Sunday, April 27, 2014

Justice For Emie

A photo from a happier time
More than two years after she disappeared, the killer of Emie Romero has been found guilty of her murder.  Sentencing will take place next month.  I am more than four years removed from Saipan, and others have captured the relief better than me.

Prosecutors and police officers on Saipan have loose lips, especially when they are drunk, which for many on Saipan is every night.  Days after Emie's body was found the name Joseph Crisostimo was whispered over barbecues and dinner tables.  And he finally got his due.

There are more than 30 unsolved murders on Saipan.  Most recently a pair of farmers were murdered and torched, then there was the couple who were murdered in 2012, and the young Luhk sisters have been missing since 2011.  Solving one murder creates hope that the society is heading in the right direction.

Sakura Friends

This is a photo of my wife and her friend in front of the United States Capitol.  Nice weather has finally arrived and our nation's front lawn is swarming with tourists.

This is a photo of my wife and her friend in front of the White House.  You can't really tell from this photo, but Marine One was landing as we were taking photos.

This is a photo of my wife and her friend in front of some cherry blossoms lining the Tidal Basin.  As this photos attest, yet again I was forced to perform my duty as personal photographer to my wife.  More photos are on Facebook.

For the second year in a row, old friends from Saipan visited during the week the cherry blossoms were in full bloom.  The start of Spring has been glorious this year, especially coming off the near-weekly snowstorms it feels like we had since February.

If I look tired in the photos posted to Facebook, it's because I flew in from Micronesia the night before.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Yankees Suck

I don't like New York.  There are too many people, there's too much traffic, and the Yankees.  But it's not so bad in small doses.  On the way up to Bobby and Robin's wedding two weeks ago, Edz and I spent about 12 hours being tourists.

We took the elevator to the top of the Empire State building at 8 AM and took more photos than I really thought was necessary.  Then we walked around Times Square.

My favorite part of the day was sitting on the red staircase.  I don't know what the point of the staircase is, but I was tired and my feet hurt, so it was the best place ever.  At about noon, Brian and Joelins drove us to Yankee Stadium and we said goodbye.

This was my first time seeing the Yankees play the Red Sox.  And the Red Sox lost.

I'm not really into blogging anymore.  I've run out of words.  Here are more photos.

Friday, April 25, 2014

10 Years of April

Every month in in 2014 I've looking back at what I was doing this time of year over the last 10 years.  This is your April edition.

I got a big bump in visitors to The Saipan Blog this month because someone posted one of my coconut crab photos to Facebook.  Amazing.  Ah, blogging.  Look at me, look at me.  Whatever.

This month I went to Chuuk in the Federated States of Micronesia to work with some of my partners in conservation to pass a law protecting sharks.  When I came back, our friends Brian and Jolens came down to DC and we viewed the cherry blossoms just as we peaked.  The next day the four of us traveled up to New York, and afterwards, Edz and I went to Massachusetts for a wedding.

In April 2005 I still lived in Orlando and was patiently hoping that I would get a job teaching English in Japan with the JET Programme.  I had applied and been wait-listed.

One short year later and my adventure in Japan was already over.  I was living in Saipan for the first time in a long time, eating fresh fish, meeting old family friends, starting a new job, and participating in local cultural events.

In 2007, Beautify CNMI! celebrated its first year.  I carried the cross up Mt. Tapachou again, too.  I rode the bench during CNMI's 1-0 loss to Guam, but enjoyed the adult beverages at the after party.

In 2008, I went to Guam to attend the Micronesians in Island Conservation Retreat, where I saw my first brown tree snake.  I also went to Chuuk.  Jay Nelson also came to Saipan so that we could launch the campaign for the Mariana Trench Monument.

I failed to complete the Tagaman race in April 2009.  I helped organize a dog show in 2009.  I also organized more than 4,000 people to participate in an island-wide cleanup, the largest Saipan has ever had.  And I won another EPA award.

In April 2010 I was living in Florida.  I wrote a letter to Jane Lubchenco to ask her to help fix some of the shortcomings of the Mariana Trench; she declined.  Beautify CNMI! also gave me an award.

After three years working as a contractor, I started my job as Pew staff this month.  And I sued the CNMI government.  I spent three weeks in Fiji in April 2011, and didn't really blog much.

I spent about 5 weeks in Micronesia around this time in 2012.  I went to Saipan, Guam, Palau, and Pohnpei.

