Thursday, January 31, 2008

Takes one to know one

On her latest blog post Wendy Doromal calls Barry Hirshbein, Deanne Siemer, Howard Willens, Lynn Knight, Willie Tan, Richard Pierce, and Matt Gregory a bunch of liars. The title of the post is Campaign of Deception.

Wendy, do you think you can do what you do without resorting to name calling?

You might find that people on Saipan, people with the power to vote, would be more receptive to your message if you toned down the imperialistic rhetoric.

You've already got people on this island protesting each other. Now we're calling each other names. What's next?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Taotao Writes Back

Alright, so that title is a subtle attempt to bring the Force back to this blog. Can somebody teach me how to photoshop a light saber into Oreo's paw?

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Immigration rights activist Wendy Doromal has been collecting letters from foreign workers since her two visits to the CNMI in 2007. She's been showing them to Senators and Representatives in the hopes of quick passage for H.R. 3079.

Well, now the Taotao Tanos are writing their own letters. Here's the text:
Dear Senator:

I am writing to you as a concerned citizen, regarding H.R. 3079, the Immigration, Security and Labor Act that was passed in the House of Representatives in December 2007 and is being fast-tracked as part of the Omnibus bill. As members of the Senate, I urge that H.R. 3079 be referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee to be closely reviewed as a stand-alone bill, paying particular attention to its discriminatory nature of the economic and human rights impacts on the people of the Mariana Islands.

-H.R. 3079 is discriminatory by directly targeting the people of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) and creating greater economic hardships. H.R. 3079 will further the level of poverty by creating more barriers to the development of a local economy, which relies heavily on tourism and investors of tourism .

-H.R. 3079 infringes upon the sovereignty of the indigenous peoples of the CNMI, whose political status was negotiated upon the termination of the United Nations trusteeship. The political rights were determined to be governed by the solemn Covenant, which granted local control of labor and immigration and also in collaboration with the United States. H.R. 3079 would give control of labor and immigration to the Department of Homeland Security, thus undermining the mutual trust and cooperation that has endured for decades.

-H.R. 3079 may violate the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act. With reports of upwards to 50,000 workers during a 5 to 10 year period that H.R. 3079 may provide to companies seeking a quick means for cheap labor for the intensified military buildup in the CNMI and the neighboring island of Guam, the question remains of the burden on the infrastructure , and the resources that is not accounted for by Congressional Budget Office.

-H.R. 3079 enables abuses of the human rights to self-determination of the Chamorro people of Guam by providing a means to expedite the military buildup that was decided without their consent and participation and against the legal and moral responsibility of the U.S.A, as a signatory of the United Nations Charter, to ensure the full exercise of these human rights.

I urge you to review closely H.R. 3079 as single and separate matter from the Omnibus Bill, and to reconsider the facts put forth before you for the sake of peace and stability in these islands and for the human rights of self-determination to which we all are entitled.

Sincerely,

Taotao Tano
About a year ago I wrote an Open Letter to the US Senate concerning the increase in the minimum wage. If anything, I thought my stance was fair. If not a single Senator read it, I'm at least comforted to know that Diana's mom read it.

A year later, there is news in the local paper that the Feds may have acted in haste. They are now looking to modify the minimum wage increase. Hmmm, maybe they should have read my letter?

I'd write a second Open Letter to the US Senate, but I don't think it would be worth my time. This thing looks like it is on a fast track, no matter what we do.

A few years back when Puerto Rico was exploring the idea of changing their status, they put it to an island wide vote. The options were to become a state, become independent, or maintain the same status. They voted to maintain the same status. The US respected their choice.

Ambrose Bennett and Zaldy Dandan have both proposed the idea of a non binding referendum to gauge support for the federal takeover. I think that's a great idea.

If 80% of voters actually support federalization, then the governor and all the other leaders can accept it knowing that it is the will of the people. If 5% of the people support it, then we will know that this is indeed a federal takeover, against the will of the CNMI.

What does it take to have a special election?

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A while back the Saipan Tribune asked me my opinion of Federalization for one of their Man on the Street articles. I answered :
People usually say that the only sure things are death and taxes.
The people of the CNMI can add immigration and labor reform to that list.
I think that about sums it up.

Healing

A few weeks ago I crashed my scooter.

That put me out of commission for a few days, but with the help of a bottle of Motrin, I bounced back within a few days.

Then the day before I left Pohnpei I started to get sick. I've flown a lot in my life, but this was the first time I've ever flown sick. What an absolutely miserable experience.

Well, almost two weeks later I'm finally starting to kick the cold and sore throat I picked up on my trip.

