Friday, July 21, 2017

A Whale of a Time

I know I said that I haven't been doing many adventurous things, but that's not completely true. Last weekend was an amazing weekend. After spending all of Saturday walking around downtown with Jack (really awesome person and friend from Virginia who goes to William and Mary) and working on my paper for most of Sunday, I got to go whale watching at 9 pm on Sunday night. 

We get down to the pier, pay for our tickets (they were really cheap which is awesome), and THEN Jack decides to tell us that he gets really seasick on boats. Fun fact about me: I am a sympathetic puker and hypochondriac (I think that's when you feel sick just because other people say they feel sick?), just like my dad. 

Also, the lady at the counter tells us that conditions are "very rough", at which point my mind is instantly transported back to my whale watching experience with Dad, Kate, and Kelli in Boston where the entire boat (literally the entire. boat.) besides us was vomiting all over the place. Terrible. 

We board the boat - one much too small for comfort - and are told that we must sit inside unless we want to be soaked from head to toe. They also make us put on these jumper thingys that I actually really dig and now kind of want to own. Apparently it is too cold outside not to wear them. When we go to sit inside, we are looking right out at the ocean level and can't even really see the horizon because we are sitting so low down in the water.

The ride out to sea is as bad as they made it sound before we boarded the boat. With me is Mack (really awesome girl from Colorado who goes to school at Whitman College in Washington), Carter, Megan, Larry (you know them), and seasick Jack, who is sitting right across from me. I had never seen someone get really really seasick before, but it was really scary watching him go from bad to worse to downright awful. He was pale white and shaking, I felt really bad. So he went to the bathroom to vomit as soon as we slowed to a halt, and was fine for the rest of the trip. Larry also vomited apparently, even though the entire way out to sea he kept talking about how "this isn't even that bad, I feel totally fine." 

While we were out there, we saw soo many dolphins and I almost cried. Mack and I were on cloud nine. It was blissful, especially listening to the sounds of the ocean as we patiently waited to see whales. 

Which we did! 2 humpbacks that got really close to our boat once. We also saw a bunch of puffins, but the highlight for me was definitely the dolphins. <3

Another unexpected perk of going whale watching so late at night was seeing the most amazing sunset I have ever seen in my entire life. 

Overall, a really really beautiful night :)

Here are a bunch of pictures: 

Pre-seasickness Jack

The amazing sunset <3

Me looking rugged in my jumpsuit

ugh it's so beautiful

Megan, Me, Mack, Carter, and Larry on our way back to shore <3 

I'm Alive I Promise


I'm sorry for being so MIA this week (has it been longer than a week?), so hopefully I can try to catch you up on my adventures in this post. 

The main reason for my lack of blogging is that my writing brain has been completely bogged down with our 10 page research paper that I have been working on for the past 2 weeks (remember that one?). I'm happy to say that the paper is done and turned in! After several long nights and lots of blood, sweat, and tears. 

The funny thing about Reykjavik is that being here is exactly like being at home...just in Iceland. We have class every day for at least 3 hours, and then the rest of the afternoons and nights these past couple of weeks have been dedicated to our research papers. So most days, at least recently, have been wake up, go to school, come home from school, do work, make "dinner" (a sandwich or eggs because I am poor as Mom keeps reminding me), and then go to sleep. I have spent far too much time in this hostel, which I am just now realizing as I write this out. 

Thankfully, the week ahead will be filled with much more adventuring. So hopefully more interesting stories will come out of that. 

The good thing about hostel life is that everything that's not school-related instantly becomes more interesting. Like my friend Jack and I spontaneously went to the grocery store downtown at 11 pm the other night because we both needed food for the next day and it was the most adventurous thing I had done in like a week. Fun stuff. 

The other good thing about hostel life is that being cooped up here, just the 24 of us and bunch of other people from all over passing through, is that this group really feels like family to me. And I get really sad every time I think about having to say goodbye...

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Live from Reykjavik's me...

But for real, hi! It's me! The past 3 posts have been dated ones that I would've posted earlier if I had a working computer...

Which brings me to my next point, which is that my computer broke (in Iceland, very unfortunate) and I had to get it fixed here (sorry, Dad). That left me inconvenienced for a couple of days, and you all without blog posts for a couple of days as well! 

