I am finally settled into my host family’s home in Ísafjörđur. The view from their backyard is straight off of a post card. Up on a hill, their house overlooks most of the downtown area and the surrounding mountains.
I have two “siblings”, a 15 year old sister and a 20 year old brother who just graduated from grade school. Both of them as well as the parents are incredibly wonderful people who welcomed me into their home despite the fact that we are complete strangers to each other. My host mom is a nurse at the nearby hospital, and my host dad runs adventure excursions for tourists around the Westfjords. I am excited to learn from them more about Icelandic culture and way of life, although they have already taught me much through our conversations these past two days. Hopefully I can pass along to them what it is like living in the United States, even though the differences are endless. They are raising two arctic fox pups to be set free into the wild once they are old enough. The foxes are adorable tiny balls of fuzz that are so much fun to play with.
Ísaförđur is a quaint fishing town with historic character and friendly people. I was nervous that being from America would make the people in town skeptical of us, given that Americans are often categorized as loud and obnoxious, however I have yet to feel any ounce of ostracization. Just about everyone speaks conversational English, which makes things much easier. I enjoy learning the language though, and hope to get to know it a little better with the start of our Icelandic courses tomorrow. The words are very long and feel foreign to my mouth, but I’m starting to understand how which letters make what sounds and so forth.
Today was an incredible day. After visiting some of the local restaurants and pubs last night (there are very few) and interacting with the locals, we took today to explore the neighboring town called Bolungarvik. A few of the SIT students are staying with host families there, so we met up with them. It is about 8 miles away and is accessible by car through a tunnel, however we decided to bike the scenic road that winds along the water and is not used by cars anymore. This was the most gorgeous bike ride I have ever taken in my life. The road is prone to rockfalls, especially since it has been raining so much, and huge chunks of the pavement have fallen into the sea below, making it a somewhat treacherous but exciting ride.
Bolungarvik is even smaller than Ísafjörđur, but it has a really cool indoor/outdoor swimming pool with hot tubs and a water slide. This is where we spent most of the day, soaking in the tubs and enjoying the mountain scenery. The ride back was just as beautiful. We sat on the rocks overlooking the bay for a little while, eating ice cream and looking at some of the fishing boats floating out in the water.
Tomorrow is the first day of classes. We start at 9 in the morning at the University Center of the Westfjords, which is located right in town. Our first class of the day is a 3 hour lecture in renewable energy, technology and resource economics. After a 1 hour lunch break, we have 3 hours of Icelandic. The day finishes up around 4, and we are free to do whatever we want after then. Classes are monday-friday for the next two weeks. I’m excited to start the learning aspect of this trip, however it means less time for awesome adventures. Luckily since it doesn’t get dark we will still be able to do decent hikes after the school day is done.