Saturday, May 27, 2006

Forbidden Island Wildlife

I jazzed this post up for the RC&D blog. It has a more professional feel to it (I hope). The directions to getting to Forbidden Island are posted there. Click HERE to visit the RC&D blog.

Nature Boy? So now I'm Nature Boy? I request that I be the one who posts the pictures of the crabs and other animals and now this! If that's the case then...well, let's not even go there.

Just kidding.

Yesterday's hike down to Forbidden Island rocked my universe. There ended up being six of us who hiked down. Here we are in full color:

Hoover has requested that I not post his mug on this blog. No problem, Hoove. He took this photo of everyone else who hiked down to Forbidden Island. We're standing on a lookout that is about half way down the trail. From left to right we have Emily, Angelo (flashing Blue Steel for some reason), Dee, Scott, and Joe. Dee works for CRM and her husband Scott just moved out here last Friday. Scott's looking for a job, so if you're hiring...well, give him a call or something. Joe is working with the AGO for the summer and he just got here Tuesday. We met when he left a comment on my blog a few days ago. Joe has a blog, too. Click HERE to read Joe's blog.

Yesterday was the new moon, so the tide was at its lowest point in a month. It was so low that we were able to cross the channel to Forbidden Island without getting our feet wet. It was also so low that we were able to go snorkeling OUTSIDE the reef without putting our lives in danger.

More on that later. Here are some photos from the tide pools immediately around Forbidden Island and from the top of the island:

This octopus crawled out of the waves and wiggled its way up on to the rocks.

As soon as he crawled out of the sun onto some shaded rocks he changed colors. How frickin' cool is that! You can see that he was kind of small. He's got a few years until a local fisherman turns him into octopus kelaguen.

There were a bunch of these tasty morsels stuck to various rocks in the tidepools. The shell looks very similar to the shell that the crab with the blue legs in the second photo is living in, but there is no crab living inside this shell. The animal that lives inside this shell is called aliling locally or trochus in English. It is a kind of sea snail. Trochus are very tasty, but unfortunately they are endangered. There is currently a CNMI-wide ban on harvesting them...but I've still seen people eating it at parties and bbqs...I guess no one told them that you're not supposed to eat endangered species.

This is the cliff that we hiked up to get to the top of Forbidden Island. That is Hoover in the distance. You can use him to judge for youself how high and steep the hike up there can be.

The top of the island is mostly grass with absolutely no trees. Brown and Black Noddies use the cliff and the grass for nests. There were eggs everywhere. It was like the Easter Bunny got lost and left his eggs all over Forbidden Island.

I know that pictures of eggs aren't very exciting, but you know what happens to those eggs, right? They hatch baby noddies! We probably saw about 20 hatchlings running around the island. They were afraid of us, but my trusty Canon S2 has a 48x zoom, so I didn't have to get too close to get a good shot.

One of the baby noddies tried to hide from us by sticking his head in a hole:

He wasn't too successful. There was another hole on the other side of the rock:


The only threat to the noddy eggs and hatchlings are poachers and rats. There are so many rats on the top of Forbidden Island that they have worn out 3 inch wide trails criss crossing through the grass. It takes a lot of rats to do something like that (sorry, no pictures of the rat trails). The other potential threat is the brown tree snake (boiga irregularis). Can you imagine what a field day a snake would have on a grass field littered with eggs and baby birds?

The view from the top of the island was great, too.

From the top of the island, looking down into the water, we could see hundreds of HUGE fish:

More on the fish later. Scott brough an underwater camera. If I can get him to give me a few of his pictures, I'll put them in a later post.

This is the view from the Eastern end of the island. Beyond this point there is just thousands of miles of open ocean.

The final critter in this post is going to be a Pacific Reef Heron:

This guy was fishing in the shallow tide pools while we were snacking on Cheez-Its and drinking beer. We had an argument over what type of bird he was. I looked him up when I got home. Turns out we were all wrong.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Saipan Sucks Update

What, has been 48 hours since my post about Saipan Sucks?

Well, guess who is the #7 result for a google search of "Saipan Sucks?"

That's right, I am. Thanks for all your help!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Let's Do Something About Saipan Sucks!