I was kind of lethargic for about a week after getting back, with a runny nose, but for the last three days I've been totally out of commission. On Monday and Tuesday I only woke up to eat (I'm fat, fat guys needs to eat) and take medication.

The soreness in my throat made doing anything other than lying down with my eyes closed excruciating. It even hurt to talk.

Like I said, I'm feeling a little better now.

January's been a tough month. I hope I'm healthier in February.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Remembering Saipan

I recently stumbled upon the blog of Alverdo Sando. He was drafted into the Army in 1945 and was stationed in Saipan for 13 months during WWII. He was the company clerk for the 2848 Engineer Gas Generating Detachment on Saipan. They produced Oxygen, Acetylene Welding Gas,and CO 2.

His blog is called Remembering Saipan & Korea.

He's got some great pictures of post-WWII Saipan. Fascinating stuff. I've left a few comments on his pictures. Can anybody else help identify where some of the pictures were taken?

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Pohnpei Post

I had a very productive week in Pohnpei last week. I came home with some great ideas and some new projects. I also received some great advice from some experienced conservationists on how to deal with some of the issues I face in Saipan. That alone was worth the trip.

But the trip wasn't about me. I went there to help the Micronesia Conservation Trust (MCT) with their website. They already have a website and they justed wanted someone to show them how to edit it and how to add documents.

They could have hired some tech support to do it, but we have these things called Learning Exchanges available to us from the Micronesians in Island Conservation Network (MIC). Once a year, all of the members are allowed to invite one of the other members to come to their island to teach them something.

In my case, I was invited by MCT to share my knowledge of computers and the Internet (which is not enough for me to make a living off of, but enough to get by on). Working together we figured out which html editing program they had on their computers, found the html files containing their website, and went over how to edit, create new pages, add pictures, and add files.

While I was there I didn't get to see as much of the island as I wanted. I was there to work, so I worked. I did get to see Nan Madol and I drove around the circumference of the island once, but I didn't get to see any waterfalls or drink any Sakau.

I'll definitely have to go back.

I was supposed to participate in an MIC steering committee meeting towards the end of the week, but it was canceled due to a number of people not being able to attend. As a result, my stay was cut short by two days. I could have stayed those two days and, who knows, gone diving or waterfall sightseeing, but there was a Conservation Action Planning workshop back in Saipan that I was invited to attend.

Like I said, I'll definitely have to go back to Pohnpei one of these days. Here are a few pictures from my short trip:

Pohnpei Post OfficeYou've got Mail: The Post Office in Pohnpei is exactly the same as the old Post Office on Saipan.

Driving around town I noticed that the post office was built using the exact same plans and materials as the old post office in Saipan. Even the inside was the same. It was creepy (see the comments for some interesting Micronesian Post Office trivia).

I also found out that gas prices were different prices depending on where you are on the island, unlike Saipan where they are the same price at every gas station. In the main town of Kolonia, gas at the Mobil station was $4.90. Other businesses buy fuel from Mobil and then bring it to their village for sale at a markup.

Pohnpei Gas PricesJacking up the price: The gas for sale behind Ace Hardware was $4.99. Further away from Kolonia it reached into the $5.00 range.

Pohnpei seems much larger island than Saipan, so I understand why people don't mind paying a little extra to not have to drive all the way to Kolonia.

The highlight of my trip was my excursion to Nan Madol.

nan madol signThere are two ways to get to Nan Madol. You can either take a boat from one of the hotels or you can drive. We drove.

I'm glad I had Jun and Carlos to serve as my guides, because finding the right route would have been impossible without them. The only sign that pointed in the direction of Nan Madol is shown above. It was at the last turn, about 100 meters from the entrance.

Nan Madol entranceAmazingly enough, someone's farm serves as the entrance to Nan Madol.

There is a stream that runs right by the house where the owners shower and do their laundry and then behind the house are coconuts, betel nut, sacau, taro, breadfruit, banana, plantains, and many types of fruit trees.

Sacau plantsThirsty?: As we walked by these plants, Jun remarked, "that's a lot of sacau." You can see the first wall of Nan Madol in the background.

The path to Nan Madol starts right behind the house. The ruins begin almost immediately. The first ruin you pass is a large stone wall on your right.

Nan Madol ruinsFirst wall: This is the first ruin you see as you enter Nan Madol from the land-based entrance.

The path slopes downwards a bit past the first wall and then you enter into a Mangrove swamp lined with ancient slabs of temple stone. Nan Madol has been described as a Pohnpeian Venice because the ancient stone structures are surrounded by water.

