Saturday, June 30, 2007

The blog post in which I write about getting buried

I wrote in my previous post that Thursday was our longest day. Well, we had the kids from 9 AM on Friday until about 12 PM on Saturday, so I guess the final day was our longest day.

And, oh man, was it a long day. I got back to my house at about noon, took a shower, washing my hair about 8 times to get all the sand out, and went to bed. I felt like I had run a marathon. I got up in time to meet Mayumi and the students from Marianas High School National Honor Society for a cleanup of Micro Beach...but only barely.

But enough about my whining.

Friday's activities started at American Memorial Park. The students were transported from Hopwood to AMP in a bus provided by Tasi Tours. Again, thank you a million times, Tasi Tours. Since I live in Garapan, I just met up with them at about 9:45 at the Park.

We met Ranger Nancy at the Park Museum. She gave the kids time to go through the World War II exhibit, then signed them in for the days activities, and gave them a short talk on National Parks and safety.

When I was college I had a professor, Dr. Barry Allen, who posed the following question during one of our lectures, "Who owns the National Parks?" The other students ventured guesses like the Federal Government, the Department of the Interior, and the National Parks Service, to which Dr. Allen pointed directly at a student and said, "No, YOU own the National Parks."


That stuck with me. Ranger Nancy told the kids pretty much the same thing. She told us how lucky we were to have a National Park on Saipan and she explained that is was Our responsibility to take care of Our National Park.

Ranger Nancy took the students through a short walking tour of the Park, leading them towards the site of our tree planting, where we were met by Representative Cinta Kaipat.

I invited Cinta to participate in our tree planting and to talk to the kids about the creation of Beautify CNMI. In introducing Cinta to the kids, I told them that although Cinta was a lawyer and a lawmaker, she had chosen to make the Environment the central focus of her public service to the CNMI. I want the kids to understand that there are many ways to work the environment into your career. Maybe someday the CNMI will even have an environmentalist governor. Maybe.

After her talk, the students presented Cinta with their models of coral reefs. Cinta is going to display them up on Capital Hill for a few weeks...but then she has to give them to Ranger Nancy so that they can be displayed at American Memorial Park.

Then it was time to plant trees! Earlier in the week, Brad Doerr came into camp to teach the kids about tree care and propagation. He came to camp again to help the kids plant six Flame Trees. Thanks, Brad!

Ranger Nancy told us where she wanted the trees planted, then with help from Brad and Rep. Kaipat's staff, we broke up into six groups and dug our holes.

After all of the holes were dug, Brad and I helped each of the groups plant their Flame Tree.

It was time for lunch by the time we finished planting our trees, so we all walked back to the AMP museum and made sandwiches. A big thank you to Boni Gomez for dropping off lunch supplies!

Today was going to be a really long day, so we gave the kids most of the afternoon to relax. Our ferry to Managaha didn't leave until 3:30. We needed the kids to be awake for our night time activities. In hindsight, we should have made the kids run a few laps to tire them out. Oh well, live and learn.

Tasi Tours transported us from AMP to the dock and from the dock to Managaha, the small island a few kilometers North of Garapan. When we arrived we set up camp and got ready for a fun night.

Once camp was set up we let the kids run free for a while. They played beach volleyball (or at least tried) and went swimming. While I watched the kids, Bree got the fire going for our delicious dinner of hot dogs and vegetables...and beef jerky, chips, cookies, soda, and candy.

(note to self: next time we do this camp, don't allow the kids to bring sugar)

We couldn't have picked a better night to have a campout. The weather was perfect and the view was stunning.

Aren't we lucky to live here? Some people on Saipan don't realize what we have. For some of the kids, this was their first trip to Managaha. It was also the first time camping for a few.

After the sun set we got the fire roaring again so that we could make s'mores. Bree had to go to three different stores before she found any marshmallows. We told the kids that they could have as many as they wanted, as long as they didn't throw up.