The results for a google search for the word "Saipan" almost always produces a certain website very critical of the CNMI. This website is usually in the top 5 results (out of almost 12 million). This website thinks that Saipan, well, for lack of a better word, SUCKS.

Everybody on Saipan knows about this website. I think that sucks. It can be really depressing when the top website about your home says that you suck.

That's not cool.

It might not be cool, but I realize that the webmaster has every right to post whatever he wants online. The Internet is like the Wild West. You can do and say whatever you want and never get in trouble...unless they find out who you are. (I've even heard of people being fired for their blogging activities!)

When they first find out about it, most people that disagree with the website try to make an argument for exposing the webmaster or shutting the website down. Obviously, that hasn't worked.

But that's not how the Internet works. I could create an anonymous website stating that so and so is a big fat lying sack of you know what, and there really isn't much so and so could do about it. Just ask the Purge Princess.

A better way to deal with a website that you don't like is to drown it out. The more the phrase "Saipan Sucks" appears on websites, the less likely the website critical of Saipan will appear at the top of search engine results.

As of this writing, a google search for "Saipan Sucks" produces 33,000 results.

Do you know how easy it would be to google bomb somebody with the term Saipan Sucks? All you have to do is to put the phrase "Saipan Sucks" into one of your blog posts or on your website template and then link it to a website OTHER THAN THE ONE CRITICAL OF SAIPAN.


As time goes on and as more websites publish the phrase "Saipan Sucks" linked to OTHER websites, those websites will replace the website critical of Saipan at the top of search engine results.

How do you like them apples? Do they give you gastrointestinal dysentery?

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


This is the lead story in today's newspaper:

For Sale: Government Cars

We've waited almost two months to buy a car...and now this!

(No telling when they will actually have all of those cars recalled though, could be several months.)

Buying a Car in Saipan

As Emily mentioned in her previous post, we are now the proud owners of a blue 1997 Jeep Cherokee. I purchased it from our dive instructor Joe, who is leaving Saipan for Australia on Friday. We were able to work out a payment schedule and a price that we both found suitable and he's going to deliver the Jeep to us on Thursday.

I must say that buying a car on this island has been an interesting experience.

We could have gone the new car route. There are several dealerships on island. Microl corporation sells Toyotas, Joeten Motors sells Nissans and Fords, and Triple J Motors sells Ford, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Kia, Hyundai, Isuzu, Suzuki, Subaru, Lincoln, Mercury, Volvo, Bluebird, and Daedong.

New cars are much more expensive here than they are on the Mainland, plus Emily and I weren't interested in a five year loan commitment, so that pretty much left us with used cars.

Buying a used car on this island is truly an adventure.

The three major car dealers sell used cars, plus I think that there are several other smaller used car lots on island. Although these dealerships sell a lot of used cars, most of the used car business is done on an indivual basis. There are a few places around the island that serve as unofficial used car lots. The main one is the Garapan Fishing Base in front of Christo Rai church.

Car owners park their car there in the hopes that somebody will see it and want to buy it.

Other popular places are anywhere along Beach Road, in the Joeten parking lot, and in Susupe near Kilili Beach.

Some people will just park their car on the side of the road in some random spot on the island, even a road with very little traffic. Today I saw a car parked in San Vicente on the grass. It wasn't in a parking lot or in front of a store. It was just parked on some grass in the hopes that somebody would drive by and purchase it.

The other good place to look for a used is There are usually a handful of used cars added to the list every day.

One thing I've noticed about buying a used car on this island is that people have unrealistic ideas of how much their car is worth. For example, when we first got here, I test drove a Toyota pickup that was sitting in front of Christo Rai church. The owner listed the price as $5000.

The first thing I noticed about the car was that it had recently been painted. That's always a bad sign. Then I noticed that the door handle was missing, the bumper was falling off, the windshield was cracked, the window tint was bubbling and peeling, the cabin was a mess, the seats were stained, and the radio and antenna were missing. I told the guy that he'd be lucky to get $1000 for the truck, but that I would give him $1500. He said that he wouldn't take less than $4000.

I wished him luck, because, my god, he was going to need it.

Almost everybody tries to tell you the Kelly Blue Book value of their cars. More specifically, they try to tell you the Kelly Blue Book value of their car if was actually in good condition and if it were in California.