Nan Madol Fishing boatGone fishin': This boat can give scale to the size of the rocks.

The walk through Nan Madol to the largest of the ruins is quite enjoyable. We don't have too many mangroves left in Saipan and the inner-biologist in me was loving the chance just to meander along. I even saw two fruit bats.

Nan Madol foot bridgeMind the Gap: The paths in and around Nan Madol are well-maintained. There are several small bridges, but not all of the ruins are accessible by foot. Some of them require getting wet.

The path is very well maintained. The owners of the farm charge $4 to cut through their property, but I'm not sure if that money goes towards maintenance. Even so, the path was very well taken care of and there was hardly any garbage.

Nan Madol pathLow tide: There wasn't much water around the ruins when we visited.

The biggest ruins are right on the edge of the ocean. We had to wade through some shallow water to cross over to them.

Well, that about does it for my Nan Madol commentary. Here are a bunch of pictures:

nan madol ancient ruins pohnpeinan madol ancient ruins pohnpeinan madol ancient ruins pohnpeinan madol ancient ruins pohnpeinan madol ancient ruins pohnpeinan madol ancient ruins pohnpeinan madol ancient ruins pohnpeiThat's about all I have to say about my short trip. I can't wait to go back!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Name my New Puppy

Scottish Terrier Maltese MixkotakchiBooger the puppyEJ, who is finally updating her blog, gave me this puppy. He's a male Scottish Terrier and Maltese mix. I want to name him Kotakchi, which is the Korean word for booger.

Do you have any other suggestions?

Friday, January 25, 2008

What are Indigenous Rights?

People who belong to indigenous cultures around the world have the right to:

1. Speak their language, teaching it to their children
2. Feed and take care of their family
3. Practice their religion

Rights and privileges come with responsibilities. You can't expect to receive indigenous rights if you don't live up to the accompanying responsibilities.

As a person of indigenous heritage, one should be expected to:

1. Speak your language, teaching it to your children
2. Feed and take care of your family
3. Practice your religion

What do you think? There has already been some discussion on this topic on an earlier post. There is also a lot of information and many great links over on Wikipedia.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

EJ Lee Hula Time

EJ LeeThis advertisement will appear in Friday's Saipan Tribune. Bring a copy to her party and EJ will sign it for you.

God's Gift to Women

video
video

This is a video of my brother, Alex. He lived on Saipan for one year and when he was here, every single girl in his 9th grade Mt. Carmel class had a crush on him. He didn't tell me this. The girls did.

You can't make this stuff up.

EJ Lee's Going Away Party

Saipan's #1 Korean Party Girl will soon be morphing into Seoul's #1 Korean Working Girl.

I'm throwing a going away party for her at her home away from home, Godfather's Bar, this Saturday night from 8 PM until her curfew at midnight.

...unless of course her Mom lets her stay out late.

There will be food and happy hour prices all night long. We're still working on the theme, but EJ is leaning towards grass skirts and aloha shirts.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Eleventh in a Series - Digging a Hole

When I first started this blog I wasn't really sure what it was going to be. I tried out a couple different things, one of them being a Photo Series. Basically I posted a string of pictures that were same same, but different.

In three years I've only managed to post ten, the last one in March 2007.

These photos of me digging a hole behind the hospital screamed Photo Series to me.

Susan Schorr, who left today after living on Saipan for 21 years, asked me to help her plant a tree at the hospital.

We planted a pink tacoma from the CNMI Forestry nursery. I was lucky enough to dig the hole.

Angelo Villagomez Beautify CNMI SaipanAngelo Villagomez Beautify CNMI SaipanAngelo Villagomez Beautify CNMI SaipanAngelo Villagomez Beautify CNMI SaipanAngelo Villagomez Beautify CNMI SaipanAngelo Villagomez Beautify CNMI SaipanAfter we planted this tree we drove over to the library and planted 9 more trees with her daughter Zoe, who has been a great Beautify CNMI volunteer over the last year.

I am really sorry to see them leave, but I'm getting used to saying goodbye. They are part of a growing flood of people escaping to greener pastures.

Last week the CNMI lost Bree, Doug, Litcelle, and Helena. This week we lost Susan and Zoe. Next week we're losing EJ.

Bad economies suck.

Starting to Notice

While perusing the blogosphere this evening I came across the blog of a Japanese tourist named Midori. She wrote this poem:
The sea of Mariana Islands has very good transparency and is beautiful.
Im visited the 5 Saipan.
But, fish decreased again.
Maine of this season. The crowd of eagle Ray disappears.
The fish are afraid of a human being.

We human being has injured the sea.
We must not injure the sea more than this.

