Sunday, May 22, 2011

Brief Update

A lot has happened since the last update. Here's a brief list of what has all happened. (pictures to come once I sort through them all and upload them all to my computer)
1. I went on a lot of glacier trips. One was through the university and we took a giant ice truck to the top of a glacier and walked around. It was really cool. The next day I went on a two day field trip with my glaciology field trip. We looked a different geological aspects to glaciers that we had been learned about all year and then did a field report over what we learned.
2. Stuart arrived safely! Having Stuart here has been the most exciting part of the semester. We just got back from a five day trip driving around the entire circumference of Iceland. We ran into blizzards and lots of snow. It's hard to believe it's snowing in late May.
3. You've probably heard about the volcano. We are a safe distance away and only see ash clouds in the distance. I think more ash is going to spread over Reykjavik, but the worst of the eruption is over. It feels really cool to be here with an eruption. I am so thankful to have gotten to experience so much. I never thought I would get to see the northern lights, feel an earthquake, walk around the top of a glacier, see an eruption in just the five months I was here. It's been an unforgettable experience. I will slowly continue to update with more pictures, but just updating that we are safe. If all goes well we will be back to the sweaty mid-west on Saturday.
I'm exhausted and need to get some sleep. The sky is actually fairly dark for once thanks to the ash. Maybe I will be able to sleep. Good night.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Spring has sprung!

As promised, here are some photos that show Iceland's brighter and warmer side. 

City pond

I took a short cut through the City Hall and look what I stumbled upon! An accordion concert. I was in heaven. The lady sitting next to me invited me to another concert tomorrow. The music was great. It definitely made my day.

Opera House that is slowly being built. I think it is supposed to open sometime in May.

Ships, concert hall & Mt. Esja.

Close up of Mt. Esja. Stuart and I will climb this. It's popular and easy to climb.

Downtown area 

Spring has finally hit Iceland! People eating and drinking outside. It's like a real city now. The tourists are flooding in and transforming the feeling of the city. 

It's popular to lounge in the grass and drink in front of the parliament building.

Typical colorful Icelandic houses. Most are made with corrugated metal. 

View from the staircase of my dormitory. Mt. Esja in the distance. I am going to miss looking at this every day.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Happy May

Exams, exams, exams (read like Marsha, Marsha, Marsha). Exams continue to consume my free time, which is why I haven't updated in a while. So far I have taken three exams and only have one left on Tuesday. The system here doesn't exactly foster learning, which is really disappointing. In all of my classes the exam has counted for 70% of the final grade or higher. This means that there is very little class work and also means you better not have test anxiety. I've been a bit frustrated with this system. I think homework is necessary in science and math courses just so that you are working out the problems and gaining an understanding on where you stand. Occasionally we were assigned homework, but it usually didn't count towards our grade, we never got it handed back, and the teacher never went over it. A few times I asked professors for the work back just to see if I passed, but they didn't have it graded. Everything is laid back here. I guess you are supposed to assume you are passing. The exams are all comprehensive. Thankfully old exams are posted, but so far one exam has been very similar to the old exams and the other was nothing similar. So, you can't always use the old exams to study off of. Going into the exam you have no idea where you stand, all you know is that you have to do well because it is your only chance to pass the class.

Oh, another interesting thing is how the tests are set up. All exams are three hours long. You receive a notice online the day before the exam where it will be located. So far they have been located in obsecure buildings that I have never even seen. It's all very serious and official. They group several classes together in one room and then pay a person to supervise the room during exam time. You are assigned a specific table and have to bring photo identification to ensure that nobody is cheating. Your teacher will come in and check on you once during the exam in case you have any questions. It feels very nerve wracking to be in an exam with so many people that aren't even from your regular class for three hours. I am thankful this isn't the system in the US because it makes me feel quite nervous.

Well, we've had some exciting weather. May 1st it snowed.
 It didn't just snow a little. It snowed all day long. I went for lunch with my buddy yesterday and she said there was a news article published that said it's been the worst winter since 1987.
It's finally getting better. Yesterday (May 3rd) was the first day since I've been in Iceland that I didn't have to wear a winter coat! It got up to 50 degrees. My camera was dead yesterday so I wasn't able to get any picture of the nice weather. I am sure there will be another opportunity. It felt like a real spring day. People were outside drinking beer, reading books, eating, and just enjoying the weather. Today it is raining, but I am confident the weather is slowly getting better. Yesterday when it was so nice I went on a long walk. I stopped by a thrift store just to check it out. I am not sure if I've written about how popular Icelandic sweaters are. They are made out of Icelandic sheep's wool and everyone wears them instead of coats. They are quite expensive ($150 or more) and I never really felt obligated to buy one. Well, yesterday at the thrift store they had one for $18 so I tried it on and got it. Here's a picture of me modeling it:

It's a bit baggy, but fits well otherwise. Here's a link showing some other traditional ones:
Grey, white, brown, and dark brown are colors used to make these beauties.
I love finding steals such as this.
Well, I am off to do some more studying.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Volcanology Field Trip

I am taking a break from studying to inform you a bit about volcanology in Iceland. Hold on tight, it's going to be exciting!
We explored the Reykjanes Peninsula. Basically we made a loop around the exterior and then turned back toward Reykjavik and went by the lake that is pretty much in the middle of the photo. This area is inflating and becoming very active.

 It's kind of hard to see, but the lower area is where plates are slowly separating. The ocean is in the distance.

