Wednesday, April 13, 2011

North Korean Bullets and One Big Buddha.

Currently I am loving my life in Saipan…Oh the joys of being in Asia and able to travel to so many amazing places. I just landed again on this tiny island after spending the best week in South Korea. We had to cancel our trip to Tokyo because, well it’s pretty much coming to an end over in those parts and I wasn’t really into dodging aftershocks, worrying about food shortages, and basically growing a 3rd leg due to radiation everywhere. We stayed in a great part of Seoul at one of my students parents condos…let me tell you it was pretty nice being carted around in a luxury car instead of catching the subway everywhere…don’t get me wrong though, that’s usually the most exciting part of my world adventures. I was surprised though...Korea so so clean.
My favorite part of the entire trip was in the North in the Searoka tooks us about 3 hours of straight switchbacks (well..not straight) in a coupe to get to...winding over mountain upon mountain=car sick. BUT once tucked into our quaint little hotel, where I got my first taste of sleeping on the floor and fear of bed bug invasion...we stumbled across a national park. I found quite the massive Buddha hanging out under the mid-day sun in a valley down past a temple and he stood at about 200 feet. Insence and big bags of rice were stacked sky high praising this giant and prayers scribbled on chalk-board type roofing lined the perimeter of the holy ground. This place was tucked between some of the most beautiful, snow capped mountains I’ve seen. Chanting and Mantras could be heard after we were at the top of one of these giants looking out over this massive South Korean Valleys.
 As I was walking to the top of the last mountain I took in the chanting-echo through the valley, felt the chilled air on my skin (for the first time in a while) and just though…WOW, my life is amazing at this exact second. I love being free…I love traveling…I love life.
Seoul is basically the biggest city I’ve been to so far, I know there are others…but wow was it big. There were sky scrapers that just went on...forever. It was pretty new to see all the smog and pollution as well. App. This yellow wind, or as our host May called it “yellow-weendee”, comes from China and makes ahella of a mess around the Korean parts. We went to temple after temple…Beoksyun…Geongang…so many…seeing all the ancient architecture. The green and red roofs were so amazing to see. Most were restored and the paintings around them were really bright. Dragons lined every building...every street. .. Seeing statues of guardians on the roofs of all the local houses and tea houses were pretty bizarre too. I loved the street food and seeing little old men at their "chop-stick" carts.
I definitely got my fill on Bulgogi and Bibimbob (beef heaven…) and every other rice-stuffed dumpling kimchi-soy sauce-doused dishes ever made. The mochi there was to die for as well…not a fan of red beans and dessert, but I give it up for the Asians for perfecting the rice-paste candy. If you’re one of my many Korean friends reading this…know that I’m sorry for being the worst speller ever. Lol.
We dared to venture into Northern Korea which basically put me in my American  shame chair. I’ll admit I wasn’t nervous at all until we reached the USO and hopped in our military led tour to the De-Militarized Zone in Northern Korea and up passed the tourist tunnels and into the real military boarder zone. Which by the way can only be reached by the military..and you can’t be South Korean and go to the Northern most part. We got lectured on the importance of NO showing anything remotely close to “propaganda” or “free the North Korean” shirts. Also, if we gave the finger…which would have been as bad as the peace sign…we would have been tackled and carted back to the city… before being shot by the other side. It was medieval to see this actual line drawn between two countries.
The North Koreans loomed on the other side of the boarder in their Nazi-like uniforms looking all intimidating, while the South Korean and American troops were all decked out and pretty serious on our side. Knowing that people lived on the other side of that radio/tv/cell phone blocked country made me so mad..considering they are pretty much stuck there forever until the communists decide to not be…well communist. BUT I’m not going to go on a tangent because I really don’t know much about it other than what the United Nations filled us in on. The happiest part of the trip was eating lunch with this French guy, Clausier...and we discussed the rediculous steriotypes of Italians and the French. I made my first real French friend that day.
Otherwise, the rest of the trip was full of visiting local markets, tea houses, and fish towns. I went to my first legit. "sauna" as well...(2 actually...) The first was a warehouse type get-up that I feared for my life at sit in these clay, charcoal heated domes on wooden floors and wear the finest mix of orange and cotton jail suits. lol..the second was pool upon pool of hot-steamy water just kicking the stress out of every part of my body. I know the Europeans are known for their spas-but I give it up to Korea. It was freezing outside, but that made it all the better....
Oh, a friend would put you torture me! Until Thailand!!!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sunset over the Tsunami...

