The Island of Abandoned Houses

I told you earlier about Kangeq, an island of abandoned houses. Island of dreams, more like it. Kangeq is about a half an hour boatride away from Nuuk, situated in a little cove that protects the settlement from wind. The island was inhabited until the 1970s and now there's a good dozen of old, rotting houses sitting there all by themselves. It's glorious.

I went there with Tupilak Travel, who have been really accommodating and just all in all great - and I say this without any kind of incentive as I paid for this trip so you can trust me - plus they actually answer the e-mails you send them, unlike a lot of others Greenlandic companies and people, so yes, here's a big recommendation for Tupilak Travel. They're great! If you're coming to Nuuk, that's who you should contact.

I'd been trying to get a ride to Kangeq for a while but it finally happened earlier this week. We sailed straight from Nuuk to there and I was standing at the deck as we approached, ready to pounce on land as soon as possible. There was a small possibility we would not be able to embark, the island doesn't have a proper harbor anymore and if the water is too low, it's hard to get there. The captain and the tour guide were both a bit hesitant but I was basically jumping up and down and finally they allowed us to climb up a very slippery slope full of disgusting seaweed. Totally worth all the seaweed slime.

Kangeq has a lot of old abandoned houses and I think one or two houses that people have been fixing up and maybe spending their summers in. Most of the old houses are dilapidated and falling down, so the doors are open and I just went in. I was so excited I thought I'd vibrate out of my skin. The rest of the group was strolling around but I was climbing up and down the hills, sinking in the wet spring snow, trying my hardest to see all the houses I could with the little time we had.

I think I had time to go through three or four houses. Then we had to leave, I guess the tours to Kangeq don't last very long, maybe they think people aren't interested (I really like you guys at Tupilak but that's where you're wrong) in staying there longer or maybe they feel the place is creepy. Maybe they're afraid of the qivittoq or a qivittoq.

Qivittoq is a Greenlandic myth or a story about people who walked into the mountains, leaving their family and community behind. Some people did it because they felt like outsiders, because they were mocked or because they were angry or sad or just wanted to get away from it all. The story says they eventually go mad and die and then become a kind of super-powered zombies. Some Greenlanders still fear them, though I'm not completely sure if they fear crazy hermits who have left the cities and lurk in the mountains or if they're afraid of the supernatural version. It's an interesting story for sure: in a way I think it's to scare people away from wandering too far and getting lost or falling down the mountainside or something. In another way, I can see it as a story of people who feel a small, close-knit society shuns them and they decide to leave. That kind of thing can make people bitter and aggressive and I guess if you lived without human contact for a really long time, you might get a bit messed up.

Many Greenlanders believe in ghosts, as we believe in something like pants, to quote Terry Pratchett. They think ghosts are present, sometimes destructive, sometimes scary, sometimes minor annoyances. They're just there and believing in them is kind of useless because they're there anyway. I don't necessarily believe in the supernatural but I'm pretty curious about it and also kind of easily scared. Being here, I'm starting to question if maybe there are some kind of ghosts, or something out there. I've lived in this apartment for the past six weeks and in that time I have fallen down the stairs twice, dropped the coat rack twice and last week, a lamp fell from the roof right next to my head, even if I had not touched it. It just fell and scared me shitless. And then I started thinking, I didn't necessarily drop the coatrack, it just fell. I was in the other room when it fell. Some small things have been moved and I just thought it was me being absent-minded but then again, what if it wasn't? Maybe there's something here?

It could be that there's a logical explanation to everything. It's spring, this is an old house, the temperatures and humidity fluctuate. The walls aren't the most reliable. Things fall down and I really am absent-minded (I did not, however, pick up that disgusting old paper from the ashtray on the balcony and put it on the balcony railing and I'm the only one who smokes here so who did that?) so maybe I'm going island-crazy. But who knows? Just to be sure, I did what one Greenlander told me I should try in a situation like this and told the thing that lives here (or not, I feel like if I acknowledge its existence, it will exist) to get the fuck out of my hair. So far I'm still alive.

(It doesn't help that a lot of people have told me the museum is haunted.)


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