Saturday, March 26, 2011

Suva City Saturday Market

suva city fiji market
I was going to call this post Island Abundance, but went with the more descriptive Suva City Saturday Market. Click on the photo to pull up a larger version.

Saturday is the big market day in Suva City. I think there are vendors there every day, but on Saturday mornings the offerings spill out onto the sidewalk.

As I type this I am wondering to myself why I didn't take more photos of the fruit. I picked up a pair of what we call atis on Saipan. The internet calls it sugar apple . The scientific name is Anona squamosa. It has been years since I've eaten one of these, and since I no longer live on Saipan I couldn't resist.

I also bought a small bunch of bananas that were about the girth and length of a burrito from Chipotle. [Insert inappropriate joke here].

Monday, March 21, 2011

Say Something Funny

Amphiprion perideraion pink skunk clownfish
Clown (anemone) fish are near the top of the list of cool things I like to see when I stick my face in the water.  I think the fascination started before Finding Nemo, but I didn't start scuba diving until 2006, so I can't be completely sure.

I think the little guy in this first photo is a pink anemone fish (Amphiprion perideraion). I make no claims at being a fish taxonomist and I didn't use a fish guidebook, I just looked at pictures on Google.

Amphiprion chrysopterus
I think this guy is an orange-fin anemonefish (Amphiprion chrysopterus). This photo would be great for a caption contest, but no one reads this blog anymore so it's not worth asking for entries.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Ikelite AF35 Strobe Kit

whitetip reef shark
I'm traveling again for a few more weeks, thus the dearth of regular blog postings.  Will I post or won't I post more?  Depends.


I bought myself a new toy right before I left, an Ikelite Autoflash AF35 strobe kit for my underwater housing (I use a Canon PowerShot SX210IS with the corresponding Ikelite housing).

I'm no professional photographer, but I'd say it helps take better photos. This whitetip reef shark agrees.  I put the Ikelite AF35 on The Saipan Blog recommended product list (if there was one).

Friday, March 11, 2011

Two Foot Tsunami Hits Saipan

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center releases data on tsunamis and the all clear is usually given online several hours before the local Emergency Management Office catches up. For example, as I type this, PTWC has update #8 posted, while EMO is still on #5. EMO always gets annoyed when the radio stations, bloggers, and Facebook users report on the PTWC updates, but whatever.

PTWC is reporting that Saipan was hit by a 2.1 ft tsunami at 9:16 GMT (which I think is 7:16 PM Chamorro Standard Time). That's the measure from sea level to crest, not crest to trough, so maybe the wave looked bigger than two feet when it came ashore.

So it looks like Saipan was spared again.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Japan: Five Years Revisited

Five years ago I lived in Takaoka, Japan. How frickin' crazy is that? I feel like I've lived several lifetimes since then, but five years ago really isn't that long ago. But whatevs. I do miss my rockin' mullet, though.

In the five years since I left I haven't spent more than a few hours in Japan at a time.  There have been a few occasions where I have a long layover in Narita and I leave the airport to go visit Narita City.  Last Friday was one of those occasions.

Japan Rail runs right out of Narita Airport and Narita City is the first stop after you get on.  Trains leave the airport every hour at about the top of the hour at exactly the time specified on the schedule.  A round trip ticket is 480 Yen, which I had got from of an ATM machine just outside customs and immigration.

One could just wander around Narita City for a few hours, maybe holed up at a sushi-ya throwing back a few Asahi and sampling some endangered species.  Another option is to walk about half a mile to visit Naritasan Temple.  Finding the temple is easy.  When you walk out of the station, turn left down the one way street with all the shops and keep walking until you see the temple.

Along the street are a number of shops and restaurants.  At 9:15 AM not much is going on.  I guess the breakfast scene isn't all that big in Narita.

There is a chinese medicine shop along the left hand side just before the temple that sells all sorts of animals products and by-products banned by international treaties.  Poor sex life got you down?  How about some ground-up tiger penis?

I learned during my time in Japan that there are Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples.  Naritasan is a temple, so that makes it Buddhist.  Or something like that.

In front of the temple are various stone steles and engraved statues and lanterns.  There is a small pond with some turtles.  A big rock in the middle is shaped like a turtle, too.  Just past the first two structures of the temple is a steep staircase.

And at the top you are greeted by the main structure of the temple.  If you wait around long enough you'll likely see some ceremony.  I didn't see one this time, but if memory serves me correct a big thing about this temple is fire and smoke -- but it's been a while and my memory is hazy from too many night's drinking Bud Lite on Saipan.

Last Friday there wasn't a cloud in the sky above Narita and it made for some great photo taking.  My photos don't capture it, but the lines and angles and textures found throughout the temple grounds are really interesting.  Maybe when I'm in my 60's I'll spend my days photographing Japanese temples.  This seems to be a common hobby among Japan's retirees.

I still haven't been to Japan to see the cherry blossoms.  There were some blooms, but I think these are plum trees, ume (oo-may), in Japanese.

For centuries, perhaps millenia, Japanese artists have tried to capture the essence of the spring blossoms.  Here is my 13 second attempt with my canon point and shoot.