A normal day…a Friday… I had been at the elementary school all day. I was ending my day and just goofing off with my coworkers in the office when our friend called us and told us we had a tsunami warning. Not yet knowing the severity of the 8.9 magnitude earthquake only several hundred miles north of our small island in the Pacific, we disregarded it. Silvia, Virle, and I were closing up the school when we got a second alert. Again, being reassured that there was nothing to worry about we went home and planned for our normal Friday evening vespers and dinner at Dr. Stafford’s place. Then our friends Virle and Joeie went out for gas and came right back wondering about the long lines and panic that was rising on the island. At this time our friend Jon came by, being a US Marshall he hasted along the panic along with the warning given to our friends by the police.

We were being evacuated. That’s when it hit me…this is a big deal. After panic started to sink into my stomach my housemates and I ran to our rooms and started packing a backpack full of anything we held dear. I grabbed my computer and a change of clothes…but all my books…all my pictures…all my journals, which would I take? I grabbed my passport, Bible, and two most precious travel/prayer journals and ran out with my roommate. The intensity of having to hurry was beat into me upon seeing police patrol up and down our road which made my heart beat out of my chest. (Considering the police are usually never ever seen on this island…) What was going on…I had anything important to me in a bag on my back...not confident I’d ever be able to go back to the place I’d called home. When do you ever think you’d be in a position like that? I wasn’t trained for that…
My housemates, neighbors, and friends gathered in a circle before we pulled the cars out and just prayed. In my heart I was screaming…this can’t be as serious as they say…then we found out the was supposed to be hitting the island at about 7…it was 6:20. I could just tell by every ones nervous laughter and expressions splashed on faces that I wasn’t the only one afraid. But it was okay, we knew God would be with us no matter what…
As David and I hit the main road in the truck I was doing everything I could to just stay calm. We passed cars with their flashers on…police cars evacuating tourists and low income people in school buses from hotels and homes. All the businesses were barred and closed…even gas stations were empty now. People were sitting on their roofs and stacked in the backs of pickup trucks headed to either the airport or Mt. Tapochau-the highest points on the island. We saw one Navy ship after the other pull out of our quiet harbor as the sun set behind it. Usually I’d enjoy such a brilliant yellow and orange sunset…but not tonight. I looked at my friend of 17 years and tried to laugh as I asked for reassurance. I was just thinking over and over…holy crap, this isn’t a dream.
We reached the top of Tapochau and had to battle through vehicle after vehicle either pulled off the road or just stopping unable to go any farther up the mountain road. Literally thousands of people were with us at the top…just sitting...their silhouettes against the sky seemed picturesque…just watching the sunset over the horizon that was soon expected to be beyond anyone’s control. We were all just waiting.
We reached the top and were greeted by our SDA Clinic doctors and friends who had come to take shelter in this house far up on the mountain…and again, we just looked down at the island and just watched the sunset over the water…and then it got dark. We never saw what really happened. That night when we were laying in bed…not sleeping… it rained harder than I’ve ever heard…eerie.
Everyone thinks it can never happen to them. I thought so too…but I sit back and think…what if  it’d been worse? We weren’t ready…at all. Safety wise the island is prepared…but I know I wasn’t.
I know we just all were praying. And I thank my friends and family...and my friend’s families…when I got on facebook for the first time I literally had over 100 comments and messages from friends praying and thinking of us. Thank you. Honestly, you will never know how much that meant to me after all the craziness. Thank you. We didn’t know how bad things were off the island…I can’t believe how much devastation Japan has. It’s just mind blowing. Hopefully, besides aftershocks... it’s all over for the people on the mainland. WOW.
…Be ready, for anything. Although safe and unhurt, I find myself thinking today what if it had been worse? Who haven’t I made amends with? What if this happens again?…pray for those who didn’t make it.
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Prostitutes have hearts too...