So here I am, in the biggest city in Iceland, that holds over 2/3 of the population and I LOVE IT. I didn't realize how much I missed civilization until I was back in it. It was like walking outside after being in a stuffy basement all day long. 

This city is beautiful. Pictures attached. 

More about my adventures here to come!

Some of the best Mexican food I ever had in my entire life. We went to this restaurant on night one after our 8 hour bus ride here from the Westfjords. 

This is Carter doing the most adventurous thing he's ever done. That's Louis on the swing underneath him, he's a mechanical engineer at Rice. 

Here's our beautiful city <3

Here's Meg Meg looking pretty with the flowers. 

Carter and Alex getting cuddly as we waited for our Dominoes. Yes we ordered pizza in Iceland. Check that one off the list. Both of these beautiful children live within a 40 minute drive from our house in Southlake and I am so excited to see them after this program is over :) Even though Carter can't wait to get rid of us (He's a lot like Eeyore). 

This is Joss and I looking real cute hanging out in our hostel that we're staying at. The guys have to stay in a room with all of them together, so 9 people in a room at once. They complain about that a lot, and just escape to the girls rooms instead. Joss goes to Northwestern with Cassie, they are the same year and know only a few of the same people. They need to fix that so I can hang out with both of them when I go visit. 

This is the most famous church in Iceland, sitting tall and pretty over the entire city of Reykjavik. It's the only way I know where I am at all. We're going to go to the top at some point! 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

This Project Man

Icelandic is 1/3 of this class. Another 1/3 of this course is on renewable energy technology and economics, which we had for 2 weeks in Ísafjörður and will continue to learn about when we get to Reykjavik in a couple of days. And the final 1/3 of this course is an independent project on a topic of our choosing. The only guideline is that it has to be energy-related.

I did a very similar project in a class that I took last semester called Global Energy and the American Dream. The main reason that I took the class was because of this program. My final paper in that class focused on Iceland as well, so I could probably turn in that exact project and get full credit for it.

But that’s no fun at all!

So there I was last week, project-less. This is my emotional journey to find a new one.

Since pretty much day one of this trip I have been writing down potential project ideas. I had a list of about 10ish when our project proposal got assigned about 2 weeks ago.

Because I am a prideful person that doesn’t like hearing the same thing twice, I didn’t want to do the same project as someone else on this trip. That would probably be the worst thing that could happen – if I presented, sat down, and the person after me went up and gave the same exact presentation. Or worse, if I had to sit through my exact presentation given by someone else before I gave mine. Tortuous.

As people began to talk about their project ideas, my list of 10ish ideas dwindled to only 4. I am a much better writer under pressure, so I waited until the weekend before our projects were due before I began to research and write a proposal. The journalist in me wanted to uncover some dark Icelandic energy secret and present it to the world. So I decided to talk about the aluminum industry in Iceland – a key component of their energy consumption and something that we barely talked about (I found that suspicious). I started doing research, got really excited for my project, and was ready to turn in my proposal. I just wanted to check some of my citations with my program instructors.

I walked into class the following Monday morning (as in the Monday after the Sunday that we rode horses), and sat down. From the back of the room, I heard it – a girl in my class explaining my project proposal to our program instructors (both are named Alex, so we call them the Alexes). Well, it wasn’t my project proposal – it was hers – but it sounded an awful lot like mine. Perfect. I had exactly 12 hours to find a whole new idea, research it, and write a whole new proposal.

Ready, set, go.

Because my friends on this trip are great, they immediately began shooting off their leftover ideas from their own proposals. Also because they are my friends, they immediately began making fun of me for being so last minute and for my clear signs of stress.

Natalie, my friend I mentioned to you a while ago, is famous for her one-liners that can bring you to your knees in laughter almost instantaneously and leave you laughing about the same joke for days on end.

Carter was on his laptop throwing out ideas. In my stressed out state, I wasn’t really listening that closely, until I picked up on the fact that every single one of his ideas had something to do with horses.

Remember my horse-riding tragedy? Yeah, they heard about that.

So I tuned in to Carter’s horse ideas and joked back, “Carter! I just want one energy idea that isn’t horse related, is that too much to ask?!”

Alex, my friend from Texas, goes, “I mean, you do have a personal experience with horses and their endless amounts of energy.”

