Friday, 23 January 2009

3 Things I Never Thought I'd Be Doing

3 Things I Never Thought I'd Be Doing, least of all in Iceland. I did them all today:

1. Signing up for a plane flight to Greenland.
2. Buying silver for a class.
3. Listening to FM88.9 Fairchild radio over the Internet.

And tonight I might be eating shark and other delicacies. Stay tuned for details!

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Kreppa = Kr = ?

Huh. With all the noise and lights and bonfires, it may appear to be New Year's all over again but it isn't. The protests I talked about a few months ago are spilling out onto the weekdays and late into the nights. There are now more police and more anger and more action.

The visual effects of the country's economy didn't appear until after the new year. Most of the clothing stores on the main shopping street have massive (presumably) closing-out sales. Much commerce is shutting down. One of the favourite hangouts of foreign students, a place called 22, has closed down and another (Q-Bar) might be next.

I was attending a university quiz night yesterday when I couldn't concentrate on the game because I was sitting near the window. Outside I heard chants. People were on the roofs putting off fireworks. The coalition government had just been dismantled. Some people from my residence just escaped the tear gas they let out. The night before that, they burned down a huge tree that was given to Iceland as a gift from Norway. You can see it here, at minute 34:

This may sound like a story from East Europe or Greece, but no, it's happening in Iceland. In fact, on a Czech blog it was reported that this was being compared to the Czech Velvet Revolution of 1989 (tongue-in-cheek called the "Fleece Revolution"). The blogger commented that these protests from a prosperous and still wealthy nation should not be compared to protests against acts of communist Czechoslovakia.

Most people blow whistles, bang pots and make noise. Everyone is down at the parliament or prime minister's house for a unique personal cause. They all have just one thing in common: anger at the government. It's the largest protest since 1949 when Icelanders were protesting about NATO.

Everyone is down in the streets. Professors come into class and talk about what they did at the protest. Friends greet you on Facebook with, "How was your experience at the protest today?" Of course, just because everybody's doing it doesn't mean it's right. So the question this right, is this cool?
Some foreigners are supporting it, others are saying it's useless.

In any case, it is a very interesting time to be in Iceland. We (well, they) are making history.

Monday, 19 January 2009

Sunsets and People

The sun lives a short while in these dark days, but when it sets it is beautiful.
And around 11 o'clock it is beautiful. Around that time I'm always going out the door for the first time to school and once I open the door the way the sun and clouds and landscape interact never cease to take my breath away.
Warning: You might be getting sick of me taking pics of the same place.

Also pictured here are some people/places/events from the past months.

Aline from Switzerland, who I experience a lot of cafes with.

A concert before exams officially begin. This is the main student centre. It reminds me of SITE for those of you familiar with the UOttawa campus.

People playing hockey on the frozen pond.

Our student residence had a dinner night.

This was taken when Sarah and I were coming back from the Blue Lagoon. I had been napping on the bus when I woke up. I immediately saw good cloud formations (I wasn't able to capture correctly on the camera). I could've waited for that car to pass but decided to include it.

Quintessential Reykjavikesque landscape. Notice the sunsettish tones.

Rocks left on frozen ice. Be very amused!

The sun has almost set by this time. Mostly blue.

Sarah T

Last time I posted pics of Paris I didn't even mention that Sarah was with me the whole time, so she's getting a post of her own this time 'round.

On top of Eiffel.

Most nights we ate in. The pizza guy down the street was really friendly.

These are the Brazilians and Koreans we met in our hostel.Free! public washrooms take a long time to self-clean.

This was on our last day - we spent an afternoon relaxing in a cafe.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

A Note On Course Selections

This has almost nothing to do with my travels or time in Iceland but here it goes:
The reason why I study linguistics and geography is because I love those two things. Good reason to study it, right? I mean, if I hated them I'd go to every one of my classes with my fists clenched and that wouldn't be good, would it?

But the beauty of an arts degree is that I can take so many other courses in random faculties and have a "liberal education" (as long as I'm not in the UK module system).
So I came to Iceland knowing that I would love their geo-umm...--logy and/or geography AND their linguistics. For three years straight I have been taking ONLY linguistics and geography courses even though every chance has been offered to me to take other stuff. The only elective I remember taking is Theatre Appreciation and Icelandic I. The thing about electives is that you have to find a balance of interest and easiness.

This semester I did the best I could to "branch out". My initial timetable included topics in anthropology, sociology, English literature, business and philosophy. But due to really stupid major timetable conflicts and some soul-searching/coin-flipping, I am now back to taking only linguistics/language-related courses and geography courses. The worst thing is, most of them are exact equivalents of the stuff I could be taking at uOttawa, which begs the question, why am I on exchange if I could learn this stuff where I know the credits will be of value for sure? For change of setting, change of perspective. I guess. I guess.

