I have traveled to some interesting places in my lifetime, the most recent of which is Iceland. I’ve always wanted to see the Northern Lights, and Iceland is a great place to see them. What I didn’t know, is that to the naked eye they just look like white clouds dancing about. To see the greens, purples, and reds; you have to capture them on film. (I say film because I still have a 35mm film camera.) But never fear, you can capture those beautiful images digitally, as well. For a smart phone, you need to download an app that will allow you to adjust your phone’s camera settings to capture the lights. The lights were extremely active the night I went out to search for them. Simply amazing!
But to me, the most interesting thing about Iceland is their use of geothermal energy. Iceland is 10% covered by glaciers, yet has 200 volcanoes…31 of which are active. They harness the Earth’s heat, using the hot water for indoor and outdoor geothermal baths, for heating their homes, and for keeping the streets clear of snow and ice. The hot water has a slight smell of sulfur, but you get used to it, and it’s good for the complexion. No teenager in Iceland has acne! Since it’s so plentiful, the default water in the spigot is hot, and you buffer it to the desired temperature with cold. (The cold water comes from glacial run-off; it’s sulfur-free and delicious to drink.) Icelanders don’t bother to turn down the heat if it’s too warm, they just open the windows and doors! I can just imagine the look on the face of a native Icelander, when they first move to NYC, don’t adjust the thermostat, and get that February heating bill.
Because Iceland is such an active volcanic area, the soil doesn’t support many types of plants. So there are virtually no trees, and their vegetables are grown in greenhouses. The joke is that if you get lost in Iceland, just stand up! Sheep are the predominant livestock, and restaurant menus also offer chicken and beef dishes. But the general diet seems to lean more toward vegetarian and “clean” eating, with those dishes only offered to accommodate meat-eaters. Regardless, you will always have options no matter your dietary concerns, and the food is freshly prepared, and tasty.
I am grateful to have had many such experiences and cultural exchanges over the years. When I came across Pueblo Inglés – totally by accident, actually – I jumped at the opportunity…and it turned out to be one of the most personally rewarding experiences. At the end of the program, I feel as if I’ve personally helped others to better their lives…especially since you can see their improvement over the course of the week.
The intensity of the program builds a bond among the participants, not unlike people surviving military boot camp together. Those bonds form the basis of long-lasting friendships and many fond memories. I have kept in touch with several people from the program, and we have even coordinated a “reunion” visit. I am proud to say I am part of the Pueblo Inglés family, and I’m looking forward to volunteering again.