A lot of people ask me, “What was your inspiration behind Beato Goes To Greenland” and “Why was your first book based in Greenland?”
You will notice that the main character in the book is a girl named Ina. She takes Beato around Greenland and tells him about her country. Ina, is actually a real girl that I met in Greenland, and she was my inspiration for the book.
My husband and I visited Greenland in August 2014. We hopped around towns for two weeks, but our most impressionable time was spent in Ipiutaq. Now, you probably won’t find this place on a map. It is only a sheep farm located in Southern Greenland, with the nearest town being 45 minutes by boat. Population: 4. The farm is run by a a couple, plus an intern, and Ina, their daughter.
I flew into Narsarsuaq airport in a small plane, then took a high speed boat through blue ice glaciers to Ipiutaq. In the summer, the river was flowing and the backdrop was of green grasslands filled with wild angelica and arctic harebell. Over 300 sheep roamed the pastures while the mountains were covered with glistening white snow. The boatmen dropped me at the edge of a cliff, where Agathe, a petite French lady with glasses, grabbed my hand and pulled me up a slippery rock. There was no landing area, deck or walkway. We carried our Swiss Army suitcases across the fields to Ipiutaq Guest Farm.
The two-bedroom guesthouse was our home for the next couple of days. Recently built by Agathe Devisme and her Greenlandic husband Kalista Poulsen, who met at experimental agricultural station near Qaqortoq. This is when I also met Ina, 7-years old at the time, dressed in shades of pink-purple from head to toe. We instantly connected as Ina was beaming with curiosity when she saw us. Given Ipiutaq’s remote location, interaction with the outside world is limited to the times when she goes to the village for shopping, when guests come over for fishing and hiking trips, or the rare travels to her grandparents’ home in France.
My first afternoon, Ina decided to be my tour guide. She took me to meet her dogs – Ali and Ilan, her sheep, cat, chickens, and her home. Later that evening, her parents and us gathered in their living room, enjoying a bottle of red wine that they stored under the house (freezing temperatures make for natural refrigeration) and gourmet French-Greenlandic cuisine using all local ingredients. We talked about India, France, Greenland, their life as farmers, plans for the future, and later, watched the Northern Lights dance above our heads. Ina stayed up late into the night, absorbing all of our conversation, I imagined.
The next day, Agathe packed us a picnic lunch of sandwiches, apples and cookies, and we want on an exploration hike around the wilderness. There was no GPS, cell phone reception or maps. I had put all my faith in this 7-year old to guide me. Ina taught me how to be a kid again. We rolled in the grass, allowing the dogs to lick our faces, then we went to the river and pretended that the glaciers were giant popsicles! Ina later drew me a picture to remind me of our fun time together.
In my book, I made Beato (my cat) my avatar who experiences all of the same places, people and sights that I did during my trip to Greenland. It was only natural that Ina had to make her mark in the books, and connect with kids around the world.
After a couple of years, when I sent Ina and her family a hardcopy of Beato Goes To Greenland, I asked her mother, how she reacted to seeing herself in the pages. Agathe told me that at first, she was very sad, because the dogs, Ali and Ilan were no more. They had to be put down because a fox had attacked them. She started crying looking at their illustration. Later though, she said she liked it a lot!
I am delighted to hear regularly from Ina’s parents, Agathe and Kalista. They inform me of their trials and tribulations – snow storms, frozen water tanks, power outages, wild animal attacks. The family has decided to sell their labor of love, Ipiutaq Guest Farm and move to Iceland, where life will be a bit easier. I hope through Beato Goes To Greenland, you are able to get a glimpse of Ina’s life in Greenland.