Kathy Pagapular, a teacher on Saipan, first saw the film Sharkwater at American Memorial National Park, which hosts a free public showing of an environmental movie on the first Friday of each month. She liked the film so much, she purchased it offAmazon.com and showed it to her sixth grade class. The students loved the movie, too, and decided to write to Sharkwater’s director and editor, Rob Stewart, to ask him to come to Saipan to help them protect sharks. -Source
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.
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.)
I’ve said it before but Sapan parties are incredible events and I hope you already have an idea of what Saipan local hospitality looks like. (If not remind yourself of Pete’s going away party.)
Romeo and Juliet
Friday night was the Romeo and Juliet party for PJ’s cousin Linko and her fiancée Ralph. A Romeo and Juliet is a shower thrown in honor of a couple about to be married. And it’s a surprise.
By the time Linko and Ralph arrived the band had sound checked, the food had been set out and the coolers were full of beer. They had no idea anything had been planned, and it was a lot of fun. It was a weekend of cold beer, plates heavy with food, starry nights and great conversations.
Last night the sky over Garapan filled with dusty purple clouds that washed the streets with a paintbox hue unlike anything I’ve ever seen. It was as if the air itself had grabbed hold of one end of the spectrum and squeezed out this royal shade.
backstage at a sunset
This strange sky is thanks to a very large weather system, Typhoon Juan (A.K.A. Typhoon Megi). It passed us by but rolled right over the Philippines and now it’s grinding toward Southern China. Thankfully here on Saipan we saw only a little eddy thrown off by the main storm. We had dark skies yesterday, some rain, a little thunder and lightning, and these magical purple clouds.
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.
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.
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.