Sunday, September 30, 2007

Goodbye, Saipan

Let the adventure begin!

I am about to spend the next 38 days traveling to places that I have never heard of and that I can barely pronounce. That's 5 1/2 weeks. What have I gotten myself into?

I'll try to do a few updates while I'm on the road, but most of my writing will be going into a travel journal. I picked up a cool little notebook at the bookstore yesterday just for that purpose.

If I come across a computer, I'll try to get something up. EJ told me last night that reading my blog while I'm away will be like taking her on the trip with me. I don't want to disappoint her, so even though I'm not making any promises, I will make an effort to post.

Hafa Adai, Welcome to the Saipan Blog!

I feel like starting over.

No, I don't mean that I want to delete this blog and begin again. I mean that I want to change the direction of this blog.

A few months ago, all of the Saipan blogs turned into what I can only describe as a virtual Junior High School lunch room. Somebody would mention me in a post and then suddenly an anonymous commenter would pop up and start calling me spineless, two-faced, and an assortment of other names. Then they went after Boni. Then Jeff. And Cinta. Even EJ wasn't immune. There was also Harry vs Bree and Jane vs Brad, Jane vs Jeff, and then Jane vs Nahal, who isn't even a blogger.

With the exception of a few certain individuals (like Jane), most of these commenters would say that they post anonymously because they want people to focus on the arguments, not the person making the arguments.

To paraphrase about two months' worth of comments, "Angelo Villagomez is an idiot, but please don't ask me who I am because you would only attack me and not my opinion."

There are even two anonymous blogs out there dedicated to libeling Jeff and me. I should probably take it as a compliment. A pair of losers have nothing better to do than to write nasty things about me? I guess I've finally hit the big time.

I don't think many of the Saipan bloggers realize how powerful their blogs can be. In the last week, my words unintentionally hurt someone I would never want to hurt. I wrote something intending it to mean one thing, and it was read in another way. I really upset this person.

That's not cool. I was careless. I apologized and I'll be more careful in the future.

The blogs can also do a lot of good. I was in a group of people one night who were talking about Beautify CNMI! They didn't know who I was or my level of involvement, so they talked openly about how they felt. They said that they'd seen the t-shirts, the bumper stickers, the ad on the TV, and the articles in the newspaper, but it wasn't until they came across the blog that they realized that what we were doing was "for real."

Along those lines, I'd like to think The Saipan Blog has given people a taste of real life in paradise. I hope I've given people from here a reason to be proud of their island and I hope I've given people not from here a reason to want to visit. I readily admit that life is not perfect here, but as Harry Blalock likes to say, it is better than living in Michigan.

I'd like to see all of us return to the positives aspects of blogging and let's not give those out to cause nothing but trouble a forum to share their miserable existence with us.

At least on my blog, I'm going to put an end to this turn towards the vulgar right now. There will no longer be anonymous comments on this blog and I have enabled comment moderation.

Inflammatory comments and personal attacks will no longer be tolerated.

I've had enough.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Earthquake!

Did you just feel that? At 12:09 PM, my bed and my apartment started shaking. It went on for about two minutes. I wonder if there is going to be a Killer Saipan Tsunami?


The Guam Earthquake made the front page of the MSNBC webpage. Turns out it was a 7.1 and occured 215 miles South of Guam.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Decompression

The first year I was out here, every once in a while I would stop right where I was standing and think back to the last time I stood in that exact place.

I hadn't eaten good chicken kelaguin in 5 years. It had been 11 years since I'd hiked down to Forbidden Island. It had been 19 years since I'd hiked the Banadero Trail.

Some of that novelty is beginning to fade.

Just the fact that I can think that thought tells me that I need a vacation.

On Thursday I will have been here for exactly 18 months. Maybe I'm wrong, but I think that I've accomplished a lot in that short amount of time.

I was the starting forward in our EAFF qualifier against Guam. I was also the center referee for the first high school soccer game to ever be played in the Marianas.

I painted the Navy Hill Lighthouse. I planted a lot of trees. I picked up a lot of trash. I even organized a cleanup with over 3000 participants in a single day.

I was on TV. I was in the newspaper. I was on the radio.

I helped create the We Love Saipan Network, where over 100 different Saipan bloggers write on a regular basis about real life in paradise. I've published to The Saipan Blog, the Beautify CNMI blog, and the Unofficial NMIFA blog, among others, on a regular basis. In doing so, I helped change Saipan's online image.

I got arrested for underage drinking and driving. I learned to SCUBA. I even went to my first professional conference (I'd been to one before, but I was being paid $6.10/hour to dress up like Rafiki the baboon from The Lion King).

I was made the Chairman of the Beautify CNMI Restoration Committee. Beautify CNMI won an EPA Environmental Award and was named the Saipan Tribune 2006 Person of the Year. Friends of the Mariana Islands, another group to which I belong, won an USDA Earth Team Group Award. I was even named one of Guam Magazines "35 under 35."

I made new friends. I fell in love. I learned the true definition of having a "big family."

I also stepped on a lot of toes and I pissed a lot of people off with this blog, my sense of humor, and my "go get it" attitude (feel free to insert your own adjective to describe my attitude).

I'm tired; I need a break.

My next post will be from Thailand.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Educational Roundtable on Wednesday

The Association of Commonwealth Teachers is calling interested community members to participate in a pre-election educational roundtable discussion with the candidates.

The purpose is to ensure that teachers, parents, and the community are able to meet the candidates and ask questions regarding their plans for education.

The discussion is tomorrow night, Wednesday, September 25 at 7:00 PM in the cafeteria of San Vicente Elementary.

The 15 Candidates from Precinct 1 have been invited to attend. For more information, please email ACT at cnmiactnow@gmail.com.

