Sunday, April 30, 2006

In the Saipan News

From the Marianas Variety:

MICRONESIAN Athletics Championships gold medalist Noriko Jim and veteran runner Steven Pixley led the winners of the Club Elan 5K Fun Run last Saturday.

Jim topped the women’s Open division to defend the title she won last year, while Pixley ruled the men’s Open division.

Jim, who ruled MAC’s 5000m run last year, finished the 5K run in 24 minutes, 57 seconds.

Pixley crossed the finish line 41 seconds ahead of Jim clocking 24:16
Pixley beat six other participants in the men’s Open division.

Jang Chang placed second with a time of 25:07, followed by Aguinaldo Tesado (28:53 ), Ben Croon (38:14), Rob Epley (38:13), Dirk Sharer (42:42) and Joe Auther (43:06).

Only the top three finishers in each division received prizes.

Placing second to Jim in the women’s Open was Dawn Hammermeister, who timed in at 29:51. In third place was Kanae Quinn (37:03).

Other winners in the annual tournament were Robert Jordan (men’s 19-29 age group), JF Bader (men’s 30-39), John Douglas (men’s 40-and-up), Florian Braig (men’s 50-and-un), Emily G&%#@*% (women’s 19-29), Heather Morrison (women’s 30-39), Tuyet Nguyen (women’s 40-and-up), Suzy Kindel (women’s 50-and-up), Amber Roberts (12-and-under) and Opal Northen (8-and-under).

This is what the Saipan Tribune wrote:

"On the women's side, Emily G&%#@*% bagged the 19-29 division crown"

No comment.

Pagan, anyone?

Emily and I went to visit Herb Soll the other day at his house. Herb has been a judge, an attorney general, has lived on three different continents, but what he is really famous for is eating huge amounts of food and taking more pictures than a school yearbook photographer.

He treated us to some of his collection while we were there and even gave me a few prints from the time he and Dad visited Pagan.

Here's a picture of Dad with a frickin' huge coconut crab and a picture of Dad with a freshly killed monitor lizard. Yum!

Herb also had a few pictures of Dad fishing with a talaya. In the first picture he is looking for the fish, in the second picture he is throwing the net over the fish, and in the third picture he is pulling the fish out of the water. Yum!

Speaking of Pagan, my cousin put me in contact with our third cousin, who introduced me to his son, who has a house in Pagan. He asked me if I wanted to hitch a ride with him the next time he goes up.

You can probably guess what I told him.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

In the Saipan News

This was one of the headlines in today's paper:

Saipan runs out of betel nuts


Somebody call FEMA!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Final Japanese Post

Like Emily said, I just bought a new laptop. It is an HP Pavilion dv4000. Is that good?

The old laptop was shutting off whenever I ran a program that used a lot of Windows Movie Maker.

I kept trying to make something similar to the following movie, but everytime I tried to convert it into a .mov file, the frickin' computer crashed. Grrrr!!!!

When I got the new computer, I slapped together this video using two video files, a few purikura pictures, and a jpop CD:

Click HERE if the video does not work

The name of the picture booth is purikura. The English translation is "print club." Japanese school girls take to purikura like a sorority girl takes to strawberry martinis and cheap beer.

Every school girl has a little book filled with pictures. The printed pictures are only as big as a finger nail, even so most girls have pages and pages of purikura pictures. It takes them years to fill up their books.

I hope the video captures the insanity of purikura. I can understand why the girls think it is so fantastic. Not only is it a lot of fun, with the music, the different backgrounds, and then the million different ways to decorate, but the lighting is also very flattering, so even a zitty-faced fat girl comes out looking like a super model.

These machines are all over the place. They are in all of the malls, in department stores, and sometimes are just on the side of the road. We found this machine underneath Takaoka Station.

I don't get it, either.

This should be the last post about Japan.


I miss you, Japan!

Sunday, April 23, 2006

First Day of Work

It's Monday.

I have to go to work this morning.

I'm actually happy about it.

While I'm at work, would you care for a flashback of my work life in Japan?

As you may or may not know, I was hired by a small anonymous English school back in January. I never got my working visa, so I actually never worked.

I did, however, attend an enkai at the end of January with some of what were supposed to become my co-workers. I met Tony Bannister, An Englishman in Japan, at this enkai.

