Thursday, January 31, 2008

186. Select a Candidate (for US President)

Click on the post title to go to a quick quiz about your political views and which candidate you match up with. (Or click here .)

Hillary Clinton got first billing for me,
with Obama a fairly close 2nd--but he tied with Gravel? whom I'd never heard of. (Okay, I confess, I'm not much of a political junkie.)

Interesting questions. As always, the choices are limited.

Monday, January 28, 2008

185. Random Thoughts

The traffic lights were out in places on the drive to school & work this morning. It was busy. People were not stopping or taking turns. No police were directing traffic at the intersections. It was not the way to start the day.

It seems we will continue to face this problem, as CUC continues to have power problems. I wish the Legislature would address the traffic light issue with a simple law, and the police would enforce it. If a traffic light is out or malfunctioning, it should become and be treated as a stop sign. This slows traffic down--true. But then everyone knowns what to do, and everyone gets a chance to get through intersections, even if they're--heaven forbid--turning left.

Don Farrel's letter in the Variety today-here--is really good. The Governor, Howard Willens, Cinta Kaipat, and possibly Deanne Siemer all seem to be trying very hard to spread misinformation and fear as the means to combat the federalization effort. I know that there are important issues that the US Congress must tackle, but the CNMI needs their attention and an end to the current mess. We are stuck in this quaqmire, the worst of which may be listening to the distortions being thrown about by our current administration. Could we just get on with federalization now, please?

January in Saipan is my favorite month--weather-wise. The moon at night is huge, with a deep field of stars playing back-up. Days are sunny, warm, with a cool breeze coming in. Green and lush, tangerines and star fruit still plentiful. It's a tough life in the tropics, but someone's got to live it. :-)

Friday, January 11, 2008

184. Tag! Chalan Memorias.

I'm finally getting to my tags.

In no particular order:
Brenda Schultz--Shazam.
Angie Wheat--Stakeholders Speak Up.
Ruth Tighe-On My Mind.

Hope each of you will share 20 of your earliest memories of life in Saipan / CNMI. Enjoy the project. And then tag a few more people.

183. The TBR Shelf

I finished my most recent children's book column (probably to be published Friday the 18th in the Marianas Variety--actually published Jan. 25, 2008, and online here ). The introductory paragraphs discuss my TBR Shelf (well, in my case, it's more like a TRB book case).

TBR= To be read. Be sure to check it out when it's published, and I'll link here (in the post title) to the MV page, when available.

In the meantime:
I thought I'd search for images of other people's TBR Shelves, just out of curiosity, and I found this amazing site. While it's not just about TRB shelves, it is a collection of photos of people's home libraries.

People from all over the globe have sent in photos, and some include brief descriptions of what's on their shelves. Some of the photos are just one shelf, some are entire rooms of shelves filled with books. Some photos show very neatly organized and shelved books, and others show massive disarray. Some show unity of purpose, with just books or book/desk or book/reading chair spaces; some show books amid the full panoply of life, with toys and art and animals sharing the same environment.

I find these photos interesting. I love books so seeing piles of them on shelves and stacked up alone is intriguing. But I also find it amazing how people relate to books, keeping them as friends, companions, trophies, furniture!

What's on your TBR Shelves? And what does your home library look like?

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

182. A Popular New Year's Resolution-Quit Smoking

Quitting smoking (along with improved diet and more exercise and losing weight) is a very popular New Year's resolution. For all of you who've added this one to your list, I say-good luck, go for it, great!

I don't smoke, but for all of you out there who do, and who have made a New Year's Resolution to quit, I pass along this information.

CGC has a program that starts tomorrow, January 10, 2008. You "register" for the program by calling 323-QUIT (323-7848).

The program is FREE, and provides FREE nicotine-replacement gum, FREE nic-patches, FREE meds to ease the craving (Chantix). Research shows that these things work best in conjunction with counseling. So CGC has this set-up: To get this free help, you go to meetings. The first one is Thursday, 1/10/2008 at 1PM until 2:30 PM at Conference Room 3, new wing of CHC. The program lasts 9 weeks and ends approximately 3/6/2008.

It's not a perfect offer--I asked how could people who work go to these meetings? Doctors, lawyers, teachers--people with any job, really--are needed on the job typically during the day.

