hallo reykjavik!

My flight over was absolutely awesome. Well, not the USAir one, but the IcelandAir one. Before my flight, I got to relax in the Chesapeake Lounge at the airport in Baltimore (much quieter than the terminal… and with food!) On the flight, they pampered me with a nice wool blanket, personal DVD player, and a three-course meal (including an appetizer of err… reindeer loins, not so tasty.) Because they did so much for us, I wasn’t able to fall asleep until quite late and only got a mere two hours of shuteye before arriving in Iceland.

When I got here on Thursday, a really friendly guy from the Semester at Sea affiliated travel/tourism agency came to pick me up. We drove for about forty five minutes toward the city through really beautiful fields of Alaskan lupine that has grown over aged lava and volcanic ash, it wasn’t nearly as barren as I had imagined Iceland to be (although most of the inland area is uninhabitable). When I got to the harbor, around 8:00, I was told I’d have to wait just a few minutes until customs cleared the ship and the gangway was setup. Unfortunately, that few minutes turned into about an hour and a half! For that whole period of waiting, I sat in a really cold little hut in the harbor with these two guys (who worked there) who I was certain couldn’t speak English. About five minutes before I got on the boat, they started chatting to me in ENGLISH. Ahh, how frustrating- we could have been talking or something for all that time instead of struggling to stay awake! Little did I know at the time that pretty much everyone here (in Reykjavik at least) speaks really good English.

So finally I got on the boat (after the U.S. Embassy people got on, and after a whole trip of students got off). I met up with Amy and my RD (like an RA) right away who got me setup with my ID card and such. I unpacked in my cabin, which is really nice and cozy and has plenty more space than we had expected. The whole ship is really really nice- kind of too nice; definitely nicer than I thought, and uncomfortably nice for a floating campus. The dining halls feel more like restaurants. Things are served buffet style, but then the staff will take your tray or plate and personally seat you at a table and pour your drink(s) for you. Everyday we also have a steward come into our cabin (Dolphi - though I am probably misspelling his name) who makes our beds, gives us any needed clean towels, and makes sure things are in order. He’s extremely nice, and it’s so cute how he makes my bed with my blanket and my little stuffed monkey on top of it! But altogether, it’s just weird. I guess most people would love being catered to this much, but it’s just so foreign to me. I’m used to cooking for myself, cleaning on my own, and doing my own laundry- and I think I prefer it that way. Generally speaking, things are pristine, and although the cruise ship has been converted into a university, it still feels very much like a cruise ship. For example, our library is in what was formerly a casino (signs still indicate so), and classrooms have been made out of such places as a smoking room and a card room. I’ll try to put some pictures up of the ship soon, though I haven’t gotten around to taking any yet!

The student body is quite a disappointment. I knew that there would be a lot of people who were here for the wrong reasons, at the expense of their mommy and daddy… but I didn’t think it would be this many. At meals in the dining halls, everyone is constantly telling stories at full volume about their drunken adventures from the previous night, or how they hate Icelandic people because they are so mean (for asking the American students to behave more appropriately in bars!) All of the girls seem to be mistaking the trip for a fashion show, as Amy put it. They’ve all brought an arsenal of makeup, miniskirts, and stilettos to romp around in which is particularly absurd considering how cold it is here (and will be for a few ports). It seems like all anyone wants to do is go out at night and get drunk- which is a feat considering that in Iceland a beer will cost you about $9! Everyone is calling home to warn their daddies that the credit card bill will be a bit higher than expected… I can’t even believe that these students’ parents are footing their bar bills. There was even one girl who left her group of Semester at Sea friends the other night at a bar to go out with a group of Icelandic boys. When she never came home, of course people started to worry… her roommate was in a panic and word spread to keep an eye out for her. Today I was at a bus stop and we ran into her- she was incredibly nonchalant about the whole thing; she seemed to think it should be no big deal that she was out until 9am partying and hadn’t been in contact with anyone! We don’t have a curfew, but security is pretty strict- we have to swipe our ID cards and have our bags searched every time we get off or on the ship… so when someone has been missing for 12+ hours, it is a big deal.

Luckily, there are a few cool students we’ve met to hang out with on the ship and in port. There are also a number of older adults doing the seniors/continuing education program and they are all tremendously sweet (and tolerant of being around airhead young adults!) They come and eat with us at meals or have us run errands for them in downtown Reykjavik… it’s nice to have them aboard with their desire to learn, valuable wisdom, and wonderful company. There are also lots of children (including one girl who lives in a Snow White costume) who are here because their mum or dad is on staff/faculty. Having families here also makes the ship feel a bit more diverse, though I am also impressed (and surprised) with how casually the children all explore the ship- mostly because I doubt that most of the university students conduct themselves appropriately in their presence.

Phew. So onto what we’ve actually been doing…

After I unpacked and so on, Amy and I ventured downtown. We somehow had the wrong idea and thought we were in the main harbor, which is only a few blocks from downtown. After walking for what seemed like ages, we finally realized where we were- we had just appeared on the far side of the Reykjavik city map and that means we must be docked in the second harbor on the complete other side of the city! At this point, we didn’t really have any choice but to keep walking, so we walked all the way into town which must have taken awhile because it is at least a couple of miles. Exhausted, we finally arrived in the city center, which was very cute and quaint. We eventually found this little sandwich place to eat called Nonnabutti, which our Europe guidebooks had recommended as the cheapest place to get a decent bite to eat. We spent $8 each for a simple grilled sandwich (things are pricey here in general), but it was fun to see a little local hole-in-the-wall. All of the sandwiches here seem to be really big on pepperoni and ham. They also must fancy paprika quite a bit, because our french fries were seasoned with it and they also sell paprika flavored Pringles in the grocery stores.

After that we had a short stroll around town and bought a few things, including Icelandic wool yarn and knitting needles to make ourselves scarves. We trekked back to the harbor, on foot, which definitely seemed longer on the way back! The surreal bit is that by the time we got home, it was 22:00 (10:00pm), but still entirely lightly outside because it’s the time of year where Iceland has sun nearly around-the-clock to make up for the period of continual darkness experienced in the middle of winter. The sun sets very late (maybe midnight or 1:00?) and rises again only a few hours later. It’s been too cloudy to full enjoy the beautiful midnight sunsets, but it’s still been an experience regardless.

they eat a lot of ice cream in iceland (with my name in it!)

viking troll!


Post a Comment

<< Home