych zasobów wiedzy i kultury. Możemy również swobodnie pokonywać niesamowite odległości i przemieszczać się. Trzeba nauczyć się wykorzystywać te możliwości. (Dodam, że piszę to z pozycji osoby uprzywilejowanej ze względu na kolor mojej skóry, pochodzenie europejskie itp. Dla osób, które z różnych powodów są niżej w globalnej, społecznej hierarchii, w tych czasach wcale nie jest łatwiej "żyć po swojemu", bo one nie mają dostępu do tych samych przywilejów, co np. ja jako biała Europejka i dotyka je dyskryminacja z powodów, na które nie mają wpływu - krótko mówiąc mają mniejsze prawa i możliwości przez to, gdzie się urodzili i jakiego koloru jest ich skóra)

Nie chcę rezygnować z Warszawy, dlatego pomyślałam, że w tych czasach naprawdę byłoby możliwe mieszkać w dwóch miejscach na raz - część roku spędzać w Polsce, część na Islandii. Zawsze marzyłam o takim podwójnym rozwiązaniu, dlatego z tyłu głowy zaczynam snuć wizje, co będę musiała zrobić, żeby móc wprowadzić taki plan w życie. 

Saturday, March 4, 2017


This was a very good decision.

It's been about a week and a half since I landed here.

photo by Oskar 

I wake up early in the morning, look out of the window and see the ocean. I can hear it too. I leave the house and look at the pink dawning light covering the mountains.

Inhale & exhale, the air is crispy clean. 

It's cold, but not in an unpleasant way. After I wake up, I have to walk a couple of meters through the snow to the main guesthouse. I start preparing breakfast. Simple tasks. Brewing, pouring, cutting. Down to earth and tangible. Material. Then I look out of the window again. Having all this majestic nature as a background to my everyday routine is an experience in itself.

How long does it take for the otherworldly to become common and ordinary? Is this sense of being in complete awe of the surroundings going to last?

The first couple of days were the weirdest - such a contrast between how I was feeling and what was going around me back home to what is happening here, in the middle of nowhere. I guess I feel more present and "in the moment" here than I did for the most part of last year back in Warsaw. 

I'm far away from everything, but I don't feel lonely. I made a new friend (who's unfortunately gone now, but will be back in a month) and there are people coming and going, passing through the guesthouse every day with their own stories. And of course there is technology, wi-fi connects me to the world at large.

There is also something else. A certain spookiness that can be felt especially after the sun goes down. I feel that there is a lot going on here beneath the surface, the energy levels are high. And somehow I'm not scared of this.

At night the stars shine vividly as they always do far away from the city lights. 

The Northern Lights, Aurora Borealis, are here too. Very subtle, mild and not strong at all, but present still. 

These next months are going to be interesting.