CGC recognizes that its first program schedule isn't user-friendly for these possible hopefuls. They do want to add another program (after this first 9 week one?) that will be in evenings.

But if you're interested in finding solutions to make this New Year's Resolution happen, you can contact CGC. They want to help.

181. Presidential Politics

I'm glad Hilary Clinton won in the New Hampshire Democratic primary. I like Barak Obama, but I like Hilary better. I think Obama is just as much an old-school politician as any of them, despite his youth. I like his oratory, and his personal success, and his ability to motivate young adults to get out and vote, but I have more confidence in Hilary's ability to judge issues and made important decisions. Hilary is smart, hard-working, capable, experienced, and I like her stand on issues.

So, either way--Clinton or Obama, I think the Democractic party stands a chance of doing a better job in the president's office than the Republicans. But hey, those New Hampshire voters did good on the Republican side, too--McCain isn't all bad. He's definitely got the personal grit to lead.

So now--here's a nifty contest for those who like to make movies or who just enjoy parody: NHPR parody video contest.

180. Chalan Memorias (Memory Lane)

At Boni's request (that tag thing), I'm taking a trip down Chalan Memorias. I arrived in Saipan on December 1, 1984, heading into my "new" job as Directing Attorney of the Marianas Office of MLSC. I stayed a week in the Hafa Adai Hotel, courtesy of MLSC, attended my first MLSC staff conference (which was then an annual event), and gradually overcame culture shock to put down roots here.

Some of the things I remember:

1. The first breath of hot, humid air. It had already snowed in Cleveland, Ohio, where I'd been living. The inside airplane temperature had been chilly. When I walked outside of the airplane and got my first breath of tropical air, I felt as if I were being suffocated. I was greeted by an entire office of people, awaiting me with a beautiful mwar mwar and lei. And the woman I would be replacing said, on the way to the hotel, something about how I'd chosen the "best" time of year to arrive in Saipan, when it was "cool" and "pleasant." I thought I wouldn't last.

2. Local directions, island time. I have a ton of these stories, but they all include going to the large breadfruit tree, or mango tree, or coconut tree, and turning there-can't miss it! And never being late. The first one occurred my first week here, when I had a u-drive, and two Chuukese women (one a secretary in the Chuuk office, and one her cousin) in the car, heading to Tank Beach for an MLSC barbecue. All we knew was to turn off some road on the back road--we went down the road to Old Man by the Sea, and later down the road to Santa Lourdes, and finally down the road to Kagman. We saw a whole family at a house on the road, and smoke rising, and yes-they knew our assistant director Eugenia Cepeda (it was her house!), and pointed the way-couldn't miss it. A half hour or more later we finally arrived, at least 4 hours after the time "scheduled" for the barbecue. There were only a handful of people there before us, and more arriving regularly. Our timing was great! The food would be there soon. Have a beer. (BTW, I love island time--I need to be told to arrive hours early so I can get there when I really should be there!)

3. fanihi--I eventually moved into a house at Eugenia's. Because I lived in Kagman in the 1980's, everyone thought I lived "far" away. The road down to Kagman then was just a coral lane that washed out in heavy rains and became deeply rutted. But I loved it back there, where Eugenia's family gathered for family parties--it seemed every day, but probably was just 2 or 3 times a week! At one of these, Eugenia was very happy because they were having fanihi soup, I really should try it, it's delicious, can't ever get that in the states, etc. Another MLSC attorney (Clara) and I considered, feeling game for a new, Chamorro dining experience. Eugenia described how fabulous this soup tasted and smelled, and eventually a big pot was brought to the picnic table. Clara and I wrinkled our noses. Eugenia was saying how it smelled like some animal in the states she remembered from her days in Louisianna, what was that animal, she forgot the name. Clara and I looked at each other and said "skunk?" and Eugenia said YES very excitedly. Fanihi soup was sounding bad. They took the lid off of the pot and there were these little creatures, their dead eyes staring up at us, looking for all the world like dead rats with wings, floating in murk. Ah--fanihi--fruitbat. (and learning the art of politely declining).