We must protect the sea.
For children future as for it.

I continue taking the photograph of the sea.
To convey the beauty of the sea.
And to convey the importance of the sea.
MVA should be scared out of their minds right now knowing that people are taking stories home to Japan about the disappearance of our Eagle Rays.

Saipan is known for being a place where up to 70 Eagle Rays can be observed swimming at one time, particularly at two dive sites called Eagle Ray City and Ice Cream.

That this was written and published on the Internet is a very bad thing. Notice that Midori didn't say there was a reduction in the population. She says they have disappeared. It is now Eagle Ray season. Saipan went from Eagle Ray hot spot to Eagle Ray NOT spot in just one year. Not only that, according to Midori the number of fish in our waters has decreased again.

Want to know how the environment affects our economy? If too many stories like this continue to be written, we're all going to find out very soon. Stories like this will kill our diving and our tourism industry.

What are we going to do about it?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

International Year of the Reef

Mike Tripp did a write up on his blog of the International Year of the Reef proclamation signing last Friday. He also took this picture of Fran, Tim, and me.

Friday, January 18, 2008

De-Lurk No Mas

Boni's De-Lurk Week was a success. I don't get nearly as many comments as some of the other Saipan blogs, but I still managed to rake in 41 or so. I had over 6000 unique visitors last week, so that makes for about an 0.6% comment per visitor rate.

The Great CNMI De-Lurk!

Great CNMI delurkBoni Gomez says that anybody who visits any Saipan Blog this week has to leave a comment every time they visit. She's calling it the Great CNMI De-Lurk.

She's the boss.

If she says you have to comment, you have to comment.

Identity Crisis

In Pohnpei earlier this week, some of us had a conversation about the questions people ask when they first meet you. We were listing and comparing the different questions that people ask in different locales, such as the US, Hawaii, Saipan, and Indonesia.

In Indonesia everyone just wants to know if you're married and how many children you have. If you're not married, they want to know not if you are getting married, but when you are getting married.

This got some chuckles from those of us without kids.

In Hawaii people always ask, "What are you?"

I've been asked that question many, many times, not just in Hawaii. It is always mildly insulting. What am I? Don't you mean who am I or where am I from?

Deep down I know that the person asking that question never means anything insulting by it. They just probably think that you look different from them and they want to know why, but what are you going to do?

On Saipan I've noticed people tend to ask others they are meeting for the first time two questions, "where are you from?" and "how long have you been here?"

After you answer, the first thing the question asker does is compare the amount of time they've been on Saipan to the amount of time you've been on Saipan. If the time is short, you're a newbie, like Bev when she first got here just over a year ago. Then as you progress from describing your stay in Saipan in days, to weeks, months, years, or even decades, your self-prescribed local authority increases. Extra points for being Chamorro or Carolinian. Negative points for being Bruce Bateman.

They then weigh your answers taken together, apply a label, and for the foreseeable future you are "one of those California boys"or some other vague stereotype.

I find this all stupid.

Since this is a blog about all things Angelo, I might as well explain my answer to those two questions.

I'm from Saipan. But I'm also from Massachusetts. Oh yeah, I'm from Florida, too. And I went to school in Virginia. By the way, I've also lived in England and Japan. I've been registered to vote in Saipan since 2000, but I've also been registered to vote in Florida since 1996. When I lived in England and Japan, everybody thought I was American. When I lived in America, everyone thought I was Puerto Rican or Brazilian, but I would tell them that I was half-Micronesian. Now that I live in Micronesia, most white people think I'm brown and most brown people think I'm white. And yeah, I've lived here all my life, but I've only been back for two years.

My name's Angelo. I pick up cans and girls.

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This whole train of thought started when somebody I've spoken to twice before tried hammering home the argument that I'm an asshole by saying, "I've lived here for 33 years...and you're an asshole."

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I've had a few conversations about this post since I put it up.

Somebody pointed out that Americans always ask, "What do you do?" It is really a veiled attempt at asking, "How much do you make?"

Also, on Saipan, other Chamorros always ask, "Who is your Mom?" and "Who is your Dad?"

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Nan Madol Preview

Nan Madol PohnpeiI'm going home today.

I finally visited Nan Madol yesterday. Carlos and Johnny were my tour guides. I'll post more pictures from Saipan, but I wanted to get at least one up before I left.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Dinner at Mae's

Well, I guess we actually had dinner at Caroline and Larry's, Mae's sister and brother-in-law.

They grilled fish, fried fish, and cooked up some bread fruit.

I ate the tail end of a fish that was as big as my plate and probably an entire bread fruit. Yum.

