Shared Joy is Twice the Joy, Shared Pain is Half the Pain


Český Čtvrtek – Káča

Můj tatinek jednou řikal, “všichni musí sbírat něco.” On sbíral známky v dětsví, a dnes sbírá knihy o fotbalových rozhodčích. S mojí rodinou, sbírame mince z celého světa, proto máme mince z Japonsko, z Kanad’y, České Republicky, a mnoho dalších. Ale, sbírám něco sama taky. Sbírám káči. Proč? Tady je podvika.

Když mi bylo 13 let, cestovali jsme do České Republiky s mými prarodiči. Potom jsme cestovali do Italie, ale to jenom já, můj bratr, a moji rodiče. V Praze, jsem založila moc krasnou káču v trh a moje babička ji koupila pro mě. Byla to moje vzpominka z České Republiky.

Potom, jsme cestovali do Italie vlakem a ve vlaku, můj tatinek pověděl mě o sbíraní. Když můžeme koupit něco káču v Italii, budeme. V celé Italii, jsme hledali. Hledali jsme v Římě, hledali jsme v Milaně, hledali jsme v Benátkách. Nakonec, jsme v Benátkách, viděli jeden káču v obchodě oken. Ale tento obchod byl zavřeny, a museli jsme jet vrzo ráno. Můj tatinek klepal a klepal a někdo otevřel dveře. Tato káča byla opravdu poslední káča skla v obchodě, možna v celých Benátkách. Ale koupili jsme. A měla jsem dvě káči ze dvou zemí.

Když jsem cestovala do Japonsko, koupila jsem káču tam. a Ted’, zkusím koupit káču v každé zemi. Je legrace, protože mám něco dělat všude. Musím hledat, proto mus=im zkoumat místa. Nemůžu jenot jet na proslulá místa když chci koupit káču z této země. Ale, nemůžu koupit všude, protože ěasto nemůžu hledat nebo nemůžu najít káči.

Myslím nejlepší důvod pro sbíraní je podviky. Když cestuju s někým, můžeme hledat dohromady. Je to legrace a trochu jiný než normalní cestování. V Listopadu, jsme cestovali s dvěma kamaradkamí do Turecka. Tam, jsem šly na trhy. Nemyslely jsme, že koupíme něco, protože všechno bylo velké nebo drahé. Ale, řikala jsem, když někdo bude vidět káči, prosim řekněte mi to. Asi za dvacet metrů, jsem viděla něco a křičela jsem “káěi!” Pravda, byl tučety káči. Koupila jsem jednu krásnou.

Mám dvě káči z Polska, protože jsem koupila jendu na trhu a naše výlet vůdce koupila jeden v Židovském muzeu. Je dreidel a nevím když opravdu káču, ale ona je opravdu hezká a děkovala jsem jí. Koupila jsem moji káča z Francie, z Švýcarska, a z Islandu v dětském obchodě, ale na Islandu jsem hledala jeden v kuchynském ochodu taky.

Moje kamarady někdy koupily káči pro mě v nové zemi, nebo pomohy mě s hledat někde. Nemám káči ze všech zemí kam jsem cestovala, ale mám jich mnoho. Mám káči z Japonska, ze Švýcarska, z Turecka, z Polska, z České Republiky, z Italie, z Francie, a možna ješte ale nemůžu vzponenout ted’protože jsem tady a jsou v Americe. Ale mám jednu otázku: když cestuju někam dvakrat nebo už, měla bych koupit jeden na každý výlet nebo ne?

My dad once told me, “everyone should collect something.” He collected stamps as a kid, and now he collects books about soccer referees. With my family, we collect coins from countries around the world, so we have coins from Japan, Canada, the Czech Republic, and many others. But, I also collect something myself. I collect tops. Why? Here is the story.

When I was 13 years old, we traveled to the Czech Republic with my grandparents. And then we traveled to Italy, but it was only me, my brother, and my parents. In Prague, I found a beautiful top in a market and my grandmother bought it for me. It was my souvenir from the Czech Republic.

