Wednesday, April 30, 2008

My Saipan Fall

I've never seen nor experienced a true Fall, when the leaves turn red marking the shortening of the days and the end of Summer. It is supposedly a magical time.

From time to time the Talisay (Terminalia cattapa), a native tree to Saipan, will have its own Fall. It will turn all of its leaves red and then shed them on the ground.

It happens more than once a year, following their own season not yet understood and undecoded by man.

The Talisay is also called the Pacific Almond for its edible almond-flavored seed. My best friend tells me that her mother used to collect the nuts and would eat them with some honey. The Nosa (Bridled-White eye) loves to search for insects under the Talisay's canopy.

The Flame Tree season is slowly creeping upon us while the romance and the beauty that is the Talisay Fall will mostly go unnoticed.

The Beachcomber

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Saku Forever!

I saw this awesome Japanese tourist walking at Garapan after work. I know he's awesome because he is wearing my all-time favorite MMA fighter's shirt: Kazushi Sakuraba san! Man, I should've gotten down to take a better picture. I was tempted to pull over and attempt to give him $50 to get that darned orange shirt, but I figured he'd be offended and put me in a Kimura. I should just Ebay the darned shirt but I'm lazy and frugal online. Oh, well!

A bit of Sun Tzu's Art of War for you:
"The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting."
The Beachcomber

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Mind, Body, Soul


What’s up with the Italian today? I don’t know. I am distracted. When I’m distracted, I tend to speak in tongues. Strange? Yeah it is. Stranger still: I don’t even know Italian.

Sometimes you see something so stunning, so bright that it blinds you for a moment. You see the potential, and then you say things or do things that are clumsy or dumb. All of a sudden, I am 16 again, 5 foot 9 inches tall, at 129 lbs. I am wearing golden rimed glasses and in a memory I hear the dentist telling my dad that I needed braces. I am the last to be picked for the baseball line up. What happened? I was a superstar in a not too distant 6th grade. I am a superstar now! Why do I feel like I’m an adolescent school boy again? I feel myself wanting to retreat to the places that I found solace at: the art room, where I could draw and paint in solitude; the chess club where I find others seeking safe battles on 12’’ by 12’’ boards; the biology club where Linnaeus spoke to me in the secret language of Latin and Greek. Better yet, get lost in the forest. Or even better, the sea. Mother Nature is kind and never judges her son.

I did indulge myself in the waters of Lau Lau Bay yesterday with good company. It was beautiful. My new friends are beautiful. Today though, I thought I should have some time by myself. A little bit of quiet is what I thought I needed to once again balance my mind, body and soul. I put forth a days schedule in order to find balance in all three areas rather than just getting lost in a DVD and eating ice cream and spicy Japanese chips. No. Too many unhealthy Sundays have been lost that way.

It has been a while, but I needed to sort my working library of Crustaceans (namely, my crab head collection). Crabs are some of the hardest invertebrates to identify and label to amateurs because they are so diverse, with too many similar details, and I usually have only a few resources at hand. So, I labored a good part of the morning getting some identifying and labeling done.
I’ll share one with you: Matuta lumaris or the Burrowing Sand Crab. The neat thing about this crab is that its dactyls are all flat and paddle-like, like a swimming crabs’ (family Potunidae) fifth dactyl. The dactyl is the last segment of a pereopod (the crab’s leg). Its legs help the crab to quickly burrow in the sand. Although I have never seen one alive on Saipan, I have been able to collect some crab heads (cephalons) washed up on shore. My good friend John S. tells me that the Burrrowing Sand Crab is not yet recorded in our area by his marine biology colleagues and that I should turn in a sample to a museum. Neat, huh? Yeah! This is what I needed for my mind: a little bit of science!

It has been a while since I practiced the pugilistic arts. After my mental exercise, I thought I’d get some physical exercise to get my heart pumping and the sweat running. Nothing makes me feel more alive than beating up a heavy bag before noon on a Sunday. Well, that’s not true really. All you’ve really got to do is to get me outside (or a cup of hot java) and I’ll be much alive. But, like I said it has been a while so it felt real good to move. Sure enough, I lost some technique, power and speed. What makes it worse is that I was really never too good at boxing. So today I sucked even worse.

