Sunday, June 22, 2014

"Do you know why I was born in California, Mom?" BR asked me today.
(Because we lived there?  Because Daddy's job was there?  Because that's where the hospital was?  What is he trying to get at?)
"Um, why?"
"Because...(breathless pause)...Disneyland!"

Saturday, June 21, 2014

"I lost a tooth, now take a picture!"

Thanks to a friend from school, BR was expecting a toy rather than cash from the tooth fairy.  Evidently, that friend learned that if you are traveling or somehow away from home when you lose a tooth, instead of coins you get a hot wheels car or something similar. 

But thanks to the tooth fairy's habitual forgetfulness, BR also wasn't devastated to wake up the next morning to find neither a toy nor any coins.  "Eh, that's allright," he said casually, and then knowledgeably added: "Sometimes it just kinda' takes her a coupla' days, that's all."

Friday, June 20, 2014

Father's Day

This year Father's Day was also the day the island was remembering the U.S. landing that began the Battle of Saipan in 1944.  That battle was 70 years ago; it lasted 23 days later and when it was over, the island was no longer under Japanese control, but now belonged to the U.S.A.  It is now part of the "Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands."  (You're welcome for that little history lesson.)
There was a small parade to mark the occasion:
Just being outside to watch the parade was almost unbearably hot. 
We were in the shade.
(I can't imagine what it must have been like for the marching band and others)

Later we went snorkeling to celebrate Father's Day.

We swam out to one of two partially-submerged tanks that rest near the shore, leftovers from the war.  All kinds of exotic fish have congregated on the algae-covered tank.  I don't have an underwater camera yet but I wished I did, on this little excursion.

Korean dinner to celebrate Daddy (of course!)

And then we got some grass jelly drinks (one of Jeremy's favorites) and took them to the beach to watch the sunset.


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

she's 10

Over the last few days I have teased her, calling her "nine year-old" as often as I can.  As in, "How's it going, Nine year-old?"  She groans. "I am almost ten." 
Today I teased her that since we are not in the U.S. Central time zone (in which she was born), she is not actually ten yet.  She just rolled her eyes at me.

the calendar says 06/18 so it is official
We hosted a pool party with a few of our new friends and even though we didn't have any flour or baking powder or a baking pan, a mixing bowl or beaters, we still managed to produce a cake. 

Sadly, running the oven didn't make any difference at all to the overall temperature in our apartment.  Hot is hot.

Sadly, in this kind of heat, icing doesn't stay put even on a cooled-to-room-temperature cake.  The dragon and lettering she so carefully worked on mostly melted away into a goopy mess.

She didn't mind.  In her own words, "It will still taste good."  Atta girl.
One guest showed up with some homemade fresh mango-and-coconut ice cream
she had whipped up.  I hope you are all suitably jealous.  It was dee-lish.
I guess innovative creativity must run in the family: look at the "10" her son made out of legos!
The party was a success and L. had a great time.  We watched the movie "Holes" in the evening (having just finished the book a few days ago) and then we had seconds on the cake.  She was really, really happy.
Ever since we rounded the corner into 2014, I have spent some time fretting about what reaching this milestone might mean, and what changes are on the way.  It's time to let that go. 
Tonight I am keeping an eye on Ebay for some "heelys" she bid on with some of her birthday money. 
I also found this photo among others on my camera (she still likes to steal away and take photos while I am not watching) of a squatter in our apartment who likes to show up in the evenings:  

She loves animals.  She loves photography.  She is interested in just about everything.

New decade, same old L.   Happy birthday, kiddo.

Monday, June 16, 2014

where in the world ARE we??

With its Korean, Japanese, Chinese and Russian residents and tourists, not to mention the 60% Filipino local population, Saipan feels in many respects more Asian than North American. 
case in point: soup for breakfast at Saturday's farmer's market!

Evidently, A. found it so disorienting that she was shocked to see me using a US dollar bill one day.  "They use American money here?"  Yup, they sure do. 

Just look around, isn't it obvious this is the grand ol' US of A!   It's not like folks don't even speak English...

(okay, so this one is in English, but it's just really too awesome not to include in this set)
But once you get some reference points, it's really not so hard to navigate your way around town.  I mean, it's not like you just landed in a fantasy world in outer space. 
Or did you...

