Friday, August 30, 2013

Getting Ready for PIF


The Marshall Islands are putting their best face forward for the Pacific Islands Forum.  The 400 delegates to the annual meeting have already begun to arrive (including me, of course!), and final preparations are being made to make Majuro sparkle.  As I drove along Majuro's main road this morning residents were out en masse putting down fresh coats of paint, sweeping the road, and trimming trees.


The main activities for the meeting will take place in Delap.  In Delap Park, workers are building thatch buildings to represent the different types of traditional houses built on the different islands.  There will be a night market here every night.  I posted a few more photos to Facebook if you are interested.


This is the big intersection next to Delap Park.  Notice the orange sign in the middle of the median.  It points to other countries in the region and their distance.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Back in the RMI

I HEART SPAM
The mullet is gone. I'm attending the Pacific Islands Forum in Majuro next week, so I figured I'd try to at least look somewhat professional. And this is my new favorite shirt.  I won't be wearing it at the meeting though.  Aloha shirts will abound.

Arno from the South, I think.
This is my fifth trip to the Marshall Islands. I first game here in 2007 for a Micronesians in Island Conservation retreat. I came here again in 2011 to support the creation of the Marshall Islands shark sanctuary. In 2012, I visited with Shawn Heinrichs and we took photos of sharks. And this is my second trip this year.

This was the first time I landed from the East. As we were coming in we flew over Arno, pictured above. There's a small population living there, but I couldn't see where!

And you thought you lived close to the ocean!
Majuro has a lot more people. I snapped this photo and a few more.

Stefani is a shark champ living in Hawaii.  We were on the flight together.
And I was greeted by this great sign at the airport! This was one of the photos that Shawn took. I think it is from Kwajalein, but don't remember exactly. There is an identical sign at the Marshall Islands Resort.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Comment on the Sanctuary Nomination Process

Angelo of Maug on the shores of, um, Maug
There are four days remaining to comment on the reestablishment of the National Marine Sanctuary nomination process. See this announcement from NOAA.  More info can be found here with snippets pasted below:
NOAA's ONMS is announcing that it is re-establishing the sanctuary nomination process and is proposing to amend its regulations governing the process for nominating and evaluating sites for eligibility as a national marine sanctuary. This action would replace the currently inactive Sanctuary Evaluation List (SEL) with a new process for local communities and other interested parties to provide NOAA with robust, criteria-driven proposals for new national marine sanctuaries. To implement this process, NOAA is seeking public comment on proposed changes to the sanctuary nomination and designation procedures, and on the criteria by which the agency would analyze nominations for potential new national marine sanctuaries. Once these criteria have been made final, NOAA intends to solicit nominations for areas of the marine and Great Lakes environments that satisfy those criteria for possible designation as a national marine sanctuary.
You can comment using the federal e-commenting portal.  Click on Comment Now! to add your voice.  You write out your comment using the online form, upload a letter, and upload supporting documents.  I've already added my comments, if you are so inspired to copy them.
I would hope that individuals and community groups would be allowed to put forth areas for consideration as potentional national marine sanctuaries. One excellent area NOAA should consider are the federal waters around the Northern Mariana Islands in the western Pacific. I've attached a report that explains some of the natural resources found there, including biological diverse coral reefs, marine mammals, sharks, and thermal vent communities. There are existing marine protected areas in federal waters that could be converted to National Marine Sanctuaries, as well as unprotected areas worthy of protection and management. With almost 1/2 million visitors to Saipan each year, a visitors center interpreting a new National Marine Sanctuary, as well as the existing national park, national wildlife refuges, and numerous local protected areas, would serve the local population as well as serve as a cornerstone of economic development for the tourism industry there. In 2008, 6,000 (out of 50,000) local residents petitioned the White House for a national marine sanctuary, so NOAA will find that there is a lot of local support for a new sanctuary.
The report I reference is The Deepest Ocean on Earth: A Scientific Case for Establishing the Mariana Trench Marine National Monument.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Cultural Misunderstandings Over Breakfast

We go bike riding at least once a week now.  I'm still fat.
Like all married couples, Edz and I have fallen into routines.  This is not a criticism of a boring life, the opposite is actually true.  I'm on the road a lot, seeing new things, and Edz gets to tag along on about every fourth or fifth trip.  In her first year in the United States she got to spend a week in San Francisco, a month in the Philippines, two weeks in Florida, plus two weeks in Saipan.  Two months of vacation?  That makes her practically European.

But when we are both home we have started routines.  Saturdays are slow.  We usually sleep in until about 9 or 10 AM and then we make a big breakfast.  We take turns cooking, although no one keeps score as to whose turn it is.  When it is waffle day, I cook.  She always makes the longanisa.

