Greenland’s biggest blogger


Dorthe Ivalo works as a school teacher in Sisimiut. In her spare time, she is also a wife, a mother, captain of her own boat, driver of her own snowmobile, crazy about needlework, a skilled photographer and owner of Greenland’s most-read blog.

Text: Mads Nordlund

Dorthe Ivalo Lennert Jensen was born in 1966 in Sønderborg in Denmark. Her father comes from Southern Jutland and her mother is from Sisimiut. They moved to Sisimiut the year after she was born and Dorthe Ivalo has lived there ever since, apart from the time when her mother went to school in Nuuk, and later during her own training to become a teacher, which she completed in 1989.

She speaks Greenlandic and Danish.

– I took part in a pilot project at Ilinniarfissuaq – Greenland’s Teaching College – where there were extra lessons in Greenlandic for people like me, who lived in Greenland but who had only been taught Danish at school. The idea was to see if it was possible to bring out our latent Greenlandic language – and it was.

– I have worked as a teacher ever since and I have just celebrated my 25th anniversary. Many of these years were spent teaching in ordinary schools, but for the last 10 years I have taught special classes in what is called »The School2 scheme – Nalunguarfik«.

– My son was born while I studied to be a teacher. He was born with spina bifida so there wasn’t time for anything other than my studies and him. We also spent a long time together at Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark.

– I found work in Nuuk, but I moved to Sisimiut in the middle of the school year so as not to be alone in the capital. My parents lived there and they still do, she smiles and points out of the window at their house, which is nearby. She then points to first one sister’s house and then to the other’s.

ivalo-770-03Dorthe Ivalo with her sisters; on the left Lena Reimer and on the right Christina Johnsen.

The family
– I met my husband Jan in Sisimiut. We are old classmates from school. He has put up with me for 20 years. Together we have two lovely girls born 13 months apart and they still live at home. My wonderful husband is a teacher at KTI and he is the most tolerant person I know. This is probably why he puts up with me, she says thoughtfully.

– My family means everything to me. My husband and children, my parents and sisters. Each is a kind of »life witness«, a person who knows you and what you are made of and who accepts you for who you are.

– I think I have a good family and we have a good relationship with each other. We get on well together and separately. Especially when you see how different we all are, it is fantastic that we can give each other space to be who we are.

– My husband and I often sail together. His boat is big and slow, so we usually take my dinghy when we sail in to our cabin in the fjord in the summer. I have sailed myself for many years. In the winter, we drive in with the snowmobile.

– When you get to a certain age, it is nice to have a cabin. It is only 15 square metres, but very functional. We enjoy getting away to enjoy nature and the tranquillity out there.

Rocks and knitting
– I have done lots of interesting things in my time. For example, I collect rocks in my pockets and one day I asked Bjarne Ljungdahl, who knows minerals, what they were. This resulted in us starting a rock club together. When Bjarne Ljungdahl later started Greenland’s Rock Club, I helped with the start up phase. Since then, I have made a lot of gem stones and I still do sometimes, for example if I have knitted a sweater and I don’t have jewellery that goes with it. I don’t sell the jewellery.

– I knit a lot. I don’t know why, but everyone up here is good with their hands. Some people do handicrafts or art, others play the guitar or the accordion.

– When I was alone at Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark with my son for the second time, I rang to my parent’s friends in Denmark. They helped me a lot while I was there. They gave me knitting needles and yarn, so I sat and knitted when time passed slowly at the hospital. Since then, it has been on and off and mostly to be chakkenged by a shape or a colour. For example, I have tried to make a »moebius«. It is a knitted circular scarf with a half twist so that it can be used as a combined neck-warmer and hat.

– I have painted and made creams and done lots of other things. I quickly become restless. I rarely do the same thing again, although this winter we have built an igloo again. But now, that is over and done with. The project got a lot of local support. It was the children who built it out of 1,800 milk cartons filled with frozen water coloured with food colouring. It was sponsored by the supermarket chain KNI.

– I love music and I followed the music/linguistic line of study at high school, but unfortunately I haven’t kept it up. My oldest daughter can play just about anything and my youngest plays the guitar. Both our daughters are bright. In addition, the youngest takes fantastic photos. She took a portrait of me where I thought – this is simply unbelievable. It made me look at myself in a new way and got me to lose 26 kilos in one year. No big deal, it was just a decision, states Dorthe Ivalo.


