October 16, 2012 Leave a comment
I went on the famous Rocky Mountains tour over the four day Thanksgiving weekend. Hopefully these photos offer a different view =]
My Great Big CSU Global Adventure
October 8, 2012 Leave a comment
The more I travel, the more relaxed I am about the logistics of it all. Now, I rarely book airport transfers, or accommodation at my destination unless I am arriving during unsociable hours. This is not usually problematic. So, I was a little taken aback when I arrived at Keflavík Airport in Iceland on a Friday afternoon to be told there was no accommodation available in the whole city. Totally. Booked. Out. Apparently there was a festival on, and Reykjavík had swelled to twice its size. (I am still a little dubious that Tourist Information was correct on this – not even one room?) Anyway, as luck would have it, I had a tent (I planned to go hiking at some stage) and when I asked “Even the campground?”, Tourist Information seemed to think I may be in with a chance.
So bus to the campground it was, and as it turns out they had plenty of room. And plenty of rain. Yes, it was still technically summer here, but aside from the relatively long days I did not find much to distinguish an Icelandic summer from a Melbourne winter. There was definitely not going to be any sun-baking!
So, decked out in wet weather gear I set off to explore this city. Now Reykjavík is a capital city, but it is not exactly big. Iceland itself only has just over 300 000 residents, with about two-thirds of these living in the Reykjavík district. The city itself *officially* has around 120 000 people. But despite her small size, Reykjavík holds her own as far as capital cities go. There is a wide variety of cuisine, nightlife, galleries, and museums, and because of the size much of this is conveniently within walking distance. Live music is a big thing, as are cafés, and there are plenty of examples of both. There are pubs and clubs, and books. Yes, books! Everywhere. There were at least five big (read: multilevel) bookshops in the town centre alone, and most of the cafés had books available to read. Not only are books one of the most popular gifts to give in Iceland, it also appears they like to write them as well. And when you do write a book in Iceland you have to donate two copies to the National Library, ensuring the countries literary heritage is well documented. So my first evening in Reykjavík was spent with books and music and coffee and beer.
The next day it was raining and overcast – for something different. So what could be better than to start the day with a swim in a geothermal pool, conveniently located right next to the campground. Win. 😀 There are no chemicals used in these pools as the Icelandic people strongly believe in the healing and restorative properties of this water, so they are rather strict about hygiene. Shoes must be taken off before entering the changing rooms, and you must wash thoroughly without wearing bathers before entering the pool. And they mean thoroughly. Attention should be paid to areas that could be particularly dirty (eg. feet, head, genitals, etc) and there are helpful diagrams illustrating this for all the international visitors. So after a thorough scrub it was lovely to spend some time chilling out in the pool before heading back into town to see what was going on with the festival that had forced me into a tent for the weekend – Pride.
Pride is a Big Deal in Iceland, and it is one of their largest and most popular festivals. Iceland is one of only 11 countries in which same-sex marriage is legally recognised, and their Prime Minister, Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, is the first openly lesbian head of state in the world. This is the 14th year that Reykjavík has had Pride, and it was not going to be stopped by a little rain. There was colour, and dancing, and costumes, and of course there was music. Even a Whitney Houston medley. 😛 But the most important thing to note about Pride is there were *families*. Children and brothers and mothers and fathers. Sisters and uncles and aunts. Because Pride is not really so much about celebrating the fact that you are a part of the GLBTQ community, although this is definitely a nice thing to celebrate. 😉 What Pride should really be about is celebrating the fact that you are part of the wider community. Pride is the removal of shame. Pride is a recognition that who you are is OK – by your standards, by your family’s standards, by your friends’ standards and by society’s standards. (<- yes, I know it’s not all of society – yet) Pride is belonging.
I had a friend ask once if it was possible to support same sex marriage if you don’t believe in marriage, and my answer to this is “Of course!”. Because the debate is not really about marriage, it is about equality. It is about two *consenting* adults who love each other wanting to be able to express their commitment to each other in the same way as any other two consenting adults. Neither of my parents have ever married, and I have grown up believing that marriage is not a necessary part of a successful relationship. But just because I don’t believe marriage is necessary doesn’t mean I think that it is wrong. And I think it should be available as an option for *all* my family and friends. If they want to. To say it is OK to have some of the privileges of being a member of society, but not all of them, is just not on. It is exclusionary and discriminatory.
I still have friends who have not told their parents about their sexual orientation because they are afraid it may change the way their parents feel about them, or that they would be a disappointment, or that their parents would reject them completely. I wish I could turn around and make them a guarantee that this would not be the case – that these people are their *parents* and it is their job to love you unconditionally – you know – no matter what. But the world is not all cotton candy and fairytales, and because I wish it does not make it true. So Pride is important because it both celebrates how far we have come and recognises how far we have to go. I hope one day in the future we will not need Pride anymore because no one will care about the differences. Or even better, they just won’t realise there are any. But until that time we need to keep colouring our streets and shouting our stories. And don’t forget to bring your families. 😀
October 2, 2012 4 Comments
Sorry guys – this one has been a long time coming. It is a little long, but on the bright side it is mostly pictures, so not too much reading is involved. 😉
For those of you that don’t know, my heritage is half-Danish (which half I wonder?) as that is where my mother was born. So when it ended up being cheaper and simpler to fly into Denmark than to Sweden, it was not a particularly hard decision to make. And after chatting with my grandparents (who are in Australia) they suggested that I get in contact with my grandfather’s cousin to see whether she was interested in putting me up for a couple of days. Luckily for me she was. 🙂
It was a bit of a different experience being *met* at an airport, and definitely not what I am used to. There was no trying to interpret signs and bus or train timetables to work out how to get into the city, or talking to tourist information staff. I just walked out of arrivals and there was someone waiting for me. That is something that happens when you come home, not go somewhere new. But maybe, in a sense, this was *my* home too. So we left Copenhagen Airport and headed home. :)As it had been about 40hrs since I left Australia number one on my list was a shower and clean clothes! Next was a walk around the lake, dinner, and a relatively early night – for me.