Longanisa are these thick spicy red sausages that are somewhat sweet.  We get them at H-Mart, which has an amazing selection of Filipino brands that elicits squeals when Edz finds them.  Edz boils the sausages and then grills them right before we eat.  We usually serve them up with scrambled eggs and garlic rice, with a Filipino brand vinegar dipping sauce and hot pepper.

A few weeks ago I returned home from the Marshall Islands a few days before Edz returned from Saipan. Before we left I had emptied the fridge of everything that could go bad, and not wanting Edz to come home to no food, I went to H-Mart to stock up on the things she likes.

Little did I know that Edz would bring her own food back from Saipan.

This past Saturday Edz decided she'd be the cook.  She made me coffee and while she busied herself, I sat at the dining room table and read a book -- the fourth Game of Thrones book if you are interested.

In the whole wide world there are very few smells better than that of grilling pork fat.  I could hear the pork sizzle as Edz dropped it into the hot frying pan and wafts of happy smelling porky sausage happiness filled every corner of the house.  My mouth watered at the thought of my amazing breakfast.

And then I started to smell something like burning garbage.  This had me worried.  I bought a new brand of longanisa this time because the store was out of our usual.  Could the difference in brands really be that different?  What was going on?

"Edz, what is that smell?" I asked.

"My tuyo.  Fish."

That's not food, that's bait.
Tuyo, as it turns out, is the most horrible smelling food known to man.  I though balut was bad.  This stuff knocks balut off the nasty food hall of fame list.  Tuyo is bait fish left outside to rot, seasoned with fly droppings, stored for about a year, and then deep fried when it comes time to eat.

The smell was so horrible that I had to go sit outside.   I took my book and my coffee and sat out on the porch.  I lost all my appetite for the delicious, happy longanisa.  My rice, eggs, and sausage sat untouched on my plate.

Her feelings a little hurt from this cultural misunderstanding, Edz took to Facebook to find solace in her Filipina mafia.  Within minutes, half a dozen of her friends admitted they weren't allowed to cook tuyo while their American husbands were around, either.

Welcome to the tuyo ban, Edz!

Order Revolution on DVD

Order Revolution on DVD
Rob's new film is available on DVD!  We love it -- an not just because our friends are in it.
Revolution is a film about changing the world. The true-life adventure of Rob Stewart, this follow-up to his acclaimed Sharkwater documentary continues his remarkable journey; one that will take him through 15 countries over four years, and where he'll discover that it's not only sharks that are in danger - it's humanity itself. In an effort to uncover the truth and find the secret to saving the ecosystems we depend on for survival, Stewart embarks on a life-threatening adventure. From the coral reefs in Papua New Guinea and deforestation in Madagascar to the largest and most destructive environmental project in history in Alberta, Canada, he reveals that all of our actions are inter connected and that environmental degradation, species loss, ocean acidification, pollution and food/water scarcity are reducing the Earth's ability to house humans. How did this happen, and what will it take to change the course that humanity has set itself on? Travelling the globe to meet with the dedicated individuals and organizations working on a solution, Stewart finds encouragement and hope, pointing to the revolutions of the past and how we've evolved and changed our course in times of necessity. If people were informed about what was really going on, they would fight for their future - and the future of other generations. From the evolution of our species to the revolution to save it, Stewart and his team take viewers on a groundbreaking mission into the greatest war ever waged. Startiling, beautiful, and provocative, Revolution inspires audiences from across the globe to start a revolution and change the world forever.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Jetlag, Again

My natural hair color...in 1997
Sitting awake in the middle of the night is my new hobby.  It used to be collecting baseball cards, then running, then blogging.  Now I just collect frequent flyer miles.  I got back from Pohnpei on Thursday. And my next trip is already in sight.  Between my recently completed trips and my upcoming participation in the Pacific Islands Forum, I'll have spent all of 5 1/2 days in the office out of the last seven weeks.  I started in Saipan for Joelin and Brian's wedding, spent a day in Guam in transit, then a night and a day in Pohnpei in transit, got stranded in Kwajalein for a day and a night, then a week in Majuro, the weekend in DC and two meetings on Monday, almost two weeks in Pohnpei, this week I'm in DC, and then it's back to Majuro next Tuesday for about two weeks.  A blessing some would say, but one does tire of hotels and restaurants.  Oh, and I miss my wife.

Not that travel doesn't have its perks.  I reached United 1K Premier status some time last September and now I get upgraded to business three out of nearly every four flights, not that I've been keeping track.  And Edz likes the free travel.  Last year I flew her to San Francisco, Manila, Saipan, and Orlando for free.

