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The Aurora Borealis

The Aurora Borealis

   The morning started with a walk around Grótta lighthouse on Seltjarnarnes peninsula.  The morning was partly cloudy but with patches of bright blue sky.  That didn't stop it from snowing from time to time.  The beaches of Iceland have black sand because the the island is volcanic.  After the lighthouse we did a whale exhibit and another hot spring location before heading downtown for lunch.  I continued my fish exploration and had a dish that was listed as a kind of stew but more the consistency of potato salad.  Pokie had a fish soup which was I had considered getting.  Both dishes were very good.  After that it was time for Þjóðminjasafn Íslands (National Museum of Iceland).  There I was to learn a good deal about Iceland.  Interestingly the name Iceland in Icelandic (Ísland) simply means island, and the Icelandic pronunciation of Ísland sounds like Iceland, (I heard "ice-sh-lent"). 
   After the national museum we went to Perlan (The Pearl) where we saw a show in the planetarium, and then toured their ice cave exhibit.  We were unable to get tickets to tour an actual ice cave so we settled for this.  On the roof of the Perlan we had an amazing view of Reykjavík as the sun set.  We followed up with dinner the top of Perlan which we learned was a rotating restaurant.  This time I tried a lamb dish.
   The sun was now set and the skies were clear so we decided to go back to Seltjarnarnes peninsula to see if we couldn't get a glimpse of the aurora.  The place was packed as apparently everyone else has the same idea.  We spent some time hanging out on the breakwater with no signs of activity in the sky.  Just as we were about to leave we noticed some thin clouds that just appeared to the north of us.  It was the aurora borealis.  The magnetospheric plasma was fairly dim, but it photographed pretty well.  From the naked eye it looked white but from a long exposure it was clearly green.  I have only ever seen the aurora once before in my life, and never this clear, and I wouldn't mind seeing it again.
   For some months, Pokie, Zach, Erin and myself have been planning a trip to Iceland.  It all started when Zach pointed out how cheap round trip tickets to Iceland where and said it would make a good 4-day weekend trip.  In the weeks to come we hammered out the details.  This afternoon we started the trip.  It would be a long night.  We departed at 1:00pm for O'Hare in the Posh Cranberry (Pokie's van).  Despite arriving around rush hour in Chicago we made good time through the city as O'Hare isn't too far into the city.  Parking, a shuttle to the international terminal, and the lines began. 
   This was my first international flight, and my first time out of North America.  I expected the lines to be worse, but they were not that bad.  We were through security and had plenty of time to burn before our flight departed.  It's always a good thing to have plenty of time before a flight.  We boarded the plane just before 6:00 pm.  It was a 737 MAX, a fairly new 737 jet with better than 3,200 mile range.  Most of my flights have been on 737 aircraft, but none on a jet so new—nor a ride so long.  All of my previous flights lasted a couple hours at most.  This flight would be 6 hours.  I took the center seat and thought maybe I would be able to get some sleep or work on my laptop.  Neither happened.  While I tried to sleep, sleep never came.  And the projects I had placed on my laptop would not run.  So it was a rather unproductive flight.
   During the flight I tried to track our progress with my phone, but it failed to get a GPS signal for most of the trip.  Eventually we were descending and soon I stepped off the plane into a foreign country not even on my continent.  I had arrived in Iceland.  There was a lengthy walk to get form our terminal to customs.  There I got my first passport stamp.  I have had my passport with 2012 and have traveled with it into a foreign country 3 times.  However, Canada does not your stamp passports—at least nor American's passports who drive across the border.  So my passport had been empty until now. 
   While I had been to Canada which is a foreign county, this would mark the first time I had been to a place where English was not the primary language.  All the signs in the airport with in Icelandic first with English subs.  I was looking forward to truly being in a foreign county.