You see, Kelly Blue Book doesn't value cars in Saipan. For good reason, too. Cars here get beat up. REALLY beat up. You are never more than 2 1/2 miles from the ocean (AND I MEAN NEVER) and the hills and the roads are so extreme that your car gets worked. In addition to that, everything is so close that you don't really have to drive very far to get anywhere, so even if your car only has 40,000 miles on it, you've started and restarted your car many more times than the average car with 40,000 miles on it.

All that brings down the value of a car, but don't try to tell the people trying to sell you a used car. They'll just ignore what you say and bring up the Kelly Blue Book price again (and maybe tell you that cars are more valuable in Saipan).

Unfortunately, NOT owning a car really isn't an option unless you are going to live and work within Garapan, Chalan Kanoa or Susupe. There is no public transportation and the terrain is so hilly that you'd either become an Olympic bike rider or get really tired and go home.

The situation works out really well for the garment factory workers. They go straight from their barracks to the factory and then back at the end of the day. But if you're reading this blog online, chances are that you might want to do more with your life when you are on Saipan.

You might want to go to the beach, visit your friends and family, or maybe even go out to a bar once in a while. You'll need a car to do that.

I think we got lucky. I'll let you know if the Jeep is still running in six months.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

My Brother Has a Blog!

The whole world will be blogging by the end of the year!

Check him out:

The Man From Saipan

Saturday, May 20, 2006

The Da Vinci Code Hits Saipan

I apologize for talking about serious stuff on this happy fun times blog in that last post. I'll try not to let it happen again.

In less frivolous news:

I saw The Da Vinci Code today. When I got to the movie theater the line was literally out the frickin' door. When I got out of the theater a few hours later, the line was literally out the frickin' door again.

So much for Catholics boycotting the movie.

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Friday, May 19, 2006

The Saipan Blogger Takes on Ms. Magazine

Sex, Greed & Forced Abortions in "Paradise"....OH MY!

If only to prove that God has a sense of humor, I'd like to point out that the good people of Saipan do not have access to the recent Ms. Magazine article being quoted and requoted all over the blogosphere (and other places). The local book store doesn't sell it and the library doesn't carry it. (They don't sell Sports Illustrated either!)

The good people of Saipan can't even read it on the Ms. Magazine website, because they haven't posted it online (because they want you to buy the magazine, duh!). They've written just enough to make you want to run out to Barnes & Noble and buy their Spring issue. Too bad the closest Barnes & Noble is 3000 miles away.

I've tried to find the full text online, but I can only find bits and pieces. Most of the excerpts have been posted on countless blogs...liberal blogs. Fresh Air on NPR did a story about it, too.

But you know what? I don't need to read the full text. I've heard it all before.

The New York Times first reported on the garment factories in 1993. Conditions were pretty bad back then, but after the federal government threatened a takeover of the local labor and immigration laws, things got better with higher wages and better labor law enforcement. Now Ms. Magazine is reporting that things are bad again.

I'm not going to defend the garment industry. I don't really care for the garment industry. They don't hire enough locals, they pollute, they add to the landfill, they don't pay taxes, and they've given the CNMI a horrible international reputation. It will take decades to repair the damage they've done.

I'm also not going to argue that some of the things that Ms. Magazine (and others) accuse the CNMI of do not happen. There is prostitution here, but it occurs for the same reasons that it occurs all over the world. Poor young girls are destitute and end up getting exploited. As for the dancing in "nightclubs," the girls do it not necessarily because they were forced, but because they can make more money. There is no doubt in my mind that these girls are exploited, but it is done in a more subtle way than suggested by Ms. Magazine (and others). As for the abortions, it is much more complicated than saying "forced abortions happen and Tom DeLay supports them."

The article also doesn't address a few key facts. The CNMI doesn't have a (voting or nonvoting) Representative in Congress. Perhaps if they actually had a voice in creation of the laws that govern them, they wouldn't have to rely on high powered DC lobbyists. Also, the CNMI is a self-governing territory, its status different from other U.S. territories due to a basic agreement between the CNMI and the federal government, the Covenant, that went into full effect in 1986. Among other provisions, and specifically in response to CNMI fears that the islands would be overrun by Asian immigrants, the Covenent grants the CNMI local government control over immigration as well as minimum wage policies.

