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"Hello, Iceland! Are you ready for me?" So begins one of the blogs as a group of Penn State Fayette honors students traveled to Iceland in May 2009. Share in their adventures by reading their archived blogs.

Cynthia's Adventures in Iceland!

DAY 4!!! ROAD TRIP!!!

Disclaimer...please ignore any and all grammatical errors and typo's...we are all sharing 2 computers, so I am in a hurry when on the internet!

Today is Tuesday, May 12, 2009.  Wake up time was 7:30am Icelandic time (3:30am EST), and at 9:00 am we headed East then South to a turn around destination of Vik, Iceland.  

Approximately 8,000 years ago, the South coast of Iceland was under water an existed as the ocean floor.  Our trusty guide Trausti, (pronounced similarly) explained that glaciers are very heavy and weigh the island down, thus increasing the level of the sea.  When the melting of the Glacial Period occurred, the island rose higher above the sea and the sea levels decreased.   Thus, the sediment washing away in the glacial rivers, extended the coastline extensively.  
On our way to Vik, we made several stops and observations along the way.  The first was the village of Selfoss, which has a population of approx. 6,000, and is used mainly as an agricultural trading post in the region.

Etymology lesson of the day.... Iceland words ending in "-fell" are usually mountains.  Ending in "-jokull" means glacier, "-tun" means town, and "-foss" means waterfall.   

Next, we passed a large farmhouse looking structure, called Bitra, which used to be a women's prison but now is currently being used as a youth hostel!  

Back to the environment...we crossed over a river that flows from Urrioafoss, which has been extensively harnessed for electricity, with 4 power station located on the river already.  There are plans to add 3 more, but environmentalists are fighting to stop the construction and the community feels it will be the next big environmental controversy in the upcoming future news.

Our next vision to behold, was Mt. Hekla, the most active volcano on the island.  It has erupted at least 20 times prior to 1947, which was the largest ever, and has settled into a new pattern, erupting every 10 years in smaller eruptions.  The last five were in:1970, 1980, 1981, 1990, 2000, and they expect it to erupt very soon because there is an indication of gas buildup in the magma chamber beneath the volcano.  

Glacial melting on the southern coast is approximately 100 meters per year since 1930.  Solheimajokull Glacier which translates in English to "Sun"+"Home"+"Glacier", is receding at an accelerated speed, and was our longest stop on the tour. To get to the base of the glacial mountain, we drove through a sediment bed, which was very rough driving.  Had the valley bed been covered in green, it would have reminded me of the rolling hills of PA.  BUT...it wasn't green, it was rich deep black.  In several areas, due to the pushing of sediment by glacial melting, the land had small ponds scattered all about, which the Icelanders call "kettle holes."  As we approach the base of Solheimajokull, I realize that this is a prime example of global warming.  The melting of glaciers and the recession of mountains and rising of sea levels.  It is disturbing, and almost frightening to see.  The bottom of the glacier was comparable to images of the moon, and we were the astronauts walking in our rain suits.  This was a geologist's dream field, and it reminded me of Scott Bush's geology class that I had last summer.  I felt the sediment, which was almost oily to the touch, and began identifying rocks praying that I paid attention enough in class to be correct in my analysis.  I do believe I am bringing back a piece of hematite, biotite, lava rock and some other porous rock, I'll get them verified first!

After leaving this awesome site, we drove through miles and miles of black sediment fields, with harsh drastic sea cliffs on the Northern side.  One of these large masses is called Petursey a, which means Peter's Island. ;o), how about that Pedro?  It was made by the rock basalt conjoining in column joints, and creating Hexagonal crystals in the process.  Quite beautiful.  

As we travel to the sea, what a gorgeous view in the distance.  A single jutting rock with waves crashing against it, threw a mist in the air that we could see form several miles away.  I didn't walk down to the stretching black sand beach at the ocean, but my view from afar was all encompassing.  How minute and solitary I felt compared to the vastness of the ocean.  Directly behind me were hundred of thousand year old volcanic rocks looming high into the sky.  It reminded me of a scene from Lord of the Rings.  

It was 1:45pm, and we headed through a farming area.  Many of the farmers in this region of Southern Iceland raise sheep and are dairy farmers.  Some have worked the land itself and are planting hearty grain like barley or rye to use as silage for their herds.

What a quiet and peaceful country, perfect for daydreaming or carefree escapades.  I wonder if the locals get lonely, scattered out here in the country with miles between them?  Out here, so far away from modern civilization. How I wish my children were here, so that they could experience the serenity of this island.  Away from the constant overflow of information and distraction....and into the peaceful, invigorating clean air.  

We stopped at another beach on the drive back to search for Puffins and we found them!!!  They haven't built their nests yet, but they are on the coast of the island and should be nesting soon in the vegetation growing on the cliffs.  I saw my FIRST flower since being on the island....guess what it was...a damned DANDELION!!!  One single solitary flower...all alone in a field of lava rock covered in moss and lichen and here sticks up a yellow American pain in the ass.

4:15 pm and we head back to Eldhestar Hotel to call it an evening, which takes about 45 minutes to get there.  We made another short stop to the state store, and now are relaxing in the common room before dinner.  

HOW BLESSED WE ARE!!  More tomorrow!







Eldhestar Hotel - Hveragerdi, Iceland 10pm

Yesterday was such a fun-filled, walk-intensive, shopping manic, and laughter enriched day!  Many students spent the afternoon in the indoor flea-market, which was overflowing with treasures for everyone.  I found beautiful handmade mittens for my daughters, crafted by a local woman from Icelandic sheep wool.

Edie, Amber and I spent the day trekking from one end of the main street through Reykjavik and back, stopping frequently to window shop or investigate a new smell.  The town has so many cafe's, casinos, bars. clothing and jewelry shops.  I think we hit almost every store.

