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The spring 2009 honor's class is traveling to Iceland as a class trip.  Share in their adventure by following the student blogs.

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...