Tuesday, January 30, 2018

One for Noah, One for Tali

After (what) 8 years of moving from Saipan to Portland, OR, Noah is coming home for a visit.  Last time I saw him was 2 years ago when Tali graduated from high school.  I wanted to give him something special - something that reminds him of his island roots, and that he will always be family to me.

It has been a while since I made one, but I cut a Spondylus (Thorny oyster) salape' or alas (money) pendant representing him, and a Tridacna (giant clam or hima in Chamorro) representing his big family (me included) always surrounding him with love and protection, no matter where in the world they are.  The Spondylus shell and beads were highly valued by the ancient people - nowadays, it is a symbol of their identity and connection to the past.   

Of course, I had to cut one for his big sister, Tali.  She got stuck in VA and pretty bummed that she couldn't visit Saipan.  I was bummed as well.  I will look forward to seeing her again, hopefully this year.

This bead is one of the prettiest I've ever found and cut.  Beauty and resiliency for my Tali.

I miss you both and love you very much.  Till we meet again...

Ti napu,

The Beachcomber

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

New Finds

I just wanted to talk stories and share some new finds.  The latest is another sling stone, or as the Chamorros called them, acho' atupat (or atupak).  The indigenous people of the Marianas produced them as early as the Latte Period/Phase (1000-250 BP). History books describe them as egg or acorn-shaped stones fashioned with “jasper-like” stone, or with sun or fire-hardened clay.  People now use the words biconical or football-shaped to describe them. The ancient people wielded them with deadly accuracy.  This one is made of limestone and one end is worn off or damaged.

Recent rains are really wearing down to the older soil layers revealing artifacts.  Erosion from cars also help expose them, but if you take a look at the sling stone in situ, they are easy to miss.
I recently found some broken adze heads (an adze is higam in Chamorro) made out of a giant clam (hima in Chamorro) shell.  Cars drive on roads that may have exposed some artifacts such as these and can often break or damage them.  This one was partially buried but already broken in 2and maybe 80% of it missing.  It cleaned up nicely though with a little soapy water and an old toothbrush.   


This one is a real nice specimen, thick on the sides.  Too bad the blade is not intact but it is almost complete.

They are easy to overlook since there are usually a lot of hima fragments strewn about.  You have to pay attention to their shapes but once you're familiar they are easy to distinguish from shells that weren't worked on.

Check out this basalt ball.  I think these were used as deep sea fishing weights.  The grooves show where coconut sennit tied it down.  I got too excited digging it out of the soil so I wasn't able to get an in situ picture.


This is a strange sling stone that Laurina found.  Instead of the more solid basalt or limestone, it is made out of greenish sandstone.  It is porous and holds water on the surface.

Thank you for dropping by to talk stories one more time. 

Ti napu, 

The Beachcomber

Monday, July 6, 2015

In Situ

I wanted to talk stories about my latest find.  Usually, I get too excited and pick up what I find right away without recording the object in its natural state.  In science it is important to note and record how an object is situated in the original, natural or its existing place or position (in Latin it is in situ).  Many times I would often say to myself, "Man, I should have taken a picture of that before I picked it up".  This is probably why we are not in the books yet for the Mary's Bean that I found that I know broke the drift record.

On a nature walk, I was just commenting to my BFF that we should be finding something on this road, when lo and behold - could it be?  Is it really?  Wait!  I better get a picture before I dig it out!
Yes it is - a sling stone!  The Chamorro name for sling stone is acho' atupat (or atupak) and produced them as early as the Latte Period/Phase (1000-250 BP). History books describe them as egg or acorn-shaped stones fashioned with “jasper-like” stone, or with sun or fire-hardened clay.  People now use the words biconical or football-shaped to describe them. The ancient people wielded them with deadly accuracy.
Here's beautiful Laurina modeling the acho' atupat for meMost of the sling stones I've found are from the beach but this one was more inland.  It is the most polished one I've found so far with only a minor scratch from where a car or cars probably ran over it.  "Jasper-like" indeed!
I'll have to compare this one to the others that I have found in another post so you can see the different variations in shape and materials.  We are really blessed to find this special specimen from Laurina's ancestral past.
The craftsman really put a lot of time and effort in making this artifact.    Here it is after washing and brushing off the dirt.  So beautiful!
Let's talk stories some more.  Till nest time, friends.

