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.

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