One year ago today, I fulfilled my lifelong dream of finally seeing the “low Arctic” in the legendary city of Nuuk, Greenland.
I fell in love with the Greenlandic Language in 2013 when I first discovered it in a travel guide in Woodbridge Town Library (the Connecticut Town where I spent my adolescence). Since then, I was entranced by how much the culture of Greenland resonated with me.
Much like in my own Jewish upbringing, a lot of young Inuit felt placed squarely between a world of modernity and one of thousand-year-old traditions that are renowned throughout the world (and usually understood on a shallow level).
Every step that I took in Greenland was testament to the determination and hardships and wisdom that the Greenlanders had in their hearts for thousands of years. My first impression of Nuuk was that I “was in a moon colony”, and the rest of the world felt so distant from me, the silence was almost holy and I could savor some of the world’s most ancient landscapes and within seconds end up in a grocery store that would be luxurious even by American standards.
I would go outside and see ice on the beach that was older than human civilization and then go home to my host family with an Internet-laden living room streaming Game of Thrones (with Danish subtitles).
The statue of the Mother Goddess of the Sea, Sassuma Arnaa, was in the harbor and the status of Hans Egede, the “Apostle of Greenland”, was on the mountain right next to the harbor (and in between them was the house he lived in). Christian Elsner of Nanook mixed a modern guitar melody he wrote in memory of suicide victims with images of a shaman playing the Qilaat, the ancient drum that Inuit shamans used for millennia (this film, “Inuup Tarraa” [Human Shadow], is available for free on YouTube with English subtitles and is extremely heart-wrenching).
Whatever you do to engage Greenlandic culture, you find yourself firmly grounded in the present with an eye back to an ancient civilization that is one of humanity’s great pioneers.
My first evening in Nuuk I got lost after my host family dropped me off at Nuuk Center,a mega-mall that also hosted the Greenlandic Home Rule Government in the same building. Walking by toy stores, clothing stores and a video game store advertising the recently released SNES Mini Classic,, I go outside into the ancient cold and see the fjord, and, for the first time, the Northern Lights. (I used Greenlandic for the first time in order to ask for directions and find my way home).
To be honest, my Greenlandic skills are still quite meager, but my journey to explore this culture made me a more sensitive human and blossomed my creativity a millionfold. One year later, the Greenland trip is still my favorite international venture. And Greenland remains my favorite country in the whole world. 🇬🇱️
P.S. True story: I told my host mom on the car ride from the airport that I was vegetarian and I got laughed at (in a friendly way, though). Yup.