One day I'll get there at just the right time.  I always seem to be just a bit too early or just a bit too late.

The last time I walked around Naritasan Temple I could hear a waterfall.  I actually found it on this trip.

And this is getting kind of long and I really don't have too much else to say, so here are a few more pictures:

Monday, March 07, 2011

Seeing Results

Not that I've been obsessing over my weight these last few months, I've just wondered if I'd actually lose any weight with 2011 in 2011.  In the last 45 days I've traveled from DC to Guam to Saipan back to Guam again to Saipan then on to Fiji and back to Saipan before finally returning to DC.  I haven't stepped on a scale in all that time.

The first thing I did when I got home was take a shower.  Man, sitting on a plane for all those hours sure builds up a stink.  The second thing I did was step on my scale, followed by this quick photo.

If you can ignore the giant blister on my right toe, you can see that I've dropped to 201.1 lbs.  That makes me smaller than the last time (or was it the second to last time) I tried losing weight.  I'm literally skinnier than I've been in years -- and in all honesty, I'm still pretty fat!

The next big milestone will be getting under 200.  I haven't been that light on my toes since at least the middle of 2008, maybe late 2007.

So I ran 4 miles today, bringing my total miles logged for 2011 to 175.5. With 300 days left in the year, I have 1835.5 miles to go before I reach my goal of running 2011 miles in 2011.

In other news, I was able to spend a few days on Saipan after the Fiji trip, but before returning to DC.  This visit was all about relaxing and spending time with Edz.  I did see some people, though.  Gordon Salas made me this great sinahi and I picked it up on my last day.

That same night I also saw some of my favorite Beautify CNMI people.  Beautify CNMI turns 5 years old next month and we had fun reminiscing on all the good times.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Yasawa Islands, Fiji

yasawa islands fiji
Saying "bula" all the time takes some getting used to. It is welcoming and excited at the same time. My first thoughts compared it to Hawaii's "aloha" and Saipan's "hafa adai," but bula is used more often than those words, I think. You can even say it a few times in succession to add emphasis -- bula, bula, bula!

And sad to say, that's about the extent of my understanding of the Fijian language.

octopus resort waya island
The staff of Octopus Resort came out to greet my landing boat with a chorus of bulas and a song. But I think I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me explain.

fijian bure
The flights to Fiji from Guam arrive on different days as the flights from Los Angeles, so I arrived about a full day before the rest of my associates. I had the option of staying near the airport, traveling on ahead to our first destination, or doing something completely on my own. As these pictures show, I chose the third option.

fiji hibiscus
Using the wonders of the Internet, I was able to book a bure -- a Fijian hut of sorts -- for one night on an island I'd never heard of in a country I'd not yet been to. Waya is the largest island in the Yasawas, I think, and is home to Octopus Resort, the kind of place you dreamed existed, but could never be sure until seeing it with your own eyes.

octopus resort fiji
The resort is tiny, with about 20 small bures on a short spit of sand.  There is a swimming pool, a covered restaurant in the sand, and a spattering of tanned Western travelers from places like Australia, Iceland, and Wisconsin.  There were even a few Canadians.  Like all resorts, there is a list of daily activities that included learning Fijian culture, visiting neighboring villages, and getting your face wet.  There were less culturally immersive activities, too.  The night I stayed there we played shots for shots volleyball.

octopus resort fiji
I did my best to stay wet. I got in one dive the afternoon I arrived and two dives the morning I left. I found a whitetip reef shark on the second dive and a fully grown Napoleon wrasse on the third. We used to have those big fish on Saipan -- but spearfishermen keep killing them. They are a protected species in Fiji.

big yellow boat fiji
And before I could really get comfortable or relax, my one day in the Yasawas was over. From Nadi to Waya I took the hotel's speedboat, but on the way back I took the Big Yellow Boat along with about 200 tourists of varying hues of pink, red, and golden.

And that is where I had my first taste of true Fijian hospitality. Three hours after boarding the ferry on Waya, I found my laptop case to be missing.

"Are you Mr. Veelya?," asked the woman who worked on the boat. "We've been paging you since Waya. Maybe you did not understand the way we pronounced your name?"

From Villagomez to Veelya? Ya think?

Turns out my laptop was sitting back at Waya. And I was about to leave Nadi for Pacific Harbor. And that's when something amazing happened. The nice man trying to sell me Wyndham timeshares on the dock said he'd help me get my laptop back.

I had Octopus Resort's phone number, so he called them up on his cellphone, arranged for the computer bag to be delivered the next day (the Big Yellow Boat is owned by a different company), told them to deliver it to him at his timeshare gazebo, and that he'd send it to my hotel in Pacific Harbor. He said he'd give the driver F$10 for his troubles.

I can sum that up nice and tight, but in reality it took about an hour to confirm this plan. Afterwards my new friend even offered to take me to my hotel.

So did I get my laptop the next day?

Nope. The hotel forgot to put it on the ferry and it got to spend another night in the Yasawas. When I got the call from my friend the timeshare salesman, he promised it would be on the next ferry.

And it was!

Bula, Fiji!