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Flight to Iceland and Day 1

My flight from Atlanta to JFK Airport got in at 11 so I sat around for about 5 hours before Icelandair opened their ticket desk. There is only one flight a day from any airport in the US to Iceland and back so there isn't a desk open until around 5PM (for the 8:30PM flight). Around 3:30, a girl sat next to me wrapped up in a huge sweater. Taking that as a sign, I asked her if she was from SIT. Of course of all of the people to meet first, I'd meet the girl who is even more afraid of flying than me. :D We both lamented the flight for awhile but of course were very excited.

At 5:30, the person from the travel agency came to make sure everyone got to the gate and also came around to have us meet each other. Most people on the program flew from JFK with the exception of 3 who made their own arrangements. We spent the next few hours at the gate talking before boarding the plane, where we were all separated.

The plane was packed full but actually rather nice. The food wasn't half bad (I got a vegetarian meal which I figured was safest for airplane food) and we got Icelandic soda, which was exciting for me. I tried to sleep but it was a bit uncomfortable and the woman next to me kept talking to me. She was an environmental engineer so she kept talking about how they need more policy minded people to get the science and technology that we need in place. I napped for about an hour before I heard people gasping and snapping photos. I opened my eyes to it being completely light outside and seeing Greenland below me.

We landed at around 6:30AM Icelandic time (Greenwich Mean Time) or 2:30AM eastern. Getting through immigration was a breeze and we all gathered outside to meet the Academic coordinator who is a pretty cool guy. He lived in Iceland for a year in high school and has been back about a dozen times since and is currently a phD student at UMass for resource economics. Now I have ins. :P

I got money from the ATM since I really didn't have enough US money to trade in. I got 10000 Islandic Krona which is about $128 American. However, apparently the currency ratio was at an all time low yesterday morning before sharply rising up right after I got the money, so I actually got it for much cheaper- all things considered. I'll write about the crazy economic situation in Iceland due to the subprime mortgage criss a little later.

The first thing we did was go to Hellisheiði Power-Plant which is a new geothermal power plant in southern Iceland. Not only does it create electricity from the geothermal steam, it also provides Reykjavik and it's suburbs with hot water and heat (which also comes from the hot water). I found that pretty amazing. Apparently all the power plants in Iceland have very nice visitor's centers (this one was gorgeous) with English speaking tourguides and fancy displays. They are very proud of the fact that there is next to no pollution for their electricity. In addition, this power plant will pay for itself in only 5 years. Considering that there are 40 boreholes of up to 2 miles deep collecting the superheated water and steam, each of which costs $10 million US, in addition to all of the equipment, it's rather crazy. It seems that geothermal is an expensive investment but comes back 10 fold in terms of renewable energy, externalities (such as the hot water- which also cuts down in overall energy use because there are no water heaters or traditional heat in general), pollution free, and just economic benefit for the firm running the plant.

Our orientation is in Solheimar which is about a 2 hour drive East of Reykjavik which I'll talk about later. To get there, we drove through rural Iceland which had gorgeous views that I couldn't accurately capture from the bus. We also stopped at a volcanic crater with all of the other American tourist buses.

Now I am at Solheimar until tomorrow which is really an amazing place. I'll give the full run up on the village and why it's so amazing after dinner and our final session of orientation.




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