What has Rachel been up to?

Good question.

The short answer is quite a bit over the last few weeks. But you haven’t heard about most of it, because as it turns out, school takes up a lot of time. But my one class today finished early and the other one is cancelled, so I’m taking advantage of this opportunity to write about what I’ve been doing lately.

To put it succinctly, museums, school, and stand up is what I’ve been doing lately. I’ll move through this list one at a time just like they taught me in fourth grade and start with museums– in particular, the Maritime Museum and Whales of Iceland Museum.

Both of these museums are pretty much exactly what they sound like. The Maritime Museum covered Iceland’s fishing industry from settlement to modern day, but more importantly, it had an exhibit about the Cod Wars. Yes, WarS. Let me explain. Back in the Cold War era, when the rest of the world was freaking out over imminent nuclear war and human rights violations, Iceland and the UK had bigger fish to fry. (Ha ha get it?) Essentially Iceland only had fishing rights like four miles off the shore and the UK had access to the rest of it, so Iceland was like, “Hey guys maybe would it be ok if we fished in our oceans a little bit?” and the UK was like, “NO.” So, in a completely proportional reaction, Iceland started ramming into British fishing boats and cutting their nets. Then Britain was like “FINE,” and Iceland was like “Great,” and then Iceland was like, “Actually no wait this isn’t enough.” This happened THREE TIMES. The entire ordeal ended with a net (HA HA GET IT) 0 casualties, which holds up when you realize that the worst that happened is people threw garbage at each other and one boat almost capsized. That was the highlight of the wars. A boat. Almost. tipped. Now I doubt very many of y’all have read Halldor Laxness’s Independent People, but just in case you did, I want to end with the funniest thing I learned in this entire exhibition. One of the British generals sent a guy out to get the most Icelandic book he could find, in order to better understand the enemy. He came back with Independent People, and after reading it this Brit’s only comment was, “We will never win this war.”

Also at the Maritime Museum: the creepiest fish mask I have ever seen.

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Fun fact: this weirdo is now my boyfriend.

We also went on a tour of a retired Coast Guard boat docked outside the museum. It was very large and impressive and we did not pay attention to the tour at all. Luckily for the guide and probably all of Reykjavik, none of the buttons we pressed worked and most of the doors were locked. Also, for a while there was a dog who lived on the boat!

The other museum I went to was Whales of Iceland. I think you can probably infer what this museum is all about. It consisted of life-size models of whales and dolphins which no one said I couldn’t touch and which I totally touched. It’s the kind of museum I can get behind (I say like I don’t unabashedly adore museums where you’re not supposed to touch things).

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I also adore belugas, though.

Of course there was a scale model of a blue whale. It was a big ass scale model. But the really interesting part of it to me was that it didn’t seem all that huge in the company of other huge ass whales. Don’t get me wrong, it was monstrous, but the impression would’ve been much stronger if it had been surrounded by porpoises instead of other baleen whales. Anyway, the point is whales are cool and some hero periodically goes onto Wikipedia’s Cetacea page and changes the translation of “ketos.”

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Wikipedia probably hates whoever this is.

As far as institutional learning, school is going pretty well. The last few weeks have consisted of folktales, discussions at my professor’s house (still getting used to that one), and browsing YouTube. That is for real. For the same class, I’m putting the finishing touches on an essay entitled “The Roast of Michael Scott.” Shit you do when you’re Rachel Schollaert.

I realized today, however, how much my learning style has shifted in the past couple of years. I had a quiz in my Being Icelandic course today on which I did not do great. I mean, I probably passed it, but it was not ideal. And it’s not because I didn’t pay attention– I went to all the lectures except one (I was sick) and did all of the readings. The problem was that the quiz was about specific names, places, and terms, which I am terrible at remembering. After talking to my friend Perry, who is also in that class and also an English major of sorts (and also turns 23 today! Happy birthday Perry!), we realized that the reason we didn’t do so great is that we don’t read for that kind of thing anymore. We haven’t taken multiple choice tests since high school. We are essay writers, which means we read for themes and overarching concepts, and we have the book right in front of us to cite specific examples. Focusing my education on the topics I’m interested literally changed the way I think.

Fine. Yes. I am making excuses. IT’S ONLY 15% OF MY GRADE, MOM. I’ll nail the essay it’s fine.

Some names I do remember include Axlar-Björn, Iceland’s Shining-esque (and only) serial killer, Sæmundur the good wizard, Loftur the bad wizard (and I literally just realized I made up a similar-sounding, but wrong, name for this guy on my quiz), and Gryla the child-eating Santa mother.

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There’s that smile.

Wait, what? Yes. Gryla eats children and has 13 of her own, the Jólasveinar, which are the Icelandic Santas. Except they’re kind of dicks. One of them just breaks into your home and eats your skyr. It’s an Icelander’s worst nightmare. And she also has the Jólaköttur, Yule Cat, who also eats children when they’re not properly dressed for winter. Iceland truly has a rich and beautiful quilt of lore and legend.

Turning to the final item on my agenda, I’ve still been doing stand up with Goldengang Comedy and it’s still super fun. There’s even video footage of some of my performances if you feel like you’re missing out! (Translation: please watch my stand up. I’m trying to build a career here, folks.)

Other highlights include going to the top of Hallgrímskirkja, which offers a beautiful view of Reykjavik in its entirety. Some days, it’s a big town; others, it’s a little city. Today it was both.

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We also saw the most incredible (double) rainbow I’ve ever seen in my life. It spanned the entire sky, and I could see where it dipped into the ocean (go figure that Iceland’s leprechauns are aquatic). It was phenomenal.

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