October 18, 2015

From Soudelor to Champi, Let Your Light Shine

On August 2, 2015, Saipan went dark. It remained dark for weeks, months for some villages. Some parts of the island are still dark. Yet, light can be seen in the tireless, selfless giving of so many to help those in the dark. Water, tents, tarps, food, clothes, flashlights, mosquito coils, and much more are still being distributed to those in need. All through charitable giving. All through caring citizens forging paths through the darkness.
Source: United 4 Saipan

Source: United 4 Saipan

My mother and my sister and her family had their power restored in mid-September. That was the first time we were able to Skype since super typhoon Soudelor ravaged my island home. My niece took me on a real-time video tour of their homes and property. The damage was a lot worse than I had previously thought. Yet, still, they had walls and roofs, electricity and running water - more than many other people had.


A friend of mine, along with her husband and two young children, went seven weeks without electricty after super typhoon Soudelor. Seven weeks without hot water, seven weeks of lanterns and candles to light the night. Seven weeks in the tropics without air conditioning. After seven long weeks, power to her house was finally restored. Three nights later, it went out again.

Saipan was still recovering from Soudelor when Champi hit on October 16. While technically a tropical storm, Champi puffed its chest like a typhoon. It brought strong winds and heavy rains. It downed trees, tore off tin roofs, flattened tents that had been sheltering so many after Soudelor destroyed their homes. Champi poured water relentlessly, carving coral roads and reshaping beaches.

My mother's house was flooded. Water poured in from under the doors and through the window seams. Trees dropped right next to her car. Half the roof of her carport was ripped off. The bottom half of an exterior door was torn off after being pounded by debris and wind for hours on end.

(This is not my mother's house)

(Nor is this.)

Champi moved slower than Soudelor. It lingered, pushing its way through the islands like a symphonic movement.

Source: Saipan Tribune

The plywood boards used as typhoon shutters were once again ripped from my sister's windows. Wind and rain and destruction blew throughout their home.

From Soudelor to Champi, life had regained a little sense of normalcy for some on Saipan. But now, for others, life after Champi is even harder. Relief packages and other aid are still being given to those in need - and there are many in need.

You can help shine light in the darkness: United 4 Saipan and C.O.R.E CNMI

Source: United 4 Saipan

United 4 Saipan distributing and setting up tents:
Source: United 4 Saipan

August 12, 2015

A little goes a long way.

As a kid, I spent several weeks nearly every summer in northern California. It was mostly carefree. Getting together with family and friends who were normally 5,800 miles away, separated by the vast Pacific Ocean. My one anxiety - earthquakes.

In southern California, I lived through several small earthquakes and one that was big enough to garner attention on CNN. No, not the Northridge earthquake. But for me, it might as well have been.

Earthquakes terrify me. I've lived through a few on Saipan that left me on edge for weeks. Weeks! Probably longer. California friends couldn't understand why I was so afraid of earthquakes while typhoons (hurricanes) didn't scare me at all.

It's because I grew up in a concrete house. On Saipan, if you live in a concrete house with a concrete roof and you board your windows, that is, nail plywood over your windows, you will generally be just fine during a typhoon. You'll likely lose electricity and tap water, but if you have an old analog phone, your landline will be fine. Before the typhoon you secure any objects around your yard that could fly away, move the potted plants against the house, and repark the car to the best position to avoid the winds. During the typhoon, you place buckets under any leaks in the roof, you place towels at the windows that leak, you bust out the candles, lanterns, battery operated radio, playing cards, notebooks, or whatever else you use to keep you and the kids entertained. In fact, for many kids, typhoons are almost fun - at least the memories are fun. Not as fun for adults.

Truth be told, as a young kid, I had it pretty good during typhoons. When my father was alive, he had the house hooked up to a generator, so it didn't make a difference to child me whether we were in the middle of a typhoon or not. I still had lights and a fridge and air conditioning. It wasn't the same experience for those who lived in wooden houses or even those in cement houses with tin roofs. 

It certainly was not the same for my family on the night/morning of August 2-3, 2015, when Super Typhoon Soudelor, with winds of up to 200 mph, ripped through my island home, tearing roofs off of buildings, shattering windows, prying siding off of homes, flipping cars, downing massive trees, and snapping power poles like twigs.

Source: https://www.facebook.com/SoudelorRecovery

My mother's house sustained some damage, her floors, her roof. My sister's house was hit harder. The boards were ripped off her windows, her kitchen windows were blown into her house, eveything that was on her counters were destroyed. Her sliding glass door was blown out into the yard. Her towering avocado trees broken in two. But my family is safe. They got off easy. 

