To the Heart of Greenland – Uummannaq! (Taste of Greenland)

(From Friday 22 June 2012)

The fog was still pretty heavy today, but we got word that Air Greenland was running flights, so I went ahead and checked in at the airport.  As my boarding time got closer and closer and then passed, I got a little nervous that maybe I would not get out of Ilulissat, after all!  About twenty minutes after the plane was originally supposed to leave, we got an announcement that between luggage and passengers, the weight might be too much.  So all the passengers had to line up at the check-in counter to be weighed individually on the baggage scale!  Evidently we were close enough to the weight limit because we were all allowed onto the plane!  Once we had taxied and actually taken off the runway, everyone broke into a great applause!  It was one of those moments when people did not believe it until they saw it actually happen.  And away I went to Uummannaq!

I should start by saying that Uummannaq is THE most beautiful place that I have seen in Greenland thus far!  It is an island with a town of less than 1,500 inhabitants crawling up the base of a 1,170-meter tall mountain.  Uummannaq means “heart-shaped” or something similar in Greenlandic, and some people say the town is named so because this mountain has two rounded peaks that look like the top of a heart.  Other people say that many places are called Uummannaq because when hunters and fishermen return from a trip and first get a glimpse of their hometown mountain on the horizon, their hearts are suddenly filled with a warm and happy feeling because they know they have made it home safely once more!

I feel SO lucky to be able to experience this town!  Maybe it is the mountain wearing off on me, but I get a pretty warm and happy feeling being here myself!  In Nuuk, I have met a couple of people who are from Uummannaq, and they both have so much pride in their roots here.  Now having seen it firsthand, I can understand why.  I would want to be from here also!  This town – the small size, the quiet and slower pace of life, the smell of the icebergs, the howling of land-bound sledge dogs… I did not know it until now, but THIS is where I wanted to live when I came to Greenland!  THIS is what I dreamed of!

 

As if the ambience of the town was not impressive enough, a midnight feast at the private home of Ann Andreasen proved that people who can change the world are not just in big cities – they exist everywhere, even in the far reaches of the Earth!  The Children’s Home has roots back to 1929, but it really started becoming what it is today in 1992.  Ann welcomes, cares for, and nurtures children from troubled homes from all around the country.  She has such a big heart, taking in these children who basically have no other chance, and she thinks nothing is unattainable.  The program has gained recognition all over the world, winning multiple awards and grants and even being featured in the soon-to-be-released movie, Inuk (see my blog post titled, “Inuk”).  For more information on the Children’s Home, see here: http://www.bhjumq.com/UK/index.htm.

Walking into Ann’s home is like walking into the coziest, most authentic museum that ever existed!  It is simply oozing with Greenlandic culture and history – beaded crafts, tupilaks, furniture made from wood and bones, artwork, photographs, polar bear skulls, furs, books, and the list goes on.  Narvhal (narwhal) tusks lean in the corners of the living room, and there is such a surplus of them that they even serve as curtain rods!

For dinner, Ann gave us a meal that rivaled a Thanksgiving Feast!  The table was set with beautiful linens, hand-beaded coasters with Greenlandic Flag designs, tall candlesticks, bottles of wine, and large platters of fish, salad, vegetables, and Greenlandic lamb soup.  As a sort of pre-feast blessing, one of Ann’s staff members, a young Venezuelan man named Ron Davis Alvarez whose aim is to use music to connect with people around the world, played Pachelbel’s Canon in D on the violin.  The music plus the welcoming nature of Ann and her staff was simply overwhelming!  And so began dinner at midnight, and it went well into the two o’clock hour!

(From Saturday 23 June 2012)

Today the Taste of Greenland film crew, Ace & Ace, shot various scenes around Uummannaq; they also went fishing for ammasetter, a sardine-like fish, with a few of the kids from the Children’s Home.  There was not a single tourist in Uummannaq for me to interview, so I was free to accompany the Taste of Greenland crew for the day!  In the morning, I went sailing with Anne Mette and Adrian to get shots of the icebergs and the town from the sea.

After lunch, Anders and I went up to the Children’s Home to clean the ammasetter that the crew had caught.  Cut off the heads, cut off the tails, snip the fins, and clean out the insides!  There were probably more than fifty fish to clean, but it went quickly with teamwork 🙂

In the afternoon, I went with Esben, Eskil, and Yuki to film Chris walking around and into the local supermarket, Pilersuisoq.  This was the first time that I had seen Chris working in front of a rolling camera, and it was great to see the show from “behind-the-scenes”!  Chris really is a natural – he did not have a script, no rehearsals… just going with it and making it entertaining.  Which it was!

The final event for the evening was shooting the cooking scene – again, this was the first one that I had seen so it was very exciting for me to see the whole process!  The site was a small hill on the outskirts of town looking out toward the large peninsula called Nussuaq.

All of the filming equipment had to be carried up to the site and unpacked, cameras positioned and focused correctly, Chris’ cutting board and mis-en-place arranged, and a fire started… the set up process took longer than the actual show!  Once everything was perfect and ready, it was quiet on the set and cameras rolling!

After the cooking scene, Ann and some of the kids from the Children’s Home came up to the site to be filmed dining on the ammasetter that they had helped catch earlier in the day.  They also brought more food and the whole lot of us had dinner up on that hill in the midnight sun!  And, just as on the first night, Ron Davis Alvarez serenaded us with his beautiful violin music while the others sang a traditional Greenlandic song!

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