Garden Day

Today was a Greenlandic holiday, Whit Monday. We did another sit-down breakfast, except this time without Aviaja because she spent the night at a friend’s house.  The meal was very similar to yesterday’s breakfast (meats, cheese, bread, butter, jam, coffee, tea) except instead of fresh fruit, we had smoothie.

Since everyone was off work, it was decided that today would be “Piloq 6 Garden Day”.  Piloq is the name of the street my host family lives on, and 6 is the number of the building they live in.  “Piloq” is Greenlandic for “leaf,” and all of the streets in Qinngorput are named after vegetation like mushroom (“Pupik”) and carrot (cannot remember the Greenlandic word).  Unfortunately, the vegetation for which the streets are named does not grow along the streets!

Here are some pictures from around the Qinngorput neighborhood. My host family lives at the base of a mountain called Stor Malene – it is part of a chain of Malenes, I believe. Anyways, it has a very large presence in Qinngorput!

This is the view from my bedroom window 🙂

Before I describe “Garden Day,” it is important to explain the home-ownership system in Qinngorput.  The subdivision is made up of many buildings of all different shapes and sizes according to the location of the particular plot of land with reference to the water. No building can ever be built so tall that it hinders the view of the buildings behind it. Piloq 6 is five stories tall. The first floor is only for storage units, and then the second, third, fourth, and fifth floors each have 2 apartments.  People that live in the building, such as my host family, own a fraction of the building and have a right to live in the building/their flat, but this is not to be confused with owning their flat. Nobody owns his own flat; he only owns a portion of the building.  Qinngorput is a new development, only about six years old (and it continues to be built), so my host family and the others that live in Piloq 6 were the first to live there; they took part in designing and constructing the building. Actually, the eight families had to all sign a lease together before they could begin construction. Another interesting aspect is that if someone were to move out and needed to find somebody to move in and replace them, nobody could move in unless the entire building approved. It is a very communal system.

Therefore, Piloq 6 is a rather tight-knit “circle of trust,” and we spent the entire afternoon of “Garden Day” together outside. Essentially, the purpose of Garden Day was to communally clean up the area and then to socialize and have fun! We started around 1300 by picking up trash on the ground around the building. Then, Ulrik began digging a sizeable hole in the ground to be used as a fire pit, pictured below. While he did the difficult work of digging a hole in the hard, rocky ground, Pia, others, and I looked around for good rocks to line the pit. The final step was to roll big, heavy rocks toward the pit for seating. This step took teamwork! The people that I met were Katja & Angutivik and their baby Smilla, Ulla & her husband (whose name I cannot remember) and their toddler Lille (they actually do not currently live in Piloq 6 but they used to before they got their own flat; they lived briefly with the parents of Ulla’s husband). These were the youngest families (in their early 30’s), and I talked a lot with them (in English). Actually, Ulla asked how old I was, and she was happy to find out that, for once, she was older than someone with whom she socialized! She is from Sisimiut, and she was telling me about the town and what there is to do there, as well as about the other towns and settlements and what activities they are best for. Katja spent a little bit of time working on the greenhouse – planting herbs like basil. I also met some other couples named Carla & Karl (Karl only arrived in the evening as he was out on the water hunting all day) and their dachshund Natasja. There was also Magrethe and Jens (Ulla’s in-laws).

The focus of the day was christening the fire pit by baking bread on it (marshmallow-style) and grilling meats. Pia made dough and Aviaja and her friend found dowel-like reeds on which to “skewer” the bread. This is how we baked bread: we took a handful of dough and rolled it between our hands to make a long, thin, snake-like piece. Then, we took the reed and pressed the dough over the one end to seal it and coiled the dough around and around the skewer and pinched it together at the bottom. Then, very much like Americans do with marshmallows to make s’mores on camping trips, we held the skewer over the flame and hot coals so the dough could heat up and bake, pictured below. Once there is good color and a crisp outside on the dough, it is ready to eat! It ends up looking a lot like a corndog! You just have to shimmy the reed free from the bread, leaving a tubular chamber inside the bread – perfect for squeezing ketchup, remoulade, or marmalade into!

By this time it was getting a little chilly outside, even by the fire pit, so we moved to another area that was still outside, but under the overhang of a balcony so it was shielded from the wind. Ulrik brought his small grill downstairs from the balcony, as did Jens, I believe. Families, one by one, brought out plates of seasoned meats, trays of coffee, tea, and juice, and side dishes. When all was said and done, we feasted upon pork chop, reindeer, musk ox, onion/beef/mini hot dog/tomato skewers, “egen avl” garlic bread by Magrethe (pronounced “ine owl” and means homemade), coleslaw, rosemary potatoes, and biscotti.

I was glad to meet more people from Piloq 6, and people like Ulla and Katja made it very easy to fit in!

Tomorrow is our first day of work at Visit Greenland, from 8-16. I’m hoping afterward to get around the town on foot and take some pictures!