Friday, October 31, 2008

Þingvellir National Park

The pictures in this post are from Þingvellir National Park which is about 30 minutes from where we live. We left home wondering if it would be a nice day and it was beautiful as you can tell by the pictures. Þingvellir is very significant historically and symbolically to the Icelanders. It was long the site of the original Alþingi or national parliament of the settlers and the setting for many of the most important events in the history of Iceland.

The top picture is taken near what they called the Law Rock where the law was read and the assembly of parliment was below them. The valley served as the living area for all the attendees.

The next picture shows the geological significance of the area. We are standing next to the American continent (high rock wall to the left). The continent of Europe is to our right and we are standing on a section of land that has been left between the two continents.

The next picture shows the American continent on the right and the valley below is the area between the two continents and the national park.

This last picture is just another fissure in the ground - there are many of them.

Another Blow of the Geysir

The name of the geysir is Strokkur. It sends up a column of water and steam up to 30 meters high very few minutes. The other one we saw is called the Great Geyser and is said to seldom erupt so I guess we were there on the right day

Iceland Geysirs (Geysers)

Just to show you the geysirs that are a famous part of Iceland since they go off every few minutes. They are unpredictable and one went off behind us that the Elders had never seen go off on their many trips. This is only 45 minutes from where we live. Note the blue bubble just before it blows.

Icelandic Horses


We have been told we aren't keeping our blog up so I will try to do more. For all the horse lovers here are some pictures of the famous Icelandic horses. Eileen loves them and is always telling me to stop and take pictures. I'm not much for stopping on a highway to take pictures so these are actually from one of our Elders. I think I need to find another way to put my pictures on our blog since you have to click on them to see them.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Sveinbjörg Guðmundsdóttir

Sunday night we picked up the Elders from the boat and then went to sing happy birthday to a member of the branch - Sveinbjörg Guðmundsdóttir. It was her birthday and when I wished here happy birthday at Church she seemed quite surprised. I asked if we could come visit here with the Elders in the evening and she said yes anytime. When we arrived she told us she had turned down a dinner invitation from her son because we were coming. Little did we know what a special experience we were going to enjoy. Eileen asked her about translating the Book of Mormon into Icelandic. She proceeded to tell us the events of the translation. As she did the room was filled with the Spirit testifying of the special experience she had. When she finished she said I have only told that story a few times and then said maybe I shouldn't tell you everything but we said we would love to hear more and she then told us about translating the Temple Ceremony and her trips to Utah to do it. Again the room was filled with the Spirit testifying of the truth of what we were privileged to hear. We really hated to leave as it was such a fantastic experience listening to her and feeling of the Spirit. The Elders had never heard the story before and their two years are up in December - they were really touched by the experience too and were glad we took them with us.

Westmann Islands Trip

Westman Island
Click on the picture to see all the photos in this posting.
We went to the Westmann Islands with the Elders on Friday and Saturday to meet with the members (one family) and with investigators. We returned home Saturday night as we have responsibilities with the Selfoss Branch. The Elders stayed until Sunday night as they held Sacrament Meeting with the member family and one non-member. The trip over was rough and one Elder spent most of the three hours over the toilet. Eileen was the only one who did not seem affected by the rough trip. Friday it was wet and windy but still provided some beautiful pictures. Saturday Eileen and I got up early and did a quick tour of the island - less than an hour. The day was beautiful and we enjoyed time with the member family and an investigator before we had to get back on the boat.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Eileen is Teaching Seminary Again

Eileen was called to be the Seminary teacher in Selfoss and tonight was her first class. Sadly the two that live in Selfoss and committed to coming didn't. Instead the two that live 15 minutes out of town and do early morning Seminary with their Dad came. They loved it because Eileen gave them the Seminary Bible and they were so excited to have the Joseph Smith translations right there in the footnotes. It has to be fun to teach kids with their enthusiasm. Since I was called to be the 2nd counselor in the Branch Presidency and Branch Clerk, I used the time to try and organize the office. Organization has not been a priority and MLS has been used to just submit tithing and so there is lots to do there. Having never used MLS I was a little concerned but it has proved to be very easy to use. We did last Sunday's tithing and submitted the September 21 tithing that was input but never sent. I have also sent off three members records that are no longer in the branch. Wow talk about the lack a privacy. If you live in Iceland you cannot hide where you live or your birthday. Everyone has to notify the National Register where you live and all you have to is go on-line and type in the persons name and you will get their address as well as their birthday. Sure makes it easy for transferring membership records for those who still live in Iceland.