Then, of course, no camping trip would be complete without a giant teddy bear and a ukulele:

The kids did some learning, too. We had an activity where we looked for zooplankton and phytoplankton and we talked about the shearwaters (a bird species) that nest on Managaha. In my opinion, though, the best lesson the kids learned is how much fun and how beautiful places like Managaha can be. I mentioned before that some of the kids were visiting Managaha for the first time. How else can we get kids to be interested in protected places if we don't get them to visit protected places?

Although I hope that these kids remember the difference between phytoplankton and zooplankton and why both are important, I think it is more important that these kids take home a love for the outdoors, camping, snorkeling, Managaha, Saipan, and the CNMI. One day these kids are going to join the military or go off to college, they'll be in Baghdad or Los Angeles, and they're going to remember the island where they were born...then they'll really appreciate what we have.

One day they'll return and they'll understand the importance of protecting our Natural Resources. They'll want Saipan to stay Saipan and not become Guam or Oahu.

(steps off soapbox)

Or at least they'll remember how much fun it was getting buried in the sand:

Bree wrote about the weeklong camp on her blog, Land of the Ayuyu.

Mylene also wrote about our trip to American Memorial Park and to Managaha. Hope also wrote about Managaha. Sami hasn't written anything about the camp. Come on, Sami, start writing!


In the title of this blog post I refer to getting buried. Have you ever seen a mother cat being followed by four kittens? That is what it looked like during our camp. Wherever I went, I was followed by four or five kids.

If I went swimming, the kids went swimming. If I played volleyball, the kids played volleyball. If I played soccer, the kids played soccer. If I sat on the beach, the kids sat on the beach...and immediately started burying me in the sand.

Seriously, how many times did you guys bury me in the sand?

When it started getting late, I told the kids that I was going to sleep. I grabbed my towels and my blanket and laid them out on the beach near the volleyball net. 15 minutes later eight kids were laying out sleeping bags and blankets next to me.

At least they didn't bury me while I was sleeping.

What do you mean no more camp?

The last three days of the Beautify CNMI Micronesia Challenge Summer Camp flew by. As I type this on Saturday evening, I can't believe that it is over. Oh well, coming from a life long Boston Red Sox fan, there's always next year...and the students are already asking us to make it two weeks, instead of just one week, long.

We'll see about that.

Thursday ending up being our longest day. The day started at 7 AM. Two of the students, Bree, and I appeared on the Harry Blalock Island Issues radio program to talk about our camp. We were on the show for about 20 minutes and Harry grilled the two students, Sami and Zoe, about the things they have learned this week. He also helped us record environmental public service announcments after our interview.

Harry was so impressed by the girls and the other campers that he wrote about them on his blog and on his weekly radio commentary, Food For Thought:

Then I also wanted to spend a little time talking about a group of bright young students Angelo Villagomez and Bree Reynolds brought in to my studio Thursday morning. They are part of the Beautify CNMI Marianas Challenge Summer Camp, being put on by Angelo and Bree. These students really are learning about our environment, and what they can do to help protect it. I made sure they've learned something by grilling them with questions on Island Issues. Sami and Zoe totally impressed me with what they've learned and their passion about it. The only thing that caused me any concern at all was that Sami was just way too relaxed and good on the radio. I'm afraid she could replace me in a heartbeat if she wanted to, my only consolation is that she's just going in to the 9th grade this coming year, so my job is probably safe for a couple years anyway.

Part of what they did in this camp was to write public service announcements from what they have learned to air on the radio stations. Some of them even wrote an original song about beautifying the CNMI, they wrote the words and music. They came in with their ukelele and recorded the song in my production studio. I've got to say, I absolutely love it! You'll be hearing a lot of that song and those psa's in the coming months on both of our radio stations. What a talented group of students, and something tells me these are our leaders of tomorrow. If you'd like to see some of the pictures from their summer camp, and learn what it was all about, you can go to the website and read all about it. Tasi Tours deserves a big thank you for donating a van and driver to help transport the campers all week to their various places. And after hearing from the students on the air, Ed Salas of Tan Holdings Corporation called up donating Shirleys lunch for all the campers that day. They had talked about how the camp was being run on a shoestring budget and they were just making do with whatever they had, so Ed called up on behalf of Tan Holdings to give them a break from peanut butter or bologna for lunch. Many thanks go out to all the various people in the community who chip in to make amazing events like this happen. And while you could technically say this was job related for Angelo, Bree is a science teacher at Hopwood Junior High School, and is supposed to be on summer vacation right now. But she loves what she's doing so much, and loves the students so much, that she donated her time to help put on this summer camp.

