Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Nanortalik e-mail extract

Hi, just taking the chance to e-mail you from Nanortalik, where I am installed in a lovely little hostel surrounded by the open air museum. On Monday the town's population doubled due to the arrival of a cruise ship full of mostly Americans who went to see a show in the sports hall performed by a bunch of schoolkids doing traditional dancing, and the town choir. The whole day was kind of a surreal experience. One of the visitors thought the man in traditional costume actually lived in the reconstructed sod house until I explained that he had a very nice house in town somewhere. Niels at the tourist office has been more than helpful. He is a retired teacher and head teacher who came to the area in 1969 from Denmark and has stayed ever since. I told him today I wasn't surprised to find out he had been a teacher (he had announced it to the throng of tourists before introducing the performers). He wondered why and I said it was something about how he walked tall and held himself. Also the way he dispatched two young boys fooling around outside the tourist office might have been a giveaway ("excuse me," he said this morning and made a beeline out the door as they starting clanging on the old post box. "Los dos banditos!" he said upon returning just as swiftly. No more banging was heard.)

This internet cafe where I am writing not only has a number of kids hanging about, it is staffed by a kid struggling to keep up with the demand for hot chocolate. This building is also the radio station.

Yesterday I went for a long walk to see the Norse ruins out along one part of the coast on the other side of the bay directly opposite from where I am staying. Nanortalik is on a small island about three by four miles and the original settlement was on that part of the coast - the original 19th century settlement, that is. The weather and light were absolutely stunning on Monday and Tuesday, though it was rather windy at times. Today it is perfectly still but the fog has come on little cat feet, so a better day to shoot in black and white.

I have my own television at the hostel and the three channels are interesting. One is the Greenlandic channel, which is on air only from about 1pm to 11:30 pm and shows a mix of indigenous programmes, in Greenlandic with Danish subtitles, Danish programmes, and US or UK imports, including, bizarrely, a sort of Eurovision Let's Come Dancing hosted by the very camp Graham Norton, that must have aired on ITV sometime last year. Then there is the Hallmark channel with 'heartwarming' dramas and films, and Law and Order, in the evenings but sadly is a horrible cartoon channel the rest of the time. The third channel is Nanortalik-TV, which is a sort of continual slide show of advertisements for local services, accompanied by a Danish radio-speech channel sort of like Radio 2. Oh, and the Greenlandic TV channel turns into the test pattern plus Denmark's answer to Radio 4, I think it is called P5, all speech, news and documentaries. It also shows a clock, which is good, though I can just look out the kitchen window to see the church clock, at least during they day.

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