Archive for the ‘Lauren in Iceland’ Category

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Lauren: Home Sweet Home

January 1, 2012

But now I need to catch you up on some things:

1. The day I almost died. On November 13th I went on a jeep safari on Langjökull glacier. It was AWESOME! I saw so many amazing sights and it was truly a once in a lifetime experience. I got this opportunity through Inspired by Iceland and I was allowed to bring one guest, so my friend Emily Anderson came along! We packed a lunch filled hit the road early in the morning with our guide Sverrir. It was a caravan of about 50 jeeps and we had a blast! Until we almost died. Glaciers are tricky little things. They are solid ice and constantly moving so the ice cracks and crevasses form. Snow covers cracks and it makes glaciers very dangerous places to be! But I just had to keep telling myself that Sverrir knew what he was doing… until of course our jeep fell into a crack! It was so terrifying! But I lived to tell the tale…. However, I think for now I will take a little break from glaciers.

All the jeeps!


Our Jeep with Sverrir!

2. My trip to Berlin and Prague! Two of my friends, Emily Wall and Akeem, and I went to Berlin and Prague November 14th-21st. We had such a nice time. I experienced staying in a hostel for the first time in my life among many other things that I tried or saw that I may never have an opportunity to again. We flew into Berlin and stayed at The Circus Hostel in a room withe 4 sets of bunkbeds, 1 rude Irish guy, and 3 friendly Brazlians. That night we walked around our neighborhood in Berlin and got some delicious CHEAP food for the first time in months! Since everything is so expensive in Iceland we were LOVING the prices in Germany and the Czech Republic…. maybe a little too much in my case. The next day we took a nice little bus ride to Prague. I LOVED PRAGUE! I loved everything about Prague, the food, the shopping, the castles, the EVERYTHING. I would definitely go to Prague again. It was so beautiful. We were in Prague for 3 days and then we went back to Berlin for 3 days. Berlin, although a really historic city, was not my favorite. It was kind of eerie to me to think about everything that has happened in Berlin from WWII to communism… it just kind of made me sad. But despite that, we went on a GREAT bike tour and I learned a lot about the city. The trip was really fun but I couldn’t help but think about how much I wished my family was with me! If you click THIS then it will bring you to my Facebook photo album. It has pictures from both my trip AND the glacier safari. But here are some of my favorites:

 

 

 

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Lauren: Inspired by Iceland

November 10, 2011

Inspired by Iceland is a campaign that was recently set up in hopes of increasing tourism. I am not sure how well that is going but I do know that those of us that are here studying abroad are definitely reaping the benefits! This website is a place where Icelanders (including the mayor and even the president) can go and post an invitation for anything from having pancakes to walking an Icelandic sheepdog around Reykjavik to even a birthday party in a barn. My dormmates and I have been following the page for the past month or so and we always get really excited about the new invitations. Recently I got to participate in my very first Inspired by Iceland experience, I went glacier climbing and hiking! Arctic Adventures (a tour company here in Iceland) posted an invitation to go on their Blue Ice tour and my friend Emily Anderson and I were selected! After our first trip was cancelled due to stormy weather, we finally go to experience it yesterday! And it was worth the wait!

We were picked up at 8:30am and after collecting 4 other groupmates we set off to Sólheimajökull Glacier. Sólheimajökull Glacier is about 2.5 hours away from Reykjavik and in those 2.5 hours we drove through sun, wind, rain, snow, and ice. Looking at the beautiful mountains, volcanoes, and lava fields on our way there really got us psyched to start out hike!  If you look at the map to the left you can see where we began our journey and you can also see Selfoss (where I went last weekend) and the further down the road is where we went glacier hiking and climbing!

We had to wear lots of warm clothes and waterproof pants as well as hiking shoes (I wore tennis shoes and they weren’t waterproof so I was a bit chilly) and cramp-ons. Cramp-ons are spiky things you attach to your shoes so that you can get a good grip on the ice. They told us to walk like cowboys so we all looked pretty silly stomping around but it was a good way to avoid falling! We hiked and climbed for 3-4 hours and then once we were all hungry and tired we headed back to the van for a sandwich and some juice. We then drove back down the road to Skógafoss waterfall. The waterfall was really beautiful but we had to climb 380 stairs to get to the top! My legs are SORE today! Yikes! When my parents come visit in the spring, when not if, I think they will have to do a tour like this. It was an experience of a lifetime!

