Saturday, March 31, 2007

This ain't no April Fool's!

Typhoon Kong ReyWe can expect the first typhoon of 2007 this week:

West Pacific

The first tropical cyclone of the 2007 season was born in the West Pacific basin. Cyclone 01W formed at 7.5N 155.1E and is expected to move northwest. It will attain typhoon strength on reaching Saipan on Tuesday. Saipan and Guam can expect the cyclone to pass closely.
This is what NOAA says:

IN ADDITION...A TYPHOON WATCH WILL LIKELY BE REQUIRED LATER TODAY FOR THE MARIANA ISLANDS. THIS INCLUDES TINIAN...SAIPAN...ROTA AND GUAM.

Edit:

The Typhoon is now Typhoon King Kong, well, OK, it is actually Typhoon Kong Rey, but in Spanish (the Chamorro word for king is "rai"), Kong Rey means King Kong...and it's coming right for us!

Click HERE for the weather.com map of the Typhoon.

The animated map makes it look like we might start getting hit by the outer bands of Typhoon King Kong later tonight. This is going to be a fun game.

Takeoff from Saipan



Enjoy!

We're in Guam

I woke up at 3:30 AM to do laundry for the trip. Yeah, that's right, I'm a guy. I finished my laundry, packed, and got down to my Jeep with plenty of time to spare to get to our meeting place at 6 AM...only to find that my car wouldn't start.

Not a problem, I just called Tropical Island Transportation Service (285-TITS) and took a taxi.

From our meeting point, both the Men's and the Women's teams took a bus to the airport. It didn't take long to get through security and check in. With the exception of my Jeep not starting, everything went really smooth.

Our boarding passes had SPN/FOOTBALL/TEAM printed on them. How cool is that?

So naturally we stuck them on our heads and took a picture.

The flight went by quick, both because Guam is only 120 miles away and because I slept the whole way. We were met at the airport by officials from the Guam Football Federation, who loaded us onto a bus and took us to the Fiesta Hotel.

Today was mostly a day to relax. I took a nap, then joined the Men's team for lunch, then took another nap, and woke up in time for practice.

At lunch Coach wouldn't let us eat dessert. Here I am lamenting his decision:

No CheesecakeAnd here is a shot of the Women's team after their practice this afternoon:

CNMI Women's SoccerAfter practice I went with Mark, Yosh, and Pete to the Factory Outlet Mall (that's right, Guam has a Factory Outlet Mall) to get a new pair of cleats. The soles on my old cleats fell off during practice today. I picked up a new pair of Copa Mundials for $89.

Woot!

We got back to the hotel in time for another team dinner, followed by our final team meeting.

We'll know the winner in less than 24 hours. I'll post the result as soon as I get back to the hotel tomorrow night. It should be around 8 PM Chamorro Standard Time.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Team Pictures

That's a picture I took of myself. I don't actually have the team pictures yet because the pictures are all on Bruce's camera. I'll get a hold of them later.

Here's Bruce "The Bruiser" Berline setting up his camera for the team photos:

Bruce BerlineBruce is 6'4" and weighs about 220 lbs. He has personally been responsible for most of the injuries on our team. He broke Aaron Lewis' collar bone, gave me one hell of a bruise on my right ankle, and generally roughed up the whole team over the course of two months.

He'll be the starting forward on Sunday. Have fun defending against Bruce, Guam.

Now please allow me to show a little Chamorro pride. Here are the three Chamorro players that played in last Sunday's game and that will be traveling to Guam tomorrow:

Chamorro ThunderThat's me on the left, David Duenas, Front Desk Manager at Pacific Islands Club Saipan, in the middle, and Jonathan Mafnas, Senior at Marianas High School and future Marine, on the right.

Please note that although I am only half Chamorro (I'm half-a-haole!), I am fatter than the other two guys, thus making me more Chamorro than them...or something like that.

In other news, the moon was looking pretty sweet during practice today:

Saipan MoonIt looks like we'll have a full moon on game night, which just happens to fall on April Fool's Day. I don't really know what that means...I just wanted to post my picture of the moon.

WTF, Mom?

I laughed when I saw how my Mom links to EJ's new blog. Thanks, Mom.

