Solheimar, Iceland

Solheimar, Iceland
Solheimar Ecovillage in Iceland

Earthaven Ecovillage

Earthaven Ecovillage
Earthaven Ecovillage in Black Mountain, NC

Yogaville, Satchidananda Ashram

Yogaville, Satchidananda Ashram
Yogaville in Buckingham, Virginia

Thursday, September 23, 2010


What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured. -Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Our tiny CELL community of fifteen people is beginning to settle into the larger Solheimar community of about one hundred. We are getting to know the residents better, experimenting in different workshops in the village, and refining the goals of our individual service learning projects. We are all expected to offer something to the Eco Village of Solheimar to either increase sustainability, disseminate knowledge, improve well-being, facilitate growth, or simply benefit the community. I am getting involved in two projects. I am teaming up with Cassie to work on maintaining existing paths throughout the village as well as creating new paths to promote travel by foot rather than vehicle. I dug one natural staircase today outside our guesthouse, but it needs more work. My second project is yoga. I will be teaching yoga classes for all people here on Sunday mornings and Tuesday evenings every week for the next two months. I am excited because I have never lead a yoga class before & to bring the joy of inner union to new people.
Some other projects being looked into by this year's CELL group include, creating an outdoor music garden, building or remodeling a meditation hut, compiling educational materials about sustainability & writing a workbook for children, organizing a week-long summer camp in Solheimar for special needs children around Iceland, improving the role of compost and fixing the amount of nitrogen in the soil, and spending time with the elderly and disabled population in Solheimar.

Another thing that helped make Solheimar feel more like home was our recent departure from it. Last weekend we embarked on a four day backpacking trip through the southern interior of Iceland. We walked 56 kilometers from Landmannalaugar to Þórsmörk. We saw indescribable landscapes, crazy boiling water pools, geothermal mud pits, steaming vents and volcanoes, massive melting glaciers, deep dark ice caves, innumerable caverns and hills to hike, wading glacial rivers & drinking from the streams all weekend, black sand deserts, ash-covered mountains and eating wild blueberries... just too much to process in four days.

We went to the base of Eyjafjallajökull, the glacial volcano that erupted this past April, which was still steaming.


Today we discussed the importance of personal change, and that you must live the way you would like others to live before you can point fingers at others and tell them how to live. It's also very important to be pro-active about the future of our species rather than living in fear and adopting a threatening doom & gloom method of facilitating change. I am willing to change for the sake of the Earth. I don't want to use a car. I want to consume less. I want to create a quieter and subtler existence and smile and love.

My experience with community here has been profound. I wonder if stronger community is a key to harmony with the Earth and it's other inhabitants. The splintering & expansive division of humanity can be repaired and reversed through strengthening community and recognizing the existence of those around us, moving from individualism and separateness to entity and oneness.

Friday, September 10, 2010

A week in Iceland

I've been in Iceland for seven days now, but it feels like seven weeks. I have seen so much and learned much already. I am learning Icelandic slowly but surely. It is much more different than German than I thought it would be. Less people in Solheimar speak English than I thought too, so we have been experimenting with other forms of communication. The CELL group is finally settling into a routine schedule. We have classes Monday-Saturday and have Sunday off. We will be going on a field trip once a week. Next weekend we are going on our 4 day hiking/camping trip before it gets too dark and cold. The weather has been so enjoyable, and a pleasant change from the humid beach in Wilmington, North Carolina. Here is a more detailed look at our daily schedule here at the Eco-Village.

Every morning at 9:00 everyone in the community gathers at the first building that was built here in the 1930s, holds hands in a circle, gives daily announcements in Icelandic, and then sings the Solheimar morning song in Icelandic. Then we hike up to the Sesseljahus eco-center (pictured below) where we have a 1.5 hour Icelandic language class, then a 1.5 hour Icelandic history and culture class, both taught by Katrin Magnusdottir, our Icelandic friend.

