Iceland Goes Before Istanbul

Last fall, my husband and I left our home in the sunny warmth of the Texas heat to begin an almost 3 month adventure! The plan was to start in Iceland, travel across Western Europe and fly back from Istanbul.

Iceland

Iceland!

We headed to “The Land of Fire and Ice”, also known as Iceland, Island (pronounced “istlant”) and the Republic of Iceland. It has other, older names that I can’t pronounce. One that I can, is the Kingdom of Iceland. Yes, kingdom, and with their own coat of arms!

Wait! I can’t go on about our trip without giving props to Iceland’s amazing football team’s performance during the UEFA Euro 2016 tournament! With a bit over 330,000 Icelanders on 40,000 scenic square miles, it’s the most sparsely populated nation in Europe. And yet, it’s national football (soccer) team beat England … ENGLAND!!!

Do you know that joke? “A Swedish coach, a part-time dentist and Kolbeinn Sigthorsson walk onto a field …”

It was just awesome when 27,000 Icelanders (about 8% of the country) flew to France and vigorously supported their team.  Heard they were model fans. They stayed out of trouble, unlike the rowdy, brawling British and Russian fans! And for the team to arrive home to a sea of people carpeting the field near the harbor and singing the “Viking War Chant” in unison, so cool! (Thanks, RT global news!)

Well, we arrive in Reykjavik to no such glorious welcome. It’s overcast and a bit dreary-looking, with a constant misty drizzle. We booked an AirBnB, just a five minute walk to the downtown shops and restaurants. It’s a one bedroom apartment with a decent sized kitchen/living room in a residential area.

CityWalk tour with Marteinn

Oh, the stories Marteinn can tell you!

 

 

 

We go on a free CityWalk tour with energetic Marteinn. The drizzle lets up and I get some photos. Marteinn is the walk’s founder and he’s very informative.

 

 

 

Reykjavik City Hall

We walked along Lake Tjornin and right into Reykjavik’s City Hall!

 

We visit City Hall, the building on the left at the end of this path along the lake. There is a restaurant in the building where the lake’s fish swim by the window. Tip: There’s also a giant map of Iceland and clean public restrooms!

 

Funny thing. Even though it’s called Iceland and has glaciers, you won’t see ice floating in the water, not even in winter.

Another funny thing. Their telephone book is alphabetized by first name, then surname, occupation and address. The exception, people like singer/composer Björk. She’s so famous only her first name is needed!

Hallgrimskirkja church interior

Inside Hallgrimskirkja church is uncluttered simplicity.

We roamed the city, stopping at the local main landmark. The magnificent image of Hallgrimskirkja church belies the sleekly designed interior. It was nice. We went up to view the city from the church’s observation tower.

Hallgrimskirkja church observation tower

Harbor view from the observation tower of Hallgrimskirkja church.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lunch found us at a local restaurant that served Icelandic food. I enjoyed my lamb soup and sandwich! At dinner one night, my husband ordered whale. Ugh!!! I couldn’t watch him eat it, even though he said it was similar to steak.

Harpa Concert Hall & Conference Centre

Can you just feel the Harpa Concert Hall & Conference Centre’s space?!?

Harpa Concert Hall & Conference Centre view of the old harbor, Reykjavik, Iceland

Enjoy this view now, as the old harbor will eventually be blocked by tall buildings in the name of commercialism!

 

 

 

 

 

One of the more interesting halls I’ve been to is the Harpa Concert Hall & Conference Centre. It’s honeycomb-like framework and great expanses of space are beautifully open to gazing out. Sunrises and sunsets must be spectacular when viewed from its upper floors!

Icelandic waterfall

Another of Iceland’s scenic views.

We also booked a Golden Circle tour. Tip: Don’t wait and book it the day before like we did. Book well in advance as all the better companies will be super busy when the cruise ships arrive! We wanted to go on the small group tour that pulls over and lets you take photos with Icelandic horses. We wound up with a tour company whose guide said little about the surroundings on the way to each destination. It seemed she was just there to ensure that everyone got back on the bus. Good thing we read up about Iceland’s natural beauty and history!

