Sunday, December 31, 2006

Humbled

Imagine my surprise when I woke up and saw this morning's Saipan Tribune:

Wow. That was unexpected. I'm still in shock. What can I say?

Thank you.

Final Post of 2006

Walt and AngeloI've had a busy ending to 2006.

I had a two hour lunch with Diana on Friday...at Subway. When I went home I realized that I had locked myself out. Darn! I had to run across the street to the apartment office to get the key.

When I went out a few hours later...I locked myself out again! I took the first few steps down the stairs and I realized that I didn't have my car keys on me...and that they were inside the house, which I had just locked. Darn!

Nobody was at the office, so I decided to just go out and ask someone to let me stay at thier place. Great pick up line, huh? Hey, I, um, locked myself out of my house...can I go home with you?

On Saturday afternoon I went down to Forbidden Island with Walt, Diana, and EJ. It was the first time going there for Diana and Walt.

I met up later with Diana and EJ to go out. We started the night by playing a game of darts at the Flair. After that we went to Southern Cross for some karaoke, followed by dancing at Club V.

This morning I picked up some groceries, cleaned up the apartment a bit, and did some laundry. Ike invited me to his house tonight and I have plans to go back to Club V later in the evening.

I have a ton of pictures to upload. I'll post them next year.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Great News!!!

The Angry Sicilian is coming to Saipan!!!

...and I really like this blog. I'm stealing his idea as soon as someone tells me I look like someone famous.

...and since I'm linking to funny websites, I love this website, too.

Happy Birthday, Saipan Blog!

This blog turns two today! Woot!

I started this blog exactly two years ago to keep a record of my attempt to work in Japan with the Japanese Exchange and Teaching Program (JET Program) and once there, my life in Japan. In the first year of this blog, when the name of this blog was Leavin' on a JET Plane, I applied for JET (December 2004), interviewed for JET (February 2005), was wait listed by JET (April 2005), and later denied by JET (October 2005). I still managed to move to Takaoka, Toyama (November 2005), changing the name of this blog to Livin' la Vida Takaoka along the way, only to have my father pass away 10 days later (December 2005), thus instigating my eventual return to Saipan.

So, in the spirit of last year's Happy Birthday!!! post, here are Angelo's reflections on 2006 in one paragraph or less per month:

January: I'm unemployed! I'm in Japan! It's snowing! I get a job teaching English to little kids with Seiha English Acedemy. The Takaoka branch is in the Takaoka SATY, which is seconds away from my front door. I begin work on getting my work visa, but at the same time I submit a proposal for the Public Involvement Coordinator position with RC&D in Saipan.

February: I love Japan! It's still snowing! Since I'm not working I explore as much of Hokuriku as I can...then I find out that I got the job in Saipan.

March: I still love Japan! The snow is melting! Sakura are starting to bud! Emily and I make the decision to move to Saipan at the end of the month. Her mother, grandmother, and grandfather visit. I play tour guide Ken for 10 days. We spend 24 hours in Nagoya before shipping off to Saipan.

April: Saipan! I don't start my Coral Reef program until April 24, so April is fun...except we're broke. Most of the month is spent getting our feet wet: finding an apartment, getting a phone, internet, figuring out where the bars and stores are, etc. (CUC charged us a $300+ deposit...highway robbery!)

May: I'm saving the coral reefs! I meet Cinta. I buy a Jeep, start playing soccer on Thursday afternoons, and learn how to SCUBA. Mochi moves in and we meet AGO Joe :)

June: I attend my first Beautify CNMI! meeting. I meet Marites and MOVER. We plant some trees. Emily and I spend a weekend in Guam so that she can take the Praxis. I start leading Beautify CNMI! volunteer activities every weekend.

July: Diana moves to Saipan! We start planting trees up at the Laulau Revegetation Project. Ken makes me the "Acting" Restoration Chair while he is in the US. I continue leading Beautify CNMI! volunteer activities every weekend.

August: Emily starts teaching at MHS. Josh, Dave, Adam, and Laura visit us from Takaoka. Lots and lots of diving. I continue leading Beautify CNMI! volunteer activities every weekend. AGO Joe goes back to law school :(

September: Busy planting trees and counting fish. I am elected to the MINA board. I continue leading Beautify CNMI! volunteer activities every weekend.