Here are some pictures from the trip:

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Lauren: Weekend in Selfoss

October 30, 2011

This weekend I had the wonderful opportunity to go visit my friend Berglind’s family in Selfoss. I have included Miss Berglind in previous posts but I usually just call her Begga. Anyways, Selfoss is a town in southern Iceland with a population of about 6,500. This lovely picture above is from Google maps. Point A is Reykjavik where I live and point B is Selfoss where I am writing this very blog post this very minute! You can also see in gold Iceland’s Ring Road. Hringvegur (Ring Road) is about 832 miles and I think it would be really cool to drive around it by the end of my stay here but gasoline is very expensive here and so are car rentals… go figure. Plus it is kind of dangerous to drive the roads in the winter… Maybe I will perfect my manual driving skillz over winter break and be ready to tackle Hringvegur by the time May rolls around…. maybe.

Enough about my potential maybe perhaps possible travel plans. So I am in Selfoss now, it was kind of spur of the moment but I am so glad it worked out. I had met Begga’s mamma before because she is a lopapeysa magician and she has come to Gamli Garður, where I live, to fit a few of my dormmates for sweaters she is making them. Lopapeysa is the traditional Icelandic wool sweater. Begga’s mamma sells the lopapeysur she makes and she is giving us a special bargain on our very own sweaters! Yesterday I got to go to the store and pick out the yarn for mine and I even got to watch her start the process for mine! I am pretty excited. Mine won’t exactly be traditional because she is making it more poncho-esque but it will still have a traditional pattern and be made with just as much love!

Begga’s mamma also made us delicious kjötsúpa for dinner on Friday night. Kjötsúpa is traditional Icelandic meat soup (Kjötsúpa= meat soup). This was the third time I tried lamb here and I really enjoyed it! It was so good! I think that I will make this for my family when I come home too! :)

This is not my own picture because I forgot my camera but it looked just like that. It was even better the second day and we had fresh baked bread. Mmmmm! Carrots, potatoes, rutabagas, and lamb.

Begga’s mamma and pabbi are soooooo nice and I really enjoyed my time here this weekend. I have been pretty homesick so it was nice to be removed from the dorm life and sleep in a comfortable bedroom, shower without shoes on, and have homecooked meals… not to mention the lovely conversation and cake.

The last thing I wanted to blog about was the increasing lack of sunlight. I really didn’t think I would notice it until it was dark all day and all night but it is already starting to effect me. Lately it has been very rainy so I always just feel like wrapping up in a blanket and watching television. Iceland does not participate in Daylight Savings Time so next Sunday when all of my friends and family fall back one hour, I will stay at the same time and the time difference between most of us will be 6 hours instead of 5 hours. Kind of sad. But now that November is approaching sunrise is significantly later than when I arrived! I arrived in Iceland really early on Monday August 29th and according to my Google calendar sun rise was at 6am and sunset was at 8:55pm… tomorrow’s projected sunrise is at 9:06am and sunset will be at about 5:15pm. Each day the sun rises 3 minutes later and sets 3 minutes earlier. How crazy is that?!

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Lauren: Feels like home… well, let’s not push it

October 15, 2011

In an effort to cure my insomnia, I have made attempts to make my room feel more comfortable and homey as opposed to just short of a prison cell… okay I am being dramatic. But I really needed to make my room feel more like MY room. So I rearranged, swept and took a bus trip to IKEA with my little Floridian friend Akeem. I bought two rugs, a storage bin, and a candle from IKEA (it smells like Christmas!!!!!!!). I really wanted to buy a duvet for my pilly, scratchy little comforter I have here but I think I will wait on that… maybe just until tomorrow. I also hung up some pictures I brought with me and stuck some Halloween gellies on my window that I got in the mail from my Minnesota mom, Linda.

New rug- $3.42

Junior the alligator, new ghost stickies, a fake flower I took from the lobby downstairs, and my little quote picture from Bridget.

New arrangement with my ugly red rug (it was the best of the cheapest) and that damn blue ugly pilly comforter.

And now… for the best part… My little storage cube for my yarn and other supplies.

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Lauren: Defeated by Danish

September 30, 2011

Well I had to drop Danish class today. It was just the most defeating class ever. Since I have only had two very casual years of learning Danish, I was just not up to par with my peers. In Iceland, students are required to take at least four years of Danish so by the time they get to university, they are going into their fifth year. (Yeah, that is how math works…) Anyways, I thought I could keep up with the big boys but it turns out I just can’t. AND THAT’S OKAY! **mutters encouraging words to myself while rocking back and forth** But really, it is ooookkkkaayyy. I will just have to try to continue with Danish on my own, at my own pace. I have some great resources from the few weeks I was in this class so I am sure I will still be learning even without the grade. On a more positive note… I am the new Vice President of Outgoing Exchange and International Relations with AIESEC Iceland (pronunounced: eye-sek). Here is a little video about AIESEC and I will be able to fill you in on more after I have my orientation all weekend.

