Archive for the ‘Travels – I Has Them’ Category

Iceland Part 8, More Reykjavik. NSFW.

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017

You wanted to learn about a dick museum? Well, it’s your lucky day!

But first, a dick-free portion.

The Icelandic language looks like old, old, old, OLD English. Like Very First English. But you can see the similarities between the two languages.

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Look at this fun poster encouraging Icelanders to learn French! I took this mainly for the sheep’s face.

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Palate cleanser over. You prepared? Here we go.

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The Phallological Museum of Iceland is very small; It’s one room and it very clearly was started by one exceptionally creepy man who loved man junk and collected all the options. One day he said to himself, “Hey, Creepy Guy, I should make money by sharing this with the world,” and so he has. The first thought that comes to mind is “variety”. The second thought is “pickled naked mole rat” because dismembered genitals sitting in jars do not look their best. Let’s visit, shall we?

We got some horse dick:

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Elephant and whale dick:

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Big dicks, small dicks:

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Super teeny tiny dicks:

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Edible cured dick:

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Tired of side dick? How about straight-on dick?

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A goat head with no dicks in proximity and all the explanations were in Icelandic so no clue what’s going on here:

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Dicks as planters and scrotums as light fixtures because why should these dead animals have any dignity:

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Dick bones (most mammals have them):

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And then people stuff. The people stuff bothered me a bunch. It felt very, “Heheheh, people are gonna be looking at my twigs n’ berries, look at ’em, yeah.” I felt like I was an unwilling participant in someone’s fetish. Therefore I will spare you a picture of the 95-year-old-man to donated his genitals and they are on display. If you want to know what they looked like, think of whatever you think a 95-year-old man’s genitals would look like. There you go. I did like the metal casts of the entire Icelandic handball team.

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You get the gist. Are we good? Do we feel like I covered this? Excellent. Moving on.

The docks! Cricket and I went to the docks. Not surprisingly as Iceland is a seafaring nation. At the Maritime Museum we got to take a tour of a boat used in the Cod Wars. I did not mistype. The Cod Wars was about fishing rights around England and Iceland. No one died but many boats smashed into other boats and several people needed to be rescued. The boat we were on was a Coast Guard boat and only recently retired.

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The item I thought was the coolest on board was the mine. Everybody see Finding Nemo? Remember the scene with the sharks and the pokey metal balls on chains that blew up? I got to see one up close and in person. It was left over from WWII and one of this boat’s jobs was to sniff these guys out.

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The museum itself explained the history of fishing in Iceland and they had real dead desiccated fish in their display.

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A lot of dead fish.

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And this jaunty poem.

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To end this post on a classy note the primary reason Cricket and Mishi wanted to go to Iceland in the winter was the see the northern lights. We expected to see them all week but there were clouds. Finally, on the last night, there they were.

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I probably would have enjoyed them more if I hadn’t been sitting in the car yelling about the Communists and the Illuminati. Let me explain. We were sitting on a mountain and all of a sudden there was a faint green glow. We all asked each other, “Is that it? Do you think that’s it?” and five minutes later the green glow had built into a giant stripe across the sky and bits of the stripes were dancing, DANCING, I tell you. Look:

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Not right. Green lights dancing through the sky is un-right. Ergo me sitting in the car reacting like a flat-earth enthusiast. It’s beautiful, don’t get me wrong, it’s just… I can understand why ancient civilizations might be freaked out.

Next post: Food. And Harpa. Then done.

Iceland, Part 7: Reykjavik.

Friday, February 10th, 2017

Reykjavik is the Major City of Iceland with 150,000 inhabitants, about half of the island’s entire population. It’s a very nice city – not too big, not too small. A great many buildings are made of stucco and a delightful element of Reykjavik is the amount of artists that are allowed to paint murals all over town. There are tons of murals. The first one I saw was of a jacked-up looking bird pooping out a giant wad of string which wasn’t the best thing ever but many others were not a bummer.

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Our apartment was pretty great. It was on the top floor of a house. I was not fond of taking several flights of stairs while hoisting luggage but the view was stunning and the door handle had a whimsical charm.

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A bunch of random things I saw walking around Reykjavik – first, a selection of buildings. Who knew that corrugated metal could be a tasteful and lovely house covering? I certainly didn’t until I came to Iceland. Thanks, Iceland.