EJ started her blog three days ago. How did you find it so fast?

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Off to Guam in 24 Hours

The CNMI Men's and Women's Soccer teams are flying to Guam on the 8:30 AM flight tomorrow morning. We're all spending the night at the Guam Fiesta Hotel. The women play Guam on Sunday at 3 PM and the guys play Guam at 6 PM.

I'm pumped for the game...but I'm even more excited about the prospect of eating at Burger King. Mmmmmmm.......Whopper. I might also have to go to TGI Friday's for some Buffalo Wings and an Oreo Madness. We'll see....oh yeah, and let's not forget about Taco Bell...and Outback Steakhouse...and Roy's...

Too bad we're only going for two days.

One last thing: some of us were in the paper today.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Covenant 902 Talks

902 TalksSeated left: David Cohen. Seated right: Governor Benigno Fitial. Standing left to right: James Benedetto, Tim Villagomez, Senate President Mendiola, Speaker Oscar Babauta, AG Matthew Gregory, and OIA Field Rep. Jeff Schorr.

From a CNMI government press release:

902 Consultations Yield Consensus on Basic Principles
In the first round of Covenant 902 talks, Governor Benigno R. Fitial and Deputy Assistant Secretary David B. Cohen reached agreement on core principles that should guide federal policy in the CNMI. These principles, articulated by Mr. Cohen in his testimony before the US Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources last month, involve five key points that should guide the discussion of any legislation to federalize the CNMI immigration system:

1. National security and homeland security issues must be properly addressed.
2. Any major change in federal policy should “minimize damage to the CNMI economy and maximize the potential for future economic growth.”
3. The federal government and the CNMI government must ensure that foreign workers are adequately protected and not vulnerable to abuse.
4. The federal government should carefully evaluate the impact of any major policy change, although the evaluation should occur expeditiously.
5. The people of the CNMI should fully participate in the discussion of any major federal policy change regarding labor & immigration.

The US Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee recently requested the Department of the Interior to prepare a draft of legislation that would federalize the CNMI immigration system. The deadline for the draft submission is April 30.

In his 902 opening statement, Governor Fitial expressed grave concern for the likely economic impact of proposed federal legislation, saying:

The economic viability of our Commonwealth is in grave jeopardy. Globalization and expanded free trade have decimated our manufacturing base, our Japanese tourism market is in decline, and the Federal government may unilaterally revoke our economic tools under our Covenant agreement. This is all taking place at a time when the CNMI government is experiencing a major financial challenge that may necessitate the implementation of deeper financial cuts, including mass layoffs. Through these 902 consultations, I am asking the federal government to provide strong support for CNMI border control and security while still ensuring the CNMI’s ability to continue remaining self-sufficient through the economic tools provided by the Covenant. We do not want to be dependent on the US Treasury for economic support.

Cohen acknowledged the CNMI’s need for continued access to its vital customer base and assured the CNMI government that the federal government would explore the feasibility of proposals to ensure that the CNMI remains accessible to critical customers such as tourists, students, retirees, investors, and medical patients.

In furtherance of the fourth principle listed above, Cohen announced that he had approved Governor Fitial’s request for a $75,750 grant to prepare a comprehensive assessment of the CNMI economy and a forecast to 2010. “The timing of this study will not slow down the schedule for Interior to prepare draft legislation for the Senate, or the Senate’s timetable for introducing a bill,” said Cohen. “However, we are exploring ways in which any new federal immigration policy for the CNMI could be flexible enough to account for the results of this type of analysis when such results become available.”

After two days of consultations, Fitial described the 902 dialogue as “positive and constructive.”

“David and I agree to engage in positive collaboration to protect the continued economic viability of our islands,” said the Governor. “We agree on general principles and we agree to discuss the draft of federal legislation affecting the CNMI.”

Although there is general agreement on basic principles guiding federal policy in the CNMI, the complexity would rest in the specific details of any federalization proposal.

“We agree on the general principles, but we have yet to reach agreement on the specific application of those principles,” said Fitial, who is eager to see “the long-range perspective, the layout, as well as the specific mechanics of the bill.”