October: I turn 28! I become the Restoration Committee Chair! 1020 on frickin' 10/20! I help coordinate 3,380 volunteers to participate in an island wide cleanup. I visit Tinian. I resign from the MINA board...to apply for the position of MINA Executive Director. I continue leading Beautify CNMI! volunteer activities every weekend.

November: I am a judge for Saipan Singing Superstar. I continue leading Beautify CNMI! volunteer activities every weekend. Emily goes back to Florida :(

December: Christmas! Parties! I play in a soccer league...we win our first two games! I continue leading Beautify CNMI! volunteer activities every weekend.

Here's to a 2007 that is as interesting as 2006!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Saipan Tsunami

Where is SaipanCNN and Fox News are reporting that a 3 foot tall tsunami is heading towards the Philippines after a 7.2 magnitude earthquake in Taiwan. The warnings were issued literally two minutes ago.

If you are reading this and it turns out that Saipan has been washed out by a tsunami, please send money.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Happy Austerity Tuesday!

A quick shoutout to the 3,100 unique visitors to this blog in the last 48 hours! What can I say? Chicago Steve and I are in blog nerd nirvana.

Thousands of Saipan workers went back to work this morning suffering from a bad case of the Irish flu (is it PC to call it Chamorro flu?) Not me. I got up around 6:30 AM. I had a dream that I was sleeping in my bedroom and Bob Marley was by the side of the bed leaning over me. He was whispering to me to wake up, so I woke up.

It probably means something, but what I don't know. Could be the start of a good song...

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas!

Angelo Villagomez


Do you remember that scene in Office Space where the main character says that if he had the chance to do anything he wanted, that he would simply do "nothing?" Well, that is exactly what I did this weekend. Nothing.

I didn't go out to the bars. I didn't do any work. I didn't plan any volunteer events. I just did NOTHING...and I loved it.

It might sound like I have a bah-humbug attitude this Christmas, but I think the opposite is true. Bah-humbug people work during Christmas. I just relaxed. Beyond getting Final Fantasy XII, a new dive mask, watch, and some rechargeable batteries, all I really wanted to do this holiday season was to CHILL OUT.

And that is what I did.

I've done a lot this year. I want a chance to just unwind for a while...because I have big plans for 2007.

!Feliz Navidad!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

DPS Crime Prevention Jamboree

The Department of Public Safety held their first Crime Prevention Jamboree on Friday. I was on hand to assist with Recyling services as part of Beautify CNMI! I borrowed recyling bins from DEQ and set them up near the entrance. I gave anyone who I caught recycling a Beautify CNMI! bumper sticker.

The Jamboree started off at the Ada gym aroud 3:30, where the crowd watched acting DPS director Capt. Pete Leon Guerrero and Sgt. Jack Salas jump out of an airplane and land on the field where my soccer team, Saipan International, won their game 9-0 last Sunday.

Capt. Pete Leon Guerrero and Sgt. Jack SalasSaipan Santa ClausAfter they landed, everybody, including POWER 99, Santa Claus, local beauty pageant winners, and several school busses full of students, paraded down Beach Road to the American Memorial Park Amphitheater.

I saw my brother, Officer Abraham Villagomez, in uniform for the first time. Lookin' good, bro!

DPS Crime Prevention JamboreeThe DPS Crime Prevention officers were worried that the kids would fall asleep during the long program, so they fed them several large boxes of candy...and when I say box, I don't mean Cracker Jack sized boxes, I'm talking about shipping crates.

They caused a feeding frenzy among the sugar deprived children on the CNMI:

DPS Crime Prevention JamboreeDPS Crime Prevention JamboreeDPS Crime Prevention JamboreeDPS Crime Prevention JamboreeWith the kids sufficiently jacked up on sugar, the program started with the singing of the US and the CNMI National Anthems, followed by speeches from the Acting Governor, Acting DPS Commissioner, and Rep. Cinta Kaipat.

DPS Crime Prevention JamboreeDPS Crime Prevention JamboreeDPS Crime Prevention JamboreeAfter the speeches about the importance of leading a drug-free and a crime-free life, it was time for the entertainment! The Taga Dancers were flown over from Tinian, Dean Manglona and the Naughty Boys sang a few songs, and student groups from several schools sang Christmas carols and performed drills.

DPS Crime Prevention JamboreeDPS Crime Prevention JamboreeI think there was some other entertainment, too, I just can't remember their names as I type this on a Sunday morning. Sorry, I suck, I know.

