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.]


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!

Barber = Ice-cream Maker

When I first heard about Greenlandice, ice-cream made from Greenland’s inland ice, it topped my to-taste list in Nuuk. As it’s not a factory-made but home-made, it wasn’t easy for me to find this ice-cream bicycle cart that’s rolling around the town.

One of my colleagues said that the ice-cream maker usually comes to the old harbour, near our office, during the weekend, when I don’t come to the area! But then, he added that I can also buy them in Maik’s Corner, a hairshop in downtown.

“Ice-cream is sold at a hairshop?!” I asked.

He said that the barber there is the ice-cream maker.

Although it didn’t sound a very hygienic idea eating, not to mention making, ice-cream at a place where hairs are flying around, I wanted to check it out myself. So, last week, I traveled to the hairshop with the help from a young couple, complete strangers who I met on the streets but kindly drove me to the shop (Tak!): They were also surprised when I told them I’m going to the hairshop to buy ice-cream. But unfortunately, the shop was already closed when we got there.

Then, finally today! When a big cruise ship, which took hundreds of visitors to Nuuk, anchored near the harbour, Maik came with the ice-cream cart.

As soon as I saw the cart, I ran out and got five scoops of all different flavors—chocolate, licorice, orange, vanilla, and fruit bomb—with guf, a pink fluff, ice-cream topping. (Guf seems like a Danish thing.)

My initial plan was taking it home, but I finished them in a minute, while posting this pic to my Facebook wall.

Greenlandice with guf on top.

I found the ice-cream more like sherbet, and my favorites are fruit bomb and licorice. Guf was a failure compared to the one I had at the Cafe Santa.



+ You can find the whereabout of the Greenlandice cart on its Facebook page, just as you can track down Washington food trucks on the Twitter.

++ More about Greenlandice: Day 4—Greenland Ice Cream that I wrote for the making-of documents for A Taste of Greenland in Nuuk.

7 common misunderstandings about Greenland

1. Greenland? Iceland?

Whenever I told people that I was going to Greenland, 99% of them asked me if that’s the one that recently had a volcanic eruption. Well, the confusion is quite understandable, as Greenland has more ice than Iceland, and Iceland is greener than Greenland. Ironically, Greenland was named so by an Icelander who visited southern Greenland, where it gets green—and hot—in summer. After he went back to his country, he told people about this “green” land, keeping referring it as the “green” land.

2. Greenland is an independent country. 

Greenland has been colonized by the Kingdom of Denmark since 1721 when Hans Egede arrived in the land to find the Norse, in vain. He instead converted the Inuit to Christianity. Although Greenland has won its self-rule governance in 2009, Denmark still has the final say on Greenland’s defense and foreign affairs as well as judiciary. So, in the international sports games, athletes from Greenland represent Denmark. Also, Greenlanders carry the Danish passport, but on top of it reads Greenland in Greenlandic (KALAALLIT NUNAAT), while that of the Danes reads European Union in Danish (DEN EUROPÆISKE UNION). Denmark is part of EU; Greenland is not.

3. Greenland is in Europe.

Although Greenland is still a part of Denmark, geographically it belongs to North America. If there’re a direct flight between Kangerlussuaq and New York, it would take only four hours. It’s actually only about 25 kilometers away from Canada, at the closest. As there’s no direct flight from North America though, people have to fly to Europe first—either Reykjavik or Copenhagen—to visit Greenland.

4. Greenlanders are originally whites.

Due to the long Danish colonization, there have been a lot of inter-racial marriage. So, many may look like northern Europeans. But in fact, the original Greenlanders are the Inuit, who look much like Asians. Surprisingly to many, they have their own language as well, Greenlandic, which is far far different from any Roman language. They also have dialects: West Greenlandic and East Greenlandic are very different.

5. You will get to see polar bears when visiting Greenland.

Thanks to the climate change, Greenland is getting a lot of attention from the world. And people assume that the symbol of global warming—polar bear—can be observed anywhere in Greenland. It is true that polar bears are inhabiting in Greenland, but they are in very remote areas either very up North or the East, thus it’s rare for a traveler to see one. Soon after I settled in Nuuk, I asked one of my colleagues where I can go to see polar bears. “YouTube,” she replied.

+ My boss said he has seen polar bears only three times in his life during his 16 year of living in East Greenland, where it is relatively easy to spot polar bears. Of course, none in Nuuk.

6. All the glaciers melt down in the summer and freeze back in winter.

Oh boy, if it does, island countries like Tuvalu and the Maldives would have gone under the sea hundred years ago. (I was told, this was what a reporter from one of the world’s biggest media that won’t be named here asked during his visit to Nuuk in May to cover the Arctic Circle Conference that Hilary Clinton joined.)

7. Greenland is a mosquito-free country.

Mosquitoes in Greenland? You must be joking. Unfortunately not. Greenland is in fact a mosquito-heaven country. In summer, you definitely don’t want to hike a mountain, particularly near glaciers, without a mosquito headnet. Otherwise, you will find yourself being under attack of mosquitos along with other insects. One place you can be free from mosquitos is South Greenland near the sheep farms.

Will the Icelandic volcano affect food price in Greenland?

It’s been about a week that the Greenlandic airspace was shut down since the Iceland’s Grimsvotn volcano eruption. Although it was open on Wednesday and briefly Thursday, it’s closed again later Thursday.

Air Greenland released a news this morning that the ash cloud shut Greenlandic airspace and the North Atlantic today, canceling most flights, if not all. It said about 1,000 passengers and 20 tons of cargo are directly affected by the closure.

The airline said it is planning to “set up extra flights for the weekend when the ash cloud forecast looks promising.” Currently, there are 6.9 tons of cargo in Kangerlussuaq that is waiting to be shipped to Nuuk and about 2.5 tons to be shipped to North Greenland. Only today 10 more tons of cargo is stuck in Denmark, which won’t be able to make to Greenland.

So, will the volcano affect the food price in Greenland? According to Jan, who is in charge of Greenland Development, the food here is imported by both ship and air. While most are supplied by sea, fresh vegetables and fruits are shipped by air. “If vegetables and fruits cannot be shipped until this weekend, it might affect the prices here,” Jan said.

As of yesterday (Thursday), I haven’t yet noticed a much increase in food price at a local supermarket, but I certainly noticed a decrease in the varieties, particularly in the vegetable section. A squash costs DKK35 ($7), which is 5 kroner higher than last month, but I saw only two left on the shelf. There were only a few cucumbers left, and not much onions were found. On the other hand, fruits, including apples, pears and oranges, were sold at the lowest price I’ve seen—10 for DKK20, and bananas were 10 for DKK25, not the lowest but low enough. Grapes were also on discount by DKK15. (Saturday, however, the price of banana rose to 6 for DKK25.)

It’s not just food. The airspace shut-down also affected the flower market here. We went to a flower shop today to buy flowers for a colleague who’s going to marry tomorrow but couldn’t because first, not much were available and second, those available were already five days old. (The bride also told me later that the flower she ordered for her wedding didn’t arrive so she had to make a bouquet with whatever was available.)

+ Thankfully, all Air Greenland flights resumed on Sunday.