Whenever I say, “I am from the Faroe Islands,” the most common reaction I get is “Sorry, what, where is that?” So here is a brief description of the Faroe Islands before we continue: The Faroe Islands are located between Iceland and Scotland, a group of 18 small islands, 545 square miles, with a total population of 50,000 people. The Faroe Islands are a possession of Denmark, but we speak Faroese (with roots in Old Norwegian) and we have our own flag. While they may not be well known, National Geographic recently crowned the Faroe Islands “the most beautiful islands in the world, with a small amount of flat land, historic architecture, and preservation of nature.”
For most of my life I’ve lived in a town of 5000, apart from the five months when I attended a school program in Denmark. Not surprisingly, I craved getting out of my little island cocoon to try something different, which I was pretty certain would involve living in the States.
I searched for weeks on the Web for potential opportunities to come to the United States. One au pair program particularly appealed to me. It came well recommended and seemed secure; I could live with a family and have room and board, and while I would be working, I would still have time to get out and explore. From there, things happened fairly quickly. I filled out an application online, was interviewed the next day, and was placed with a family here in San Diego. Then I waited for what seemed an eternity, as I completed my final six weeks of school before flying to New York City for the initial au pair training. Every au pair must attend training in New York; afterward, they continue on to their final destinations with host families, which are sprinkled across the United States.
I was excited to land in New York. I didn’t know what to expect, and most of what I knew was from movies. So, feeling very Sex and the City when I first arrived in that huge, modern, fast-paced city, I was surprised at how dirty and how fast it really is. This didn’t make me enjoy the city any less. I saw most of the tourist attractions and absolutely loved them. Many of the other au pairs were envious when I told them that I was going to Southern California after the training, especially the girls that were going to the Bible Belt area. This added to my excitement.
I arrived at San Diego’s Lindbergh Field at 5:00 p.m., sleep-deprived and nervous. My plane landed early, so I got my bags and waited for what seemed like a long time but was probably only 10 to 15 minutes. I slowly started to panic; here I was, alone in a strange, big town where I didn’t know anybody, and in my head I began concocting a plan of what I would do if my host mother did not show up. I had heard several horror stories, where au pairs had waited for hours. This, of course, did not help.
Before I got halfway with my plan, there she was, my wonderful host mother. She apologized for being late, even though she was on time and it was I who had been early. And now my adventure began. Having just spent a week in New York, my thought was that San Diego was lovely as we drove up I–5 and passed Mission Bay, Mount Soledad, and too many palms trees to count. It was love at first sight.
We arrived at the house in University City where I would live for the next year. I met the two-year-old boy-and-girl twins who would be my charges. My host mother showed me around the house and the room she’d decorated in a way she hoped I’d like. Then I had a lovely meal and toddled off to bed.
It wasn’t until the next day, Day One, when I woke up, that it hit me: I am in San Diego; I am going to be living here for an entire whole year. I was overcome with excitement at the prospect of exploring this new city I was living in. My host mother took me for a little tour; she showed me La Jolla Cove, Windansea Beach, and Mount Soledad Memorial. We drove around for a while, and she pointed out other things that escape me now. It was almost too much to take in; everywhere I looked there were things new to me.
While I had traveled to good-sized European cities, nothing prepared me for the bigness of things here. Day Two included a trip to Target for a bathing suit, where the quantity and variety of merchandise was stunning, followed by a visit to Costco, with its odd overgrown-garage ambience filled with everything from diapers to diamonds. I loved it all.
Soon, the shock of bigness wore off and became expected. A trip through the buffet lines at Souplantation delighted me, and I wondered if people back home would embrace this concept. Frozen yogurt, a staple of SoCal culture, which seemed odd to me at first, soon became a necessity (which troubles me as frozen yogurt is nonexistent at home). The sheer number of people in the city was awe-inspiring at first. I went to see the Killers at Viejas Arena; it was an amazing show, with more people crammed into the arena than lived in my entire town. That was pretty weird to think about but interesting at the same time.
After a week I was pretty much settled in; I had started working and was having a lot of fun with the kids. I began taking an evening class at SDSU. Before long I was thinking and dreaming in English.
The heat was harder to get used to; I am from a place where the temperature during the summer averages between 55 and 60 degrees. But in San Diego, it seemed as if no matter how hot it was outside, I still needed a sweater, because whenever I would go inside somewhere, the air-conditioning would be on and it would be freezing, so I needed to put my sweater on. I am used to it being the other way around, jacket on when you go out and jacket off when you get inside.