Probably, the most amazing cure for stress and the way to recharge my life battery is to take a vacation. Vacations for me usually reset the time to calibrate my life priorities. On vacations, I slow down by looking at my life with new lenses, asking myself different deep questions.
Many people refuse to take vacations — an idea that amazes me –worrying about the amount of work which would have piled up by the time they come back. In my opinion, these are the same people who think that they are the only ones who can do their work — a very sad and huge misconception. I am really baffled by this logic. It is sad to watch some tourists who keep checking their work cell phones during vacations, trying to answer all the emails, thinking that this would somehow make them perform better or their coworkers will respect them more, or even their bosses might give them a promotion.
Frankly, I refuse to let work intrude in my thoughts during a vacation although sometimes I cannot help it. I still remember a story I read in Lee Iacocca’s book years ago about someone who worked for him. The employee, proud of himself, claimed that he never took vacations. “Does this mean you don’t know how to have fun?” Iacocca answered with surprise.
In this blog, I am continuing to tell of my journey to Iceland in July, 2016. On our second day, we visited Hallgrimskirkja — the iconic Lutheran Church that towers over downtown Reykjavik, near our apartment. The church is simple with a kind of quiet ambiance. We paid our entrance fee on the honor system and took the elevator to the 9th floor tower. The sky was clear like a deep blue ocean, with pure and cold fresh air coming from the North Atlantic as we overlooked the old downtown of Reykjavik. The 360 degree view of Reykjavik amazed me. My panoramic pictures from the top of the tower revealed the beauty, the city design, and the vibrant colored houses.
Months before our visit to Iceland, I sent several cold emails to people in the University of Iceland, asking for any volunteer who would consider to give us a tour of the University. Several weeks later, I received an email from Gylfi, telling me that he would try to find someone to help me. A week later, he told me that he would be very happy to give us the tour.
We headed to the University of Iceland to meet Gylfi who is a graduate student in computer science with a B.S. in Economics. He, a 26 year-old Icelander who also works for the university, explained the history of the school. The University of Iceland is a public university and the oldest university in Iceland. It was built in 1911 as a small school which now has 20,000 students. The university offers degrees in the social sciences, natural sciences, humanities, engineering, education, and it has a a medical school. Although Iceland is a small nation, the University of Iceland ranks in the top 400 best schools in the world.
We visited the student bookstore, the main administrative building where the dean’s office is, including the library which has the originals of the icelandic sagas. We saw the student theater, and walked by student housing. From the campus Gylfi pointed out the DNA sequencing company — which I later discovered to be owned by Amgen, which sequenced almost 100% of the Icelandic population. Gylfi gave us a quick picture of Icelandic politics since he is active politically, telling us that the conservative party in Iceland is more liberal than the Democratic Party in the US!
We ended up in the university cellar (cafeteria) where we had our lunch. Gylfi, with a reserved but articulate personality, showed confidence and pride in Iceland. He was an excellent guide for us. We said goodbye and he told us not to hesitate to ask him any questions while we were in Iceland. Our time with Gylfi was special and will be long-remembered.
Our visit to the university was really great. We headed to our apartment to relax and take a nap before hitting the next stage of our day.
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