******
There is a chance that I'll be coming home early. Due to some circumstances that don't really need to be discussed on my blog, the MIC steering committee meeting was canceled. Bummer.

I am scheduled to leave on Saturday, but if there is a seat available on Thursday's flight (there are only 4 Westbound Island Hopper flights per week) I'll be on it.

I'll be able to catch the last two days of the Conservation Action Planning workshop and help out with our MLK day of service. I might even go to Tinian with Saipan's #1 Korean Party Girl for some tournament.

If there are no seats, I'll stay here and we'll create some blogs.

Monday, January 14, 2008

A Huge Loss

Tomorrow afternoon, Doug, Bree, Litcelle, and Helena Reynolds will board a plane and kiss the CNMI goodbye. They are leaving these islands for the Pacific Northwest.

Doug and Bree have been educators at Hopwood Junior High School for the last two and a half years. Bree created the SAVE club and put on two Environmental Summer Camps over the last two years. She's been a huge contributor to all things Beautify CNMI and has been known to fight for hermit crab rights here and there.

The four of you are going to be missed terribly. I'm sure I speak for a lot of people when I say that we are all going to miss you. All of you.

...and remember, Taya Lurking!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Rained Out

Today it is raining in Pohnpei.

Shocking.

Everyone on Saipan told me to expect a lot of rain here. They were right. Man, were they right. The rain was so heavy last night that it kept waking me up. I could have slept through the invasion of Baghdad, but the rain here was so loud that I couldn't sleep.

On another note, I kept having dreams about Diana and her short Filipina friends. Must have been because I saw her on Thursday.

Yeah, so speaking of rain, my field trip to Nan Madol got canceled. I'll have to go there sometime during the week.

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After our MIC learning exchange session yesterday I went back to the hotel with the intention of eating lunch and then driving around exploring the island. Yeah right. I fell asleep and didn't get up until 3:30.

I went out for my tour after I woke up. I didn't want to waste the light eating in the restaurant, so I went out with an empty stomach.

Hunger was no problem, though. There must be a food stand every 400 meters along the road. I just stopped at one for a quick snack and a drink.

Alright, so first things first. The MCT rented me a car for the week. Thank you, MCT.

It is one of those little box cars that you see everywhere in Japan, complete with a steering wheel on the right-hand side.

The map Mae gave me said that there is a paved road that hugs the coast and rings the island. I figured I'd take that road and hope for the best.

I knew this was going to be fun.

Pohnpei RoadThe road turned out to be pretty good. It was paved all the way and there were hardly any potholes. The island is green all the way around.

I drove slowly because the roads were wet, my steering wheel was on the wrong side, and I didn't really know where I was going. Willy told me that the speed limit was 25 mph, but I have a feeling that the school bus that almost ran me off the road was going a bit faster than that.

I passed by a lot of mangroves as I drove around.

Pohnpei MangroveThe mangroves were really pretty and the still water was so peaceful. There are hardly any on Saipan, but almost the entire island of Pohnpei seems to be ringed by them.

I also found lots of rivers.

Pohnpei RiverThe whole trip took me about three hours to complete and it was dark by the time I got back to the hotel. I had dinner in my hotel room and went to sleep pretty early.

Just a few thoughts:

-I was really excited to see bats. The last place I saw a bat in Micronesia was Anatahan. That was way back in 1995.

-The people here still use coconut fronds on some of their houses. On Saipan we only do that when we are trying to impress tourists.

-They have some of the problems we have with solid waste and junk cars, but they haven't paved over their island the way we have. I hope they never do.

Friday, January 11, 2008

First Day in Pohnpei

MCT Office PohnpeiOffice with a view: The Micronesia Conservation Trust office is right on the water. This is what they are forced to look at 8 hours a day.

Carlos Kusto is Pohnpei's first blogger. Ever. Please bounce on over to Carlos' blog and send your regards from wherever you are sitting. I know I have regular readers in Saipan, Mongolia, Japan, and all over the United States.

Carlos is a Micronesia Challenge Intern. He is being mentored to become one of Pohnpei's future conservation leaders.

Please give Pohnpei's first blogger and one of Micronesia's future leaders some encouragement.

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Learning Exchange: Here I am with Mary Rose showing her how to upload documents to the MCT website. That's Carlos behind us.

I'm in Pohnpei to help the Micronesia Conservation Trust (MCT) with their web presence. We had a session yesterday and we had about a four hour session today.

So far we've created two new bloggers (Johnny is Pohnpei's second blogger), gone over some basic html elements, and talked about how we want to edit the MCT website.

