Friday, March 12, 2010

Uummannami Nipi

I know what you may be thinking. It’s been a week  since you started reading my daily blog from Uummannaq, and you still can not find  a single word about music in it.  So, what about the music?

When exactly Joel Spiegelman, a renowned composer and conductor from New York will start his long-promised master classes with Eskimo children from Children’s Home in Uummannaq? When will Uummannaq Music be unveiled?

I will tell you just this. What was a week for those of you living in New York, Paris, Tokyo, Helsinki  or Milano, was just a  one long day for us. Time in Uummannaq flows slowly… molto adagio. Well, of course, you can rush if you wish, but on the other hand you can take your time. Because in Uummannaq, no matter what you do, whether you rush or not, things somehow get done just on time.

When we  embarked on our transatlantic flight to Uummannaq, we had a magnificent Plan. We had a weekly, daily and hourly schedule of our stay in Uummannaq. But it turned out that Uummannaq had its own Plan for us.

According to out initial plan, Joel was coming to Uummannaq to teach  local children the basics of music.  But it happened so that at first  we had to get schooled ourselves.

We too had to start with the basics . It turned out that we did not know anything.

So, we had to learn. We had to learn a lot of things. We had to learn to walk on ice. We had to learn to keep balance on a slippery road in order to avoid injury. Because an injured animal in the Arctic is a dead animal.

We had to learn to put skins and take them off. Because wearing polar bear and seal skins is not a fashion fad or a bow to a tradition here, but a daily necessity. European or American winter cloths, no matter how expensive or brandy, do not save you from Uummnnaq’s real cold.

We had to learn to fall asleep and wake up to the Rhapsody of the dogs’s howling. We had to learn not to pet the dogs – they are not pets, or feed them – they are fed only every other day, so that they can survive on the long winter rides that may last many days with no food in sight.

We also had to learn not to lock our house – this is not only a gracious gesture but an essential  necessity of which I will be talking later. We had to learn to be patient; we had to learn to wait till the glacier ice melts in the carafe and makes a beautiful sparkling Ancient Water…

We had to learn to enjoy eating local foods, delicacies like narwhale’s intestines filled with mattak – raw whale skin, a healthy treat with lots of vitamin C. We also had to learn not to babble about global warming at the dinner table –  in Uummannaq it is similar to talking about dying. Global warming is another synonym for death penalty here.

We also had to learn to appreciate silence. We had to learn to share everything, to live as a group. We had to learn to judge distances and to learn to love the nearest things.

Some things you learn fast, some skills take longer. It took a long time for Joel to get used to a  communal slop bucket  and he has not learned yet to consume raw blubber. But he is fine eating the cooked blubber, and he walks in the Blubber House without a fear. 

But we learned a lot. We finally learned to say  Uummannaq Music in Greenlandic: Uummannami Nipi. Nipi is so much more than just “music” in Greenlandic. Nipi  also means the sound of speech, noise, the cracking of  ice,  the  howling of a wolf,  the barking of a seal, the sniffing of a snow fox, the growling of a bear…  in other words, it means everything!

And yesterday we had our first concert! I will tell you about it in the next post.


  1. Galya, you are the poet of the north! Keep writing, keep warm, share the love.


  2. Да!! Очень красиво! Несмотря на все трудности выпавшие на вашу долю, все равно хочется туда поехать!