I was working as a carpenter in Greenland. I was young at the time and it was my first winter in the bygd (small settlement in Greenland) All days were cold and dark and nothing like what I was used to back in Denmark.
I was working all weekdays with almost no daylight, when I was hammering nails, the nails would stick to my glove because of the frost. I was constantly hungry, every day I could easily eat a whole cake just after lunch to keep me warm and happy. I felt very alone, I was used to hanging out with like-minded young people back home. We would be going to concerts and pubs each weekend and I always had someone to talk to. Here I had no one, there were people around me but no real friends. I even at some point drew my own imaginary facebook feed (there was no internet) to pretend stuff was happening.
The people I spoke to were my colleagues. We were a team of about 8 men. They had seen the world but they all came from Denmark, and by the various roads of the world ended up here in a small cold and windy bygd on the west coast of Greenland. They were older than me and came from a different time and background.
Each day we would all drive from each of our construction sites and back to the barracks to have lunch together. I was mostly quiet while eating, I didn’t know what to say and how to be part of the conversation. They would occasionally speak about women in a way I felt uncomfortable with, but they were also the only people there that I could hang out with so I never said anything against it – I probably would have today.
One day during lunch they talked about a woman they called the goat, they had all been with her ( or pretended as they had ) I don’t know if it was her job or if she just hooked up with them, but they all made fun of her as she had a handicap that made her sound like a goat during sex. I was especially silent that day and found their jokes and treatment of this person awful.
Many months later I was on the plane back home to Copenhagen. I sat next to a young man like myself and we started talking. He worked in Denmark but had just been back in Greenland to visit his mom, she was handicapped and needed help.
She came from the same city and had the same handicap as the woman the men in the barracks had been talking about. I said nothing to the young man.
I’m older now, I often think about this story – that next time ( if ever ) I’m in a room with people speaking about another person like this, I will say something, these people are real people and not just a story to tell for fun during lunch.