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Sometimes the stores are tucked behind each other and in order to draw you in the store owners paint happy patterns on the sidewalk. I want to do that everywhere. It’s like the magical yellow brick road leading you places. Gets old never.

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There are no Starbucks so the Dunkin Donuts look like fancy coffee houses. Frank Sinatra and Norah Jones playing over the stereo and everything.

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It’s a pretty hippy-ish town. I passed several places that would have been totally appropriate in Brooklyn. Like the vegetarian restaurant right next to our apartment which had the weirdest choice written on the sign. “Ecstasy’s Heart-Garden.” They paid money to have that specific phrase, written in that specific way, put on their signs. I checked and it’s also on their menus. And their websites. As a design nerd this flummoxes and upsets me but if they’re okay with it I ain’t sayin’ nothin’.

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This was the other Williamsburgian place that caught my eye. It’s perfect.

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Many of the Christmas trees I saw were cleaved in twain. Like, split from top to bottom. I have a feeling that this is because Christmas trees are super-rare so if you split it and mount both halves to the front of your establishment you get twice as much tree for your buck.

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Cool shingles that look like dragon scales.

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Teeny-tiny adorable city garden.

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Iceland loves the English phrase “and stuff.” I noticed it all over and it delighted me every time.

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A painting of a lion on the side of a coffee shop.

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Tiny building that does… something. Cricket and I stared at it for a period of time trying to figure out what it’s for. We came to no conclusions.

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Window displays! Two dead giant taxidermied ravens. Not the only dead giant taxidermied ravens I saw as window dressing. They were not for sale. I was sad.

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Cool authentic Christmas lamps. Also not for sale. I was less sad than the ravens, but still a bit forlorn.

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Drawings made by children. The drawings, they were your standard kid drawings, whatevs, but two of the names caught my eye. Those are awesome names. I want to yell them out because they make me sound like a pirate. Try it. They have excellent mouth-feel.

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Dorky Norseman statue.

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Awesome painting on the front of a basement skateboard shop.

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And a neato sticker.

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I like this architect’s approach. “I want to put a window on the corner of this building but I don’t want to figure out – ah, screw it, I’ll make a flat bit and slap a window there, fine, good, time for lunch.”

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And this guy’s idea. “I love the basalt columns of our country. We should represent them in the city. Where’s the best place to put a basalt column-inspired sculptu– oooh, I know! In the middle of the road where it is guaranteed to get smashed into by vehicles who were not expecting freakin’ rocks to pop up out of the road like mushrooms. That is the best idea ever.”

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If you dig more than five inches into the ground in Iceland there is a chance you’re going to hit poisonous lava gases so this job site requires gas masks.

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Finally, there was an Icelandic dog. I loved this dog. I wanted to pet this dog for forever.

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Coming up next: NSFW museum and fancy fancy dinner.

Iceland, Part 6.

Monday, January 30th, 2017

Sorry, the earth caught on fire and I had to go deal with that for a little while. I’ll post about that shortly. In the meantime, moss! SO MUCH MOSS, GUYS.

But first, not moss.

Look at this panoramic pic I took of a corner of the gigantor glacier that takes up a fifth of Iceland.

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And while there are like four trees total in Iceland, that does not mean they are completely bereft of plants. Look at the beautiful colors of this random ground cover.

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We stayed at a sheep farm for two nights. It was wonderful as long as you’re okay with the intense smell of sheep poop. I’m fine with it so it didn’t bother me.

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Right out our front door was an enormous field and then the glacier. Helluva view, I tell ya.

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Our first night there I could not wait to meet the sheep so I snuck out by myself and went to the barn area. I was using a flashlight and totally forgot that retinas reflect back so I was startled by a barn full of demon sheepies.

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DEMON SHEEPIES!!!

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Not really. They were pretty chill. Small and stocky and rather disinterested in me and my delight at meeting them. Except for one, the alpha male. He was sitting on a cube of hay directly in front of me and was not behind any blockade of any kind.

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All was going well until he decided he had had enough of my company and stood up in a threatening way and I realized he could bolt directly at me if he wanted to and I was like heeeeeeey would you look at the time I gotta go.

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Big fan of the two broads on the left. We chatted briefly before I made my hasty exit. Well, I chatted and they looked at me. Still counts.

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So, the moss. As you already know, Iceland is made out of lava and some of that lava is in chunks, like this:

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Very jagged. Well, this feathery moss (it’s really a lichen but everyone calls it moss so we’ll go with that) found that it clung really well to these chunks and covered them completely so now the chunks look squishy and soft and round. These moss fields go on for miles and miles. It’s all you can see in any direct. With the mist it makes it extra-otherworldly. I adored it. Team Iceland Moss 4 Eva.