After we had dinner at a restaurant next to Kanazawa Station, about half of our group went out for some karaoke merriment.

I've been holding onto these videos for about 3 months. Enjoy:

Click HERE if the video does not work

Click HERE if this video does not work

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Friday, April 21, 2006

Words Aren't Enough

The sky is filled with puffy white clouds, the ocean is so calm that there is hardly a wave to be seen, and the temperature hovers right around 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius).

When I went out on the balcony late this morning, a light wind was blowing. It didn't feel hot at all. It felt just right.

I love it here.

Now if only gas were cheaper...

I filled up Cal's truck yesterday and it set me back $52. In the three weeks since we have been on island, gas has increased about 15 cents to settle at $3.19/gallon. And when I say settle, I mean it in the loosest of terms, because I know the price is just going to keep going up and up.

Happy Earth Day, Everyone!

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Thursday, April 20, 2006

Yoga at the Hyatt

Our yoga class at the Hyatt turned out to be fantastic. The class is taught Thursday and Friday mornings inside of the old Chinese restaurant right in front of the Hyatt. It looks like it used to be a private dining room, but now they are just using it for banquet table storage and, of course, yoga.

The room comfortably fit the instructor and the five students. If there were any more students, it might get a little uncomfortable, but on the whole the room is a great place to do yoga.

One whole half of the room looks out into a Japanese (or is it Chinese?) garden with a pond filled with goldfish. Emily sat next to the window during class and she told me afterwards that she was watching the fish the whole time.

The Hyatt provided everybody with a yoga mat. I've never used a yoga mat. After having used one, I will never NOT use a yoga mat again.

The class itself was pretty challenging. I don't want to knock Laura's beginner yoga class back at the Takaoka Daiwa International Center, but this yoga seemed a bit more advanced.

We started off my sitting in lotus and focusing on our breathing, then we moved into sun salutations, before finally finishing off with corpse. We did sun salutations for most of the class. Pardon me if I don't know the names of all the poses, but after each salutation, Daisy, our yoga instructor, would alter it so that the next salutation was a litte bit different.

I liked Daisy, by the way. I think she is Filipino. She talks in one of those calm voices that one expects a yoga instructor to have. ("Don't forget to breathe.")

I had done most of the poses before, so I wasn't completely lost, but for the ones that I didn't know, I just tried to copy the people next to me. It worked out pretty well.

My arms started burning about 3/4 of the way through the class, though. I blame it on the warrior pose. Ouch!

After yoga we went to Herman's bakery in Garapan for breakfast. I didn't want to eat too much because our physical assessments were in an hour, so I just had some orange juice and a bagel and egg sandwich.

Ed, our favorite Herman's bakery waiter, was there again this morning. He's really a great server and extremely friendly. If I ever open a restuarant on Saipan, I'm going to hunt him down, steal him away from whoever his employer is, and make him a head waiter.

So anyways, the physical assessment went well. I'm fat. We knew that, so it wasn't a big surprise. I was fair on most of the assessments. At least I wasn't poor. The only thing I scored excellent in was my blood pressure. I have a healthy blood pressure level.

...but lots of gray hair.

Emily's Edit: I was fairly happy with my results. Even after five months of no physical activity (except desk guarding) I still scored off the charts in aerobic fitness (really surprised me) and resting heart rate, though my "waist hip ratio" apparently "needs work." This either means my ass has shrunk, my stomach has gotten fat, or I was bloated when I took the test. Humph. I think I can guess which one it is. Where did my abs go? :(

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Carrying the Cross on Good Friday

The blogging has been very slow. I know. Deal.

Remember the story and pictures about climbing Mount Tapachou on Good Friday? I would have liked to have posted a picture of me carrying the cross, but I can't very well take a photo of myself.

There was, however, a guy taking pictures of us as we carried the cross up the mountain. After participating in the carrying of the cross and the small prayer service that followed, I went up to him and asked if he would be willing to email me one of the pictures of me carrying the cross. Guess what? He just sent me the picture!

Thanks, Ding! By the way, Ding is a photographer with Northstar, the Catholic newspaper on Saipan.

In other news:

I should be starting this project any day now. We're just waiting for the first payment so that I can begin.

