Tag Saipan

Some Garapan Signs

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.

Six Choice, Five Dollars

Garapan’s Thursday Night Market

Most of the local restaurants set up tables checkered with steel catering trays filled to the brim with all kinds of greasy fare. Meat on a stick, whole fried daily catch, fried rice and saucy noodles. If you decide to order six choices you’re served Thanksgiving plate proportions of food in a deep bottomed styro take-home container, a pair of chopsticks and one napkin.

I took these photos last week, when the market wasn’t as busy as I’ve seen it. It had just rained and you could feel the day’s wet heat rise up from the black top. The carnival lights strung from under the tents turned the surrounding night even darker. The abundance of choice makes it hard to decide even for an off-the-wagon vegetarian like me. I pace the length several times, considering my options, always gravitating toward the Thai and Indian food. Now, I don’t have the gastronomic capacity for a spade full of dinner but Peter let me in on an unadvertised secret: three choice, three dollar, which seems to me a perfectly good deal.

We found a spot up Garapan’s walking mall, plunked down, and cracked into our convenience store beers.

Nice Eggs Ladies

Decent Into The Cave

PJ and my trip to Forbidden Island took us down into the green hillside into a beautiful sea cave. A short walk up over a small ridge brought us through a low carpet of mangrove-like plants. The trail abruptly ends inviting sandalled hikers to find their own way over ragged and jagged edged boulders up to a wide gap in the cliff.

There you’ll find a triangular opening sitting like an manhole between you and an orange (ancient reef) wall. It’s easy enough to shimmy about ten feet down into the cool still air of the dim chamber. On the far end of the room the stone is salamander smooth and lit by lively slithering reflections off the small pond in the floor.

In a place like this it’s hard to avoid thinking mythically or at least cinematicly. Dreamy shafts of sunlight brighten the underground pool. Hikers move under the mountain from jungle to seaside grotto then back to the heat and bright of day. The moment I was in I had the feeling of familiarity but not quite deja vu. It reminded me of the Mayan Actun Tunichil Muknal caves in Belize. It’s good to know that I’m not the only one and that others have felt the same way about it.