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Fire and Ice
By Mona Lease

Hi, all!! Iceland is an island nation of Nordic descent. It sets just outside (south) of the Arctic Circle. After being under the control of various neighboring provinces - Iceland gained independence in 1944 - and is still independent today.

Iceland sets where the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans meet. The Highlands of Iceland are cold; containing sand, mountains and lava fields - large areas of mostly flat basalt lava floes. (They sort of "ooze" up out of the ground rather than "spew" like a volcano). This is the fire of Iceland.

During the summer - temperatures in Iceland average 50-77 degrees. Winter temperatures average 0-14 degrees. The lowest recorded winter temperature is -39.5 degrees - straight temperature. This is the ice of Iceland.

Usingen, Germany is the sister-city to Noblesville, Indiana for their foreign exchange-student program. And this is where the real story begins.

My niece and 24 other students boarded a bus from Noblesville, Indiana to Chicago's O'Hare Airport - a two hour bus ride. From there it was a plane ride to Iceland. There was a short layover in Iceland and finally an Icelandair plane saw them to Germany.

Icelandic - a Northern Germanic language - is the official language spoken in Iceland. English, French, Dutch, and Basque (a pidgin language comprised of Germanic and Romance words) is also spoken.

Food of Iceland is lamb, dairy and fish. Fish is smoked, dried, pickled and fermented. Beverages in Iceland are coffee, tea, bottled water, soft drinks and milk. There's also beer, wine and spirits - with the wine and spirits being imported. They do make a potato beer.

The clothing in Iceland tends toward the heavier stuff - sweatshirts, sweaters and woolen items as the cold lasts longer and is more frigid.

Germany's climate is comparable to the US - more rainfall - more damp due to the mountains and the Atlantic low pressure systems. Required clothing would be lightweights and rainwear for summer. Winter finds you needing waterproof clothing - medium to heavy weight. A sweater is usually necessary any time of the year.

German food is either pork, beef, veal or fish. They eat a lot of potatos and pasta-type dishes. Bread figures highly in their diet - which is mainly a rye and wheat flour mix. Popular drinks are mineral water, tea and coffee. Soda is available. Beer is always an option - but, statistics are showing that it's consumption is declining. Health consciousness is on the rise.

With all of the above in mind - the following are my thoughts. You are a 17 year old girl. You've been on a couple of cruises - Mexico, Cayman Islands and Jamaica. (They cater to tourists and speak English...at the very least...passable English.). You board a bus with 24 other students you know. After a 2 hour bus ride you board a plane from O'Hare Airport bound for Iceland - out of the USA. You have adult chaperones who have signed papers in hand to make medical decisions for you - should the need arise.

In Iceland - it's a hodge-podge of sights, smells, people, languages, foods, cars, clothes, etc. The people look different and yet - somehow the same. You try not to stare. Just when you start to process this - you're on another plane to Germany. Once in Germany - it's a little more time to process the "culture-shock" during a hectic schedule of touring - landmarks, schools, a gas-chamber (no longer used), a castle and the like. You try to sleep at night in a strange bed - strange sounds...excited...knowing it will all come to an end...knowing you will remember this for the rest of your life. This is three countries in three weeks!!!

People are people all over the world - goals, dreams, home, family, career, college, spouse, fame/fortune, etc. After speaking German the entire time - my niece sets foot back in the USA. She had an awesome time.

She said...in Germany... she had the best brat sandwich she has ever eaten. After being stateside a few hours - her food request was...Buffalo Wild Wings (BW3). They have no such-named food chain in Germany. Teenagers!!

Remember the kiddies and our service people. Take good care of the furry and feathered ones out there. Be safe and healthy, See ya next time. Ever Toodles!! MONA


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