Last year I went to Florida after Tiana was hit by a car, with a surprise trip to Palau and Yap.  I really like Yap.  Melody and Matt visited and I got to see the DC cherry blossoms for the first time.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Prank of a Lifetime

Walt and AngeloMy really good friend Walt writes a lot of really bad poetry. He also writes a lot of really good stories. I just bought his latest book, From Bugle Boy to Battleship: A Battle of Saipan and Guam Veteran’s Memoirs after reading this amazing story via Email. If I had a link, I'd share it.
Lloyd Glick got pranked.

And it was the best kind of prank. The kind of prank that, when he tells about it now, makes him break out in a wide smile.

Lloyd comes occasionally to the Ink and Bean coffeehouse where I spend my Friday mornings. A couple of weeks ago, he sat down across the table from me and my old Royal typewriter – the machine, by the way, that Lloyd gave to me, the same machine that is on display at the coffeehouse when I’m not using it.

Lloyd is 90, but he didn’t become a prankee because he is an easily duped 90-year-old. He’s as sharp as a bayonet.

I love when Lloyd comes into the Ink and Bean and tells stories about Los Angeles from the 1940s, about moving to Huntington Beach, about growing old ... happily.

He got pranked because the prankster, a guy named Walt Goodridge, did a really good job putting together some elaborate sleight of hand.

Last year, Lloyd and his wife, Judy, decided to celebrate his 90th by taking the cruise of a lifetime. They wanted to retrace the route Lloyd took aboard the USS North Carolina from June 1943 until the end of World War II in 1945. Seventy years ago, Lloyd Glick was a U.S. Navy trumpeter, and “Musician Second Class” was his rank. The birthday cruise would include stops in Hawaii, Guam, Saipan, Okinawa and Yokohama and a drive to Tokyo.

Walt, the prankster, is a travel agent/tour guide/freelance writer. He set up the Glick trip just like they had dreamed. He just didn’t tell them what would be waiting for them when they got there.

In an email to Lloyd, Walt wrote: “So, while you might not fully appreciate nor feel the import and significance of those (WWII) experiences, thoughts and personal recollections ... trust me when I tell you that the rest of us can learn so much just from hearing how your thoughts flow from one to the next.”

In preparation for the trip, Walt kept writing emails to Lloyd asking about the World War II. Lloyd kept answering them.

The trip began Jan. 18 without any clue of what was coming. The Crystal Lines cruise ship Serenity stopped in Hawaii. The food and entertainment were great. But the prank didn’t start until the ship landed in Guam.

That’s when Walt took over.

Lloyd was met at the dock by local media and officials from the National Park Service, who presented him with a “WWII Valor in the Pacific” medal and a proclamation from the Guam government. He got his picture taken with three beauty queens from Guam. Later there was a reception at the National Park Service headquarters. The theme of the day was “The Return of the Liberator.”

“I really felt embarrassed by the attention,” Lloyd said. “I kept telling them that other than living to age 90 I really didn’t do anything special to deserve what they were doing.”

During that reception, Walt revealed that he had written a book “From Bugle Boy to Battleship: A Battle of Saipan and Guam Veteran’s Memoirs” about the correspondence he had with Lloyd as they planned his 90th birthday trip. Lloyd is sure he doesn’t deserve being written about in a book – but that’s just Lloyd.

After the reception, Lloyd couldn’t find Walt anywhere. Lloyd didn’t know it, but Walt had flown ahead to Saipan

When the cruise stopped in Saipan, Lloyd was given another medal and proclamation. This time, however, there were two busloads of appreciative local people waiting to congratulate Lloyd, who would correct anyone who called him a hero. He was interviewed on television and by local newspaper reporters – all set up by Walt.

When he sat across from me at the Ink and Bean, Lloyd laughed at himself for having no idea any of it was going to happen.

And in the last paragraph of his book, Walt Goodridge, who set it all up, summed up Lloyd Glick this way:

“And finally, I see you as a hero, because with all the evidence of bravery, noble intentions, personal sacrifice and lifelong service staring you in the face, you still don’t see Lloyd Glick the way others see him. By my estimation, that puts you in a league with the humble. And, my good friend, Lloyd, from where I stand, it doesn’t get any more heroic than that.”

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Goober Gets Married

The Goober's real name is Bob.
My oldest cousin on my mom's side got married last weekend.  Edz and I took the train up to Worcester, Massachusetts with a pitstop in New York to catch the Red Sox play the Yankees.