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Remember when I said I was going to share about twenty pictures of moss and everyone was thought no way? Look at all that there moss, y’all. I culled it down too. There was a solid hundred pics. Seriously, I really liked the moss. Has anyone watched The OA on Netflix? There’s a shot of the lead character visiting heaven or purgatory of some other plane of existence and they used the moss fields for that shot. I was so psyched to see it in the show, I might have yelled, “Oh, hello Iceland moss!” alone in my apartment when that came up on the screen.

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Apparently you can make an awful-sounding soup from the moss where you have to add a massive amount of sugar to make it palatable but hey, you got to get your chlorophyll from somewhere and there isn’t a lot of choices. (I almost wrote “chloroform.” Glad I caught that.)

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Let’s finish talking about the countryside while we’re here and then in the next post we can move onto Reykjavik. In the first place we stayed, a massive village of about fifty inhabitants, we went out for a walk in the morning by the seaside. Note, it is before 11:00am so the sun is not out yet.

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And while we were walking by the sea a sweet small friendly cat D christened Socks decided to join us. I loved Socks.

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He let me pick him up and sing to him! He wasn’t enthused but he tolerated it. Great cat. I wanted to stuff him in my luggage and take him with me but I was outvoted. Boo.

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Since almost all of Iceland runs on geothermal energy we also visited a power plant. I recommend going. It’s only about an hour outside of Reykjavik. Easy to get to.

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We took the tour and the lady was very informative. Here’s what she basically said: There is insanely hot poisonous water that they pump up from under the surface. A pipe filled with clean water is put in a bigger pipe filled with this hot demon water and that heats up the clean water. The giant pipes go to Reykjavik and only lose two degrees on the journey so the water is still crazy hot when it gets there.

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The poisonous death water is put back into the earth so there’s no collapse and it reheats and the circle begins anew.

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The hot water is also used to power massive turbines which in turn make electricity. It’s a pretty self-sufficient facility. There are 40 employees on weekdays and two on weekends. Two.

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The turbines come from Mitsubishi and the company thanked Iceland for buying their products with two very beautiful authentic Japanese crafts.

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This was my favorite chart on the wall explaining the lava under the city.

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They also had a display of all the indigenous rocks. I loved that the most to the surprise of nobody.

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Alright, onto the city.

Iceland, Part 5.

Friday, January 13th, 2017

I was so super-excited to go to swim between two tectonic plates. Remember? Remember that? How could I have known how depressingly south it would go for me?

Before delving into that sadness, let’s look at some other things.

“Coconut” is “Kokosnoot” in Norwegian. I vote we all move there solely based on this.

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Can anyone identify this meat? I’m guessing reindeer but I have no idea, really.

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The city closest to the basalt columns was Vik. I should have posted a picture of Vik earlier but I’m doing it now.

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You’ll note the church on the hill. Just about every single church in Iceland looked like that. Plain white building, one steeple, red roof. Here’s someone else’s picture showing a) how freakin’ small the town of Vik is, and b) how close it is to the beach with the amazing structures and the homicidal ocean.

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And look! The volcano that ruined air travel back in 2010! Notice the big divot in the top.

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Alright, let’s tell the sad tale of how Jessica almost drowned in a truly sad manner. I was beyond psyched to go to where the plates came together. The video looked so enticing.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qd1mv-wH5Pc

We arrived pretty early in the day and met up with the truck in the parking lot that had our dry suits. What’s a dry suit, you ask? It’s a suit designed for swimming in cold water. First, you strip down to your long underwear. Then you put on a pair of overalls made from sleeping bag material, so it’s puffy and warm. Everything was fine for me until the next step. You put on the dry suit. The dry suit is made out of a pretty rigid thicc-as-hell waterproof buoyant material so it is profoundly difficult to move your arms and legs. It’s also very heavy, so it’s like wearing a restrictive suit of armor. Mine was a tad too small so I could not exhale fully. In addition to being heavy and movement-resistant, there are TIGHT rubber gasket-like things around the wrists and neck to prevent water from leaking into the suit. The wrist ones were fine but the neck one made it hard to breathe. Like, to inhale. On top of that, mine was apparently a little too loose so the guy in charge put a RUBBER BELT around my neck to make it TIGHTER. I’m not making any of this up.