In the meantime, Emily and I have been hitting the gym pretty hard. I've been doing some light weights, but going crazy on the cardio. For those of you who haven't noticed, I've gotten kind of fat over the last few years. When I graduated from college in 2000 I was weighing in at around 170. When I arrived on Saipan I was crushing the scale at over 190.

Tomorrow morning we have our first physical assessment test. They're going to tell us that we are fat and that we need to exercise more. Then they are going to tell us that we need to buy this protein mix and these vitamins.

I'm just not that into it.

I don't really have any numerical goals in mind for my workouts...I just want to be able to see the muscles in my abdominal region again (they're there somewhere!)

Emily and I are also going to start yoga tomorrow (before the physical assessment test). The Hyatt Regency Saipan has yoga classes 3 days a week, mornings and evenings. The cost is $5 per class, or you can purchase 10 classes for $35.

If we enjoy the class tomorrow we are going to start practicing yoga regularly. I really enjoyed Laura-sensei's weekly yoga classes, so I have high hopes for the class tomorrow.

I'll let you know how it goes!

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Time ticks by...

I have to apologize for the dire lack of posting over the last few weeks. I've been too busy with, um, stuff. Anyways, Saipan truely is paradise and words nor pictures can do it justice.

So, at first we were dealing with the trials of moving into a new place, then we hosted our first visitor, then I was hiding inside the apartment to keep my sun poisoning from getting worse. Then Easter...and, wow, it is the middle of April already. Time flies when you're working on your tan.

So anyways...

I should be starting my job this week. The first grant payment has been received by the Marianas Resource Conservation & Development Council, the non-profit that contracted me, and I am just waiting for them to give me my first payment. It should be today or tomorrow. The project begins as soon as I cash the check.

I'm really excited about this project. Basically, I'm going to be working to raise awareness and understanding of coral reef management issues in Saipan. There are several goals and deliverables, but they all pertain to raising awareness and getting the public more involved.

I heard about the job vacancy in December (yes, while I was trying to get a job teaching English in Japan), sent in a proposal in January (yes, after I had been hired by a small anonymous English school in Japan), and finalized my contract with the RC&D in March (yes, while I was trying to get my working visa in Japan). I know I gave up a lot leaving Japan, but I'm glad to be back in Saipan.

I am itching to get started.

Part of the grant calls for the development of a website to disseminate all information gathered or learned during the course of the project. I'm going to spend a lot of time creating a website with a traditional format, but I'm also putting together a project blog.

I already created the basic format and I've already made two posts. Please bookmark this new blog and/or add a link to it from your blog:

Hafa Adai, Welcome to Saipan!

Friday, April 14, 2006

There it goes...

The sunset as seen from the Garapan Fishing Base. This is just one of the many perks of living in Saipan.

(Sorry the video is so bouncy. I left my tripod in the truck and I didn't have time to run back and get it.)

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Good Friday on top of Mount Tapachou

On Good Friday, the Catholics on Saipan, which includes just about everybody, carry a cross from Mount Carmel Cathedral in Chalan Kanoa to the top of Mt. Tapachou. The first stretch of the journey is easy because they drive it to Capital Hill. For the second stretch though, the young guys have to carry it up the mountain.

Trust me when I tell you that it is not an easy task to carry a crucifix up a mountain. I know because I helped carry the cross this year.

It took 20-30 guys just over an hour to carry it to the top. Uphill. On our shoulders.

Here are some pictures:

And by the way:

This is my first Easter on Saipan since I was 3 (maybe 4). Either way, it's been over 20 years.

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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Useless Guam Anecdote #1

So blogging is the new 'thing' with the 'me' generation. Deal.

I got my Bank of Guam checks in the mail yesterday. When I opened them up, I noticed that the Bank of Guam logo was printed on the checks. You're probably thinking, "yeah, so what?"

Well, I've spent the last 27 years telling people that I was born on Guam with nothing more to show for it than a Chamorro last name and some brown hair.

Now I have a Bank of Guam checkbook.

Pretty soon I'll start picking up some Chamorro.

I think that is pretty cool.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Getting a Gym Membership in Saipan

Emily and I decided to join Gold's Gym today! I've never belonged to a proper fitness club before; I've always just used the facilities at school or at the YMCA (with all the housewives). The monthly membership costs $39/month and all of the fitness classes are included.