One half of the O'Connor cousins
I don't get to see my Massachusetts cousins often enough.  My aunt Judy lives on Cape Cod and when I was little I used to think that was so far away.  Now we stretch from Maine to Florida and across the pond to England.  The England, DC, and one quarter of the Florida contingent made it.  Maine, Atlanta, and the rest of Florida will have to wait for the next reunion.  I've posted more photos to The Saipan Blog facebook if you want to see them.

The wedding reminded me of our wedding in Saipan two years ago.  It was a small crowd of close friends and family with nothing too fancy.  Oh, but Bobby and Robin bought a keg.  And some of us taught our young English nieces how to work it.  A brilliant move.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Y.M.C. What's That Letter Again?

The HD Jumbotron out in Yankee Stadium's center field is 103 feet wide by 58 feet tall.  So if you ever wondered what the attack of the 50 foot woman would look like in real life, look no further than Edz doing the YMCA last Saturday.  She started off well enough.  That's a good Y.

And the M isn't too bad.  But then things got a little confusing.  She got very excited to be up on the big screen.  Just look at the people along the bottom for the scale.

But what's that?  Is that a K or an X?  C?  It doesn't look like a C.

W?  Or is that one of the Greek letters?  I think she needs more practice.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Snow, Sakura, Sand, and Sedge

It snowed the day I left Washington, DC.  This has been the winter that refuses to end.  I usually have a hefty travel schedule, but spent a solid six weeks in our nation's capital after my last trip to Fiji.  I think it snowed four times during that stretch.  I'm praying the snow is over.

Meanwhile in Japan, Spring has sprung.  My flight from Dulles to Narita was two hours late, so it was a rush to get through customs and immigration, on the train to Naritasan, and back to the airport in time for the flight to Guam.  Yet again I missed peak sakura blooms.  Visiting Japan during peak cherry blossom season remains unchecked on the bucket list.  But like Fa Zhou said, "My, what beautiful blossoms we have this year. But look, this one's late. But I'll bet that when it blooms, it will be the most beautiful of all."

During my layover in Guam I met up with Julie Hartup of the Manta Trust.  I've been reading about her work with Tumon mantas.  I mean come on, manta rays in Tumon Bay?  No way!  As this photo proves, yes way!  And speaking of Tumon, I feel like there are more and more fish in the water every time I visit.  My unscientific analysis hereby declares that marine protected areas work!

From Guam it was onto Chuuk with a short sojourn in Pohnpei.  Curtis and Lorenzo, two colleagues who work for the local government, took several enviros visiting the island and me on a monster four hour hike up through the center of Weno.  Chuuk reminds me a lot of the Northern Islands, just with more people.  The lower part of the hike was through agroforestry, while the center of the island was savanna and grasslands.  In Saipan we'd say it was ranch and badlands.

Tomorrow afternoon I'll retrace my steps and head back through Guam and Narita on my way back to Washington, DC.  Does anyone want me to bring them a Chuukese love stick?

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Inspired by Guam

Simon Sanchez Sharks
In 2011, students from Guam rallied to pass the world's third ban on shark fins.  They collected petitions, wrote letters, sent emails, and attended public hearings to showcase how strongly they felt about protecting sharks.  The Sharks M.A.D.E. club at Simon Sanchez High School and Marine Mania at George Washington High School were the leaders of this effort.

George Washington Geckos
Over the last three years, both schools have stayed involved in shark conservation issues.  There are two issues facing Guam sharks right now that have the students concerned.  First, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is attempting to overturn shark fin trade bans that do not exempt commercial fishermen.  All of the shark fin trade bans in the mainland either exempt all fishermen, or exempt the species of the predominant shark fisheries in the state.  Hawaii and the territories do not make exemptions for commercial fishermen (although CNMI and Guam make allowances for subsistence fishermen), so this is where the preemption fight is taking place.  The second issue has to do with a proposed shark fishery by the Western Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Council (WESPAC) which ignores the social and cultural values of the people of Guam.

I had a long layover in Guam during my recent trip to the Federated States of Micronesia, so I stopped in on both schools to hear how their campaign was going.  I also talked to them about the most recent shark science, particularly the Worm 100 million shark paper and the Dulvy "more sharks are threatened and near threatened than we thought" paper.

Angelo, Julie, Elise, and Joni
I also made a few new friends this trip.  Julie Hartup is a member of the Manta Trust and is studying the manta rays of Micronesia, in particular an aggregation that lives just outside Tumon Bay.  Joni Kerr is a professor at Guam Community College and the advisor to Eco-Warriors, the club that made this great video starring my good friend, Shark Stanley.