Thursday, February 28, 2013

Icelandic Symphony off to Nordic Cool

We were given the opportunity to attend the Icelandic Symphony’s last concert before they head out to Washington, D.C., to perform at Nordic Cool--a celebration of Nordic Culture at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. The pieces by Edvard Grieg (Norway), Jean Sibelius (Finland), and Icelandic composers Anna Þorvalsdóttir and Hlynur Aðils Vilmarsson gave the evening a truly Nordic flavor. The Icelandic Symphony’s excellent performance was punctuated by the virtuoso performance of American pianist Garrick Ohlsson, who will join the symphony in Washington DC. In many ways the Icelandic Symphony is a symbol of the American-Icelandic partnership given that several of its members are Americans who have found a profession in Iceland.

The John F. Kennedy Center for the performing arts. Photo: Margot Schulman

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Arctic cooperation on the move

Last Friday, I attended a gathering of Arctic Ambassadors hosted by Iceland’s Senior Arctic Official (SAO) Ambassador Hjalmar Hannesson. We exchanged notes about our respective preparations for the upcoming Ministerial in Kiruna, Sweden. These discussions are part and parcel of deepening cooperation among members of the Arctic Council. The meeting was also an opportunity to say goodbye to our good friend and colleague Ambassador Hannesson who will become Iceland’s Consul General in the Iceland of the West (Winnipeg, Canada). Hjalmar has been a good friend of the United States and the Arctic. He will be missed.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Promoting the English language in Iceland.

I was invited to attend the English Speaking Union’s annual public speaking competition which was held at Reykjavik University. The contestants were a group of outstanding Icelandic students from High School level and above. They were quite impressive and I know the judges had a very hard time picking the winner. The next stage of the competition will take the winner, Emily Ward, to London for the grand prize competition.

Monday, February 25, 2013

En Islandia se habla español

We welcomed a group of students from the University of Iceland. They are majoring in Spanish and it gave me an opportunity to test their skills and practice mine. The group was diverse and I thoroughly enjoyed talking with them. I was impressed by their skill level. We used the opportunity to encourage them to consider advancing their education in the United States, as well as to talk to them about the strength of U.S.-Icelandic relations.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Alaska delegation rocks at the Mid-Atlantic

The Alaska delegation to Icelandair's Mid-Atlantic conference of travel industry representatives from North America and Europe hosted the closing dinner of the conference at the Hilton Nordica. Our Alaska hosts (Visit Anchorage, the State of Alaska and the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute) gave their guests a fun-filled evening of fantastic Alaska seafood, entertainment by the famous Inuit musical band Pamyua, and great photo-ops with world famous Alaska wildlife. It was an evening that celebrated the upcoming launch of Icelandair's new flight to Anchorage and built stronger connections between Alaska and Iceland.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Worcester, Massachusetts made our day

Yesterday afternoon I opened an envelope addressed to the U.S. Embassy and found a hand- made Valentine Card with a wonderful warm message from a group of citizens from Worcester, Massachusetts. The note read “From the city that created the Valentine in the heart of Central Massachusetts. The good people of Worcester County send their gratitude for your service to our country in pursuit of peace in the world.” It was a heartfelt message that filled our hearts and strengthened our resolve to serve the people who sent us abroad to represent them, their values and their aspirations. Thank you Worcester RSVP Volunteers.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Partnering with Iceland to save lives

We hosted a brief ceremony to present an AMVER award to the crew of the Árni Friðriksson, a research ship operated by the Marine Research Institute which provides the Ministry of Fisheries with scientific advice base on its research on marine resources and the environment. AMVER is a computer-based, voluntary, global ship reporting system used worldwide by search and rescue authorities to arrange for assistance to persons in distress at sea. Today, over 22,000 vessels participate in the program and on any given day there are over 5,000 vessels available to divert and assist in emergency situations. AMVER will prove to be an excellent tool as marine traffic increases in the arctic region. We are delighted to know that a growing number of Icelandic ships are participating in the program.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Walking with the dead to promote the Walking Dead

In one of the more unusual and perhaps the most fun activities in my foreign service career, Mary and I joined a group of Icelandic zombies on a “walk” from the Hlemmur bus station to Bíó Paradís where we had a chance to watch the first chapter of the third season of “The Walking Dead” a highly successful American television series.

We partnered with SkjárEinn, cable television provider of the show, and Bíó Paradís to put together this event for a group of young Icelandic zombies. We even provided prizes and awards for the most authentic zombie participants. This is a new type of diplomacy.