This was done so that the islands could retain their Chamorro/Carolinian identity. It obviously didn't work, since the CNMI IS overrun by Asian immigrants...but I'll leave that discussion for another day.

So, back to the discussion on Ms. Magazine. People are suggesting that the way to solve the problem is to have the federal government impose federal labor and immigration laws on the CNMI (although the Covenant between the CNMI and the US clearly states that the CNMI can write its own laws).

A federal takeover would have effects outside of the garment industry and the people who want to shut down the garment factories have failed to disclose the full ramifications of changing the local labor and immigration laws. They also have tied the labor and immigration laws together as if they were inseparable. They're not.

The CNMI has a labor problem. Why try to paint it as an immigration problem?

I'm trying to be non-political, but people looking for blogs on Saipan are bound to find me ("unhealthly amount of self esteem"). Constructive criticism is good for these islands, but it should be balanced with some realistic suggestions for solutions, it should be holistic, and it must take into account the effects on the local population.

I agree that something needs to be done. Doing nothing isn't a viable solution, but a federal takeover of the immigration and labor laws would be worse and would only lead to other problems.

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An Inconvenient Truth

Go see this movie!!!

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Thursday, May 18, 2006

Super Soccer Happy Fun Times!!!

Alright, I need to give the Japanese inspired titles a rest.

I was invited to play soccer with a group of guys at American Memorial Park last night. They play every Thursday after work.

Before heading over to American Memorial Park last night, I ran over to Joeten Garapan to get some cleats, socks, and shin guards. I was able to pick up some shin guards for $10 and a pair of socks for $3, but they didn't have any shoes in my size. They told me to try the Joeten in Susupe.

I got to the field a little late and the 25 or so guys were already playing a full pitch game. I put on my new socks and shin guards and they plugged me onto a team. I was on the green jersey/skins team and we were playing against the yellow jersey/Korean team. I'm just a little color blind, so it took me a while to figure out who was wearing yellow and who was wearing green, and that one of the guys wearing a red and white Korean football shirt was actually on our team, and that one of the guys wearing a green shirt was on their team, but it was all good. I had a blast.

To quote an old friend from my undergrad days, let's just say that "soccer is like sex, in that you don't have to be any good at it to have a lot of fun."

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Send me your postcards!!!

I bet most of the people reading this couldn't pick out Saipan on a map. That said, would you like to have your very own Saipan postcard? Just think, you'll be the only kid on the block with a postcard from Saipan!

Alright, here's the deal:

Wherever you are, send me a postcard. Postcards from America, England, Costa Rica, or Japan would be great, but I'd really like to get a postcard from someplace more North Korea!

So if you send me a postcard from your home, I promise to send you a postcard from Saipan. Here's my address:

The Saipan Blogger (or Angelo)
PO BOX 505149
Saipan, MP 96950

Come on, do it for your country!

(By the way, I freely admit that I stole this idea from Selena and Chris. Deal.)

Selena, your card is in the mail.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

More Sunsets

I'm going to bore you with yet another sunset on Saipan. This time the video was taken from behind the Hafa Adai hotel in Garapan. Emily and I were having dinner at the Japanese teppanyaki restaurant on the beach, Pala Pala Teppanyaki, and we stepped out onto the beach as the sun started to set.

If you were wondering, that thing in the foreground is a canoe. The ship in the background is a US military storage ship. There are always five of those things anchored offshore, ready at a moment's notice to ship off to wherever war supplies are needed. I guess you never know when we might go to war with North Korea.

Monday, May 15, 2006


Somebody in Costa Rica sent us some bona fide Costa Rican coffee (in the nick of time...Emily can't hack the Folgers any more) and somebody in South Carolina sent us some magazines and pictures, including a copy of the US News Best Graduate Schools and a not-so-subtle reminder that getting a PhD might ultimately prove more useful than a SCUBA certification. No worries, Emily is ON IT.

Thanks, guys!

Saturday, May 13, 2006

A Taste of the Taste

With a fistful of tokens, Emily and I took on the Taste of the Marianas last night.