4. nightlife 1--The 80's had a whole host of nightlife offerings--not unlike those still operating. The 19th Hole, Angel's, the Southern Cross, the 4 Aces, the Palauan bars (Marianas Inn, I think, being the fave), and more. Some of these bars moved to new locations, and so we moved with them. My kumaire (well, she wasn't my kumaire then) would say, pick me up at 10, and Clara and I would arrive, to find that she hadn't even started to get ready, still needed to shower, etc. We'd get to the dance floor about midnight and stay to closing or beyond. I met Paz Younis on the dance floor of the club across from the Hyatt (and I'll be darned, I've forgotten what it was called then, or now.). Paz was a mother, teacher, respected citizen (and former nun), but on the dance floor, she was a maniac! I also learned quickly some very specific requirements--always ask "are you married?" answers like "I'm single for tonight" mean yes. answers like "no" mean go back to your office and ask your local staff what they know about this guy before agreeing to a date. (one time--yes, he's married and has 5 kids; half hour later, same co-worker--I should correct that answer-he may not be legally married, just living together, in case you're asking about legal status. No, you got it right the first time, thanks.--5 kids!)

5. nightlife 2--driving home from one of the bars about 3 in the morning with island friend in tow, heading down the back road toward Kagman road. STOP! STOP! There's a monster coconut crab crossing the road. (This before limits on taking/hunting, I think, but since I'd never seen one before, I'm not sure). Friend-Let's get it, got anything to catch it with? Me--a screwdriver? Friend--that works. Minutes later, coconut crab with pincer tightly clasped to screwdriver, is on floor in car. Later, it's in a pot of boiling water. Yum! After that, I noticed coconut crabs out at night, crossing the roads, a lot. Occasionally there would be a sickening crunch where I accidentally hit one. I never stopped to catch one again, though. The other creatures most frequently seen on the road at night were frogs. Saipan had TONS of frogs. And then, I stopped seeing the coconut crabs. And then frogs only rarely. sigh.

6. my first Xmas--1.--I hadn't moved to Kagman yet, but was house-sitting in Gualo Rai. The office had a party planned. Everybody cooks for the party. I was told to prepare taro and yams. (Um, I'm American, what are taro and yams?) Never one to shirk responsibility, I went to the farmer's market (I think it was across from the post office then) and bought those fingered-style yams and bulging taro roots (or do I have that backwards? still don't really know), and when I got back to the house, I tried to peel them. Slippery, slimy, hard--how many would I need? I'd been told how to prepare them by another American haole--what did she know? I boiled those things and couldn't tell if they were done. I'd never eaten them, were they supposed to taste like this? I finally put them all in a large tray, covered with foil, and then waited to be picked up. (This after the u-drive and before I had my own car. This, also before I knew that island time was a universal concept applicable pretty much everywhere but in court.) Waited, waited, waited. Hours went by. What had I done? I was on a tropical island for Christmas, having cooked taro and yams instead of cookies, and was stuck in a house without transportation, just me and those damn taro/yams. What kind of Christmas is this? I had just started to cry when Frank showed up. It was pretty hilarious. I've NEVER cooked taro or yams again (and don't plan to).

7. my first Xmas-2. More silly stuff for that first Xmas. The ex-pat community (because this was not the US yet) had a party. Bring a gift-less than $10, silly, kitsch, whatever. Every gift got numbered on the way in, everyone pulled a number from a bowl, gift handed over, but not opened, then swap meet, in numerical order, the last number being able to swap for anything preceding it. I gave a huge flag from Panama (don't remember where I got it), that was much loved by its recipient (forgot his name-he was Peace Corp), and received two champagne glasses with pale blue stems in the form of naked ladies (one still in my kitchen cabinet). Same ex-pat community had a hike--I was too new, but we hiked forever I think along telegraph ridge. It was hot and scratchy, but it wasn't snow or cold, so I liked it.

8. Typhoon Kim--12/4/1986. This is one month after the "end" of the TTPI (11/4/1986). I still lived in Kagman. I still had no phone or cable television. The road was still a coral dustbin. Another MLSC attorney who had been living in Chuuk and who was moving to Saipan had shipped his right-hand drive truck and all his belonging to Saipan. I had it sitting on my "carport", the bed of the truck and contents covered with a blue plastic tarp.

