Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013

Edz and I have a lot to be thankful for this year. I somehow landed in a career that I would do for free if money were not an issue, which of course it is. My work continues to be fulfilling and successful and I was rewarded with a promotion last month. My work has taken on a global scale that I never could have imagined; this year I traveled to Thailand, Palau, Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, and Fiji on behalf of the sharks. On Friday I’m going to Australia. And despite the economic downturn, Edz also found success in her work.

My family remains healthy, despite one of us getting hit by a car in April. And our clan grew by one. I grew by a few chins and chub rolls, which I’m not really thankful for.

We both miss life and friends in Saipan terribly, but had the good fortune to be able to visit this year (as I have every year since 2005). We try to keep those relationships alive and strong. Facebook and Skype helps, but the 8,000 miles separating us makes it hard.

I am thankful for the political reforms that are taking place on Saipan. It is too early to tell if the groundswell of opposition to Governor Fitial were a play for power by his opposition or a game changing move against corruption, but either way it was the right thing to do. The opposition to the militarization of the Marianas is also encouraging and appears organic. I hope some elected officials take strong stands against it and if we’re lucky it will become a campaign issue next fall.

And the Red Sox won the World Series.  Let's not forget that.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

#DrownYourIsland Micronesia

Fina Sisu could be oceanfront property in 100 years
Last September I attended the Pacific Islands Forum held in the Marshall Islands, a country whose highest point in its 1.9 million square kilometer territory is a three meter high bridge connecting two islands on the atoll of Majuro.  The theme of the meeting was Marshaling a Response to Climate Change, the result being a Majuro Declaration for Climate Leadership.

One of the major threats of climate change is sea level rise.  I am not an expert on climate change, nor do I consider myself one of its crusaders, but according to this National Geographic website, the worst case scenario for climate change is a seven meter rise in sea levels (not to mention stronger storms and the acidity of the ocean).

Majuro and the rest of the Marshall Islands would be completely submerged if sea levels rose 7 meters.
If this worst case scenario were to occur, Majuro and the tens of thousands of people living there would go under.  Using Google Earth I've created several maps for a few islands in Micronesia I've been to including Pohnpei, Chuuk, Rota, Tinian, and Ebeye.  I've posted them all to Facebook.

The evil genius behind this technology is fellow blogger Andrew Thaler over at Southern Fried Science.  I've called it #DrownYourIsland, but Andrew calls it #DrownYourTown (You can search the hashtag #DrownYourTown to see havoc wrecked all across the planet).  He's got simple instructions on his blog on how to drown your own town, and if you want to know why this matters you can read about it in Scientific American and Salon.

Tweet or Facebook me your island and I'll drown it, or make suggestions in the comments section of this blog.  I'll post the results to Facebook.

Maybe I won't buy that house in Soutwest
As a bonus I went ahead and drowned Washington, DC, my current village, up to seven meters.  Goods news is that even though my apartment building will flood, I live on the third floor and my stuff will stay dry.  Bad news is I'll have to swim to work.

Eastern Market

Fall in our nation's capital is coming to an end. It's that perfect time of year when it is not too hot or not too cold to walk around the city. And the autumn leaves aren't too shabby, either.

Edz and I have made a couple of trips to Eastern Market recently. It's a two stop metro ride, 10 minute bike ride, or 30 minute walk from our apartment.

Farmer's markets are the foundation of civilization and there are few things in life more enjoyable that picking out fresh vegetables, sipping espresso at a sidewalk table, browsing art you'd never buy, and mingling with your fellow villagers.

However, I think the vegetables are more expensive than they are at H-Mart, but they've got some things like squash blooms that Edz likes.  Oh, the sacrifices we make for squash blooms.

Inside the covered market Phil-Am universes collide as about half of the staff working there are Filipino.  The last time one of the ladies gave Edz half her lunch, some strange goopy looking substance that was apparently food.  We also get the special discount, the one that cannot be spoken of in English.

On Sundays there is a flea market that sells lots of things you don't really need.  We are now the proud owners of several of those things.

Worry not, I am not a Washington Nationals fan; the only players I can name are Gary Carter and Andre Dawson.  But I have every intention to try -- at least until they play the Red Sox in the World Series.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Your Reading Comprehension Skills Disappoint Me

Two stories indirectly about Saipan are making the rounds on the Internet today.  The first, titled "Mariana Trench Once Again Named Worst Place to Raise Child" was published in The Onion.  "5 Things I Learned Leaving My Nicely-Paid Lawyer Job to Move to a Small, Tropical Island Near Guam" was published in the Huffington Post and was penned by former Saipan resident and former Delegate Kilili staffer Arin Greenwood.  I have seen both stories heavily commented on over Facebook and Twitter.