But before you get all jealous, it's worth pointing out that I spent all of three days in the last two months at the beach.  The photos on this blog and posted to this Facebook album are from two of those days.

You never know when you'll need a photo of a mangrove
I admit I get to go to amazing places and work with incredible people.  But I'm not out on the high seas chasing down rogue shark fishermen.  For the most part I'm sitting in conference rooms, feverishly taking notes and trying to apply what I hear to policy asks and communication products.  Last week I was an observer at the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission Science Committee where they were considering stock assessments for blue and silky sharks.  It's amazing to watch the back and forth between the member countries and to get to talk to them in person.  Surprisingly (or not), there is a lot of politics in science.  Some of the delegates are more than happy to talk to you.  How often do you get to talk to people from Niue and Kiribati?  And be honest, how many of you can even find those places on a map?

The Rocks of Nan Madol
Last Sunday there was a field trip for the WCPFC meeting delegates.  People from the EU, USA, New Caledonia, French Polynesia, Solomon Islands, Australia, and maybe a few others that I'm forgetting hopped on a small boat and went snorkeling with manta rays and coral reefs.  We also visited the ruins of Nan Madol.  I've only posted four photos here, but I've got a lot more posted on Facebook.

Shark Point
There's a story in Pohnpei about this particular part of Nan Madol called Shark Point.  According to legend, before you go swimming there, you have to throw rocks into the water.  I remember doing this as a kid in Saipan.  We used to stand on the edge of Forbidden Island or Bonzai Cliff and throw rocks into the water until either a shark or a turtle, or hopefully both, would surface.  In Pohnpei, if sharks came up to the surface it meant that it was safe to jump in.  If there were no sharks, it was not safe to jump in.  While that might sound counterintuitive, if the sharks came to the surface and you jumped in, then they thought you were just another rock and would leave you alone.

So as I sit here at 3:44 AM, I am pondering what I am going to do with my 5 days in the office before I head off on another sharky adventure.  It's a bit overwhelming.  I have a lot of writing to do, phonecalls to make, and catching up to do.  And I'm going to do it while sleep deprived.  Wish me luck.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Hotel Kwajalein

The Department of Homeland Security is likely to put me on the no-fly list for publishing these photos of the Kwajalein airport departure lounge. You might remember how a few posts back I got stranded in Kwajalein for 16 hours after my United Airlines flight had a mechanical failure. They didn't have the part on the base and had to fly in a new plane from Hawaii. Unfortunately for me, Hawaii was being slammed by a typhoon just as our plane was breaking down. Oh well. This airline blanket was my bed on Monday, July 29.  The airport only had enough chairs for about half the people and I wasn't about to be that guy.

No room service
The military doesn't allow photos at the airport.  When your plane lands the captain makes an announcement and if you are caught taking photos you are forced to delete them under the watchful eye of an official.  But once you leave the airport, as an American citizen you get to take all the photos you want.  Here are some photos I took last September.

Tip included
But for whatever reason, on this trip the military wasn't letting any of us leave the airport.  Which kind of sucked because the base has a Subway, Burger King, and pizza joint, not to mention a beach bar.  So instead this was my restaurant.  We were also given an endless supply of sodas and pretzels, plus a single slice of pizza after five hours and a donut about two hours before we left.  To compensate, United gave me 15,000 frequent flier miles.  That would normally cost $564.38 to outright purchase, but isn't enough to pay for a roundtrip domestic flight.  I guess I'll take what I can get.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Joelin and Brian's Big Fat Saipan Wedding

Purple is the new pink.
This is the only proof that I was invited to Joelin and Brian's nuptials in Saipan last week.  Would it be too much to ask my wife to take the camera out of my hands and snap my photo once in a while?  I mean, come on!  I even wore my good zorries.

I want to see your peacock.
Towards the end of the reception guests were asked to get up on stage and give a message to the bride and groom.  Edz was super excited about giving a message.  Well, let me rephrase that a bit.  Edz was excited about me giving a message on her behalf.  We got up on stage (the only couple to do so, I might add) and she managed to spit out, "Congrats, he's lucky, you're beautiful!" before handing me the microphone.  I thanked them for sharing their special day with us, and for waiting until after most of her friends were married before putting on such a lavish celebration.  I mean, just look at that dress!  The ante has officially been upped.

Skinny Asian Girl
Fat White Guy at Godfathers
I Hear Wedding Bells
Long time readers of this blog know that all proper Saipan celebrations include a stop at Godfathers bar in Garapan.  And yes, I was asked, ordered rather, to be the official after party photographer.  I've posted about 100 photos to The Saipan Blog Facebook Page if you really want to see them all.

Never give Edz a microphone.  And I mean never.