Monday, June 9, 2014

fun and funny

 The job is putting us up for a month.  The apartment is really very nice, and the complex is well-kept, and has a pool.  If they could, the kids would ditch the apartment and move into the pool.  I am tempted to, as well.   
view from our balcony
Funny kids:
L's long hair last 2 days and then it was over.

goofy and funny

The "flame trees" are in bloom right now.   They are just stunning and my photos don't do them justice.

this is the view along "Beach Road"--love it

(J's hair is also shorter to follow)
Jer doesn't start work for another week.  We are loving that, too, and plan to maximize the fun. 
We got local cellphones and pretty much right away the bizarre text messages started rolling in:


On Sunday we went to Mass.  It went a little over an hour and at the end we found out it had been in Tagalog all along. 

Not that we had mistaken it for English, we just assumed it was the Chamorro language.  ("My, don't all of these islanders look Filipino?" and "I guess Chamorro must've been more influenced by the Philippines than I realized!") Over an hour and we never caught on.  Ha!  Shows what we know...

A look at the prepared food section of the Japanese market. 


tags: fun, yum fun, very yummy and fun
this business has got it figured out.  I mean why work all the
time when you could just limit it to 3 days/wk



this was in the Filipino food section. I only wish I
knew what to use it for.  I am taking suggestions.

 And I don't know if this is exactly "funny" but it was certainly creative.  Today I saw a bumper sticker that read, "I Brake for Garment Workers."

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Saipan, CNMI: Day 1

When traveling toward or settling into a new or strange or unfamiliar place, I highly recommend diving into a book on a completely unrelated subject.  Preferably a biography or memoir of some kind, but it really ought to have nothing to do with the current setting. 
In Kolkata a few years ago, you may remember that I read Laura Ingalls Wilder to my kids, with somewhat hilarious results.  Reading about life on the American frontier in the late half of the nineteenth century, with all the hand-digging of wells, fighting off of prairie fires and locust swarms, and building of log cabins (without any nails, of course) somehow inspired in us just enough courage to face the wilds of urban India in the early twenty-first.   

This time around, I am reading "Tisha," a memoir about a young schoolteacher's adventures in the Alaskan wilderness of 1927.  In the first chapters, she is making her way by pack train out to the remote Forty Mile area where she is to live and teach.  Her horse, Blossom, is mean and uncooperative, and she is an inexperienced and diminutive rider who can't seem to stay put and develops saddle-sores from sliding all over the place. "I tried to stop Blossom so that I could get off," she remembers, "but no matter how hard I pulled the reins he kept going. When I kept it up, he turned and tried to bite my foot."  Not too much later, they pass through a snowstorm, a grizzly shows up (but luckily he is more interested in his caribou snack than in our brave--if cold and sore and stiff--heroine) and she almost drowns when Blossom loses his footing while crossing a river.  It's a great book so far.

Here it is not even a tiny bit cold or muddy.  It is in fact very awfully hot and sticky, just about round the clock.  The water is cool enough to feel refreshing for as long as you are submerged, but the air is thick and oppressive.  To give you an idea: we took "cold" water showers and kind of felt cooler afterwards.  Sort of.  And I hung out my swimsuit to dry and two hours later is was still just as wet. 
That's a little foreign to high-desert dwellers such as ourselves, but I guess we will just have to get used to it.
at least things grow here!

all-you-can-eat Japanese food, with a fresh coconut shake in hand.  Jeremy's version of heaven.
On the first of our two flights, we were seated next to another family on their way to move to Saipan to work in the hospital.  Upon landing in Saipan, we were each met (at 2am local time) by colleagues who set us up in our respective temporary apartments and made sure we had enough bottled water and food in the fridge to get us through the morning.  Our guy lent us his own cellphone.  At lunch, another colleague's wife tracked us down to offer more help and survival tips and invited us to dinner at the open air weekly "Market." 

We found homemade granola bars on our stoop when we got back from the beach. 

Layover: Tokyo-shmokyo, who cares. We are BEAT.


I don't have plans to write daily updates, don't get any ideas.  But the first day was worth documenting.  With beauty like this all around, and such a generous and warm welcome from new friends, how can we help but be grateful.  Strange and unfamiliar?  No sweat.

Or rather, as long as the water doesn't get shut off, we'll just go for a shower and change of clothes when we do. 

At least bear sightings on the island have been rare as of late.