More from Iceland! (finally posted)

More from Iceland! (OK, I thought I’d have a chance to post this from the airport, but I didn’t, and now i’ve been home for a week and I’m just getting to it…!)
So, the folks working the reception desk at my hotel are filipinos. One from Cebu and one from Leyte. The guy from Cebu said he used to live on Long Island. The woman from Leyte told me there are about 300 filipinos in Iceland (out of 300,000 total population). I’ve met more filipinos now in Iceland and in London than I have in Boston. Funny, no?

I continue to have the experience that people in foreign countries tend to try their native language with me first before English. My mixed-blood face is hard to peg as American, I think, and I don’t come across as stereotypically American. This isn’t surprising to me in hispanic countries, where dark-haired mestizo are pretty common, or in Asia, same, but in Iceland? But maybe it’s just something about my mien that I always look like I belong in places. This is probably why people always come up and ask me directions, too, even at conventions I’m not running and in cities where I’ve never been. My family is used to it now. A typical exchange:
Clueless person: Hello, can you tell me where to find the ladies’ room/train station/whatever?
Me: Oh yes, it’s right down there, turn right and you can’t miss it.
Family member: It’s amazing that people always make a beeline for you when they need directions.
Me: That happens to me all the time. I have no idea why.
Family member: But you knew the answer! So obviously people make a good choice.
Given that today was cold and rainy and I woke up with a sore throat, and I decided spending the day on a whale watching boat was a bad idea, I opted instead for a self-made tour of the coffee/tea shops in Reykjavik. In other words, I got some writing done, posted my trip photos so far, and such. I enjoy sitting in coffee shops (though I’m drinking tea) very much, so this turned out to be a terrific way to see downtown Reykjavik, a few blocks at a time. A full write up of all the shops I went to will be posted at, my tea blog–or maybe it won’t as it appears some web squatter has my URL now. I’ll post it here in a bit, then.
I took photos of a few of the interesting-looking buildings in Reykjavik. If I had more time, I could make a Tumblr just for Weird Art in Iceland, as well. The island seems to encourage a kind of quirky, pop-influenced art style, seen on everything from wall murals to sculptures in hotel lobbies to hanging on the walls of restaurants, as well as in galleries. From what I understand, the music scene is similar. On an island with a population of only 300,000, and the city holding only 100,000, it seems anyone involved in creative pursuits is also going to know anyone else in that scene, too, and it’s a kind of fertile hotbed. As the Icelandair ads proclaim, ten icelandic rock bands a year “set out to conquer the world” and the prime minister is listed in the phone book. I find it interesting that one of the bigger cultural festivals that happens in Reykjavik is their annual Gay Pride parade, too.

From Iceland Photos #1

The rain slacked off around 8pm last night and suddenly the streets and sidewalks became much more full of people than they had been all day. At 8 the sky is still quite bright, even when cloudy, as at this time of year sunset isn’t until close to 11pm. People were still out walking and milling around enjoying the not-rain at 10pm when I walked back to my hotel after the bookstore I was in closed.
As with many island economies, in Iceland food can be quite expensive (typically twice what I’d expect to pay in US for the same meals) but I had a hotel with a full breakfast buffet included in the price of the room that helped keep the cost down.
I woke up on my third day in Iceland to more unrelenting gray skies and rain. Actually, a tiny sliver of sun tried to show itself while we were on the way to the airport. It never broke through the clouds, but did result in a large, faint rainbow on the horizon, across the lava fields. Then the clouds thickened again, and it was pouring quite steadily by the time we pulled up at Keflavik. As one of the clothing companies from Iceland (66 North) says in their ads, you have to respect Mother Nature, but she doesn’t have to respect you. I still had a nice time, even if I did catch a cold.

From Faint rainbow seen through the bus window!

Overall, Iceland was a very civilized stopover on my way back from the UK and I’d recommend it to anyone flying Icelandair, especially since they make it worth your while with lower fares for those who stay over. Outdoorsy people will get the most out of a multi-day stay, whereas for me, two to three days was plenty to soak up the sights and culture.

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