It wasn't really what I expected. I've been to Taste of Orlando and the EPCOT Food & Wine Festival. Both were very different from this event. At those events each food booth gave you a small sample of food usually matched with some type of wine or beer. This wasn't the case at the Taste. This wasn't so much the Taste of the Marianas, as it was the Gorge Yourself Silly in the Marianas.

I expected small portions, but most of the stands were selling whole meals. Not to say that the food wasn't excellent. I stuffed myself silly with chicken curry and naan from the Hyatt Regency Saipan booth. Twice. It just wasn't what I was expecting from the Taste of the Marianas. That's all. Not really a complaint. More of an observation.

On my second go around the Taste though, I did find a few booths selling smaller items. One of the hotels was selling individual fish tacos and chicken quesadillas. Yum! You could also buy apigigi (Saipan no mochi) for cheap at one of the stalls. I wish more of the stalls had been like that so that you could get a taste of something from every booth...then go back for seconds at the booths that you really enjoy.

The adult beverage setup was pretty convenient. Instead of each booth giving out or selling drinks, there was one booth selling all of the drinks for the whole event in one central location. They had beer, sodas, and mixed drinks, among other things. The Mangoritas were by far the most popular drink. The bartenders couldn't make them fast enough.

As you went around buying food and drinks, instead of paying with cash, you paid with yellow Saipanda tokens worth $1 each. Who ever thought to use tokens instead of cash is a genius. Although you could sell the tokens back to the token people, I think you end up spending more money when you have them. Who wants to stand in line to get a dollar back when you can just go get another taco? They make good (if not expensive and useless) souvenirs, too.

Speaking of souvenirs, I noticed that there were tourists milling around. How did I know they were tourists? I saw them exchanging paper receipts for tokens. Those tour operators are brilliant. They probably charged the tourists a flat rate, gave them a reciept that they could trade for X number of tokens, and told them to go have fun. So even if a tourist only wants to have a single taco and a bottle of water, they end up spending as much as the guy eating 3 plates of ribs and drinking 4 beers. Like I said, brilliant!

As for Angelo's Best of Show, my favorite two things at the Taste this year were the roast pig at Herman's Bakery and the chocolate fondue fountain at Aqua Resort Club. I thought both were really unique, and the pig in particular really showcased local cuisine. Tight work, Herman's Bakery!

Oh yeah, the mangoritas weren't bad either.

This picture is for all those vegetarians out there:

The Taste is going to happen again every Saturday this month. I'm sure we'll go to all of them. It is a great place to run into people. We usually end up hanging out with the people that work for the other government agencies charged with protecting the environment, but we run into plenty of cousins, too. It's a good time.

OK, so now how about some big round things? Here's the moon:

Then after the Taste of the Marianas we went out for a few adult beverages and poke at Neo-Remington (affectionately referred to as Rem's by the local populace). I played darts. I learned that my head is apparently as large as a dartboard.

And that, my friends, was the Taste of the Marianas.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

What is my passion?

The Boston Red Sox.

Man, that was a short post!

OK, OK, I have more to say than that.

I have a confession to make. Although I'm pretty sure that the world does indeed revolve around me ("unhealthy amount of self esteem"), I've found out that this is not the only Saipan Blog (although I am the first result when you do a google search for "Saipan Blog!")

There are several other Saipan blogs; One of them is Walt's Escape from America.

More on Walt later...I need some breakfast.

But in the meantime, check him out. He's got a few blogs and a traditional format website on a few different topics, all centering around the theme that you should do what you love (He calls it Passion Profit!)

I love to see good people doing good things for these islands.

Thanks, Walt!

Internet and telephone...

Oh my!

I applied for Internet and telephone service from PTI, the island's only telephone provider, on April 25th. The phone was turned on a few days ago. The Internet was finally turned on about an hour ago. I just finished installing the wireless router.

We now have Internet AND telephone in our apartment.

We'll never need to go to Java Joe's again!

...but I'm sure we will.

By the way, those of you in more developed locales probably think that 15 days is a long time to wait for Internet installation. In New York, yeah, it probably is. But this is Saipan! They've only had traffic lights here for 15 years! Now I'm sitting in my living room on a WIRELESS laptop publishing to a blog that is read by my Mom in over two countries!

Monday, May 08, 2006

Red Sox vs Yankees

The Sox and the Spankees (that team of overpaid sell outs that haven't won a World Series this millenium) are both tied for first. They play each other three times over the next three days.