What an eye catching title you may say. Several weeks ago I started teaching a free English class in a pretty sketchy Chinese restaurant in downtown Garapan. Not thinking how critical and important it would become to some ladies I didn’t put much thought into the content of the teaching until I met Mi Li. Mi Li works at a “spa” and is coming to better her conversational English to get a better job. But, what about Mi Li you may ask? Mi Li’s husband has another girlfriend on the island, so being still in love with her husband since high school and unable to leave him because her daughter is with his parents in China...she’s stuck. And I thought I had problems…
Let me give you a low down on Saipan’s misfortune in the prostitute business: Recruiters from places like China and Vietnam promise a future of a well paying job and citizenship to targeted third world ladies. When the women and other workers arrive in Saipan, they find their recruiter has vanished and there are no jobs in sight. Hundreds of these destitute workers roam the streets of Saipan with little or no chance of employment and no hope of returning to their homeland. So, they become prostitutes to send money to their families and children who were left stranded in their home country. Also, with the closing of mass garment industries around 2006 people are left without work…although they were shut down because they paid a whole dollar for a day’s work.  
I didn’t really even ask for Mi Li’s background…earlier in the day I was stressing and grumbling about my own frustration with my failed relationship and other issues out of my control when she caught me before class and burst into tears explaining in broken and repetitive English what was happening and why she needed a better job. My problems were instantly put to shame. I like to put myself in other shoes, but my brain is incapable of placing me anywhere near this situation because I have never and will never be raised with a male dominating society.
So many other ladies have stories just like this, some even being separated from their true loves or husbands and children by force. I know Mi Li understood everything I was saying when I squeezed her hand and promised her we would find her a new job and apartment.
On a lighter note, I am almost fully recovered from the plague I contracted on our camping trip on Managaha Island (off the coast) teaching for several days and hanging out with some pretty cool kiddos. I always love going without running water..and nooo electricity, but hauling water and yourself across the island is exhausting after a while! I also learned though that red ants like to cuddle, Korean girls don’t like camping, that I eat to quietly and need to slurp my noodles like the students, Chomorro’s cook the best chicken on a stick in the universe. I also experienced the smallness of myself as I stepped out of my tent every morning and stared at the bluest, clearest water on the planet. The food was quite interesting and the people thrilling. I got to construct my first hut out of plam branches and woven together banana leaves…what an adventure that was. Maybe I’ll start my own hut decorating business!
Summing it all up though…I leave for Tokyo in 14 days and can hardly wait. Until then…pray for the people here and pray for Mi Li and the other (As my friend Bean puts it) “Ladies of the Night”. Just because they have a certain profession doesn’t mean they don’t love to the same capacity.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Warfare vs. The Bosnian Soldier and the Hippy