 Pit stop to get readings from the seismometer. Since this area is inflating they are taking measurements more often.

 Just a cool looking light house.

 Volcanic remains.

 Volcanic ash. As the ash falls it creates nice layers because the heavier sediments fall quicker and so on.

 Drift wood likely from Siberia.

 Dike (planar rock wall structure) basalt

 You can faintly see small hills of rocks. These are the result of a strike slip zone. Strike slip faults move vertically past each other and caused these pile formations.

Normal fault- hanging wall (on right) drops relative to foot wall (on left)

 Explosive crater

 There was tons of olivine (Mg, Fe)2SiO4 here. Nothing too exciting because it is one of the 
most common minerals on Earth.

Geothermal area

Sunday, April 24, 2011

I'm dreaming of a white Easter

When most people hear Iceland they initially think cold and icy. It's not true. Iceland is warmer than it sounds because of the gulf stream. Early settlers named it Iceland because they wanted it to sound intimidating and didn't want others to visit the lusciously green island. Supposedly, it was a trick to get people to go to Greenland where it is much colder and covered in ice.
Ok, now that we all have that understanding I can complain about the weather. Icelanders say that it is rare to have snow this late. Today it snowed off and on all day. The official first day of summer was on Thursday. It was an official holiday and businesses were closed. It's interesting how the weather affects so many peoples moods.
The only good thing about this weather is that it is making me stay inside and study. I never thought I would get tired of snow. It's 30 degrees. Come on, Iceland.
I took some photos just to show how sudden the weather change is here. The weather changes every 5 minutes and the changes are extreme.

 Ok, here we are getting small balls of hail.
 Five minutes later it looks like spring.
13 minutes later it snows.

These photos were all taken from the window in my room and the time between the first photo and last is only 18 minutes. The weather is crazy. It's hard to believe these were taken at 8:30 pm. It's staying bright out until around 9:30 pm and the sun comes up at 4:30 am. It's been interesting to experience a day that only has 4 hours of sunlight (when I first arrived) to now only a few hours of darkness. I notice that I am getting up a lot earlier and eating dinner a lot later. Dinner is now happening around 8:30 pm and we always look at the clock and think it's incorrect. 

Sorry for the weather rant. Oh yes, Happy Easter! Becky, Eddi, Tim, and I made lamb, sweet potatoes, a wonderful salad, pumpkin pie, and a jelly roll. It turned out really really well and was a lot of fun. I unfortunately didn't get any photos on my camera, but will get some from Becky and upload them soon. We got a traditional Icelandic egg. It looked something like this (I stole this from the internet because I forgot to take a picture of it before we smashed it).

We weren't quite sure what to do with it. It was a hallow chocolate egg full of candy. It had a hole in the back that you are probably supposed to gracefully pull out the candy. That's not our style. We smashed it with a meat tenderizer. 

It was a really good egg. There were even gummies inside.

Well, back to the books. I have a final on Thursday and Friday. I am pretty worried and need to work hard. 

Oh yeah, I promised to give a follow up about the protest/bingo game. I went at 6:30 and there were 5 people standing around a grill. You can count on everything here being unorganized at least 2 hours late. It is such a laid back world here.

Happy trails.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Not So Good Friday

Okay, I realize it's been entirely too long since I've posted. Classes got crazy and ended and now I am on Easter break. I just got back from Copenhagen. More updates coming about that trip soon.
I have a week until finals start. I am not ready.
On a different note, today is Good Friday. I was excited to go to the Post Office to pick up a package from my dad this morning only to find that it was closed. Then, I decided since I was close I would just get a hot dog. Also closed. I thought surely the crappy grocery store is open. Nope, also closed. Okay, everything is closed and nobody is out.
I did some research: I think this article here sums it up pretty well.
Some people are apparently mad about this day of mourning and no fun and are hosting a giant bingo game in front of the parliament building. More information about the illegal bingo game here. I will go check it out in 30 minutes at let you all know how it goes.
Religion is not big in Iceland, but there are always things like this that completely throw me off. Iceland continues to make no sense.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Naming Game

So, the naming system is a bit different in Iceland. For those of you that aren't familiar, I will attempt to explain. 
They reflect the immediate father (or mother) of the child and not the historic family lineage. The child is given a new first name, but takes her or his father's first name and adds son to the end (if it's a boy) or dóttir (if it's a girl).
For example, a man named Jón Stefánsson has a son named Fjalar. Fjalar's last name will not be Stefánsson like his father's; it will become Jónsson, literally indicating that Fjalar is the son of Jón (Jóns + son).
The same practice is used for daughters. Jón Stefánsson's daughter Katrín would not have the last name Stefánsson; she would have the name Jónsdóttir. Again, the name literally meaning "Jón's daughter" (Jóns + dóttir).
In some cases, an individual's surname is derived from a parent's middle name instead of the first name. For example, if Jón is the son of Hjálmar Arnar Vilhjálmsson he may either be named Jón Hjálmarsson (Jón, son of Hjálmar) or Jón Arnarsson (Jón, son of Arnar). The reason for this may be that the parent prefers to be called by the middle name instead of the first name; this is fairly common. It may also be that the parent's middle name seems to fit the child's first name better.
A well-known example is Leif Ericson, son of Erik the Red. 

This naming system really makes you realize what a small place Iceland is. Sometimes it reminds me of Wilson.