Monday, 1 July 2013

Miss Lame springtime travels

This moment in time, at this new place full of new stimulus, new perspectives, a new vibe, that is impossible to summarise to perfect clarity with words.  The same place will look differently in a different year, a different season, yesterday, through a different lens.  The bitter-sweet realisation, that you will never be able to see everything, in every form, in a life time. In a thousand life times. This is also what is so magical about travel. Your experience.
Your precious moment in time.
It has informed who you are and how you see the world. More enriched. Even when things don’t happened ideally, learning is the result. We are still… More enriched.
Your moment. Your opportunity. Your growth.
My body bumps and bobbles side to side as my volcano tour guide drives the off-roading jeep along the young, barely evident roads that carry us, adjacent to Eyjafjallajӧkull- The volcanic range that erupted 2010.  Newly laid igneous rock, newly laid tracks- It is illegal to start a new path in Iceland. Police must be the first to imprint the land.

The severely grooved tire tread picks up young ash and occasionally wields glacier water that trickles in small rivers intersecting our path, streaming from Eyjafjallajӧkull to our right. 

My charismatic guide is telling myself and the two other travellers, about Icelandic delicacies; “lamb scrotum jelly” and the fermented shark that “smells like pee”. He too, does not quite understand WHY.
It’s taken with a shot of this harsh liqueur”.
We agree it’s not about the pleasure of food, rather an opportunity to prove “toughness”, or rather a lack of tastebuds...
We park. Eyjafjallajӧkull provides me with a sample of ash for my students. I am very excited about the small container full of deep, black material, jam-packed with minerals. Just a few years ago, molten and deep in the Earth.
EEEEEEEEEieieeeeeeeeghhheeeee!!!! (Excitement)
Lava is probably one of the coolest things in the world to Miss Lame.
Standing proudly with my small container of ash, crystal blue sky day, peering up at the massive overhanging glacier at the location where the volcano spewed externally in 2010 (most of the eruption occurred under the glacier atop the range).  The Sun is sat right at the crest of this stout, but long volcanic range.  It makes the snow and ice glimmer, and the blackness of the young ash abrupt and contrasted.

I feel this extreme, elated feeling. My heart is exploding with happiness and excitement. The natural wonders that surround me. My brain, buzzing and tangential with science-dork thoughts.  I wonder, “Can one have a heart attack from extreme happiness?
On the tour, I am also introduced to Hekla. A hyperactive volcano, she erupts frequently, sort of like Miss Lame… Typically, Hekla vocalises every 10 years or so. It has been 12 years, so I crossed my fingers in hopes that Hekla would be hyper with me. My guide informs me that these moments of hyperactivity are not particularly dangerous, not like in the movies, with fireballs and unbeatable rivers of lava.  I am told that an old lady with a walker could out run the oozing lava that makes its way out of Hekla. Hekla does, however, start throwing around pummus, which if struck by, would hurt. Pummus is often used for scrubbing callouses on feet. Hekla, 100 metres in front of me, I bend down and grabbed another sample. For my students… and the callouses on my feet…
On this unique and inspiring tour, I am also shown the youngest island in the world, in the distance, barely visible in the picture below.

The island was built up from years of continuous eruptions in the ocean, which surfaced and quelled in the past 5 years or so. Under study, only scientists are allowed to place foot on this small, infantile landmass. Nothing may be left or taken there- Poop bags are a must. The birds that fly over-head, however, are not bound by these strict regulations, and so they leave their mark.  The scientists have begun to observe minute signs of first-ever life/growth on the youngest island on Earth and it is mostly owed to the birds generous gifts of poop
Poop = organic matter = life. How beautiful.
This day long adventure was my moment in Iceland.  At this time in natural history, when this small landmass is the youngest in the world, Hekla was chilled out, and only two years ago, Eyjafjallajӧkull beltched igneous rock with ample minerals and transformed the surrounding Icelandic landscape.
How fortunate I am.

  • ·       Spanish, or I should say, Catalunya life.

Merci!” I say as the server approaches me.  
He beams, “ohh, do you speak Catalan?!
Thanks to my Catalan ex-flatmate and dear friend, Clara, I arrived in Barcelona, well equipped with the “proper” greeting for the Catalonian region of Spain.
Not with the French accent”, Clara had highlighted.
Great first impressions in Barcelona for Miss Lame!
Thanks Clara!
Throughout my time in Barcelona, day after day, a picture of Catalan identity was painted with distinct lines, in colours and words.
An apparent, overriding wish, to be a place separate from Spain. I am reminded of the dynamic between Quebec and the rest of Canada.
I see evidence in the form of blue and white stripes hanging proudly from windows.
A student survey conveys the widespread feelings of Catalan people. Parc Guell. With a fellow Canadian and friend, John, who had joined me for Barcelona adventures.  Gaudi curves and colours encompass us in the form of the world’s longest bench. Resemblance of a slithering dragon’s curvaceous spine. 

We are part of a tourist mass atop this outlook spot. Two local youth, likely around eleven year old, clipboard in hands, approach us.

A class project. Survey the tourists.  
They gently request to “ask us a few questions”, pointing at their clipboard to fill in the communication gaps. John and I curiously and happily accept.
The interviewers first look for simple, one word answers. This is easiest for both parties.  

Where are you from?

What is your favourite sport?

Do you like Barcelona?


Our interviewers are quite satisfied with our responses and record them confidently.
We are then confronted with their final question “What do you think about Catalonia independence?
John and I look at each other. Puzzled. Stumped. On unsettled territory upon which we have little ground to stand on.
Could we possibly find any ONE word that may suffice?!
We err on the safe side and decide on a simple response that will appease our over-ambitious interviewers. We have learned after 4 days in Barcelona what they would like to hear.
It’s good” we say with an apprehension, a sort of question in an answer. We are aware of the over-simplicity of our response, and our under awareness of the historical, political situation. We give them a visual “thumbs up” to evade the communication barrier. John and I look at each other, both knowing that pages upon pages of words could be used to respond sufficiently to their inquiry. Research required.
  • ·       Rosemary, thyme and climb.

John and I set out to climb Montserrat, up to the famous Monastery atop the geological breadknife. Monserrat is named after the “serrated” profile it imprints against the sky.  

We begin our climb and initially our bodies oxygen demand supersedes our oxygen supply. My forward lurching posture gives me a great view of the rock upon which I am cascading.  I observe a lot of sedimentary rock and Neil Shubin’s words come to mind. Sedimentary rock equals discovering fossils (Your Inner Fish). This is because the processes in building of sedimentary rocks involve the layering and compacting of bits of sediment (eroded pieces of rock), which would preserve little dead organisms. A big earth hug!  Meanwhile, while igneous and metamorphic rock is built in extreme heat conditions. Dead organism melt down! Breathing heavily, I excitedly and actively scan the rocks, hopeful that I might spot a simple little fossil. Rosemary shrubs graze my calves and thyme seep out of rock crevasses. I touch them, I smell them. I sweat and my breathing fluctuates with the mountain grade. My glutes contract and pull me up and forward. All my senses are active and I am aware of them all. I  am officially living in that moment and time. I am overwhelmed and again, my heart explodes with sheer happiness.
Rosemary galore
Over half way up. The view.
Moments from the monastery

My moment in Spain.

 NOTE: Any words that are boldeditalicizedunderlined and in red are suggested/preferred words by Mom. She doesn’t like me saying words like fuckshitass (etc) on the internet… I feel these words better illustrate my feelings at times, so just imagine them in there if you will.

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