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You may spot one of these delightful little butterflies floating near flowering trees in Saipan. I’m not sure, but I think it’s an Hypolimnas bolina or Common Eggfly. I think I’ll call it by it’s much prettier name Blue Moon Butterfly.
Check it off the list!
Apigigi is a delicious island treat. Coconut meat ground together with tapioca flour rolled in a banana leaf and grilled. It’s a not too sweet gummy desert/breakfast and it’s delicious, even cold like I had it here from this Chamorro bakery in Capitol Hill.
The Chamorro name for this acorn sized palm nut is Pugua, known world wide as the betel nut. It’s widely popular on Saipan and is sold alongside all it’s “mix” in every grocery store at the check out counter. It ranges in price, but a dollar will buy you from 5-10 of the green pods. Two varieties are currently in season. Saipan Red, preferred for its softness and sweetness, daily delivered from local farms (“it’s our money tree”) to the grocery store, and Yap. Yap is mostly imported from the isle of Yap, though a few people on Saipan grow this woodier variety.
Bite the cap off of it, and split it open with your teeth to reveal a woody meat with a pale pink center. (If its too juicy, it’s not so good, call it paska.) Swipe a tiny amount of mineral lime out of its container with your pinky and transfer it to the center of the betel nut, close it up and you’re good to go. You can stop right now pop it in your mouth and chew it up. You’ll feel your face go flush and depending how much lime you have used you’ll probably get a head rush.
Or, like most people, you will opt for a more flavorful mix. You may like your betel nut wrapped in a special peppery leaf (delicious but turns your spit red!) or with a cardamom pod, tobacco, or some other spices before chomping away at it. (The finished bundle, betel nut and mix, is called the the mama’on.)
Dentists here hate that people use it. The mineral lime is harsh and can toughen the inside of your cheek and stain your teeth. It may be related to some mouth cancer. Probably worse is that kids as young as seven can start chewing. Stores won’t sell it to kids but it’s everywhere–heck it grows on trees!
If you ever get a chance to try it, do! It’s definitely not something I’ll make a habit of using, but I’m glad I tried it.
My camera isn’t the best, but you can still see the napping dog on the hood of this busted Jeep.
Pete, PJ, Alyx and I cruised over Capitol Hill to Marine Beach the other day to do a little beach sitting and tide pool gazing.
Did you know there is such a thing as a salt water frog? I did not.
Pete got the full treatment on his birthday, he clearly married into the right family. They prepared from time Mary Ann called her sister Tina to tell her they were coming. A huge roast pig, the whole haul from our night fishing, massive containers of rice, roast veggies, crab salads, perpetually refilling coolers of beer, four cakes and platters of sweet bread. Enough to feed and re-feed about 150 members of da familia. That’s not to mention the live music and the 35 Polynesian dancers.
It was a familiar site for most of the attendees. I asked PJ’s girlfriend, “have you ever been to a party this big before?” “Oh, yes, there was a baptism.”
The Lieto’s had the party planning down to a fine science. Auntie Tina arrived at the pavilion gate before 8 A.M. to get started as soon as the gate was unlocked. She had trunkloads of flowers and palm leaves, some as big as tablecloths, to wire up and around the pavilion. The family was given specific instructions of what and how much food they would need to prepare for the night. Serving tables arrived, a bar was setup, food laid out, live flower leis were threaded, the loud-ass PA system was sound checked and everything was in perfect order when Pete arrived, right on time, at 6:30.
The party was almost indescribable. Partly because I was sitting close to the bar, but mostly because it was so enjoyable. After a particularly strong cheek full of betel nut (more later) I took a walk to the edge of the park and looked on at the whole scene from a distance. The pretty white pavilion lit up and loud with laughter and music for Pete, who may as well been another haole, but here he is family and deserved no less than the best birthday party I have ever been to.
By midnight the pig was wrecked, having been picked over twice, and there were nothing but empty plates, serving dishes and beer cans on the tables. As the singers packed up their equipment the rest of the clean up started and was over in less time than it took to say goodbye and plan for going out for a night dancing in Garapan.
Not a bad way to celebrate a milestone birthday is it?
Hafa adai! (say: haf a day.)
I’ve arrived safely in Saipan and have had a thrilling introduction.
I’m staying with Pete, Mary Ann, and Alyx at their apartment in Tanapeg for now. A few of PJ’s family came over to visit the first morning. They brought me a breakfast ham sandwich to inaugurate my new non-vegan island life. That’s PJ’s uncle Joe in the red tank top, and his nephew Christopher with the long hair, his aunt and other nieces and nephews were there too but not pictured. (The lady in blue is Mary Ann and Pete’s temporary landlord who may be able to find me an apartment for as little as $150 a month.)
Around noon PJ’s girlfriend (Victoria, Russian) threw a party for her friend (Nika, aslo Russian) at Pau Pau beach (say: pow pow). Lot’s of beer, toasting, cake, Russian party food, BBQ chicken (still working up to that), Jay-z pumping through a car stereo system and sun. Lots and lots of sun. The party turned into lounging in the lagoon, beers in hand (not so different from the Roberts river trip) and me enjoying the fact that I have arrived in this beautiful place.
PJ and I cut loose to meet up with his dad to go night fishing with Mary Ann’s first cousin, Peter Tiatano, and a ten deep crew of serious spear fishermen. At dark we climbed aboard two little boats loaded with spears, flashlights and snorkeling equipment. We putt-putted out to the reef and slipped into the warm, clear sea water. I was without spear or flashlight, but didn’t miss out on a thing. It was totally otherworldly to cruse around underwater, the sea bed dimly lit by moonlight and cones of light sweeping over and around the coral seeking little fishies. We stayed out for over two hours, and collected an impressive variety of edible fish you may recognize from a dentist’s office aquarium. We didn’t stay for the cleaning of fish and drinking of beer that usually follows a trip out like that, I was too beat. I found myself falling asleep in the boat, cruising toward Garapan in the warm night air.