Hoping and waiting and wishing and hoping again

McCarthy's Musings: Day One in Greenland

James McCarthy | Kangerlussuaq, Greenland
March 6, 2016
Walter Strong/NNSL photo René Lange, left, gets some temporary tripod help from Pavia Hansen. Salik Jessen is at right. Lange was photographing temporary visitors as they passed by. All three residents of Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, were gracious hosts when chartered connector flights to Nuuk were delayed on their flights to the 2016 Arctic Winter Games. Lange was photographing temporary visitors as they passed by.

Walter Strong/NNSL photo
René Lange, left, gets some temporary tripod help from Pavia Hansen. Salik Jessen is at right. Lange was photographing visitors as they passed by. All three residents of Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, were gracious hosts when chartered connector flights to Nuuk were delayed on their flights to the 2016 Arctic Winter Games.

As I write this column, my colleague, Walter Strong, and I are eating lunch in Nordly, the pub in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland.

Handball was on the TV but it got changed to the Leicester vs. Watford soccer game – which sucked because I like handball – as it seems someone has made a bet on the action. I came to this conclusion by his body movements and his shouts whenever Watford came on the attack.

So this is Greenland, at least one part of it. We’re here because we flew on a 737. Nuuk can’t handle something that big, so we had to come here. In fact, if you’re flying in on anything bigger than a Dash-8, you’re coming here first.

Day One was an adventure to say the least.

It all began at Yellowknife airport as Walter and I waited to go through security. Someone from Air North came up to us and asked: “Are you going to Nuuk or Greenland?”

Huh? Are we being punked right now? Could’ve swore they were the same thing.

Anyway, after a slight misunderstanding, we boarded and hit the air. Landed with a flurry as the pilot was fighting the turbulence, and if you know me well enough, you know how much I enjoy a plane shimmying from side to side.

We get off and meet someone who struggled to tell us that our flight will be delayed by eight hours. Wonderful.

So it’s off to the Qinnguata Atuarfia – which we think is an elementary school judging by the classroom set-up – to wait it out. Good thing we found the Nordly as food was scarce.

After the Nordly, we took the time to walk about the town, which resembles Inuvik in a way with its rainbow-coloured houses. Even better was the mountains, which were rather large but also contained what looked to be some sort of observation post. You see, Kangerlussuaq used to be an American Forces outpost until 1992. Looked eerie enough and I wonder who works up there? Any other day, I might do my best to get up there, but I’m not really in the mood to be deported.

Anyway, we decide we’ve had enough of living in what resembles a refugee camp with so many people milling about – even had an impromptu soccer game outside with the Alaskans entertaining everyone, and I spare a thought for the poor schmuck who decided to chase down a ball and wreck his knee – and so Walter and I trudge back to the airport to figure out what’s happening with the flights.

Imagine our surprise when we’re told that we won’t be leaving Kangerlussuaq until 6:45 a.m. local time.

6-fricking-45 the next morning.

Yes, it was upsetting but you can’t get angry with the volunteers or the staff at Air Greenland because they’re so nice about it. Suulut, the gentleman who’s watching the flock here at Qinnguata Atuarfia, is probably the hardest working person in the town. He’s the one who literally ran all over, called whoever he had to and drove around town trying to get supplies – food, blankets and cots for sleeping, jugs for water – you name it. And he’s done it all with a smile on his face. Even on his supper break, he was up and down out of his chair helping people with the smallest things.

If this is what we can expect out of the folks in Kangerlussuaq, the folks in Nuuk have some job ahead of them. We’ve been treated like old friends here and people like Suulut have made us feel at home in a very tough situation.

One day down, six more to go. I always say I hope I don’t get deported by Day Three so things are looking up.

Now on to get the Russians to smile for a change… the perpetual horse-just-crapped-in-my-cereal routine is wearing thin.