To make things even better, Gold's Gym is only half a mile from our apartment, so once my sun poisoning clears up I'll be able to jog over there in the morning (or in the middle of the afternoon if I really want to punish myself). Since my office is only a quarter mile from my apartment, I'll also have the option of shooting over there during my lunch break (yeah, I have a job...more on that later).

How convenient!

The other fitness club we looked at was Club Elan at the Hyatt. It was exactly what you would expect at a tropical resort, with full use of the pool, tennis courts, spa, fitness room, and such, but it was a little too expensive for our tastes (and our budget).

Friendly Visitor #1

We said goodbye to our first visitor, Suzanne, this morning. She was the first of what I hope will be a steady stream of JETs who come visit us in Saipan.

Emily and I have an open invitation for any JET that would like to come to Saipan to stay with us. All we ask for in return are some strawberry kit kats, some Hello Kitty merchandise, and the promise that, once on island, you will devote a few hours to help us with our coral reef conservation and development project.

Just think, you get to visit a new place, help protect tropical coral reefs, and watch this every evening around 6:30 PM:

I can be reached at angelo_villagomez at hotmail dot com.

On Managaha Island and Defective Consumer Products

The sun poisoning is going away. It got really bad yesterday, but a few Benadryl tablets made it bearable. I did some research into sun poisoning and I have come to the conclusion that my shampoo (combined with too much sun) gave me the rash and the hives. Apparently some herbal shampoos, some foods, and some medications (combined with too much sun) have been known to cause really horrible cases of sun poisoning.

I might have to change my shampoo.

Speaking of defective products, this week, back in Orlando, my parents' Ford F-150 blew up. You read that right. The truck BLEW UP. Apparently there is a defect with the cruise control that causes the truck to blow up while driving, or as was the case with Jim's truck, while parked. To make things worse, my mother's Ford Explorer was parked hood to hood with the F-150, so that when the truck blew up it set the SUV on fire. I imagine that it must have looked just like a scene from Grand Theft Auto.

As if I needed yet another reason not to buy a Ford. Here are some photos:

Thank God no one was hurt and Thank God the trucks weren't parked closer to the house. The whole house could have burned down and/or people could have died.


I hate to end a post on this Happy Sunshine Tropical blog on a bad note, so here are some pictures from Managaha:

This Korean kid put on all of his snorkeling gear in the shade and then tromped over to the fact, that's what most of the Korean tourists were doing.

The Yakuza in Saipan!?! I wonder if this guy has any problems going to onsens?

On a clear day the view of Suicide Cliff from Managaha ain't so bad, huh?

I've never been parasailing, but it is one of the more popular tourist activities on Saipan. The parasail is advertising a new website, It claims to be Saipan’s official website for information on where to go and what to do in Saipan, Tinian and Rota. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. Decide for yourself.

Due to the removal of some rusted out WWII relics, the eastern shore of Managaha is starting to erode away into the Saipan Lagoon. As the sand washes away, hidden treasures are being exposed. These machine guns must have been hidden under the sand for decades.

Yet another beautiful shot of the Managaha shoreline.

My Dad's brother is the park ranger on Managaha. His name is Uncle Ralph. If you go to Managaha, pay him a visit.

And finally...

Would you like to play volleyball here?

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Saturday, April 08, 2006


I'm trapped inside of the apartment today.

But I'm getting ahead of myself...let me take a few steps back.

Emily and I have a friend, Suzanne, visiting us from Japan this weekend. We met her through a friend, Josh, who in turn met her online. Suzanne was looking on the Nagano JET website for anyone that knew anything about Saipan and Josh replied that he knew two people who were about to move to Saipan, namely, us.

(By the way, we don't know why Josh was trolling the Nagano-ken website when he lives in Toyama-ken. If I had to guess, I would say that he probably met a cute boy while skiing in Nagano and that he was stalking him, but one can only wonder.)

He gave her our emails and when she contacted us we offered her a place to stay. We were brutaly honest, telling her that we had just moved here and that we didn't have much 'stuff' in our apartment, but that we were more than happy to give her a bed and to act as her tour guides for the weekend.