The first stop was just outside of Reykjavik in Þingvellir (Assembly Plains), site of Alþingi (General Assembly), Iceland’s first national parliment. To be standing where chieftains gathered to form the country’s very first national parliament was pretty amazing to me!

Althing, Iceland

Alþingi, Iceland’s first national parliament was formed in 930.

 

Next stop, the roaring Hvítá river where the two waterfalls of Gullfoss (golden falls) guide the rushing, teeming water straight down into a 105 ft. gorge!

My husband took the photo at just the right moment.

Gullfoss rainbow, Iceland

A rainbow arches over Gullfoss’ two waterfalls at  river.

 

We enter Haukadalur valley. The valley is known for the Strokkur and Geysir geysers and various mudholes and fumaroles. Yes, the name geyser came from Geysir. We didn’t have to wait very long for Strokkur to erupt. It happened every 8-10 minutes.

Strokkur Geysir steam

Strokkur geyser blew, mudholes bubbled and gaseous steam filled the area!

 

On the way back, I spot a group of men standing by a river. When asked, the guide explainsit was a rescue party. Someone is in trouble further up the river and it looks that they are deciding how to handle it. The rescuers are volunteers and they put their own lives at risk each time they go out. So, please exercise good judgment when crossing streams and such when travelling this magnificent, wild country.

Rescue party by the mighty river

The rushing, powerful waters make the rescue party (on the left bank) seem quite insignificant.

 

Iceland is presumed to have been formed from volcanic lava and is sitting atop two of the earth’s shifting plates, Eurasian and North American, causing earthquakes and geysers and volcanoes to erupt. Speaking of volcanoes, Iceland has more than 200 of them. There are 30 active systems running through the island. They put out so much heat that Icelanders harnessed it to supply the entire island with hot water and energy. Careful, you can drink the cold tap water, but the hot tap water is not drinkable!

Remember Eyjafjallajökull, the 2010 volcano that no newscaster could pronounce? It erupted and caused flight delays in Europe and its lava created two new mountains!

Now, if you want to really view a volcano from the inside, that would be Þríhnúkagígur. It’s the only volcano in the whole world you can actually go down, deep inside!

We were so happy to have experienced a little bit of the island’s natural beauty. I created a flipagram of our time in Iceland.

If you want to read more about the culture and history of Iceland, Katharina Hauptmann shares some interesting articles about Iceland. I researched online at wikipediaVisit Iceland and several sites that I’ve forgotten already. Just google Iceland and you will see lots to educate you on this amazing nation and its storied history!

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To Tell of Santa Claus or Not to Tell

I was reading http://beautifullifewithcancer.com/ and liked how Caroline shared Gladys Hunt’s words that I decided to share with you all the conundrum of Santa Claus and Jesus – to tell children about Santa or not to tell.

Posted on December 14, 2014 Christmas by Caroline

A Thought on Santa Claus

My previous article, “From the Mouth of Babes” brought up the discussion of Santa Claus.  I remembered reading this and I agree with Gladys Hunt.  Definitely a subject for each parent to decide what is right for their family, but I am sharing this with some that I was discussing it with or anyone pondering this issue.  Honey For a Child’s Heart is a wonderful read!

Selections quoted from Honey For a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt:

What about fairy tales?  Some parents are troubled by fairy tales. …Others don’t like elves and talking animals.  Some refuse even Santa Claus ….children don’t take life as seriously as adults and read more often for pleasure.  …Children have room in their lives for a great deal of miracles.  “That’s the problem,” someone will say, If you let them believe in fairies and fantasy, how will they distinguish between truth and falsehood?”  I can’t help thinking that since children love make believe, they can easily tell the difference.  ….There is nothing unspiritual about an active imagination, a token of the liberty of childhood.  One of my young friends at three told me about the tiger who lived in her backyard.  I inquired about where she kept him and what she fed him and she told me about the details with great delight.  Then I told her about the tiger who lived in my backyard.  Her eyes danced as I described his strange behavior and that he had purple stripes.  Then she came very close and whispered, “Is your’s a real one?” When I said it wasn’t, she said confidentiality, “Mine isn’t either.”  Was I encouraging her to lie?  I think not.  Both of us were in on the world of pretend, a legitimate adventure.  How quickly we want to quench the fine spirit of childhood.  Imagination is the stuff of which creativity comes.  …”I knew about Santa Claus like I knew about elves and other pretend things.  I never got them mixed up with God because I could tell from the way my parents talked and acted what was true.”

