Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Why are we still on Saipan?

I've been writing back to the states - to friends and family- letting them know how things are going here. I've mentioned the many power outages, political squabbles, poor water, drastic economic downturn, etc. And I told them how the station is struggling to even stay on the air with all these factors, and how many businesses have already shut their doors for these same reasons. So I keep getting asked, why are you still on Saipan? Why not pack up now and head to the states where there's electricity, water and fresh food in the stores? Well, it's a hard question to answer, when no one on the receiving end has tried to make a life out here. But Harry and I have spent 12 years living on this little island. We raised our kids here. We have friends, are part of the community, and we love to dive! Sounds like feeble reasons I guess, in light of all the states has to offer, so I guess I just have to say - I can't really explain it. Somehow, for now anyway, it's home. I put together a few pictures that capture some of the reasons why we are still here. These are not in order of importance, but rather in the random order that blogger lets me load them. Since they have no rhyme nor reason, I didn't bother organizing them.

Emma, the ever faithful boonie dog, who runs from our dinner guests.

Some of my co-workers and business associates.

Dancing with Harry - what a great way to celebrate life. Watching my daughter dancing, happy and looking lovely.

Having a drink or two with friends (family).

Watching the paddlers at sunset.


Enjoying new guests at Oleai.
Searching for turtles off Bonzai cliff in the early morning.
I don't think words are needed for this.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Weekend Dive

This week, my Sunday morning dive was with Harry, Barry and Vaughn. We saw the fish ball right away when we got in. Barry took some pictures of it with his antique dive camera that still uses film. It's a cool looking little camera, no housing needed. It was fun looking at the developed "real" pictures after the dive.
Harry decided to take us to some swim throughs. Here are his fins disappearing into a cave. I tried to follow him, but couldn't see where he went. When he headed into a second swim through I went into that one, but half way through I watched him at the end wiggling to get himself out. I decided maybe I'd not try that one. But, it's like the guys said later, if he made it through by wiggling, I probably could have gone straight through. Ok, next time I'll swim right on through with him.

Here he is exiting one of the swim throughs. It looks pretty cool down there, under the coral.
Here's Harry with a big conch shell.
Barry and Vaughn and a few neighborhood fish friends.
Barry and Vaughn checking out another conch shell.
I always enjoy swimming along the pipeline. There are so many interesting things to see.
Vaughn and Barry are checking out the pipeline, too. Or maybe practicing ESP. : )
Barry found this really beautiful pillow starfish on our way back to the rope. I was having problems with my camera settings, and finally shot this photo only to have zebra boy swim right in front of it. Oh well. You can still see how pretty it is.

Friday, April 25, 2008

No Smoking Trend on Saipan

One of my first non-smoking restaurant experiences here on Saipan, was at 360 The Revolving Restaurant. Besides the great view, great service and food, it was just so pleasant to sit and enjoy my food without smelling smoke or being concerned about breathing it in. I could enjoy the good smell of the food, and go home with my nice clean smelling hair still nice, too. So of course, we come back to 360 often. I read in today's paper that our lawmakers are now considering non-smoking laws in our enclosed public places - restaurants, bars, etc. I hope they go forward with doing something good for the CNMI by protecting the health of restaurant workers and non-smoking customers. But even if they don't, I want to wholeheartedly praise the restaurants that have already put their best foot forward, took a little risk, and had the guts to protect our health. My GREAT THANKS to each of you! Harry and I will be happily patronizing your restaurants, and invite our friends to do the same. Sadly, there are still some restaurants where I enjoy the food and would like to eat there more often, but I am not willing to battle the smoke. I have actually walked out of these restaurants a few times, and gone elsewhere due to smoke.
Those are: (ASH TRAY group)
Saigon Vietnamese - good food, good price, but it often has smokers in a very small room so we can't escape it.
Hong Wan - good food, fair price, good service, but again no escape from the smokers, as they don't seem to have a no smoking area.
Grotto Restaurant - great food, kind of pricey, but a small room with no escape from smoke.
Guangzhao Restaurant - good food, good price, but small with no escape from smoke.
Truong's - good food, fair price, with a no smoking area, but it still permeates the room and drifts towards the non-smoking tables.
Hyatt Kili Lounge and Giovanni's - Excellent food, a little pricey, claims to have a no smoking area, but still sits smokers near a non-smoking table. At that price, I want to enjoy my dining experience, so we probably go there alot less than we would if it were smoke free.
Shirley's - I like to go there for breakfast, but the smoke is often overwhelming, so we rarely go.
Bobby Cadillac's - We like to eat here and make sure we're in the non-smoking area in front of the air con, so it keeps the smoke blowing away.
Marianas Resort - One of my favorite places to hang out is the Marianas Resort Spa. Now you would think a spa would be smoke free, as it bills itself as a healthy place, etc. But sadly, you would be wrong. They do have no smoking signs around the spa in various places, but they let customers smoke in the cafe. So I usually get my drink or snack and leave the cafe to eat in a non-smoking area.
The restaurants that we enjoy the most and eat at often because they are smoke free are:
(we'll call this the BLUE RIBBON group)
Hawaii Bar and Grill - good food, plenty of food and good prices. Thanks Andrew, for a healthy place to eat good food!
Tony Roma's and Capricciosa - it used to be a pain, as we had to walk through the smoke to be seated and to pay our bill, but THANKS for going smoke free, it's a dramatic improvement.
360 Revolving Restaurant- great relaxing place with lunchtime specials.
PIC - price and location keep us from going very often, but we enjoy our visits when we do go.
Oleai Beach Bar and Grill - we eat outside at Oleai to purposely avoid smoke. The view is awesome, food is ok, price is fair. Depending on the wind, we might sometimes have to tolerate some smoke. But for the most part, the ocean side seating keeps us coming there every weekend.
Yes, dining on Saipan is definitely becoming more appealing with the current no-smoking trend. I thank you - my lungs thank you - and probably my health insurance supplier thanks you, too.
Have a great smoke free day!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Poolside BBQ

