Little Diomede-“Alaska Is a Land of Extremes, But Here Extreme Is a Way of Life.”

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:

The village of Little Diomede:
Stacked houses Little Diomede

Little Diomede Clinic
Little Diomede Health Clinic

The Native store
Little Diomede Native Store

We had lovely little tour guides who took me up the hill–great View of Big Diomede:
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Little Diomede House
Little Diomede House

Steep playground!
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Hanging out in the window
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Goofy girls in the sunshine!
Goofy girls in the window

Caught a baby fox–turns out when they tested it, that the fox was rabid.
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Girls checking out the kill.
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Barefoot girl! They say this weather is so warm! (It’s 30-40 degrees)
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Another barefoot girl
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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. πŸ™‚ 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”
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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.

The Catholic Parish house
The Catholic Parish house

Who needs a jungle gym when you have stilts like these?
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So tiny–although the school (green building) is huge compared to the other houses
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Playing in the snow
Playing in the snow

Front porch
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This trip to Diomede was definitely one of the highlights of my life!

12 thoughts on “Little Diomede-“Alaska Is a Land of Extremes, But Here Extreme Is a Way of Life.”

    • Thanks Deb! Yes, every day is an adventure!!! We miss you here! When are you coming back to share in some more fun?! πŸ™‚ Big hug!

  1. Hugs back! I miss you & my other Nomies! Finished in Gallup, NM and will be starting a contract in Worland, WY on 5/27. I’d love to come back to AK but needed to stay closer to home this time – one of my daughters is getting married in Oct. and there’s wedding stuff to tend to. Blessings, D

  2. Thus is awesome! Thank you. There are not a lot of people that publish good things that aren’t true.. You are an awesome person and will always be welcome here with my family! Hope to see you again one day. Add me to Facebook! My pic is with two other people and my name I’m Maryanne Ozenna.

    • I mean there are a lot of people that publish things that aren’t true and few who know the truth. Thank you

      • Thank you, Maryanne! It was great meeting you! πŸ™‚ Thanks for making me feel so welcome in Diomede and sharing your stories with me–that was one of my highlights of our visit. I wish you the best of luck and heaps of blessings! πŸ™‚

  3. Pingback: Going out to Little Diomede

  4. This may be a silly question, but is there any way a tourist can spend the night in Diomede? Personally, all I would need is a cot, pillow in a room somewhere and bathroom or privy. I am very self sufficient. I am not expecting to have tourist related services in Diomede, which is why I want to visit.

  5. Hello from Thailand!
    I’ve just seached for the place that is kind of small village and I found your wonderful blog.
    I really love to see sort of places like this…I wonder how to get to the place like that? I think it’s an awesome place.

    Thank you!

  6. so very cool! do they ever not have snow? amazing that the kids go barefoot! love the photos and glimpse of a beautiful place! I love this:
    “village is β€œin 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.”
    sonja recently posted…Flax Seed and Cholesterol: ~For High Cholesterol Flaxseed is an Great Answer!~My Profile

  7. This is refreshing.
    I was reading about the 1994 Olympics in Lilehammer Norway, looked beautiful than ever. After looking and reading this post though, I fell in love with a new haven. I hope your experience there was fruitful, because I intend to do the same. Was weather as wonderful as most say it is? I have 5 score more questions I could ask, but I could save them for another day.

    I ask because I attend college in Minnesota and tutor English and teach ESL on the side when I have lots of spare time. I’ve already given consideration of speaking with a native of Little Diomede to provide more helpful info. Maybe you can too? Any advice you could spare for an beginning teacher who wants to come to Little Diomede?

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