Please repost this message on blogs and other media.

******

You may have noticed the polls listed in the left hand column. Please vote for Senate, Precincts 1-5, the Saipan Casino Act, and the Runoff Initiative. You can select up to 6 candidates for Precincts 1 and 3 and up to 2 candidates for Precincts 2, 4, and 5.

These results are in no way scientific, but it will be fun to see if these polls accurately predict the winners on November 6. May the most popular candidates be victorious!

The polls will end on November 5 at 5:00 PM.

******

William Betz, the douchebag webmaster of the website that shall not be named, is passing around this email:
My friend John Bowe will be appearing on the Jon Stewart show tonight to talk about his new book, "Nobodies: Modern American Slave Labor and the Dark Side of the New Global Economy." The book's focus is on the plight of Mexican and Central American farm workers in Florida, East Indian labor abuse in Tulsa and Asian "guest worker" abuse in Saipan, an American territory in the Pacific Ocean. John is an award-winning (and excellent) writer. The book demonstrates how "globalization" and the labor abuses (i.e., slavery) that result have had the effect of degrading not only foreign workers who are abused in the U.S. but also the character of our society as a whole. It's important for anyone who cares about the cause of human dignity.

Watch if you have the chance.

Bill
The interview will play on the East Coast, Monday, September 24 at 11:00 PM. It will be up on the Comedy Central website shortly after it airs. I will link to it when it is up.

The Saipan Blogger Endorses Blog Rush

Harry Blalock sent me an invitation to join Blog Rush. It is another one of those programs designed to drive traffic to your website.

Harry previously sent me an invitation to Link Referral, which I now think sucks. I tried it out and it hardly sent any traffic my way. The only way to get good traffic from it is to spend about an hour a day playing with it. I'm not down with that. I junked it.

Blog Rush seems to work better. You can put it on your blog and forget about it. The traffic comes automatically.

The way it works is you put a widget on your website that displays the links of five other websites. Every time you display the widget (i.e. every time your page loads), you earn 1 credit that is good for 1 link to your website. The link will appear in the widget on someone else's website.

Users pick a category for their websites. Websites in the same category will show links to other websites in the same category. The idea is that people looking at websites in one category will be interested in other websites in the same category. It makes sense to me. For example, my blog is basically a travel blog because most of my readers are in the Mainland. My blog therefore will pop up on other websites that choose travel as a category.

Blog Rush also has a referral system built into their program. For example, Harry Blalock referred me. Every time his page reloads, Harry gets 1 credit. Every time my page reloads, I get 1 credit and Harry gets 1 credit. If Jeff were to sign up under my referral number and have the widget appear on his blog, Jeff would get 1 credit, I would get 1 credit, and Harry would get 1 credit. This goes on up to ten levels (with 1/2 credit awarded through levels 3-6 and 1/8 credit awarded for levels 7-10).

I have already received a few hits even though I haven't tried to recruit any other bloggers yet. This is because I get a good amount of traffic per day, between 300-500 and occasionally up to 10,000 unique visitors, so this is something that will work quickly for me. If you don't have that much traffic, it may be a while before you start earning enough credits to see a jump in traffic, but if you are willing to recruit some other bloggers, the potential for payoff is exponential.

Websites that have few unique visitors, but a ton of reloads, like the Middle Road people, would benefit greatly from this widget. Every time someone reloaded their page, they would earn 1 credit.

If everyone on Saipan put this on their blog, we'd see a lot of traffic coming our way. There are over 120 blogs on The Master List and a handful on Coconuts Abroad. If only a few of these added this widget, I think we'd see a surge in traffic in just a few days. All of the Saipan Blogs are linked together, so we would all benefit.

Therefore...

I, The Saipan Blogger アンジェロ・ビラゴメズ, endorse Blog Rush.

Please sign up and add the widget to your website. It takes less than a minute and you'll start earning credits right away. I had my first hit within hours.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

2007 Candidate Websites

I searched. I googled. I tried my best.

Out of the 60-70 candidates or so this year, I could only find seven candidate websites. If there are more, please add them to the comments section of this post and I will add them.

In this world, if you are not on the Internet, you do not exist. When people want information on anything, the first thing they do is look it up on the Internet. Most people "google" it.

In politics, the winner is the candidate who is able to best connect with the voters. In Saipan that connection is molested by our familial relationships, but with three Sablans running in Precinct 1 this year, how does the Sablan family decide who to vote for?

A candidate is crazy not to have a website these days, especially considering the number of young voters and off island voters. In contests where people lose by 6 seats, having a website could give you those few extra votes to push you over the edge.

I'm by no means an expert on anything, but these are my takes on the political websites out there.

Precinct 1

Only the ladies have websites in Precint 1. What's up with that, gentlemen?. Cinta Kaipat, Tina Sablan, and Rose Ada Hocog have websites. Cinta Kaipat also has a blog.

Cinta Kaipat has the best website of the three. It is simple, uncluttered, and there are no problems with the html. Unfortunately it hasn't been updated for this election.

Rose's website has coding mistakes when viewed in Firefox and many of Rose's pictures are distorted. She should fix that.

Cinta and Tina were smart in using their names for their url. Rose's is a little difficult to remember. It has three names and an initial. Roseada.com would have been better.

Both Cinta and Rose post detailed resumes on their websites, while Tina links to a Superbowl commercial on Youtube to explain her history.

Rose's website says nothing about what she plans to do while in office, other than, "I really can help." Cinta and Tina list what they will do when in office, but don't really get into specifics.

Precint 4

Joe Camacho is the only candidate in Precinct 4 to have a website. Joe has been running for office for almost the entire year. He was up on Mt. Tapachou on Good Friday handing out bottles of water with his name printed on them. I spent most of that afternoon picking up the bottles (and other trash) after the annual pilgrimage.