I was asked to be one of the two judges for the drill competition. Sponsored by Saipan Cell, this contest is going to be an annual event where the winning high school gets to take home a trophy with each year's winner engraved on it. This year's winner was Kagman High School, with Marianas High School coming in second, and Saipan Southern High School coming in third.

The Jamboree was still going strong when I left at 9 PM. I went out for pizza with some friends afterwards and by the time we finished eating, I was ready for a shower and bed.

I skipped Gin's party at Oceans. Sorry, Gin.

Merry Christmas Eve, Everyone!

MOVER Christmas Party

Saipan Christmas PartyOn Thursday night I went to the MOVER Christmas party. Here are a couple of pictures:

Saipan Christmas PartySaipan Christmas PartySaipan Christmas PartySaipan Christmas Party

Tan Holdings Christmas Party

On Wednesday night I went to the Tan Holdings Christmas Party. I was invited to attend because of my involvement with Beautify CNMI! Tan Holdings wanted to present us with a donation.

The party was held by the pool at Fiesta Resort and Spa. If you've been reading this blog long enough, then you might remember that when I first moved to Saipan I spent two nights at Fiesta. Here I am 9 months later and I've got the owners inviting me to a party so that they can give me a donation (pinches self). I was a restaurant server not to long ago; Sometimes my life in Saipan seems kind of surreal.

Tan Holdings Christmas PartyTan Holdings dropped some serious cheese on this party. Not only were there 3 buffet lines, but there was also an open bar. The food was standard hotel buffet fare, which in Saipan is usually pretty nice. As I loaded up my plate with spoonful after spoonful of tuna poke, I tried to think back to how much a single serving of poke cost at Roy's Orlando. If I remember correctly, it wasn't cheap.

Beautify CNMI DonationThe presentation of the award came at the end of the night. Tan Holdings donated $1000 cash. Wow. This donation was unsolicited, unexpected, yet fully appreciated. Tan Holdings has been a huge supporter of Beautify CNMI! They have donated trees, volunteer hours, supplies, and now money. I can't thank them enough. The money will be deposited into Mariana Islands Nature Alliance (MINA)'s bank account (Did you know that MINA is the Chamorro word for resource?) They accept donations on behalf of Beautify CNMI, which is unable to accept them because we are more of a campaign than a formal group. We'll put this money to very good use in the new year.

Most people started to leave after that. I hung around for a little while and danced in front of the pool. I was entered into a dance contest (against my will) with two other couples. My platonic-date Nina ran off as the music started, so I ended up entering the competition with Brad.

Saipan Dance ContestI can't imagine why we got last place.

The party pretty much ended with the dance contest. I went home, but got a call soon after from Morgan, who promised me pizza if I came to Godfathers.

Godfathers PizzaShe delivered. Thanks, Morgan!

A lot of people from the Tan Holdings party were already at Godfathers. People like this guy:

Marconi CalindasAnd people like this girl:

Char

Miss Saipan Aika Okabe

Ishibashi TamotsuI've been getting a lot of hits from people in Japan doing google searches for "Miss Saipan Aika Okabe." I'm guessing that the TV show or the movie they were filming must have recently played in Japan (or maybe the pageant just played or maybe it was because of this). I posted a couple pictures of her here and here when she was still in Saipan shooting a movie with Ishibashi Tamotsu (he's the one in the red shorts in the photo above).

I know nothing about the Miss Saipan contest and I know nothing about her, but I do have a few more pictures of Miss Saipan and the two other finalists. Here they are:

Miss Saipan Aika OkabeMiss Saipan Aika OkabeMiss Saipan Aika OkabeMiss Saipan Aika OkabeAika is the on in the middle. She's 15. The two other girls in the pictures are Miki Kurabayashi and Erina Andou.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Looking back to Monday...

I started the week off at Hopwood Junior High School. I spent Monday morning judging alternative energy presentations. The students have been studying alternative energy choices for Saipan, such as solar, wind, geothermal, nuclear, and hydro, for about two months. On Monday they had to pretend that they represented a government agency or community group and that they were at a public hearing, trying to persuade the judges to accept their assigned alternative energy as a viable alternative to diesel powered generators in Saipan.

The presentations were not bad for middle school kids. I couldn't stand up and talk to a group of over 200 people when I was that age.

The group that really impressed me was the group representing the Mayor's Office. They did the best job of focusing on the public forum format and discussing how their plan related to Saipan specifically.

