A week already in Nome, AK!

Today I went back to the Nome DMV to *try* to get my driver’s license on Friday the 13th (not that I’m superstitious or anything). This is the DMV building:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Yes, that is a life-size statue of a polar bear on the DMV building.

A little background about the Sitnasuak Native Corporation (another cultural/political lesson for me!): The native corporations here in Alaska are unique and really quite amazing. In 1972, Alaska passed the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) that basically gave back the native Alaskans millions of acres of their land. This was done, because initially when Alaska became a state in 1959, the State Government included a clause that said it was entitled to undeveloped/vacant land (that incidentally was rich in gold, oil and other natural resources), but the natives fought back saying that the “vacant” land belonged to their tribes and was vital to their hunting, fishing and existence. In addition to settling these claims and returning ownership of the land, the Act also created twelve Native regional economic development corporations that gave the indigenous people the power to grow successful businesses, to reap the benefits of the land, create jobs for natives, and to directly return dividends from the businesses to the natives. Interestingly, this act introduced them into capitalism–a culture very different from their own–but that the Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN) wisely recognized they would have to become a part of, in order to maintain a true, significant existence. Now the native corporations not only own businesses in Alaska, but have international investments as well. For example, I will be working at the Norton Sound Health Corporation, which is a tribally owned, independent hospital that was created in 1970 as a demonstration project, to give Alaska natives more power and economic freedom to do what they deem fit for their tribes, and equity (both in the financial and the justice meanings of the word). I feel honored to be able to work in this kind of a setting, that seems more just and empowering!

That allows the DMV building to have decorations like this inside! ( …I would not want to run into a walking one of these.)


Joyce, a new nurse from the Philippines took this photo for me. she just moved to Alaska from her home~if she can make it here, so can I!

So, anyway, I went to the DMV to *try* to get my license. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFirst I needed an address to put on the license, so I went back to the Post Office, and told them this (and that I’ll be working here for at least 2 years at the hospital), and voila! they found me a PO Box!

My new address is: PO Box 1875, Nome AK 99762.

Then when I returned to the DMV, the lady was on the phone, saying “Oh no, so this is bad…?” Turns out the whole license producing system is broken. So no license today….or probably any time soon! I guess the DMV here is not much different than other DMVs. Except that they have pens and forms…and polar bears. :)

So I walked around town more, and I keep seeing more fun details of Nome:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Closer up of the gold miner and the eskimo:



 Carved into the back of the sign:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEverything is weathered.


by Shana Rae

Rainy Day 6

It was raining heavy this morning, and so cozy! I was planning to go to the DMV to get my driver’s license (so I can become a state resident and receive the Alaska Permanent fund dividend$!), but found out that today is the one day of the week that it is closed. So, I cooked a yummy, warming pasta with tomato sauce, using the rest of my going-bad veggies. DMV tomorrow.


Deep rain puddle

I went out for a walk after the rain. Rain boots are essential, because there are deep mud (most roads aren’t paved) puddles everywhere with no drainage, so you must go puddle jumping!  

All the kids love to play in the rain and  snow-melt mud puddles here. Often the puddles are deeper than their wellies (muck boots), so their feet must be sloshing around in freezing water!

The rain and the weather moving in made the temperatures a lot colder today–in the 40s, and as if to emphasize that, I saw these guys going South:


Fair warning!!!


I love the sound of rain on a tin roof…but snow?!

Thinking of the cold approaching, I am in awe of the ramshackled, tin shed, weathered wood buildings around town. I know these are normal in places in the south, but in the frozen tundra, just down under the Arctic Circle with bitter, bitter cold?!?!! What really amazes me is all of the tents in the old pictures from the 1900 gold rush. Imacon Color Scanner“Nome, Alaska July 1900” Image Archives, Alaska State Library Photos

I cannot even begin to fathom living in a tent here! People are tough up this way. Today while I was bundled up, I crossed paths with many people in t-shirts and shorts….this does not bode well, I’m afraid.

My friends Phil and Sarah told me that the best way to acclimatize to the winters is to just get out every day. And that sometimes Sarah even likes to go run when it’s dark and cold and the winds are howling (even into a subzero headwind), because it’s a way of embracing what is here, accepting it, and even enjoying it. She did that especially while Phil was kayaking (for a charity cause) from Nome up north to Barrow, deep into the Arctic Circle…at the top of Alaska. It blows my mind. Check out their awesome blog~ Nome Misadventures. I like their advice. It’s applicable for anywhere, really. We will see how it goes… :)

I walked down by the sea with a chilling wind, but the sun came out, and the Norton Sound was as gorgeous as ever. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd then I walked to the grocery/trade store to get a couple of items. The prices still take me by surprise (see post about cost of groceries in Nome). I also bought a bottle of wine—what I normally pay $10 for, was $22 here!!!

Of note, there are 9 churches and 11 bars in town. That’s a lot of both for a small town! OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

First full day in Nome (Day 2)

It was another beautiful day today! I slept in, had instant coffee to wake up. This afternoon I went with my neighbors (the other new doctor’s family) to the beach!

Love the Bering Sea!

Love the Bering Sea!

We drove down the road and had a lovely time wading in the water in our wellies, picking up pretty pebbles and seaglass, admiring the sparkling gold flakes in the sand–yes! there is a lot of gold here! But apparently it’s too small to be able to collect. Also, I learned that there is currently a gold rush going on in Nome. Since the price of gold has gone back up, there are a lot of people coming to Nome to try to strike it rich! How wild is that? It’s also wild to think that at one point Nome was the biggest city in Alaska! When I look around at the wild, rugged landscape of mountains and tundra now dressed in fall colors, I can’t really imagine it being so densely populated.

Stream, tundra, mountains

Stream, tundra, mountains and three seagulls waiting for their salmon feast. There are still salmon spawning here! I thought it would be way too late in the year.

We then drove out to the outskirts of town to drop off their dog at the kennel is staying. The kennel keeps mushing (the proper term for dogsledding, that I just learned) dogs, and the people that own it are very down to earth and super cool!  It was heaps of fun talking with them, as Susan, the owner of the kennel was an RN for 30 years, worked in Denver in the ICU (just like my sister) and she moved to Alaska for mushing. Her husband was a corps man in the Navy, worked with the USMC recon soldiers (like my brother!). They were so warm and welcoming! They told stories of the bears that roam around their property and the salmon that swim up the stream by their house. Their house and property is simply beautiful and full of delightful charm. The yard has a lovely garden decorated with rocks, an old spool, driftwood, birdhouses and a variety of reused things, and they have a bathhouse out in their yard with a sauna. Their house is so quaintly adorned with things from nature, like an antler chandelier, vines, old pictures, pieces of old weathered wood,

Lovely garden

Lovely garden

and so many other beautiful, rustic decorations. They live so simply, and yet so richly connected to nature, to each other to the community.

After we left, we drove through the tundra on the rolling hills, now alive in orange, reds and greens. I must come back to pick berries and stay longer ~this place is deliciously gorgeous!

Their lovely houseKennel house

The bath house

The bath house

My dream kitchen!

My dream kitchen! With an old wood stove and so many beautiful things. ahhhh!!!