Two of the games are televised.

Life is good.

Saipan gets live ESPN and ESPN2, so I can watch both games. Since we don't have cable, I just have to find a place or a friend with a big TV that will allow me to come over to watch the game at 9:05 AM on Thursday and Friday (you have to adjust for the time difference).

Medical update

As you've probably surmised, I'm not dead.

But I have been subjected to my fair share of ridicule by Emily...all in good fun, I assure you. She doesn't think I caused the spasm by chomping down on my scuba mouthpiece. She thinks I was looking in the mirror practicing my modeling poses...and pulled a muscle in my face.

I am, after all, really, really, really, ridiculously good-looking.

A normal search engine like Google may not have what a medical search engine has available, with health info ranging from in-depth articles containing pregnancy information to all kinds of resources that contain all the medical information you could need.

Become a sponsor

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Late Night Hospital Visit

After running a 5K, scuba diving in a pool for four hours, and eating and drinking too much at the Taste of the Marianas, I went to bed at around 11:30 with a full stomach and a slight buzz.

I woke up four hours later with a pain in my neck. I thought nothing of it at first. I figured I was just sleeping in a funny position, so I rolled over and tried to go back to sleep.

No such luck. My neck really hurt. I still figured that it must hurt from sleeping in an uncomfortable position, so I started rubbing it in the hopes that the pain would subside.

That's when I noticed that there was a huge bump in my neck where the pain was originating. Being that it was now 4:15 in the morning, I didn't really want to get up, but the pain was getting worse and the bump felt pretty big, so I got out of bed to look at my neck in the mirror.

The bump wasn't discolored and it wasn't huge, but the left side of my neck, just below my ear, was noticeably bigger than the other side. This was a new experience, so I didn't really know what to do...but it really hurt. I tried brushing my teeth, but it hurt to open my mouth. It also hurt to turn my head.

I decided to consult WebMD. I navigated through their online symptom checker and their advice was to seek immediate medical attention.

Great, I was thinking. I don't have any insurance.

I hate going to the doctor. The last time I went to the doctor for a check up, it ended up costing me $120...and that was WITH insurance.

This seemed pretty serious though. You are not supposed to have big lumps in your neck. I didn't know what was going on. It felt like it could be some inflamed gland or something. It didn't feel like a sore muscle anymore. I'm not a doctor, but I knew something was seriously wrong.

I woke Emily up, who after a little grumbling, got dressed and took me to the hospital. She's a champ. I think she knew that if I felt that I had to go to the hospital, that it had to be REALLY serious. You usually have to take me there kicking and screaming. When I was attacked by pit bulls in Costa Rica, it took an hour for my professor to convince me to go to the clinic and last month when I had sun poisoning, I refused to go at all.

We got to the hospital around 4:45 and after a little wait, the doctor diagnosed that I probably overworked the styloglossus muscle in my neck while scuba diving. He deduced that I was probably chomping down on the mouth piece because I was uncomfortable underwater. Doing that for four hours caused the muscle to spasm, hence the pain and the inflammation.

Although I was freaked out when I first saw the bump, my gut told me that he was probably right.

To be on the safe side though, he scheduled me an appointment with an ETN specialist tomorrow. He told me that if the lump and the pain go away to just call and cancel the appointment. If the lump and the pain do not go away, then there is a possibility that the problem could be something much more serious, but that in a 27 year old, it is very unlikely.

He prescribed some percocet, some warm water, and a light massage.

I think I'm going to make it.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Garapan Thursday Night Street Market

Carolinian Dancers performing at the Garapan Thursday Night Street Market in April:

The dancers start singing in Carolinian at about 1:14 in this 3 minute video. Those of you who don't live on Saipan don't get to hear Carolinian spoken too often, so please listen and tell me what you think. Also, if I'm totally wrong and they're not speaking Carolinian, please let me know, too.

There is usually some type of entertainment going on down there, whether it be some local artist, local cultural group, or off-island whatever. It wouldn't be a bad place to take the kids, ne?. The food is cheap and the entertainment is free. What more could you ask for?

I have a hodge podge of photos taken from the various Thursday Street Markets that I've gone to since I've been back in Saipan. I've been meaning to post them. I'm going to upload some of those pictures in the next week or so (I swear!), but in the meantime please enjoy this video, which I shot last month.