In her blog it has been possible to follow her life and the lives of her family and friends in Sisimiut almost daily since 2007. The blog is, like Dorthe Ivalo herself, not an ordinary blog. It bubbles with energy, life, knitting, needlework, trips into nature, small everyday things, flowers and frostwork, food, music, people, attitudes, events, glimpses of daily life and lots of exciting little »detours« that have been tried out.

All this is spiced up with everything from wonderful photos to pictures documenting what the day’s post is about or how the week’s knitting has turned out.

Furthermore, there are completed lists of finished knitting projects and books read year by year, so anyone afraid of getting bored can just take their pick. There is plenty of inspiration here for a more amusing, fulfilling life. It is always hard when people like Dorthe Ivalo stick their necks out and bare their souls on line. A lot of people have expressed their opinion on this, both in Sisimiut and in comments to the blog over time, but although she has been called many things, »boring« is not one of them.

– It started as a home page for family and friends with pictures and small stories from my life. It was especially for the benefit of my parents in law, so they could keep up from Denmark. In March 2007 it was changed into a more modern blog, which is open to everyone.

– Now, I have 214 followers and an average of 500 to 700 people who click in each day. There are about 20,000 visitors on average each month of which around 4% come from Greenland and the others come from around the world.

– I have chosen not to have advertisements. It is my blog and I want to be independent and impartial. But since we live in a small community, I am very careful not to expose anyone. I also try to stick to ordinary rules for good ethics and good language. I think there are too many people, who say nasty things to – and about – each other.

Perfectly ordinary
– The »heading« for my blog, is »a perfectly ordinary life«. I knit and cook rissoles. Perfectly ordinary things that anyone can relate to.

– While the media feature scruffy, drunken Greenlanders, I make an effort to say: »Hello – I am here, too«. I hope my blog exposes ordinary, everyday life in Greenland in a positive way. Some of us live perfectly ordinary, boring middle-class lives. If I can just change the views of one or two people, it would be great, she says.

– People think I am very extrovert, but I don’t actually go out alone and I am quite shy. It is easier with a blog where you sit behind a screen, not looking readers in the eye. But we have been recognized as a family when we are on holiday in Denmark.

– I get a lot of mails from all over the world. Often they concern quite ordinary tourist-related questions or they are about Greenland in general, but of course there are also some about my knitting and photos.

– I don’t have any criteria for when I post updates on my blog. I have this idea, that if I haven’t taken a photo, I don’t write about it. I believe people are very visually-oriented like me and I like to have a picture to support the text.

– I am where I think about whether there is anything left worth writing. But there usually is. I always have ideas and there is still a lot to write about and plenty to take photos of. Beforehand, I was often thinking of my mother in law when I wrote. Sadley, she has passed away, but I don’t think I have finished writing yet.


– I don’t think I take particularly good photos, but I have received a lot of acclaim, which is nice. As with anything else, I like to challenge myself. This also applies to photography.

– For many years, I have been allowed to be one of Arctic Circle Race’s photographers. It is an exciting challenge. You never know what the weather will be like and the skiers have different feelings about being photographed. It is difficult to explain, but usually I prefer to capture people’s expressions and feelings, rather than take arranged photos where people smile for the camera. It gives a different impression when you capture a person’s genuine joy at crossing the finishing line, rather than later, when they smile as they receive their medal.

In the beginning, I only had a compact camera that cost DKK 700. I used it to win a country-wide photo competition with 2,000 photo entries. The winner was a photo of a first day of school. The fact that qualified photographers gave me that recognition was a pat on the back for me. I won a reflex camera and a trip for two to Denmark with paid accommodation and complimentary tickets in Copenhagen. Crown Prince Frederik presented me with the camera and I held a talk about Greenland at the Arctic Institute. It was great, remembers Dorthe Ivalo.

– There are many people who take fantastic photos. I am fascinated by photographers like Carsten Egevang from Denmark and Steen Olsen here from Sisimiut.

The future
– I do not know what the future will bring. I do not have any big plans. I rarely plan ahead. I am probably very impulsive, she says.

If you collected Dorthe Ivalo’s energy into one concentrated beam, she would probably light up all of Sisimiut. But she already does this in her own way, by continuing to take the initiative for innovations and by posting about her daily life for everyone who follows her blog.

– I make a song and dance out of ordinary days. As the Danish poet Dan Turell said: »I like ordinary days most, they are in the majority«, ends Dorthe Ivalo.

Dorthe Ivalo’s blog

Dorthe Ivalo also blogs in Guide to Greenland

OMSLAG_24   Read the story on page 44-46