After, we traveled to Italy by train and on the train, my dad told me about collecting. If we could find a top in Italy, we would buy it. Throughout Italy, we searched. We searched in Rome, we searched in Milan, we searched in Venice. At the end of our time in Venice, we saw one top in a shop window. But the shop was closed and we had to leave early in the morning. My dad knocked and knocked and someone opened the door. That top was truly the last glass top in the store, and maybe in all of Venice. But we bought it. And I had two tops from two countries.

When I travelled to Japan, I bought a top there. And now, I buy a top in every country I visit. It is fun, because I have something to do everywhere. I have to look, so I have to go to different places. I cannot only go to the tourist places if I want to buy a top in that country. but I can’t always buy one, because often I can’t search or I can’t find a top.

I think the best reason for collecting is the stories. If I travel with someone, we can search together. It is fun, and a bit different than normal travel. In November, I went to Turkey with two friends. There, we went to the outdoor market. We didn’t think we would buy anything, because everything was big or expensive. But I said if anyone sees tops, please let me know. From about twenty meters, I saw something and yelled “Tops!” It was true – they were dozens of tops. I bought a pretty one.

I have two tops from Poland, because I bought one at a market and our trip leaders bought one at the Jewish museum. It is a dreidel, and I don’t know if it is truly a top, but the woman is so nice and I thank her. I bought my tops in France, in Switzerland, and in Iceland from children’s stores, although I also found one in Iceland in a kitchenware store.

My friends sometimes buy me tops from new countries, or help me look for them somewhere. I don’t have tops from every country I’ve been to, but I have tops from many of them. I have tops from Japan, Switzerland, Turkey, Poland, the Czech Republic, Italy, France, and maybe more but I can’t remember because I am here and they are in America. But I have a question: If I travel somewhere twice or more, should I buy one for each trip, or not?



Photos from Iceland


We planned Tuesday through Friday of our trip out pretty meticulously before we left home, but I managed to convince Mom to leave Saturday and Sunday open, so we could pick fun places to go based on suggestions. We decided Friday night to head into Hveragerdi for Saturday, and visit some of the geological features in the area. Definitely the best decision of the trip.

DSCN5722We started our day further South, and stopped by Seljalandsfoss, which is the waterfall I had decided I wanted to see. You’re able to walk behind it, although it is probably a lot easier to walk behind in the summer than the winter. The spray from the falls (which are about 60 meters high) created some fabulous ice sculptures on the rocks, hills, and pathways. Though the walk was very icy and probably incredibly dangerous, Mom and I made it to the back, where we got some incredible views of the countryside. I’d say this one is cooler than the more famous Selfoss.

From there, we headed to the town of Hveragerdi, which was probably the best stop of the trip. Easy to get to, brimming with geothermal heat features, and with some really tasty restaurants, I’m super glad we stopped there. Once we arrived, we checked in at Hotel Ork, which is a nice hotel with what looks like an amazing swimming pool, and incredibly helpful staff. They gave us a map and pointed out how to get to the mudpots, just north of town.DSCN5774

Seen to the right, they were steaming and bubbling, and the sound of the mud literally boiling was incredible. They apparently only opened up after an earthquake in the area in 2006, and they are in a strangely straight line. It was a bit disconcerting to be able to stand in certain places and see a line of steaming holes in the ground to your left and to your right. Nonetheless, it was pretty fascinating.

After the mudpots, we wandered back into town, heading to a restaurant called Kjot & Kunst.


It was absolutely the best meal of our trip. You can see their oven in the bottom left of the picture – literally a bunch of rocks over a geothermal vent. They use the geothermal heat to heat the rocks and cook the food. I had a fantastic bowl of mushroom soup with earth-baked bread, followed by traditional-style breaded lamb chops. It was all so good! Mom had earth-baked chicken legs, which were also fantastic.

And then, of course, the hotel called us when the Northern Lights finally came out, adding a wonderful exclamation point to an awesome day.

Aurora Borealis

We found them! In a true miracle, the clouds parted (literally), long enough for us to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights, and they were definitely the best and most anticipated sight of the trip.

What are they?

The Aurora Borealis, also known as the Northern Lights, is the stunning visual display that comes about as a result of charged particles from the sun interacting with the Earth’s atmosphere. There are a bunch of different possible colors depending on what gas particles are involved in the reaction. The most common color is green – caused by interactions with oxygen in the lower parts of the atmosphere. Higher interactions with oxygen cause rarer red auroras.