In keeping with the principle of including the CNMI’s participation in the process, Cohen solicited the CNMI’s input for the federal government’s meaningful consideration. “Interior will have to be the ultimate arbiter of what to include in the draft, because it is our obligation to be responsive to the Senate’s request,” said Cohen. “However, we very much welcome the CNMI’s input and intend to consider it very seriously.”

“I’m very hopeful that this collaborative partnership between the CNMI government and the federal government will enable the CNMI to build a stronger, more prosperous and more just society,” said Cohen.

Governor Benigno R. Fitial began Covenant Section 902 consultations with the Bush administration Tuesday morning. Lt. Governor Timothy P. Villagomez and Attorney General Matthew Gregory joined Fitial. House Speaker Oscar Babauta and Senate President Joseph Mendiola also joined the discussion at the invitation of the Governor.

These are the first 902 consultations to include the direct participation of both the Governor and the Lt. Governor, as well as the presiding officers of the Legislature.

David B. Cohen, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Interior for Insular Affairs, represented the Bush administration. Jeff Schorr, CNMI field representative for the US Department of Interior, and James Benedetto, the federal labor ombudsman, joined Cohen in the 902 consultations for the federal side.

The 902 talks were held on Tuesday and Wednesday at the Fiesta Resort & Spa. Both parties agreed to resume 902 consultations in late April.
The Saipan Tribune reprinted this government press release word for word while the Marianas Variety chose to write an article using some of the information from the press release. I have mixed feelings about that. Is a newspaper supposed to report the news or is it supposed to be a bulletin board for government (some would say propaganda) information? On the one hand, reprinting the press release verbatim gets government information to the populace without any sort of filter; on the other hand, copying and pasting is lazy at best and lacks integrity at worst. Are the papers supposed to report the news or just fill their pages?

Like I said, I have mixed feelings. The papers don't always get their facts straight before they publish a story, so the best way to avoid any inaccuracies is to provide them with a press release. I think that reprinting a press release from community groups is fine, it can let readers know about upcoming events and what not, but it makes me uneasy when government propaganda is passed along to the community as if it were a news article.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

One Year in Saipan

One year ago today I moved back to Saipan. I told a few people that today was my one year anniversary and pretty much every single one of them responded, "you've only been here for a year?"

Yup.

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:
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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!
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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?
The year hasn't been all shits and giggles, though. I broke up with my girlfriend when she moved back to Florida and I'm still not on speaking terms with my father's widow. I've also been so busy with my work in the community that I haven't had much time to get to know my gigantic Villagomez family or to work on my non-existent Chamorro.

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...

Blogger Meetup #3

It is that time of the month again...we'll be meeting tomorrow night at 7 PM up at Java Joe's in Dan Dan for our third Blogger Meetup.

As always, the meetup is totally informal. We drink coffee, I'll eat some chicken nuggets, and then we sit around the table emailing each other and avoiding eye contact.

We share ideas and expertise...and usually spend a considerable amount of time laughing at my expense. (I'm OK with that, really.)

Monday, March 26, 2007

As if I haven't posted enough about soccer

Alright, so we lost 3-2. I'm OK with that. Actually, no, I'm happy with that.

The Guam team was younger, faster, and more talented, but we held our own against them. They should have steamrolled us, but we kept them in check.

We put on one hell of a show.

Cinta posted some pictures HERE. These pictures were taken by Kimiko:

We have 5 days left to prepare for our next game.

This second game is two tournaments in one. If we win, we'll take home the Inaugural Marianas Cup. If we win by two goals, we'll win the EAFF CNMI/Guam Playoff and earn a spot in the next round of the EAFF Tournament in Macau next June.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Thank you!

The best thing about yesterday's game was the fans. There were over 700 of them in attendance:

CNMI fansSaipan fansHere are a few pictures of the team:

CNMI Soccer TeamCNMI SoccerCNMI FootballersThese pictures are for my Mom (and I guess my two brothers and my sister in Florida):

Angelo VillagomezAngelo VillagomezAngelo VillagomezAngelo VillagomezThe East Asian Football Association presented the Northern Mariana Islands Football Association with a $50,000 check at the post game banquet. Here are some of the grateful athletes:

CNMI Mens SoccerCNMI Coed FootballThanks, Gus, for taking pictures at the game! I'll post some more later, as well as some comments on the game. Bev and Marites have already post some pictures and Saipan Tribune and Marianas Variety both wrote articles about the game.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Game Day!

