here we are…

Hello from Sudavik,

it’s now seven days since we came here with a very small plane via Isafjördur.

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Now, sitting at the little tiny cafe at the arctic fox centre, I can not imagine to be here only since one week. It feels like a few weeks, but not in a bad way, it’s more like feeling home. We live at the campsite, a few minutes from here. A very quiet and beautiful place with all you need and lots of space you got most of the time on your own. But it’s not only the Campingground that makes me feel like home, it’s the combination of it: The people around the centre “the fox pack”, the heartly and warm atmosphere in the centre, people you meet, nature all around you, the Fjord, the space and of course: Freddy! Our little cute fox, even around 8weeks old is a real heartbreaker and…he knows 🙂

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So we all love Freddy-time, time to get him feeded, but it gets more and more difficult because he’s getting more and more clever by jumping around, playing, eating your rubberboots, digging holes…going crazy. So after feeding him, you can relax with the visitors inside the centre. The first day at the centre, we came in time with a group of almost 60 people at once. Just throw over a shirt, right size doesn’t matter, don’t even understand what’s going on, but nevertheless learn the first important stuff about the foxes and their visitors. Thanks to Mitch, our supervisor 🙂
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After one week, i would recommend the following things to you, as a the next, coming up volunteer:

-Enjoy the Campingground and don’t put your tent on the right side between the little trees if you don’t like spiders that much.
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-Don’t think it’s really cold here. I had to buy some new thinner socks because i’m not well prepared for the sunny days [just sitting here in short trousers at the moment..]

-Feeding Freddy: Is getting easier when there’s someone around who is distracting him from outside, in order to get in without letting him out.

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-Groups: You don’t have to be an arctic fox expert. The job is becoming more and more easier after just a few tours. You will see, suddenly you find yourself talking about this and that, the foxes, freddy, the travel, iceland and all the experiences you heard from other people. So, you’ll become something like a crossing point for all the stories and people who came across. It’s really interesting and you won’t even feel like you are working.

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-If you got your Day Off, make a trip, don’t worry about your return. Hitchhiking is always first choice and very recommended because you’ll meet nice icelandic people and their stories.

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-Weather: An intelligent british/icelandic guy told me there’s always the sun. It’s just above the clouds.. Questions?

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-Breaking News: If suddenly (almost at the end of your working day) it’s getting really crowdy in the cafe while you’re writing your blog, you can find yourself just a few seconds later in the kitchen, making waffles and cream, one after another..the message is: be flexible. What goes around, comes around 🙂

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I guess, these are the most important facts. I added you some pictures to get an impression of this beautiful place. If you are interested in more stuff & stories, feel free to visit our own blog: http://www.thearcticfoxproject.wordpress.com. It’s written in german, but even the pictures are telling the stories.  

Thanks a lot and best wishes from the fox pack in Sudavik ❤
Tanja & Andrea [cologne]

The moment

I had this moments before while traveling. Quite a few over the years. At a breakfast-table in Dublin, a petrol-station in the Northern Territory, in a shabby room in Romania,… And now again here at a campground in the Westfjords of Iceland, where I am doing volunteer work at the Arctic Fox Centre.

It´s pouring raining as a storm has hit the area and is going on for days now. And although it´s July the temperature is only around 5 degrees right now. I am on “tent patrol”, wearing almost all my backpack´s wardrobe in layers over each other – with the chic of a quilted Michelin mascot. Despite all that being even topped with a waterproof jacket and two (!!!) waterproof trousers I am soaking wet. Water is running down my neck and my feet make squeaking frog like sounds as my last dry pair of shoes has finally given in. I am trying to protect my face from the hard rain and my hands hurt while I am aiming to tie the tents down again that were loosened by the storm.

And right there it comes. The “moment”. I drop everything else and the only thing that fills up my mind is that shouting thought: “What the hell am I doing here?!? WHY CAN´T I JUST GO AND HAVE A NORMAL, PACKAGE HOLIDAY FOR ONCE???”

Usually that first thought also brings along a bunch of it´s friends like “what exactly do I want to proof to myself?”, “my flat back home would be so cosy right now”, etc.

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But maybe the litres of water that are still raining on me have a speeding effect on my usually more contemplative mind. So this time the moment is a rather short one. I just take a few seconds to shout out as loud as I can. (not that anyone in the surrounding village would notice it as the storm just swallows it discretely…).

Ah, better.

Well, only a bit. Nature is not impressed at all by that little outburst of mine, it just keeps raining ferociously. So I hurry up and fight my way back to our little house. As soon as I open the door, I am surrounded by the great “Fox Pack”-team – a bunch of warm, passionate, creative people from all over the world – waiting to hear if all the tents are still ok.

They are. And so am I – after a quick change of cloths, a bowl of homemade soup.

Even more then ok. Vibrant. Full of energy. Of life.

