Tag Island Life

Sayonara Saipan!

My second to last day on Saipan, the day I should have been packing my bags and cleaning my apartment “ours party team” instead took a splendid (gratis!) day trip to Managaha, that speck of sand sticking out of the Saipan lagoon.

The party team is from left to right are Nika (a.k.a. Mia), Emma and Vyka (a.k.a. Richi). The trip was Vyka’s brainchild. For various reasons we hadn’t all gotten together for weeks and she was determined for us all to meet one last time. I’m glad she did.

The girls have had a long standing, open invitation for joyrides to Managaha from the boat operator (Bongo at Seahorse Tours) and we had a blast getting out there.

We enjoyed a few blissful hours on that lovely island. In between dips in the salt sea and over beers we told each other stories about what we’d seen and done since we had been together last. A really beautiful and wonderful way to top off the past months we’ve shared together on this gorgeous (and crazy) island.

What else could any of us ask for?

Parasailing! That’s what!

Veteran’s Day in Garapan

This Tuesday morning I spent in American Memorial Park, just a block north of my apartment. A beautiful park, complete on this Veteran’s Day with a flag from each 50 states plus one from each of the statelets. (My coinage for the various U.S. commonwealths, protectorates, territories, etc.)

A beautiful morning, spent in the shade on the periphery of the main event with Peter’s family. Under the tent were the governor, the mayor, the delegate elect, and the entirety of the legislative and judicial branches. They watched a nervous Parks Department director’s introduction and ROTC cadets in chrome helmets handing out patriotic art produced by school children. Meanwhile we lounged out of earshot. Auntie Tina and Si Joe brought three of their youngest, Ping Ping, Christopher, and Kaitlyn. (A special thanks to Kaitlyn, she was my photographer in the ones that I am in.)

Above is Sam and Jeen’s beautiful baby, Wylynn.

A Laulau Dive

Peter and I took our weekly adventure underwater this Sunday with a delightful trip to Laulau Beach. It gets it’s name from the rough dirt road you have to bounce down to get to it, laolao being the Chamorro word meaning to shake.

The dive was beautiful. Every time I get in the water I’m surprised how warm it is. The water at Laulau is 90° F, and knee-deep for the first 25 feet or so straight out from shore. This shelf drops off into about 10 or 15 feet of water, where we splashed in and followed a well secured rope line out through some reef structures and into a great dive.

I’d love to know the name of the quarter sized matte black swimmers studded with neon sapphires or the posh red-spined coral eater whose tail looks like a brush dipped in bright yellow paint, but we saw a whole school of Naso lituratus, one of maybe three fish species I can identify and my favorite to spot. Peter spotted a large Green sea turtle (the endangered Chelonia mydas) and we got to swim along side it for a few inspiring minutes. These animals have an extraordinarily graceful attitude and style, they seem to fly effortlessly over the sea floor. Very beautiful.

This video is fairly representative of our dive, though we didn’t see a huge school of fish. Also we’re not a Japanese woman.

Closet Cooking

This is my kitchen. Here in Saipan having a comfortably cool home is expensive so cooking outside makes sense. It’s fun too.

Anytime between 5–10 PM the air around the apartment complex is filled with the sweet smell of steamed fresh veggies or fried fish and sesame oil. As people make their dinners you’ll catch sight of them ducking back inside for an extra splash of something.

Everyone has a slightly different style from what I can tell. My neighbor has a little plastic caddy she brings out so everything is at hand. A woman across the parking lot comes out with everything she needs in the wok already and just plops it on the little stove top.

I learned how wise their ways are through trial and error. I broke a soy sauce bottle, spilled quantities of oil on the ground, and tipped a tray of broccoli and peppers before settling on a my  method for dinner making. Nothing fancy. I put a dollop of oil in the pan before I bring it outside. I cut all my veggies up inside on my kitchen table and trot them out as needed. My stir-fry sauce I mix up in a little jar and bring out right when I need it. The results are delicious!

Biba Santa Remedio

Open Fire Rotisserie

In preparation for the Tanapeg fiesta peter and I “helped out” spit roasting a young cow. All the real work was done long before we arrived, so our “helping out” was only witnessing it take place. The small roasting fires had been lit at 5 AM just before the small cow (from a San Roque farm) was wired onto the skewer and put in place. Tedious hours of “turning the key” followed the constant rotation made slightly easier by a car’s steering wheel attached to one end of the spit.

By the time we arrived in the early afternoon it was almost cooked through. The last of a mixture of meat tenderizing salt, vinegar and spice was dabbed over the meat. (A stick with a tee-shirt tied around one end was the basting brush.) Some one collected some huge flat banana leaves and spread them on the serving table just as dinner was pronounced “done” after a few clean jabs with a sharp stick.

The long spit was heaved off it’s supports and carefully carried by several practiced hands to the table where it stayed balanced as others went to work clipping and untwisting the wires that held it centered. Just before the spit was carefully removed the roast was turned on it’s back and with a silver and black Buck knife a pair of choice strips were taken from the inside of it’s lower back. (Any amateur butchers know that cut’s name?) These were sliced up and shared, but no one close to the work resisted picking and tasting little bits. (Imagine little fingers dipping into a frosted cake and you have the image.)

A few meters of aluminum foil were taped around the roast and we all heaved to get the table up and secure into the too small truck bed. As you can see we never really got it into the truck bed, more around the truck bed but it worked well enough.