I wanted to write about the poolside BBQ at Mark and Tammy's house in yesterday's post, but I deleted it due to photo problems. For some reason my pictures are still acting weird - some big some small - so I thought I'd just post it anyway. In this first picture you meet Brady. He was the official greeter, I think. But he is one of the friendliest dogs I've met on island. I wish Emma were more like him.

In the next picture I'm getting hugs from both dogs. I can't remember the girl dog's name, but she was quite friendly, too, especially if she was competing with Brady. She made me laugh because she goes to the neighbor's yard and takes avocados from the ground and brings them home to eat on her front lawn. Too funny.

Isn't this pool just beautiful? It was so refreshing after our dive, to soak in the pool a bit before getting something to eat from the wonderful assortment of dishes that everyone brought.

Here's Harry chatting with Jason, and enjoying some great food. There were so many vegetarian dishes, that I thought I woke up somewhere else. I had so many choices, it was hard to pick. That was a real switch from the "normal" potluck gathering out here.

I took this picture looking off of Mark and Tammy's deck. The sun was setting and the moon was rising. Very cool view. Thank you Mark and Tammy for your kind hospitality. I really had a great afternoon, relaxing, chatting with friends, and enjoying really good food. The dogs were fun, too!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Fun Weekend

In my last post, I wrote about my afternoon at Marianas Resort on Saturday. On Sunday, Harry and I headed out for our morning dive at Lau Lau. It was such a fun dive for me. My camera was working great, and I got a few nice photos. I even got one good macro shot. As we were heading back in, we saw the fish ball not too far from the rope. Immediately, I was transported back to Bali, where I swam with the giant fish ball every day. This one has smaller fish than the one in Bali, but it had a few really big fish chasing it around.
I actually caught the big ones on my camera! I was so excited. They moved at light speed, so I figured it was just luck if I clicked and they were in my frame. Yay for me!Here I am, clicking away, trying not to grin and make my mask leak. Below I'm just swimming along at Lau Lau, just over the pipeline. It's just so beautiful down there. I find more things to see and enjoy each time we go.
I really enjoy seeing these little guys just playing in the anemone or the little swarms eating around the coral. As we were swimming along, Harry stopped me to show me this guy. It's a scorpion fish. I let him take the photo. I never would have seen him on my own. He just mixed in with everything around him.
This was my one attempt at a macro shot on this dive. I was pretty happy with it, but it's not as clear as it could be. I should have gotten a little closer I think.
Here's Harry - looking for his next photo op.
I had to take pictures of these guys. I have a matching swimsuit! Here is one of my most common views - and one of my favorites! Love this guy.
Well, as amazing as this was, it wasn't even my whole day of fun. That afternoon we went to Mark and Tammy's for a really nice poolside BBQ. I'll do a post on that tomorrow.

I like Marianas Resort

I had a really nice weekend, even if it was busy almost every minute. On Saturday I attended a Northwest Airlines appreciation luncheon for the travel agents. That was very nice. We got a trophy for 2nd place in sales, and Lisa won a round trip business class ticket to the states! After the luncheon, I went to Marianas Resort to read my book and lay in the sun. I was too tired to join Harry, Barry and Vaughn on their afternoon dive. Below is the view from the deck at Marianas Resort. This is the massage hut. I've never really seen it used for massages, though. It's usually for going under when it rains.
This is the walkway leading to the cafe and upper pools.

