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Solheimar might be the coolest place I've ever been. It's a small ecovillage (sort of like a commune without a radical environmentalism permeating the place) of about 100 people with around 40 of them being disabled in some way. It was founded in the 1930s as a home for orphaned children during a flu outbreak but has since become a place for the disabled to live relatively free and productive lives.

The setting is gorgeous. It's up on a hill with hills around it on one side that sort of reminds me of the first scene in The Sound of Music. We are staying in a guesthouse (which is partly how they raise money) with 2 bathrooms, a huge kitchen, a living room, and a really nice sunroom with a great view. Below us live a family with some kids but we never met them.

Also in the "town" is a small gift shop and grocery store (with crazy organic foods like vegan ice cream), an ecofriendly learning center (we were told it's the most ecofriendly building in Iceland), a community dining hall, and houses for all of the people who live here.

Here is a <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vpwae_LJYpg&feature=related">link</a> to a video someone made of a panarama of Solheimar. It's much greener now.

They grow all organic vegetables and trees as well as have an educational set of solar panels (the most in Iceland since, after all, there is no sun for several months a year) and wind energy, though they get most of their power on the grid from geothermal energy. Even the toilets are compost toilets, with the wastewater going to a wetlands they created.

Since I know everyone wants to know about Icelandic food...

Day 1: Breakfast (at Keflavik airport)- PEAR SKYR
             Lunch- salad with freshly grown fruits and veggies from the greenhouses (kiwi, tomatoes, avocado, yum), dahl (sort of like split pea soup), and lots of coffee
             Dinner- here we cooked ourselves as a group. Now, 18 people cooking for 18 was a little insane. It was spaghetti in meatballs. Now, I know you're thinking, how do you screw up spaghetti and meatballs? Well, somehow the stove magically turned off so the spaghetti sat in it's cold water until it became slimy. Then we managed to turn the stove back on but REALLY hot so the pasta sauce exploded everywhere. Luckily, everyone was so hungry that no one really cared.

Day 2: Breakfast- muesli, yogurt the consistency of gogurt (there are several kinds of yogurt here), really thick wheat bread, pickled fish spread for the bread (not as bad as it sounds, I swear!), and a bunch of freshly grown veggies
          Lunch- fried fish (soooo incredibly good), the best potatoes I've ever eaten (we don't really know why either.. .but you'd never eat a dry potato on it's own at home.. maybe these potatoes weren't genetically modified but they were sweet and really creamy inside), and salad
            Dinner- brussel sprouts soup (much better than it sounds... EVERYONE actually ate the brussel sprouts and enjoyed them), salad, bread

We've mostly been doing orientation here with a few sessions a day on both the expectations of the program and the beginning of our engineering course. Yes, I said <b>engineering</b>. There are 2 courses for this program- Alternative Energy which is under an engineering subheading and an Icelandic language, culture, and literature class that is generic humanities. Icelandic is one of the most difficult languages in the world (you just never hear of it because there are only 300,000 native speakers) so realistically we won't <i>really</i> understand all too much, but really any effort is really appreciated by the people here. Of course, most speak English but they seem to really like helping people speak their language. It's a pride thing. Knowing a bit of Yiddish helps too because some of the weird consenent blends like "kv" are found in Yiddish.. like kvetching.

One interesting, little known fact about Iceland is that the water smells like sulfur. Not all of the water of course, but the hot water. See.. since the hot water comes from the geothermal springs, you don't drink it or cook with it (it's safe, just not tasty). However, it's still used in the shower. So, when you go to take a warm show, you come out smelling like rotten eggs. Actually though, the smell goes away quickly and it's really good for your skin.

Since the water <i>is</i> geothermal, it can get very hot.. much hotter than even the hottest out of a water heater in the US. Hot water is one of the big *dangers* spelled out during orientation, so we all took lukewarm showers. It doesn't help that we're close to where the epicenter of the big earthquake was and in case of an earthquake, the water can get VERY hot VERY quickly and give pretty serious burns.

So, that's it for Solheimar. The next few days I'll be without internet access. We're going on the famous Golden Circle which is several historical and geological sites. Then we're heading up through central Iceland which is desolated. This county is almost 100 sq. kilometers and only has 300 people... the interior has less and the road JUST opened up yesterday. On Saturday, I'll be in Akureyri in northern Iceland, the 4th largest town at 15,000 people, with my host family so I should be posting more then.



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