I had two days in Copenhagen. I had briefly been to the city once before on one of my extended stopovers, so I had walked around the main centre, visited Tivoli, and eaten Danish hotdog. This time I had a car, and a tour guide, so we travelled off to see some of the places that were important to my grandparents when they lived here. First stop was a little town called Osted. This was the town which my grandmother grew up in, and also had the church where my grandparents were married.
Next we visited Lyndby, the town where my grandfather went to school. Here we visited the church and graveyard, where we found some more of my relatives – but these ones were not the sort that I could talk to. (on a side note, I would have been really interested to hear what they had to say if they *could* have talked – or if I knew how to listen to them…)
After that we headed down to check out the house where my grandfather grew up, and had lunch down by the fjord – complete with replica viking ships. 😀
Then it was on to Roskilde to see the Domkirke, the third church of the day. This is the place where all the members of the Danish Royal Family are buried, so as a result it is pretty impressive.
We finished off with a relaxing coffee by the harbour before heading home, with enough time for a stroll by the lake and some chill out time in the garden before a very relaxing outdoor dinner.
The next day it was into Copenhagen proper, but we concentrated on some of the areas I had not been to last time. We started the day with a river cruise and then headed down to the palace area, where we were lucky enough to have timed our arrival for the changing of the guards. There was enough time for a quick picnic lunch in one of Copenhagen’s parks before heading back to the airport for my flight to Iceland.
On handing my passport to the lady at the check-in counter, I was bombarded with a stream of rapid Danish. Noting the bewildered look on my face, the woman at the counter said, rather grumpily, “OK – we will speak English – but you have a Danish name!”. On informing her that this was because my mother was born in Denmark, but I was born in Australia, she came back with: “Well, tell your mother she should have taught you Danish!”. So, mother, consider yourself told. 😛 (for everyone else, my mother came to Australia when she was a child herself, so don’t be too hard on her!)
My time in Denmark was rather short, but we managed to fit quite a lot in. It was interesting to see a little bit of my heritage and get a taste of some of the places that hold importance to my family. But the thing that struck me the most in Denmark was seeing *people* who looked like they belonged to my family. A couple of times a day, just walking down the street, or in a café, I would see someone reminded me of my mother, or my aunt, or my uncles, or my sister. This was a little bit strange, as I don’t really feel that so much at home.
I need to make sure I come back here someday…….
October 2, 2012 Leave a comment
So unfortunately a piece of the end of my trip has jumped up early, changing the whole dynamics of my time over here. Chloe, my Welsh other-half is terribly home-sick and leaving tomorrow. She’s only been here a month, but misses home terribly and will arrive back home just in time for the start of her academic semester. Chloe and I do everything together; maybe it’s because we both speak English, or because we arrived together, or simply because we’re just those two people who are two peas in a pod and hit it off right away. I reckon this next week is going to be a lazy week without her around, but hopefully – HOPEFULLY I’ll get some of that work done and dusted in her absence 😛
It also means that I have to go on the four day Rocky Mountains trip without her… or anyone else I know! I’m sure I’ll meet lots of friendly new faces though =]
And now for my favourite picture from the Vancouver Aquarium! Mr C. Otter!
October 2, 2012 Leave a comment
Road Trip! My first road trip since being here consisted of Boston, Russel Brand, Chowder (or choowwdaa, [Boston accent]), Fenway Park and Harvard University.
The decision to go to Boston was purely made to see my favourite comedian, Russel Brand, in his stand up show. Russel lived up to the hype and pretty much went crazy walking through the crowd, climbing from the stage up into balcony seating. After the show Russel walked through the theatre foyer where the audience had the opportunity to get an autograph and take a photo… I wasn’t so lucky; Russel was pretty much mobbed. My best photo is below.
As we arrived late in the afternoon on the first day and headed straight to Russel Brand’s show, we didn’t get to see the real Boston until the next day. My group decided to go see Harvard in all its glory. This campus was beautiful. The way the campus was depicted in Good Will Hunting was eerily accurate, especially after seeing Harvard Square and the student housing; it didn’t look like too much had changed. As I strolled through the halls that Barack Obama once walked I felt slightly out of place, but it was a really nice inspirational experience. A friend mentioned that fees alone cost $50,000 U.S per semester to attend. My thoughts of enrolling were shut down immediately…
The next stop was Fenway Park, where we were taken on a guided tour through one of the oldest venues in Baseball history. Fenway Park is home to the world famous Red Sox. It was cool to see their locker rooms, sit on the bench (I think they call it a dig-in) and pretend to be important in the ‘media only’ lounge.
That night we went out on the town after we were strongly advised to eat Boston clam chowder. Not being the biggest fan of seafood, I was hesitant to try it, but I was glad I did because it was actually amazing.
It’s really hard to describe Boston because it’s nothing like any other city I’ve ever been to. All I can say is I loved it! And if you’re in the area, Go, or just watch Good Will Hunting….
After a good nights sleep, it was time take the 6-hour trip back to Oswego where a mountain of assignments await my doing.