I find it funny to think that for most of the last year I have never been more than 10 miles from my house (the only exceptions are the day I spent in Guam and the day spent in Tinian). Talk about changing your sense of space! When I worked at Disney I used to think nothing of my 33 mile commute to work. Now I cringe at the thought of driving the four miles to Marpi.
Some highlights from my first year in Saipan, in no particular order:
- Playing in last Sunday's soccer game vs. Guam. When I tried out for the team I didn't expect to make the final cut. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I'd be the starting forward in the CNMI's first international competition.
- 1020 on 10/20. I organized a 3000+ person cleanup on October 20th (I got by with a little help from my friends). This was the event that launched Beautify CNMI! into the stratosphere.
- Person of the Year. Alright, so I wasn't personally named 2006 Person of the Year; Beautify CNMI! was named Person of the Year. So what? I still made the front page!
- We Love Saipan. It took 6 years for someone to put up a website to counter the website of one particular bitter haole who had a very bad experience in Saipan. I don't want to sound like Al Gore, but I can say with confidence that I helped create the blogosphere in Saipan. When I moved here there were fewer than five local English blogs. Now there are more than 50. The Saipan Blog, the blog you are reading right now, is in the top 10 ten results for a google search for Saipan. We Love Saipan is in the top 15.
- David Cohen reading my letter and Dengre posting it on Daily Kos. This is the letter. Cohen is a high ranking Interior Department official and Dengre's blog weaving connections between Jack Abramoff, Tom Delay, the VRWC, and the CNMI can command 200+ comments (in blogspeak, that means he has a lot of readers). They both read my blog and cited my letter as an example of the good changes going on in the CNMI.
- Earth Team Group Volunteer Award. I became a Special Adviser to MOVER within weeks of meeting the MOVER President, Marites, last June. In the last ten months we have planted trees, taken water samples, cleaned roads and beaches, painted over graffiti, cleaned up historical spots and hiking trails, and eaten more BBQ ribs than I care to admit. All of their volunteer work earned them a National Environmental Award from the USDA Earth Team. MOVER dissolved in March, but they formed a new volunteer group called Friends of the Mariana Islands. I am proud to call myself a member.
- Learning to SCUBA. I loved SCUBA so much that I bought my instructor's JEEP when he moved to Australia. I've been on about 40 dives in the last year.
- Making new friends. Cinta, Gus, Scott, Dee, Bev, EJ, Walt, Brad, Ken, Ian, Bree, Doug, Sami, Mylene, Litcelle, Nina, AJ, Franklin, Lululula, Josiah, Jun (and the rest of the massive Kaipat clan), Marites (and the rest of FMI), Carl, Juanita, Adam, Aya, Hiney...this list is getting kind of long, so I'll end it there...I consider myself lucky to call you my friend. A year ago I didn't know a single one of you. Knowing all of you alone has made my first year in Saipan worthwhile.
- The Holidays...especially New Year's Eve at Grand Hotel. I never ate and drank so much in my life. Do I need to say more?
Oh well, I'll add fixing those things to my list of things to do. Nobody's perfect, right?
Even so, I'd like to think that I created some good in my short time here. As I enter my second year, my only hope is that I can keep the momentum going.
Feel free to add to my list...