 “The warfare against self is the greatest battle that was ever fought. The yielding of self, surrendering all to the will of God requires a struggle…” More than ever, there has been quite an amount of warfare going on considering the closeness we are to Korea…and we can’t forget the events and protests going down in Libya…How about internal self struggles??
Since I’ve been in Saipan I’ve been lucky enough to be surrounded by quite a diverse group of people. One man in particular catches my attention. Born and raised in Bosnia, Goran is middle aged and ruggedly handsome. I first heard him speak after church and was instantly hooked on his love and mission in life. This man speaks of God like He should be spoken about…I don’t think I’ve ever heard a discouraging or negative comment be uttered from his lips. He knows the Bible back and forth and can spit out Bible text’s like bullets…He and his daughter, who is in 2nd grade and more on fire for God than I am, are contagiously kind.
BUT wait…did I mention Goran only has only one leg? The story of Goran is insane, and I still insist we make a movie about his life…but again, the man is unforgivably humble. Goran was a soldier in the civil war against the Catholics and the Orthodox religions in his country. He was drafted into the army near the end of the 1995. He stepped on a landmine, needless to say-lost a leg. Yet, while in this predicament he was able to save one of his fellow soldiers, stepped on ANOTHER land mine and lost the remainder of the same leg. Yes, twice…and he is alive. You would think his battle would be himself…but He gave his life to Christ after stumbling across an SDA book seller in Bosnia. Now, his battle is to fight the down hearted, to fight on God’s side…and to help win the battle against evil while living through example. WHAT a win.
Later this weekend I was invited to Banzai Cliffs for a monthly “Moon gazing”.  Every full moon Silvia and David’s diving instructors put on this pitch-black with a headlamp party to celebrate the love of life and check out the full moon over the cliffs…with some locals, hippies, and other chill islanders here…needless to say it was quite the shin dig. I was lucky enough to hear a man with a sweet gray pony-tail and a laid back Wisconsin-ish accent talking about sailing…instantly it caught my attention and I introduced myself. I met Rom and his wife “Moon”. Yes, Moon was quite the Thai woman-hippy-chef. (Now Silvia and I are well aware of the band ‘Decembrist’ lol).  Anyways, this man got into discussing with me issues about trade winds, and current changes, polar ice caps, glaciers, and the North West Passage opening up for the first time in 400 years…This was Rom and Moon’s battle. He was at war with the harmer’s of the environment…this to him is the most important battle ever to be fought.  
I myself have been struggling with my own battles…graduating college is a grenade…being half a world away from family and best friends is a trench… culture and language barriers at work are my cannons. Yet, despite all these weapons of stress I put on my game face, strap on my bullet proof vest (composed of amazing friends here…and daily talks with God) and go to battle. Yet, everyday is an adventure… It makes my battles seem all the more small hearing my students ramble in broken English about their boyfriend problems…or their hair not being brown or blond..and my favorite-wanting to stay in English schools.
SO my battle…myself. Being a model to these kids…to my friends…to my family. I am up for the challenge…with soldiers like Goran on my side I don’t know how we’ll lose the battle for eternal life and making our world…though disintegrating according to Rom… a better place. Encouraging people to live for a purpose…live to the fullest…and most important fight your battles WITH God..not against Him.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Hafa Adai Bra...