No matter what people say, or how many pictures you see of them, they are definitely best seen in real life. They don’t seem real, even (or especially?) when you’re watching them. Constantly in motion, they basically fade in and out of existence before your eyes. The ones we saw started very strong and got weaker over time. When we first walked out and saw them, there was a glowing green streak across the entire sky, starting over a mountain to the North, and stretching over the town until fading out in the East. They pretty much stayed in the same general area, though there were moments when they were visible further in each direction.

Also, it seems that every single picture of the Northern Lights is taken with a long exposure. I’ve seen everywhere from one to thirty seconds, and probably even longer. The pictures I took were only one second exposures, because that’s the longest I have on my little point and shoot camera, but they are still gorgeous. Admittedly, though, the pictures look bigger and brighter than the Aurora actually was; but the pictures are nowhere near as gorgeous, since they catch none of the motion.

Predicting the Northern Lights

The strength of the Northern Lights can be predicted, with increasing accuracy as the date and time draws nearer. They are typically strongest during the months of the equinoxes – spring in March and autumnal in September. Because the Earth’s magnetic poles are in line with the Suns’ emissions during these months, more of the charged solar particles make it into the atmosphere, where they interact with the atmosphere. Additionally, the solar emissions work on an approximately 11 year cycle; this cycle’s peak is predicted to be in 2013, or potentially early 2014.

Approximate predictions can be made a month in advance, because the Sun and the Earth line up in the same orientation every 27-28 days. If there is a strong solar storm one month, the probability of a good show the next month is higher. These predictions could be useful in deciding when to book flights for a trip, especially if one is heading into Alaska or Canada from the US, or into Scandinavia from Europe.

Better predictions can be made two to three days in advance, because the solar emissions take about two and a half days to get from the Sun to us. As a result, large solar flares that are observed can imply large Auroras two or three nights later. These predictions would be helpful for trips that are planned with start and end dates but nothing in between. We used it to help us decide where to stay our last night in Iceland.

The best predictions come one hour out, when the solar emission data is recorded by satellites as they enter Earth’s atmosphere. These were very helpful in determining when to head out for the night, but not very good for long term planning.

If you are planning a trip, the best predictions, by far, come from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute. You can look at different regions, or different days. A 28 day kp index prediction is also available in the bottom right.

There was a large solar flare right before our trip, a large storm on March 14, which resulted in a beautiful show the Sunday before we arrived. Seriously, that was all anyone could talk about whenever we asked about the Northern Lights. That night hit a 6 on the kp index, which measures the strength of the Northern Lights on a 1-9 scale. Based on what I’ve seen, it seems the kp index is typically at 2, and rarely reaches as high as 4. The night we saw the lights, they were a 2 and beautiful.

Catching Them in Iceland


People say you have to get away from the city lights to get the best view of the Aurora, and while I’m sure that is true, nothing in Iceland seems big enough to have much effect. We headed out into the countryside in Southern Iceland for the best shot, but the weather didn’t cooperate – the clouds were blocking the entire sky both nights we were out in the middle of nowhere. We even woke up at 2:30am each night to check on the cloud cover; there was no clearing.

For cloud cover forecasts, the Icelandic Weather site is incredibly helpful. Their site shows forecasts for cloud cover at three levels – high, medium, and low. The high and middle clouds are about the height that the Aurora occurs; the low clouds basically just block your view. On the right, you can see the kp prediction, as well as sunset, moonset, and sunrise times for the evening. The site is also great for temperature and wind speeds around Iceland – follow the links on the left of the page.

The night we did see the Northern Lights, we were staying at Hotel Ork in Hveragerdi, about an hour outside of Reykjavik to the south. Hveragerdi is a beautiful town, and the lights weren’t bright enough to limit our viewing abilities – the lights were bright and beautiful even over the city. We did drive a bit North to see them better, taking Road 1 about ten minutes out of town, where we stopped on a random side road at the top of a hill. If I had to guess, I’d say it was somewhere between Roads 38 and 39, but don’t take my word for it. From there, we had a splendid 360 degree view of the area, limited only by a small orange haze from Hveragerdi one way and a similar white haze from Reykjavik. At one point, a couple of tour buses on the Northern Lights tours came by, so we must have been in a truly prime viewing spot.