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At this point I’m beginning to panic very slightly and I think rightfully so because it was hard to breathe between the NECK BELT and the slightly-too-small suit. I had to consciously think about my breathing. We had to toddle over to the metal staircase into the water and it took me forever because I would immediately become out of breath. They put masks on us and flippers and we got into the water. The element most people were worried about was their exposed faces freezing from the 35-degree water but it was no problem, your face went numb after about thirty seconds. I floated pleasantly face down in the water and then I realized I was lagging behind the rest of the group so I attempted to catch up. This is the moment that changed everything. My snorkel got some water in it but because the suit was so rigid and buoyant I couldn’t flip myself upright to empty my snorkel and the guide said don’t touch the rock walls because they were covered with algae and touching them would dislodge the algae and cloud up the view. So I’m gurgling and trying to thrash (but I can’t) and I can’t take deep breaths and the neck belt is strangling me and that was my experience for the twenty minutes. I missed looking at everything because I was trying not to die. I finally had to be towed to shore by our guide because I was too pathetic to continue. If you’re wondering what I looked like this is a very accurate representation. I am the crocodile in this video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QsRKYN8TeUg

And these are other pictures from the experience. I vaguely remember seeing this as the blackness took over my vision.

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The scenery was absolutely stunning. I loved how the rock still showed the folds of the lava.

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However, the whole day was not disappointment for me. I got to go to a indoor tomato farm! That was super cool. We went there for lunch.

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The menu is very limited and contains only tomato products but everything we had was absolutely delicious. Since electricity is pretty much free due to the volcano juice they can run those crazy grow lights twenty hours a day. This particular tomato farm supplies 18% of Iceland’s tomato needs.

Each table had a basil plant (also grown there) with a wee pair of scissors and a vessel of cold water that had two cherry tomatoes in the bottom.

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To start I got the “Mary Christmas” (all the drinks had the word Mary in them, based off of the Bloody Mary) which was a very sweet breed of tomato mixed with wine and mulling spices and served warm. It tasted almost exactly like spiced cider with a little alcohol. It was delicious and wintery.

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Then we all got the never-ending soup bowl with bread which was a brilliant decision because YUM.

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And I insisted on getting all three desserts because they all had tomato in them and I needed to understand how they worked. And they were all served in flower pots! There was apple and tomato cobbler with corresponding whipped cream pot, ice cream with candied green tomato and two kinds of tomato syrup, and cheesecake with green tomato jam.

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I took this picture of the ice cream so you could see the candied green tomato embedded in there.

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It all tasted wonderful. Tomato is very versatile.

After I had gorged on all the tomato wonderfulness I walked around the facility. Since tomatoes are not native to Iceland, these are from the Netherlands. And in order to pollinate the plants there are imported Dutch bumblebees! They live in filing boxes with their queen.

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It was so nice to see how to make food without putting too much stress on the earth. And this was the definition of farm to table. The tables were in the farm. I highly recommend the Iceland Tomato Experience.

 

Iceland, Part 4.

Sunday, January 8th, 2017

Guys, I got to hug a glacier. A GLACIER, GUYS. It was amazing. But first, a canyon. It’s not mind-blowing or anything but I climbed a fairly steep hill to look at it so y’all gonna look at it too. Pretty pretty scenery.

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First we walked out to a glacier that was breaking apart at the edge in massive pieces, like yacht-sized pieces.

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I took a stop-motion video for about five minutes of the frost-barges heading out to sea.

That was lovely but my heart was set on snuggling with the ice so imagine my surprise when we walked about 100 feet to the beach and they they all were! Hanging out on the black beach being viciously pummeled by the ocean! It looked like a ship filled with tortured glass sculptures crashed and sunk and its booty washed up on shore. I was in heaven.

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Some chunks were cloudy with bubbles and some were blue and some were crystal clear. I loved all the kinds equally.

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But I think my most beloved type was the clear ones with soft pockmarking. Oh, so beautiful.

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I took a ton of close-up photos. The way the light reflected through them was intoxicating. I wanted to stay all day, possibly forever.

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Cricket and Mishi found a particularly cool piece. It was the size of a rowboat. Half of it was clear/blue and the other half was filled with dirt. Where is the dirt from? How old is the dirt? That dirt could be really old and from far away. The mind boggles at what that dirt has seen. It’s totally possible that it might have met the first settler from Norway in 800 A.D.