After my Valentines blog, I figured I’d be pretty dry on the writing front until this weekend commenced! O my goodness. My weekend started turning quite the direction as soon as I stepped out of work Friday… with bumping into a very well seasoned Chomorran man “basking himself”…his whole self, in my favorite reading spot on the beach behind the school. This spot basically has my name written on it. Every day after teaching grammar and speaking e-v-e-r-y w-o-r-d clearly to my lovely Koreans…I take shelter under the perfect palm tree with a perfect view of the ocean and the Navy ships that float outside the reef. But no… my heavy anticipation of relaxation was turned to panic and laughter as I briskly jogged away from this dude “hangin” out all up in my spot. Hafa Adai bra...Chomorran meaning: what's up friend...
So this Saturday has an ENTIRE blog dedicated to it…I usually write one a week but it was too epic to not tell you about. We started the day out with no electricity…Oh, the joys of a hot sticky room and no shower to take before rushing off to church…which by the way Pastor Carlos, WHAT an amazing message. We had Joeie’s (my amazing friend and neighbor) birthday picnic at Oleai Beach…followed by a quite adventurous caving trip.
The caving trip, along with all of our adventures actually…always start with back-roading threw thick Saipan jungle in Rusty, an old missionary veteran, in other words… rusty-put back together truck, having a piece of plywood and bed liner separating you from the ground underneath…Rusty also includes a sweet skull of a booney dog on the front for added toughness. It has character though. Anyways, we trudged muddily to Calaveras Cave (which ironically enough translates into Skull Cave)…you could guess my excitement at such a terrifying choice of name (This name going along with others like Forbidden Island and even Suicide Cliffs here in Saipan). The cave was super tall once we entered and pretty terrifying, being you had to climb down this dingy, clanky, 50 foot aluminum latter and plunge into complete darkness until your eyes adjusted. Once we reached the bottom of the cave we scurried onto the lip of a huge down drop…where we threw several rocks trying to “guesstimate” the drop down…we got about 20 feet until our rocks kept getting intercepted. Next time we’ll think ahead and bring more flashlights.
NEXT! We were headed down this grass covered path when we ran into some pretty sketchy Russians that spoke no English…we thought they were going to kill us considering the hesitant actions played toward us and the wife sticking a video camera out the window recording the whole thing. But since we had a whole truck full of people in the back…and I ducked for cover allowing David to get shot at first…I ended up safe.  But, turns out….we directed them on their way to “Boird Issland?!” and laughed the rest of the way.
IT GETS BETTER. Our night continued with going to my first “karaoke room” inside the Saipan World Resort. O MY GOSH. For you Asians back home, I had always wondered why karaoke seemed to fascinate you but I totally get it now. We basically rented this square room, with a huge couch, tv, and microphones…add to it sound proof walls…and go crazy. I probably was laughing beyond the point of no return by the time my roomie Priya (an amazing, crazy Bermudian who is quickly beating me in the love of life race) and I were singing Abba’s “Dancing Queen” to the room full of people.
THEN as if the night couldn’t get any better we ventured into the hotel’s karoke night full of Japanese tourists…and as I was brave enough to start the train dance with Tina and Priya... I THEN got elected to sing ON STAGE by the lead singer guy jamming away to some pretty cheesy covers to 60’s songs….while a group of older Asian ladies were quite the hip busters kicking it across the dance floor to some old Japanese guy singing his heart out. I thought this was all pretty funny until the guy convinced me into singing Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance.” The conversation went something like this:
Mullet Asian: “You like sing?”
Me: “No, can you play Footloose?”
Mullet Asian: “NO NO! Sing…you sing...Lady Gaga… good singer…Lady GaGa.”
Me: “No, no sir. I don’t want to sing. I just want to hear the song.”
Is it because I was one of the only American’s in the place…probably. Maybe because of the fact he thought we were intoxicated judging from David, Tina, and Priya’s dancing about like crazos. But, only having pineapple juice and chicken…we found it even funnier. I conquered the ridiculous song and they got the whole thing on tape. I’m sure it’ll surface somewhere on FB for your laughing convenience. OR even on YouTube considering a creeper staff guy was recording me from the side door. I am still laughing.
OH, and we can’t forget the Korean man who caught me on my merry way to the bathroom while I was whistling “I kissed a girl.” He abruptly about-faced it toward me once I passed him and squealed after me. “KATY PERRY!” I, being a Katy Perry fan, knew the chances of her being in this hotel were slim, but I turned around anyway to find the guy and his son looking at me. I don’t think I was dressed up that much, but I guess any American with straight brown hair and any kind of…well...never mind…could look similar. So I pulled off a shrug-laugh, waved, and continued my hustle to the ladies room.
SUNDAY. Today started out pretty normal until we got the bright idea to rent scooters and bop around the island...OMG...I threw Silvia on the back and we named our scooty "Hoss". It was pretty epic going all the way to the north side of the island and driving some pretty back roads...but considering there were two of us..and the getting up the mountain we hit speeds of approx. 15 mph. LOL. I dared to ask a police officer on a motorcycle is he wanted to race...then got lectured in "safe driving" by some random in a red Mustang...need I say more...when you drive a Mustang, don't tell me how to drive. It was all fun and games until poor Joeie ate it...but she's ok.

…laughter is truly the best medine. Ciao <3

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Legend of Valentine...

