Due to the very late night before, we woke up just in time to grab breakfast and walk to work. Most of what I did this day was random clean up and direction. Because the morning was uneventful, allow me to take this opportunity to talk about the Harpa itself.
It’s beautiful. Like seriously. From the outside, it looks a little jagged and strange, but as you get closer you notice that the tiled appearance is because of a honeycomb of slightly mirrored windows. It’s even prettier from the inside where the light rushes in no matter the weather illuminating the grid of pale windows. From the far side of the building you can see part of the Reykjavik harbor and Keflavik across the bay. Possibly the most fun part of the Harpa is that it lights up at night, though. The windows change color and undulate; from far away it looks like the northern lights.
Back to the timeline. In the afternoon, I was able to steal a seat on the stairs of the main auditorium to listen to Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary General of the UN, accept the Arctic Prize. He gave a heartfelt speech about the importance of the arctic, the necessity of international cooperation to protect it, and the importance of individual conviction in inspiring the former two points. He said that his views on why the arctic is crucial can be summed up with “There is no Plan B because we have no Planet B”.
After that, I walked down to the sweeping, white building that is The Reykjavik Cultural House to attend another breakout session to do a headcount. To be completely honest, I didn’t find this one very interesting so I’m gonna skip writing about it here. At the end of the day, a bunch of us walked to a burger place to get dinner. The restaurant was apparently trying to be American by combining old west and rockabilly themes. So that was fun and weird. After fairly authentic American burgers we returned to the americana bar. I hung out for a bit and did my best to pick up some Finnish vocabulary, but in the end sleepiness won out and one of my roommates and I walked home in the rain. We also saw this sign: It’s not really relevant I just enjoyed how hipster it was.
On the last day of the Arctic Circle I got the chance to do some actual work. If you don’t like constantly being on your feet, lost in 10,000 might-as-well-be-identical winter coats, or people who are impatient and want their bags, then coat check is not for you. Although it was stressful at times, I did enjoy working coat check because it was active and I met lots of people. I also got the chance to practice my nonexistent Icelandic, so that was cool. While most of the encounters I had with people were essentially the same, there are a couple that stood out in a positive way:
The first was a gentleman from Alaska who asked me what the conference was about and how it was going. I got the feeling he was quizzing me because he had a badge and this was the last day of the conference—if he didn’t know what it was about he had bigger problems than checking his jacket. I answered his questions to the best of my abilities, except for his last one. He asked me “What is missing from this conference?” I scrambled to think of a country that wasn’t represented or a topic that hadn’t been covered, but he interrupted my brainstorming by saying “Action. We all get together once a year to talk and exchange data, but no one does anything. We need action.” “That’s really true…” I said. “It’s too late to reverse global warming and climate change. Now our challenge is to figure out how to be resilient. Have a good afternoon.” And he walked off.
The other notable encounter I had was with the first speaker from the breakout session the first day we attended the conference. She came to pick up her coat and I told her that I really enjoyed her talk and thank you for being such an eloquent speaker. She laughed and thanked me for listening and told me a bit more about the topic. So, despite all the running around, it was an enjoyable several hours at the coat check.
Late that afternoon, we all piled back on the bus to head back to Akureyri. The bus ride back was just as uneventful and the one there, but this one was less enjoyable because we were all exhausted from the weekend and it was stormy. The one highlight was a bright, double rainbow that briefly stretched across the road.
As the North American Bloc (and our resident German) walked to our house from the school, we glimpsed the northern lights. It didn’t make the walk any warmer, but it was nice nonetheless.
By the way, it’s cold. But it’s a wee bit warmer in the fjord. 🙂