Yesterday was pre-game day; Today is game day.

I'll let you know how it goes. In the meantime, here are some pictures of us practicing.

Here's the final roster:

Front Row (left to right): Ben, Angelo, Chris DLG, John, Lucas, Mike T, Pete, and Dave. Back Row (left to right): Brad, Coach Ziggy, Mark, Bruce, Tyce, Kyle, Dale, Yosh, Mike H, Wes, Chris N, Vince, and Aaron.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Game Time!

I've been seeing these posters around town. I've also been getting a lot of hits from people looking for different variations of "Saipan Soccer," "CNMI Football," and "Coach Jeff Ziggy Korytoski." I even got an email from a dude in Germany asking me for information on all of our players.

Things are getting exciting. Our game vs Guam is in less than 48 hours. Come out and support your team this Sunday at Ada Gym at 4 PM!

Recyclable Easter Houses!

Paseo de Marianas Promoters recently held a contest for Elemtary school kids on Saipan to decorate an Easter House. This contest was similar to the Christmas Tree Decorating Contest from a few months ago, it just had an Easter them. To make a long story short, here are the top 3:

3rd Place went to San Vicente Elementary School:

San Vicente won $1000!

2nd Place went to Dan Dan Elementary School:

Dan Dan Easter HouseDan Dan won $1500!

1st Place went to San Antonio Elementary School:

San Antonio won $2000!

The other 3 participating schools won $500 each. Great job, everyone!

Here are a few more recyclable Easter decorations:

Easter CoconutsEaster FlowersEaster SporksThe Easter houses will be on display at the Paseo de Marianas in Garapan until Easter Sunday, April 8. If you get a chance, go down there and check them out!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Things that suck

1. When you sleep all day for five days and then wake up at 3 AM wide awake.
2. Red ants in the grass when you're trying to stretch.
3. Three day workweek this week...for everyone but you.
4. "Breaking up" the congestion after being sick.

That's about it. I don't really have a lot to complain about.

I haven't done much in the last week and a half. I've spent most of it in bed.

I'm feeling better this morning. My head doesn't appear to be congested anymore; I just wish I could say the same about my chest. I expect that to clear up any day now.

I'll be ready for Sunday's game.

...I wish I could say the same for the whole team. We've been taking turns infecting each other with Asian Influenza. The latest casualty went down only yesterday.

Brad writes about his battle with the Asian Flu here.

Monday, March 19, 2007

A Grim Anniversary

Four years ago today, the US invaded Iraq.

I was part of the 10% of Americans that didn't support Bush after 9/11. Then I was part of the 25% of Americans that didn't support him on the day we invaded Iraq. Four years and 3217 American deaths later, I'm part of the 65% of Americans (read: 195 million citizens)that don't support him now.

Now, I would normally argue that an eloquent person should stray from using curse words in trying to get across a point. Curse words can make you sound "unsophisticated" (in quotes for a reason) and can lack the nuance to properly get your point across.

With the situation in Iraq, though, I think that it is very appropriate to express my opinion with a very heartfelt:

FUUUUUUUCK.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The weekend is over!

I've been kind of sick for about a week now, but for the last three days I've been straight up bedridden. No kidding. I've been in bed for three days. I seriously hate life right now.

I've placed all my hopes of playing in next Sunday's game against Guam with the miracle of modern over the counter medication; I've been popping an assortment of Excedrin, Dayquil, Contact, and Vitamin C pills between cold sweats and headaches.

So who wants to bring me some chicken soup?

In other soccer news:

I've been joking for the last week or so that whether or not we win or lose against Guam in the next two weeks has become inconsequential...because we're all going to get rich packaging and marketing "Coach Ziggy Korytoski's 6 Week Weight Loss Program for Old Fat Guys."

For reals, people. About 15 pounds of my ass is spread out on the grass by the airport (A gross visual, I apologize). My beer gut has been reduced to...OK, I won't exaggerate, I still don't have a six pack. But come on, is that much weight loss healthy?