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Lauren: Réttir and The Golden Circle

September 18, 2011

Yesterday was a very busy, long, and exciting day! I started the day off at 8am when I piled onto 1 of 3 coach buses with international students from University of Iceland and Reykjavik University to begin our adventure. Our first stop was Réttir. It was about 2 hours southeast of Reykjavik. Every fall farmers gather all of the sheep that have been grazing freely in the mountains and hills for the whole summer and sort them out to their respective farms. This is a huge deal and a longstanding tradition. Everybody stands in this huge circular pen and they just start grabbing their sheep and bring them to their own smaller pens that are located around the edges. The walls to this structure are about 6 feet tall and 2 feet wide so I was able to stand up on the wall and watch the whole thing. 

After the sheep are where they belong, they are all sent off to be sheared for their wool and some of them are sent to the slaughter house. Mutton and lamb are very common in Icelandic cuisine. Even the hotdogs have mutton in them. They also have a traditional lamb meat soup that I saw a few people eating there. Here’s a video where the farmers were trying to move sheep from a “holding pen” to the “sorting pen.” Watch closely because you can see the sheep start to break away from the crowd and start running in another direction (around 1:10). You can also see them jump. It’s so funny! I didn’t know sheep could jump so high!!

Anyways, we stayed here and watched the sheep for about 2 hours. Some people jumped in and started helping the farmers and their families sort but I stayed nice and safe on the ledge. Not only am I not a fan of touching most animals but I also was warned about the horns on these sheep. Oftentimes when inexperienced people [kids and tourists] try to help out in the Réttir, the sheeps’ horns ran get ripped off. I saw a few bloody sheep horns so I chose to stay away from that. Especially because I knew I wouldn’t just magically be good at this.

The last half of our journey was called “The Golden Circle.” The Golden Circle consists of three separate attractions Gullfoss (a huge waterfall), Strokkur (a geysir), and Þingvellir (the location of the first national assembly). Here are some pictures from these places:

 

 

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Lauren: Turning a new leaf…

September 14, 2011
Well first of all I went whale watching on Sunday. Two of my biggest fears in life are whales and boats and I thought it would be a MARVELOUS idea to combine them both and pay 35 dollars to do it. Although I was pretty much terrified the entire time, I somehow managed to get through it. Mostly because I never saw a whale. I saw a few dolphins and all of my pictures came out as little splashes but in person, they were pretty sweet. I have never seen dolphins in the wild so I was pretty excited about that. The one time a whale was spotted during the 4 hour trip was when I decided it was time for a hot cocoa…. typical. However, my friend Emily was on the deck and she is convinced that there was no whale. So I would like to believe that they lied just so that they wouldnt have to give us our money back…. rude.

On another note, I am taking this great class called “Being Icelandic: Icelandic Folk Tales, Beliefs and Popular Culture Past and Present.” *inhale* We go on field trips almost every week and last Thursday we went to a very interesting settlement exhibition called “Landnámssýningin.” It is a small museum in the center of Reykjavik that was established after they excavated a viking long-house in 2001. It is preserved in it’s original location. It is hard to understand through the pictures I took but in person, it is very cool. There was sort of a back room area where the tour guide digitally reconstructed the house and told us how the houses were made and why they were made that way. Also, we go in for free because it was with a class! That is probably the ONLY free thing I will ever get in Reykjavik!

Alright last part of this post… this week got off to a bad start because I was sick. Everyone who came here pretty much got the same nasty cold and so that was absolutely no fun. But I can feel myself getting better so with my health improving, I have decided that my attitude should as well. If you know anything about me, you know I have an attitude. Sometimes it’s bad, sometimes it’s good. But mostly it’s sassy. The past few weeks I have been waivering towards the bad attitude side and I think it is time for a change. I got a nice email from my mother this morning and after some tough love from Luke, I need to quit feeling sorry for myself. It’s been so tough for me to adjust because I LOVE my life at home and this is so different here. My sorority just had recruitment and got 33 new members and I want to be there and meet all of them, school started in Minnesota and I want to be there on a campus I am familiar with with familiar faces, and my sister just got engaged so I want to be in Texas with her flipping through wedding magazines and eating tacos (I can’t even begin to describe the lack of Mexican food here). But the reality of the situation is that I am here. I am here for a reason. I was chosen to have this amazing opportunity to live abroad for a YEAR on a full scholarship! I would be so jealous of someone who told me who had that, right?! I need to quit my bitching and just embrace it. I am here so I need to start BEING here. It may be easier said than done but for right now I am going to try my hardest to stay positive.

