Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Meet And Greet With The Prime Minister Of Iceland!

This evening I took a bit of a break from packing for the big Asia trip and studying for exams to attend a lecture given by the Prime Minister of Iceland. The Newfoundland Telegram newspaper reported that Mr. Geir Haarde was in St. John's to
meet with Premier Danny Williams because the province of Newfoundland and Labrador and Iceland have formalized a partnership to further explore trade opportunities. Mr. Haarde was in the province to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). It is reported that the MOU is designed to promote the friendly relations that exist between Iceland and Newfoundland and Labrador. In particular, it seeks to enhance co-operation between business and industries through business ventures, technology transfer and research and development; and to enhance co-operation in cultural industries, education and the arts.

This evening,
Prime Minister Haarde was at MUN to talk about how Iceland transformed itself in the space of two generations, to the point where it now sits atop the UN's Human Development Index as well as many other global indices of social equity, transparency and commerce. It was an informative talk and an interesting 45 minute long Q & A session. Questions ranged from what Iceland is doing in regards to the Kyoto protocol and the credit exchange program, to Iceland's reliance on geothermal energy. It was incredible to hear that geothermal energy has allowed Iceland to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels, such that oil now makes up only 20% of its total energy consumption!

What was of particular interest was the relaxed atmosphere. No heavy security, no guys in black sunglasses, no wireless headphones. Simply a few RNC officers greeting people at the entrance. Not only was it a great informal presentation, afterwards the Prime Minister mingled amongst the crowd while we all enjoyed various wines and cheeses. Of course, there were additional motives for attending the presentation - what student would pass up free smoked salmon, desserts, and wine!?!

See you all when I return from Asia...

Sunday, April 6, 2008

We're Into The Final Stretch...

So this may be my last post for the winter semester. The past four months have just flown by and we are now into exams. I can happily say that with all of my course assignments completed, there are only four exams that stand in the way between me and Asia. The next few days are going to be tough; I am not sure how I will stay focused on exams while at the same time finish up with preparations for the big trip. There are a few distractions that I am considering: there is a concert by the MUN School of Music next weekend and the Prime Minister of Iceland is also coming to St. John's and will be speaking at MUN next week.

Otherwise, plans for the trip are in full swing. Vaccinations are being taken and the infamous itinerary is near completion. With the details ironed out, here are some of the highlights we are planning for the trip:

Hong Kong: dim sum at Jumbo, all you can eat dessert buffet at the Grand Hyatt, high tea at the Peninsula Hotel, a tram ride to the top of Victoria Peak, taking in the sound and light show while floating on a junk in Hong Kong harbour, and visiting the largest outdoor Buddha at the Po Lin Monastery.

Vietnam: a visit to the Mekong Delta (the rice bowl of Asia), consuming copious amounts of Pho and delicious French pastries, biking around Hoi An to visit the various temples, experiencing the "American War" from the other side, seeing Mr. Ho Chi Minh himself embalmed and on display in Hanoi, and relaxing on a junk while cruising among the limestone karsts of Halong Bay.

Cambodia: enjoying the best (and cheapest) French cuisine outside France, watching the sun rise (along with hundreds of other camera toting tourists) over Angkor Wat, visiting the temples around Siem Reap that have since been consumed by jungle, and visiting the floating villages on Tonle Sap Lake.

Once back from the trip and into the swing of my final semester here at MUN, I am planning a few day trips out to take in the summer sights of Newfoundland. It's been a long winter and I am anxious to make the most of my last four months here. On my list of things to see are: a drive up to Twillingate and Fogo Island to do a little iceberg watching, driving down to St. Vincent to see humpback whales breach from shore, and mixing it up with the locals at the Regatta and Newfoundland Folk Festival. Should be fun!