We are volcano-ed!

As many of you already are aware, there is a volcanic eruption happening, as we speak. The lava overflow from the Bárðarbunga eruption has already created a lava field of 19 square kilometers, apparently making it the biggest eruption since Krafla in 1984.

But I’ve been so intent on memorizing the declensions of old Norse words for wolf and grave (really), on child wrangling, and course readings o.s.f. (etc., that is) that I somehow missed that um, a volcano erupted in the country I’m living in? I can’t decide if this is a comforting sign of the fact that life goes on, untroubled, or concerning proof that I am a bit too focused on the tasks at hand. I should probably be following the news a bit better, eh?

At any rate, I know now, soo….here are some sweet volcano videos for your enjoyment:

A video recorded with a handheld camera from a helicopter, via  Jon Gustafsson/Artio Films:

And another, via Stöð 2:

And there are also two live cams via Míla, here and here.

57 Days and Counting

Happy April, everyone—I can hardly believe we’re here already. This means not only the start of a lovely, sunny spring here in Reykjavík (one of the sunniest in years, I’m told) but it is also, not to get all doom-and-gloom sounding, the beginning of our last two months here in Iceland. Until we come back in late August, that is. But in 57 days, there is a lot to be done. Shall we list? (List! list!)

  • Six finals, including two oral exams my Speech & Pronunciation class (one 5 minute group presentation—about cats—which we will be giving next week; one conversational group test in which three students have to speak together on one of a few general topics which is randomly selected on test day), two written tests for my Vocab and Self Study classes, and a paper—on vampires—for the undergraduate English class on vampires which I enrolled in for fun.
  • Two pending articles for The Reykjavík Grapevine
  • One book review of an Icelandic book for a literature website
  • File for a tax extension!
  • Presentation about this year’s experience for the Fulbright Commission, which I would really like to do at least part of in Icelandic
  • And oh yeah, that whole Little Free Library Reykjavík thing, which is well-underway, and yet has a lot further to go before it will be done…
    • Permits still pending for installation
    • Unit has been painted, but still needs to be put together (this week!)
    • Final book selection needs to be culled (this is going to be the really time-consuming part)
    • Extra books need to be distributed to people in Reykjavík to hold over the summer for restocking purposes
    • Gifts need to be sent out to contributors

And really, I can’t take any more listing, so I’m just going to leave it at that. A lot of the above will be enjoyable, and there are all sorts of enjoyable things that we’ll tuck in the midst of all these activities (more friends visiting! yay!), but still. Deep breaths, calm spirit, good attitude: þetta reddast.

Loving the Volcano, or, Rather: Loving the Frankenstorm, from Afar

It’s a bit surreal watching, from Iceland, all these reports of impeding weather doom along the U.S.’ East Coast. Strangely enough, reading about the nearing “Frankenstorm” and all the possible fallout from Sandy’s tour through the States has been the thing that has made me miss New York the most since I’ve been in Iceland. (I now have a bit of an idea, mom, what it was like for you the first few years after I moved to New York…nerve-wracking, for sure. And I’m admitting it to The Internet, so, you know–you won the long game…)

But while I’m biting my nails on behalf of all my loved ones up and down the Eastern seaboard, and while I’ve been refreshing my New York Times storm-tracker page regularly to see what, if anything, has actually happened yet, I have to commend that nothing-phases-us, laugh-in-the-face-of-danger attitude of my beloved New Yorkers. Whether stocking up on provisions (canned goods, water, and lots and lots of whiskey), cuddling up with thick historical tomes about, hypothetically, the origins of the Spanish Inquisition, or joking about the benefits of a long weekend even while stranded with no transportation for who-knows-how-long (it’s second time in 14 months the subway and bus system has been completely shut off, for those of you who don’t know–but only the second time in 108 years), you’re all wonderful, resilient people, and I’m thinking about you and miss you very much.