$120 Oil Change

I saw the bill for the mission van oil change and at the current exchange rate for the Icelandic króna it was approximately $120 for the labor, oil and oil filter. When the Wohlgemuth´s arrived 19 months ago it was equal to about $240. We complain about the cost of gas in the US, how would you like to pay those prices for an oil change! We certainly would not be driving much - makes flying look cheap.

A Beautiful Day in Selfoss

Yesterday we visited a family that lives about a half hour north of Selfoss in the high country. Coming home we we were getting the snow that was up higher coming down on us in the form of slushy rain. By the time we got down to Selfoss it was just rain. This morning we woke up to a beautiful day about 40 F. These pictures are from our walk which at times was a little slippery from the ice on the walks. The roads had been salted but the walks were very icy. The top picture is the state church in Selfoss. In the next you can just see the mountains in the far distance covered with snow. The next show where we live - the basement (daylighted) apartment on the left side of the center house. It is a very small apartment but very nice and what a beautiful location on the river. Our view is of the city of Selfoss across the river. The last two pictures are the same - one just close up. Those are the mountains in the distance we have to go over to get to Reykjavik and last night the trip was through the snow. The puffs of what looks like smoke are the hot pots blowing off steam. We see that every day the mountains are clear as we walk into Selfoss.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Still No Phone or Internet!

Our phone and internet were ordered in September and they tell us it has been installed but it still does not work so we are waiting for the line people to check out why it doesn't work. In the meantime we are using the library to get the internet. We have sent many emails to the family the last three days and several times they pop back undeliverable and I resend them. We have received a few emails that make us think ours are still not going through. Please let us know if you have received any emails from us in the last three days.

Still Learning Icelandic Money

Banking is in a high state of turmoil with the 2nd and 3rd largest banks being taken over by the government. We are trying to get a bank account set up with the 2nd largest because that is who the Church uses and thought it would be the easiest way to pay our rent as the Church made the rental agreement so they have to pay it and then we reimburse them. The bank would not let me make a deposit and then only 500,000 kronar which is approximately $500 right now. I ask why I could only make one deposit and they said with the mess the banks are in right now they are restricting what can be done. So today I will hopefully make another 500,000 deposit and then again on Friday so I can pay the rent. Our landlord is very upset with all that is happening and says she can’t even get her money which is in Denmark so she can pay her bills. Will be interesting to see what happens over the next several months. It seems if we could buy Icelandic kronar other than in Iceland we would get it really cheap but not here.

We were grocery shopping today and one of the clerks is a member of the Church. He was redoing pricing on the shelves and I asked if the price of everything was going up and he said yes. To give you a concept of high – toilet paper was approximately a dollar a roll.

First Snow

Our first night in Iceland was Thursday October 2, 2008 and what a greeting we got the next morning. We woke to a complete blanket of snow – about 2 inches. We had to go to Reykjavik which includes a climb over a mountain where the winds can be brutal and the temperature drops. We waited until about 10 AM hoping the roads would get better. The trip was uneventful because our car has traction control and electronic stability control which kept kicking in as we drove through the ice and snow going up the mountain. I don’t mind the going up but coming down is a whole other story. Anyway by Monday night the roads were finally clear of all the ice and snow.

$800 Oil Change

When we were in Denmark we were talking about the high costs of things in Iceland and our Mission President said well how would you like to pay $800 for an oil change? I said what in the heck do they do for $800 and he said they just open their mouths and say an oil change will cost $800. They then explained that just a liter of oil cost the equivalent of $100. It is no wonder there were people on bikes everywhere we looked. At least in Iceland an oil change will only cost the equivalent of $100 which still seems unreasonable but at least not $800 which would certainly keep us from driving. Of course if you can afford a car I suppose you can afford the oil change. In Denmark there is a 120% tax on the purchase of a car. Our Mission President had to buy a new car for his family and discovered they could buy the same VW mini van (smaller than a Chrysler Town and Country) but with a pop top and stove (not noticeable it had either) because there was a lower tax on RV’s up until the day after they made the purchase. Even though the model was more expensive than the same mini van without the RV options the total cost was $18,000 less than the less expensive model due to the difference in taxes. We don’t realize how good we have it in the US. I was reading an article on the plane in a newspaper from England and they were blaming all the economic problems on the working women who are deciding they want to stay home an raise a family - seems almost all women work in Europe including Iceland – and now that some have decided to stay home and raise their families they are taking the heat for ruining the economy. Guess the government can’t accept the blame for their own mistakes.