Tuesday, 30 September 2008

One Month Ago...

It's the last day of September. The days are getting shorter, and I have been in Iceland for a month and two days.
The (material) thing I miss the most is Chinese noodles and the variety of pasta there was available at La Bottega.
The thing I miss the least about Canada is the pollution.
I still haven't gotten used to the thought of showering absolutely naked in public. I finally went to my first group yoga class today. That's a sign of finally settling down. But it still hasn't hit me yet that I'll be staying here for 8 more months. Lots of people will have left by the end of December and I might not ever see them again.
I have nothing else to say for today.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Take a Chance! Make Mistakes! (Ride on the Magic School Bus!)

Tourism, tourism, tourism. They say festivals are created to promote culture and art, but really it's just a vehicle for more tourists. Why else would so many festivals start up right after the peak tourist season? From September 25-October 5 is the Reykjavik International Film Festival, then there is an art festival and right after that the Iceland Airwaves music festival.
Well, in any case, I'm taking full advantage of the film festival. My past roommates must know how much I watch films, and I have always wanted to go to the Toronto festival.

Yesterday evening I went to see a Bosnian film called Snijeg (Snow). The descriptions of the movies in the programme are so bad that after you read them, you have no idea what the movie is about afterwards. Then again, maybe the writers are trying to be witty and hide most of the plot lines. There is always imdb.com as a back-up plot checker but where is the fun in that? The description for Snow in the program basically said that I was going to see a movie about an isolated town. As I was walking to the cinema with someone (who was going to see another movie - why would anyone want to watch a film with such a horrible description?), we both joked about the movie I was going to see. I love taking chances at unknown movies, even though they may turn out to be really boring, which is what a failed movie is in my eyes.

Not all the seats in the theatre filled up, but the theatre wasn't completely empty either, as I had expected it to be. For the next two hours, What unfolded before me was a film that has changed my view of the world, and I think that is what films are about. I've seen other movies about the situation in Bosnia, but this one in particular was very moving, to say the least. That is all I will say about it since you should go see it for yourself if or when it comes to a theatre near you. As an added bonus, the co-writer of the script came and did a Q&A session afterwards. That was a real treat.

Now to put this in an Icelandic context. The festival in Reykjavík isn´t as glamorous as the TIFF, but it isn't as expensive, either. Their theatres aren't as crowded as the festival in Toronto would be, so you could still get a seat right before the show and don't have to stand hours waiting in line. I lament the fact that the subtitles are all in English, as is most of the advertising and even the festival name, but that opens up many more doors. There are many movies, probably not as many as TIFF, but enough to satisfy everyone's taste. It's smaller, more personal, just like everything else in what people keep calling the Land of Ice.

Friday, 19 September 2008

It's Been a Very Windy Week

This is more of a reaction to a week than it is a poem.

In this wind-torn land
Where the worms are as skinny and long as the fire-burnt soil would allow them to be
And the people are like day-blind mice
Crawling out from their shelters at night
To match the colours of rain and lava and the colour you get when you close your eyes
Travelling through the country
You can see stunning creatures of beauty
Standing, almost free, short yet strong, their hair blowing in the wind
These are the horses
And the lamb makes a noise
You swear can only come from a human
Back in the city
The grey with splashes of
red yellow blue
And the sea
For every corner you turn you eventually reach the sea
There is no lighthouse here
There are no raging waves
Just shrubs and grass that lean to one side, stubborn with roots refusing to be blown away
There are few insects to speak of
For not even the parking ticket police are corrupt
Speak English, you think
But they think in a language that sounds half Germanic, half Arabic, all mangled with words you must chew out to get your point across
There are many tourists
Who will stop by for a day or two
And those who do not understand
Wear bright clothing
Thinking the sun will appear at any moment
Arrogant, proud, peaceful, smart
How can a country of 320,000 people - barely enough to be called a city - have done all this?
Much of the country is uninhabitable
Just like the patriot's heart
Faraway places can be reached with some effort, but no one will ever be able to call it home
Sleep tight now, sleep tight
Import your cornflakes and export your hot water
We'll meet somewhere in between and make té
og kaffi

Wednesday, 17 September 2008


I am in postcard-sending happy mood so to anyone (whom I know) who is reading this blog, if you want a postcard, please e-mail me and let me know your address! I will send you one!