I will also observe that this almost (or seemingly) blasé attitude toward what-may-befall-you (storms, power outages, Godzilla) appears to be one of the most prominent characteristics that New Yorkers share with Icelanders, who, as I’ve mentioned, thrive on a sort of understated acceptance of their own weather/nature disasters, i.e. volcanic eruptions. The lesson is, we see, that after general preparedness, you just can’t spend too much time worrying about these things before they happen. Because there’s nothing you can do about it.

So, for those of you New Yorkers (and East Coasters) who are not only on the internet, but reading here: cheers and skál! I wish you all well, but have every faith that if this year’s disaster merits all of the frightening predictions (unlike last year’s hurricane), that you’ll all make it through as best as could be hoped.

Existential Conjugations

Today’s Icelandic Online lesson involved the conjugation of the verb að deyja:

deyja v

1. (andast) die
2. (sofna af víni) pass out (from drink)
3. (um eld) go out
The exercises ask you to conjugate the verb in the context of a sentence and then answer a series of yes/no questions. Observe:
Let me do a little translation for you. (Or attempt to, at least.)
að deyja:
1. I go out OR pass out every weekend.
2. You (finally?) go out OR pass out OR die.
3. He dies of love.
4. We pass out OR die from heat(stroke?).
5. They die from the cold.
6. They never die.
Right or Wrong?
Children are born.
Old people die.
Saturday is after Friday.
In each week there are nine days.
In each year there are twelve months.
So there you have it. A little existential reckoning mixed in with your grammar lesson. People are born. Everyone dies. And Saturday comes after Friday.
Thank you, Iceland(ic Online).

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Volcano

The ‘A’ marks Katla.

Apparently, Katla, a volcano in Southern Iceland, is “showing signs of seismic activity,” which, according to The Reykjavik Grapevine (via  Morgunblaðið) is “similar to the activity that Katla showed in July 2011, when volcanic activity under the Mýrdalsjökull glacier rapidly melted the ice, causing a flood that wiped out roads in south Iceland.” Given that Katla is “very active,” these rumblings are being read by some in the international volcano-watching community as harkening the kind of “volcanic havoc” that would make the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption look tame in comparison. Some choice soundbites from The Telegraph article above:

    • ” Katla has erupted on average every 60 years, but has not had a significant eruption since 1918. Ominously, eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull in 1821-23 and 1612 were followed within months by eruptions of Katla. Judged by the historical calendar, an eruption is overdue.”
    •  “Katla’s eruption in 1918 produced five times as much ash as the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull one. A major eruption could result in large parts of Iceland being flooded as snow and ice melted; significant poisoning of Icelandic agriculture; destruction of property; and, of course, the grounding of aircraft across Europe.”
    • “If enough material is ejected it could even have a cooling effect on the global climate for a few years. A precedent for that would be the 1783-84 eruption from the fissure of Laki, which is part of the same volcanic system, Grímsvötn, that erupted last year…Large eruptions such as this occur only every few hundred years on Iceland, but the potential for danger is significant. Even if deaths from famine are less likely today, a recent study of the potential effects of the air pollution caused by such an eruption estimates that it could lead to between 52,000 and 228,000 fatalities throughout Europe.”

Katla eruption in 1918 (photo via Wikipedia Commons)

Sounds grim, eh? But wait! says James Ashworth, “resident vocanologist” over at The Reykjavik Grapevine. Because, while it is certainly possible that Katla (or another Icelandic volcano) will erupt in the near future, the exact timing of the eruption and the relative scope of its damage cannot really be accurately predicted. And at the end of the day, you can’t really sit around biting your nails and worrying about the possibility that an Icelandic volcano is about to erupt. Why? Says Ashworth:

“Quite aside from all of this science and sensationalism, though, there is a more basic reason why you shouldn’t worry: BECAUSE YOU CAN’T DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT ANYWAY.”

And there you have your moment of zen. Will I probably freak out a little bit if it seems like a volcano is going to erupt while I am living in Iceland? Absolutely. (How does one ‘prepare’ for an onslaught of “liquid hot magma,” after all?) But I think this ‘don’t spend much time worrying about things you can’t predict or control’ philosophy is one that’s worth adopting.