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The ocean is so powerful and untamed it was batting these multi-ton chunks around like tennis balls. It was so humbling to be in the presence of raw nature.

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Look at the gif below. As the wave comes in it shoves that ice boulder on the left like nothing. That thing was the size of an SUV, and the wave is all like, “Move, you’re in my way.” And the wave is practically on the beach and finished. Imagine the strength of the water further out.

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To finish off “All Glaciers All The Time Talk,” the other three went on a glacier cave hike one day. I did not accompany them because climbing with crampons and sticks on an icy surface is not my jam but here are the pictures they took. Very beautiful. Very blue.

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Coming up in the next post: fun story about how I almost drowned in the lamest way possible.

Iceland, Part 3.

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017

Some fun facts about Iceland – the countryside has many one-lane bridges you have to drive over. I thought was insane the first time I saw it but after a while it made sense. One, twelve people live in the whole damn country and two, you can see forever so if another car is coming towards you you both have miles to somehow figure out who’s going to cross the bridge first. We drove for hours and it mostly looked like this:

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BTW, that bluish thing in front of us embracing the mountain is the glacier. The big one that takes up a massive portion of the island. Here, a map for help.

We got closer to it at one point. I thought it was stunningly beautiful.

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Another fun fact – this is an extremely elf-conscious country. Lemme pull a sentence out of this recent article in The Atlantic. You don’t need context. Just read.

If a road is completely necessary, the elves will generally move out of the way, but if it is deemed superfluous, a possibility at Gálgahraun, “very bad things” might happen. “This elf church is connected by light energy to other churches, other places,” Jónsdóttir said. “So, if one of them is destroyed, it’s, uh, well, it’s not a good thing.”

There’s also the article reported by AP News.

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So, as you can guess, lots of elf stuff everywhere. You need to respect the elves.

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Y’ALL RESPECT THE ELVES NOW.

Okay, the geothermal bakery and spa. Now, I don’t know about you but when I hear “bakery” I think of at least one oven, usually multiple oven. Based on what I saw I think maybe the name “bakery” is a bit of a misnomer. I will show you.

On arrival to the bakery and spa we got to see an authentic building with grass / moss growing on the roof.

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We asked to see the bakery and the kid behind the counter said, “Sure, let me grab the shovel.” None of us understood why he would need that, maybe to prop up the door? We had clearly seen the bakery from the parking lot.

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Here’s the thing: that’s not the bakery. That’s a building that takes the boiling water out of the earth and makes electricity. The bakery was a pile of dirt on the edge of that lake back there. That’s it. Here’s how the “bakery” works – you put the ingredients in a big pot, the main ingredient being rye, one of the only two grains that grows in Iceland, wrap it up tight in plastic, bury it a foot or two into the lava sand where the water is boiling, come back in 24 hours and unbury your bread. Hence the need for the shovel.

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The bread was delicious. They served us slices of the hot bread (really cake, the dough had two cups of sugar in it, let’s call it what it really was) and cold salted butter and we snarfed it down like we had never had food before.

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I’m not even remotely kidding about the water being boiling two feet down. Standing on the edge of the lake you could see the hotness trying to escape like little teeny tiny geysers.

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Mishi and I decided to try out the spa. The gentlemen opted out of this and on the website it said something about their roof deck being the ideal place for making memories. Here is the place for the making of memories.

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Mishi and I left the menfolk there to spoon or whatever their memory-making required, I don’t presume to know their business, and we tried all the pools. First we tried the room with the boiling springs directly under the floor that was cool because you could hear and feel the boiling under your feet but profoundly uncool because you were engulfed in a mist of egg farts. We then progressed from pool to pool, increasing in heat with each one. It was pretty great.

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The view of the lake was stark and lovely.

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And everything was going great until the maintenance guy who was patrolling the area doing something with a leaf-blower/pool cleaning device and OH MY GOD HE’S PULLING THE ELECTRICAL CORD INTO THE POOL WE ARE IN WE’RE GONNA DIE AND LEAVE BACHELORS ON THE ROOF TO MAKE MEMORIES ALONE FOR THE REST OF THIS TRIP. Luckily a second after I noticed and braced for a tingly demise, the pool guy signaled for Mishi to put the cord further away, saving us from a tragic passing. Cricket caught the epic save on film.

