Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Relax: You're in Iceland!

So I'm finally home-- I mean, wait. Scratch that. I meant to say, "I just arrived in Iceland..." *nudge nudge*

I'm playing a trick on all of you, remember? I'm home, but I'm pretending to be in Iceland because it turned out to be easier to write proper posts this way?


Read the first post if this isn't making any sense.

Day 1

I'll be brief with my journey to Iceland, since it isn't very relevant to Iceland, Land of Ice: I actually slept like a baby on my flights, which is uncommon. Packing my room and luggage all night long must've left me beat so I crashed on the planes! That sentence phrasing could be better...

To my surprise, maybe because I rarely travel abroad, all the signs around the beautiful Keflavik International Airport were in Icelandic and English; some were even exclusively in English! This probably means a few things: 1) the country is international and worldly; 2) Icelanders know that tourists will be pouring in aplenty; and/or 3) THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE IS TAKING OVER OOOO NOOOO! I tried to learn a bit of Icelandic before coming on the trip because I didn't want to be seen as an American who stomps around with his cowboy hat and flip flops and assumes everyone speaks English. Unfortunately, the book I borrowed from CMU's library didn't come with the CD... Trying to pronounce words like Eyjafyallajokull without actually hearing them first became a tad bit too laborious. I got down what most of the letters sound like so I am able to read signs... and have no idea what they mean. At least I tried!

After a group of us (Matt, Lizzie, Ross, Rose) gathered together at the baggage claim since we were all on the same flight, we headed off into the unknown (outside of baggage claim). There we found a huge mob of GREEN kiddies, along with Adam, the head honcho from GREEN; Connor, his right hand man; and Gudmundur, A.K.A. Mumi, and Vedis from South Iceland Adventures. My plane had arrived four hours before the official "beginning" of the program, but others had arrived earlier, and more were slowly trickling in. We mingled, we jingled, and had a merry time getting to know each other, a daunting task when there were over 45 students and leaders to know.

Once we were ready, we headed out to the bus and were introduced to two Icelandic delicacies: Prince Polo and Skyr. Prince Polo is your typical chocolatey wafer, easily outclassed by the likes of a Kit Kat. And I'm not insulting Icelandic cuisine because, despite what many Icelanders think, the candy is actually made in Poland! Skyr, on the other hand, is absolutely diviiiiiiiiiine, darling. The combination of fruity goodness and the Greek yogurt-like texture creates a symphony of sensations in the mouth that just doesn't stop. I fell in love with Skyr instantly. Prince Polo? It's alright, I guess.
My anti-drug.
Not actually Icelandic.
It's a scam, a scheme, a ploy.
 Meeeeeeehhhhh, see?

We took the long way to Hotel Hlid, our residence for the next several days, in order to view some pretty sites, like the one below. If I recall correctly, this is the "rift" where the Eurasian and the North American plates meet! It was filled with a whole lot of sand, except this wasn't no Californi' sand. No, sir. It was BLACK sand! All the volcanic rock that gets grinded up into sand starts as dark, volcanic rock, so of course it'll remain black. It even had a different consistency compared to the sand I'm used to, but it was probably because of the ever changing weather, meaning the sand would stay eternally moist from the random rainfall.

Such rift. Much sand. Many gasp. PC: Paige McIlroy
After that, we got a taste (not literally) of the sulfurous, bubbling pools that are scattered throughout the country due to the high geothermal activity. From what I understand, a lot of the hot water that we will use to shower in Iceland comes directly from the Earth, sulfur and all. It's great getting your lavender-chamomile shampoo mixed with the pungent aroma of rotten eggs! What was crazy is that a lot of the little pools were actually boiling, which is probably why we were advised to stay on the bridge and not take a dip. Bathing in the pools is to come later, supposedly.

The stench. Dear GOD! THE STENCH! PC: Paige McIlroy
Of course, Iceland isn't entirely covered in ice, but the vegetation is pretty whacky. Most of what we saw on the bus ride was mossy fields, or rocky fields. Trees popped in as we drove away from Keflavik, but most of the natural birch trees were cut down long ago and have only recently received the proper protection necessary to keep them going in the wild. This means most of the trees we saw were either newly planted and/or not natural to Iceland. So sad. :( What's not sad are all the sheep and goats everywhere! It looked like a lot of them were running in groups of three, and that's because the wittle sheepsies, which are born in pairs, stick with the momma sheepsies until they're ready to break free.

We finally arrived at at Hotel Hlid for lunch and a nap break. Instead of napping, I showered. TMI? No. There's plenty more information that I am withholding, so calm yo'self. After ze nap time, we went outside and played games to get better acquainted with everyone in the group. One of the games, called Pterodactyl, involved lots of screaming and trying to make people laugh. Chaos ensued. It was a SUPER GOOD time. :)

When we got back inside, the Capstone Projects were introduced to us. Essentially, the project requires us to split into groups and come up with environmentally-focused projects, tending toward renewable energy implementations. We will give a 15 minute presentation at the end of the program, being sure to touch on the topics outlined in this here "skeleton" (not the word I'd use, but I figured I'd remain consistent with Supreme Leader Adam (all hail)):

After lots of group hopping, I found a sausage fest of engineers who were looking to make something engineer-ee. We don't quite know what we'll make, but we know it'll be great.

The night was rounded off with a geothermally-heated hot tub dip. We were told that this would be a relaxing day so that we could acclimate and re-energize, but we definitely didn't just sit around. I guess "relaxation" on the GREEN Program is a bit different than what a couch potato might consider relaxing. I'm not calling myself a couch potato... I'm just... I--

Here's the Quality Picture of the Day! ENJOY!

I've got on furry leggings under my shorts. I ain't even cold, bro. PC: Amalia Martinez

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