Joe has some widgets that the other candidates don't have. You can donate to his campaign from his website. It has downloads and information on the recent redistricting fiasco. It has a calendar and an easy way to help spread the word about his candidacy. He also has his very own logo.

That's cool. I wonder if he has his own theme song, too?

Some of the pictures are distorted, though. He should fix that.

Precinct 5

Fred deleon Guerrero is the lone candidate in Precinct 5 with a website. Fred also has a blog, which barely deserves mention because it only has three posts in the last month.

The url of Fred's campaign website is ridiculous. Imagine having to give this out at a campaign event. Imagine me talking in Fred's voice:
And if you want more information on my campaign, please visit fred dot deleon guerrero dot google pages dot com. Did you get that? No, that's a dot between fred and deleon, not a dash. Yes, google pages, not blogspot. Yankees suck.
Fred, for $8 you can reserve something like voteforfred.com or electdlg.com and have it redirect to your googlepage. I can walk you through it for a six pack of beer.

Saipan Senate

Two Senate candidates have websites, Clyde Norita and Luis Crisostimo.

Not only does Luis have the most ridiculous website url the political world has ever seen, but he has his picture taken in front of a picture of George W. Bush. You were a Democrat for Christ's sake! No wonder they dumped you!

The websites for both candidates are very simple, with no bells and whistles.

I should mention that Clyde forgot to provide contact information for his campaign.

Board of Education

Although not a campaign website, Board of Education candidate Galvin Guerrero has a blog. I'm commenting on websites, not blogs, but kudos to him for putting a link to his blog in the advertising space he purchased in the newspaper.

Conclusion

Kudos to all of these candidates for using the Internet to get their message out. In addition to websites, several of the candidates are using Myspace and blogs. Good for them. If they really want to reach more people they should also look into Youtube and Facebook. In two years there will probably be other social networking websites that will help you get elected, too.

I expect that the Internet will play a much greater role in the 2009 election. The candidates with websites now are already two steps ahead. They are positioning themselves ahead of their competition.

More Lighthouse Restoration

We had two more days of Lighthouse Restoration this weekend. On Friday about 80-90 Hopwood Junior Highschool 8th graders helped me with yardwork and a little bit of painting. On Sunday about 30 community volunteers came out to help us paint.

We would probably have finished today, but it poured rain for a couple of hours. The exterior still needs some work, but most of the downstairs interior is painted, shiny, and most importantly, graffiti free.

Although we're not done, I'm working on a thank you list. I'm going to submit it to the newspapers this week.

I won't mention him in the newspaper, but a big thanks to Chris Nelson from KSPN for allowing me to load his video to Youtube. You can watch their newscasts every weeknight on Channel 2 at 6:00 PM. If you miss the live broadcast, it can be downloaded from www.kspn2.com.

In the meantime, here are a few more before and after pictures.

There are three surfaces at the Lighthouse that were covered in graffiti, concrete, brick, and tile. We painted the concrete white, but I told our volunteers not to touch the brick or the tile.

At Sunday's cleanup, Bree said she knew of a magic trick to get the spray paint off the tile. I let her do her magic.

BEFORE:

AFTER:
Amazing, huh? Here is another set of pictures. I didn't take this picture until the student was almost finished, so I didn't capture the worst of it.

BEFORE:

before
AFTER:

After using acetoneSo how did we manage to get this possibly decades old graffiti off the tile? What was Bree's magic trick?
Ace Hardware AcetoneAce Hardware Acetone! This message was not brought to you by Ace Hardware, but I'm accepting donations.

How about some more pictures of the kids?

Most of the work on Friday was yardwork, with just a little bit of painting. The kids did a number on the invasive scarlet gourd vine. They pulled it down and stuffed it into our blue plastic garbage bags. Some of the kids used the bags as a couch while the others worked. Rep. Waki is removing the bags for us.

Navy Hill Lighthouse PaintingEveryone who helped out on Sunday got one of the new Beautify CNMI T-shirts. They are green and sky blue. If you want one, you'll have to volunteer...and I'll have to remember to bring them that day.

Edit:

I received an email from a local reader who took issue with the appearance of the word FUCK (sorry, David Cohen) on some of the graffiti removed by the children over the weekend. While I can understand not wanting to unintentionally expose children to this word (especially after being scolded by the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Insular Affiars), I think it is a powerful image to see a child cleaning up after the filth left them by their parents. What is more inappropriate, allowing children to see an image of another child cleaning up the aforementioned word, or adults allowing these images to exist in the real world and doing nothing about them?

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Applying for the JET Program

This blog started off as a chronicle of what would eventually become my unsuccessful bid to become an Assistant Language Teacher with the Japanese Exchange and Teaching Program. I never expected to end up as Saipan's unofficial tree hugger.

If anything, I thought I'd teach in Japan for three years and then go to Costa Rica to hug trees in the mountains of Monteverde.

Well, the application process for the 2008 JET Program is about to begin. College graduates from all over the English speaking world will be looking for tips on how to get in.

Keep in mind that I didn't get it, but for what it is worth, HERE are my interview questions and HERE is how my interview went. My JET application essay is posted on this blog, but I'm not going to link to it because it is so lame. It is embarrassing to read.

For those of you applying this year, I hope this helps!

Stealing my lines

The main article in the latest issue of MP Magazine poses the question, "Does the CNMI want to become what many have termed the 'Amsterdam of the Pacific?'"

Many?

Come on, I coined that phrase! Give credit where credit is due.

The issue is now available at several locations, including Joeten. Pick up a copy and support the newest, independent source of media in the Marianas. If you want to subscribe, visit their website at www.marianaspride.com.