Make sure to read the other blogs for a broader idea of the Reykjavik experience.  It was very windy yesterday, with plenty of drizzling rain and brisk clean air, to make our cheeks rosy.  We ate at a restaurant called the Seabaron, that was recommended by a shopkeeper in town.  I have had lobster in many cities across the states, and in cities outside of the U.S., and I have never tasted anything as succulent as what we had yesterday.  It was a hole in the wall restaurant, you picked what you wanted from the case and they grilled it fresh for you.  Delicious!!!

Today, we began the Golden Circle tour, which included viewing lava fields, a geothermal plant, a hydro-electric plant, beautiful waterfalls, woollymoss, and so many different types of birds, I can't even name one!  All of the volcanoes were awe inspiring, and there were many moments when I wish I had a photographic memory.  If only I could record everything that  my eyes observed and play it back for everyone to see, including me. 

I am at a loss for words this evening, I am so very moved by the experience.  Love to all back home!!

Until tomorrow,

Cyn



Day 2 in Iceland!

Halló from Hotel BJÖRK!

Today is Saturday, May 10, and it is 8:00am Icelandic time, 4:00am EST.  I had a great night´s sleep last night and am raring to go this morning.  As of yet, I haven´t seen another PSU face but I expect they will be wandering down soon enough...maybe too much legendary night life?  Hmmmm?   LOL!  I opted for an uninterrupted night of sleep so that I would be on schedule and refreshed for the rest of the week, plus, it had been 30+ hours since I had rested my head.

Now, on to what I have learned thus far!

Iceland is home to approximately 320,000 inhabitants, and the volcanic island is comparable in size to our state of Kentucky.  Two thirds of these wonderfully friendly and melodic speaking people live near the nation´s capitol city, Reykjavik.  The other third live in small fishing villages that are scattered along the coast.  Most Icelandicers prefer to live on the coast or near the city because the central part of the island consists of volcanoes, deserts and ice caps.

In 1950, Reykjavik was home to a U.S. strategic Naval base, during the Cold War (in this case, how ironically called), but the base was downscaled in the 1990´s, and was altogether abandoned in 2006.  It currently serves as student housing for hundreds of college students.  At this time, there is no military presence on the island.  According to Trausti, our transportation guide, Iceland is reconstructing their current government and economic system.  We will get more info from him tomorrow on that subject.

These innovated Iceland inhabitants have virtually the perfect geothermally sustainable environments.  They harness naturally heated water inland at a geyser plant and transport the hot water through a huge pipeline into the city.  Thus, heating homes, showers and anything else you would need hot water for!  The cold water has a mild sulfur smell, which comes from the natural springs.

Iceland's mild climate stems from the Gulf Stream and the warm ocean currents from the Gulf of Mexico. The weather is also affected by the East Greenland polar current curving south-eastwards round the north and east coasts.

The days are very short in mid-winter and for two to three months in summer there is continuous daylight in Iceland. Early spring and late autumn enjoy long twilight. 

Icleanders are on a GOLF CRAZE!!!  They are home to 65 golf courses, which averages 1 per 5000 inhabitants!  Had I known, I would have brought my clubs.  But WARNING...bring or buy lots of balls because they are easily lost in the lava fields!!

 

We are on the search for Puffins...

puffin.jpg

 



OOPs Edie is here, gotta go get coffee and breakfast! Then we are off to an Icelandic flea market and the mall, and possibly go to swimming in one of the naturally geothermal pools!!!  More later!!!


Bless (Goodbye)

First Day in Reykjavik!

HOLY MOLY!

What a day so far! Arrived in Iceland at 6:00am Icelandic time, which would be 2:00am back home.  Needless to say, since it was morning, we didn't go to bed, we just plugged away and started exploring.  We had a 40 minute trip to Hotel Bjork, where we will spend our first two nights.  Our bus driver, Trausti, gave us some wonderful information about Iceland on the way in.  I will post that info a little later when I have more charge on my computer. 

Many Many Many thanks to those who helped make this possible!   Susan Crampton-Frenchik and Dr. Osagie in addition to many others....especially Dr. Bev Peterson who is making this adventrue priceless.  We went to the National Museum of Iceland, took many photographs and enjoyed a detailed look into Icelandic history.  It is exciting to be in a foreign country, meet new people and have conversations about their homeland. 

Tried pickled herring this morning for breakfast...it was good, but now I have gas.  LOL!

Learned 3 Icelandic words today....Yow (Yes)....Nay (No) and Takk Fyrir...(Thank you)

I'm going to take a power nap and will download pictures and more info a little later today!

Love to all!

Cyn

Hello from JFK, NYC

Woooohoooo! We are only 5.5 hours away from flying out of NYC to go to ICELAND!!!  Edie, Nate, Vince, Steve, Brett, Caleb, Becky and I just finished eating at the SAM ADAMS Grille.  Yummy Yummy!  Now what?  How profound, that we sat in the "Green Terminal".  No environmentally notable things have happened, although, we did see a sign asking about Light bulbs and turning America green. 

On to better things in Iceland ;o) 

Cyn

Góðan daginn, Iceland!!


Hello, Iceland!!  Are you ready for me?  My suspicion is YES!!  This is a blog that will be filled with fun and witty discourse that will humor you and fill your belly with laughter! 

It is my goal to keep people informed of a realistic experience, no holds barred, from waking up in the morning, in a foreign country...which unfortunately, Iceland only has about 3-4 hours of daylight this time of year...to going to bed at night with my newly purchased sleeping mask!

