In a recent blog post, we shared video highlights from FISHBIO’s trip to Iceland to meet with fellow service representatives of the VAKI Riverwatcher. The trip was not only a valuable work experience, it was also a great opportunity to experience Iceland’s culture and scenery. The direct flight to Iceland from Seattle was in itself unique because the plane essentially flies over the top of the world. There were some majestic sites to be seen from the air, including Canada, the fringe of the Artic, and Greenland. When arriving in Iceland, we quickly realized the landscape gives the impression of an entire country made of moss-covered lava rock. We also quickly realized that things are relatively expensive compared to the United States, and businesses in Iceland, no matter how small, love credit cards! Icelanders are very serious by nature, but are also very accommodating and generally very happy people. From a foreigner’s perspective, we had to wonder how these people could be so happy when the winters are so dark and cold (only 4-5 hours of daylight!), and the summers are still relatively cold and short.
After the first day of the training workshop, Vaki hosted a group dinner at one of the nicest restaurants in Iceland. We have to say the food in Iceland is fantastic, likely due to the large emphasis on organic fruits and vegetables, and farm-raised beef and chicken. The more time you spend with Icelanders, the more you understand where their happiness comes from. To us, it seems there is a good understanding and appreciation of well-being for oneself and family, society, and the environment. Icelanders are always working for a fair and balanced society, in which everyone has equal rights and opportunities. For example, Iceland’s educational system is founded on the principle that everyone should have an equal opportunity to receive an education, regardless of gender, socio-economic status, residential location, religion, or possible handicap; this is likely a large reason for the country’s exceptionally high literacy-rate.
Following the workshop, we stayed for another day to take in more views of Iceland’s glacial mountain tops, fields of moss covered lava rock, the vast Atlantic Ocean across Flaxafloi Bay, modernized historic architecture, and the calm bustle of Icelandic life. We appreciated the openness of Iceland’s rural areas that are a short driving distance from the most populated urban centers. Some of us at FISHBIO were born and raised in small towns, and our Oakdale office is located in “The Cowboy Capital of The World,” with a population of about 20,000 – so we can appreciate the small-town feel that the majority of Iceland has to offer. Although the great waterfalls of Yosemite National Park are just a day trip from FISHBIO’s Oakdale office, we admired Iceland’s numerous picturesque waterfalls, and the country’s dedication to providing close-to-natural fish passage opportunities for Atlantic salmon. Innovation in counting fish passing through ladders at waterfalls is certainly embodied by the Vaki Riverwatcher. While Americans take pride in the development of our a relatively young country, we found that Icelanders take pride in their Viking heritage and continual progress towards an interconnected society – we definitely hope to come back soon.