Kaffemik Manu

(From Sunday, May 27, 2012)

Today was a wonderful first day – very social! Started out by waking up to the delicious smell of my first breakfast in Greenland!  We all sat down together at the table, which I will gladly get used to happening daily. Though I imagine in the weekday, the spread will not be quite so extensive! We feasted on scrambled eggs, mixed fruit salad, bread & butter, pate, meat, cheese, marmalade, and cinnamon rolls. And coffeeee 🙂

If all the blinds are shut, it could be very easy to think I was in Washington, D.C. with all the modern furnishings, comfort foods, and abundance of Apple products 🙂 BUT – the blinds are open always and all I have to do is look up out any of the windows to see that clearly I am not in Washington, D.C. but rather am in a majestic wonderland.  In one direction, I have panoramic views of Nuuk Fjord, with snow-capped hills along the horizon.  In the other direction, I have Lille Malene and Store Malene, two hills/mountains I want to reach the top of at some point!  So yeah, not in Washington, D.C. 🙂

Around 1400, my host family took me on a driving tour of Nuuk.  We started at the far southwest end of Qinngorput where new flats are being built to house the people who will be relocated from downtown when the old Bloks are leveled in order to be rebuilt.  We went all around Qinngorput, past the other residential area called Nuussuaq, to the industrial/harbor area, downtown past the Greenland Tourism & Business Council office on Has Egedesvej, around the new University area, around the airport, and then back to Qinngorput for Kaffemik.

This is a picture of the Bloks, old housing right in the center of town.

This is one of the many cemeteries. A lot of the older ones have filled up, so they have to move to a new space. This one is on the west side of town near the old University building and the Moravian Monk Ruins.

I was very fortunate to experience Kaffemik on my first day! Kaffemik is one of the most important and central aspects to Greenlandic culture (read more here)! It is essentially a weekend party one holds at his/her own home to celebrate a birthday, a wedding, a confirmation, going away on holiday for a few weeks, returning from holiday, etc. People find many reasons to host Kaffemik! The hosts provide all the food and drink, so it is somewhat of an undertaking to host, especially when there are many friends and family in attendance.  This is a tradition with deep Greenlandic roots because the family wants to show that they have an abundance of food; it is a status symbol.  Depending on how many kids one has and how often they want to host friends, people could host Kaffemik just a couple times a year or as frequently as every month or so.

Hosts invite many people to their Kaffemik, but everyone does not come all at once.  It is a very casual, relaxing, and fluid sort of event.  People come and go as they please, and the hosts always have plenty of food and drink ready for newcomers.  Traditionally, the Greenlanders spend only a little bit of time at each Kaffemik, perhaps a couple cups of coffee’s worth, and then go about their way.  I am told the Danish like to spend a lot more time at Kaffemik, though! If you have been invited to Kaffemik but wish to do another activity that day, it is not rude to decline. It is common practice, however, that guests bring a small gift for the host or the person of honor.

Today, Kaffemik was just up the street in Qinngorput at the home of Katrine and Thomas in honor of the 11th birthday of their son, Manu.  This couple is one of my host family’s very good friends; they own a boat together and often go on sailing and hunting trips together. There must have been fifteen or more adults there and who knows how many children – they were all in the back bedrooms playing and having a good time!  There was main course food in the kitchen, beer and wine on the counter, and all sorts of sweets, breads & butter, and coffee & tea on the tables.  Two eating tables were set up, picnic-style, in addition to standard living room furniture, and people were seated all about.  When we sat down, Katrine came over with a set of clean dishes – a coffee cup and saucer, a spoon, and a plate. Everyone just walks around and helps himself to whatever he wants.  I started with tea and some raisin bread & butter but throughout the afternoon had sweets like cookies and strawberry tart.  Thomas was very kind and asked me if I had tried the musk ox yet.  When I said no, he directed me toward the kitchen to try some… so I did! It was very good!  He said it was meat from an ox he had killed last year, and oddly enough, later that same evening my host family and I looked at pictures from that very hunting trip! I met many people at Kaffemik – Katrine and Thomas, Jakob and Charlotte, Pia, and Sussi & Peter. Most everyone knows English, but they don’t speak it unless they are talking directly to me, which was more or less quick conversation.  Pia was helpful, though; whenever she thought about it, she would quickly tell me the gist of the conversation. I don’t mind, though; I am enjoying just being immersed in the language. A personal goal is to be able to speak it myself by the time I leave!

We left Kaffemik about 1700 and I took the opportunity to write a bit about the afternoon before going to Sushi dinner with Anne Mette and Sharon at 1900.

Anne Mette lives just down the street in Qinngorput also, so she picked me up and then picked Sharon up on her way into town. We did another short driving tour (which was nice to reinforce what I thought I had remembered from earlier) and also did a short tour of inside the Visit Greenland office.  I will be on the bottom level and Sharon will be on the top level.  Then we went for Sushi dinner at, oddly enough, the only sushi restaurant in town! We had a couple pots of tea, miso soup, and lots of sushi – salmon, shrimp, and halibut!

When I got back from dinner, my host family had two friends over, Katrine and Hans, whom they say are some of their closest friends. Katrine is from Ummannaq (a town in North Greenland that means “Heart-shaped”) and was very friendly; she was also very willing to talk to me in English, more so than anyone I have met so far! We looked at a few commercial videos of Greenland and then looked at a ton of Ulrik’s photos.

All in all, it was quite a social day – from family breakfast, to Kaffemik Manu, to dinner with Visit Greenland coworkers, to an evening in with Katrine and Hans… I am beginning to see that my host family is very social, and I am loving it because it means that I will probably get to meet many more people than I would have ever met living alone in a flat downtown or in Nuussuaq! I think I’m going to make it just fine in Nuuk!

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