Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Bringing geothermal power to Africa, Iceland’s international schools, the Mayor and handball.

The previous week was productive, interesting, and fun.  It was productive because the Embassy helped advance a U.S. – Icelandic partnership to bring geothermal energy to the developing world.  It was interesting because I had an opportunity to meet the Mayor of Reykjavik and to learn about Reykjavik’s international school, and it was fun because I attended the friendly handball match between Iceland and Germany and watched Iceland’s matches against Hungary and Japan.

President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson and US Ambassador
Luis Arreaga (right) welcomed participants from five African
countries to a geothermal seminar in Reykjavík.
Our Embassy supported a partnership between American and Icelandic private sector firms and the U.S. government to bring to Iceland a group of officials from the African Development Bank and the power companies from five African nations to have a first-hand look at geothermal power in action.  The group attended a seminar where they learned the nuts and bolts of geothermal development projects and visited power plants to observe their functioning.   It is heartening to see how Icelandic know-how, American capital, and U.S. government support can help bring much needed energy resources to the Rift Valley in Africa.  It was great that President Grímsson accepted an invitation to address the group; he urged them to consider the benefits of geothermal energy.

I also had the pleasure of visiting the International School of Iceland located in Garðabær.  The school has fifty-four students representing eleven nationalities.  It is great to see a place where children from different cultures meet to learn about one another.  For those of us who are here temporarily, the school gives our children an excellent opportunity to learn the Icelandic language, Icelandic culture and to meet Icelandic children.  For Icelandic children attending the school, it gives them an opportunity to learn about foreign cultures.

On Friday I had the opportunity to meet with the Mayor of Reykjavik.    He certainly brings a fresh perspective to government and is engaging, thoughtful, and very committed to the city of Reykjavik.  I enjoyed the meeting very much and look forward to working with him and his administration.

Finally, I have to say that handball is quite an exciting sport.  I started to like it when I watched the last ten minutes of Iceland’s match with Lithuania last October.   Subsequent to that I attended the Haukar – Akureyri match in Reykjavik and Iceland’s first friendly match with Germany a little over a week ago.   I think I am pretty much hooked since I made it a point to watch Iceland’s games with Hungary and Japan.   I love the fast breaks, the complicated plays that result in explosive shots that whizz past the goalie and the nail-biting that goes along with games with very close scores.   Do I understand what is going on most of the time? No, but the more I learn the more I like it.  My best wishes to Iceland’s handball team and congratulations on their well-deserved victories.