What better way to amuse yourself each morning and evening than to check in and read my blog!   The fun is only 28 hours away, and hopefully I will be able to convert my camcorder DVD files and SHOW you what we are doing!  Either way, I ought not worry, I will definitely post pictures and show you what you are missing.  Penn State has funded a trip that is all about shaping students into ecologically minded people that want to make a difference in the world.  Thanks to Dr. Beverly Peterson and her devotion to improving our stay on Earth and the environment in which we live, by being conscious of our imprint, we need not be shy in sharing our experiences!

If you can't tell, I am psyched and ready to GO!!!   Check back soon with more detailed information and hopefully a video of our first day in ICELAND!!!!

Live, Love, Laugh,

Catch you on the Flip Side!

Cynthia S.B. 


 

Edie's Blog

What I Learned in Iceland

It's Monday morning and I've been sleeping and doing laundry and that's about it.  My husband has been very, very nice about not making me do my usual chores but did have a strong request for clean underwear, and everything else could wait.  He missed me!   I am not in Iceland anymore.  I got a bad cold from being wet in the Blue Lagoon.  Someone had taken my towel and I stood there in the wind too long looking for it.  Good for me that it was the last day and I get to be sick here at home where I have all my stuff in place for making being sick as trouble free as possible instead of being sick in a foreign country where I don't even know where the drug store is.    

I am so glad I went to Iceland.  I saw a rugged, raw beauty that I've never seen in my lifetime.  Volcanic rock stretching as far as the eye can see.  I loved the way the mountains just grew up out of nowhere and reached heights that were cloud covered.  I'm amazed that the island has the geo-thermal capabilities that it does that allows the heating capabilities that it has.  Cheap heat.  What a concept!   The Blue Lagoon is so beautiful that if I lived in Iceland, I'd go there once a month for a spa treatment but only if I could have a towel watcher.  Freezing wind and I are not good companions. 

I liked the Iceland ponies.  No, I did not ride one.  I didn't climb a volcano, either, but it didn't stop me from enjoying the beauty of one.  The ponies were different from American horses in that they are shorter, their heads are smaller and they are stockier.  They remind me of Mary Lou Retton.  She was a gymnastic champion that was unbeatable, unstoppable, unmatched, and a true competitor.  Her size was her best asset and she used it to her advantage.  That's what these horses reminded me of.  Although I am used to seeing larger horses, I wouldn't underestimate an Icelandic pony for a minute.  They're built for the land they live in.  I would not like to hear that they want to breed them to be bigger or different.  They are what they are supposed to be.  Unique unto themselves.

I loved the black sand on the beach.  I kept feeling it to see if it felt like our sand and isn't that funny?  How many ways can sand actually feel?  When we were on the beach and our guide was searching the water for "puffinses," I was feeling the sand and looking at the terrain that made up the beach.  It was rocky, and the ledge where the seabirds were nesting seemed to go up so far, I felt that if I were to continue staring up to find the top of the cliff I would fall over backwards.  The design and texture of the cliff itself had such endless photographical possibilities!

 The whole of Iceland has endless photographical possibilities.  The architecture, the people, the food, even the weather can be shown in a photograph. 

I was glad to have met the students at the university.  They are so comitted to their projects, so eager to share with anybody who takes the time to talk to them.  I was humbled by their eagerness to learn and impressed by the fact they had stayed up as long as they had to get their project to work.  I have no doubt in my mind they were successful.

I'm where I am supposed to be now and yet I keep hearing echo's of Amber's laughter, seeing Nicole's and Rita's smiles, hearing Brett's comments about life that he is witnessing and I realize I miss these people.  Cynthia is the perfect person to bounce one liners off of because they come back with an addition from her so fast it is as though we are reading a script.  Dr. Peterson's laugh, when she is tickled with something she just heard is so genuine and true it makes you want to hear more laughter coming from her.  Mike was a true joy to be around.  He is a wonderful 'different' from the construction workers that I'm used to.  I was comfortable in his presence.  Caleb has such incredible talent with his Nikon and with the piano.  I could listen to him play for hours and if he ever makes use of that talent in a commercial application, I would pay to listen to him play - he is that good.  Becky made it possible for us to watch the Pens.  Thank you for that! 

I brought back some great Icelandic jewelry and two t-shirts and a small bottle of Icelandic vodka that I thought I'd use as a gift, but I'm re-thinking that.  They are things that I can touch and wear and taste.  My most prized momento of the trip?  A lucky-stone type rock that is about two inches around that I picked up on the beach and had the people I hung out with all week sign.  It is on my desk here in my office to the left of my monitor.  The front has Iceland 2009 written on it by Cynthia.  I can pick up that stone, hold it in my hand, turn it over and read the signatures on the back and think of the night we all signed the rocks.  I had such a great experience with the people that were on this trip.  Nicole is correct in saying there is diversity in our group and I too think that is what made us work.  We didn't have a 'leader' because we didn't need one.  We all respected each other and showed that respect.  We were able to talk about such a wide range of topics that we never got bored in each other's company.  I found the opposite to be true.  None of us wanted the experience to end.  The different prospectives we each brought added to the magic of the week and I never felt I had to tolerate the company of anybody.  I felt genuinely happy to be experiencing the moments we shared.

The leaving from the campus when we got back from the airport was abrupt.  I was hitching a ride, so there was no chance for a long, drawn out parting of the ways.  I wanted hugs.  Promises of emails.  Telephone numbers.  But in the end, I was glad I didn't stand there and make a fool out of myself by bawling like a baby because the trip had ended.  I do regret the absence of hugs.  My arms felt empty.  

The truth is, Cynthia is going to be in touch about this month's activities on campus.  Nicole has my number and we're all going to NYC this summer if the scheduling works out.  

