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.


graMoM said...

WoW! what a great landing (and the trip went well enuf that you are there - finally - after a lot of planning and work! We are thrilled to see the flippered Little lady and the flippered and masked lil man on the sand. Looks like everyone is enjoying the change of pace and place!

Cory Eckert said...

Do they need librarians there? I feel like I could adjust (actually, the weather sounds remarkably like Houston).

ashley said...

It's so beautiful! And what a warm welcome. Enjoy the summer vacation that just won't stop! So jealous of "at least things grow here", ha!