Ti napu,

The Beachcomber

Monday, January 26, 2015

Mom's Egg - An artifact

I recently found some interesting artifacts that I wanted to talk stories with you about.  The artifact on the left is a broken off adze (higam in Chamorro) head made out of a giant clam (hima in Chamorro) shell.  I posted my journey in making some higam hima in this post.
At times, when you happen upon broken clam shells, it is hard to distinguish if they are artifacts from the ancient Chamorros.  This one was pretty clear in that you can see the straight edges that was worked on as well as the angled cutting edge.  I illustrated how the whole adze head could have looked like if it was whole.  There are some illustrations here from the The Catalogue of Prehistoric Micronesian Artifacts Housed in Japan (Intoh, May 1998) that I wrote about as well.

Mother's Egg
The artifact on the right is a mystery to me.  Some people who have found similarly shaped stones think that they are the ancient Chamorro sling stone is acho' atupat (or atupak).  I describe sling stones here when I fashioned some myself.  History books describe them as egg or acorn-shaped stones fashioned with “jasper-like” stone, or with sun or fire-hardened clay. People now use the words biconical or football-shaped to describe them.  The stone here is really in the "egg-shaped" category. 
A few years ago, I saw one displayed in the Saipan Museum that was very smooth and also egg-shaped.  A historian that I was acquainted with shared a very interesting theory that he had about these egg-shaped stones.  Maybe they are not sling stones.  He says that they could possibly be implements used by some of the ancient women to strengthen their pelvic muscles, much like modern day Kegel exercises.  Smiling, I had to ask how he came about that seemingly off-beat theory.  He asked if I ever wondered about the expression, i chada nana mu?  I told him that I know that it is the most offensive thing you can say to someone in the Chamorro language but literally, it translates to, "your mother's egg".  He asked me to consider the meaning of the expression now with this theory.  Interesting, yes?  Anyway, I didn't get to ask him if there were any other evidence in stories or in literature that may support his hypothesis.  What do you think?
Thank you for talking stories with me again.

Ti napu.

The Beachcomber

Thursday, January 8, 2015

2015 - The Beach and the Blues

This is the first hike of the year 2015: go down to San Juan Beach and then go to Hidden Beach.  At least that was the plan.  The path to Hidden Beach was overgrown, so Laurina and I ended up going to Old Man by the Sea instead.  It was an enjoyable walk even though the body ached and the lungs were screaming.  I gotta get back in shape.  There seems to be a lot more tourist traffic here.  The beach has grown probably due to a few small storm events last 2014.  The sand has reached where the coconuts and fish-kill trees (Barringtonia asiatica) once dominated.

I found this gem at Old Man.  I told myself that for 2015, I will study Blues guitar.  It seemed like the universe was with me when I found this broken bottle top.  With a few modifications it can be used as a guitar slide.
I brought the thing home all excited, but maybe a little too excited.  I took the aluminum lip and some plastic off the top and brought out my grinder.  I was too in  a hurry, and I cracked what the universe has given me so serendipitously.  I was so bummed.

All I needed to do was to grind the rough edge but the grinder was too rough, and I didn't cool the glass off with water often enough.
Bye bye bottleneck slide!  A few days later, I researched some DIY online so I can practice on a wine bottle I already had.  It wasn't the best choice since it seemed a bit short and had a pronounced line where the halves of the glass were bonded.  I wanted to get some practice though before finding a better candidate.
So, I got the bottle to crack where I wanted it to and used a Dremel bit that was one made specifically for glass.  It is a good second try, I think.
 Hopefully, I can make a better one soon and that my playing improves dramatically.
Thank you for talking stories.  Happy New Year!