I picked up some boxing lessons here and there a few years back when I was nursing a broken heart. My intentions were to “fix” a few things with my hands this time around which is something that is a far cry from my true character. I was just tired of being the sucker; the nice guy whom everyone stepped on; my niceness often interpreted as weakness. Man, it felt good beating something up and I visualized whose wigs I was going to split. After a while though, I felt that my anger was eating me up inside just as fast as I was developing my skills. Sure, at the time I wasn’t ready to forgive yet, but this wasn’t me. I was always more of the philosopher rather than the warrior: the open hand rather than the fist in the hand greeting that the Chinese martial artists presented to each other. After I realized that I was being consumed, I put the hand wraps and gloves down for a while to soul search. I prayed, and asked to be able to forgive and to be forgiven. I haven’t split anyone’s wig yet, so I guess I found my balance without violence. No, it’s not violence. It’s the “sweet science” as Leibling said. I am a scientist after all.

Note to self regarding Body: No more Davidoff Entreactos. You can celebrate your friend’s memory without sacrificing your lungs. Secondly, eat. You need proper nutrition to fuel your body. Your anorexia (the inability to eat, not A. nervosa the condition) is not from cholera.

What to feed the soul? Well, reading is usually good. My friend Greg, told my friend Bev about Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert (Penguin Books). He lauded its contents, and so did she, so much in fact that it became one of the books assigned earlier to a book club that I joined later. So I decided to grab Bev’s copy.

I heard lots of comments amongst my circle of friends and the friends that are members of the book club. These comments made this autobiography seem like a self-help book instead: “Oh, we need more of India don’t we” or “I am so in Bali right now!” Gilbert writes about how her divorce, successive break up and depression that followed led her to seek pleasure in Italy, devotion in India and finally balance in Indonesia. I thought I’d give it bit of a read and finish at least Italy, a 154-page chapter.

It was difficult for me to read this chapter for obvious personal reasons. Of course, to get the whole story, I needed to be introduced to the struggles (the aforementioned divorce, break-up, and depression) first before the triumphs. So, I struggled through the all too familiar hurts with the author but saw her slowly finding and being comfortable with herself little by little as she indulges in the pleasure of the language, the food, and the people in Italy.

I won’t give too many details from the book for people who would like to read it. Plus I am not done yet. I couldn’t tell you if “I am in Bali” or if “I am so in India.” But now that I read the first chapter, am I in Italy? Am I seeking Italy? Am I missing Italy? Am I in someone else’s Italy? All I can be sure of right now about me is that I am more comfortable in my own skin now more than in any part of my history. I am a superstar.

Note from the book for the Soul: "Never forget that once upon a time, in an unguarded moment, you recognized yourself as a friend."

Ah, Italy! Maybe, that’s why I sang to you in Italian? Ciao, cara mia.

Thanks for letting me share.
The Beachcomber

Sunday, April 6, 2008

10 things I should have said out loud

Over the weekend, I thought of recent situations in which I should have said something out loud rather than practicing restraint and keeping them in my head:

1. “Yes, I am sure you’ve heard it before. But I have seen the works of Gauguin, Renoir, Monet, and the sculptures of Rodin. So trust me when I tell you that I think you are exceptionally beautiful.”

2. To a colleague: “I hold in my hands three programs that are funded above a quarter of a million dollars, four staff members, and I’ve managed to keep it afloat in the year and a half that I’ve been in the job; and what do you run? Who do you manage? You have no right to speak to me that way.”

3. To a friend: “No really, its ok. I do want to be alone right now.”

4. To an acquaintance: “Why in all of our encounters do you always start off with how much weight I've gained? Yes, I gained 15 lbs since my accident and my ankle still does not allow me to run properly.”

5. To a colleague: “Yeah go ahead and laugh out loud about the condoms, Doctor. Make a show in front of everyone here. But you and I both know that in this hospital, you’re the one who needs them the most because you're the biggest horn dog around.”

6. To a guy I just met after hearing his comments about lesbians and breasts: “I can’t believe you work with children. You are pathetic, sad, and a minuscule-minded jerk.”

7. To someone who made me feel like an adolescent school boy again: "Sure, I'll give you my take on the book, but you intrigue me. Tell me your story instead."

8. This morning: “I knew this was coming officer. Honestly, I insist that you give me the ticket to teach us all a lesson.”

9. To someone who made me catch my breath: “I am afraid of drowning; to be lost in your eyes if I kept staring. They are of the color of my beloved sea in which I have been lost before.”

10. In the midst of someone else’s conversation: “Why were you sad?”

Note to self: Dare to speak your mind this week.

Thanks for letting me share what I held back.
The Beachcomber