 

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Lauren: Tour of my room

September 10, 2011

After waiting for almost 2 weeks for internet, I finally have a connection in my room!!! WOOO!! I knew that I was going to have internet for the very first time, so naturally I had to clean my room. Why? Have you met my mother? She would be so mad if she skyped me and my room was a mess!!! So after my whirlwind cleaning experience, I snapped a few photos to give you all the grand tour of my little room in Iceland.

Here it is!
 I LOVE the panoramic setting on my camera, if you can’t tell!!

So now I will slowly but surely decorate it and make it my own. I will take a picture of the kitchen area at some point, I am sure but that is pretty much all there is to it! I really do like it but I really miss my pillow at home! I borrowed a pillow from the building and its nice and lumpy. Its really bad.

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Lauren: First week in Iceland

September 4, 2011
One word: Vöffluvagninn.

You just go up to this van, hand them 590 krona (like $5 dollars) and then BAM! You get heaven on a plate. I got a waffle covered in chocolate with whip cream on it and I knew that I found my place in Reykjavik. I belong in this van. They are just so good! In America, you don’t buy food out of vans unless you are on State Fair grounds but  here they hand of chunks of goodness and it is fantastic!! I think the waffle pictured here is the one called USA. That one has syrup and whipcream. I chose the Choco because if they really knew anything about the US, they would know that we LOVE our chocolate!!!

In reality though here are some words that can describe my first week here: stressful, EXPENSIVE, interesting, and pretty.

It is stressful because in order to register, set up a bank account, and basically be alive here in Iceland you need a kennitala. A kennitala is a number similar to a social security number, and everyone needs one if they are coming here to study. Even though I have a student residence permit, I need this number before I go any further. It is all out of my hands to get the number and everyone else (except people who have either been here for 4 weeks or are from Nordic countries) is in the same position. So until then we have to go to classes we want to take and then register as soon as we get the number. It is so different from America. At the U, if you dont attend the first day of class your ass is dropped like that! But here they are so relaxed… it is almost annoying. Almost. The worst part about not having a kennitala is that I cannot have internet in my dorm until I get it…. therefore, I have to go downtown to this coffee shop/bookstore and hangout and steal their wifi.

Life here is VERY expensive. Their currency is Krona and 1krona is similar to 1 penny… but a little less. So when I see something is 2000 krona, I know that it is a little less than 20 dollars… about $17.52. Its easiest to think of the prices as if they are in pennies because then just knowing it is slightly less expensive. However, things are very pricy. I paid about 15 dollars for 20 hangers, 20 dollars for shampoo and conditioner, etc. Alcohol and electronics have to be the most expensive though because of all of their taxes and tarriffs. For example, I bought Icelandic vodka in the US on my birthday for about 18 dollars… here, that same bottle would be about 70 dollars. IT’S INSANE. Beers are normally about 8 or 9 dollars and when its happy hour, they are about 4 or 5. Good thing I don’t drink often enough to be seriously disappointed. I went to a phone store the other day and my blackberry (which I got for free from Sprint/Best Buy) is about 1000 dollars. iPhones are about $2000. It’s so crazy. People send care packages to third world countries but we should really be sending iPhones to these people. Then they can afford to eat!

Reykjavik is very pretty though. I went on a short run today around the lake in the city and the sun was out and I felt great. 

This is a good picture of Reykjavik now. It is fairly sunny, there is cool crisp air, and lots of ducks and seagulls. I love in a building that would be at the very bottom right of this picture. You can only see the stairs to the building here but I am pretty close to the city. The lake in this picture is the one I ran around. It has seagulls, ducks, and swans in it! Lots of kids feed the ducks here. It is so cute. I really like Reykjavik so far. I will upload more pictures soon. Oh wait I do have a one picture I want to share that I just found because I remember I plugged my camera in after the first day!

That would be my mattress…. on top of a box spring. Just wait until I take a picture of my pillow…. ugh!

Well that is all I have for now!! I hope to blog more often once I am all settled in… maybe once I get a new pillow.

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