Here we are, a minute from tomorrow, on the island of Little Diomede. This island is a rock, and a few miles from Big Diomede, which is Russia. The international dateline runs between the two islands, and they have been known to be called the Tomorrow Island and the Yesterday Island. Right now the only way to get here is by chopper:
It’s not that cold here, surprisingly. The people are so tough…and healthier than a lot of the patients I see. It’s interesting that in a place so remote and cut off from the conveniences and healthcare and access to the world, they seem to be actually healthier. If it wasn’t for the cigarettes and alcohol and drugs, they would be so fit!
I got to chat with an amazing 16 year-old girl here who was really open and told me so much about their history and culture and hunting and gathering, and the clan life and family dynamics, which aren’t always idyllic. She wants to go to college in Fairbanks, and she’s so excited and soooo nervous about it. 🙂 She loves Diomede so much–the land, the animals, the way of life, and the food that they hunt and gather and store under their shelters. She told me that 70 degrees is her limit of heat that she can tolerate. I told her that 70 degrees used to be freezing for me–blankets and hot chocolate weather. We both laughed.
Anyway, it’s so fascinating that people live here, and yet it’s just the same humanity as anywhere. With hopes and dreams and fears and the desire to be listened to, respected, understood and loved, the same struggles and shit and the same ability to rise above the harsh circumstances.
We had dinner with the teachers last night. that was heaps of fun.
Then we got called to the clinic to see a patient who was having severe cramps/muscle spasms, and it was great to be here and be able to help him out. Out here you definitely feel like even these small things make a difference, which feels great.
I love these little “out-of-the-way places”
It reminds me of one of my favorite excerpts by Annie Dillard on her experience in a South American village:
“Like any out-of-the-way place, the Napo River in the Ecuadorian jungle seems real enough when you are there, even central. Out of the way of what? I was sitting on a stump at the edge of a bankside palm-thatch village, in the middle of the night, on the headwaters of the Amazon. Out of the way of human life, tenderness, or the glance of heaven?
She goes on to describe her experience there (it’s a great, heart-capturing read!) and say that this village is “in the way, catching the sunlight the way a bowl catches water, a basin of life, and grace and it would seem of peace”…
I love that. It does feel like Diomede is so much more in tune with the essence of life; the simplicity but complexity of subsistence living, and the way everyone must work together to survive.
This trip to Diomede was definitely one of the highlights of my life!