Skip to content

christina biilmann

Christina Biilmann is a mother, granddaughter, Greenlandic chef, maid, front desk receptionist and now, our friend. Beyond her external classifications, she is a women of compassion and conviction with a kindness that’s settled deep within her chocolate eyes. We met Christina upon the first day of arrival to Ilulissat where she works at World of Greenland, an adventure tour company. Frequenting the shop with questions and requests for more maps, we quickly became friends. When she invited us to a ‘coffee-meet’, a traditional Greenlandic event in which family and friends come by for coffee, cakes and authentic Greenlandic food, we were honored to take part in her celebration. It was her Grandfathers 76th birthday party, and we soon found ourselves welcomed into a beautiful home along the outskirts of town with a spanning view of the valley and lively city below. Simmering on the stove were three pots of stew, two types of whale soup and one pot of reindeer soup. Beluga whale meat and pieces of blubber with black skin was mixed with rice, potatoes and onions to create this traditional Greenlandic dish. We tried each one of the soups, tasting the differences between whale throat, whale body meat and the gamey reindeer. Due to many modern influences to this island apart, whale and seal meat is very expensive to buy and is now more of delicacy rather than a staple to the Inuit diet. In light of this honor, we feasted upon the soups and cakes that Christina had spent two days preparing. Although many people, including us, may feel passionately adverse to the consumption of such a magnificent creature, life in the arctic does not allow for any other options. They have no livestock, very limited fresh fruits and vegetables, and fish, meat from the sea and birds from the sky have been their traditional food and means of survival for thousands of years. From 1721 until the 1950’s, Denmark imported mainly sugar, flour, rice, raisins and canned fruit to supplement what couldn’t grow in Greenland. During its history, Greenland was a hunting culture that survived almost entirely off the land in every other respect. However as the economy, technology and population grew, so did the countries desire for a more convenient lifestyle. Now in the bigger cities, Denmark imports everything from espresso makers to avocados to Apple laptops. This shift to a more modern existence happened very fast and has had a layered effect upon the Greenlandic population. Pulling out our Zoom audio recorder, Christina and her grandfather sat with us to reflect upon life. She remarks, “its a big leap from the hunter culture to suddenly having everything. My grandfather seems like he’s adjusting well, but some of the other elders get sad and they miss the old times”. With many of the traditions slowly slipping away, some of the youth struggle to find their identity in a cross-culture environment.

Christina Biilmann is a mother, granddaughter, Greenlandic chef, maid, front desk receptionist and now, our friend. Beyond her external classifications, she is a women of compassion and conviction with a kindness that’s settled deep within her chocolate eyes. We met Christina upon the first day of arrival to Ilulissat where she works at World of Greenland, an adventure tour company. Frequenting the shop with questions and requests for more maps, we quickly became friends. When she invited us to a ‘coffee-meet’, a traditional Greenlandic event in which family and friends come by for coffee, cakes and authentic Greenlandic food, we were honored to take part in her celebration. It was her Grandfathers 76th birthday party, and we soon found ourselves welcomed into a beautiful home along the outskirts of town with a spanning view of the valley and lively city below. Simmering on the stove were three pots of stew, two types of whale soup and one pot of reindeer soup. Beluga whale meat and pieces of blubber with black skin was mixed with rice, potatoes and onions to create this traditional Greenlandic dish. We tried each one of the soups, tasting the differences between whale throat, whale body meat and the gamey reindeer. Due to many modern influences to this island apart, whale and seal meat is very expensive to buy and is now more of delicacy rather than a staple to the Inuit diet. In light of this honor, we feasted upon the soups and cakes that Christina had spent two days preparing. Although many people, including us, may feel passionately adverse to the consumption of such a magnificent creature, life in the arctic does not allow for any other options. They have no livestock, very limited fresh fruits and vegetables, and fish, meat from the sea and birds from the sky have been their traditional food and means of survival for thousands of years. From 1721 until the 1950’s, Denmark imported mainly sugar, flour, rice, raisins and canned fruit to supplement what couldn’t grow in Greenland. During its history, Greenland was a hunting culture that survived almost entirely off the land in every other respect. However as the economy, technology and population grew, so did the countries desire for a more convenient lifestyle. Now in the bigger cities, Denmark imports everything from espresso makers to avocados to Apple laptops. This shift to a more modern existence happened very fast and has had a layered effect upon the Greenlandic population. Pulling out our Zoom audio recorder, Christina and her grandfather sat with us to reflect upon life. She remarks, “its a big leap from the hunter culture to suddenly having everything. My grandfather seems like he’s adjusting well, but some of the other elders get sad and they miss the old times”. With many of the traditions slowly slipping away, some of the youth struggle to find their identity in a cross-culture environment.

The Danish influence is strong, “They used to start teaching Danish in 4th grade, now they begin in 2nd grade. And at age 11, every child goes to Denmark for three weeks to experience it”. Christina, who speaks fluent Danish and Greenlandic, was teased as a child because the Greenlandic children who did not speak Danish didn’t want to accept her because of her association with the Danish, and the Danish children pushed her away because she was born a native Greenlandic. Finding her voice has taken her down many different roads. Now raising a child in these changing times motivates Christina be an active presence and role model for her four year old daughter, “I want her to have a goal, a dream that she can go for. I think that is the role of a parent, to teach their children what is right and good and to know that everything they could want is there for them”. Teaching her English, Danish and Greenlandic, her daughters loving smile and spirited personality promises a beautiful and creative future. And as for Christina, the world can only be a better place for having her in it.

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. I love these stories of your travels. Thanks so much for sharing a little bit about the Greenlandic culture with us.

    April 16, 2012

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Ilulissat: Colorful Greenland « turcanin. cu ţ.

share your thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: