Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Widget Me This

So an organization that I may or may not have links to (my two readers know) created an embeddable widget using some photos I took. This blog post is not associated with any organization. I am the Saipan Blogger and I approve this message.

Thanksgiving Sushi

Edz and I celebrated our first Thanksgiving together as a married couple at Aqua Resort Club. They had a brunch buffett with all the trimmings one would expect at Thanksgiving.  And a band!  You can't tell from this photo, but they are singing Y.M.C.A.

You know, like sushi.  But that's not all I had.  They also had turkey, stuffing, and instant mashed potatoes.  Really, instant mashed potatoes?  That was pretty lame.  The smoked ham more than made up for it though.

For someone her size, Edz can really pack the food away. She was putting pressure on me to get up with her to get more food.

I was quite happy with my coffee. I've become spoiled in the last two years with convenient access to decent coffee. None of the restaurants in Saipan serve decent coffee.

If all goes according to plan we'll be spending next Thanksgiving somewhere in the continental United States, most likely somewhere around Washington, DC.

And since a brunch buffet doesn't fill you up for the day, around dinner time we went out for steaks at Country House. It's not saying much, but I think Country House has the best steaks on Saipan. At the very least, when you order a steak, you at least get what you ordered. The other steak house around the corner runs out of...never mind. I'm over it.

And that was Thanksgiving 2011. Will it be my last one on Saipan for a while? Never say never, I guess.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Walking the Dogs

Edz and I did things besides get married last week.  Here we are walking the dogs along Beach Road.

 The two dogs have very different walking styles.  Oreo likes to go, go, go, while Snowhite likes to look, look, look.

Like all dogs, going for a walk is the greatest thing under the sun.  Edz enjoys them, too.

And this is the 1000th tree that I helped plant in 2006.  Whenever I visit, I like to check on my trees.

Eden's Wedding

Let's be honest for a moment, shall we?  The groom gets no respect.  Nobody wants to talk to the groom.  Nobody wants to see pictures of the groom.  Weddings are all about the bride.  And you know what?  I'm alright with that.

After being given away by June and serenaded by the Kaipat Family Singers (ladies and gentlemen, the Kaipat Family Singers!), it was time for Edz and me to get this wedding ceremony thing out of the way.

After flying across the planet, chartering a boat, ordering enough cupcakes to feed an army (pictures of the cupcake wedding cake in an upcoming post, I promise), oh, and three and a half years of dating, it was time to actually get married.  Whoa.

The ceremony was a lot of fun and there were a lot of smiles.  True, one person who shall go unnamed was bawling her eyes out, but for the most part people were laughing and smiling and enjoying our special moment.

Most of all, Edz was having a good time.  We picked the windiest day of the week to get married on the ocean, so the ceremony was performed at the dock before we launched.  Even then, the boat was rocking side to side and back and forth.

This made several people, including Edz' mom, seasick, but it added to the fun.  It's a good thing Edz was wearing those shoes to keep her steady.

More than one person joked that we still had time to get out of the wedding because the boat was still at the dock.  Ha, ha ha.  Honestly, I was so into the moment (and focused on NOT dropping the rings into the ocean), that I didn't realize Edz was laughing this much.

And then things got serious when it was time to take our vows.  We didn't write our vows or anything, and just opted for the usual (although somebody took out 'honor and obey!'  WTF!)  We also didn't have bridesmaids or groomsmen.  CNMI law requires that weddings have two witnesses, so we had Mom and Brad do it.  Judge Alex Castro asked them to stand behind us during the ceremony.

This is the obligatory holding hands shot, before the rings were on our fingers.

I kind of like how Jim is taking a picture in the background.  Yes, this is a beautiful moment, wait let me take a picture!

And then I place my ring onto Edz' finger.

Then Edz places her ring onto mine.

And makes double sure that it is on there and won't come off.

And yippee!  We're married!

You may kiss the bride!

And let the good times begin!

Why is Edz so tall?

If you'll notice in the last blog post, Edz appears to be just a few inches shorter than me. How did that happen? The answer, of course, is in her shoes:

How about those babies?

Walking Down the Aisle

Edz' father lives in the Philippines and wasn't able to make it to the wedding. We asked 10 year old Jun Kaipat Lizama to walk her down the aisle in his place.

I've known Jun since he was four. It seems like only yesterday we were celebrating his fifth birthday at a BBQ on Laulau Beach.

And here Edz takes the long walk down the aisle. On the boat, the long walk was all of about 10 feet.

I thanked Jun for giving Edz away with a firm handshake.  He's smiling, too.

Is that the papparazzi in the background? I do like all of the smiles, though.  Jun gave Edz away with kiss.

And with that out of the way, we were ready to get hitched.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Nothing Like Waiting to the Last Minute

"Look, the people you are after are the people you depend on: we cook your meals, we haul your trash, we connect your calls, we drive your ambulances, we guard you while you sleep. Do not fuck with us."
Tyler Durden
Fight Club
A segment of the population is celebrating this morning as USCIS just announced they are going to grant parole to foreign residents that meet the criteria for CNMI-only "permanent" residency under Delegate Sablan's HR 1466. This means that approximately 4,000 (or 11,000 if you believe the governor) foreign residents will be able to legally remain in the Commonwealth until December 31, 2012. This will allow time for Sablan to secure passage of HR 1466.

Here is the news release from USCIS:
Parole for Immediate Relatives of U.S. Citizens and Certain Stateless Individuals

Based on recent developments in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), USCIS will consider, on a case by case basis, a grant of parole until Dec. 31, 2012 to the immediate relatives of U.S. citizens and certain “stateless” individuals. This will allow immediate relatives of U.S. citizens and stateless individuals to maintain legal status in the CNMI. With the expiration of umbrella permits on Nov. 27, 2011, immediate relatives and certain stateless individuals may not have another option under U.S. immigration law. We will release guidance for applying for this kind of parole soon. We encourage you to continue checking www.uscis.gov/cnmi for updates on the latest guidance.

USCIS has exercised parole authority on a case-by-case basis in the CNMI since 2009 for special situations.

Who can stay in the CNMI after Nov. 27, 2011 and apply for this type of parole?

You may be eligible to stay in the CNMI and apply for parole if you are:

  • An immediate relative of a U.S. citizen. An immediate relative is: a legal spouse, unmarried child under 21 years old or parent (regardless of the age of the U.S. citizen child) who is legally present and resides in the CNMI as of Nov. 27, 2011
  • A foreign national born in what is now the CNMI between Jan. 1, 1974 and Jan. 9, 1978 (this group of individuals is sometimes referred to as “stateless” because of their unique situation under the Covenant Act establishing eligibility for U.S. citizenship of individuals born in the CNMI); or
  • A child (unmarried under 21 years old) or legal spouse of a foreign national who was born in what is now the CNMI between Jan. 1, 1974 and Jan. 9, 1978 (also known as a stateless individual).

Applying for Parole
If you are eligible for this kind of parole, we ask that you DO NOT apply for parole until USCIS announces more specific details on how to apply.

USCIS is providing this initial information in order to address concerns of this group of CNMI residents in light of the pending Nov.27, 2011 expiration of umbrella permits to assist them in making appropriate plans for the future.

If you are eligible for this type of parole, you cannot work or apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) until you are authorized for parole. A grant of parole will provide continuing lawful presence after Nov. 27, 2011 and authorize you to apply for an EAD.

Foreign workers (aliens) working only under an umbrella permit are not authorized to be employed in the CNMI on or after Nov. 28, 2011 except for certain beneficiaries of transitional worker (CW) petitions.
I have been silent on the immigration issue for several months now, partly because I didn't want to stick my foot in my mouth for saying something foolish, but also because the issue is complicated and multifaceted, and I was digesting the issues as developments took place.

I do not live and breathe the CNMI immigration issue the way many other people do. I read the local newspapers each day and read Wendy Doromal's blog. I also catch the posts of my friends on Facebook. From what I can tell, this development is a good one for a limited number of contract workers, and buys time to improve on Delegate Sablan's flawed HR 1466.

As Wendy Doromal has repeatedly pointed out, HR 1466 ignores 3/4 of the long term CNMI foreign workers. This means that people like Edz' mom, Emilia, who has lived and worked in the Commonwealth since 1993, giving the best years of her life to the development of the islands, will be shipped back to a country that for all purposes, is no longer her home. She's paid her taxes and never committed a crime. Under the American system she would have become a citizen over a decade ago, but under the CNMI system she was kept a second class citizen, unable to vote, and in danger of being sent "home" every year when her contract was renewed.

That is shameful and un-American. I think of my Irish family during the late 1800s and early 1900s. What if after spending a lifetime laboring in garment (!) factories, they had been sent "home" to Ireland to grow potatoes. Even considering that is outrageous, but for some reason no one has a problem doing this here.

Deporting the backbone of the local economy is going to have devastating repercussions to the quality of life here, but one cannot expect lifelong government bureaucrats to grasp the importance of having people who know how to create commerce. Throw in a little racism, alright, let's make it a lot of racism, and the mix is toxic.

Even Newt Gingrich is to the left of Sablan and the majority of the indigenous population on this issue. During the last Republican Presidential debate he stated, "If you've been here 25 years, and you got three kids and two grandkids, you've been paying taxes and obeying the law, you belong to a local church, I don't think we're gonna separate you from your family, uproot you forcefully, and kick you out."

