Sunday, August 31, 2008

Tagged!: I remember

Tamara of the Seaweed, Sand and Sunset tagged me a few blogs away about the 20 oldest memories I have of Saipan. I hope I haven’t offended you, girl, since I am only answering to this now. I’ve been fairly busy and have been off-island a few times. I had to brush off the cobwebs quite a bit and came up with a pretty extensive list here. Thank you for allowing me to share.

1. The first time I met people from Saipan was on Guahan in 1987 while fishing in Agat. It wasn’t a good memory since my dad got into an argument with them for not returning the fishing rods that we lent them while we were packing up to leave. I thought it was mostly my fault though because I forgot to ask for the rods back from them while my dad was packing our stuff up.

2. I grew up on Guahan and my father was in the garment factory business. I vaguely remember labor horror stories he recounted with his drinking buddies especially involving Filipinos, so unfortunately, this was the first albeit biased picture I had of Saipan. On Guahan, there were activists who were basically telling me that as an immigrant I was stealing their land, their jobs and the island’s resources, and it was pretty hard for my teenage mind to comprehend at the time.

3. I infrequently read articles about Governor Froilan Tenorio that regularly included black and white pictures of him with an unfavorable smirk or frown. Unfortunately, this just reinforced the early biased picture in my mind thinking that the people here were mean.

4. When my wife passed away, I was unsure of what I should do with my life next. The nurses I was working with suggested that I go back to school. One of my patients called me over and whispered that there was a school on Saipan that I should consider. A week later, I bought a plane ticket, rented a car and drove to Northern Marianas College, transcripts in hand to meet with my future instructors. It was funny because two of them just came from Guahan and rode the same plane with me to Saipan. They looked over my records, gave me a schedule of classes, and said, “We’ll see you in August!” 2002 was my very first visit to Saipan.

5. On my visit, I also met some people from the SDA Dental and Eye Clinic. I met the brothers Dr. Hardt, and Ernie and Jo Lacorte. They assured me that I will be in good company here. To meet them at the clinic, they said, “Keep heading north on Beach Road and turn right at the tank.” I remember when there were no street signs yet.

6. August came and I became a new Saipan resident that year; I remember it was rainy season. The air was fresh and the island was green. I thought Guam was green, but you are so much closer to nature on Saipan. The sosugi (Acacia auriculiformis) was in golden bloom with a slight fragrance that lingered around NMC campus. New faces abound, and I smiled a lot. I remember talking too much on the first day because of my excitement. I met my classmates, whom I was to see and will be in most of my classes for the next two years. I met Laurina, my best friend on Saipan.

7. I remember finally figuring out that on Saipan, people don’t atan baba you. I was walking to my first Garapan Street Market and met gazes from people expecting to act tough and to give them the stink eye, but instead people said, “Hello” and “Hi.” This was very different from what I knew from Guahan and I finally came to know that people on Saipan are way way friendlier in comparison. The openness and kindness in the hearts of the people here still amazes me to this day.

8. I remember feeling alone on Saipan. I left everyone I knew behind opting to go and get educated and to finally find myself. I had many nights of Solitaire, and walks by myself down the Beach Path and the different parks asking God to take my loneliness away. I remember eating alone in restaurants, watching movies alone, getting lost in the forest alone. I’ve finally become the nomad, wanderer, loner, and the vagabond that I fantasized about in my adolescent years. As I gazed into the sunset or at the direction where my former lives were spent, I missed my family and my friends.
Sunset at Coral Ocean Point

9. I remember phone calls, letters, emails, checks and care packages that kept me connected with people that I loved and cared about that were now separated by time and distance. I remind myself everyday to communicate and stay in touch better but I often fail.

10. I remember falling in love again with the land and the sea. I sought nature out during hikes with my church family, and alone exploring the forest and the sea. Coral Ocean Point was my spot when school became hectic and I needed its cool waters to renew my spirits. I remember how far I felt from everyone I knew on my new adoptive island gazing at the sunsets there.

11. I remember being amazed by bird songs and seeing the different native birds that were now extinct on Guahan. I’d stare minutes at a time at the egigi and the nosa. I thought my mind was playing tricks on me when I saw the metallic green feathers of the totot fly right by me at American Memorial Park. Man, I thought they were all extinct! I also remember asking myself what the heck was a fakpe and why do people at NMC have it on their license plates. I remember commiting a good part of my life here to contribute to the protection of the CNMI's natural resources.

Golden White-eye or canario perched on my neighbor's orange tree.

12. I remember finding my first slingstone with Laurina as we jogged down Beach Road. I kept making her laugh with my disbelief and excitement. That was the first time I felt a real connection with the ancient Chamorros and I told myself that I will do what I can to learn and to do what I can to preserve the knowledge of the past.

13. I remember how the kids at church appreciated their new “uncle”. I remember Kayla who always wanted to sit with me. All of the kids are growing up now, many into their teen years and I am glad to still have that connection with them. We’ve spent a lot of bible lessons, potlucks, hikes, bowling, etc. Man, I need to do more with them before they all grow up and I become too “uncool” to hang out with.

14. I remember Thanksgivings and Christmases with Maycocks and the Paez’. I’ve been uncelebratory and opted to being a loner for too long now to finally realize that spending these holidays with them were some of the best times I’ve had.

15. I remember taking care of very sick people and their families. I saw the flaws in the way people took care of themselves and saw direct results of smoking, second-hand smoking, eating too much, eating the wrong things, chewing betel nut/tobacco, not exercising, taking drugs, not taking prescribed drugs, not using condoms, not getting check ups, not getting their kids checked up, drinking and worshiping the culture that is drinking, drunk driving, and so on. I remember the inevitable deaths of some of the people that I took care of.

16. I remember the first SMs I met on Saipan: Danny, Yeneer, Jill, Amanda, and Winnelle. We had some good times learning about and exploring our new island home.

17. I still think it’s hard to make guy friends on Saipan because most of their times are taken up by their spouses, girlfriends and kids. There was one time that I thought I had the beginnings of a good guy-based group with John, Pete, Greg, Tim, Jeremy, Scott, and Rich. Then somehow one by one they either left, moved or just got busy with their own schedules.

18. Then there were the women who touched my life during my first few years on Saipan. But, we won’t get into that today. It’s too early in the morning.

19. I remember my red Ford Explorer and how she took me everywhere and how big of a problem she was to maintain in good running condition. We had our times though.

20. Lastly, good people. Lots of good people come and go on Saipan and they all make this the special place that it is.

Ti napu.

The Beachcomber


Bev said...

Coral Ocean Point was my favorite place to watch the sunset. (sigh) Miss you!!

The Beachcomber said...


Tamara said...

Awesome memories...Better late than never! Thanks! I grew up around that place too!