I think I can forgive him for calling the Micronesia Challenge the Marianas Challenge.

After several hours at the radio station we returned to Hopwood to finish up work on the coral reef models and the wastewater science projects, which led right into lunch provided by Shirley's Coffee Shop and Tan Holdings. We also worked out some of the logistics for Friday's field trips to American Memorial Park and Managaha.

After lunch we had about 30 minutes before we left for our afternoon field trip, so Bree had the students play a couple of games based on communicable diseases.

In the first game they were given a series of clues and a map of a city suffering from disease outbreaks. Using the clues, they had to determine what disease people were contracting, how the disease was being spread (water borne, etc.), and the source of the disease (the water pump on Broad Street, etc.).

Then Tasi Tours picked us up at 1:30 and took us to the CUC Waste Water Treatment plant in Sadog Tasi...or as I like to call it, Wave Jungle II.

Our tour of the facility started in the lab. Heidi showed the students the lab and showed them how they check for bacteria in the water.

We also asked Heidi to talk about becoming a lab chemist for a career. She told the students that they had to be good at Math.

After letting use a microscope and showing us the different ways that CUC tests the effluent water, Heidi took us to the Brown Jacuzzi.

Ew. This is where CUC "cleans" the water. Using a process that I would only screw up if I tried to explain, CUC gets rid of all the solids and then dump the remaining liquids into the lagoon. Yum!

While we were contemplating joining the "Swim Club," some other CUC employees joined us. This led to one of the best moments of the camp.

Heidi asked one of the guys if there was anything he wanted to tell the kids. Without hesitation he responded, "well, kids, please don't flush your underwear down the toilet. You wouldn't believe the kinds of things we find: Shoes, underwear, even cellphones."

I'm probably going to repeat that story for the next five years.

Mylene wrote about Day 4 on her blog, Mylene Rocks.

I've got pictures and stories from Friday and Saturday morning, but I haven't uploaded the pictures yet. Come back tomorrow for an update. If the post isn't up by tomorrow, just keep waiting.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Give a monkey a pen..

...and he's still a monkey.


The last time I wrote about someone's letter to the editor, it was from the guy that wrote a letter announcing to his family, friends, and the entire world that, contrary to rumors circulating throughout the island, he hadn't committed suicide. I made fun of his letter, calling it "The Greatest Letter to the Editor EVER" or something like that.

A few hours after posting it I got a phone call from the writer. He pointed out that I was being insensitive and that the rumor had caused a lot of pain for people in his family.

Not wanting to be "that guy," I apologized, agreed with him that he was right, and took it down.

So, with that said, and the expectation that I'll piss someone off, let's continue making fun of people's letters to the editors:

In today's paper there is an entry from one of the CNMI's prolific writers, Gonzalo Santos. I think this guy writes at least one every other week and spends most of his letters talking to his imaginary friend. In today's article he keeps referring to himself in the third person. Can you smell what the Rock is cookin'?

This gets me to thinking. Back when I was doing grassroots organizing in Florida, we had a set of rules for writing letters. They were basically: keep it short, keep it to one subject, and if possible, make it funny or eye opening in some way.

Those rules don't exist in the CNMI. Out here, a letter isn't necessarily judged on its content; it is judged on its length. (The same ideology holds true for the House and Senate. Instead of ranking lawmakers on the quality of their votes cast, they are judged by the number of bills they introduce.)