I hadn't a clue there was a typhoon coming. I didn't go to work because I didn't feel good (I think that might have been due to the drop in barometric pressure that brought the storm to us. or something.) I sat on my stoop and watched the sky go dark, noticed the birds stopped singing and everything went silent except for the wind in the trees. I watched the wind bend banana plants to the ground and whip coconut trees to a frenzy, with coconuts sailing through the air. (It was beautiful in Kagman where I lived.) The power went out. Eventually the rain came, and I shut all my louvred windows and closed the doors. The rain came through. I got out my towels and started tacking them up around the windows to try to keep the rain out. (I had no idea what a typhoon really meant, and learned the hard way to keep those towels dry, going to need dry towels later, let the rain in if need be, you can sweep it out afterwards...). Hours and hours of onslaught. A break. The sun came out. The storm had passed. Still standing.

A few hours later, night now, more rain, more wind, more typhoon. The typhoon had done a u-turn and come back to say hello. another six hours or so of rain, wind, the sound of roofing tins crackling in the air, along with trees. A friend banging on my door-his house completely flattened in the storm, can he and his roommate come in? Where's your car? Somewhere on the road down, abandoned-the Kagman road is partially gone, and a "river" forming alongside it's northern edge. By the next day, the storm was gone, the sun was blazing hot, and we had no power, no city water. We set up tin gutters send water in rain barrels, mopped out the house. I took hundreds of books from my Chuuk friend's truck and set them up in the sun to dry. The office was a mess, and we set up our legal library books in the sun there, too, to dry. I went to visit different staff. Frank's house (one of those Joeten houses in Fina Sisu) had flood water higher than the electrical outlets--time to move. A former co-worker (Randy, with his wife Nahid) had their beautiful glass wall facing Managaha completely blown out, expensive rugs drenched. We used their swimming pool as a community bath.

Did I mention I hadn't done laundry for a few weeks before the typhoon? So I had no clean clothes. I packed three suitcases of dirty laundry, hopped a plane to Guam, went to a laundromat from the airport, and returned with clean, dry laundry. Aah.

I was without power and water about 2 weeks. I remember Maria in the office was first to get power, but took a long time to get water. Maggie went six weeks without either. The island looked brown for months. And houses that no one knew existed were revealed on the hills and in the valleys everywhere.

9. Cablevision--remember when we had a weatherwoman?

10. Bar Association meetings--we used to meet and eat at Chamorro Village in San Vicente-road to LauLau Beach.

11. deaths and funerals--John Leonard C. Cepeda was shot and killed at the age of 16. He died on 3/9, I think the year was 1986, but I could be wrong about that. He was the son of Eugenia and Calistro (Kelly), my neighbors, landlords, and local family. I learned about the Chamorro custom of forgiveness--the boy who killed him (it was an accident, but not a nice one) and his parents came and begged forgiveness from the grief-stricken Cepedas. They accepted the sincere apologies and did not pursue any legal recourse.

I learned about Chamorro funerals-all 18 days (9 days public, 9 days for family). I opened my house (it was theirs, after all) to whatever relatives wanted to stay there, and ended up having hordes of teenagers camp in my living room. I listened to the rosary and other prayers, said at 8 AM, 12 noon, 8 PM and midnight for all of the first 8 days, with funeral on the 9th day, and then more daily rosaries (I think just at 8 PM ) for the second 9 days. I learned about "mesngon"--being stoic, and also about the Chamorro funeral wail on closing the coffin.

I've gone to many funerals since that one. The songs, especially at Carolinian funerals, connect directly to the soul. I love when the Bishop sings the "in paradisum---requiem." I usually stay through the tossing of flowers and dirt on the coffin in the grave.

And I've come to understand why the old ladies cry at funerals of people they hardly know, cry for distant relatives they may not have liked very much, cry at the least and the most important funerals. Now, each funeral connects to that spot of grief, and ritual, for every other death of someone I know, someone I cared about, and those I love.

When my father died in 1991, people in Saipan gave me money and helped me get on a plane and deal with the mechanics of living through the grief. For all the humor we can find in the island funeral (like Angelo's hilarious short film of ladies fanning the food to keep away flies), they are, imho, something blessed.

12. driving--I hated when they installed traffic lights. I liked the old days where people usually knew every car on the highway and who it belonged to. I still like the Rota wave.

13. Samoan housing--it still existed in Kagman and Garapan when I got here. I knew people who lived in those houses. I liked the style, the breeziness--but because of the architecture, you could hear anything being said in any part of the house, so better be careful!

