Inside Edition to Iceland: The Mystique of the Blue Lagoon

Let me begin by saying that I did not expect to fall in love with the blue lagoon. Given that 1), it is heavily marketed to international tourists, 2), all celebrity visits to Iceland feature the blue lagoon as a top Instagrammable moment and, 3), it was artificially created from wastewater pumped out by a neighboring geothermal power station, I was prepared to shudder delicately and turn up my highbrow nose at such an obvious touristy attraction. Since I’m not a spa aficionado, I expected to spend no more than fifteen-twenty minutes in testing the waters and finding it too crowded or too cold (the outside temperature being a bone-chilling 38°) I would deign it to be “done.” I would clap my gloved hands briskly together as if to say, “checked off the bucket list” and stride off to find the next big adventure.

I ended up frolicking in the blue waters of the lagoon for two hours without getting bored with the experience. Despite its popularity, the blue lagoon remains an eerie, mystical destination. Here are the top reasons why the blue lagoon is a must-see-must-relish experience:

The Inside Edition to Iceland; Part 1

When you first land in Reykjavik, you think you’ve landed on Mars. All you see is a dark, rock-strewn landscape and black lava mountains under angry grey skies. As you drive downtown from the airport, a strong smell of sulphur assaults your nose. What comes to mind is the volcanic eruption of 2010 which disrupted air travel across Western and Northern Europe. But two days into your trip and you begin to see the appeal of Iceland: there aren’t many countries where you can visit thermal springs with a boiling temperature of 100°F and icy glaciers in the same afternoon.

It’s no wonder Iceland’s tourism is booming.

Ford v. Kavanaugh

Two weeks ago, I wore a fictional piece about the #MeToo movement (http://www.anoopjudge.com/blog/me-too-) and last week social media exploded with Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh having to face his own #Metoo moment.

The handling of sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is more than a conservative vs. liberal fight over a high court seat. The chorus of doubt accuser Christine Blasey Ford, has faced shines a light on how sexual assault claims are minimized, and victims’ trauma misunderstood even in the post #MeToo Age.

The Palo Alto University professor claims that Kavanaugh, and a friend took her into a room where he pinned her to a bed, groped her, tried to remove her clothes and put his hands over her mouth to muffle her screams at a house party in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., in the early 1980s, when he was 17 and she 15. Kavanaugh denies the allegations. Yesterday, she agreed on Thursday as the date she is willing to testify. It's going down at a public hearing.

#Me Too . . .

He was her boss, the one whose bold signature was stamped on the checks she stood in line to collect from the cashier's office at 425 Locust Street. Twice a month, like clockwork. On the 15th and the 30th.

She drove straight to the bank after she tucked it securely in the inner pocket of the logo-embossed Coach handbag that had been a birthday gift from her husband two years ago. The first time she received her paycheck her eyes kept straying from the road ahead to peek into the pocket, once, twice, thrice to make sure, yes, it's still there. By the time she handed it over to the teller for direct deposit, her fingers were clammy from the effort of keeping it safe. 

She was grateful for the job. Yes, she was. She'd sent out 50 resumes just like her college counselor advised her to do. "Keep trying," Mrs. Gomez said kindly, letting her wizened hand rest lightly on Anika's tightly clenched fist. Anika felt bereft when Mrs. Gomez removed her hand and forced herself to concentrate. "It's the bad economy, the recession, dear. Nobody's hiring." Especially, not anybody with an accent. Anika could hear her inner critic chiming in.

Minding your cell-phone manners . . .

It was a blisteringly hot day in August. I waved to my son who had shimmied to the top of the diving board and was preparing to leap into the area of the pool where the 7-8 year-olds were collected. After a moment of cheering him on enthusiastically, as he was led away by the instructor of the beginner's swimming class at Livermore Aquatic Center, I let my shoulders sag. The next thirty minutes stretched in front of me in sheer monotony. I wish I had thought to grab a book or magazine to keep me company while I waited for my son's class to finish. 

Tring, Tring. The number that flashed on my cell phone screen was that of my best friend and neighbor. The welcome distraction of a gossip-infused exchange of Who Wore What at last night's shindig beckoned. I glanced around furtively. An older balding man with a tanned face and large piercing eyes slouched on a bench behind me.

A Thousand Splendid Suns; the journey from the page to the stage . . .

"One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs; 

Or the thousand Splendid suns that hide behind her walls.”

(-Josephine Davis’ translation of Saib Tabrizi’s poem ‘Kabul’ written in the 17th century)

Last autumn, the #MeToo movement began in Hollywood and spread across the world, shining a light on sexual harassment and assault, and dominating the social-political scene ever since. In this climate comes a play which tells the story of three generations of Afgan women who are bound together by marriage, family and a secret past amid the war-torn streets of modern-day Kabul. Hosseini has stated that he was inspired to write A Thousand Splendid Suns after visiting Afganistan and speaking with the strong women who live in a country where their rights are often oppressed. 

My adventures in a Japanese Ryokan . . .

Traveling to Japan this summer? Prepare yourself for a unique country where modern bullet trains fuse with a 1500-year-old culture of traditional shrines and temples. But no visit to Japan is complete without a stay in a traditional Japanese guest house called ryokans. 

Recently, my family and I toured Japan for eleven days—for ten days we stayed in spacious, modern but soulless hotels—the Hyatt Regency in Tokyo and Kyoto, but the one night we spent at Arashiyama Benkei was the highlight of our trip.  Here are five reasons why you must stay in a ryokan:

Tokyo is the World's Coolest City. 12 reasons why . . .

1. The culture of cleanliness

Everybody I talked to asked me to be prepared for the sheer number of people in Tokyo. I was ready for the crowds . . . what I didn't expect was the cleanliness. This, despite the fact that there is no trash can in open sight anywhere in the city.  You will be hard-pressed to come across a city as clean as Tokyo—Japanese people carry the trash in their hands, their pockets, or a spare plastic bag until they arrive at their destination. Alternatively, you can duck into a convenience store (which abound in the city) and dispose of your garbage there.

2. The world's most efficient railway system

Tokyo's extensive public transportation system carries 40 million daily passengers. With 13 subway lines and more than 100 surface routes run by Japan railways and other private companies, Tokyo's railway system is beyond sophisticated. With its operating speed reaching up to 320km/h, the bullet train is a rite of traveler passage in Tokyo!

A Date with a Geisha. . .

My writing instructor, Teresa brings out a tray of objects hoping that in one of these randomly-picked items, we will find our inspiration to write.

Among the clutter of 16 crayons, a yellow 'No Crossing Tape,' a plastic Barbie doll with pink highlighted hair, an American flag, a folding umbrella, a soft stitch training baseball, a silver figurine of a hippo, a grey-and-white inhaler, a blue $50 Monopoly money bill—my eyes alight and focus on a silk hand fan with ribs that come to long points at one end and a green silk tassel attached by a braided green cord at the other. It lies unfolded, displaying an arc of heavy rice gold paper, hand-painted with blue irises on leafy green stalks. Memories of the orient are slicing through my brain like a machete and it reminds me of an embellished fan in the hands of a geisha.

Years ago my husband and I read the book 'Memoirs of a Geisha' together on a holiday to Maui,