EDIT: Now that I'm mostly settled in my courses, it's amazing how I choose my electives. I meet people the night before who are taking a course or are somehow related to the course and then I decide to take it. Neat, eh? Okay, sorry, that was just a little comment of mine. If you decided to read this I am sorry.

Monday, 12 January 2009


The Marmite

AH invited me over her place tonight to celebrate Escalade (The Climbing Festival, literally), which was actually celebrated one month ago on December 12 every year.This is a Swiss holiday, more specifically, it is celebrated in Geneva. In 1602, the region defeated the attacking Savoys.

Nowadays it is a huge celebration. It is a bit like a combination of Halloween and mid-winter celebration. There are many attractions but a good one is a pot made out of chocolate called Marmite. The pot is filled with vegetable-shaped marzipan. As legend goes, a woman was making vegetable soup when she saw invaders coming and threw the soup at them, killing them. People can get these pots in the supermarket and also in special chocolatiers (just like Moon Cakes!)The people who get to break the pot are the oldest and youngest ones in the room. The two people join hands over the pot, say "Ainsi périssent les ennemis de la République!" (The enemies of the Republic should perish!) and then smash the pot. The chocolate went all over the place and we started eating the pieces. I got full really quickly as it was rich Swiss chocolate.

M contemplating which piece she'd like to gobble down first.

In Geneva, to celebrate the occasion there are also races in the street, and parades with drums and fifes, and people dress up in costumes of all kinds.

And then, since AH lives with Icelandic people, as I was writing this a large group of people suddenly came into the kitchen to plan demonstrations! Thanks goes out to AH for the pics.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

It's the Can-Ams!

In December, amidst all my planning for the trip and studying for exams, I had almost decided to move out of the residence I'm living at right now because of the message "5 Americans are moving to the top floor" (no, I'm not anti-American, if it was 5 Canadians I'd be also frustrated).

Guess what? I underestimated the number - there are way more Canadians and Americans in Iceland in general (and especially on the top floor) this semester than last. Should I take the next boat/flight back to Canada or some other part of the world now?

I was telling Z and A last night, from Slovakia and Switzerland respectively, how I should be avoiding Can-Ams like the plague from now on. Yes, they are all very nice and probably fun to hang out with but I did not go on study abroad, especially to Iceland (versus Australia or something), to meet people from my home country. I could've stayed in Canada for that.

Most other Can-Ams don't seem to mind the problem as much as I do. I'll just try make the best of it.

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Some Pics from London and Paris

I took lots of pictures, I reassure you, but I will post only ones that I think are iconic of the places I went to.

A side street of Piccadilly Circus. Purposely included the bus in the picture.

Beautiful St. Paul's at night.

My favourite picture, as I have already mentioned.

Going deep down underground. Reminds me of Hong Kong metro, sort of, except some of these are really far underground.


Across from Westminster and Big Ben.

A view from the Eiffel Tower.

I'll pay you 1 Kr if you correctly guess what this is.

Inside the Petit Palais - beautiful. After seeing this, you have to wonder at places like CNE in Toronto - if it's an exhibition place, why not make it beautiful? Why cement and darkness.

Arc de Triomphe.

Mona Lisa in the Louvre.

Centre Pompidou.

Me trying hard to be a Parisian with the cheese and scarf and black coat thing going. Don't mind the jeans.

A room in Versailles. Some kid got in the way of the picture!


The Seine.

Oscar Wilde's grave full of kisses.


A bakery in Chartres - they said they were chocolatiers but there seemed to be more macarons than chocolate!

Even the outside of mundane cinemas are artsy. Notice all those bikies.

There was an ongoing Christmas market in the Champs-Elysée. With lots of food, of course. And waffles. Yum.

An image exhibition at night inside the Grand Palais.

This photo has nothing and everything to do with travel: I had already packed my toothbrush into my bag, but I felt I had bad breath and plaque build-up. Whoever made this up is a genius: it's a mini toothbrush you can put right in your mouth and chew like gum. It's powdered with mint flavour, too, so it cleans your breath.

Flashing Lights

After this year, if I had to come back to Iceland for one day, it would be for New Year's Eve. Sure, there's a lot of foreigners here (I being one of them), but the atmosphere is amazing.

And it's all about the fireworks.
Here, Scouts associations and charities sell fireworks. Anyone over 18 can buy them. The works start going off a few days before. You'd think that a war was going on if you couldn't see the sky.

On New Year's Eve, the popping sound starts at five o'clock and climaxes, of course, at around midnight (and keep going). There is continuous fireworks being lit up all across the sky. I like how it's not an organized, governmental thing. And people bring their drinks out to celebrate on the streets because it's legal and police won't bash you if you have a drink in your hand. And there's no countdown. Nope, no countdown. I think one can tell by the amount of works in the sky, and the smoke in the eyes, when the time is right.

I'd show you a video, but I actually don't know how to work my video function on my camera and you can google/youtube it. But of course, you'd have to have been there.