We then go to lunch buffet from 12 to 1 and eat with the Solheimar community. The food is delicious and fresh, and the view from the cafeteria (pictured below) is phenomenal. I have sat with different people each day, which has been a nice way to meet new people who live here, even if we cannot carry a conversation!

After lunch we begin our CELL classes where we have group discussions about sustainability, environmental issues, and what we can do to change. The titles of our books are, "Voluntary Simplicity", "Menu for the Future", "Global Warming: Changing CO2URSE" and "Choices for Sustainable Living". They are simply collections of articles and together make up the most interesting and important curriculum I have ever dealt with in my entire academic experience. The discussions that these readings prompt are critical and crucial in my understanding of the world and how humans can and should fit into the ecological continuum. We have been challenging previous understandings, forging new definitions for worn out words (like sustainability), and inspiring each other to practice what we preach. We are in a perfect place to facilitate growth and apply the theories that we all grasp. Speaking of facilitate, each session is taught by 2 different facilitators in our group so the students guide the discussions providing more freedom and flexibility. This type of learning is the best I have ever encountered.

I will have a lot of reading to be doing while I am here, so my blog posts will be few and far between but I will not abandon you! I may upload more pictures than words onto my flickr account, since they will do a better job of giving you a glimpse of Iceland than my inadequate description here. Our group took our first field trip yesterday to Reykjavik, the capital city. We had an amazing time and got several top notch presentations from important people, but I like it better here on the farm. I tried to post a video from this morning while walking around a field before lunch.. I found some friendly chickens walking near a house with a turf roof and an Icelandic flag with gorgeous mountains off in the distance, but it wouldn't let me upload it. I will continue to try though.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Settled In

Góður dagur. Good day.
I flew from Wilmington, North Carolina to Boston, Massachusetts on Wednesday, September 2nd. My friend Caleb picked me up from the airport and let me crash on a couch in his new apartment right near downtown. We took some intense walking tours of the city and I bought a few items that I forgot to pack in my rush. I like Boston from what I saw in 28 hours. I met the rest of my CELL group members in the International Wing of the Logan Airport on September 3rd. We introduced ourselves and waited for our group leaders, Katherine and Karin, to arrive. We checked our baggage, went through security, ate airport food, and all crossed our fingers hoping that hurricane Earl would not effect our travel plans. Happily, we all boarded the 747 Icelandair jet around 9:00 pm and lifted off promptly.

I barely slept on the flight - too excited. After five hours, I watched the sun rise over the left wing of the plane and saw the jagged green edge of Iceland below. We landed in Keflavik at 6:30 am, claimed our bags, walked through customs and met our Icelandic guide, Katrin Magnusdottir. We hopped on an aqua bus and got a 1.5 hour tour of the southwestern Iceland countryside. We went through Reykjavik (the capital city & most populated area), Selfoss (the closest big city to Solheimar), and Borg (Solheimar's neighboring town where the children attend school). We finally arrived at the sign reading "Solheimar: A Place in the Sun", and drove down the red volcanic rock road.

The CELL group is staying in a large guesthouse named "Brekkukot". We were immediately greeted with a breakfast spread at our giant 15 person table and then got a quick walking tour of the Eco-Village. We were all exhausted so we returned home and tried to combat jet lag. There are three double rooms, one of which I am sharing with my meditation buddy Jason, and the rest are single rooms. There are two bathrooms, a large kitchen, a common room with couches and chairs, a sun room and a balcony. The views are breathtaking, and my breath is indeed taken from me each time I exit a building. It is soon replenished by crisp, clean, cool air. The weather has been comfortable and an enjoyable change from the humid Wilmington summer. It is unpredictable and sporadic though, with high winds, frequent rain spritzes and quick moving clouds. I already recognize positive connections with everyone I am sharing this experience with and we are all still feeling blissful and thankful for this opportunity. It will be an interesting and wild experience, full of figuring out how successfully feed 15 people every night, how to integrate into a self-sustainable 100 person community, breaking the language barrier and learning Icelandic, along with many other unpredictable things. Dinner is ready now though, so I'll update you with many more specifics and some photographs as soon as I can.