Individual issues are not yet available for sale online, but hopefully they will be in the near future.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Before I go to bed

I leave for Thailand in 9 days. Woot!

I don't come back until after the election. Double woot!

Before I got to bed, I have to ask two questsion:

1. Why don't any of the candidate signs popping up on every street have websites, phone numbers, or some other type of information that would allow the voter to find out more about the candidate? I think that if a candidate were to produce a sign with a website prominently displayed, they would become the first candidate in Marianas' history to promote themselves effectively using a website.

Will the Marianas have to wait for me to run for governor in 2035 for that to happen?

2. Why are there no write in candidates? WTF?





(and the governor thing is a joke. I have no plans to run for office right now. I am too busy with Beautify CNMI and my MINA job to have time to think about public office.)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

NMIFA Tryouts: Day 2

When I tried out in February, I went from almost no exercise at all to full blown training over night. This time around, I just finished playing soccer at least twice a week in both the Men's and Coed Leagues and I've been running three miles in the morning with David for two weeks now.

It makes it a lot easier.

A lot more guys showed up this time. David Duenas, our center defender was there, along with a few new high school kids, which I think is great. I think there may have been about 30 of us? 25? I know it was more than last time.

We started off with a warm up and then some stretches.

Then Jason led us in a few passing drills. Pass, run, pass, run, pass, run, pass, run.

Then Fujita led us in another 4 vs 4 game. On Monday we focused on the transition between offense and defense and then shooting. This time it was a game set up to get us to work on our passing.

Then we did more passing drills with Jason. Each one got progressively harder, both skill wise and cardio wise.

We finished with some juggling drills and then some cardio.

I could still walk after the practice.

That is a good thing.

We're going again tomorrow afternoon at 5 PM, then we have a game on Sunday at 4 PM.

I love this game!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Don't tase me, Bro!

Joeten Kiyu LibraryMarianas Resource Conservation & Development Council recently donated two large Protect Our Coral Reef banners to the library. There are also banners hanging at the USDA office and the RC&D office. We're preparing one for the National Park Service to hang at American Memorial Park.

If you know of a high visibility place to hang one, let me know and I'll see if we can get one to you. The posters read, "What we do on the land can affect our marine environment."

People may not realize this, but our activities on the land affect our coral reefs as much if not more than our activities that take place in the water. Divers, swimmers, crown of thorn starfish, typhoons, bleaching events, and anchors can do a number on coral reefs, but they can and do bounce back after disturbances.

That is not the case if the water is loaded with sediment, pesticides, fertilizers, bacteria, sewage, and other pollutants. When these stressors are present, the reef may not come back after a disturbance.

******

There was another Marianas Dive meeting last night. This time we met up at Porky's. The owner, Bruce Bateman, one of the worst people in the world, has agreed to donate 10% of all food & drink sales on nights that we have meetings there.

Hmmmmm...if he'd be willing to do that for Beautify CNMI, maybe we could consider moving our meeting place (currently at Cafe at the Park).

So.

The meeting last night was led by Mike Tripp.

Mike Tripp SaipanMike is the guy with the goofy smile on the left. He's the leader of Marianas Dive. He's Canadian, so we call him the Prime Minister. He is a local diver/retired pharmacist and is the producer of The Underwater World of Saipan.

Before I get into the meeting, this is from the Marianas Dive website:
The Marianas Dive group is dedicated to creating a resource, a world class destination and a community for the purpose of increasing awareness, promoting education, and ensuring the protection of the underwater world of the Marianas Islands (Saipan, Tinian, Rota) and the unique diving experience it offers.

A Resource
We shall begin by networking and using the Internet and all promotional tools available to create a Marianas Dive information portal. This information will be amassed and provided to the local and international dive, and scientific communities and be available in the languages of all our target tourist countries.

A World Class Destination
We shall ensure that the Mariana Islands meet or beat the expectations of a being a safe, environmentally friendly, world class dive destination. This includes improving diver safety and reducing environmental impact by assisting with the implementation and maintenance of a proper mooring system, including marker buoys and guide ropes at all popular dive sites. It is also our goal to ensure all divers are environmentally aware of their impact on the reef and marine environment.

A Community
We are, above all else, a community that shares a love of all things underwater. We shall promote fellowship and camaraderie among all divers who enjoy the waters of the Marianas whether full time, during occasional trips or as weekend warriors. We shall meet regularly, organize group dives and social events that allow members to interact, swap stories, discuss ideas and to get to know one another personally. We welcome all regardless of nationality, culture, level or frequency of dive experience.
Seems like a pretty good idea to me, doesn't it?

The meeting itself was pretty short. Mike updated everyone on the progress of the website, pending legislation, finances ,formation of a 501(c)3 and the fun dive, beach cleanup, dive cleanup sponsored by the group.

After the meeting, officials from the Division of Fish & Wildlife came in to go over the DFW rules & regulations. I learned several things last night. I didn't know that you needed a permit to collect shells or to have an aquarium. Any aquarium.

Who knew?

Although we had a few issues with our screen and microphone cord, the presentation went well. The presentation was followed by a question & answer session.

There were a few issues that I thought were confusing. We were told that it is illegal to walk on exposed reef. Does that mean that it is OK to walk on the reef during high tide, but not low tide? We were also told that people are not allowed to walk on Forbidden Island or Bird Island. I didn't see that written anywhere in the regulations, but I'm an idiot, so that could explain why I didn't see them.

Marianas Dive has a discussion board. It is a great place to keep people talking about these ideas. I hope that the DFW officials sign up. Maybe we could start a thread just on regulations?

Overall I thought the meeting and the DFW presentation were very successful. It was well attended. There were local divers, dive shop operators, boat operators, tour operators, and fishermen. Representatives Palacios, Tebuteb, and Waki were also there.

