Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Whilst you are a guest in someone else's country, you try your best to experience life as a local.

In this episode of "Be a Local," that means standing buck naked with 15 Icelanders in the shower area before entering one of Reykjavik's coolest geothermal pools.

What makes it cool, you may ask? Not only are all these pools heated by dear old Mama Earth, but this one in particular, Sundhöllin, was built in 1937 and has remained the same since. The showers, the changing rooms and the pools themselves all original.

Not only was it difficult to get a camera into one of these joints, but I almost changed my mind about the actual swimming part for a number of reasons. First of all, the older Icelandic woman at the front desk and I had some trouble communicating. It's never a good start to a foreign activity, but it eventually was straightened out. Camera in, camera out, Alli in, Alli out - was the plan.

After I nervously shot around the pool for a while, not sure if I was breaking any rules or not, I took the camera back to the lady at the front desk and proceeded to head down to my locker in the changing room.

It is a requirement at all of these geothermal pools that you shower in open public stalls, sans bathing suit, prior to entering the pool. In terms of hygiene, I absolutely applaud this, but on a personal level, I wasn't so sure.

Now, I have no problem with nudity. The human body is beautiful, but when you are in a setting where it is publicly practiced, it no longer is like the elegant art shoot you did with one photographer in New York. It's just something that everyone does, which you'd think would make it easier. I actually found myself staring into my locker, debating whether or not a dip in a geothermal pool and hot pot was worth a nude public shower. In the end, I was there, I had paid my 450 ISK and I was going to do this.

After about ten minutes of marinating, I stripped down, grabbed my bathing suit and walked to the showers.

And guess what? I am so glad I did it. After I was in the shower, I could care less that I was bare and was pretty excited to get into the hot pot to discuss various philosophies with some Icelanders. Hey, that's what all the books told me they did... and guess what? It's true!

It also dawned on me, while in the hot pot, that I would not be able to communicate, at least with words, with a 5-year-old Icelandic child.

On that note, time to drive to Dallas!

Photo taken on 3.12.11.

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