Here's what I really learned in Iceland.  Aside from the geo-thermal energy and the volcanos and glaciers and the evidence of climate change.  I learned that my choice to take part in that experience was one of the better choices I've made in my life.  My desire to pick up my cameras and shoot is back after a five year absence.  I've missed a lot of technological changes and I'm going to be rusty but I can't wait to start it up again.   I learned since I've been home that I can't think of Iceland without thinking of the wonderful people I shared it with.  I'm having a form of withdrawal from them.  But the best thing I learned in Iceland is the friendships we formed there came back home with us.  We are all just a phone call or an email away from each other.  What a comforting thought!  

My thanks to every individual that made this possible for us.

Dr. Peterson, thank you for you.  You are a truly remarkable woman and a wonderful human being.  It has been an honor to have gotten to know you.  Thank you.         


Our guy in the Hotel Bjork missed us!!

The choice to do the photographs of the group on the beginning of their ride was a good one.  When they got back, Amber said she was NEVER getting on a horse EVER again!  She stands there, dramatically and emphatically waving her hands to drive home that point in case anybody was in some doubt.  Then she rubs her back side, complaining that her butt hurt.  I couldn't help but laugh.  Rita, on the other hand, was wanting a longer and faster ride and she said her backside was just fine.  Then the reports of the horses that just wouldn't listen started to come in.  The whole horse experience was something that I really believe in my heart that I will not regret passing up. 

Trausti picked us up at 12 and brought us back to the Hotel Bjork and Oddurrrrrr the Grrrrreat front desk guy was in attendance, welcoming us with a terriffic smile while handing us our keys.  I said, "You missed me, didn't you?  Admit it!  You missed me!"   His answer was "Extremely!"  That made me laugh!  As well as the rest of the group standing there.  Is that a sense of humor or what?  Fact is, the whole hotel staff have been so wonderfully patient with our group.  We've lost things, needed things, couldn't find things, couldn't pronounce things, needed directions to things, and the staff, especially Oddur, was so helpful.  Thank you for your help, hotel staff!

 Tah!      


Horseback riding today..most of us

This morning the group saddled up and took a riding tour.  I declined to ride - my excuse is I feel sorry for the horse having to carry my weight and I'm sticking to that.  Because it's true.  But I did offer to take photographs for the group. 

Before I go any further, you should know the wind is blowing really hard and it is gusty.  Imagine Penn State's Fayette campus in a strong wind.  Are you there in your imaginations yet?  Now, think about how, if you turn your face into a really strong wind and it takes your breath away, how hard it is to catch your breath again.  That is how hard this wind is blowing.  I'm standing there with my 2 inch square digital camera in front of me trying to steady it and the wind is blowing ME off balance!  I tried to steady myself against a horse lorry and that helped.  I tried to steady the camera against the corral fence and found the rails are made with 2 inch PVC and the posts are 6 inch PVC plastic.  Great idea, but the wind was blowing so hard it was shaking the fence.  As the group went riding off with the wind, I came in to catch my breath.  I've found that a small digital camera is great in some applications but there are drawbacks.  It is impossible to free hold a small digital camera steady in strong wind and get a good shot.  Period 

 I haven't had mine long enough to know it very well, but after I take a shot, it shows on the viewing screen for a few seconds before it comes back to the subject.  Not a good thing for action shots or getting all the shots that can be had with a SLR.  The capability may be in my point and shoot, but I don't know where. Great lesson for me.  Familiarize myself with my equipment BEFORE I need it and can't find the function.

Also, I found out there are very good products for keeping out rain and wind on the market and I don't have them.  Well, I do have a good weatherproof jacket, but the pants are another story. If you decide to go "tramping about" or go "walkabout,"  get yourself some good gear made by reputable outdoor suppliers.  Going the cheapie route doesn't pay.  In the elements, your experience is so much better when you have what works.  Your memory will be what you experienced instead of how you experienced it.


Waterfalls and Oceans

This morning we started out at a waterfall that is in the middle of a huge controvery because it is a beautiful spot that nobody wants to ruin to build a hydro-electric plant.  It was something like Coopers Falls, but bigger.  The weather was so much nicer than yesterday!  We stopped at a humongous waterfall that was so awesome that I wished I had my Nikon D2H with me.  I was inspired to shoot the whole surrounding area and was really getting wonderful shots when the battery went dead and my photography screeched to a halt.  Caleb has a Nikon that is similar to mine and I got to take a few shots of him by the falls, but I was so frustrated!!!  Well, that'll teach me to be too lazy to bring the perfect tool for the job. 

The really great part about this is that anybody who has known me for any length of time knows how monumental having that need to shoot awakened in my is.  To those of you who know this, I'M BAAACK!!!!!  The bad news is the camera is a gazillion miles away. 

The next stop was a glacier.  I'd never seen a glacier before and I don't know what I really expected.  What we saw was so huge and seemingly alive.  The ice is really as blue in the cracks in real life,but the top is like dirty snow after it's been at the side of the road for a few weeks in the winter.  But don't let that description deter you from wanting to see one.  It was so great standing next to it, looking up at it, and being so close to it that it was hard to verbalize any one emotion.  We had packed a lunch and we ate outside the van, standing there munching on ham and cheese and looking at ice.  I thought about my friends and how excited I would have been if I could have called them up and said, "Yes, I ate at a glacier today.  Where did you have lunch?  Mickey D's?  Ah, too bad!"  Not that those french fries wouldn't be good.  But a GLACIER!!! 

More later. 


Braveheart

I ve figured out what this country reminds me of.  The setting and the weather in the movie "Braveheart."  The deeply saturated colors that were the background of the movie is the closest description I can come up with that would something you can identify with.  There.  I've given you something to think about.

It's time for breakfast and we're going to the south coast today. 

Tah! 


