Tuesday, May 3, 2016

He Never Knew When To Quit: After One Year in Iceland

Welcome back, History Fans!

I apologize for keeping everybody hanging, but this semester was about as intense as you can imagine. Taking four courses, one seminar, working part time, and trying to maintain some resemblance of a social life is no easy task. And some of my classmates even went abroad for some conferences! How brave!

It is now Day 2 of having zero obligations and I already don't know what to do with my time. It's like when I first moved to Bloomington and lived with Mike and Jessica and didn't have a job for like four months. Except with worse restaurants.

So some of you may be curious, while most of you do not care, what I thought of my first year of a Viking and Medieval Norse master's student. I LOVED IT, OF COURSE! Iceland is a spectacular place to be. Reykjavik, despite its crowded and party atmosphere, is a really wonderful place to live. But it helps being surrounded by so many amazing people and studying what I love. This month will be strange, as I say goodbye to some of those people who have come to mean so much to me, some for good, some for a few months. My classmates, housemates, and the handful of people I have had the absolute privilege to interact with here have had an enormous impact on me, even though I keep a pretty cool exterior!

And guess what?! I do NOT study Vikings here! THEY LIED TO US! Instead, I have been focusing on the kings' sagas, the historiography, reception, with some literature and history thrown in. And of course I am thrilled to be in the midst of it all. I am excelling beyond my wildest dreams, although I dread the end result of that Working with Manuscripts exam.

This summer, I will be staying in Reykjavik (except for a small stint in June, set aside for some good, old United States debauchery) to work for the brilliant Emily Lethbridge on the Icelandic Saga Map.  Aside from getting to work for an amazing scholar, I get my first taste of being underpaid for my academic contributions! Seriously, though, I am stoked beyond belief to be able to be a part of this project. And I will either completely botch the job or go way overboard and be a really annoying brown-noser. Either that, or I will pass gas in the Arni Magnusson Institute and get kicked out, or, even more likely, get fired for a terrible pun. For now, though, I will begin researching in June, mapping out 19th century explorers' progress through Iceland! PRETTY NEATO!

In the meantime, I will continue working at sandwich shop, take some well-deserved naps, and try to figure out how to move to Denmark in the fall for my third semester. And of course, count down the days until my beloved Erik Fox arrives. But I can see my resolve already cracking and will probably end up at the library tomorrow and begin working on my thesis idea. Can't stop now!

That's it for now, History Fans. I hope to see as many Hoosier classics as I can while I am there, June 16-21! I'll try to keep you updated with any summer skullduggery or forays into the wilderness. 

Until next time, know what I mean?

Thursday, March 31, 2016

From Snotland to Scotland: My Sick Easter Break in the Highlands

Welcome back! We've got an extra long post today. Fresh off the plane from Edinburgh, here are some photos and a quick recap of what we did in Scotland. I am a terrible photographer using my iPhone 4, so please forgive the quality. Also, there was what felt like a 100mph gale while we were on Birsay, so most of those photos are blurry because my hands were freezing and I couldn't hold the camera steady!

I walked to the bus station here in Reykjavik on Thursday in the midst of a sleet/snow storm and also sporting a terrific fever! Shivering and snotting in the Keflavik airport, I had a bad feeling about the trip. An omen, perhaps! In fact, our trip was filled with omens, yet they never seemed to lead anywhere. 

Off to Edinburgh!

These two never smile in photos!

Luckily I woke up the following morning fever free and just sporting a nasty cold. An omen??

A stop in Perth for a delightful and reasonably priced breakfast. 

Some kind of palace.

Fraser found his future home!

Another castle!

A battlefield where the British government squashed the Jacobites. Fraser could trace his family back to a group of jerks who stood there and refused to fight!

Preparing for the ferry to Orkney!

In case you were unsure. 

This belongs back at the battlefield!

This was our tiny cold pod we slept in near Kirkwall.

St. Magnus's cathedral

Beautiful downtown Kirkwall

Stenness - these standing stones are older than Stonehenge!

Ring of Brodgar 

Stone cold

We sneaked into Skara Brae, an extremely old and fantastically intact settlement that dates back to 3100BC! That's before the pyramids and well before the moon landing, as the plaques helpfully pointed out.

We sweet talked our way into this ruin site for free, too! Such good students.

Sneers inside a brough.

Julie Gibson was kind enough to drive us around Rousay and show us some extremely old sites, some of which she helped dig up herself! Thanks, Julie!

Almost a smile.

A dog showed up. There was another dog, and it chased a sheep off the cliff, presumably to its death. You can learn so much in Orkney!

Julie has no clue what happens in the basements of these strongholds, but Fraser has an idea.

This is a neolithic structure, but some repairs from the Iron Age are visible here. People continued using this site through the ages!

In fact, I used almost this exact site as a bathroom. The gift keeps on giving. 

Those are some seals. They witnessed the death of the sheep without blinking an eye. Omens!

This site inspired Rhianna.

A very old church.

Bag End.

Just kidding, it's a burial mound! Here's Fraser wondering why he asked me to come on the trip.

Julie was great.

A very famous whalebone on display in the Orkney museum. 

A blurry photo inside the cathedral

A lot of tombstones sported skull and crossbones and hourglasses.

My man, Saint Olaf! Standing on a dragon man!

Just chillin'

I didn't go in because a better name would have been Japes 'n' Drapes

We woke up before dawn and raced to this little pathway to Birsay. It is only accessible at low tide. We were running late and didn't know when the tide would come back in, so we raced across to see where a Viking Age village stood (a Pictish village was there before). The wind blew ferociously. After about 15 minutes Tenaya noticed water splashing up over the pathway, so we booked it back to safety before we got stuck!

Blame the wind

Orkney is not that big but the Earl looks to have had his choice of palaces

The gale did not die down and the ferry ride back to mainland Scotland was a nightmarish trip in which we all assumed we would die. Here is Tenaya trying to sleep, Fraser distracting himself, and yours truly trying to hold in his all-you-can-eat breakfast.


Then we drove our way through the Scottish highlands. One of the most beautiful places I have ever been.

In need of a shave!

A fake lil castle on the loch

Home cooked venison at a place called Jac-o-bites!

Our hostel was nestled right here with this amazing view.

Climbed into a stream, took a selfie, met a field mouse!

Hostel II

There is a smile!

Teneya fell into the stream like an idiot!

Fraser stopped to swim in here like a maniac.

Kids goofin? Or pagan ritual?

Not only did we sneak in without paying, but I farted up on the battlements for all of Scotland to hear!

Lone Woov

I finally found the church I belong to.

Back to Edinburgh

My phone died after this.

There you have it folks! I laughed, I sneezed. I am feeling much better. Lots of stories I could tell, like the ex-Nasa scientist who dedicated his life to making bagpipes, but I am afraid you'll have to buy me a drink if you want to hear everything! Seriously, though. I am broke after this trip.