Sunday, January 24, 2010

Adjusting to Life in America

Under the Pala Pala VIII - Adjusting to Life in America

Island Decisions and Island Opinions are made Under the Pala Pala

My arrival in America was very similar to my departure from America. I sold or gave away almost everything I owned, mailed a few boxes, and boarded a plane with only a vague idea of what I was going to do when I got off.

Who would have thought when I got off that plane in Japan in 2005 that I was starting down a path that would lead me to run for Mayor of Saipan? Certainly not me.

I guess that’s how life works: Plan to teach English to Japanese school children and end up planting trees, picking cigarette butts off of beaches, and fighting to protect the natural heritage of the Chamorro people.

So even though I find myself with no car, no phone, and no job, I have faith in what the future holds. And the future is brighter on this side of the pond.

One of my reasons for leaving Saipan was so that I could continue my education. I’m taking the first step towards reaching that goal by taking the GRE on Tuesday. Even if I don’t manage to get a grad school application out this spring, I’ll know I’ve at least got that test out of the way for when I apply to schools in the fall.

Wish me luck.

And on the employment front I have a few pokers in the fire. I will let you know as soon as I know where I end up.

Again, wish me luck.

Yet even as relearn how to participate in conversations focused on the stuff I own, I find myself telescoping back to Saipan.

Like you, I have been following every twist and turn in the saga of Governor Fitial’s late night massage. I’ve read the newspapers and the blogs and I’ve watched the local news and I have just one question. Can someone explain to me why he hasn’t resigned yet?

I have also been tracking the international newspapers as they commemorate the 50th anniversary of the only manned expedition to the bottom of the Marianas Trench. I was pleased to see Representative Greg Sablan’s plans for commemorating this feat in Washington, DC and Saipan, but was extremely disappointed to see news of Representative Madeleine Bordallo’s plan to change the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument’s management framework to include the Government of Guam, including benefits for the University of Guam and other institutions on Guam.

While I have no problem with Guam asking the federal government to help them manage their natural resources, I see this as a ploy to have all benefits of the marine monument be received by Guam, to the detriment of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

Bordallo’s Bonitan Tasi bill fails to recognize that Guam’s waters are not included in the monument. The only marine environment protected by the monument lies hundreds of miles to the north of Guam in the Marianas and the portion of the monument that extends into the federal submerged lands around Guam does not protect a single drop of water. The monument does not affect Guam’s natural resources and Guam should have no say in how the monument in the Marianas is managed, nor should educational and management dollars be transferred away from the Marianas to Guam.

I am further disappointed that Bordallo would not have the Marianas co-sponsor this bill, seeing as our people are the ones to be negatively affected by it should it pass.

She managed to find other co-sponsors, so why not us? The bill is co-sponsored by Representative Sam Farr of California, Representative Lois Capps of California, Representative Mike Honda of California, Representative Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii, Representative Eni Faleomavaega of American Samoa and Representative Donna Christensen of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

So much for having a seat at the table.

I hope that Representative Sablan can educate the rest of the Congress on the history of the monument and how it came to be. This monument is something that the people of the Commonwealth asked President George W. Bush to create. We had hopes for educational opportunities, increased scientific research, and benefits to our local tourism economy. It would be a travesty to transfer all those benefits from the people of the Marianas to the people of Guam without even giving us the courtesy of asking first.


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Under the Pala Pala is the regular commentary of environmentalist and erstwhile politician Angelo O’Connor Villagomez. Pala pala is the Chamorro word for an outdoor shelter traditionally made of wood and thatch used for staying out of the sun, cooking, eating, drinking, singing, and talking. Sign up to subscribe via email at www.AngeloVillagomez.com.

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