Monday, 15 September 2008


Icelanders have many delicacies, but they also have really delicious snacks. Especially Prince Polo, a chocolate bar I eat quite often. Since they originated in Poland, I can only assume that many immigrant Poles brought it over from their homeland. Nobody else seems to love it like I do though. Apparently chocolate-covered wafers are better in Sweden.

Yummy. I eat them for breakfast everyday. Or I wish I could.

Déja Vu

Yesterday I went on the Golden Circle tour again (this consists of Geysir-Gullfoss-Þinvellir if you want more details, search it). I had gone just last week, but I also wanted to see the traditional sheep round-up that Icelanders do every fall. The sheep roam freely in the fields throughout the spring and summer, then, in the fall the sheep get rounded up to be distributed to their proper owners. Unfortunately, no one notified me of the fact that the farmers casually pull the sheep's horns off. So at 9:00 in the morning, in pouring rain, I was standing there watching the sheep wondering why some of their heads were covered in blood.
The rest of the day was bad and rainy, but there was a pleasant surprise - we stopped off in the middle of nowhere with a field full of beautiful Icelandic horses. There were no fences anywhere, but the horses were still domestic. We got to wander around the field and have close encounters with the stunning creatures.
Another note was that our tour guide was horrible and kept on making really bad jokes. We could not tell whether or not he was really joking. The first thing he said to us was, "Does anyone here speak Norwegian?"

There were lots of sheep.

Lots of people. I have no idea how each person could identify which sheep was theirs. Even with tags I would have no idea.

There I am with my infamous backwards-coat-wearing.

Iceland vs. Scotland

The Euro Cup is on and even with Iceland's tiny support containment, people are still crazy about football. When I was on the field trip some Austrians had seen the newspaper declaring Austria had lost to France and they were quite distressed. It reminded me that I was in Europe now and it reminded me of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Last week when Scotland was playing on Iceland's soil, Scottish kilts wearers started to appear on Monday and by Wednesday it looked as if, in a fellow spectator's words, "Scotland had conquered Iceland". We couldn't get tickets so we watched outside the fence. Scotland won 1-0.

Lots of kilts! And drunk Scots on the bus.

Part of the Scottish celebration afterwards. The English Pub became the Scottish Pub for the night. Nice.


The social insurance/security number is a simple little thing in Canada, used mainly for filling out tax forms. Here in Iceland, it's your main identity, your friend, your access pass, your life. You need it to register for courses, to get a library card, to open up a bank account and do about a million other things. To get the kennitala may take two, three, four days or a week. I and other foreigners have noticed that Iceland is a "relaxed" country. I overheard a girl in the student centre complaining, "In Finalnd, if they say something will be done by Thursday it is done by Thursday. In Iceland, it isn't." Things are more relaxed and take a longer time and we as the consumers must just wait. I hope this goes for handing in assignments a bit late, too! Jokes.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Pics of the Excursion

Selfoss (-foss means waterfall) in all its uniqueness. This was located in Skaftafell Naitonal Park.

We went on a glacial lagoon somewhere in southeast Iceland. The lagoon was not there before 1932, but now the glaciers are receding at either 100 m/year or /day, I forget which one.

This I must say must be my favourite picture. If I had to do an advertisement for Iceland, I would use this and the caption would be: Iceland: Nature's Playground. This is actually the most east we travelled and this was taken in the morning in the "yard" of a guesthouse. The day before, those mountains in the background were covered by clouds.
A map.
This was taken on a hike we took in Landmannalaugur up in the Highlands.
The one and only Geysir's other brother!
No, those are not volcano vents. They are part of the power plant that supplies electricity to Reykjavik and, as a side product, warm water.