Later in the afternoon when the presentations were finished, 27 students helped me plant 75 Da'ok trees (Calophyllum inophyllum) around the Hopwood campus. When they are taller, the trees will provide shade for students who have classes outdoors or who choose to go outside during breaks.

Hopwood Students Planting TreesLet me just say that hanging out with 12 and 13 year olds is always an adventure. The kids were pretty stoked about swinging the picks, but not about spreading the trees around the campus. When I saw my plan of the kids working in teams falling apart, I took the shovels and picks away and made them lay out all the trees first. Once the trees were in place, it was just a matter of letting the kids get a little dirty.

Hopwood Students Planting TreesWe planted trees around the perimeter of the playing field and in the area around the flagpole. The trees around the playing field will play the dual purpose of providing shade and blocking out some of the noise from Beach Road.

Hopwood Students Planting TreesHopefully the kids will take ownership in their hard work and will keep the other kids from harming the trees. If they do, 10 years down the road the students at Hopwood will have a little more shade on their campus.

HopwoodI went back to the school on Thursday to present the 27 kids with Beautify CNMI! T-shirts. Since they were having a free day to celebrate the last school day of the semester, Bree was able to make the presentation in front of the whole school.

Hopefully the other kids will get jealous of the attention the tree planters got and will want to volunteer with us in the future. Like I said, hopefully.

The Da'ok trees were donated by Caesar and Ignacia Villaluz. The shovels and picks were donated by Marianas RC&D. The students are in Mrs. Bree Reynolds 7th period Science Lab.

A Green Christmas for the Children of the Marianas...

Absalon Waki...was a smashing success! On Thursday night Paseo de Marianas Promoters and Beautify CNMI! announced the winners of the Recyclable Ornament Christmas Tree Decorating Contest in a ceremony in Garapan.

It was really difficult to choose a winner because all of the trees were so fantastic, but in the end, Oleai Elementary School took third, Saipan Community School took second, and my alma mater, Sister Remedios took home first place.

Garapan looked absolutely fantastic decked out in Christmas cheer and swarming with families. For my friends in Florida, it was as busy as a Friday night at Downtown Disney. Now if only we can figure out how to do something like this every night of the week.

In the picture, Representative Waki and I are modeling the glow wrist bands we handed out to each of the hundreds of children running and screaming, I, uh, mean, spreading Christmas cheer, around the Paseo. One of the goals of the event was to make it safe for families and especially children to come to the tourist district again. The wrist bands highlighted the fact that we were doing this for the kids. Nice idea, huh?

Guess who I saw today?

Abraham VillagomezI saw my brother, Officer Abraham Villagomez!

That's right, my "little" brother is a frickin' cop! He graduated from the police academy last Friday. This was his first full week on the job.

I asked Abraham if he thought I could still beat him up. He pointed to his gun. I understood that to mean a big fat "NO."

In other news, Ruth Tighe gave me a new nickname:
While on the subject of tourists and tourism, have you clicked on http://www.welovesaipan.com yet? The site was initiated at the suggestion of the most creative person I know, island newcomer Walt Goodridge. He got upset that in internet searches of the word "Saipan," that infamous uncomplimentary site was among the first ten to appear. Why, he wondered, couldn't a positive counter-site be established, that would kick the other off the top ten list? The result? Walt and Angelo "Can Do" Villagomez's "we love saipan" url. Click on it, add to it, link to it! Help get a positive view of Saipan up on the web!
When I was in the 6th grade, the other kids alternated between calling me "forehead" and "nintendo." I like this new name better.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Guess who I saw today?

Juanette VillagomezI saw Juanette Villagomez!

Juanette was Christmas caroling with the Marianas High School Refalawash (sp?) Culture Club up on Capital Hill.

Juanette is my father's second cousin's granddaughter. By Chamorro convention, that makes her my niece.

Juanette's grandmother is also my stepmother's mom's sister. That technically makes her my step-cousin.

Oh yeah, Juanette is also one of my father' godchildren. By Chamorro convention, that also makes her my godsister.

Depending on how one looks at it, Juanette is either my niece, my cousin, or my sister. Can you see how we get kind of confused by family relations out here?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Christmas Wish List

Alright, so I've seen this on some other people's blogs, so I'm going to tell the world what I want for Christmas:

  1. A trip to the Northern Islands
  2. A dive watch - a good one
  3. A new dive mask to replace the one that I lost saving Emily's life at Obyan
  4. Rechargeable Energizer AA batteries - the more the merrier
  5. My Florida family to visit me in Saipan
  6. A second trip to the Northern Islands
  7. Construction supplies and volunteer labor to fix up my house in Fina Sisu
That's all I can think of right now. I'll add to the list if I think of anything else.