We'll continue working all day Monday, Tuesday, and then Wednesday morning.

******

I'm going to Nan Madol tomorrow morning at 9 AM. I was mistaken; it is not a World Heritage Site. Either way, I'm still pretty stoked. I've been reading about this place in books since I was a kid.

Now if I can just get up to the Northern islands...

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Guam Airport Blogging

I could smell Freedom the second I stepped off the plane.

Seriously, Guam, what the hell? Between stepping off of one plane and getting on the other I had to show my passport 5 times. 5 times! Is that really necessary? Jeff expresses his frustrations much better than me on his blog. Check it out. He considers it his best work.

******

Who buys porn at the airport? Why does the book store here have an entire rack dedicated to naked women? Do people purchase a magazine and then read it sitting in coach?

*****

Big thanks to Captain Carl who let me borrow his Canon S3. I promise to take plenty of photographs.

Speaking of photographs, I had to purchase a battery charger at the Guam airport. If you remember, my old charger blew up in a Thai hotel room and I had to buy a new one there. That one doesn't work on our electrical system.

Bummer...and this had to happen literally 12 hours before my Mom told me she was sending me a new one.

Thanks, Mom. Now I'll have two.

******

Even with all this Liberty, I'm able to hack into the Continental President's Club wireless Internet.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Do you remember the time?

I wrote a post about Chamorro bloggers, to which Tami responded with a post about her non-Chamorroness, yet obvious localness. She wrote about 20 things that she remembers from the good ol' days. I told her she should tag other bloggers to write about their memories of the good ol' days and guess what? She tagged me!

Well, I didn't grow up in Saipan, but I did visit here a few times as a kid. I've decided to reminisce about 10 things from my childhood and 10 things from my return to Saipan two years ago.

Here it goes, stuff from when I was a kid:

1. You could find glass balls on the beach.
2. It was a real treat when we'd go get fresh donuts at the donut shop next to the college. Was it called "galaxy" something or am I just a moron?
3. We used to catch hundreds of fish at Forbidden Island before it was a protected area.
4. I would get up early to feed the chickens and the pigs with my father.
5. I loved digging in the sand looking for clams to make soup.
6. I used to be really good at finding sea urchins at Obyan Beach.
7. I remember when the roads didn’t have any names..oh wait, they still don't. They just have street signs.
8. All you used to get to eat at a rosary was a cup of corn soup and some Kool-Aid
9. It was a huge treat to stop at a store for a single can of Fanta after an afternoon of fishing.
10. Every time we went to Bonzai Cliff we saw a green sea turtle.

Things I remember as an adult:

1. I met EJ at Godfather's. She came up to me and Emily and introduced herself. Soon after that she became Saipan's #1 Korean Party Girl.
2. I met Jeff Turbitt at Godfather's. He was wearing white sneakers.
3. The first time I heard about Harry Blalock, one of my cousins was telling me about this guy on the radio who "tells it straight, bro."
4. We called Beautify CNMI the "Beautification Group" for about a month. I kept thinking to myself that "beautifiction" was a stupid word.
5. I had chicken kelaguen on my first day back on Saipan. Chicken kelaguen is the real reason I've stayed here for the past two years.
6. I was shocked at the number of foreign language signs in Chalan Kanoa when I first returned. When did that happen?
7. I was shocked to see the dump in Puerto Rico. Who let that monstrosity get like that?
8. I vowed that I would never work for the local CNMI government when I got here. I'll be 30 this year and I'm still going strong.
9. When I got here I thought that the electricity was pretty cheap. I've since changed my mind.
10. My first experience with the retirement fund left a bad taste in my mouth. They are corrupt and they are going to end up screwing a lot of people.

I tag Cinta, Gus, Bev, David, Guns, and Bree. You guys have to come up with 20 of your oldest memories of Saipan, whether they are from 1905 or 2005.

I'd tag EJ, but she says she's not blogging anymore. Please call Russ Quinn at 235-9090 and thank him for turning her off from blogging. Way to go, Russ.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Chamorro Blogging

My apologies to the Writers, Jeff, EJ, David, and just about everybody else on the Master List, but most of the Saipan Bloggers have been non-Chamorro, not that there's anything wrong with that.

Even my blog, Saipan's most popular blog since ever since, has a Western tilt. Sure I'm Chamorro, but I'm also Irish and was educated from kindergarten onwards in the greatest country the world has or ever will see.

I think that locals have some great stories to tell and see things from a really unique perspective. How does someone who grew up on Saipan see the world? What did they think when they saw their very first traffic light going in during the 1990's? What has changed now that there are 10 times more people on Saipan than there were 30 years ago? How about all the opportunities that have opened up in the last few years, how has that changed their lives?

