Wednesday, August 13, 2014


The "initial impressions" post I had meant to write never did get written and now, over 2 months in, I don't remember all of them very well anyway.
I do remember that it took J. and me awhile to realize that comparing this place to other tropical places we had visited just didn't make a whole lot of sense.  The main reason being that Saipan is an island in the Pacific, and our other tropical experiences were in Southeast Asia, mostly on the mainland. 
Breakfast trip to the beach
Besides the price of goods, one of the main differences between Asian islands and mainland Asia is the fauna and flora.  Mostly the fauna: there are many, many imported creatures on the island, and plenty of native ones.  Even still, this jungle is really rather quiet.  Especially at night.  Not nearly the buzzing and chirruping and all the rest that you might think.  It is calm and quiet here.

Maybe the quiet is explained by the fact that the wildlife in these parts caught on to the lacksidaisical way of the human islanders.  The joke is that "Hafa Adai" (which means "hello" in Chamorro) refers to the way local businesses are only open for "half a day."  I mean, why work more than you really need to, right?  J. makes endless puns associated with the expression, but I will spare you.


Lego dragon (of course)
This has nothing to do with the rest of Asia, but is a "fun" fact: there are no physical addresses on the island! 
Two things are not fun about this fact: if you want to receive mail, you need a P.O. Box.  The only hurdle being that the U.S. postal service ran out of them years ago (decades ago? who knows), so now the rest of us get to rent some from private companies.  Second problem: there are plenty of US. companies that won't ship to P.O. boxes, so that makes life just that much more interesting when trying to order necessities online.  (And don't even get me started on how many companies won't ship to Saipan, along with other U.S. territories.  I cannot understand this, given that postage rates are domestic.)

(the kids love to play "spa" now)
The other absolutely hilarious thing about having no addresses is that there are no addresses at all. 
And no recognizable street names outside of Middle Road and Beach Road.  (To be fair, there are streets with names, but no one knows them since it is fairly recent). 

Allow me to explain why this is a problem: you can't just tell people where you live and have them look it up.  You must provide detailed directions, or draw a map, or meet them somewhere and then have them follow you.  Because kinda everyone lives down an unpaved road of some kind with multiple turns and you have to pass a chicken farm at some point (why is it always a chicken farm?).  A little like life on the Rez, to tell the truth.  But the main difference is that destinations are all within a 44mi. square radius so this should be easier, in theory.

Some friends told us about a live radio broadcast they heard once during which the two co-hosts of a morning talk show tried to explain the location of an upcoming event by referring to nearby landmarks.  Evidently, it was a little complicated to do and they kept correcting each other and the conversation lasted for almost 10 minutes.

view from the Forbidden Island hike
Now, you might think that folks would get pretty good at giving directions in a place like this, but it is quite the opposite.  I can't count how many times I have been told, "Oh, you just go down there, and keep going and then it is on your left!" and that's all I have to go on.
As a very orientation-conscious person, who prides herself on knowing how to get from here to there, and being able to describe it to others with both detail and precision, with plenty of landmarks and street names included, this just makes me ab-so-lute-ly nuts.

Rainbows pop up just about everywhere. There is just so
much moisture in the air

Tropical storms: A typhoon recently hit Guam and Rota (another island) but we barely saw any of it.  Others have told us that when the season really kicks in, the island's supply chain can get delayed for weeks and supermarkets run out of essentials. 

The supply ship.  Here every Friday.  So far.
Luckily, we have a breadfruit tree in our backyard.  Phew.*

* that's a joke.  I have yet to find a practical use for breadfruit.  (Although according to Wikipedia, "Native Hawaiians used its sticky latex to trap birds, whose feathers were made into cloaks"! So that's always an option...) 

There are monitor lizards on the island.  They can get pretty big--someone told me that at least one has been spotted that was 5 feet long.  Daddy and BR saw one in our neighborhood that was somewhere between 18 and 24 inches long.  Very cool.
And then yesterday an equally large one showed up on our back patio and was caught sniffing around at the pool.  No photo this time, and I missed it again, but hopefully I will get a glimpse next time.

1 comment:

Kari said...

Playing "spa"--as inspired by Willa's bday party? :) I love it! Is that L? She looks *truly* chill.