And Natalie goes, “In that moment, as you were riding along in panic, you thought… ‘Wow…this energy…WE CAN HARNESS THIS!’”

Which made me laugh so hard I started crying. Maybe some of those tears were partly post-trauma tears as well. But still. That’s good stuff. 

In the end, the Alexes gave me an extension on my project proposal. And after an emotional journey of figuring out what I was actually interested in, I’m going to research electric cars and hydrogen fuel-cell powered cars and how Iceland can head towards a fossil-free future. At least I hope – fingers crossed. 

Hold Your Horses...Tightly

Here in Iceland, horses are kind of a big deal. Icelandic horses are a breed of their own: smaller in size and built thicker than normal horses that we are used to. They are really really beautiful to look at, and normally very friendly. Other cool things - if you take an Icelandic horse to any kind of horse competition worldwide, it will automatically win. The catch is that you can never bring it back into the country, because Icelanders don’t want the other Icelandic horses to be contaminated with disease or by cross-breeding. They even have a special walk that no other horses in the world can do.

Horses are everywhere here, and because it is me, I’ve had a few tragic encounters with them.

In my blog post titled “On the Up-and-Up” (I think that’s what it was called?) I told you about the really long hike that my host parents took Megan and me on. What I failed to mention was the crucial 10 minutes before the hike started where we were waiting around doing nothing while our host parents and their friends got situated and ready to go. We were standing outside a gorgeous little farmhouse in the middle of a fjord with no other houses around us. They had somewhere around 12 horses chilling in the wire fenced in area right next to the barn. They were so pretty, and I had already a magical experience with these fancy Icelandic horses.

(Pause for magical experience: my host parents took Megan and me for a drive one night during our first week here, and we randomly hopped out of the car before we were about to head home right next to a gate where around 15 horses were grazing probably about 100 meters away. These horses recognized my host dad, Kristian, because he is the cousin of the horses’ owner. Also, Helga has been there many a time because she loves these horses. We got out of the car, and immediately the horses started running towards us – no fear whatsoever. When we got inside the gate, they all came right up in our faces because they wanted attention. So I was petting four horses at a time and it was heavenly. I thought that nothing could possibly go wrong with these new Icelandic horses.)

Unpause, because this is a story about me, Charlie Kristine Brickner, and somehow unlucky, and often embarrassing, occurrences always find their way into my life. No magic in these next couple of stories.

So there we were, outside this beautiful lonely little farmhouse, with nothing to do but twiddle our thumbs. Orrrrr, as I thought in that moment, I could go pet the pretty horseys over there in that wire fenced in area because I love these beautiful animals.

I’ll tell this next part in third person for the effect:

So Charlie went over to the pretty horseys and was petting them all nice. There were three of them that walked right up to her as she approached, and she was so so excited that she wanted to get as close to the horseys as possible. She was petting them for a couple minutes and was very content with life. She inched closer to the fence. As she did, she noticed the horses all jolt simultaneously, backing away from Charlie’s hand. And then not long after that, Charlie’s head got all fuzzy and she couldn’t feel her fingers or remember where she was.

Yeah. My dumb butt put my legs right up against an electric horse fence, with the key word there being electric, and shocked the three horses I was petting. At first I thought, “Oh cool, maybe this is a superhero kind of moment and I’ll be like a horse whisperer or something!”

Turns out the effect was quite the opposite.

Remember those horses from my magical encounter? They come back here as crucial characters.

On Sunday, my host parents went to the central northern part of Iceland for a family reunion and a 25 kilometer running race that they were competing in (both of them did really well!). That meant that Megan and I were home in the apartment all weekend long with nothing to do (except study – and we actually did that). Our host parents felt pretty bad about having to leave us home by ourselves, so Kristian set up horseback riding for us with his cousin, who owns 2 of the 15ish horses we met when we pet horses for the first time on that car ride.

Some important pieces of information that I wish I had before getting on this horse:

1. Kristian’s cousin knows minimal English. For example, “hold on tight”, “don’t panic”, “this horse hates people except for me”, and “this horse is a little s*** so this might not be the best idea” apparently weren’t in his vocabulary!

2. Kristian’s cousin is very shy and awkward. So in tough situations, he often conveniently says, and does, NOTHING helpful whatsoever!

3. As foreshadowed in number 1, my horse, Prince, hates people except for Kristian’s cousin and is a little s***.

I think this story is best told in first person, so we’re going to hang out in this point of view for right now.