Well, thank you, Ms. Hunt, for your words. There is so much I am grateful for this year. God is good. More sharing about blessings will be coming.

“Happy Birthday, Jesus!”

Thoughtful Acts

 

Thoughtful Action

In just about a week, Christmas will be here. Excitement and wonders abound! Among the daily news-breaking heartaches will pop up gems of goodness like the cop and the thief.

Thoughtless Action

One such act that will not be widely reported happened to me the other day. I left my purse hanging in a public restroom stall. I KNOW! Dummy! Dummy! Dummy!

Driving down the street, panic ensued! Rushing back, stopping by the Lost & Found counter … no purse. Trying to track through “Find my Phone.” (It’s activated through iCloud, but a message said the phone was offline – frustrating!) Thinking about the calls to make to protect my identity. Praying. Praying.

A security officer! Hope! He takes me to another desk out in the open and “Bingo!” my purse appears!

Thank you, God!!! A woman had noticed it hanging and kindly took the time to go to the desk to report it. She said she noticed it there and that there were other women in the restroom. The woman at the desk must have immediately gone to fetch it. I so thank God for putting a fire under that wonderful woman!

Thoughtful Acts

A few weeks ago, I signed up for a competition on Twitter called 100thoughtfulacts. People were asked to to sign up to do as many as they can of the 100 Acts they had listed. The top “Act-ers” would win an ASUS Transformer Book T100.

SidewalkBut, I have to tell you, it was the warm and fuzzy feelings I got through choosing from the list, that grew and grew with each one I performed! It was fun going through the list, choosing different ways to bless others. Some things we could do: leave an encouraging note on a stranger’s car, drop off anonymous flowers for someone sick in the hospital, write an encouraging message with chalk on the sidewalk, make snowman pancakes for loved ones, pay for the coffee of someone behind you in line, leave the biggest tip you can afford, etc.

Please know ...

 

 

The contest is still going on! Please log onto 100thoughtfulacts and enter for the fun of it, as they are in the last two days. Forget the prize – do it for the good feelings you will receive from surprising loved ones or strangers who might have at just that moment, needed a word or deed of encouragement. It’ll do your mind, body and soul good!

 

And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. 

Hebrews 13:16

Freedom & Faithfulness

 

The Issue

Can’t sleep. I’m up at 4:30am this morning, coughing and thirsty. It’s that time of year when the weather changes and my body protests. Take another allergy pill. Been praying for the headache and coughing to go away. Guess God will take them away in His time as my faith is built up.

More Remedies

* Massaging sinus points on my face

*  Drinking a warm, frothy mug of Vitamin C+

*  A very warm salted water gargle

Ah-h-h, that all helps! While waiting for everything to settle, I turn on the TV.

The Glitch

An old episode of the Danny Thomas Show (1953-1964) is on. Danny’s in court to fight a parking ticket. It’s proven that the parking meter was more than five minutes too fast. (A different situation, but it reminds me of last year, when we visited New Haven Green in New Haven, Connecticut. A local said to return to our parking meter at least five minutes before it expires, as the meter people have a penchant for writing tickets early if they think you’re not coming back in time!)

That fast meter caused Danny to receive a ticket, though he returned within the allotted time.

The Outcome

During closing arguments, the city prosecutor derides Thomas’ profession as an entertainer, saying he’ll probably grandstand and open with a song. Danny Thomas stands up and faces the jury. He says only one song will fit the situation and solemnly quotes, not sings, the first line from the great patriotic anthem, “America.”