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There was one other hot tub place we visited while in Iceland. It was literally in the middle of nowhere. A bunch of pools next to some mountainous rocks with a piece of plumbing that you could shove some money into for the upkeep of these pools. And a great view of the glacier in the background. I was transfixed by the craggy rock directly behind us.

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We saw reindeer on the way out to the hot pots! I would have been far more excited if we hadn’t been a million feet away from them but if African safaris have taught me anything you see what you see and that’s how it is.

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To close this entry let’s talk Icelandic horses. Sweet, small, hairy, furry horses. I saw a few outside of a gas station and I had to get up close and make friends.

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Next, possibly the best thing I saw on this trip, the glacier beach.

Iceland, Part 2.

Friday, December 30th, 2016

Every day we headed out in an attempt to see as much as possible in the few short hours of daylight (and I use the word “daylight” real loosely, more like “dim light” because SO DARK). One of the things we saw was waterfalls. Really beautiful waterfalls. The Icelandic word for waterfall is foss, so if you see names that end in foss, it’s a waterfall.

First, this one.

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Very big. Very powerful. The other three members of our group went behind it and said it was thunderous and strong.

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I don’t climb or hike so I went to the gift shop and bought ethically-harvested Iceland salt for forty dollars. Before you sass me for how freakin’ much it cost, one: everything, EVERYTHING in Iceland is expensive and two: in my defense it’s really yummy salt. It’s two bottles, one was flaky and mixed with charcoal so it looks like lava and one was flaky and smoked with birch wood which is one of two trees that grows in Iceland (the other being some Christmas-tree-looking pine). I do not regret my salty purchases.

http://www.saltverk.com/products-test/

No joke, best salt I’ve ever tasted. If you know someone going to Iceland, make them get it for you. It’s sold everywhere.

Returning to waterfalls: remember that movie that had so much potential, Prometheus? According to Snorth the opening sequence was filmed in front of one of Iceland’s waterfalls, Dettifoss I think it was. Makes total sense.

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Later that day we checked out another waterfall. It was pushing 2:30 in the afternoon so we had to get our shots in quick because it was getting dark.

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D. took a photo of me with the flash but because of the mist on the lens it looks like I am anointed by God. BEHOLD MY GLORY.

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Now, let’s move away from waterfalls for a minute. We went to visit a beach. A beach? Who cares about a beach? Oh, this was a fancy beach. This beach had basalt columns. An explanation:

It is the nature of basaltic lava cooling that allows this to happen: this lava is hotter and moves faster than other kinds. As it cools from the bottom up and from the center outward, long fractures form columns that at times take on astoundingly clear-cut hexagons. The whole process is called columnar jointing.

I have mentioned my love of basalt columns previously. The previous basalt columns were in Japan and they were small and very few. Iceland brought the basalt like never before. When we arrived at the beach we were informed of how desperately the ocean wanted to consume us and force us to live in the bosom of Neptune for all time.

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Death. Instant death if you touch the ocean. Got it.

There was a huge cliff directly in front of us. We walked around the corner and… there they were.

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And I promptly freaked out. Have you ever seen anyone shriek with glee at tubular rocks? Travel with me and you will get that opportunity.

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And next to that was a basalt column cave! All hexagons all the time!

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At the very end of this beach (which was covered with beautifully round stones) there were craggy rocks in the water being pelted by unnecessarily aggressive waves while tons of seabirds circled above. SUPER-nature-y and photogenic.

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And the ocean was no joke. Those signs were absolutely right.

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I deviated from waterfalls to tell you about the basalt columns because we went to a waterfall WITH basalt columns! Sad news: I felt ill so I stayed in the car but the others went and it looked like this:

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Not is all lost, however. I plan to go back to Iceland in the summer at some point to see the fields of wildflowers and neither stone no water is seasonal so I’ll maybe get to see this waterfall for myself. Because BASALT COLUMNS.

 

Aaaaaaand I’m back from Iceland. Part 1.

Monday, December 26th, 2016

I’ve actually been back for two weeks but work happened in that way it always does (dramatically and oppressively) so I haven’t had a chance to sort through my pics. But now that Christmas break has started I got a chance to sift through my pictures of moss (get ready to see, like, twenty pictures of moss) (I am not kidding) and y’all gonna get a chance to live my trip to Iceland with me. So, Iceland. First, let me say I understand Björk sooooooo much better now. Her weird, odd, sometimes beautiful and otherworldly music makes much more sense. When I came back I watched a documentary on her and she talks about how being Icelandic influenced her in the first five minutes.