Don't Go Chasing Waterfalls... They'll come to you.

This morning came so fast!!!  Amber and I spent the entire night jabbering about the day we had spent together with Cynthia running up and down Laugervagur a million times like a couple of pinballs.  Seeing this, tasting that, buying out an entire tourist trap and having to lug those purchases the whole time.  Amber swears her arms are 2 inches longer from the weight of the packages.  I thought we'd hit the sack and crash but there were too many events to go over and too much coming up to anticipate.  I swear it was 2 am before I went to sleep.

We left the Hotel Bjork this morning at 9 and we got a tour of the geo-thermal power plant.  Of course, the real workings were off limits, but the plant was immense.  And the architecture!  I took my shots of the amazing center steps that were hardwood with lights embedded into the wood.  Beautiful.  More glass and steel, but put together with style that could match Frank Lloyd Wright's.  The rain was pouring and making puddles jump and dance. 

The look of the countryside outside of Reyjkavik is stark.  One of the first thing I saw that was unique was a small house that looks like the doll houses that're sold at that place on Route 51.  It was painted white with a red roof and if I were to stand inside it and spread out my arms, I could have touched the walls.  What made me smile was the the three foot round dish antenna on the roof.  There, in the middle of the lava rock field is this picturesque tiny cottage with a huge antenna sticking out of the roof.  Smile.  But further down the road, there was a grass roofed dirt hut with a small door in the center.  It looked like Iceland's version of a Western Pennsylvanian root cellar.  If I'd have had my way, the bus would have been stopped to allow the photographers of the group to take their best shot.   What a beautiful scene.  It get's better.  We went to Althingvellir National Park.  There, in the middle of a cliff, in the middle of nowhere was water falling.  Not quite the amount that goes through Ohiopyle,  Smaller, but waayyy higher and just as beautiful in a different way.  What I noticed was there was absolutely no litter.  None.  I looked on purpose.  None!  In the whole park, I saw a half of a snap.  Like a shirt snap.  That's it.  I was so impressed.  No papers, no plastic bags, no cigarette.  Nothing.  Not even on the side of the road and we were on that road for three hours, off and on.  The only litter was plastic that might be used to wrap round bails of hay hanging in tatters from a fence now and then.  While our tour guide was telling us about "wolcano's" and "glassyairs", it was so wonderful to listen to his accent.  He was so knowledgable about his home and his pride in his home came through.  Sitting there, looking out of the window at the volcano fields saturated with the rain and the color the rain was bringing out of the moss, he has every reason to be proud of this beautiful country.  I sat there trying to roll my R's as he was doing and I'm a failure at his language and he has such a command of mine.  

Becky got a mini movie of the next waterfalls, Gullfoss.  Now those were bigger than Ohiopyle, higher, and more dramatic.  There was a snow field that hadn't melted yet but had collected some windborn dust that made a design reminissent of our painted canyons in the United States. 

All in all, we saw some awesome waterfalls and they're here for the viewing. 

We have to switch positions - the lobby is closing.  Later.   


Running around in Reykjavik

We left the Hotel Bjork at 11 am and we just got back! Six hours of exploring a foreign culture was not enough.  Especially with Cynthia and Amber!  There is soooo much to see and figuring out!  Things like bus schedules written in Icelandic creates quite a challenge.  Which, when we tried to do it, led to fits of giggles from the three of us as well as the five or six people waiting for the bus in the shelter. 

We went into the same store four times buying Heidi hats, gloves with no fingers - Hey! they're great when you're going through your change and trying to figure out Kroner and how many you have and if you have enough for the bus - and Rune t-shirts that have the ancient Icelandic alphabet on them, which is still mostly used today.  (Did I mention it was sometimes thirty degrees, sometimes forty degrees - it changed all day.)  If you google Icelandic Rune symbols, you will be able to see what I'm talking about.  The last time we went into that same store, we asked Ali (we'd been in his store so many times, we knew his first name and that he had fished early this morning and was cooking that fresh fish for his supper) where he would go to get something to eat that would be genuine Icelandic food that we would be able to experience and was not a tourist trap.  He didn't hesitate when he said the Sea Baron.  He gave us directions that took us to the harbor and a sea green-painted corrigated tin building that had was exactly what he had promised.  A hole in the wall joint that had a refrigerated case showing what we could order.  There were fish kabobs made out of lobster, salmon, mink whale, cod, and probably eight other kind of fish that could be freshly grilled with what ever vegetables we wanted.  And lobster soup.  Lobster soup, mind you.  Not chowder.  So, lobster soup it was.  And it was sooo good!  I couldn't identify the flavor of the soup.  Whatever spices that were used were foreign to me and my palate.  HOWEVER!  That soup was delicious!  There were four good sized pieces of the sweetest, tenderest lobster I have ever eaten.  It was by far the freshest tasting soup I've ever had in my life.  If we get the chance to go there again, I'm there.  My only challenge will be do I get what I know is delicious or try something new?  Hmmm...

So, we walked back to the hotel and now we're sitting here swapping cultural stories with Johann the front desk guy.  He was telling us how his company sent him a free book that he had to pay five dollars for the customs fee to get the book.  We were trying to find out if we could trade stuff from the U.S. for some Icelandic things, but the customs would make it too expensive.  We decided to drop the idea. 

So, it's up to the room to pack our stuff in preparation for  tomorrow.

Low battery.  Bye!

 


Sleep!!! At last!!

