An unforgettable moment at the Ice Camp Eqi

I was taking a nap on the long couch, facing the huge windows.
Feeling a little chilly, I opened my eyes without moving.
Right then, a small chunk of ice on top of the glacier started falling off to the fjord, with rumble sounds.
I blinked my eyes, still not moving a bit.
Am I dreaming, or is it really happening?
I saw the ice residues from the calving still flying into the fjord.

Amazing view from the hut at the Ice Eqi Camp giving me a great feeling of serenity.

Right. I remember having checked in to the hut—too luxurious for a hut—about an hour ago, right opposite of the Eqi, one of the most productive glaciers in Greenland.

Rewind a couple hours back.
I was on the boat, which parked a few hundred meters away from the glacier, feeling so humble and small in front of the huge glittering white wall, watching the glacier calving real close, and experiencing “iceberg tsunami.” I was in awe of nature.

Here it goes again. Kaboom.

I straightened up, and reached to my camera. Too late.

It always cracks when my camera is off, and it almost never happens when I’m ready to take a shot. Just like life. Perhaps that’s why it’s more thrilling.

[This is what I barely made in the boat. Because of the strong wind, you won’t be able to hear the so-called “thunder” sounds, which is to me more like building-collapsing sounds.]

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Air Greenland provides unusual in-flight experience

When I read MSNBC’s blog post Frontier Airlines eliminates free chocolate chip cookies, I was naturally reminded of Air Greenland that also provides complimentary chocolate chip cookies. Actually, it gives candies and coffee as well for domestic flights.

Air Greenland's complimentary chocolate chip cookies and coffee.

I think it was my first experience to pick up cookies from a basket when I first flew to Greenland. Complimentary snacks I’ve got until then was mostly nuts or pretzels that are individually packed. I found even that quite interesting. (What wouldn’t be, to a girl who was super duper excited about going to Greenland for the first time.)

And then, I saw the flight attendant, and the only, delivering coffee and cookies to the pilots. I could see her opening the cockpit door with the snacks in her hands, and talking with the pilots. I could have a glimpse of the cockpit.

A glimpse of the cockpit, while flying to Ilulissat from Kangerlussuaq

So when I was on a trip to Ilulissat, North Greenland, with my friend Sei, we asked the flight attendant if we could see the cockpit after landing. She asked the pilots and said fine. So, we had a chance to see the cockpit real close, and to talk with the copilot. He is from Iceland and has been working for the airline for a couple years then. He didn’t mind us taking photos of the cockpit, and added if we wanted to come back to the cockpit on our way back home, just ask the flight attendants. I think we could even sit on the pilot seat if we asked.

Inside of the Air Greenland cockpit

Sei from Phoenix, AZ, said, “I think we’d get arrested in the U.S. just for asking permission.”

Another unusual experience was that for some domestic flights, passengers and cargoes are placed in the same space, without any, uhmm, partition.

In the flight to Narsarsuaq from Nuuk. By yoonmee

When Yoonmee and I flew to/from Narsarsuaq, South Greenland, from/to Nuuk, we flew with the cargoes right before us. We tried to find our own check-in luggages from the pile, laughing. On the way, the plane stopped by in Paamiut and all the passengers had to get off for about 10 mins to unload some of the passengers and the packages that may include food, necessities, or postcards. We joked that perhaps the postcards we sent from Qarqortoq are probably flying with us, being buried somewhere in the pile.

And when I thought I took nearly every kind of small planes that the Air Greenland has, it showed me I was wrong. My last domestic flight in Greenland, from Nuuk to Kangerlussuaq, had a very strange seat plan. The first front seats were rear-facing: Imagine the group seat for four at a train, with not much legroom. You got it right. Funny, no? I wonder what purpose having such seats can be.

I haven’t visited East Greenland, and far North yet, and am wondering what interesting experience the flight might provide. Perhaps another excuse to go back to Greenland. grin.

“Our sun is shining on you”

This morning, my Colombian friend Eduardo posted the following to his Facebook wall.

Ever heard of the band “Nanook”? Well, they are from Greenland and I don’t understand their lyrics… But man do I enjoy their music… Definitely recommend it.

As soon as I saw his status, I couldn’t help playing the Nanook* on. I was in fact working on a Greenland assignment. Couldn’t be more perfect.

Listening to “Seqinitta Qinngorpaatit (Our sun is shining on you),” one of my favorites, I realized I’ve never talked about Greenland’s music here.

When I first listened to the songs of Nanook, one of the most popular bands from Greenland, I have to confess, I was very surprised at its modern musical style. You couldn’t tell it’s Greenlandic at all, if you just heard the music. It was a shock in a way. Please bear with my ignorance, but I had kind of expected that Greenland’s music would be igloo-y, if that makes any sense. But instead, it’s like, what, Coldplay, to some extent (and with a bit of exaggeration). Yet, it still has Greenland’s own sentiment in it. I became a big fan of their music and gave their CD to Eduardo when I visited D.C. last year from Nuuk. (Your FB status made my day, mi amigo! Gracias!)

Later I expanded my experience in Greenlandic music not just to such young musicians, as Simon Lynge and Nive, but also to some old bands like Asuki from the early 1970s. In fact one of the Asuki’s members is an older brother of the father in my homestay family. (Well, it’s not surprising. In this small community, almost everyone is related somewhat to each other.)

Okay, no more words from me. Listening is believing.

Here are some of my favorites. Enjoy!

Nanook—Seqinitta Qinngorpaatit

Simon Lynge—Love Comes back to You

Asuki—Inuulluarna Mattaliit

So, how do you like them?

