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Monday 25 August 2014: Nuuk, no cosy nook

This is the view from my window in the Hotel Hans Egede in Nuuk. I’m here to speak at the conference of the Nordic Child Protection Association. Hans Egede was the Danish missionary who brought the dubious benefits of Christianity to Greenland, arguably beginning the cultural decline that has now produced widespread child abuse in the indigenous community. I just saw an inspiring film, made by a French anthropologist who has worked here for years (and is the only other non-Nordic guest speaker at the conference) about a children’s home in the North that teams traditional hunters with troubled children to inspire the latter and pass on the skills of the former.

On a warm (ie above zero) summer’s day this place is beautiful and relaxing, nestling between sparkling fjords and overlooked by bare craggy mountains; but the houses (brightly coloured but very functional, with no hint of a garden) are perched precariously on the rocks, and every shop door is built to withstand a blizzard. I don’t know if it’s the smallest capital city in the world, but at 16,000 it must come close. It claims to have a university, but so far I haven’t even found a bookshop (although I admit that my university, with as many students as the entire population of Greenland, doesn’t have one either).

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