I can't believe I went that long without sleep!  Goes to show how long a person can go when there are interesting events to witness.  I had thought I would sleep on the plane but the full moon was so huge at 39,000 feet that I was literally "Moonstruck."  Dr Peterson was so kind to offer me her window seat since she was planning on sleeping the whole trip.  She was successful.  I spent the whole time looking out the window at the moon.  It was so bright, I could only see one star and the sky was a deep, dark violet.  Underneath us, at first, the clouds were like a lumpy blanket of cotton balls with patches through which glimpses of the ground could be seen.  Then, the clouds seemed to even out and they looked like a movie set that uses dry ice to create fog.  The resulting effect was just what it was.  Out of this world.  Beautiful.  I couldn't take my eyes off it.  Moonstruck. Thinking of what was ahead.  Thinking of what I left behind.  Appreciative of the great group of students and faculty that I was traveling with; the more I'm with them, the more I appreciate their individual personalities and their energy. 

I was also thinking of how I wish I could have shared this trip with my husband.  He is a pilot and I missed his reassurance when things were out of the norm.  Like why, when the air at 39,000 feet is supposed to be so thin that the fuel efficiency is better, why does it seem like the airplane hits "potholes" that wiggle the water in the glassses? 

Cynthia is badgering me to 'get it in gear' because we're late for the flea market.  I'm in no need of fleas, but she wants to sell hers.

Later.


Greetings from Reykjavik!

I forgot to thank Susan Crampton Frenchik and Dr. Osagie for their hard work and contributions that enabled us to be on this adventure, so I'll do that now.  Thank you. 

This morning we arrived in Reykjavik as the sun was rising and the water from the air was deep, deep blue with pieces of ice floating in the ocean like crushed ice in blue cola.  That ice was a surprise to me.  For some reason I thought icebergs were Titanic-sinking huge, but from the air, these pieces of ice looked harmlessly puny; a gazillion of them - all puny.  Perhaps an Icelandic fisherman would have a sharp rebuttal for that statement, but he isn't here.

We passed the Naval base that is now, we're told, student housing.  The land is starkly barron, with what looks like moss or lichen growing on the rocks, but completely devoid of trees.  For miles and miles.  And miles and miles.  Did I mention miles?  It's the sort of place you either see the beauty and wonder of it for what it is, or you see a moonscape.  Sort of like Cape Hatteras National Seashore.  I like both places.  The photography opportunities are phenomenal because of the changing cloud patterns causing varying degrees of light.  There was one spot of seashore on our left that was absolutely breathtaking in it's beauty.  The morning sun hadn't burned off all the moisture in the air and there was just enough mist to create movement when the sunlight hit the mist and sea spray.  The volcanic black of the wet lava sparkled like black diamonds laying randomly in blue green water.  The place seemed to exude a magic that was almost tangible, making me want to stop to absorb as much of that feeling as as I could.  But, we were on the bus and had to move on.  DANG!!!!

 Rut-Roe!  I have to shut off this laptop. Later, OK? 


JFK, NYC,USA!!!!

What an adventure!  I cannot tell you how appreciative I am of all the work involved in getting us here!  The check-in was practically seamless,all we have to do is follow the signs. Dr.Peterson, you are awesome! 

Standing in the parking lot early this morning was so awesome.  The energy that was going through the group was electrifying in its excitement.  ICELAND!!  We're on our way to Iceland!  We practiced saying a few Icelandic terms but just between you and me, I'm too excited to remember them.  I'm still trying to grasp the fact there are 32 characters in their alphabet. Geeze! How does one pronounce a character?  Dr. Peterson assured me I wouldn't have to sing the Icelandic alphabet and that made me wonder if there  IS a song like the American ABC jingle!  I'll find out and let you know.  

Later

Edie

My first blog

Hi.  This is my first blog in prep for blogging from Iceland. Hopefully this will work out fine and I'll be able to send all kinds on info.  Keep fingers crossed.

 

Nicole's Blog: Kveðja frá Ísland!

Greetings from Iceland!

So Long and Thanks for All the Fish

That title seemed to work in more ways than one. Thanks, Douglas Adams.

We saw glaciers, waterfalls, rode Icelandic ponies, rocked out to TLC in a hotel lobby and ate some incredible food. But now we're back. Am I happy to be back? Sure. I missed home and I missed my family. I was excited to bring stories back and pictures and souvenirs. But I will miss everyone.

I'll miss traipsing to the elevator or making the long trek down the heated floor hallway to see who was hanging out in the lobby. I'll miss the dynamic we all shared together, talking about our days spent in Iceland, as well as anything and everything else about ourselves. I'll miss my friends. Everyone got along with everyone on the trip--8 or 9 of us I'm thinking of in particular. But, as Edie said, with a group like us, we can't not be together again. What amazed me was the ages represented. I'm not going into particular ages (I think some people would be a little upset with me!), but I will say that we had a few generations represented and we all meshed perfectly together. That is one thing I will most the most about Iceland--hanging out with everyone in the lobby eating and drinking and talking into the wee hours of the night.

We wondered why we all got along so well. We are all very different--we had English majors, non-traditional students, professors, engineering majors all represented. We think that because we all acknowledge that we each have flaws, that's why we get along so well. And as a group, we concluded that we each complete each other as persons. Get us all together and we form the perfect person!

I think I changed while in Iceland. I'm not very different, but slightly, at least. I learned so much about my friends that I never knew. I spent a week in a place that when I told people I was going there, they'd give me a funny look and say, "oh." If it's possible, after coming face to face with global warming, I think I'm even more eco-conscious. I learned so, so much. I came home with a few extra friends or even better friends with people I already knew.
 
We saw so much and experienced so much together. You know, one night we talked about those moments that are so perfect and happy that they're also sad--because they're fleeting and you know you'll never feel exactly that way ever again. I had a few while on this trip. One in particular was when Rita, Amber and I reclined on the mossy ground, and looked up at the sky and listened to ocean, while watiting to see some puffins. A few occurred at Hotel Eldhestar--in the hot pot, in the lounge areas, late at night as we chatted in someone's room. I'll never forget this trip, and like Edie said in her blog, whenever I think of Iceland and everything we learned, I'll automatically think of my friends.

