Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Duncan's EVS adventure in Iceland

Duncan Hammet is a Concordia volunteer currently in Iceland on a 7 month EVS project with WF Iceland. He started his EVS in April 2007.

The next diary extract.

I had a good day today in the Botanical gardens, helping to dig the vegetable patch. I've realised that as a British person, I am/feel closer to the Icelanders than people from
France and Germany. For example, the traditional Icelandic lamb is the same as English Sunday roast. Also, at weekends, Icelanders get very drunk, just like British people.

My first month in
Iceland is almost up and it has been interesting to say the least. After a few problems with baggage, or lack of it, upon my arrival, I have managed to settle in. I am currently living in a shared house close to Reykjavik city centre; however I will soon move to Keflavik, where the airport is. So far, I have met volunteers from Switzerland, Slovenia, Germany and Greece, and it has been interesting learning about the different countries in Europe. The one thing everyone noticed is the lack of trees here in Iceland – the soil has been eroded so much that trees don’t stand a chance of growing here.

During the Easter period, Icelanders take a long vacation (in fact I have spent more time resting than working). I hired a car with some other volunteers and travelled to the south, where we visited the Blue Lagoon (a large geothermal outdoor swimming pool), Gullfoss (a large waterfall) and Geysir (which erupts every 10mins).

The project I am working on is called Clean Up the Coastline, and involves organising cleaning up the beaches of
Iceland in 5 years, through 2 week work camps. In September, the aim is to visit schools and teach about recycling and conduct beach clean ups with the children. Finally, we hope to have a garbage art work exhibition somewhere in Reykjavik, also in September.

My role so far has been organising the project and creating marketing material – I took the good old Corel Draw with me. Also, I am in charge of the Clean Up the Coastline blog, which is supposed to be updated regularly.

The landscape is strange, like a desert, and reminds me of the surface of the Moon. The people are even stranger – a night out in
Reykjavik is something to be experienced. The locals dress in suits and ties and get completely plastered! One Icelander said beer is the devils drink – I think a reference to the price of beer, which is 600kr, equivalent to £6.00.

I went whale watching on the first day of summer, which is also a holiday. This isn’t all as its hyped up to be, as the whale sightings are random. I saw one come close to the boat, but wasn’t quick enough with the camera. The window for taking a photo is only 3 – 5 seconds as they come up to breathe. Most sightings were from a distance, although it was obvious when a whale was sighted as everyone on the boat rushed to one side, resulting in me being crushed!

The end of April saw Veraldavinir preparing for a seminar on immigration issues in
Iceland. This was held in the soon to be famous Gunnersholmie, in the south of Iceland. The day before the participants arrived, the WF volunteers were responsible for making beds and cleaning the community centre where the seminar would take place. The participants were from many countries in Europe, including France, Belgium, Estonia, Palestine' (from YAP) and Spain. The EVS were in charge of the cooking, but could also take part in discussions during the day. The first day was based around ‘what is immigration’? My small group discussed whether I was an immigrant in Iceland and it was decided that the word immigrant has negative meanings and implications. I also cooked a chicken curry for the seminar group.

The last weekend in April saw a clean up activity next to the house of the Icelandic President, conducted with children from immigrant families. The weather was very windy but a lot of rubbish was collected. Part of this activity was game where the children had to make animals from the garbage found on the beach. The following day saw a large debate on immigration in
Reykjavik City Hall, in preparation for the May elections. An interesting point was made in that all Icelanders are immigrants as they are descended from Danish settlers.

We are now preparing for the new EVS to arrive in May and hopefully move to a bigger house in


Rainbow at Skorgor Foss, Iceland

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