Ray TebutebAbsalon WakiThe next meeting of Marianas Dive will be the first Wednesday in October. I don't remember where it will take place. Check there website for info.

I'm not going...because I'll be in Thailand!

The Master List continues to grow

Have you seen The Master List of Mariana blogs? I last updated it on September 13 and the list now stands at 117. I know that there are more out there, but who has the time to add them all?

If you want to be listed on the Master List, the rules are simple:

1. Link to me
2. Leave me a comment requesting to be put on the list

If you want your blog to appear in a larger font, in a different color, or to stand out in some other way (a picture perhaps?), give me a reason to do it. I can be bought off pretty cheaply. A bag of beef jerky should do the trick. I prefer the peppered flavor.

...and in honor of Mona, I have added a People from Saipan listing. I'm calling it Coconuts Abroad. Please send me your links for that, too.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Sex, Drugs, and Losing Your Shirt

Bruce Bateman and Jeff Turbitt wrote editorials this week supporting the latest incarnation of what is being called the Saipan Casino Act. Jeff is a Yankees fan, but he's still a good person. I've mentioned in a previous post that Bruce has a really great wife.

I respect both of them, but I take issue with their reasoning.

First off, let me make a confession: I have no problem with casinos and gambling in general. I had a great time taking Harry Blalock to the cleaners at the Rotary Club fundraiser and I went gambling at the Tinian Dynasty last April.

I've got a few issues with casinos on Saipan, though, and even more issues with the way this latest piece of legislation is written.

This proposal is being pushed as our salvation; our economic savior. If this passes, we are told, manna will fall from heaven and every man will receive six virgins...seven if you are of indigenous heritage. The proposal to legalize marijuana is no different...as is the as-yet-to-be proposed proposal to legalize prostitution. They all promise an end to the bitter times.

Legalize it. Regulate it.

That's the mantra.

But you know what?

Is this honestly the best we can do?

Do our children have to be drug dealers, pimps, and bookies to make it in the 21st Century? Is there no other economic activity that can exist on this island to support our people?

It is sad that no one thinks we can do better and it is depressing that no one thinks we deserve better.

Monday, September 17, 2007

I believe that Fish and Humans can Coexist Peacefully

On Sunday morning I went down to Laulau Bay for a beach cleanup, dive cleanup, and BBQ. Mark and Mike took pictures of the cleanups, so there is no need to rehash all that.

I want to talk about fishing.

I arrived at the Laulau dive site at about 8:10. When I pulled into the parking lot, there were about 15 people out on the reef shelf fishing. I don't know if it was several families or just one large family, but it was really cool to see all those people out there fishing together as a community.

Laulau Bay FishingThey were standing on the coral shelf next to the channel that divers use to enter Laulau Bay. There is a resident school of Bigeye Scad mackerel and the fishermen were trying to catch them.

Some of the guys were using a rod and reel to draw the fish towards the other fishermen standing ready with nets. When the fish were within throwing range, the two or three men with talayas (fishing nets) threw their nets into the deep water of the channel.

Sometimes they caught some fish. Sometimes they didn't.

Talaya Fishing Laulau Bay SaipanWhen they did catch fish, their nets were full.

When they took the fish out of the talaya, they piled them up in a floating bucket.

Bigeye ScadThat's a lot of fish!

Fresh Bluefin TrevalliThey even caught some of the larger pelagics chasing after the mackerel.

...but they didn't catch enough to even put a dent in the number of fish out there. Check out the baitball pictures on Mark's website. There were millions of fish out there. Using the types of nets they were using, overfishing will not a problem.

...but I did see a few other problems.

Japanese Divers SaipanFirst of all, there is a steady stream of divers using that dive site. While I do not think that overfishing is an issue, I think that safety is.

Laulau Beach DiversSeveral divers were smart and chose to use the channel to left of the channel being fished. They were far enough away from the fisherman as to not disturb them, scare the fish, or get hooked by a fishing line.

However, a few divers chose to enter the dive channel being used by the fishermen.

Divers and Fishermen SaipanThat must annoy the fishermen. There is a perfectly good dive channel 10 meters to the left. Why not use that one? Not only will these two divers potentially scare away the fish (or lure them away), they are putting themselves in danger of being hooked.

I am not saying that fishing and diving can't coexist, I just think that there should be a few rules. The fishermen have to fish where the fish are, but maybe something could be done to warn divers that people are topside trying to catch the fish. I certainly wouldn't want to get hooked or trapped in a fishing net as I was entering or exiting the water.

Beach DrivingAnother thing that I noticed was that all the fishermen parked their cars and trucks on the beach. Not cool. Driving on the beach is illegal.

There is just no reason to be driving that close to the ocean. There is a very large parking lot at Laulau. Use it.

Driving on the beach drips oil, leaves ruts, impacts the sand, kills vegetation and turtle eggs, and increases erosion. It is also illegal. Stop it.

...and the police are not allowed to drive on the beach. They are breaking the law when they do it. Report them...or post pictures of them driving on the beach on your blog.

...and that includes not driving your pickup truck on the beach to launch your boat. There is a site on South Laulau that was recently designated to launch boats. Why are boats being launched from North Laulau?

So other than a few safety concerns, driving on the beach, and launching your boat illegally, I think this is a really cool practice.

There is no better way to pass on your culture and your language than to practice your culture with your kids.

I hope that 100 years from now, people can come to Saipan and see people fishing in the exact same manner I witnessed. I hope that fishermen are still feeding their families using the resources from our reefs. I hope people are still diving in Laulau, too.

So don't drive on the beach.

Fat guys need love too

Consecutive Days without Angelo puking: 1

What can I say? I'm known for leaving everything on the field.