This is the really cold pool. I saw a plumeria floating in it, so I sat down and took a picture. I go in this pool the most, as it really cools you down after laying in the hot sun.

Friday, April 18, 2008

I like diving on Saipan

True to my last blog post, I am continuing my posts on "things I like about Saipan." Diving on Saipan is an awesome experience. Yes, hauling the tanks is still hard for me, but look what I get to see once I get down there! I never get tired of swimming with the turtles. I think this one is a hawksbill. There are a couple of them down there, that will let you swim along with them for a while.
I think this one is a green. He has such a pretty shell.

Last weekend I dove with Harry and Barry. In this photo, they are trying to get a good picture of a nudibranch.
Here's Barry swimming near the pipeline at Lau Lau.
Below: King of Lemuria, checking on the kingdom mound?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

I like Oleai Beach Bar and Grill

I haven't been able to post much lately. Between power outages, internet glitches, and just being really busy, it's been hard to sit down and write. It's not that there isn't alot going on, there is. But I have to admit, that I struggle with how to write it down. We have been faced with some very hard decisions lately. But, I have to face those things all day long, so I decided my blog was going to be about good things, things I like about living on this island. So today's blog is about Oleai Beach Bar andGrill. Over the last 12 years, we have spent untold hours there with friends and family. We have laughed, told stories, cried, made fun of each other, and ate mediocre food and consumed gallons of iced tea together. We have enjoyed the ocean, the sunsets, watching the fishermen, sailors and children playing on the beach. And we've even stopped in the middle of eating lunch, and gone for a swim. In the picture above, I'm holding a puppy named Fwuffy, according to it's very young owner. Fwuffy belongs to the son of one of the waitresses at Oleai. When the boy wants to play on the beach, he has me "puppy sit" for him. In the picture below, Jeong Ah is taking her turn puppy sitting. In the picture below, I'm enjoying a relaxing swim near shore, before my tacos arrived. It was close enough for Harry to get out his camera and take my picture.

That's right! Not too bad for 47, eh?
So this is where we eat lunch almost every weekend. It's become our weekend home away from home, so to speak. If our friends are looking for us on Saturday or Sunday afternoon, they know where to look. I would guess we've had lunch at Oleai with hundreds of friends over the years. Harry often takes his dive buddies here after a morning dive. I used to always meet him there for lunch, but now I'm one of the dive buddies.
Well, I guess my next post will have to be on diving - another thing I really like about living on this island.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Gmail on the blink

For a number of days now, my gmail has been acting up. So I gave up writing a few posts. Since I managed to get in today, I thought I'd just kind of sum up some events lately. I didn't get to go diving last weekend. When I woke up Saturday morning, my neck and shoulders were hurting. I was going to just stay home and lay down, but some friends were scheduled to go diving with us. One would be diving and the other would be left on shore, so I thought I'd hang out on the beach with Amanda. But Saturday morning, Inga and Amanda didn't show up, but Zandra did. So I decided since I was already dressed to go to the beach, I would just ride along and sit out on the beach while Harry and Zandra went for a dive. I figured my neck would hurt at home as much as at the beach anyway. I spent most of the rest of the weekend laying down, reading a good book.

April 2nd was my bosses' 76th birthday. Here is a picture of the staff with Dave on his birthday. Harry and I went to a birthday dinner for him later that evening. It was a beautiful dinner held at the Aqua Resort. We spent the night laughing and talking. It was a very nice evening.

You can see our new uniforms in this picture. Light blue tops with gray jackets and skirts. I don't think the guys have jackets. I'm not a real polyester fan, but these are better than the ones ordered in previous years.

Today is April 4. On this day many many years ago, Harry and I started dating. Yep, way back in High School. We have shared so much history - love, laughter, tears, parenting, friendship. We supported each other through hard times, and each of us losing a parent. We have spent our last 12 years here on Saipan, working and raising our children. The kids are grown now, each pursuing their own lives, but still sharing themselves with us as much as possible. During our last trip to Bali, I had alot of time to reflect on our history together. I am thankful that God brought us together. I am thankful for the man that Harry is and for all of the years we've shared life together. I'm thankful for Josh and Sarah, whose lives God blessed us both with. They are wonderful people. So today, April 4, I am thankful that my journey of life has been shared with Harry. And I look forward to all our future holds together.

Here is an old picture of us, when Josh was only about 6 months old, I think. What's that expression? "We've come a long way, baby!"