By Karrah Parke
My experience in Iceland as part of the Snorri Program 2022 was largely defined by the truly extraordinary people I had the privilege of meeting and the memories we made together as we explored the country.
Part of the Snorri Program includes a homestay visit with Icelandic relatives. My experience with my lovely family far surpassed any of my expectations! They were inquisitive, generous, and so warm as they welcomed me into their homelife and showed me around their sliver of the country. From the beginning, I felt I was at “a home away from home,” as there was a sense of familiarity. On our first night around the dinner table, we had great fun trying to find genetic similarities that bound us together, from our earlobes to our noses to our eye colour.
As a family of six (five people and one adorable dog), I was lucky enough to spend personal quality time with each of them. The mother of the household, my fourth cousin once removed, was an exceptionally intelligent professor specializing in geothermal energy. She taught me so much about the geothermal processes that go into powering Iceland, and showed me the marvelous hot springs at Seltún! She also allowed me to try on a traditional Icelandic bonnet (‘upphlutur’) that had been passed down by the women in her family, which was an especially touching moment.
Her husband showed me his family farm where he grew up, a nearby mountain, and (in my opinion) the most beautiful waterfall in all of Iceland, both of which are pictured below. I will keep their locations a secret to avoid swarms of tourists to the area, thus preserving his solitude there. He and the youngest son also took me on a road trip to see the gorgeous south coast, and we had such interesting discussions comparing Icelandic and Canadian politics, culture, language, and traditions.
The oldest child took me along the gorgeous Golden Circle, where she told me about the trolls in the rocks at Þingvellir, and we fell for the tourist-trap “lava sandwich.” She also showed me the wishing well she used to throw coins in as a child. Over the two-week visit, she and I bonded over a love of sweets, and shared many, many treats together during my time there, including homemade cookies and ísbíltúr!
The middle child is very active and physically capable and took me on two hikes and a bike ride in one day! Pictured below is me at Glymur, the second highest waterfall in Iceland.
I enjoyed our physically active day, and appreciated that he did not mind when I needed to take copious breaks during our second hike that day up Mount Esja to ‘Steinn” (as you can see, my cheeks are quite rosy from all the exertion)!
The youngest son and I connected over interests in current events, politics, and video games, and I also managed to convince him to read an incredibly long article. He took me to see Bláfjöll outside the city, mountains with giant craters responsible for most of the lava in Reykjavík and the surrounding areas. Pictured below is me standing by the lava fields for reference – they were significantly taller than me at 5 ft 5!
During the road trip along the south coast, where I got to see Seljalandfoss, Skógafoss, Dyrhólaey, Reynisfjara, and Fjaðrárgljúfur, some of Icelandic’s most spectacular gems, we introduced each other to new music, and he always had a geology fact handy to share with me! Another special memory was from the first few days staying at their home, when the father and youngest son took me to the nearby grave sites of my Icelandic relatives, shrouded in a lovely, secluded grove on a hillside.
In addition to the marvelous experience I had during my homestay, I also enjoyed getting to know 21 of my US/Canadian-born Icelandic cousins. Being such a diverse group, there was never a dull moment! From people being left stranded in the middle of nowhere by bus drivers, to impromptu mini golf sessions, to human pyramids, I will forever cherish the time I spent with these amazing people learning their unique idiosyncrasies and creating a lifelong bond.
The above is just a sample of memories that will have a lasting impact on me, and I hope that I could articulate the importance of these vignettes through this article.
Thanks to the generosity of the Icelandic Roots donors that made these Snorri scholarships possible, I was able to go on a once-in-a-lifetime trip and make such special memories with my fellow Snorri cousins, meet my long-lost Icelandic family across the ocean and learn more about the unique, marvelous country of my ancestors.
Snorri að eilífu!