Writers also go off on tangents. I don't remember who wrote it, but a few months ago there was a letter attacking the government, or CUC, or the midget pirates, I don't really remember, but in the last paragraph the writer completely shifted gears and wrote a reminder to kids not to do drugs. Um, WTF, mate?

Writers also tend to make grand, baseless statements. Why just the other day, one of the other most prolific letter to the editor writers in the CNMI, Ambrose Bennett, was comparing himself to Abraham Lincoln. Pardon my French, but are you fucking kidding me?!

I admit that I'm not the greatest writer; the last time I took an English class I was 17 and in my Senior Year of High School. So feel free to flame me.

But here are Angelo's Rules for writing a great Letter to the Editor in the CNMI:

1. Make it long as hell. The longer the better. Think you're done writing? Add a few more paragraphs. People won't understand you unless you drag it out forever and ever and ever.

2. Create an imaginary friend for you to talk to in your letters. It can be a Taotaomona, a Pokemon, or even the Flying Spaghetti Monster. It doesn't really matter, but people will appreciate that you converse with your imaginary friend when you write your letters.

3. Veer off topic. Staying on topic will only confuse your readers and embolden your enemies. A good opening sentence might be something like, "The recent string of Poker robberies has got me and Pikachu thinking about trying out a new lasagna recipe..."

4. Never, and I mean NEVER, make a point.

5. Blame everything on the government and ask them to comply with ridiculous demands, preferably having nothing to do with the problem. For example, you could accuse the Governor of doing nothing to increase the number of chromosomes in the human genome and then demand that the Legislature pass a law changing the color of the sky.

6. Don't sign your name to letters and make up a name for the city in which you live. Holani Smith and Nudibranch, KY have already been used, so you need to come up with your own names.

7. Endlessly remind people that you've been saying this for years.

I think that's enough for now. If I think of any more I'll add them. I invite you, my readers, both of you, to add your own.

And then just to head off the flames...this post is meant to be SARCASTIC. Trolls will be dealt with added sarcasm.

Sami and Mylene's Litter PSA

The students made four PSAs today with Harry Blalock. This one was made by Sami and Mylene.

This is going to play on 101.1 and 103.9 for (hopefully) the next couple of months.

They did one on turtles, too:


Want to download the PSAs to your mp3 player? Here you go:

Mylene and Sami: Pick That Up!

Rose, Ann, Hope, and Zoe: Beautify CNMI Song

Mylene and Sami: Walk It, Don't Drive It

Mark, Litcelle, Craig, and Tristan: Protect the Turtles

Beautify CNMI Micronesia Challenge Summer Camp, Day 3

brown tree snakeThis morning we were visited by Marja and Tony from Division of Fish & Wildlife’s Brown Tree Snake Program. They gave a power presentation on the history and current operations of the Brown Tree Snake Program in the CNMI.

They also brought two snake dogs.

Brown Tree Snake DogMina is a two year old pit bull/Labrador mix. During a demonstration, Mina was able to find a snake hidden in a bucket…twice!

Jack is a Jack Russell Terrier. The students hid a snake in a bag in the classroom and Jack was able to find it in seconds.

The kids were able to hold the snake...and so did I:

Tony and Marja worked with the kids for over two hours. Thank you so much, Tony and Marja! The students really appreciated the time you spent with them.

After the snake team left we worked on our environmental PSAs.

PSA time led right into lunch...Baloney and mayo sandwiches! Yum!

After lunch, using a microscope, the students drew models of the different parts of a plant cell, talking about the differences between a plant cell and an animal cell.

They looked at plant cells under a microscope and drew sketches of what they saw.

Then the kids worked on a coral reef project. Using card board, paper, clay, rocks, beans, and pasta they created a model of a coral reef. Here is the metamorphosis from simple classroom supplies to coral reef model:

coral reef modelcoral reef modelcoral reef modelcoral reef modelPretty good, huh? This is a fringing reef. The other two groups did a coral atoll and a barrier reef.