Tin napu,

The Beachcomber

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Bike Resto - Done

A few years ago, I gave up biking on my old 7-speed road bike.  I found it hard to climb hills , and the drivers and pedestrians on island were just not too safe towards cyclists.  I ached to ride though, thought that I needed a new ride, and just couldn't afford to upgrade my bike.  Well, fast forward a few years later and I got myself a new-used cyclocross bike, the riding conditions got better, and my friend Greg came back as my riding partner.  There are lots of stories to tell about our bike and riding adventures.

I learned a lot though through the internet especially a great bike forum called RoadBikeReview.  I learned more about wrenching and developed a love for vintage bikes.  I got to start thinking that I should try to restore the old 7-speed and not just let it rust away.  So I decided to do the restoration but not spend so much money while doing so.

After a few years in storage, her brake and shifter cables and chain were rusty.  Who knew what condition of the steel frame and aluminum components after maybe more than 5 years?
After becoming a fan of vintage steel bikes, I was wishing and fantasizing that she was some sort of high-end oldie.  It turned out after a few questions posted on the bike forum that this is someone's fantasy Cannondale bike, since they never made any in steel.  Someone pointed out too that certain parts were stamped steel rather than forged, a sign of a lower-end bike.  It used to have a triple crankset, but the inner, smallest gear was gone.
You can usually find out a lot about a bike's identity by the stamped number on the bottom bracket.  I had to clean this out to see what the numbers were.  Unfortunately, even after cleaning it up the best guess the forum gave me was that it was a low-end, possibly Japanese touring bike with parts salvaged from here and there.
I decided to strip and repaint.  I used instructions from MikesBikes which was informative and easy to understand. Again, to keep the cost low, I decided to use rattle can primer, paint and clear coat.  Here are some picture after applying the paint stripper.  That's some really caustic stuff.
Sanding and Cleaning the Frame:
Prepping the frame for painting took the most time.  Sanding all of the paint and getting the frame bare and smooth for the paint job was hard but you get to learn so much about the frame and materials of the bike.  I discovered that the frame is of a lower-end variety of steel and it had a lot of fillers for the imperfections.  Still, I was determined to finish the restoration and enjoy the journey.  I was really enjoying using my hands the most. 
Greg lent me a bunch of tools to get the components off of the frame.  I never knew that such a simple machine has so many specialized tools!  To get the crank off, you need a crank puller; to remove the chain , you need a chain breaker; and so on and so forth.
So this is who you are?  The bottom bracket cleaned up showed an I.D. number, but it still wasn't a lot of information to go on.  Maybe one day, we'll get to know its origins.  I am guessing that the first 2 numbers mean that it was made in 1986.
Internally routing for cables?  I thought that's an option for high-end bicycles only.  To stop any internal rusting, I even used linseed oil to coat the inside of the frame.
I heart the fork.  The fork hearts me.  I found out later that his fork is probably a salvaged part since it really is too short for the wheels. 
I decided that I liked a vintage white for the frame.  I decided against buying components or just stick to "restoring" rather than "upgrading".  After the paint job, I just decided to get a colorful Italian flag bar tape, red cables and red tires to give her a highlight color.  All the items were on sale through various online bike shops.  I was pretty happy with the cheap prices the quick service, which was nice surprise.  Being on an island really makes purchasing online an adventure in itself.
She's almost ready for a ride.  I just need to make some shifting adjustments to make her ready for the road.  I ordered a $13.00 cassette to make it easier to climb Saipan's hills but it came and was not compatible with my wheel hub.  I may just have to keep her on the flat roads (or get stronger legs). 
Well, she is finally done with a lot of help from near and far.  I wish there were more opportunities in the future to restore and to wrench.  I've gotten to really love using my hands, and being able to add an artistic flair to it all.  See you on the road!

Ti napu.

The Beachcomber