First of all, I can't believe there are still people outside of the Chinese government who don't know that The Onion is a satire website.  Kim Jong Un is not the Sexiest Man Alive, and no one lives in the Mariana Trench.  The Onion is not commenting on the quality of life in the Marianas!
NEW YORK—Parenting magazine released its annual list of the best and worst places to raise a child this week, once again naming the Mariana Trench—an undersea chasm located 36,000 feet beneath the western Pacific Ocean—as the least desirable location for rearing children.

“In all categories, the Mariana Trench consistently got our lowest marks as a good place to start a family,” the 14-page article read in part. “The school system is nonexistent, the nearest playground is 300 nautical miles away, and at over 15,000 pounds per square inch, the hydrostatic pressure is enough to crush a child in less than a second.”

“While the area does contain a low crime rate, that benefit is quickly negated by the Mariana Trench’s lack of a police department, not to mention fire, sanitation, highway, or public works departments,” the article continued.
Really?  This fooled you?  Seriously?  I am at a loss for words.

The reaction to Arin's blog also surprised me.  I thought it was a funny story about growing up.  It would appear that many people took the list of five things as an attack on Saipan.
"Don't hate me, but about 12 years ago, I left a well-paying lawyer job in New York to move to a small tropical island near Guam. I had five weeks paid vacation, mango and banana trees in my yard and went scuba diving nearly every weekend."
That's not hate.  That love!  She goes on to poke fun at several of Saipan's shortcomings, but balances them against her own shortcomings and those of living in the mainland.  Marianas Variety editor Zaldy Dandan regularly points out that Arin wrote the best book about life in Saipan.  Arin very much understands the island and the people better than most.  And why does everything written about Saipan have to be about Chamorros?  We are, after all, less than one third of the Saipan population, and are much less likely to write about ourselves than the multitude of cultures we share the island with.  And if you don't like what other people are writing about the island, why not write something yourself?

Monday, November 04, 2013

I met this Sea Hero online

After 3 years of communicating online, I met Rick in person in 2009.
Over the next week you are going to see lots of nice things written about Rick MacPherson on blogs, in newspaper articles, and on social networks.  Rick is the 2013 Sea Hero of the Year.  Scuba Diving magazine and Oris are recognizing him for his decades of work making this world a better place to live.

I first met Rick online.  I could probably dig through the archives of this blog or Malaria, Bedbugs, Sea Lice, and Sunsets to pinpoint a date, but it was sometime around 2006-2007 (Before Facebook was really popular!  We were still using Myspace).  Back then I mostly wrote about cultural misunderstandings, drinking beer, and the occasional tree planting.  Rick, however, was a conservation blogger.

I still don't consider myself a conservation blogger, but Rick was one of the people who inspired me to try.  Do you remember Carnival of the Blue?  After Mark Powell started it on World Ocean's Day in 2007, Rick was the first non-Mark blogger to host.  With Rick's encouragement (or perhaps it was out of jealousy), I was the second.

The stuff you read about Rick this week probably won't focus on his blogging, but that is how I got to know him, one snarky comment at a time.  It was only a matter of time before Rick and I started to work together.

We first established real conservation together in 2008 when I was the project manager for the Pew Charitable Trusts campaign to designate the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument.  Rick, who at that time was part-conservationist, part-funny dude in San Francisco to me, helped galvanize the global dive community in support of the project.

When we finally met in 2009, the deal was sealed.  Rick and I share a love of food, beer, science fiction, comic books, science, and conservation.  He was the James to my Barney Stinson.  It was apparent to us both we were going to be besties for life.

Since 2010 I have been able to work with Rick on issues of global shark conservation and I am excited that our career paths, as geographically challenged as they have been, allow us to continue working together.

Rick is accepting his award in Orlando on Wednesday.  I won't be there to watch, but I suspect he'll be surrounded by colleagues and friends.  Here's to you, buddy.  Cheers.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Thank you for no tuyo

The fraternity of former Saipan residents is larger than you would think.  There's a whole generation of Chamorros who left the islands for better opportunities in the mainland, plus an army of former contract workers, teachers, lawyers, and doctors who eventually left, too.  I guess I fall into the first category; Edz, Maricel, and Mike fall into the latter.

I have a hard time making it into photos because I'm always the one taking them.  Sadly, Mike didn't make it into many photos, either.  Luckily, this one was a keeper.

Having friends visit is a great opportunity for us to do the things one would expect someone living in DC to do every weekend.  We went to the Spy Museum, rode bikes around the National Mall and visited the White House, went for a few drinks at Cantina Marina on the river, and watched the World Series at an Irish Bar with a rude Russian bartender.

Edz and Maricle also cooked up a Filipino food smorgasbord with more pork than is probably healthy.  Thankfully there was no tuyo, but there was a lot of okra and bitter melon, neither of which I care for very much.