Our journey started when we got a knock on the apartment door at around 7 pm on Sunday. Kristian’s cousin waited for us to put our shoes on and we headed down to his car.

His car. You know, when you’re getting into someone’s car who you don’t know that well, often times you don’t check out the situation as you are getting into the car too closely because you don’t want to be rude. It isn’t until after you are in the car and settled that you notice the messiness or the trash or what have you. This car, however, was some sort of Jeep that reeked of manure even before you opened the door. I don’t know, nor do I want to know, how much animal hair or other things I had on the back of my jeans when I stood up. So I just held my breath for 20 minutes in silence (awkward guy, remember?) and listened to the sound of the horseshoes clanking around my feet (that’s a real detail of the story, not just one for effect).

We get to the field where the horses are, and Kristian’s cousin immediately hops out of the Jeep and starts calling the horses over. This is where I should’ve started picking up the warning flags. This guy owns some of these horses, he has food with him, and yet none of them even start coming over. When we were there the other day, they RAN over to us. That was bad sign number one.
Finally, they pick up what he is putting down and the horses come over to this fenced in area. The cousin starts coaxing and fencing in a couple of them and the rest go back to grazing where they were before. Then, I stepped in horse poo. Bad sign number two.

The cousin shows us which horses are ours (one for me, one for Megan). Mine is a brown and white horse named Prince. First thing he did when I met him was bite my jacket. Bad sign number three.

Megan and I pet our respective horses until the cousin gets them all saddled up and ready to go. My horse, Prince, was not happy with the whole saddle business. He wanted no part of it. That was bad sign number four.

Then we had to get on these horses. Bad sign number five: when I got on, the cousin had to hold my horse back and comfort him because you could tell he wasn’t happy about it.

And finally, bad sign number six was when we were practicing stopping and turning with our horses in the little fenced in area and Prince was booking it around this place. The cousin would say, “Go in a circle,” and Prince would take off. I said to the cousin, “He’s going so fast, why is that?” Megan’s horse was behaving perfectly fine. He just said “Yesyes” and nothing else. BAD. SIGN.

The cousin decided we were ready for the big leagues and opened the gate to the road that we drove in on. Immediately after that gate opened, my horse started running full speed. And he didn’t stop for about 4-5 terrifying minutes where no effort to stop or turn him was working. I debated jumping off onto the gravel road below, but you don’t realize how high you are on a horse until you’re really up there. I kept asking my horse to stop, but he just said “Nei” (Icelandic jokes y’all).  So I just held on for dear life.

Finally, we got to a turning around point and Prince responded to me pulling the reins out to the side and did a turn around, only to sprint (yet again) the whole way back to his owner. Where was the owner this whole time? Yeah, that’s what I was wondering too.

I was a shaking mess when I got off that horse, and it took everything in me not to immediately start crying. I have never been so scared before in my entire life, and I will not soon forget that feeling.

But that’s sad! So let’s rewind and shift point of view.

Annnd the gate is open…And there goes Prince…he’s running…heee’s running…he’s looking good out there!…but his rider isn’t looking so great….she’s a small female…looks quite inexperienced…bouncing around quite a LOT out there…but Prince is looking great!...he’s still running!...annd he makes the turn…and he’s coming back!....He’s coming in hot!...annnd he makes it back to the gate in record timeee…

Or here's a different point of view for you: 

I *gasp* JUST *gasp* WANT *gasp* TO *gasp* RUNNNN!! WOOOOO HOOO!!

(that was Prince if you couldn't tell)

Back at the gate, Megan and the cousin were pretending to be concerned on the outside, but internally laughing hysterically. As I would be too, I wish somebody got this whole thing on video. How can you not laugh at it, it is just such a Charlie thing to happen. And apparently, Megan thought I did it on purpose for a while, so I must have looked pretty darn good up there.

So the takeaway from this is…NEVER tell any horse riding instructor that you have gone riding before. He will for sure give you the bad horse.

Annnd there goes my horse whisperer theory.

Can We Please Get Some Guð Damn Translations Please and Takk

For 1/3 of our course credit for this trip, we have to take introductory level Icelandic. This has been quite the experience, considering Icelandic is widely known as the most difficult language on the planet and we have only had about 2 weeks to try to learn it.