Monday, December 18, 2006

www.welovesaipan.com

Alright, so you might have noticed that your We Love Saipan button hasn't been working. I suck. We've switched the icon over to the welovesaipan.com server. Please edit your template and use the code found below.

Sorry for the inconvenience.

Walt has made it easier for you to add yourself to the Network. Simply add a link to the We Love Saipan Network homepage, then fill out the short linkman form (get there by clicking on the "add your blog" link). If you want to be added to the mainpage, email Walt a short blurb and a picture.

Here is mine:
I left Saipan when I was 3 years old. I visited a few times over the years, but I can’t say that I ever lived here. That changed in April 2006, when, after 24 years in the US, England, and Japan, I returned to the island that I first called home.

First of all, I love this island for itself; more specifically, I love Saipan’s unparalleled natural beauty. Whether I’m hiking up a mountain, lying on a beach, or looking at fish under 100 feet of water, I find this island breathtaking. There is no place else like it.

I love our rich and storied history. So much has happened here! Magellan stopped here when he circumnavigated the globe, one of World War II’s most important battles was fought here, and we’ve been through four different colonial administrations. We’re a lot more than just a tiny speck on a map!

I also love the diverse and beautiful people on Saipan. Take a walk through the Thursday Night Street Market and you are bound to overhear conversations in Chamorro, Carolinian, English, Tagalog, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Russian, and a dozen other languages. No other place this size has so much diversity.

More than anything else though, Saipan is and forever will be my home; I love it for that fact alone.
Click HERE to visit the We Love Saipan Network Homepage

If you have a website or a blog and you would like to join the We Love Saipan Network, please email the webmaster at walt@passionprofit.com with a small blurb about your site, then add a link to www.welovesaipan.com on your mainpage.

If you want to be a real We Love Saipan Network Superstar, then go ahead and add this button to your mainpage:

We Love Saipan




Simply copy and paste the above html code into your website template, then use the linkman form on welovesaipan.com to add your blog to the growing list of We Love Saipan Network bloggers and webmasters.

Why not add a link to this blog while your at it? Or something like that.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Hafa Adai, Bev!

Angelo and BeverlyHey Everyone, please welcome Bev to our little kingdom of blogging dorkdom (Check out her blog, it links to EVEN MORE Saipan blogs...there goes the rest of your free time). Bev's been on Saipan for about two months (she hails from the West Coast...forgivable, I guess). As soon as my cold from last week clears up, she's going to be my new diving buddy.

Woot!

CNMI PhonebookIn other "nobody really cares" news, everybody on Saipan recently recieved their new 2007 phonebooks. This year's phonebook includes numbers for Guam, Rota, Tinian, and Saipan. This is the first time this has ever been done. It is apparently a big deal.

Yellow Pages has created two webpages at www.cnmiphonebook.com and www.guamphonebook.com. I was going to say that there's all this cool stuff that you can do online, but let's just say that both webpages need a little work.

Friday, December 15, 2006

One tree at a time

Angelo Villagomez
I really like this picture for some reason. I think it captures my inner tree hugger.

MINA has been cleaning Wing Beach for six consecutive months now. The amount of trash on the beach is so low now, that the first people to show to this morning's cleanup were able to get it all before 8 AM.

That gave us the time to plant trees, which is a lot more fun than picking up other people's garbage.

Guess who I saw yesterday?

John Joyner Angelo VillagomezI saw Dr. John Joyner!

Chamorro Wedding...Shower

wedding showerI was invited to attend a Wedding Shower this evening. It was a lot different from what I would expect at an American Shower. This shower was more of a pre-wedding. To my uncultured eyes, it was almost no different from a wedding. We ate. We drank. We had a great time. OK, so maybe there were a few differences, I'm just pointing out that all Saipan celebrations entail eating, drinking, and having a great time.

Fire DancersFire DancerSo have you ever heard of a Wedding Shower having fire dancers perform? Heck yeah!

Wedding ShowerFire DancersWe were treated to not just one, but TWO, cultural dance troupes. Woot!

cultural dancers(Sorry the pictures aren't better. Should have brought my tripod)