They have really clear lakes.

Beach with rocks. The rocks in Iceland are (mainly?) classified as basaltic or rhyolitic, but you don't have to know that to enjoy the place.

Lava fields!

Monday, 8 September 2008


I went to pick up a hold from the library today and when I printed out the "receipt" it said I have a fine of 800 kr, which is about $10. I have no idea where this came from, although I read somewhere that some libraries charge for transferring books. But between library branches? That's kind of weird. It's things like these that are really nervant, not being able to read the language and not knowing what is the cultural norm for something as technically quotidien as bringing a book closer to my branch.

Lesson #1: Geologists Walk Quickly

I've come back from 5 days of touring around southern Iceland. It was with the department of natural sciences at the university so it was scientific but it's the cheapest 5 days of touring I think I will ever get. We went to Skaftatell National Park, where we hiked to see Selfoss and outlets of Vatnajokull, the largest glacier in Iceland. We went on a glacial lagoon boat tour and to some pretty remote areas. We went into the highlands, to Landmannalaugur and all the sights in the Golden Circle.

It was all good, but the most interesting thing was the cultural experience. For the first time in my life, I was the only native English-speaking North American and also the only Asian (I hate using the term 'Asian' but seriously what else can I use, "Oriental Person" to categorize someone not from the west?)

People's native languages were all different, but they were all communicating effectively all thanks to English. They would sometimes ask me how a term was used or the spelling of a word. They would also have never heard of a technical term such as "chisel". It felt really weird though because long after the British Empire has fallen, the legacy of Imperialism has really left its mark. First, with them all speaking in English but also with me, a person who has Chinese blood but Canadian nationalism, telling Europeans how to spell English words. It was definitely surreal.

Then there was this one guy from Dijon in France who seemed really proud of the town's namesake mustard. He's like, "You know Dijon? Everybody knows the mustard from Dijon." and then some other girl tried explaining to someone else in the group was mustard was, so she started saying, "You know the hot dogs that you eat?" and then the French guy cuts in, "Oh no, that's definitely not mustard from Dijon." And then after about 10 more minutes telling everybody how delicious Dijon mustard is, he says, "But I don't like mustard."

Also, two people were incredibly fascinated by the sweet potato that we had to cook for dinner.

I'm sorry if this post sounds racist in a quasi sort of way, but I have never encountered this kind of experience in my life and might never again.


One of the many reasons why I came to Iceland was because Reykjavik is a harbour "city" and I love harbours. There's a blog called Reykjavik Harbor Watch that I read frequently.

Here are some pictures I took during my first lazy Sunday in the city by the sea.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Pictures from First Day

Here's some pictures I stole from Adam's camera. He must have an awesome camera. Pictures are super clear.A Hanseatic ship. The Hansa was a trading guild in the middle ages in Germany that became very successful. My only visit to Germany included the Hanseatic cities of Bremen and Hamburg, so this picture, the first ship I saw in Reykjavik harbour, was pretty special to me.

There's Mount Esja in the background. It's a pretty European-looking street, eh?

There I am with Dan, walking towards one of the attractions by the lakeshore. There's black rocks everywhere. Presumably from volcanic remains? I should know.

The Viking ship sculpture by Jón Gunnar Árnason. Pretty impressive.

Everything in this entry was pretty, because Iceland is such a pretty, pretty place.

Monday, 1 September 2008

Here for the First Time?

I hope more people are reading this blog than I think. Not like I'm Narcissistic or anything...but in case anyone asks WITWISK? you can point them to here.
Anyway I've got older entries at skma.travellerspoint.com

That is all for now.

Take care while I go bussing/farmhouse staying/sailing near glaciers,

Wow this was a very egoistic entry. I recognize that and strive to never do it again.