Bree ReynoldsThen as a preview to our Wastewater Treatment Plant field trip scheduled for Thursday, we did a waste water experiment where we gave the students sand, baking soda, vinegar, cotton, coffee filters, and paper towels. We gave them wastewater made from peanut butter, soy sauce, coffee, onions, leaves, beans, and another assorted fun things. The students had to return the pH of the water to 7 and take out all of the coloring until it was clear.

Here are some of the simple tools we gave the students to clean the wastewater:

wastewaterWe didn't tell the kids how to clean the water; they had to figure it out on thier own. They figured out that they should use a funnel to clean the water:

Filtering WaterwaterThe day ended before we finished this experiment, so we put everything aside to finish the next day.

Finally, Mylene and Hope both wrote about Day 3 on their personal blogs. Keep up the blogging, girls!

Getting help from the community businesses rocks!

Tasi ToursI have to give a huge thank you to the businesses that supported the Beautify CNMI Micronesia Challenge Summer Camp. Tasi Tours offered to drive the students around to our different field trips all week FREE OF CHARGE. PSS does not have money to pay for gas, so we were extremely lucky that they are so generous.

Thank you, Tasi Tours!

ShirleysWe also owe a huge thank you to Ed Salas and Tan Holdings. Mr. Salas heard us on the Harry Blalock Island Issues radio show this morning talking about how we are running the camp on a shoe string budget. On Monday we had P&J sandwiches for lunch, on Tuesday we had the dollar menu at McDonalds, on Wednesday we had baloney and mayo, and due to Tan Holdings generosity, we feasted on Shirley's today.

Tan Holdings gave us $100 worth of food!

Thank you, Tan Holdings! Go visit Shirley's at the Thursday Street Market and at the Liberation Day Carnival. Thank them for me!

Separated at Birth?

BlowfishDay 2 of the Beautify CNMI Micronesia Challenge Camp was spent at the Traditional Fishing Workshop held at the Pacific Islands Club. The day long workshop was reported on by the Marianas Variety:

Workshop discusses traditional fishing
By Emmanuel T. Erediano
Variety News Staff

THREE local fishermen discussed traditional fishing methods during a workshop at the Pacific Islands Club yesterday.

The workshop, spearheaded by the Children of Our Homeland Center, aims to educate the public on traditional fishing techniques which, according to assistant project coordinator Anicia Q. Tomokane, not only help conserve marine resources but also promote the local people’s cultural identity.

Funded by a grant from the Administration for Native Americans, the whole-day workshop was also sponsored by Northern Marianas College’s Cooperative Research Extension and Education Services and the Joeten-Kiyu Public Library.

Traditional fishing, according to one of the presenters, Stan M. Taisacan, is something that has not been practiced for the past 40 years.

Taisacan, who represents Rota on the Commonwealth Council for Arts & Culture board of directors, discussed the “achuman technique” of gathering fish.

It is done with a use of poiu, a device made of stone and coconut shell, and young coconut meat as bait.

“This one is better in conserving marine resources because with this method, you will get only what you need,” he said.

And it is not difficult to catch fish when one masters the technique, he said.
Lino Olopai, a Carolinian culture lecturer, shared his knowledge on traditional fish traps.

He demonstrated the use of ull wall osch, a woven fish trap used for general reef fish; the breadfruit leaf kite used to catch “needlefish without the use of a metal hook; and the use of coconut shell with line and bait to catch flying fish.

Artist, Chamorro historian researcher and lecturer, and experimental archeologist, Noel B. Quitugua, discussed traditional tools and fishing implements.

Jack Ogumoro, the CNMI coordinator of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, acted as moderator in the workshop.

He said they are now trying not only to talk about traditional fishing but also practicing it.

Traditional fishing should now be incorporated into modern management tools for the conservation and protection of marine resources, he said.

Traditional fishing techniques, he added, “are based on responsible fishing. They promote respect for the ocean.”

Dr. Teny Topalian, coral reef ecologist of the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration’s Pacific Island Regional Office, discussed how traditional fishing techniques help promote the preservation of marine biodiversity and cultural diversity.