Not to say that there aren't already some Chamorro bloggers already out there. Mona has her blog in Seattle and DC, Galvin, Boni, and Hope publish their blogs here from Saipan. Hell, we've even got Carolinian bloggers in Cinta and Gus.

So.

I'm really excited to see more Chamorro blogs popping up. Some of the Chamorro blogs I've come across lately are Decolonize Micronesia, Chamorro Language & Culture, Peace and Justice for Guam and the Pacific, Voicing Indigeneity, and NO REST FOR THE AWAKE - MINAGAHET CHAMORRO.

I have to admit that some of the blogs are a little, um, pro-decolonizationesque. But hey, at least they're blogging! Now if we can just find more Chamorro bloggers to focus on more important things, like torturing small pets and posting pictures of local girls in bikinis...

Carnival of the Blue VIII

Carnival of the Blue VIII is now live at [ I'm a chordata, urochordata! ]. Carnival of the Blue is a monthly roundup of the best in ocean blogging the world has to offer.

Here is some ocean blogging from past months:

Carnival of the Blue I - Blogfish
Carnival of the Blue II - Blogfish
Carnival of the Blue III -Malaria, Bedbugs, Sea Lice, and Sunsets
Carnival of the Blue IV - The Saipan Blog
Carnival of the Blue V - Shifting Baselines
Carnival of the Blue VI - cephalopodcast.com
Carnival of the Blue VII - The Natural Patriot

Carnival of the Blue IX will be hosted over at The Other 95%.

My submissions this month were my Forbidden Grotto and Safe Haven posts. You don't have to be a scientist or a tree hugging liberal to blog about the ocean. If you want to get in on Carnival of the Blue IX, let me know and I'll tell you how.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Conservation this Week

There is a lot of great conservation news in the local newspaper this morning.

Starting off with an article that I wrote, Beautify CNMI: Off to a busy start in 2008, is news about the continuing environmental volunteer activities going on in the Marianas. The backbone of this effort is the Friends of the Mariana Islands, who volunteer their time every single weekend. Equally important though, are groups like CNMI Power and Shirley's Coffee Shop, who have adopted a spot and clean it up once a month and government agencies like DEQ and community groups like Marianas Dive that clean up a different beach each month.

There is also news in the Saipan Tribune about the Marianas newest conservation area in the Talakaya Watershed in Rota. This is an exciting development. Talakaya has a revegetation project going on similar to the one in the Laulau Watershed in Saipan. Like our slogan says, "What we do on the land can affect our marine environment." This designation will improve wildlife up in the forest and down under the waves.

There is also news that it is now illegal to feed sharks and kill eagle rays in our waters. The West coast of Saipan is blessed to have several locations where up to 75 eagle rays congregate at one time. This is both a diver's and an eagle ray fisherman's dream come true. Eagle rays are not part of the traditional diet of Chamorro, Carolinian, or American, but they are eaten by Koreans, Chinese, and Filipinos.

The fine for taking a single eagle ray is $5000. If you get caught, that's one hell of an expensive scooby snack.

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The Flame Trees we've been planting since June 2006 continue to do well. While some have died, the ones that survived are doing very well.

In 2006 we planted about 20 Flame Trees along Beach Road and then last year we planted about 180 trees in throughout Marpi, Garapan, Dan Dan, and Koblerville.

Flame Tree Beach Road SaipanSix months of growth: After only six months, this tree is twice as tall as Saipan's #1 Korean Party Girl. For comparison, the Korean Party Girl has been growing for 26 years.

One of the MINA members, Brad Doerr, grew all of the trees in 2007. He makes his own soil from compost and germinates the tree from a seed to a sapling. They have a strong root system and they've all really taken off since planting.

Saipan Beach Road Flame Tree18 months of growth: This tree is three-four times as tall as EJ. It was planted in June 2006.

Compare this with the coral trees that were planted along Coral Street in Garapan a few years ago.

erythrina variegata roots saipanerythrina variegata roots garapanRoot of the problem: These trees never developed a significant root system and then were attacked by a wasp. They need to be replaced soon or the next typhoon will replace them for us.

These trees were planted by taking a 10 foot long branch and burying one end in the ground. The trees sprouted leaves, but they never developed a healthy root system. Even if they hadn't rotted, the first big typhoon would have blown them all down.

This type of tree propagation should not be used in the typhoon prone Marianas. Not only does it produce unhealthy trees, but the trees are a public hazard. Flame trees, which are especially prone to being blown down, should never be planted in this manner. With no root system, the first typhoon will take out every single one.