I want to thank everyone who made this trip possible. From Dr. Osagie, to Dr. Crampton-Frenchik, and especially Dr. Peterson. We're all in debt to you for helping to send us on this enlightening, spectacular, even spiritual learning experience. Thank you.

I shall see you all soon. If not at school, then somewhere. I know we'll meet again. To some of you: I can't wait for NYC.

Until then,
Nicole

PS An extra special thanks to Edie and Dr. P. for being my stand-in mommies. ;-)

One final hurrah:

08 Waterfalls.m4a 

Wake Up Call

The other day, we visited a glacier near the southern border of Iceland. It was huge, yes, but compared to where it used to be (our tour guide Trausti showed us), it was small. It was global warming up close and personal. It´s one thing to read about it or even have a class on it. But it´s completely different witnessing it first hand. I think seeing the glacier and how much it has melted and retreated is enough to make any skeptic think twice. Maybe I´m giving them too much credit. 

On a happier note, the weather has been beautiful. Of course I´ve been in several layers of clothing and the wind is wicked, but it hasn´t rained and it isn´t dreadfully cold. We went horseback riding today on Icelandic ponies. I had a fairly well behaved one, but it was weaving a bit. I´m not ashamed to say that my butt hurts when I sit and I´m going to be feeling it all over tomorrow morning.

I´ve continued to eat my way through Reykjavik. This afternoon at Reykjavik University we were fed traditional Icelandic pancakes--kind of like crepes and very good. Tonight some of us ate at a seafood place by the harbor and had delicious lobster soup. 

At Reykjavik University, we saw an amazing presentation. The engineering department created some incredible robots that are meant to be used on other planets. They created the programs, built them, etc. I´m not the best person to talk about it, being an English major, but I was floored by how hard these students worked on the robots and how intelligent they have to be to invent something like that. I must also give a shout out to the only female engineering student in that class (although I´m sure she isn´t reading and I don´t know her name)!

We are back at Hotel Björk and ready to head for the Blue Lagoon tomorrow. Then we´ll be on our way to the airport. I´m ready to go home. I love Iceland, but I´m ready. I can´t wait to see my family, and I can´t wait to give them their souvenirs, one of my favorite parts of returning home after traveling.

Eating Our Way Through Reykjavik

Although Reykjavik has a roaring nightlife, some of us preferred to check out the food scene instead. On Sunday (a belated Mother's Day to all mothers!), some of us declined clubbing and went...cafe-ing...instead.

Our day began with a trip to a flea market in Reykjavik, which looked just like the one at Perryopolis back home. Coincidentally, my mother and grandmother were going to that flea market on Mother's Day, so it was fun to be doing the same thing at almost the same time.

After we broke off from the group, Rita, Brett, Becky and I decided to see the city. A lot of it. We walked. And walked. And walked. We walked along the highway (Reykjavik has great sidewalks) and through a little town-ish looking place. We saw a house with grass on it's roof--talk about a green house!

We visited Reykjavik's most famous cathedral, then decided to have lunch. We stumbled upon Cafe Loki, a traditional Icelandic cafe. This is where everyone, minus me, had Icelandic meat soup and raved over it. I had a traditional desert/dish called skyr. It is like a more bitter type of yougurt that you pour cream and sugar over. Yum! This is where we met two girls from Villanova, near Philadelphia, who won a trip to Iceland on the radio! We chatted with them for awhile and found out they were staying at the same hotel as we were. We also ran into them at a souvenir shop yesterday. They are right when they say everyone in Reykjavik knows everyone else!

After eating at Loki, we decided to walk down by the harbor and take some good pictures. We walked. Again. And we walked. And walked. And walked. And then we stopped for some pictures. Then we stopped to eat again, at Icelandic Fish and Chips. I didn't have any fish, but I did try the potatoes--delicious rosemary fried potatoes. Everyone else loved the fish and we were glad we stopped there. We did a lot more walked and ended up on the opposite end of the harbor where we could see Reykjavik from where we were standing.

After stopping at a gas station for a quick break and running through a gravely area we aren't sure we were supposed to be on, we finally headed back to our hotel and talked with everyone else about their very different day.

Yesterday a day filled with beautiful sight seeing, although the weather was horrible--but that's all part of the experience, right? We saw waterfalls and geysers and lots and lots of Icelandic rain. We're now in an eco-hotel, where one of my favorite things is that the heat comes up from the floor.

Dinner was wonderful and we spent a lot of the time after dinner discussing one of the paintings in the dining room. Everyone saw something different. A man, a woman, porcupine, dog, duck, rabbit, horse, etc. It was beautiful--the painting AND the conversation the painting inspired.

After discussing living in the moment, savoring every moment and actually taking pictures to capture those moments--however fleeting--we played some games then headed to bed. Today is another day and I'm ready for more.


Day 1 in Reykjavik

We have spent one whole day in the lovely city of Reykjavik! I will start off by apologizing for any typing errors as I´m working from our hotel--Hotel Björk--on an Icelandic keyboard!

Right now it is about 11:30 p.m. here. Some of our group went out to enjoy the legendary Reykjavik nightlife. Me, I´m standing here, wide awake, hoping the sun will be getting darker so I can get more accustomed to Iceland´s day and night schedule: it is still somewhat light out, and it won´t get completely dark until probably around midnight or one a.m. The sun will rise around 4 a.m. 