Day 1 of tryouts is done. 21 guys came out for the team, including one middle school student, two high school students, and two guys in their twenties (the other Pete and me). Everyone else is 30 and above.

I didn't write too much about soccer when I went through tryouts back in February. I wasn't sure I would make the team and I didn't want to dissappoint my two readers (Mom and Alex). Well, we all know what happened. I made the team and got to play in the opener because Bruce was injured.

Cool.

There's still no guarantee that I'll make the team this time around, but I'm a lot more comfortable with writing about it. If I make the team, oh well, I'm going to Thailand for 5 weeks. If I don't make the team, oh well, I'm going to Thailand for 5 weeks.

But I still really want to make the team.

So I went to tryouts today.

We did a short warm up with some stretching.

Then we did some dribbling and passing drills.

Then Fujita led us in two drills. We played two different 4 vs 4 games.

Then we had five trips through the tunnel of love.

Then it was dark and practice ended.

I'd forgotten how tiring soccer practice can be...and I feel fat...and I miss my legs from 10 years ago.

We have two more tryouts this week on Thursday and Friday. We have Tuesday and Wednesday to rest, but I'll be jogging with David for about 3 miles in the morning.

I don't feel as hurt as I did when we did this in February...but we haven't had our fitness test yet.

Here's to dropping 20 lbs by Friday!

Seventh Day Adventist Dental Clinic Rocks my Universe

Last week I had my teeth cleaned and fitted for a retainer at the Saipan Seventh Day Adventist Dental Clinic. Bev, everyone's favorite dental hygienist, scraped, polished, and flossed my pearly not-so-whites.

This was my first time at the dentist since early 2005. The last time before that was late 2002. The time before that I was in high school.

Yeah, I'm that guy. I suck. Please keep your tooth jokes to yourself.

I haven't gone to the dentist that much in the last, well, decade, because I'm one of those 40 million Americans who doesn't have health insurance. If I go, I have to pay full price.

The only times I've gone are those occasions when I'm insured and I've never carried insurance for more than a year.

Well, enough was enough. Even though I'm still uninsured, I made an appointment at the SDA clinic. They are running a $55 special, so the timing was perfect.

I also finally decided to spurge on that retainer. Yeah. A retainer.

I've known for a few years that I grind my teeth in my sleep, and I need a mouth guard to keep me from grinding my teeth away.

Well, I splurged. I had my teeth fitted last week and this afternoon I picked up my specially made clear tooth guards. I had to pay full price, but full price was very reasonable.

Too bad I'm a gagger. I feel like throwing up after having them in for five minutes.

I'm going to have to work on that.

So to recap:

SDA Clinic: Good
Tooth Cleaning: Good Price
Retainer: Good
Gagging: Not good

Edit:

I forgot to mention that the cleanings come with a dental exam. Full mouth x-rays are only $45 dollars extra (reg price $102). The deal runs all the way till the end of October to commemorate National Dental Hygiene Month.

...and I promise to floss.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

New Bird Species

The Division of Fish & Wildlife and the Department of Lands and Natural Resources are preparing to introduce two new bird species to the Marianas with the goal of stemming the spread of the brown tree snake, Boiga irregularis.

The brown tree snake has decimated vertebrate species in Guam, especially birds. If the snake were able to establish a population on any of the other islands of the Marianas, it would probably lead to the extinction of several more bird species.

The birds being introduced by the CNMI government are expected to turn the tide of the introduction. Snakes don't eat these birds; these birds eat snakes.

The first bird species is the Tiger Bittern, Gorsakius melanolophus:

Tiger Bittern Gorsakius melanolophusThe second bird species is the bullfinch, Pyrrhula pyrrhula:

Bullfinch Pyrrhula pyrrhulaI don't think the brown tree snake stands a chance.

The Jollibee Male Model of the Month takes on a difficult role

Brad Ruszala wants to be an actor slash model...not the other way around.

Male Model Brad RuszalaThe Fabulous Invalid Theatre Company will present a one night showing of 110 Flights, written by Nahal Navidar.

110 Flights is a two person play toiling back and forth between two drastically different perspectives after September 11th. To call it a play about 9/11 would be inaccurate. It's a play about a very tender human relationship tarnished by the tragedies of 9/11. Shahla (an Iranian-American psychology graduate student) is married to Patrick (a closet gay Irish-American NYC cop).

The play opens as Patrick and Shahla are planning for a very happy future: having babies, planning new careers and so on. When Patrick's best friend Evan dies in the attacks on 9/11, their world is turned upside down. Shahla has experienced grief on this level before having grown up in the Iran Iraq war. Patrick, however, has never experienced this kind of loss (this was before the 2004 ALCS) and doesn't know how to deal with his pain. He begins to despise Middle Eastern people and places all blame for his grief on them. As the play unfolds, Patrick falls deeper and deeper into his solace leaving Shahla without any idea of how to help him.

Cast:

Shahla-Nahal Navidar
Patrick-Brad "Jollibee Male Model of the Month" Ruszala

Show info: Saturday September 29 2007 @ 7PM American Memorial Park Auditorium
Tickets $5

Military Discount: 2 tickets for $10

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Saipan Football has come a long way since Roy Keane

In the hearts of Irish Football fans, The Saipan Incident was worse than 9/11.

That was 2002.

This is 2007.

Things are a little bit better now. NMIFA Men's Team tryouts begin tomorrow at 5 PM. Don't be late.

...and for more on Roy Keane and The Saipan Incident, look out for a documentary called Red Mist...and here are some Amazing President Facts.

Nihon University Visit

On Wednesday I spent the morning with a group of International Relations students from Nihon University, the largest University in Japan. They were on Saipan to study, well, Saipan.

