Taken aback by the sudden question, Christian, Uli, and I nodded. Clearly, the man had overheard our conversation.
His dark eyes shifted from the front of the store to the back. Stepping closer, he first cleared his throat, then whispered, “18:05 in front of the church.”
This time, we nodded in unison.
Before turning back around he added, “Cash only,” then continued stocking the near bare shelf with red cardboard tubes of Pringles.
It was April 2016 and that was the only chip still available in Ittoqqortoormiit’s Pilersuisoq until the August arrival of the first of only two ships per year that supply the tiny Greenlandic village with anything that cannot be hunted or fished. That’s everything, people; everything from paint to potatoes, diapers to diesel oil, bread to bathroom tissue. But umimmar? That is thankfully an abundant commodity.
Umimmar – my kryptonite – I needed my last fix before heading home in two days time. Everyone else was in on it, too, but they were busy recuperating from four days out on the sleds, so it would be only Christian and I that agreed to show up for the drop.
It was nearly six o’clock when we began suiting up – tugging on ski pants, stepping into thermal boots, wrapping scarves around our necks, pulling on hats and gloves, zipping up down jackets. We’d turned into gold medal athletes for speed dressing – it took less than a minute for us to step out from the warm, cozy guesthouse into the bracing chill of early evening.
As we trudged along the twisting road to the agreed upon site, we laughed and chatted about our adventures during the past week, and consequently, our shared addiction for umimmar, something Christian had never been exposed to before this trip.
Propelled by the excitement at the prospect of the impending deal, we reached our destination ahead of schedule where we greeted and waved at passers-by
trying as best we could to chill while waiting for our contact. This is relatively easy when it’s 5 degrees Fahrenheit or -15 Celsius.
At precisely 6:05 pm, foot-steps crunched from the snow-packed path alongside the church behind us. With a laptop bag slung across his chest and sporting a pork pie hat complimented by rimless sun glasses, the young man approaching us stood out from the colorful snow-suited-fur-line-booted residents and tourists we were accustomed to seeing strolling and snowmobiling about the village.
Once he’d introduced himself as The Translator and we, in turn, as The Buyers, he motioned us to follow him to the red clapboard house across the road where an above ground cellar door stood open a crack. After a double rap-rap on the weathered surface just below the rusted pad-lock, I half expected a raspy voice to demand a password. Instead, The Translator pulled open the door, revealing a windowless cement room fraught with shadows cast by the day’s shrinking light.
“Please,” he said, stepping aside and pointing the way.
After a sideways glance at each other, Christian took the lead over the threshold where a man moved into view, making it clear the deal was going down.
“How much?” The Translator asked once we were all inside.
“Three-four kilos,” I said. “Maybe five.”
After a short show of cinched brows and puckered lips punctuated by a back-and-forth discussion where the only word I understood was aap, yes, The Dealer flung open a freezer chest to umimmar heaven…
Three minutes later, we were breathing fresh air and thanking our newfound friends for their time and for supplying us with our last musk-ox meal before heading home.
Back at the guesthouse, Christian and I proudly displayed the spoils of our hunt
while Damian and Uli chopped and diced dinner for the vegetarians among us.
By the time the sun slipped under the horizon,
we’d filled our bellies to the brim and crawled under our respective covers, hardly aware of the captivating crescent moon rising outside our dreams.
To catch up on my complete Arctic adventure thus far, press HERE
if Ittoqqortoormiit has captured your heart as much as it has mine, I suggest you visit Ruth Aaqqii’s Blog Greenland Outside where her last post includes amazing shots from just a few weeks ago in March.
* photo credit to Marianne and Barbara for the smiling children, spoils of the hunt, and Damian and Uli preparing dinner
❤ Qujanarsuaq to all for stopping by today ❤