Before I moved to Nuuk, I had some dumb ideas about what life would be like there and planned accordingly. The first dumb idea was that I would ski to work. I knew that I would be living about three kilometres from town and I thought this would be a great opportunity to do some regular cross-country skiing. But I have never had the resolve for serious regular exercise and, in any case, there is no cross-country ski route that coincides with the space between where I live and where I work. Nonetheless, there are extensive and excellent cross country ski trails around Nuuk. So I insisted on buying cross country skis on our first weekend in Greenland, fondly recalling the slushy cross-country skiing holidays of my childhood in Australia. But in the intervening years I have become more of a downhill skier. And, as it turns out, you can forget how to cross-country ski. I used my new skis once. Now they languish behind our laundry door.
My second dumb idea was to buy a new bike. Again, with no commitment to regular exercise, it came to nought. And I also pictured myself going the same way as a kid I saw cycling that first Nuuk winter. From the bus window, I watched him take a slight corner, fall gracelessly and slide across the ice, thunking into the snowy embankment on the far side of the road. Of course, he should have had winter tyres – something I knew nothing about, coming from Australia. The other passengers chuckled. But embarrassing bike-related moments like this trigger in me a tangible cringe as I recall a disastrous cycling journey when I lived in Copenhagen. I was cycling home from work during peak hour and stopped to pick up some groceries from a corner store. I strung the two bags of groceries from each handle-bar and continued down the crowded street. But a momentary wobble sent one of the bags into the spinning spokes. A carton, wedged within the spokes, exploded against the bike’s frame, sending up a spectacular spinning spray of cream, coating me from head to toe. I stopped, as did many passers-by, all of us gasping in horror. It was as if someone had thrown a bucket of white paint at me from point-blank range. I was totally creamed. Realising there was absolutely nothing I could do, I resumed my journey home, eyes fixed on the path ahead, as if by failing to acknowledge the throngs of open-mouthed observers, I would become invisible. But after a ten minute cycle of shame, the torture was not yet complete. I walked up four flights of stairs to find the final flight, leading to our apartment, blocked by workmen laying new linoleum on the stairs. There was no other way in, so, cream-covered, I climbed along the bannister, past the snickering workmen, to the longed for refuge of home. Falling and sliding across an icy road seems not so bad in comparison. But still, I am happy with the bus.
My husband has always been much more committed to bike-riding. He used his bike regularly in Nuuk until, only a few weeks after arriving, it was stolen from outside our house one night. He had assumed that he wouldn’t have to lock his bike. Where could it possibly go? Nuuk is not a big place. Indeed, it turns out someone found his stolen bike and replied to his Facebook request for information, informing him that it was lying, discarded, outside their building. But he didn’t see this message until months later, by which time it had been re-stolen, never to be found again, something he relentlessly and bitterly holds Facebook responsible for.
The third idea, which wasn’t that dumb, was to buy kayaks. We shipped two kayaks half way across the world to Greenland. Neither of us had any idea how to use them, so we went on a course while still in Australia. It was great. When we got to Greenland we ordered tailor-made dry suits. Once they arrived, we eagerly tried them on at home and, mid-suiting up, a neighbor rang the doorbell. We looked at each other in horror, imaging our new neighbor’s expression on being greeted by us in our matching neoprene suits, and fought desperately to extract ourselves: it’s quite difficult to get out of a dry suit quickly. We had plenty of plans for kayaking, and then I broke my leg spectacularly, which killed that idea for a good long while. So far we have been unsuccessful in using kayaks in the very place where kayaks come from. Maybe this summer. Meanwhile, our kayaks sit in a rack by the marina, longingly looking out to sea.