Their tour guides were Aya and Willie Matsumoto. Aya asked me to help them participate in a Beautify CNMI cleanup. They were staying at the Aquarius hotel in Chalan Kanoa, so we cleaned up the beach fronting there hotel from 7 AM - 8 AM.

Cinta Kaipat and Nihon University StudentAfter the cleanup, Aya presented their teacher with a MINA t-shirt and Cinta, Marites, and I presented each student with an RC&D turtle bag and Restoration t-shirt.

Beautify CNMI Cleanup with Nihon UniversityThen we took a million pictures!

After the cleanup, we took the students to NMC to join in on one of Sam McPhetres CNMI History classes. We watched a video form Boston PBS called, "The Columbian Exchange," and then had a discussion on how Columbus' "discovery" of America affected the Marianas and Japan.

Then you know what we did afterwards?

Northern Marianas College and Nihon University StudentsWe took a million pictures!

After the class we were given a tour of NMC by Dean Danny Wyatt. He showed us all of the classrooms and buildings, including the gymnasium, where the students played an impromptu game of barefoot basketball.

After the tour we had lunch at a restaurant in Oleai called Mitsue. It was my first time eating there; the food was pretty good. I tried sitting with Aya, Willie, and the teacher, but they made me go and sit with the girls in the group.

No comment.

After lunch we drove up to Hachiman Jinja, the shinto shrine that I've been wanting to visit ever since I came to Saipan. The owner, Mr. Guerrero, invited several lawmakers and aspiring lawmakers to meet the students. Ray Yumul, Justo Quitugua, Clyde Norita, and Cinta Kaipat were all there to greet the students.

Governor Fitial was there, too.

Governor Fitial with Japanese studentsIt was overcast and raining, so my pictures of Hachiman Jinja didn't come out very well. I'll have to go back and take some more when it gets sunny again. In the meantime, this is what you see as you walk from the outer, to the inner shrine. Notice the broken concrete torii lying on the ground right after you go up the stairs:

Hachiman Jinja StairsHachinman Jinja broken toriiHachiman Jinja Inner ToriiThe shrine is a very special place. When I post the pictures that I will eventually go back and take, I'll explain. If you can't wait for me, Aya and Cinta already posted some pictures.

The students went back to Japan today. I gave some of them this website url, so I hope they leave me comments!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

NMIFA National Team Tryouts

Here we go again. NMIFA National Team tryouts begin on Monday. Here's the schedule:

Monday, September 17, 5-7
Thursday, September 20, 5-7
Friday, September 21, 5-7

Exhibition game against Onwell on Sunday, September 23 at 4:00 PM. First cuts will be made after the game.

Monday, September 24, 5-7
Thursday, September 27, 5-7
Friday, September 28, 5-7

Once the team is chosen, there will be exhibition games against local clubs every Sunday in October.

Going out for the Men's team last February was one of the most rewarding experiences I've ever had. I got to start in our first game against Guam, got a free trip to the island of my birth, made some great friends, and lost about 20 lbs doing so.

...and I got to share a hotel room with Brad Ruszala.

...twice.

Too much for one person

Now Showing Grand HotelThere is a Beautify CNMI meeting at Cafe at the Park at 6 PM, Soccer Ref training is at Fiesta at 6:30 PM, and Grand Hotel is showing the Pop Music Festival finals at 6:00 and 7:30. What am I going to do?

******

It looks like Sunday is going to be busy, too. Friends of the Mariana Islands have their monthly cleanup of Laulau Beach at 8 AM. Marianas Dive is going to join in, helping with the beach cleanup, but then hosting their own underwater cleanup at around 10 AM. Then weather permitting, we are all going to have a potluck BBQ around lunch time.

******

I leave for Thailand two weeks from Monday.

******

...and if you haven't registered to vote, today is the deadline.

Speaking of voting, if any candidate would like to be profiled on this blog, please contact me before I leave for Thailand.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

I found the jinja in the jungle

Hachiman Jinja SaipanThe Force is strong in Saipan. It can be difficult to feel, but when you are able to get away, able to find a place untouched by Google and MTV, you can feel it. You can call the feeling what you want, whether it be religious, spiritual, or even creepy, but you can still feel it. We've all felt it at some time in our lives, a connection to the past and to something greater than ourselves.

I have been back in Saipan for just over a year now. I joke that the planets aligned to bring me back to this island, but I feel that they did. The Force brought me to Saipan.

Returning to Saipan was never in my life plan. My mother escaped with her two kids from Saipan when I was three years old. After he divorced her, my father moved on and started a new family. My mother raised my brother, Alex, and me as a single parent. I received the occasional letter from my father, but I saw him no more than once every other year. I was raised as an American, visiting Saipan exactly five times during my childhood.

Even when I was about to graduate from college, no one was asking me what I was going to do when I returned to Saipan. I don't think anybody ever even considered me coming back.

In my final week of college, my father suffered a massive heart attack and was evacuated to a hospital in Honolulu. I flew to Honolulu to be with him, his wife, my four brothers, and my sister. I missed my college graduation so that I could be there with them. It was worth it though; it was the last, and only the second, time my father's six children were all together. I don't know if that will ever happen again.

When he stabilized, we brought him home so that he could die on Saipan. We didn't expect him to live long. I thought he was going to die on the plane, but he hung in there for five and half years. During that interval, I went back to America, earned another degree and continued on with my life.

Alex and I had an unspoken understanding that we would go back for his funeral and then we would probably never return to Saipan.

Well, that changed.

I made plans to visit Saipan in 2005. I was moving to Japan and before my job started there, my girlfriend at the time and I decided that we wanted to pay a visit to Saipan and my family. We were scheduled to arrive on December 17, 2005.

I moved to Japan on November 18, 2005. It was an exciting time; I was living in a new place and things were going very well.