It worked out beautifully...and she came bearing gifts! We half jokingly said that she had to bring Strawberry Kit Kats and Hello Kitty merchandise if she wanted to stay with us...and she delivered! Instead of Strawberry Kit Kats though, she brought APPLE and BLUEBERRY Kit Kats. Yum!

We've seen a lot over the last few days. We went to Suicide Cliff, Bonzai Cliff, Bird Island, the Grotto (hence the pictures from a few days ago), Obyan Beach, Mt. Tapachou, Lau Lau Bay, the Thursday Street Market, and yesterday we went to Managaha Island.

Today we were going to go to Tinian to go to the casino and to Taga Beach...which brings me to my explaination for being trapped inside of the apartment.

I didn't go to Tinian today because I have my first case of sun poisoning...and it is a bad one. I am such a great island boy, ne? I went snorkling on Managaha for hours yesterday and as a result, the entire backside (back, arms, and legs) of my body is scorched to a crisp. The front side, for the most part, is still pasty white, but now it is decorated with splotches of hives.

It doesn't hurt (yet) and it isn't itchy (yet), but it looks really, really, really gross. Hopefully it won't get any worse and hopefully I won't have to go to the hospital. Like I said, hopefully.

Welcome to the islands, I guess.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

I'm glad I'm not you

Using my trusty sitemeter stats, I've noticed that a lot of people have found this blog while searching for information on the short list and short list alternate status of JET.

I feel for you people. I'm glad I never have to deal with that again.

If you remember, or if you want to scroll through my archives, last year, after going through the arduous task of applying and interviewing for JET, Emily was put on the short list and I was put on the alternate short list.

I was never upgraded, so my experience with JET pretty much ended right there. I waited and waited and waited and was finally officially informed sometime in October that I wasn't going to be upgraded (then I left for Japan 2 weeks later).

In my online research and in emails from past JET participants, I was told that there were three times when most of the upgrades occurred.

The first was right after the initial emails informing people of their status. They give you a week or two to respond to their offer of a position on the short list. Some people have decided to go to grad school or have been offered a job elsewhere, so some of the short listers don't accept and some of the alternates are moved up.

The second time is when all of the paperwork has to be mailed in by the short listers. I forgot exactly what the paperwork was, but I remember that your passport and a health form were part of it. Some short listers don't get this in on time and they bump up the corresponding alternates.

The third time is right after group A and group B orientation. Some short listers don't show up or freak out and go home. It happens every year. They bump up a handful of alternates to take their positions. They leave as part of group C.

It's all hearsay, but it logical and it makes sense, but please try to keep in mind that most, if not all, of the short listers are as excited to go to Japan as you are. The likelihood of them giving up their spot is as likely as you giving up your spot. Comprende?

Some of the consulates tell you where you are on the list and some don't. I recommend calling your consulate and letting them know that you are still very interested. Then try to pry some information out of them. The consulate in Miami wouldn't tell me a damn thing, but maybe you'll have better luck.

If you were lucky enough to get in though, congrats! You just have to wait to find your placement and whether you'll be in group A or group B (or group C if you are an upgraded alternate). You'll have some paperwork to fill out in the upcoming months, but it isn't too tedious.

Just chill out and relax for the next couple of months. If you don't have the chance to brush up on your Japanese, I would at least perfect the katakana and hiragana alphabet before you leave. You'll be surprised by the number of English words spelled out in katakana. It will make life, especially ordering off of menus, much easier.

But if you are one of those unlucky alternates, like me, who is never upgraded, there's always hope. Trust me when I say that there are plenty of jobs teaching English in Japan. You could make a pretty good living teaching private conversation classes without even having an official job. An hour enkai will pay between 3000-5000 yen (about 25-45 American dollars) depending on the number of students. If you can set up 10-20 of those a week, you'd be making pretty good money. You can also get a job with NOVA, AEON, or any number of small English schools. Only problem with that option, as compared to JET, is that you'll be making a fraction of the money, traveling a lot more, working a lot more hours, and you'll be forbidden to talk to your students outside of class.

But you'll still be in Japan.

But that's your life. You have to make those kind of decisions for yourself.

