Greenland is the largest island in the world. A majestic but severe world that is defined by ice. The Inuit people who live there have twenty-three words for ice. Ice that glows green under the quivering lights of the Aurora Borealis. Ice that shimmers pink in the glow of the midnight sun. Ice that contains more shades of blue than it seems possible.
Ice that is melting at an alarming rate.
Viking legend tells of Erik the Red’s trip to Greenland in 982 A.D. to found the first Norse settlement there. He named the island Greenland to attract more people (or trick them into coming, some say). But the Greenlandic people call the island Kalaalit Nunaat—meaning “land of the people”—in their native language. An interesting definition, given the fact there are only 57,000 people on the whole island and only 16,000 people living in the capital, Nuuk.
I’ve always wondered what life is like in this distant, stark, but beautiful country. Felt the need to press my face against the glass whenever the airplane I am flying in passes over the soaring white glaciers of Greenland. Looking down, I wonder what it is like to draw in a cool, crisp breath of Greenland air. To take a drink from a pristine, deep blue fjord. To talk to one of the locals about their life.
A local like Najaaraq.
Najaaraq is a young woman from Nuuk, Greenland. She goes to boarding school in Denmark. In addition to English, she speaks her native Greenlandic as well as Danish (Greenland is an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark).
I connected with Najaaraq through my friend Carolyn. Carolyn’s family hosted Najaaraq as a foreign exchange student. With Carolyn’s help, Najaaraq and I connected over the internet and she answered my questions and shared photos of her home.
Thank you, Najaaraq for giving me a clearer picture of life in Greenland. Thank you Carolyn, for making it all happen.
My Conversation with Najaaraq
When you look out your window at home in Greenland, what do you see?
When does it get warm in Greenland?
It gets warm in June, I think. It lasts for about three months, so in August it will be cold again.
What is the most unusual thing about Greenland?
The most unusual thing will be that the ice is melting.
If I came to your house for dinner, what would you serve me?
I would probably give you Danish food, like “frikadeller med kartofler og sovs”. But if it has to be Greenlandic food, I will give you seal soup, which is really good.
What do you do for entertainment in Greenland?
We do stuff like most Americans, I guess. Go to the movies or the theater, where we can show some Greenlandic art.
What is your favorite time of year in Greenland?
Perfect time in Greenland would be in the summer. Where it is warm outside, to take a walk, and eat ice cream.
What climate changes have you witnessed in Greenland?
We have warmer summers. It will melt the ice.
What makes you proud to be from Greenland?
The language. I can understand one of the hardest languages in the world.
What myth or stereotype about your country would you like to set straight?
That Greenlandics are alcoholics.
Do you see yourself staying in Greenland the rest of your life?
No. I think it is too small. I will only go there for vacation.
What is your greatest fear about life in Greenland?
There are many Greenlandics who commit suicide. My biggest fear would probably be that all the Greenlandics will commit suicide. That the “Greenlandic” will die.
What gives you hope?
Denmark is a big help for such things like suicide. They can try to talk with the people who have a hard time.
What is your opinion of the United States?
I have only been in the United States a couple of days but I LOVE IT so far! Well.. I do love it. It is a beautiful place, and people are very nice. I wasn’t expecting that, because of the rumors, but it is cleared.
What does Greenland do well?
We are fishing shrimps and fish, and import it to Denmark and probably some other countries, but I don’t know which ones.
What do you wish Greenland did better?
I don’t know.
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