So, Valentine’s Day is soon upon us. St. Valentine is quite the mystery man if I do say so myself. If you’ve ever attempted to look up historically accurate accounts of St. Valentine you’ll find quite the legends. But, through my ongoing history-nerd OCD research I have narrowed it down to two final legends. (If you aren’t going to read the whole epic blog…at least skip to the bottom.)
Legend 1: St. Valentine was a priest during the reign of Emperor Claudius II. Claudius, being quite the dictator…decided that his soldiers were losing battles and shying away from war because of their families and lovers…darn. So, he basically went on a rampage, like most Roman rulers around 200 A.D. and banded/cancelled all engagements and marriages in any time of battle. Valentine, being the Romantic that he was, continued to secretly marry couples hidden in church basements and bell towers.  Claudius found out and threw Valentine in jail. While rotting away in prison, Valentine was believed to have fallen (pause for dramatic effect) secretly in love with the jailors daughter (which I feel this is the dramatized version…besides the fact that everyone knew the jailors daughter was blind…). The day before Claudius had Valentine executed, the priest wrote a letter to the jailors daughter signed “Your Valentine” and from then on it stuck. Quite the sign-off line. Also, the poor girl was in fact blind…how was she supposed to read it? Legend said that she would exchange roses to have children continually read her the letter after he died. Sigh... It’s a legend. He was executed on February 14, 270 AD.
Legend 2: Everyone knows how intense and crazy blood hungry the ancient Romans were. So, we roll back to pagan times in the ancient Roman Empire. In those times, people celebrated a holiday on February 14 to honor Juno… the mythological Queen of Roman Gods and Goddesses. We all know Romulus and Remus of course…the founders of Rome.  Following the bloody tradition, the Roman priests would sacrifice a goat for fertility and a dog for “purification”. Following the command of R & R, young “gentlemen” would chop up the goats and go around slapping women with the sacrificial animal hide. Ladies, who wouldn’t be flattered by getting wacked with a bloody hunk of dog or goat meat?? Roman women though, would gladly receive the slap, as they believed that the practice would make them more fertile…Oh the lengths of fertility. Later, during the Feast of Lupecalia, all the single ladies in the city would place their name in a big urn in the middle of town. Bachelors would then play the Roman lotto for their new girlfriend to be…and became paired with the girl whose name was on the stone for the rest of the year (rough 10 months if you got a bad one). Hopefully they got a descent match…if not, I guess they’d throw the stone back in and try again next year. WHAT ROMANCE!
So ending the legends…or tying them together that is… basically people became Christian and saw this practice as ridiculous...and made the dating lotto illegal…and Christians spread the “real way” to meet true love…o wait, they stuck women in corsets and kitchens...well , at least we do it right in 2011 after what, 1000 years? Yet even in 2011, some people should still get the memo…I won’t mention any names.  And as for Valentine, some priest deemed love to Valentine around 500 AD…after his legend number one.  Let’s stick with that.
Ending the longest blog I’ve ever written…My grandmother once told me that my luck with love is because I’m Italian…that Italians love to a different level. No one can quite match us…except for other Italians, which I’m commanded not to marry because they say the least…not to our level. So I guess I’m stuck. We’re just that deep. Sometimes, I’ve heard that my luck in love is because I’m not Catholic. Well, as written above, nobody seems to get it right...
…Love. Oh, the four letter word that can turn words in the mind so quickly. Love, amore, agape…the Bible says that Love is more than just a “feeling.” That people have made it a temporary, shallow feeling of want, lust, and even affection. It’s funny that you can go from loving Valentine’s Day to loathing the upcoming, pre planned day where you know you will voluntarily turn off your phone, get the cheesiest movie and hold up with a calorie fest.
So…if you have a lover…good for you. Just remember that LOVE is meant to be shared, not centralized and selfishly given to one other person. After my disaster, failure has opened my eyes to reality. It’s about loving yourself, about loving people, and most importantly loving God…after all…Valentine was a man of God…keep the legend going.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Happy Asian New year 新年快乐