Day 1 of class, we were nailed with three hours of Olí, our kennestar (teacher), speaking at us in fluent Icelandic. It is important to note that we knew negative Icelandic coming into this trip. So he was speaking at us, and we were sitting there staring at him wide-eyed and terrified. By the end of the three hours, I felt like I had just walked out of a General Chemistry exam – panicked, defeated, helpless, and pissed off. When we got home from school that day, Megan had to tell our host parents about our day at school because I was too brain dead to process what just happened.

Since then, I will admit that Icelandic has gotten better, if only by a little bit. It’s especially fun to make fun of ourselves and the language, or to insert the few Icelandic words that we know into common English phrases or song lyrics. Larry sent many a snapchat that I opened in class and had to hold my breath to contain my laughter. The title of this post is one example, where we were getting really fed up with Olí´s PowerPoint slides that had plenty of Icelandic but no English. I’ll put some more of Larry’s snaps at the end of this post.

So here is a little introduction to Icelandic for you:

1. Takk! Takk (sounds like Tock, like a clock) means Thank you in Icelandic. So like “Please and takk,” which we say often because we think it’s funny. Fun fact: There’s no Icelandic word for Please.

2. Nei! Nei (like neigh, like a horse says) means No in Icelandic. Helga used this word often, and it has pretty much replaced the word No in everyone on this trips’ vocabulary.

3. Já! Já (like Ow with a Y in front of it) means Yes in Icelandic. We like to say it kind of seductively like “yow yowwww.”

We got these three words down, for sure. As far as the other ones go…I’m not so sure. We have our final exam tomorrow in this class that a lot of us are worried about. Last night, we were practicing our Icelandic in the living room of this house we are staying at (about 20 minutes from Ísafjörður...should probably teach you how to say the place where I was staying for the past 2 sounds like eeesafyorthur, with the emphasis on the eeesa part). Our teacher was in the room with us, probably just laughing at us.

Olí, our teacher, is a tall dark-haired guy with a beard and really dark eyes. I have only ever seen him wearing black. He lives in Croatia now with his family, and runs this Icelandic language program mainly through Skype. He speaks a lot of different languages, I can‘t even list them here, but English is not his strong suit.

But one thing that he does know are the English swear words. Almost all Icelanders, at least that I‘ve met, swear in English, even when speaking pure Icelandic. My favorite Olí moment was when we were in the middle of an exercise in class, busy at work, and someone asked a question about which version of a word to use when. Olí went up to the board and said, “When you doing this, you use this mother f******, but when you are doing this other thing, you use THIS mother f*****!“ It was the most casual usage of that term that I have ever heard in my life, right in the middle of Icelandic class. Carter and I looked at each other like, “How do we react to this?“, but really we couldn‘t hold in our laughter. It was just too weird.

Which is a good way to descirbe Icelandic...just too weird. Probably should give up now. 
Nuna means now

Megakul means exactly what it sounds like...mega cool haha

Fjall means mountain. Thanks Lar for this Miley reference. 

I'm sure you can figure this one out :)

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Snow White and the Seven Larry's

For our Icelandic class, we were given an assignment on Monday to make a movie (in Icelandic, of course) about a topic of our choosing. 

My movie group consisted of Megan (my sister for these 2 weeks), Carter (he went to see Transformers with us), Alex (remember Alex? I wrote about her earlier), Natalie (also wrote about her earlier!), Larry (good ole Larry...), and yours truly. 

One thing that I have learned about myself in my years of high school and now college is that, when it comes to projects, I am a perfectionist. For anyone in my group, that is a good thing, because I won't quit until I know the finished product is one to be proud of. For me, it is a bad thing, because I won't quit until I know the finished product is one to be proud of. 

For example, we were assigned this project on Monday. It was due Friday, when we would present them in class at 1 pm, after having class all day long leading up to that. So it needed to be done by Thursday night, basically. As soon as I heard that deadline, I started getting nervous. We got our idea, wrote our script on Monday, translated on Tuesday, filmed some on Wednesday, and then finished filming Thursday by 5 pm. I finished editing Friday at 5 am. Perfectionism is not always a good thing. 

But here is the finished product, with all of my blood, sweat, and tears all over it. And we won Best Picture (ever in this program), so I'd say it was worth one (really) late night.