The biggest hurdle to our viewing wasn’t the city lights, but the clouds. Perhaps we were just there at an inopportune time, or perhaps March is a particularly stormy month, but we were limited by full cloud cover all but one night, and lots of wind every single day. I’d definitely say that the longer you’re there, the more likely you are to see the Northern Lights, which is exactly what happened to us. Happy hunting!

Logan Airport. Take Two.

Well…here I am again. Chilling in Logan Airport waiting for the plane to board. Once again, people are standing up, crowding the gate, hoping to get on the plane as early as possible. Only this time, something is pretty significantly different. Instead of standing around staring at each other sullenly, everyone is chatting amicably. The four kind old ladies from Dublin are laughing about something with the Norwegian couple. An Icelandic native is showing an American tourist the best way to capture the Northern Lights with his camera. At least two people have finished and swapped books (myself included – The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks for Madeleine Albright’s Prague Winter). The young couple with the baby, who were the recipients of so many frowns last night, are talking about baby girls with the new grandmother on her way back to France to spend time with her daughter.
No one, of course, is going to say that they enjoyed the past twenty four hours – we have waited three hours to be told our flight was cancelled, waited in line for our new tickets, waited for the buses, waited to check in at the hotel, waited, waited, waited. An experience, yes, but not a particularly pleasant one. As I just overheard the retired physicist from Kansas tell the computer scientist from Iceland, however, “we’ve already met a bunch of Icelanders, and they’ve all been very nice.” It bodes well for a good rest of the trip, I think (hope).
In the most epic of ironic situations, this beautiful advertisement can be found over security:

It was supposed to be me… Mom went to the Blue Lagoon this morning without me, and will enjoy our first night in Reykjavik by herself. My flight is now getting in tomorrow morning, just in time for our Golden Circle tour. For now, I’m going to try to get some sort of sleep on this five hour flight.

Iceland 2013

Our trip to Iceland is an interesting hybrid between completely planned and completely unstructured; a trip style that I’ve never really done before. We had a great spring break last year in DC, and I’m thoroughly looking forward to this year’s trip.

Mom and I are flying independently into Keflavik International Airport in Reykjavík, Iceland. We’ll both be arriving early (early!) Tuesday morning, ready for six exciting mother-daughter days. We’ll be in Reykjavik Tuesday and Wednesday, and heading a couple hours’ drive into South Iceland for Thursday and Friday. In an adventurous spirit, we don’t know where we’ll be sleeping Saturday night. (If you know my mother, you understand. If not, just go with it.) We’re heading back home Sunday evening, and back to school/work on Monday.

A quick and much-deserved shout out to Trip Mavens, who helped us pick wonderful lodging. We’re staying at Hotel Holt in Reykjavik, and Hotel Anna in South Iceland. I’m so excited about Hotel Anna, which has nightly Northern Lights tours leaving from their hotel every evening, and Mom fell in love with Hotel Holt, which doubles as an art gallery. Both hotels have wonderful looking menus in their in-house restaurants.

But why Iceland? I’ve gotten a lot of this question, and there are so many good answers. The best one, of course, is why not? Aurora Borealis. The original Geyser. All the natural hot springs. The experience of a new place and a new language. The relatively short plane ride from Boston. Being able to say I went to Iceland.

Honestly, who knows why I’m going to Iceland? I certainly don’t. Why do I travel? I don’t know that either. Because I love it, perhaps. Because there is nothing more enjoyable than traveling around the world. Taking a trip is so full of fun things, exciting new opportunities. Getting to research all the cool things I can do, all the places to go, and getting to turn all of that into a full-fledged plan. Or a non-fledged plan, if that suits my fancy. Bringing home a journal filled with musings and stories, cutouts of brochures and newspaper clippings. Dozens of pictures, hundreds of memories. Or is it dozens of memories and hundreds of pictures?

I couldn’t be more excited about getting to explore a gorgeous country and enjoy with my mom what promises to be an awesome vacation!