Xīnnián kuàilè!! Which is actually the Chinese...Japanese…Korean…and several other Asian culture’s traditional New Year. Basically the Chinese New Year falls on the first new moon of the now set Gregorian calendar and it last 15 days until the following full moon. 15 days of pretty epic celebrations of dancing dragons, kites, and good food. It comes to an end with the lantern festivals. These lanterns are…outrageous to say the least. My students were showing me pictures and they are unbelievable!  I find the ancient traditions much cooler…and so did the Japanese and Koreans until western life swept in and brought our high tech calendar into play. Whatever. So, Year of the Rabbit…bring on new luck!
So basically, I was kept awake all night with firecrackers and huge fireworks basically being set off at every angle outside our apartment windows. Saipan walls are pretty thin, hence all the cockroaches that share housing with us. And let me tell you…Chinese fireworks make American “fireworks” look like Pop Rocks. They aren’t illegal either. Hence the raw danger when David and I blew up buckets and bottles in the back yard the other week testing them out.
So, I’ve decided with the dawn of all these ancient traditions I might as well visit a Buddhist temple while I’m at it. I mean, when in Asia. The relaxing mantras and chanting seems very meditative. Don’t worry though, being here as a student missionary I am just as strong in my faith, yet why not meet other people of greater peace than I? Enlightenment can come from more than just Buddha. That’s why I flock to the beach after work every day in prayer. Also, planning my trip to Tokyo and all of our temples Silvia and I will be stopping by for a week is sparking interest as well. This religion is so old. A religion based on peace of mind…yet no higher power. Buddha was basically a dude who was a prince, who encountered 4 suffering people, sat under a tree for quite a while and got brain freeze…ate too much, ate too little…then settled in the middle and called it “Enlightened”. Though I find this all far-fetched I will respect it, and still find Karma a real force ;)
Happy to report next Monday my roommate and I start our MIXED MARSHAL ARTS CLASS!  KEE-YA!
Street market today was bustling with people. I witnessed my first DRAGON DANCE TONIGHT…EPIC. I find my spicy “cheeken” on a stick and Pad-Thai a welcomed gift to me after a hard week of teaching Korean students…who also flock to the street market… hunt me down, and parade around with me giggling and planning my future with every male that may look my way. It makes me laugh. Oh, and the drinks here entertain me. You can physically drink ANYTHING in Saipan…Rice soda, rice punch, Sardine concentrate…mmm...pear soda, and Aloe water being the weirdest. About last week’s statement of bad luck due to a birthmark…we saw a foot long blowfish snorkeling last weekend. Koreans find that good luck, considering blowfish is a deadly delicacy. Win.
To everyone back home, Happy New Year! Know that I miss you, and know that “The world is a book, and staying in one’s place is only reading a page…” Get out and read the whole book people. That’s where I’m at.     新年快

Friday, January 21, 2011

Sweet sweet Ube...