Now that you are completely versed in the weirdness that is Icelandic time, our first day was successful and tiring. We arrived here, as you may have read on one of the other blogs, very early this morning, came right to our hotel and started exploring. We visited the National Museum of Iceland (where my favoring things had to be the old religious Viking artifacts) and did some sight-seeing around the shore...the views are beautiful. You might almost forget you are in Iceland until you turn around and see the snow covered mountains (volcanoes? Must find out!) in the majestic distance.

Today was a completely vegetarian day for some of our group (it´s always a vegetarian day for me!). Some of us went to a little vegetarian cafe for lunch where we ate some magically delicious hummus. Dinner was also scheduled at a vegetarian restaurant--that Madonna, Mick Jagger and Quentin Terantino highly recommend--and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. It was buffet style and everyone had a little something different.

I´m looking out our hotel doors right now and see the mountains (volcanoes? Again, must check!) in the distance. Tomorrow is another free day in Reykjavik. Hopefully by the end of it, we will start to get into the groove of Icelandic time.

Cheers until later,
Nicole

10 Things You Never Knew About Iceland (Until Now)

Sure, most of us know that Björk hails from Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland. And that it's probably pretty cold there. But it turns out, there's more to Iceland than Björk and cold weather! Shocking, right? There are many things I didn't know about Iceland until I started reading about the little island (it's smaller than Kentucky) that we'll be venturing off to on Friday. Here are ten things, in no particular order, that you probably didn't know about Iceland either:

1. 100% literacy rate. Iceland is one of the most well-read, literate countries in the world. There are more books published per capita here than in any other country.

2. Sigur Rós. One of the coolest bands you've probably never heard of, Sigur Rós, is from Iceland. They're popular in their home country, as well as in the U.K., but not as much in the U.S. Think The New Pornographers meets The Shins meets Chris Bell meets Velvet Underground.

3. Non-violent. Reykjavik is one of the safest capitals in the world. Even the policemen don't carry guns.

4. Women's Alliance. This was the world's first political party dedicated to women's issues. It took part in national politics from 1983-1998. Iceland also had one of the first democratically elected women as head of state: Vigdís Finnbogadóttir. She served as president from 1980-1996.

5. Pollution-free. Iceland is probably the greenest country in the world with very few carbon emissions because it is almost completely powered by geothermal and hydroelectric energy.

6. Cheers. In a way, Iceland is like Cheers. Almost everybody knows your name and everyone is addressed by his or her first name--even the president. Icelanders don't buy into fame, which is why any citizen can schedule a meeting with the president if he or she wishes and your favorite pop star might be dancing the night away at the same club you're at on Saturday night. (Björk's favorite bar is Sirkus.) Which brings me to #7...

7. Nightlife. For only having had beer legalized in Iceland in 1989, Reykjavik has a legendary nightlife. The locals head out to the clubs or bars between 11 p.m. and midnight and don't leave until they are forced out around 5, 6 or 7 a.m. Then the partying continues on the street (but remember, Reykjavik is safe!).

8. Leif Erisson. This Icelandic Viking was the first European to set foot on the soil that would become America. This was around the year 1000 AD, about 500 years before Columbus. Sorry, Chris.

9. Mount Hekla. It's one of the most active volcanoes in the world and many believed it to be the entrance to Hell...that's where the phrases "Go to Heck!" and "What the Heck?" came from.

10. Huldufólk. Many Icelanders believe in Huldufólk, or "hidden folk"--elves, gnomes, trolls and fairies. They are believed to be living in the lava around the town of Hafnarfjordur. According to goiceland.org, the Highway Department has a consultant who recommends where roads will do the least harm to the Huldufólk.

So, now I know why I say "What the heck?" (Something I've always wanted to know.) Hopefully you learned something about the quiet (well, at least until 11 p.m.) little country of Iceland. And hopefully we won't step on any hidden folk while we are hiking... 


 

Rita's blog

Hotel Eldhestar

I have accomplished my mission of this trip.  I have seen puffins.  Admittedly, it was at a distance through Trausti's telescope, but it was still cool.  We went to a secluded cliff and lay down in the cushy moss until he found them. It was quite an experience to lay looking up at the forbidding cliffs and listen to the ocean.

My next mission is to go horsebackriding on an Icelandic pony, which (God willing) will be accomplished tomorrow morning.  The Hotel Eldhestar is devoted to horses.  It has nice atmosphere, but it has some technical problems.  The shower flooded this afternoon.  My clothes are drying right now. 

Now that we have been in the hot tub (very nice) I am very tired.  Tomorrow we are going back to Reykjavik to the University.  I will sign off now.


Day 2

After waiting hours and hours in JFK airport, we finally got on a plane to Iceland.  I had my first experience with turbulence on the plane to JFK.  Amber only had to hold my hand once.  Unfortunately, I wasn't able to sleep either on the planes or in the airport, so you can imagine how tired I was on the first day in Reykjavik. 

I regret to say that I was not impressed with my first glimpse of Iceland.  I looked out of the plane window and thought, "It looks like the surface of Mars."  It was reddish brown, rocky and barren.  However, it is interesting.  The coast is much more  beautiful.  I won't try to do it justice by attempting to describe it.  You'll have to wait for pictures. 

Icelanders are reserved at first, but once the ice is broken, they are extremely friendly.   Even when it is busy, Reykjavik is very peaceful.  Oh yeah, did mention that it is COLD here?  I guess we expected that, but if this is spring I don't want to find out what winter is like.

More later, we are going flea marketing now.

minus one day

Less than one day before we start on our Icelandic adventure.  I actually hope that our trip will not be too adventurous.  I'm glad that its finally time to go, though I will miss my dog, Snitch.  

I wish that I had a bunch of cool facts, like Nicole.  But I don't.  I do have an Icelandic murder mystery to read on the plane, so I'll keep everyone posted.  (Must not be as nonviolent as you think, huh Nicole?)