The other problems with Sablan's HR 1466, which can hopefully be ruled unconstitutional before advancing to the Senate, are that the bill creates a non-voting, permanent underclass of foreign-born residents and restricts travel to other US states and territories.  Others have compared this to Jim Crow, the black codes, and apartheid, which sounds really horrible and insulting on the surface, but if you actually look how Jim Crow, the black codes, and apartheid functioned, they are strikingly similar to HR 1466.  Pick your metaphor, but somebody has to call a spade a spade.

It is no secret that immigration has been a major component of America's greatness.  It has worked incredibly well for 235 years.  This new model of immigration makes me uneasy.

Many will rejoice that they will likely be granted second class citizenship in the near future, and I am embarrassed that this is the best America can do for them.  This is not the American dream, and if it spreads to the 50 states could become the American nightmare.

Thank you, Heineken

One of these days Edz and I will get around to having kids.  And as those kids grow up and reach the age of legal alcohol consumption, I will tell them that their parents' wedding was sponsored by Heineken.  They won't believe me, but then I'll pull this banner out of a closet.

Monday, November 21, 2011

One Day of Married Bliss

We're still waiting for the photos from our wedding photographer, but that hasn't stopped us from taking pictures of ourselves. Here we are during sunset happy hour at the Hyatt Regency Saipan.

Last night was also Mom's last night on Saipan. After the Hyatt, we had deep fried happy goodness at Godfather's, and then went home early (10:30 PM!) to pack.

I should be able to knock out a few blog posts this week. The only thing Edz and I have to do this week is eat turkey.

Edz & Angelo's Big Fat Facebook Wedding

In today's world, hundreds of photos of your wedding pop up on the Internet before one gets the *official* photos from the wedding photographer. At least that's the case with Edz and me. Raquel, David, Jolens (most of the photos of her), GusCarmen, and Josephine already have some great photos up on their Facebook pages. Come back to this blog later this week for the *official* photos!

Getting Ready

I don't know painters that have this many brushes, but this is the toolbelt of a wedding makeup artist.  I learn fun new things every day.  Honestly, I didn't know the face had enough areas to require all this.

Oreo did an excellent job of guarding the sparkling wine ahead of the ceremony. He guaranteed that nobody opened a bottle until we were ready to have the toast.

I like this photo for some reason. That's the makeup artist pinning my pink rose on my lapel. I'm checking the dozens of facebook comments I was getting leading up to the ceremony. Love you guys!

And here I am with Mom ready to head off to get hitched.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Spending Time With Family

I think Mom is doing her best Katy Perry impression, while Oreo hopes I'm saying his name because I want to give him some bacon.  Is it Wednesday already?  The wedding is in three days?  I should probably be more stressed out.

Oreo and Snowhite got baths today.  Like my brother Alex, Oreo doesn't really enjoy soap.  Snowhite thinks they are great.

She just doesn't like air conditioning.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Island Days

Life on Saipan is good. I've been back for three days and have been making the rounds, dropping off wedding invitations and taking in the sites.  We're still working out the wedding invitations.  We're getting married on a boat and we have 80 spots.  We're still chasing down RSVPs.

Also, during Saturday's tour of Marpi, Edz and I made it official.  That's Bird Island in the background, one of the more picturesque places on the island.

Edz literally jumped for joy.  Woo hoo.

I jumped for joy, too, but not nearly as cute.  And contrary to certain opinions, that photo in my last post is not photoshopped, nor did I jump off the picnic table.

I've had the chance to catch up with some friends.  The Kaipat Family Singers are now the choir at St. Jude's Catholic Church, and after service on Sunday, Cinta and Gus came out for breakfast.  Gus' photo was of focus, so Cinta gets posted.  Nice photo, ne?

And I've had the chance to get wet.  I bought about $800 of underwater photo equipment before this trip, which I got to try out earlier this morning with Dive Master extraordinaire Harry Blalock of the one-of-a-kind Axe Murderer Tours.

One of my photo equipment purchases was an Ikelite blue-water filter.  These two photos show the results of with and without.  A good purchase, says me.

Laulau Bay's resident baitball of bigeye scad has grown to gargantuan proportions.  Getting the whole swarm into a single frame proved difficult, and getting the settings right was hard, but I think these shots turned out alright.

The pink tint is from the filter.  I was interacting with the fish between 30-45 feet of depth, and they were anywhere from 2 feet to 30 feet away from me.

Now I'm colorblind, so I don't get colors exactly right, but like Goldilocks, I found the photos came out best if the fish were close, but not too close.  Or maybe that's Daedalus and Icarus.  Whatever.

We've still got some invitations to give out and RSVPs to chase down, and we hope to go to Managaha and Forbidden Island.  Even so, I feel the time slipping away.  Five days and counting until the wedding...