12 days in Greenland isn`t much. There`s no way you get to know the people or nature in such a short time. We`ve been here in mid-summer, when the sky was mostly blue and the heat sometimes unbearable under our dry suits. The warning signs about the “piteraq”, the cold wind which originates on the Greenlandic icecap and sweeps down the east cost with speeds up to 80 m/s, were surreal to us. But we knew that villages had been abandoned because of it, and even Tasiilaq was severely damaged by it in 1970.
I also find it very strange that Greenland is a part of Denmark. Ammassalik and Copenhagen are poles apart! I met young children and adults who spoke perfectly Danish, and yet I knew that their first language was one completely different in all aspects.
I have no expertise to say that living in East Greenland is better or worse than other places. The trampolines are as abundant here as in my own neighbourhood, and the children do the same spectacular acrobatic backflips and twisting somersaults. The families enjoy their Sundays in small open boats on the sea, visiting their summer houses and fishing from the rocks, just as we do in Norway. The locals are outstanding Stiga players, brilliantly smashing me again and again.
But I`ve also seen alcoholism. I do see that in my hometown as well, outside my local supermarket and at the bus station. And I see it as a dentist; well-dressed men and women with slurred speech and the distinct smell of spirit from their breath. Maybe the problem isn`t bigger in Greenland, just more out in the daylight?
My friends asked me to come join them in their Greenlandic Odyssey, and I am them ever so thankful. They were a great company, serious and funny, and to count on when needed. In Ann Kristin, I found a friend for a lifetime!
We also had a competent guide who helped us with the logistics (tents, kayaks, local knowledge etc.), and who was paddling with us all the time. Knowing what we know now, we could have done the trip on our own, but as this was the first time kayaking in Greenland for all of us, it was good to have the expertise and safety he offered.
Kayaking for 5-7 hours each day invites to reflection. It took me some time to stop worrying about work at home, and to let myself submerge into the beauty of the landscape and to slow down my paddling. Everything is not always a competition! I thought about what is important in my life; good health, my parents, friends – and also very high on the list; the long hikes, skiing, swimming and kayaking. Being out in nature for several days. Sleep in a tent. Feeling tired at the end of the day, with feet and arms and body aching from work. Having that warm cup of coffee in the morning, relaxing a bit before packing the tent. Thinking “I have to tell them at home about this”, and knowing that I can.
Too much of my everyday life is not like this. I know, there has to be weekdays. But for the last ten years, I have spent a lot of time worrying about work. Administrating my own dental practise has taken my night sleep away. I have to be available even at holidays. Being two weeks out of reach feels forbidden and wonderful. Is this how I want my life to be?
At some point in the kayak in Greenland, I decided to sell my practice and go for the really long hike!