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Needless to say that this trip – the stunning landscape, the wildlife (“Freddyyyyyyy”), all the adventures and above all THE PEOPLE I met – was amazing. Maybe this “moment” made it even more memorable …and puts a smile on my face every time I think of it.

…And by the way: Aside from the last few stormy days the weather was great and having sunlight day and night was a special experience ;-).

With hugs and love to the FOX PACK

Suse

 

so it goes.

Today is my last day volunteering at the Arctic Fox Center and I can´t believe how fast these last two weeks have flown by. The days I´ve spent at the center have all kind of blurred together in my mind. But I´m sure of one thing that all us volunteers can agree on… it is hard to leave this place. The people of the center and the people of Sudavik are all so welcoming, that it is hard to not feel at home here. As a volunteer, it is even hard just leaving at the end of the day! It´s not uncommon to see volunteers huddled on the patio after hours, or drinking beer in the cafe until 3 in the morning. If I could stay here longer, I most definitely would.

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During my volunteering stint, I got to help send off the July monitoring crew to Hornstrandir, and greet them with a warm hearty dinner when they returned after a week in the rain and cold. Although I didn´t get to spend as much time with them as I would have liked, I am truly lucky I got to meet Camille, Madeleine, Phil, Jonathan, Caroline, Sebastian, Jonas, Midge, Ester, Þorir, Elin, and everyone else I met along the way. All of these people have such incredible and infectious outlooks on life. Laughing with Phil, Madeleine, and Caroline over dinner has made me realize we´re all a little weird, and it´s okay. Cooking with Jonas has taught me that after being in Iceland for a grand total of 2 weeks, I have become a master of fish stew (plokk fiskur)! Spending a day with Camille as we drove to Latrabjarg and back really made me appreciate how beautiful this country and this life can be.

And then there is Freddy. The cutest Arctic fox cub I´ve seen. Even in the short two weeks I´ve been here, I´ve seen him grow and thrive, and it is pretty amazing. Feeding Freddy is always everyone´s favourite part of the day. It wasn´t uncommon to hear Camille or Caroline exclaim, FREDDY TIME! And we would all go out with our cameras and take pictures or videos of the cute little guy.

Here is a picture of Freddy from about 1 hour ago, when I fed him lunch. He seemed more interested in playing with the water bucket than in eating his food!
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What else can I say.. this experience has been incredible. stuff and shit.

Kristen

The top 5 issues of an Arctic Fox Centre Tour Guide – The Ditzy Girl Edition

Being an arctic fox student, I came to the Arctic Fox Centre mainly for the Hornstrandir monitoring. Having arrived a week before the start of the June fieldwork, soon enough, I was helping at the Museum. Coming from my academic environment, I had never been exposed to that bewildering being that is “THE TOURIST”.

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So, I tried giving tours of the exhibition and before long, it was too late: I loved it !

We learn the job “on-the-spot”, with all the pitfalls it can entail. Many of the conversations between volunteers are actually about our day-to-day experience in the Museum. Every guide has his own approach. While Midge is more of an entertainer, I’m more of the square and pragmatic kind. Susanne used to talk a lot with her hands ! 🙂 The visitors are usually genuinely interested and we always want to give them the best experience we can.

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Everyone will agree to say guiding is fun, but challenging at the same time. For instance, I have never talked so much for so long…

As a memento, here are compiled my top 5 issues as an Arctic Fox Center Tour Guide:

1. Mixing up the groups.  When in your head, you’re thinking ‘hum, did I already say that to these people or was it to the other group ?’ (most often, you didn’t, and anyway, repeating is the best way to make people remember things)

2. Getting lost in storytelling.  ‘What was it that I was trying to get to when I started this sentence ?’ (hum, let’s just fake it until I make sense again…)

3. Blanking.  When people are staring at you and your brain just goes blank. ‘Huh, what was it again ? Oh yeah, arctic fox… err…’ (don’t worry, it’ll come back to you, if not, just point at something in the Museum and go on with that)

4. Pushing the “Play” button.  ‘Oh wow, I’m actually able to talk about the arctic fox while thinking entirely about something else in my head’ (Pay attention, girl !!  This usually happens when you get one group after the other without a break and have to say the same things all over again… but congrats ! It means your training is complete: you can now do the touring with your eyes closed)

5. The “dammit, what do I say about that beige fox” Syndrome.  Took us a whole month to figure out what it really was… and get the info more or less right and consistent between us… and no Sebastian, it is NOT A MORPH (just kidding, we know you know 🙂 ).

What were YOUR touring issues ? Tell us in the comments !