I even ran a two mile time trial in 12:02 (2 seconds short of what Ziggs calls "90 minutes fit." Dang it!). I haven't done that in a while...well, except when the team had to run the same distance a week earlier.

So hope that I get better soon and mark your calendars because...

...THIS Sunday at Ada Gym at 4 PM, the CNMI takes on Guam in their first international match!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Monday, March 12, 2007

Friends of the Mariana Islands

Beautify CNMI! has an English website, three Japanese websites, and now we have a Tagalog website. How cool is that? I think that it might be the first ALL-Tagalog website in the CNMI.

The webmaster is Marites Castillo, President of Friends of the Mariana Islands (FMI). She is the former President of MOVER. Although it has been phenomenally successful over the last year, MOVER was recently dissolved to make room for FMI. Many of the former MOVER members are current FMI members.

FMI differs from MOVER in that they do not limit membership to Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW). FMI is the main volunteer corp of Beautify CNMI! It does not matter if you are Japanese, Chamorro, Mainland American, Filipino, short, tall, or whatever. Membership is open to everyone. You just have to have a willingness to volunteer.

The FMI Blog is just the latest in what is turning out to be a never ending string of blogs being pumped out of the CNMI. A year ago, when I was still living in Japan, there was very little in terms of on the ground information coming out of the CNMI. How would someone know what life was like here without visiting? Most websites can't tell you that very well. Blogs can. Now we have over 50 blogs cranking out stories, pictures, and videos on an almost daily basis.

Thank you, We Love Saipan Network!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Mongolian BBQ Night @ Aqua Resort Club

So when I brought my camera to dinner on Wednesday I had plans of taking pictures of the food and posting them to Chopsticks. Not a chance. The pictures came out horrible. Dang it!

So.

Aqua Resort currently has a promotion where they donate 10% of the price for every meal on Wednesday, Friday, and Sundays to MINA to use for Beautify CNMI! projects. This is the second time a group of us has gone out to "Eat, Drink, and Beautify the CNMI!"

The first time we went it was for Seafood Night. Last Wednesday was Mongolian BBQ Night.

Mongolian ChefThis guy is the Mongolian Chef, I guess. The Mongolian BBQ buffet consists of a food station with different types of ingredients. There's several types of meat and seafood, vegetables, and different kinds of noodles, sauces, and spices. You pile your choices up on a plate and hand it to the chef. He hands you back a number. You take the number to your table and then one of the servers brings the food to you when it is ready.

Brilliant!

DorksI think there were about 20 of us at dinner. Sorry, I didn't pass around a sign up sheet. Miwa, Rika, and Brad, um, posing...I guess.

Blue Steel and MagnumI've said it before and I'll say it again. You can never have enough Blue Steel pictures. Never. Fo' never, never. Fo' never, never, never.

Live MusicAnd as if this wasn't the greatest dinner ever...live music at your table? Heck yeah! These guys even take requests...it seems that no one on this island knows how to sing Mmmbop, though. WTF?

Fotten Gaga BoysSo, are these guys Fotten Gaga or what?

I think that's enough. Aya, Brad, Cinta, and Steve also posted pictures. Check them out for more.

Oh yeah, did I mention that the promotion includes all you can drink draft beer?

Two weeks and counting

Our first game is in exactly two weeks. The CNMI Men's Football Team plays Guam on Sunday, March 25 at 4:00 PM at the Ada Gym Field.

Here are a few pictures from yesterday's scrimmage:

Defensive LineBenKyleCoach Ziggy KorytoskiThe team is looking pretty good. Everyone is looking a bit thinner, moving a bit faster, and passing a lot crisper. Is that an upset I smell brewing?

In other soccer news:

Last Sunday we hosted our first of two Youth Soccer Clinics. As luck would have it, it rained. The entire time. The kids still showed up, though. Here are some pictures:

CNMI Youth Soccer ClinicForeheadForeheadDribbling DrillYosh GabaldonJonathanDribbling a Soccer BallElbowsSaipan Soccer ClinicSaipan Soccer ClinicThe next clinic is this Sunday from 2-4 up at the Airport Football Field. I don't have all of the info, but the last one was $10 per kid, ages 5-15. This one will probably be the same. Hopefully it won't rain.



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