“My country ’tis of Thee, Sweet Land of Liberty …”

Thomas went on to point out our freedoms. One being that we have the right to stand and speak up if we feel an injustice is taking place, even if it’s against our own government (which was formed for the people, by the people).

Otherwise, the injustice would continue, affecting more and more people until someone finally stands up to fight it.

Danny won the case.

The Point

He also made a point that is still relevant 60 years later! Our freedoms are not guaranteed to be forever. We must be diligent and protect them when they are threatened.

The Lesson

Well, now I know why I’m up at 4:30am. God has a message for me to share.

If you see an injustice and are in the position to right it, please take action. There are many, many things in this world that we by ourselves can’t change. But, there is one simple thing we can do.

One Last Thought

P r a y.

Pray for guidance and the strength to do the right thing.

Pray for our families.

Pray for friends and others who are hurting and how we can help them.

Pray for our nations’ leaders and the world’s leaders.

Pray for hearts to open up to see other options.

Prayer works wonders.

I just prayed for everyone who reads this.

God bless you.

 

“Happy Veterans Day!”

"Baba"

“Baba”

“Happy Veterans Day, Baba!”

That’s what I would have said to my father, were he alive today. “Baba” served in the U.S. Army during WWII. He was assigned to mess duty and used those skills to open a succession of restaurants years later. He re-enlisted in the the U.S. 14th Air Service Group, 407th Supply and Service Unit that supported the Flying Tigers stationed in China.

His good friend, Staff Sgt. Lewis Yee, taught him how to drive the big tankers hauling fuel for the airplanes. There were harrowing trips driving convoys through The Hump, that treacherous area of the eastern end of the Himalayan Mountains. The Burma road was a deeply winding route between India and China that was taken with big, unwieldy tankers next to sheer drops that required drivers with nerves of steel to navigate. I’ll tell you more about my father and his friend, Staff Sgt. Lewis Yee, in a later post.

If you see or know a veteran, please, please, take time to thank him or her for their service to our country. It can be any day of the year to do it. We owe them much!

“God Bless America!”

 

 

Kailash Satyarthi, the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, is my ex-Boss: A brief Tribute

This story from behind-the-scenes is a testimony to those who have a beautiful mindset.

Mahesh Nair

Kailesh-Satyarthi

I first met him in the fall of 1996 when he, in an ironed kurta-pajama, passed by me, and whooshed the door open to his small office. I was lazing at my desk, waiting for the Director, who I’d been hired to assist. The morning was overcast and light barely filtered through the window at the entrance, but the pure white of his cotton made the day appear brighter. I was young, and it was my first job.

It took a few months before the Director recommended that I work for Kailash Satyarthi – the Chairperson of Bachpan Bachao Andolan/Save The Childhood Movement (BBA) – whom we fondly call “Bhaisahab.”

His costume though it was bright, had an air of intimidation, because we’d witnessed all our lives in India, the white-adorned politicians who would often vanish after they’d won the elections, not delivering on their promises. Though I knew…

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“Hoda & Kathie Lee, I, too, have advice on taking my daughter out!”

Watched Hoda & Kathie Lee on the Today Show, talking about the former Navy Seal who had rules for his daughter’s future boyfriends: http://www.today.com/parents/rope-tornado-bottle-hurricane-dads-gives-daughters-potential-boyfriends-tough-2D80192078.

It reminded me of the time my daughter came home from college. She and old high school friends decided to meet that night at a local country western club. Three of the guys who lived in the community were coming by to pick her up to meet a couple more girls at the club.

The doorbell rings and a fresh-faced teen greets me. I invite him in and start my spiel: “Our daughter is very precious to us. You are responsible for her tonight. We expect you to treat her with respect and to keep her safe. That goes for the other two girls too.”

I want to meet the other two young men, so we go out to the car and I repeat my “talk.” Afterward, one of the boys says enthusiastically, “I’m going to say the same thing when I have a daughter!” I sure hope he remembers that when/if he has a daughter.