Sandra Lai

Arrival at the Arctic Fox Centre

Hello everyone,
my name is Kristen, and I am the brand new volunteer at the Arctic Fox Centre. I arrived here yesterday afternoon after an interesting string of events. I learned about the opportunity to volunteer at the Arctic Fox Centre several months ago. I had been out for coffee with a friend who was in the midst of planning her own vacation to Central and South America. I must admit, I was envious of all the exciting plans she was making for herself, and started wishing I had my own adventure to look forward to. Later that day, I happened to be looking through a Lonely Planet guidebook, and came across a blurb about the Arctic Fox Centre and how they look for volunteers each summer. I emailed them, asking if they still needed any volunteers for this season, and the rest was, as they say, history.
I arrived in Iceland only a few days ago, and have already had more adventures than I could have imagined! I went snorkeling, caving, relaxed at the Blue Lagoon, and of course I enjoyed the night life in Reykjavik. I began to be nervous when I found out that flights to the West Fjords had been cancelled on Saturday due to bad weather. I was to fly from Reykjavik on Sunday morning. It wasn´t until 9:00 a.m. on Sunday (my flight left at 10:30 a.m.) that the airline was able to confirm the flight was on schedule. Talk about last minute! The flight was short, and landing was interesting as the airstrip was only this tiny flat part in between the mountains of the fjords and the surrounding water. After catching a ride to Sudavik, I finally arrived at the Arctic Fox Centre, where I was greeted by a ridiculously cute fox pup named Freddy.
The other volunteers here are all so welcoming and have already made me feel right at home. Due to the recent bad weather, we spent last night in the ‘little house’ where we shared stories and ate dinner together. Three of us are Canadian, but all come from very different parts of Canada. Me from small town British Columbia, Camille from Quebec, and Sebastian from Ontario.
Today is my first official day volunteering at the Centre, and what a beautiful day it is. First day since I´ve been in Iceland that I´ve seen some blue sky! There is so much information for me to learn about foxes. But I have no doubt that soon I will be an Arctic Fox expert.
Until next time,
Kristen

“Life is a flower with many petals”

This morning, I said goodbye to the Arctic Fox Centre. Rain was pouring and fog was hanging on top of the mountains. I already talked about the beauty of Hornstrandir, I also talked about the foxes and fieldwork, but my last post will be about the most memorable: the people.

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Be it the permanent staff or the volunteers, we are all idiosyncratic. We are of all ages, come from different countries and cultures, speak different languages, we are students, journalists, graphic designers, postmen and you name it… We came here by will or by chance, or sometimes it feels like we were nudged here by fate. We are all so different, however, as soon as we step into the Centre, we become part of the ‘fox pack’, this big and warm family. Arriving from abroad, it can take a few days to ease into the Icelandic way of doing things. “þetta reddast”, “Skíptír ekje málí”, “No plan is a good plan”, to name of few… A bit unsettling at first, but once you get the hang of it, you start to adopt it for yourself and realise that here, it works!

We speak a colourful English, not the most academically correct, but as long as we understand each other, it’s fine. Sometimes, we clash or unintentionally say or do something rude… but we just let it slide because we know we are of the same kind. We are wanderers with a free spirit, always ready for something new, something different, something exciting! We want to “live the dream”, live our dreams.

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The Arctic Fox Centre is a place of meetings and partings. Last night, my last night in Súðavík, we all gathered in the Cafe for after hours. We watched the game (Germany vs. Algeria), had hot dogs and beers, played a couple of stupid games and just chatted. Nothing crazy going on, just us hanging around and enjoying each other’s company, like a fox litter cuddling together in the safety of their den.

It is already 3 a.m. when we head back to the camp site. The midnight sun is shining through a row of fluffy clouds. The hrossagaukur, the snipe bird, which annoys me so much is already out flying… As I enter my tent, I think that I may miss… hmm no, actually no, there’s no way I’m gonna miss that terrible helicopter-like sound they make… On the other side, yes I’ll miss everyone I met there: the first wave of volunteers, Aurélie (the green pacifist) and Kathrin (the artist), the June monitoring team, Chloé (the leader), Eric (the MasterChef), Juice (the next Bylot recruit), Camille (the knitting newbie), my den partner Matthias (the Ben Laden hiker), and the second wave of volunteers, Susanne (the key in the oven), Sebastian (the dog selfier) and Caroline (the intern).

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Then, there’s the incredible permanent staff: Jónas, always methodical and straight-forward, Midge, british and always bubbling with all kinds of fantastic ideas, Genka, who runs the kitchen with a smile, þórir, our waffle master, and the beautiful and witty Elin.

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Of course, I’ll miss the foxes, little Freddy, Chocolate, Katniss, Pyjama, Blanket, Miss Perfect and Marshmallow… And I saved the last spot for the best: Ester. She’s the one who brought us together and created the ever-expanding fox pack. Thank you so much!

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“Life is a flower with many petals”, said Midge last night. It symbolises how, as we grow, we learn or decide to apprehend life in a different manner than before. Soon, I’ll be back home in my dear Montreal, carrying with me all of I’ve learned here. But I feel I am not quite done with Iceland. I buried a feeling in these lands and whispered a wish into the wind. For now, may these be watched over by the elves and trolls of Iceland…

With love,

Sandra