We should be planting saplings, not 10 foot poles.

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Nice coconuts: EJ poses with Beautify CNMI's trees #1000 and #1001.

If you go down to Beach Road to check out our Flame Trees, see if you can find these two small coconuts. When Beautify CNMI started planting trees in 2006, these trees were the 1000th and the 1001st trees planted. How cool is that?

Even these trees have had significant growth. Click here to see these trees in June 2007 and July 2006.

I've been meaning to put a small plaque next to them. I'll get around to it sometime this year.

The Pohnpei Blog

I am leaving for Pohnpei on Friday for a week of work. I am participating in a Learning Exchange and an MIC Steering Committee meeting.

I am going to spend a few days helping the Micronesia Conservation Trust with their Internet utilization and then we're going to plan for the upcoming MIC Retreat in Guam.

I'll have one day off while I'm there. I want to visit Nan Madol, a World Heritage Site, on that day.

This will be my 26th World Heritage Site visit.

In a previous post I asked my fellow bloggers to figure out how many World Heritage Sites they had visited using this list.

Who is your guess for the most traveled Saipan blogger?

My guess is EJ Lee. She's been everywhere.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Fotten Gaga 2008

Fotten Gaga Fashion Show 2008Brad Ruszala wasn't available, so I was asked to MC last night's Fotten Gaga Fashion Show sponsored by Budweiser.

Sure it was Dex's birthday and sure Fotten Gaga is Dex's company...but I'm the guy in the picture with the Pimp Cup.

You missed a good time if you weren't there.

...and a big thanks to Ray from Salon de Manila who was my photographer last night. He gave me 162 photos from last night free of charge. You can't beat that price.

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I've had three stories published in the Saipan Tribune so far this year. Marianas Dive had their first meeting of 2008 last Wednesday. I reported on their planned activities in an article called Marianas Dive sets goals for 2008.

On Thursday, hours after crashing my scooter in Garapan, I went hiking with Ken Kramer, Walt Goodridge, and Brad Doerr in the Laulau Watershed. I set out to write a single story about our site visit, but it turned into two stories, one titled Laulau revegetation project proceeds apace and the other called Groups check on progress of Laulau revegetation.

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The Saipan Blogosphere continues to grow.

Steve W., Dekada's attorney and a fellow Barack Obama supporter, has started several blogs. One of them is the Sai-Treking Web Adventure, a blog dedicated to all things Saipan Internet. His latest post is his first attempt at traffic whoring.

A man after my own heart. It brings a tear to my eye.

Marc C. has also started a blog, called Another Majic Moment. He's only got a few posts up now, but I expect this blog to be pretty good. He should start by posting pictures of all the girls he hangs out with.

I'd read that blog.

As our local blogosphere grows, the number of links between our websites increases and the amount of google juice each of our blogs contains goes up. With every new blog, the online profile of our little island community increases.

This is a good thing.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Fotten Gaga Fashion Show Tonight

Fotten Gaga ModelsA certain chubby Republican lawyer (chubbier than me, anyway) was upset that I didn't tell him about the Godfather's Christmas party that is rumored to have ended up in some girl on girl snogging.

Well, consider this your notice.

Dex is celebrating his birthday tonight at Ocean's. The Fotten Gaga Girls are putting on a fashion show in his honor. The party starts at 8. You won't want to miss this.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Forbidden Grotto

Forbidden Island GrottoIf you had asked me earlier today to show you to the Forbidden Grotto, I wouldn't have been able to do it. I knew it existed and I knew I'd been there before, I just forgot where it was and what it looked like.

Rika took me there today. When I climbed down into the dark cave and crawled into the opening with the cold clear pool of water, I recognized it immediately. I'd been to this spot before. Not only that, I've had dreams about this place. A lot of dreams. My conscious self had only forgotten that the place in my dreams was a real place.

Funny. I'm usually pretty good with memory stuff. For example, I was able to find the Banadero trail when I first came back to Saipan even though it had been 19 years since I had seen it. I don't know why I forgot about this cave.

I dream about the Forbidden Grotto often. Seriously. I can't say what goes on in the dreams, but I know this is the place I visit. Funny that I couldn't remember that the place in my dreams was a real place. Funny weird, not funny ha ha.

Crawling into the entrance of that cave was like slipping through the looking glass. I was entering into another world, possibly even intruding into another world. I had opened up a photo album and leapt into a forgotten childhood memory. A world of dreams that is very, very real.

It gave me chills. Hours later, I'm still haunted by that cave.

Forbidden Island Hidden Cave