Iceland is unique. Based on what was told to me by several locals, Iceland is most like the big island of Hawaii in that it popped up out of the ocean from volcanoes. The two islands have the same black sand beaches and a very similar pH in the earth. Because Iceland was not part of Pangaea (the giant supercontinent that splintered into our separate continents) and no rafts of leaves floated over, Iceland has no native animals. None. Some seabirds come over and nest there in the summer but until some guy from Norway (let’s call him Sven) came over in 800 A.D. with his sheep and horses and cows, there were no beasties. According to my Icelandic source (the young man who worked at the geothermal bakery), Sven had to return to Norway after some time because all his animals died and he was starving. This sounds pretty correct to me. Everything about Iceland’s landscape said, “Thank you for visiting but if you stay here you will eventually die of malnutrition and exposure.” There are no trees. I’m exaggerating. There are a few short trees. A few. But no situation where you couldn’t see something because it was blocked by trees. No forests. So you can’t build your shelter out of anything but pumice which is sharp and porous. Fissures are open in the ground and sizzling water mixed with poisonous gases come out. There’s no grass for your animals to eat. The ocean is perpetually trying to kill you so it’s hard to fish. The wind wants to rip the flesh from your bones. But, you know people, they can’t take no for an answer. People eventually settled and the hardy short hairy horses and hardy short hairy sheep did well and became indigenous. Humans also brought mice and rabbits and reindeer and they’re considered Icelandic now too even though they’ve only been on the island for 1,000 years.

We* arrived at about 8:30 in the morning and the first thing one would notice is that it was pitch-black outside. I soon found out that the sun didn’t rise until 10:51 in the morning, hung out in the sky for about four hours and then peaced out, leaving you in blackness again. Once we rented our vehicle from the car rental station (where I saw this sign):

arrival

We headed out to get some breakfast. As we were driving away from the airport, there was a sculpture that set the tone perfectly. It was a big pile of rocks with an enormous egg on top and a tail breaking out of the top. This was lit with red lights from the bottom for maximum spookiness. It said, “Hey, you didn’t know we filmed Game of Thrones here? Well, now you know! GIANT DRAGON EGG!” I was too busy going, “Whuuuuuuu…?” as we were passing it to get a picture of it, but here’s a shot I took as we were leaving. It’s during the day so it doesn’t have the same impact as it did with the red lights but you get the idea.

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Post-breakfast we started off to our first destination: the Blue Lagoon. The Blue Lagoon is mostly for tourists – the natives tend to go to small hot pots in YMCA-like facilities in their towns. The four of us got to the place in pouring icy rain, changed into our bathing suits, grabbed some towels and quickly lowered ourselves into the warm, sulfur-smelling water. Important note: if you do not like the smell of sulfur maybe don’t visit Iceland. It’s a very common odor to come across. Some of the hot water pumped into the houses comes directly from the earth and it is infused with the pungent, egg-y smell. On the way to the lagoon we passed a cemetery. Much to our surprise and for reasons we couldn’t really fathom, the Icelandic people put colorful lit crosses near the graves. It’s a strange place to make so festive. Everywhere else the houses which are small and quaint have one tasteful strand of lights strung above the door, but if you come to visit the graves of Nana and PopPop, hey! A rainbow light-up cross shows you the way!

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I thought it was only that cemetery but no, I saw it several more times. Come celebrate Brazilian Carnival at the cemetery! Woot woot!

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Back to the lagoon. It was 9:45 in the morning. It was pitch-black. There was freezing cold rain periodically falling. There was also a thick fog that prevented you from seeing ten feet in front of your face. To complete the weirdness, there’s a hotel being build off to one side of the lagoon so you can hear some construction sounds and see the lights of the crane through the fog. I felt exactly like I was a wealthy person enjoying life after the fall of society in some dystopian future. Very Mad Max: Fury Road. “I’ll just sit in this warm, eerily bright blue water filled with powdered silica in this perpetual night consumed by fog while buildings are built nearby. All is as it should be.” I didn’t take my phone out because I was concerned it would get wet but someone else took some pictures that were very similar to what I saw. Thank you, internet, for providing me with visual reference of my experience.

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We took some photos as we were leaving.

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This was taken around 11:30 in the morning. This was as bright at it got during the day. Epic gloominess.

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Next, we look at waterfalls. In the dark. Because Iceland.