Today I:

  1. Finished my confined water diver training
  2. Participated in a DEQ beach cleanup stretching from behind Hafa Adai Hotel to the Garapan Fishing dock
  3. Ran a 5K in under 21 minutes (Fred Camacho still beat me. Yes, THAT, Fred Camacho)
This was all accomplished by 1 PM. Then I took a nap. When I woke up, my body hurt.


Tonight we have plans to go out with Jeremy and potentially go to the Taste of the Marianas. I'll keep you posted.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Slur this

Gringo in 'Merica sur
In England I was yank
Down under I'm a sep
'cause sep goes with tank

en el norte? soy lib'ral
Saipan calls me haole
Nihon calls me gaijin
and nothing rhymes with haole

...and I hate poetry

Thursday, May 04, 2006

25th Annual Flame Tree Arts Festival

I don't care where you are in the world, a general rule of thumb that you can follow in almost every locale is that the best time and place to experience a local culture is during a festival (a KKK festival might be the exception). This was definately the case with the 25th Annual Flame Tree Arts Festival, which was as much a cultural festival as it was an art show.

There are so many beautiful places on Saipan, and I don't want to say that American Memorial Park is the most beautiful, but it is definately a great place for an art show. It is right on the beach and there are plenty of ironwood pine trees to provide shade. There are also public restrooms, some picnic tables, and a jungle gym. Did I mention that it is right on the beach, with a view of Managaha Island?

I was really impressed with the whole setup of the festival. The first thought that came to mind when I first got there was, "where did all these people come from?" I had no idea so many people lived on this island! The place was absolutely packed!

I tried to think back to an experience in my life that I could compare the festival to, but I really couldn't. It was truly a unique experience.

The festival's activities centered around a stage in the middle of American Memorial Park. From the moment we got there to the moment we left, there was somebody up on stage singing or dancing or both. They weren't just locals, either. Participants from all over the Pacific flew here to entertain the crowd...and the whole thing was free. I can't think of any other place where you can watch dancers from a dozen different Pacific islands perform for free.

As for the art show, it consisted of local artists, artists from around the Pacific, and cultural and artistic displays from several different art, history, cultural, or humanity groups in the CNMI and Guam (and probably the rest of the Pacific). There was even a group giving canoe rides in a traditional canoe.

One of my cousins, Lao, was displaying some of his work. He takes sand, wood, and rocks that he finds on the beach and glues/nails/paints them together to create beach scenes from Saipan. I liked the one with the torii (japanese shinto shrine gate). Lao also showed me a traditional Chamorro (traditional as in from 1000 years ago) octopus trap from the CNMI musuem. It is made from all natural materials (obviously, if they were making them 1000 years ago).

There were also a few booths selling, um, things made out of, um, some type of plant and those little, um, white shells that have a name that I don't know. I probably should have taken the time to ask how they were made. Next year.

There were also several booths selling paintings, carvings, and photographs. I really liked the guy who used reef fish as a block print (is that the right name?). Ah, if only I had more money.

The food at the festival wasn't too bad, either. A lot of the booths were run by local restaurants, but a few of them were locals selling local food. We bought some yakitori for $1 a kebab and a plate full of mahi mahi and tuna sashimi for $5. It was really cheap. Most of the booths allowed you to buy 5-7 items for about $5. The beer was cheap, too!

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Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Yeah, it's Thursday

The days keep rolling by.

Things are picking up at work. Actually, I think snowball might be a better word. Those of you who have had the pleasure of working at a nonprofit (especially an environmental one) have an idea of what I'm talking about.

Our diving classes are going well. We have another classroom session tomorrow, then on Saturday we are going to dive in one of the hotel pools, then next week we are going to spend two days doing multiple dives in the ocean.

I can't wait to get an underwater casing for my camera.

I've got some pictures (above water) that I need to upload. I took pictures at the Flame Tree Festival and I still have pictures from the weekly Garapan Street Market that I've been meaning to post. I also have a ton of pictures from around the island. It truly is a Japanese tourist's photo paradise. Back in Japan, the Japanese take pictures of the most mundane everyday things...and nothing is mundane in Saipan.