So there you go! I went to Greenland for three weeks and it seems like a blink of an eye. It went so fast. What a powerful trip; full speed every day – so not my usual pace. I normally try to live in the moment and try to feel my way forward according to the overall plan. I live in a world of deadlines, so it’s not as if I can doodle through my life, but I try not to let it control me.
But given the chance to do field work in Greenland is not something that happens every day. I felt I had to make the most of it and thus powered on. Every day, non stop for 3 weeks, 14 hour work-days. So guess who has collapsed with a fever and achy bones? Little me. Deep down I know I’m not really sick, it is just my body saying “no more! That’s it! STAY IN BED!”
Yesterday I challenged the body, got dressed and crossed the street to get groceries. I almost cried as I carried the potatoes home, I felt so weak. Weird isn’t it? One day you climb a mountain to get to a glacier and a couple of days later you can hardly carry your groceries home….
Oh well. I have 10 days to rest before the next activity is scheduled. Guess who is doing nothing*? Little me!
*nothing = tea and toast, mystery novels, naps in the afternoon and maybe a small walk…
Greenland is Lutheran Protestant, following the Danish church, though the church of Greenland is a separate entity. This means we follow the same church calendar and rituals. Today is confirmation day in Qaqortoq. The young 13-year-olds are confirming their faith in the church, though for many this is more out of tradition than a religious choice.
For celebrations, the Greenlanders dress up in the national costume and today all of Qaqortoq is full of beautiful people. It is a spectacular sight. I don’t like snapping photos of people, as if they are a tourist attraction, but I did take a few pictures in the church (while everyone else was snapping away).
This is the young confirmands waiting
The church packed to the last seat,
I like traditions like these and I really enjoyed being part of this celebration. It is always nice to be surrounded by happy and proud family members. Even if I didn’t understand a word of what was going on.
By the way: have I told you that Denmark has a state religion? that it is written into our constitution that we are protestant. The highest entity of the Danish church is the politically elected Minister of Churches. I honestly think this is bizarre in a modern democracy, but then again, we are a constituted monarchy as well. The Queen still has to approve/sign all legislation and this includes legislation made in Greenland. Go figure. Denmark may appear progressive, but on paper it is somewhat lacking.
On my very first day in Qaqortoq I ran into Poul. Poul instantly invited me to come visit and I had to explain that my first few days would be a running event between criminal justice institutions. Saturday, Sunday and Monday were free though. Poul lit up and said: “come to my house Saturday afternoon” – and that was a deal. I ran into Poul both Thursday and Friday and we confirmed Saturday afternoon.
Not knowing what “afternoon” is in Greenland, I rocked up a little after 2pm. I was the first to arrive and was instantly given a potato peeler and for the next two hours Poul and I (mostly Poul) cooked amazing Greenlandic food together. Whale, reindeer and different birds were the main meats. We made stew, soup and steaks. The starter was “cold cuts” of narwhale skin and fat, fish and dried whale meat. This was eaten outside as the weather was quite nice. Then we stepped inside for soup, stew and steaks. For desert we had blueberries shaken with sugar and stirred with whipped cream.
Lordy Lordy Lord, it was a feast. I have said before that I will eat almost anything, but this is something where I would come back for more. It was so yummy. And I feel so special that I got to spend these hours together with Poul, laughing in his kitchen, cooking together. I had such a good time and it is definitely one of the highlights of my journey here. Like anywhere else in the world, there is nothing better than good food and friends.
I am a story person. I love telling stories and I love listening to other people’s stories. I am at the end of a journey that has taken me across Greenland, where I (in three weeks) have convinced more than 30 people to tell me their story, talk about their background, where they come from, what they do and what they think about what they do. All of them people who work in the criminal justice system – that other thing I am so passionate about – justice.
It has been a huge experience, one that I will never be able to account for in a proper way. I haven’t done much in the way of tourism and I am not returning with my suitcase full of souvenirs, but it doesn’t matter. I return with something else. Something I am much more grateful for.
I completed my last interview an hour ago and am trying to evaluate the sum of what I have learned. I still have no words for it. My brain is overloaded. I am sentimental to say the least.
So while I sit here and stare at the icebergs floating by, trying to gather my thoughts, I thought I’d show you my favourite picture so far from Qaqortoq. I hope you like it.
Yesterday I wrote about how I didn’t manage to do what I would have liked while in Nuuk. In Qaqortoq I only have two days to meet up with 4 criminal justice institutions and I had a little panic this morning about how to make it. Before leaving Australia, I thought most people would reject being interviewed; I’ve already told you how this is so not the case. So I called them to make a program, see what could be done.
I always ask people when it is convenient for them. They are the ones taking time out for me, work time, so I don’t want to dictate time and place. With only two days, I closed my eyes and hoped for the best.
And will you believe it. Given the choice, one by one the answer was: “Thursday morning is best for us” – “Thursday afternoon is the only option really” – “Friday morning we are free” and “Friday afternoon is really good for us”. I cannot believe it. I must have come across as the most accommodating person on earth. All I said was “excellent” – “that’s great” – “thank you” – “I look forward to meeting you”.
I know it sounds silly, but there is something special going on in this place. There really is.
The airport in Nuuk empties as the plane for Kangerlussuaq leaves. In steps the local nursery, seven children all under two years old and three adults. The excursion of the day: watching airplanes. I have rarely seen anything be such a success. Theaters would kill for an audience like that. When the baggage-trolley left the plane, the excitement was endless, all children interacting with their version of a backing beep and woo-u-woo-u of the flashing light.
The main language spoken here is inuit, so I have limited understanding of what was going on, but “There is a man in yellowwwww” – “look he is running” – “the plane is moving” and “buy-buy airplane” were definitely on the list. Together with endless “uuuuhhhh” and “aaaaaiiiiiii”.
They were all wearing so much winter clothes that their arms stuck out straight from their bodies, it is cold in Nuuk today, the wind blowing like crazy; it is snowing sideways. The children were absolute cuteness overload. It has been the highlight of my day. Waiting in airports can otherwise be pretty boring.