Then my world was turned upside down.

On the morning of December 1, 2005, I woke up and opened up my laptop. I immediately started getting chat requests from Alex in Florida. I plugged in my camera, accepted the chat invitation and saw Alex bawling his eyes out. My father had died the night before.

Alex already had a ticket to Saipan. I told him I would meet him in the Narita airport.

Now, if my father had died at any other time, I would have purchased a ticket to Saipan, stayed for one week, buried him, and I would have left Saipan behind forever.

But he didn't die at any other time. He died 17 days before I was going to see him for the first time in five and a half years.

So instead of coming for one week, I came for one month. You can read the archives of this blog, but after burying him, I was able to rediscover Saipan. I was able to see Saipan for the first time as an adult. I was able to see the island through my own eyes.

Three months later I was living on Saipan for the first time since I was three years old.

And you know what I have discovered?

I belong here.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Some good press

KSPN streams their daily news coverage on the Internet now. Cool. You guys don't mind me downloading your streams and editing them do you?

A sure sign that the World is about to end

Bruce Bateman, one of the worst people in the world, is calling for, get this, cultural understanding. He writes:
What I am trying to point out is that there are cultural differences among the good folks living here on Saipan and we can benefit from them. We can learn from each other and we can continue to coexist in peaceful harmony with respect for the land and the water and the cultures of the people who have lived here for hundreds, even thousands of years.
Bruce, you sound reasonable. You sound almost, dare I say it, Liberal. What is happening to you?

Sunday, September 09, 2007

A Chamorro, an American, and a Japanese walk into an old abandoned lighthouse...

Paint VolunteersThis picture epitomizes the Beautify CNMI! spirit for me. Here is a Chamorro-American, a Caucasian-American, and a Japanese National. One is a student, one is a doctor, and one is a businesswoman. Zach brought his mom, Juanita, and brother, Adam, Allison brought her children, and Aya brought her husband, Willie.

These three families come from different ethnic, cultural, and socioeconomic backgrounds, have children of different ages (Allison has babies, Juanita has middle schoolers, and Aya has college students), but they all spent hours ostensibly doing something that should have been somebody else's job...and they enjoyed every minute of it. How often do you see that happen?

Juanita, Zach, Adam, Aya, and Willie have volunteered several dozen times now (Adam and Juanita are approaching a hundred). They are such regulars at our events that they show up with their own tools. Even when Willie can't make it, he'll pack a special tool kit for Aya:

ToolsThat is what Beautify CNMI! is all about. People from different walks of life, pooling their resources, and coming together on a regular basis to make this island a better place to live.

This was Allison's first time volunteering with Beautify CNMI! I hope to see her again...and maybe if she becomes a regular, Willie will pack her a special tool kit, too.

Here are a few more pictures from yesterday's painting of the Japanese Lighthouse:

Friends of the Mariana IslandsThe untiring volunteers of Friends of the Mariana Islands were at the cleanup yesterday. Their leader, President Marites Castillo, was fighting the flu yesterday, but she still managed to show up. They brought tools, water, and food to share with the rest of the volunteers.

Bree Reynolds was also there. This picture belongs to the Blackmail Series:

Bree Reynolds
$125

Bree brought her husband Doug, and several students from Hopwood Junior High School.

BBQJim Highfill, the Khorrams, Roch from Aqua Resort (volunteering for the first time), Ken Kramer, a group of Japanese tour guides from R&C Tours, Cinta Kaipat, Gus Kaipat and some of the boys were also there.

I'm sure I'm missing someone...and I'm sorry if I forgot to list you! Check out Aya's blog and Cinta's blog to see if they got everybody.

We aren't finished yet

We painted the lighthouse from about 7 AM until 4 PM yesterday. A huge thanks goes out to Ken Kramer, Marianas RC&D Coordinator. He helped me all week coordinate today's rather large event. He was also the first volunteer to show up and the last volunteer to go home today.

Thank you, Ken.

We managed to apply a layer of primer on most of the Lighthouse and got a layer of paint on about two rooms worth of walls. We're not finished. We have to go back in a week or two.

Here is the lighthouse before we really got started:

Saipan Navy Hill Lighthouse...and here is the lighthouse at the end of the day:

We are about half way done. We're going to have to go back and add a little more primer and then paint over the whole thing with a final coat of paint. Here are a few more pictures:

BEFORE:

AFTER:

BEFORE:

AFTER:


BEFORE:

AFTER:

BEFORE:

AFTER:

The money for the paint was donated by the Marianas Visitors Authority. They donated $10,000 to Beautify CNMI! about a year ago, but it wasn't until this week that I was spurred to action.

There were two things that made me finally get off my butt and paint the lighthouse. The first one happened last Saturday when Dr. David Khorram's daughter, Nava, handed me an envelope full of dollar bills and coins totalling $49.02. She told me that she had collected the money at school to pay for paint for the lighthouse. I felt so guilty.

The second thing that made me decide that it was time to paint the lighthouse was one of the music videos from the Fiesta Pop Music Festival. The video was shot at the lighthouse and the whole structure was just covered in graffiti. It was time to do something about it.

So I asked MVA for $2000 of the money, sent out a few emails, and over 50 people came out to help today.

Thank you, Everybody.

There were too many of you for me to remember. If I tried to list everyone, I would only get it wrong.

So again, thank you, Everybody who volunteered time, money, supplies, and resources today.

Like I've already mentioned, we are still not finished. I think we are going to go back two weeks from today. I'll keep you posted...and I'd love for you to help.

In much more important news, Wild Bill's Men's Soccer Team won the Tapachou Derby Consolation match against the Bangladeshi Sports Club to take 3rd place in the NMIFA Men's Summer League. Here we are after the game:

Spicy Tofu!