*”We” is Cricket, Cricket’s sister Mishi, Mishi’s husband D and me.

Iceland. Land of surprisingly little ice.

Friday, December 2nd, 2016

Well, I’m off. I’m going to Iceland tomorrow and I’ll be back in a little over a week. Be strong in my absence and I’ll see you when I return. Enjoy this video of what I will be expecting.

Mexico, Part 3 and done.

Tuesday, May 24th, 2016

The reason I went to Mexico in the first place was not to enjoy the ruins or the extremely delicious hot chocolate, though both of those were terrific. I went to go study a bead technique under two extremely talented artisits, Jan Huling and Nancy Josephson. It took place in Puerto Vallarta which is a seaside town very popular with tourists. I don’t really have much photography to post on the workshop because it was a group of women hunched over a small wooden altar gluing rows of tiny beads. I do, however, have pictures of some of the Mexican artwork I was privileged to see during my stay. Mexican art is, how do I say this, real vibrant. It looks like the artist is on drugs, the artwork is on drugs and if you stare at it too long you too will magically be on drugs from proximity to the art. I was particularly enamored with two different types of art – the beaded objects made by the Huichol (or Wixarika) people who live in the mountains and the alebrijes made in the Oaxaca area. First, beaded objects. The Huichol people started using beads in their sacred bowls in 17-something-something when the French brought seed beads to Mexico. Because they were so rare they were used very sparingly. The bowls looked like this:

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The Huichol use a very sticky wax to get the beads to stick to the substrate. Then in the 1970s when seed beads became far less scarce the pieces started looking like this:

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Very encrusted. Here’s a great video showing you how it’s done.

https://youtu.be/nQxY5Pr4Pw4

I ended up buying a few bowls made from gourds with beads pressed into them. I think they’re pretty snazzy.

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As you can see a bead fell off from the first bowl but it’s no cause for panic because it’s only one yellow bead and as soon as I find one I will squish it into the wax and everything will be fine. Until then the empty spot will be a lovely reminder of the fragility of life. Or something.

The other artwork I was lovin’ on are things called alebrijes. Here’s a definition from Wikipedia:

Alebrijes are brightly colored Oaxacan-Mexican folk art sculptures of fantastical creatures. The first alebrijes, along with use of the term, originated with Pedro Linares. In the 1930s, Linares fell very ill and while he was in bed, unconscious, Linares dreamt of a strange place resembling a forest. There, he saw trees, animals, rocks, clouds that suddenly turned into something strange, some kind of animals, but, unknown animals. He saw a donkey with butterfly wings, a rooster with bull horns, a lion with an eagle head, and all of them were shouting one word, “Alebrijes”. Upon recovery, he began recreating the creatures he saw in cardboard and papier-mâché and called them Alebrijes.

So now there’s an entire art movement based on some guy’s fever dream. They vary in nuttiness but I found two I really liked. One is a… lizard-thing. With a mouth. And wings. And flames coming out of its head. Lotta stuff going on.

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The other is a snail who saw something very traumatic and is going through PTSD. Or he was at the Electric Daisy Festival and took far too much Molly and is having a bad reaction. Either story works.

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The Moomins saw these fellers when I got home and said, “You know, I have a jaunty preying mantis from Mexico that would go beautifully with these sculptures.” So now I also have a jaunty preying mantis friend.

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All of these are fine and good but as with any artistic style there are levels of skill and these are somewhere in the middle. I went to a gallery in Puerto Vallarta and got to see the best artists at this and it hurt my heart. I wanted those pieces so bad, but they ranged in price between $1,800 and $3,000 so I own none. The artists are a team, Jacobo and Maria Angeles, and they are amaaaaaaazing. I found some pictures on the internet that impress their fantasticness onto you. It’s intense.

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I know, right? Drool. Even if you’re not down with the aesthetic approach you cannot deny the skillz. Someday when I win the lottery I will acquire one of their pieces. It’s gonna happen. I should probably start buying lottery tickets though. That would definitely increase my chances of winning.

I brought home the alter that I was working on in Mexico and I have continued gluing beads onto it. I decided I wanted it to look like a petrie dish so I could freehand my design on it. I also glued some origami paper and some coins to it because if you’re going to try something new go all out.

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I’m now making small peyote-stitched tubes that I will sporadically attach to give some depth.

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So there’s my trip to Mexico. If you have any questions, let me know and I will attempt to answer them for you.

Addendum: Other artwork we saw:

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