Ann Asis Tores, a young participant from Hopwood Junior High School, described the workshop as “fascinating.”

I didn't take many pictures at the workshop, so this is going to be the boring post, although I posted one picture of all the participants in an earlier post.

Mylene talked about Day 2 on her blog, Mylene Rocks.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Holy Huge Blogger Meetup!

OK, let's count...

...27 bloggers and bloggerphiles showed up to our Meetup tonight...and I forgot my camera! Dang it!

I think 3 new blogs were created...but I didn't catch the urls.

Want me to link to you in my blogroll? Add a link to me in your blog, leave me a comment and I'll add a link to you.


It looks like everyone ran home after the meeting and updated their blogs. Losers. Thanks for coming, Deece, Hope, Steve and Miwa, Shazam, BoReGo and everyone else who has yet to post a blog about the meetup!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Beautify CNMI Micronesia Challenge Summer Camp: Day 1

The goals of the Beautify CNMI Micronesia Summer Camp are to introduce kids to conservation issues, the Micronesia Challenge, and environmental careers.

We had a very successful Day 1.

Kathy Yuknavage, Natural Resource Planner at CRM and MINA Secretary, helped us kick off the week long camp by making a presentation on the terrestrial portion of the Micronesia Challenge. She talked to the students about the 20%, how much land the CNMI already has in protected areas, and how much of that land is in forested areas.

She also made a presentation on the Walk It, Don’t Drive It Campaign. The students learned about the different reasons not to D.R.I.VE. on the beach: Driving on the beach Drips oil, creates Ruts, Impacts the sand, and kills Vegetation.

After the presentations by Kathy we did an energizer/ice breaker. We played boffer tag.

Our first activity was an experiment to determine how many germs are on our hands when we eat. We took a slice of bread and had someone handle it who hadn’t washed their hands. We put the bread slice in a zip lock bag and put it aside. We repeated this with slices of bread that had been handled by someone who had washed their hands with water only, who had washed their hands with soap and water, and who had washed their hands with hand sanitizer only. We also repeated the experiment with someone who had used soap & water, but who had only lathered for 10 seconds, 30 seconds, one minute, two minutes, and three minutes.

We'll take a look at them again on Friday.

We are going to record some environmental PSAs for the local radio station on Thursday. We gave the kids some time to start writing them. Some of the students are writing scripts, some are writing songs, and others just wrote first person dialogues.

Then we used a chemistry kit that taught the kids about the scientific method. It came with known and unknown chemical liquids that when mixed, changed color. The students mixed the known liquids and made observations of the changes. Then using those results, they tried to determine the content of the unknown liquids.

In typical Beautify CNMI fashion, lunch was provided on a shoestring budget. We fed the kids P&J sandwiches, apples, and water.

Soil TypesAfter lunch, Brad Doerr, a MINA member and local retiree, came in to talk to the students about tree care & propagation. He brought in different samples of soil, showing them the difference between sand, clay, limestone, and organic soil. He showed the kids how to plant a seed, showing them how seeds can be many different sizes. He also brought in some month old Flame Tree saplings and showed the students how to transfer trees from a smaller pot to a larger one.

Making Organic CompostHe also showed them how he uses organic waste to create compost at his house in As Matuis.

Tree repotting
After lunch we had a few more energizers (stolen from the clubmates at PIC) and then did a project on watershed pollution. Bree laid out four large sheets of white paper and then drew a non-linear line down the length of the paper, separating what would eventually be land and water.

She broke the students into four groups and had them paint on the ocean and the land, painting in the type of development they would like to see on the land. The students drew houses, agriculture, roads, hotels, ponding basins (!), pastures, and even a horse farm.

Watershed PostersWhen they were finished we put the four posters back together and discussed how the different types of development would affect the marine environment and how one poster would affect the others. The kids were able to identify that the agriculture would result in pesticides and fertilizers running into the water, that the roads would result in erosion and increased runoff, and so on and so on.

Mylene also wrote about Day 1 on her blog, Mylene Rocks.