*Nanook literally means polar bear in Greenlandic. You can probably see the band members at Atlantic Music, the only record shop in Nuuk, if you’re lucky. I particularly like them because they insist singing only in Greenlandic.

For more information about Greenland’s music, visit here.

Greenland Beach Party 2032 (interview)

I posted a blog about the long-shot beach party in Greenland long time ago. And I just remembered that I haven’t posted my brief interview with Anders Rønnow Bruun, the creator of the event yet. Ooops.

Anders is a 18-year-old Dane, living in Copenhagen. He’s a member of the Social Democratic Youth of Denmark. The interview was done in August, 2011, via Facebook message.

Q. When did you create the event on Facebook?
A. It must be around autumn of last year (2010).

Q. I assume that you got inspired by the global warming, but what was the moment or the thing that made you create the event?
A. Honestly there wasn’t no particular event that made me make this event. I was just sitting with some friends in my biology class. That was where we came up with the idea.

Q. Is there a reason that you specifically chose July 16, 2032 from 2 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. for the event? Or you chose the date randomly? And why Nuuk?
A. Nuuk is the capital of Greenland and that’s why it’s the only city i can remember.

Q. Do you actually plan to hold an event in 2032 even though Greenland wouldn’t have such a tropical beach then?
A. That i would not know, but I’m young and who knows? There is an awful lot of time to plan it eventually.

Q. How did you develop your interests in the global warming?
A. I think most Danes are concerned about the environment, but the economic crisis in Europe has made it a less discussion subject sadly… But worst of all, the COP15 was a terrible setback for the fight against global warming – and i was going to a school very close to the conference [venue].

Q. Do you plan any other campaigns to raise people’s interests in the global warming and encourage them to act to slow down climate change?
A. Maybe, maybe not. if i get a good idea, I will!

taking photos vs. being taken in photos

A new South Korean TV channel, Channel A, broadcast a three-part program of Greenland. I watched its third episode that featured Qaanaaq, and that reminded me of a Korean, the first Korean I met in Greenland, in July.

She’s living in NJ, USA, and went to Greenland to take photos to update her portfolio, she said. She initially went to Thule, or Qaanaaq in Greenlandic, but soon found the living cost there was too high. She told the hotel manager where she was staying in Thule that she may have to go back to the states, as she couldn’t afford it. Then the manager told her that he could arrange a dog-sledding to Siorapaluk, the world’s northernmost settlement, before she leaves the country. So  the following day, she hopped on the sled and ran for eight hours in the teeth of the freezing wind on the sled to reach that small settlement.

But two days after her arrival, her camera got broken as it wasn’t proof against the arctic weather. And that’s the very moment that the residents opened up to her, she said.

“When I was walking around with the camera, I could tell, they were giving me a wary look,” she said. “But as soon as I told them my camera got broken, they almost immediately opened up to me.”

She ended up staying in the settlement for three months. They rented her an old school house for $1 a day; they invited her to their houses; and embraced her as a member of the community.

Loads of foreigners come to the town and film/photograph their lives under the name of “reports.” But it may have felt like being the monkey in a zoo to them, and they protested it by unwelcoming the point-and-shoot visitors.

I could completely empathize with them, because that afternoon, I had a similar experience. In the residents’ shoe.

That morning, a cruise ship arrived in Nuuk and unloaded about 200 passengers–mostly Europeans–to the capital of Greenland. A German cameraman came to Greenland to film each town the cruise ship visits, and I took him around Nuuk as a guide. Waiting for him to finish filming the beach, I was sitting on top of a kayak wooden rack, looking at the fjord, listening to the iPod. Then a tourist came to me and gestured if he could take a photo of me. This European must have thought that I was a Greenlander. I told him in English that I’m not from Greenland, but he kept fiddling with his camera, looking at me. You know, in the cute cat eyes in Shrek. So, I climbed down the rack and moved to another place.

While traveling around the world, I myself also try to get the local residents’ everyday life in my camera. But I realized I’d never been to the subject, until then.

It was an unfamiliar, strange feeling. Not so pleasant.

Most of the time, I ask for the approval from the people who I’d like to take photos of. But I realized I did it as a courtesy and I hadn’t really put myself in their shoes.

Have you ever been the target of camera-wielding tourists? If so, what did you feel about it? If not, how would you feel about it?

Cities I’ve lived in

It wasn’t until E asked me the other day where I’ve lived. Somehow I’d always thought that I “lived” only in Seoul, and I have only “been” to other cities. It’s probably because I knew exactly when I would go back to Seoul, well, except for one case.

Anyway, according to his definition of living—staying five months or longer (Don’t ask me why five), I’ve lived in five different cities so far: Seoul, Philadelphia, Nottingham, Arlington/Washington, and Nuuk.

I was born and raised in Seoul.
I lived in Philadelphia for 11 months back in 1998-9 to learn English.
I spent five months in Nottingham, for a study abroad program.
I lived in Arlington/Washington for 1.5 years for graduate school.
And recently, I lived in Nuuk for five months for work.

Certainly, there’s difference between living and visiting. Looking back, I didn’t really explore around those cities as much as other cities I was traveling. But I would get better ideas how the local system works, and what the local people and culture are like.

Now, I’m excitedly curious about what city I will be living in near future. (Although I’m not quite looking forward to the international move. grin)

Another break from my own blog

I have so many things to write about my trips to both South and North Greenland, yet I have to take another break from onfooooot again.

The filming crew of A Taste of Greenland arrived in Nuuk yesterday to film its fourth episode. After attending the first meeting yesterday, I decided to extend my stay in Greenland to join the team. And I’ll be working on another blog for the next 10 days, A Taste of Greenland.

Please follow the crew’s 10-day journey in the capital region of Greenland.