So…the the other night I tried something called “Ube” which is pronounced “ oobay” for those of you who are laughing at such a word. So…apparently ube is like an Asian sweet-potato...but not. I also heard it was a type of a vegetable...and a type of rice. SO, needless to say ube ice cream is a pretty gnarly mystery food and has such a weird but amazing flavor.
It’s week three here in the sunny far-far east. I’m blamed for the rain here, apparently it’s because Filipinos find birthmarks on one’s behind as a sign of bad I’m now well aware that my birthmark is to blame for all my misfortunes…lol. But…last weekend we did go snorkeling at this ridiculously beautiful island off the coast called Managaha…(where Silvia and I had time to make 2 rap songs about Thai food to the beat of Milkshake) where we fed sharks hotdogs and they came a swimming…I went a screamin. We also saw sweet fish, huge blue star fish and bumped into an octopus! (Which our nature friendly friends left alone…after scaring it into coral)…which I later got a sweet gash on my knee from. It was pretty sweet. Battle scar. Remind me people back home to introduce you to an amazing Indo bread I ate at the street market this week…I will learn how to make its warm, sweet spongy goodness soon…and it will be earth shattering.
I’m getting pretty comfortable on this small island…being a local now has its advantages…and I’m also named the “Most impatient driver on Saipan…even more so than David.” I feel like that’s quite a title, I plan to live up to it. Got my first taste of Asian drifting up near Banzai Cliffs too... I found it pretty amusing.
My kids have given me quite a week, but they understood my drift when I made them write my class rules 20 times before lunch one day. Teacher win. Lots of crazy things have happened lately…it’s like every day is just full of pointless and very humorous events. I don’t think I’ve laughed this hard in a while. Today I had my kids demonstrate, in English, how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. This was hysterical because half had never made one, and the other half flung jelly and peanut butter all over their blindfolded and un-expecting partners.
SO, I sit here, another weekend upon me…soaking up the smell of my rice noodles cooking and listening to some old school Island music blaring from my crackly old boom box I found in the closet. Getting back to why the whole blog is called “Sweet Ube” …Just like poor Ube…not knowing what it is and yet enjoying the adventure of such an odd food, I compare it to my experience here so far…I’m completely in love with it here in Saipan, I haven’t regretted one day….but I still feel like I just don’t know what’s going on…what exactly I’m doing. But…that’s where I’m at.
I know I wrote earlier in a journal that I felt like God didn’t get on the plane with me to Saipan…that I felt like I was all kinds of floating by myself…but after this week it is apparent that I haven’t been alone for one second. I have had so many amazing things happen in 3 weeks…I’ve even actually learned a thing or two about myself…which is an accomplishment for me after this past year. I feel like me again out here… off to fix my sink that exploded on me while washing dishes…and my toilet as well…well, it didn’t explode but nothing duck tape and wire can’t fix.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Be my escape.

So I’m sitting here at 2:30 am. Rain is pounding outside my window bringing the creepy crawlers right under our gapped front door. I guess it was the large cockroach that crawled into bed with me earlier that is blessing me with this late night.
So, where I’m at…on the very small, yet very exciting island of Saipan off the coast of Japan in the Marianas Islands. Smack in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The entire island is like 12 by 15 miles…and it’s already cracked me up how the locals here complain about the drive across the island being too long and inconvenient. Why and how I got here you may ask, your guess is as good as mine. For my close friends and family, you know my addiction for adventure and my ridiculous love of travel escapades was in high gear since I got back from Italy. So I’ve been here a week…I figured I needed to start documenting some of my stories…I just haven’t had the inspiration to write like I used to. With my book being published and world being thrown into “the real one” I’ve been hiding out. I’m hoping the sunny days and beautiful beaches here will convince me otherwise.
The flight here took 21 long hours…17 of those on a plane filled with bad food, no movies and coughing and infested plague. Actually it wasn’t that bad…BUT I did panic a bit at all the masked Asians that surrounded me. I discovered on the way over that my name in Japanese translated into “plate”. You can imagine my surprise at such an exotic meaning. But the journey was well ended when my new co-workers and oldest friend met me at the airport at steamy one a.m. on the other side of the world. The next day was spent hugging my toilet bowl with stomach flu…which the tap water here is salty and the smell is slowly growing on me…but hey, I got that over with.
So, my escape has led me to teaching 20 Korean students English at the Saipan SDA Elementary School. Probably one of the most challenging, frustrating, yet most fun thing I’ve ever gotten myself into. I have no one else to thank but God. Who I’m learning to trust more every day due to coincidences that ironically smack me in the face every day.  Enjoying life has become quite the regular occurrence here J
On the way home from an amazing hike to “Forbidden Island”  (which by the way has mind-blowing cliffs and caves leading to the ocean) the song “Be my escape” by RK came on…and it made me poke my head out the window and just wonder…is this trip my escape?
My favorite verse of the entire song is “I’m begging you to be my escape…” God, you did give me this escape, that’s for sure.