14. Night fishing--I was one to stay on the beach and wait. When the fishermen came out of the water with their boxes filled, we knew to wait for the last man. He would be the one with the lobster! And then I would help clean fish (not my forte) to slap directly on hot coals or keep a stick (or tongs) on a still-moving lobster, also on the coals, to sear it for some of the best eating in the world.

15. The (other) Southern Cross--Mike DeSmith, I think, had a telescope-or was it the Kirby's? We stood on the cliffline in Koblerville and watched for the elusive moment when the Southern Cross came up across the horizon and was visible from Saipan. Aaah!

16. Banzai Cliff at night--before it was roped off with chains at night, you could drive right to the monument. I liked to go there to "cool off" and wonder at the most amazing night sky, accompanied by the rush and tumble of the ocean.

17. George Bush Sr.--when he was Veep, came to Saipan. Must have been before 1987--Clara and I stood on the highway leading from the airport, two lonely protestors, with signs. No one saw us (except someone later said it was improper to protest, not the "island way.")

18. Executive, Legislative, Judicial branches. The legislature was in the buildings on the beach (one, green--still standing) in Susupe. The Governor (Pete P) was in the southside of Civic Center, along with lieutenant governor (Pete A). The court-Superior then called Commonwealth Trial Court was in in the civic center buildings, north side--used by DPS and the passport office now. (Judge Hefner and Judge Soll on the bench.) Appeals went to Judge Laureta of the district court, in the Nauru Bldg. And there were still occasional hearings up on capital hill by the Trust Territory High court (Judge Munson, among others). MLSC Marianas Office was in the building where Marg's Kitchen is now (until 1986, weeks before Typhoon Kim, when we moved to an old building where the Guma Hustitia is now).

19. 360 degrees--only then it was the top of the Nauru Bldg, and I forget the name of the bar/restaurant. It was a favorite haunt for lawyers and other office workers, for happy hour. Alex Castro and Eddie Manibusan wrote out dirty Chamorro words on a paper napkin for me, as part of my local education. The Palauan waitress, who was known for being surly, turned into a complete sweetheart when my aged parents visited in 1987 for their 50th wedding anniversary. The drinks were great, the music greater.

20. local medicine, local practice--I went on a hike in Laulau, I forget the woman I was with (I want to say she was from a family in As Teo, but I'm not sure). I was tagging along as she collected medicine plants. I'd ask stupid questions like "what's that one for" and "how do you use it" and I kept getting answers like, for stomache ache, made like tea. Everything seemed to be the same. She couldn't just say, it's family lore and not information for sharing--too rude. I eventually learned small bits--the heartshaped leaves on the bushes along the walk by American Memorial-used for headache, just tucked into a bandana wrapped around the head; camias leaf, chewed and slapped on open cut (camias are those sour, green long fruits, also good for pickling); popcorn plant leaf--crushed and ground, used for dry skin; and of course the ubiquitous coconut oil-rubbed on achy tummy, dry skin, congested sinuses. When you're in the boonies and need to use the "facilities," say "Guelo yan guela" forgive me, I'm going to pee on your face. Always respect the ocean, and Don't shout at shoreline [is this only at sunset?] (raises the sea's anger?). Don't sweep the house at night (chases away friends, visitors). I know there's more and more and more.

But the lane is closing and it's time for lunch, I mean, work.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

178. Where the CNMI stands in the Iraq War

I found this at Boni's deployment blog--Breathe...breathe...hooah...hooah.
The CNMI is second (to American Samoa) in number of casualties per capita in the Iraq War. (Click on post title for link to full list.)

At San Vicente Church, they lit a candle for each person who died in 2007. Death happens, whether we're in the military or not. But for those who die in combat, or otherwise, far away from home, I feel especially sad. Our military persons who are killed in war are mostly young men and women--their lives a heavy price to pay for war.

I'm opposed to the war in Iraq. I think President Bush and America were wrong for starting it, and are wrong for continuing it. And we've made a mess that may take generations for healing and recovery. I would like to see individuals say no to war and refuse to participate in it.

But I sincerely hope and pray for each soldier or other military person who has made a different decision--who has enlisted, who is facing deployment, who is already there, or returned with battle scars (emotional or physical).

May you find peace in 2008. May you return safely to your family. May God bless you.