Nobody goes to Japan to get rich or to hone their teaching skills. 90% of the men go their to meet Japanese girls and the rest (men and women included) go their because they have an interest in some aspect of Japanese life, whether it be language, history, love of nature, anime, manga, or Razor Ramon (aka Hard Gay).

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Saipan Grotto

I love swimming at the grotto. How about a photo essay? Here it goes:

Can you see the monkey fish in the second to last photo? It is kind of towards the top in the center, sitting on the rock. (If the proper name for that fish isn't 'monkey fish,' please correct me.)

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Tuesday, April 04, 2006

This is too important to ignore

Tom Delay is one of those guys that you either love or hate; there is no middle ground. He is revered by half of America for hammering a conservative agenda through the Congress and he is reviled by the other half of America for, well, hammering a conservative agenda through the Congress.

The fallout from his resignation will be interesting to watch. I expect it to have a large significance in these islands. I take that back. I expect it to have an everlasting significance in these islands.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, go ahead and google the phrase, "Saipan+Delay+Abramoff." You'll quickly see what I mean.

I promised myself that I wouldn't make this blog political, but the fall of Jack Abramoff and Tom Delay will certainly have a lasting effect on these islands.

Tom Delay was the only thing standing in the way of the federal takeover of the CNMI's labor and immigration laws. A Democratic victory in the 2006 elections would seal the deal (and possibly force President Bush to sign the first veto of his presidency).

That's all I'm going to say about that. I AM NOT GOING TO INVOLVE MYSELF IN THIS DISCUSSION, well, not yet anyways. I can, however, recognize when the shit is about to hit the fan.

What will happen? I guess we'll have to wait and see.

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Monday, April 03, 2006

One week down...a lifetime to go

Can you believe that we arrived in Saipan almost one week ago? The time sure has flown by. Probably because we have been so busy.

We came here without anything set up ahead of time. That is why we have spent the last week setting things up. Hence the lack of free time.

After looking at a few places, we decided to rent an apartment in Gualo Rai. It is in a great location, right in the middle of the island (off of Middle Road, nonetheless), one building away from Subway, and a block away from the beach.

So anyways, we are up on the third floor and every single night around 6:30 we get to watch the sun set. From our balcony. Over the Pacific Ocean. Did I mention that this happens every night? Yeah, life is that good.

The apartment came furnished with 3 air conditioning units, a dining room set, a living room set, two full sized beds, and a fridge. We've slowing been filling in the rest of the apartment with a few odds and ends. Yesterday we bought a toaster oven and a coffee maker and today I bought some little shelves to put in my room. Yes, I said my room. Emily and I are going to have separate bedrooms. That way she gets to decorate her room in a Hello Kitty motif and I get to say that I don't have a Hello Kitty bedroom. It's a fair compromise.

By the way, donations of household items would be appreciated. They can be mailed to:

Angelo & Emma
PO BOX 505149
Saipan, MP 96950

So anyways, the first week back home has been a good one.

Although it is still called Saipan, this is no longer the island where my father grew up. It is no longer the island that my mother moved to after college and it is no longer the island from my childhood. Even so, it is still Saipan, it is still the island of my ancestors and my family, and most importantly, it still is, and always will be, home.

Living here is going to be a real interesting experience and I'm looking forward to it.

I'll keep my readers updated (both of you).

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Mahi Mahi Yumminess!

Emily and I have been really busy with setting up our new home in Saipan. We returned the VW bug yesterday and now we are borrowing Cal Jr's pickup truck. Thank you, Cal.

Cal Sr went fishing yesterday and caught something like 19 mahi mahi and 24 tuna. He gave Emily and me a tuna and a mahi. Thank you, Cal.

In other news:

I've been trying to catch up on our adventures over the last week. Once I post a few more pictures I'll be done with Japan. Then I will turn my attention towards Saipan.

So if you get the chance, take a look at some of the posts from the last week. I apologize for posting out of order.

Banzai Cliff and Suicide Cliff

Yesterday, after breakfast at Tan Marikita's Cafe in Garapan, Emily and I drove our rented VW bug up to Marpi to visit Bonzai Cliff and Suicide Cliff. The sky and the ocean are so blue here and I am not nearly eloquent enough to do it justice, so I will just post a few pictures and let them do the talking for me:

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