Many people are now homeless, sleeping in school buildings which are used as typhoon shelters, staying with friends or family, sleeping in tents or under tarps. It's been over a week and water is only now, in certain villages, for about an hour a day, starting to trickle through pipes. For the vast majority, their pipes are dry. Electricity is not expected to be fully restored for 90 to 120 days. Food doesn't last long in humid 85-degree weather. Most people are living out of coolers, provided they can buy and transport ice.

Some people escaped with only the clothes on their backs and returned home to utter destruction. Some homes are repairable, some must be completely rebuilt. Some people are cooking canned food on camping stoves. Some are eating distributed MRE's.

Photo: Glen Hunter

When the tap water starts making its way to more people, it will still not be enough; tap water on Saipan has never been potable. A group of citizens has been taking donations and driving village to village giving out free drinking water - cases of 16-oz bottles, 1-gallon jugs, 5-gallon bottles. For some, this is the only water they've had since the storm hit. It is for drinking, cooking, cleaning, showering, flushing.

Have you heard of Saipan? It is a US territory. It's people are American citizens.

The military is helping. Citizens are helping. The American Red Cross is helping. The Salvation Army is helping. You can help too. 

You would be an enormous blessing if you could pack and send just one USPS flat rate box with anything that can help - clothes, bed sheets, towels, candles, battery operated fans, radios, flashlights, canned food, tarps, baby wipes, etc. The boxes can be picked up at your post office, they ship up to 70 pounds for a domestic flat rate of $17.90 in the large box (12"x12"x5.5" inside dimensions).

A variety of thrifted clothes would help - but, please, I ask that you wash them before you ship as washing clothes is widely being done by hand right now and with limited water.

The owners were going to sleep in their car that night
because their house had been demolished by the typhoon,
then this happened. Photo: My niece KMJ

You can even send school supplies as I imagine next month there will be many families who will need to make choices between their kids' school supplies and home building materials or other necessities. Perhaps you could go halves on a box with a friend or neighbor. You can send the box to my sister or the American Red Cross (see address a little farther down). My sister's address is:

Melia J.
PO Box 5151 CHRB
Saipan, MP 96950

If you send to my sister, she will make sure the items get distributed to neighborhoods that are in great need. She works at a middle school with many low income families, so she can certainly get items into the hands of those who need it.

Repairing their roof.
Source: https://www.facebook.com/SoudelorRecovery

Or if you'd like to make a monetary donoation, here is a list of places to consider:
  • American Red Cross - you can donate at your local chapter or send a check to the Saipan chapter (please indicate that you want your funds to be earmarked for Saipan for the typhoon Soudelor releif efforts, fund code 4707-16):
American Red Cross
Northern Mariana Islands Chapter
PO Box 500814
Saipan, MP 96950
I'm going to step out on a self interest limb here. If you are a friend of mine or my family and you want to send a gift to help with the many repairs that need to be made to my sister and mother's houses, please email me at: ayorata [at] gmail [dot] com.

No matter what you give or who you give to, you are making a difference. Thank you and God bless!

This video was taken the morning after the typhoon while driving down a few of the main roads, this doesn't show the devastation that took place in the villages: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mcZS3EwT_go

Soudelor stories here: https://www.facebook.com/humansofsaipansoudelor
And here: https://www.facebook.com/danlinphotography

Photo: Glen Hunter

Photo: https://www.facebook.com/SoudelorRecovery

July 29, 2015

Spicy noodles, anyone?

I was craving Shin Ramyun the other day. If you are unfamiliar with Shin Ramyun, it is very spicy Korean instant noodles. Very spicy!

I was actually surprised to have this craving as I have never eaten a whole bowl of it before. In fact, I've never made a bowl for myself ever. I usually just pilfer noodles from my husband when he eats it. I typically eat one or two bites and give up because it's too pika for me, that is, it's too spicy. Nonetheless, I wanted a bowl to myself for lunch.

So I busted out a pot and it was on! I didn't just make Shin Ramyun, I made souped up Shin Ramyun. (Oh yes I did just write 'souped' up Shin Ramyun.)

It was so pika I had to take a sip of cold milk after every couple of bites. I couldn't finish the bowl, but I came very close.

Shin Ramyun with onions, carrots, sugar snap peas, mushrooms, water chestnuts, garlic, radishes, hot dogs, soy sauce, lime,  and cilantro. It was so good! And pika! (Also great in Shin Ramyun and other instant ramen: napa cabbage.) So good and so pika!

July 23, 2015

Two years in Washington

There's a summer scent to Washington state. I smelled it in my youth. It was distinct from any other state I had visited. California smelled of sunshine, eucalyptus, wooden doorways, and seawater by the Bay. Most Oregon visits were in passing, a transitory drive moving me from Washington to California and back. It's smells are lost on me, but Oregon will always exist in my mind as a bonfire surrounded by smiling islanders wearing jackets and pull-over hoodies. Massachusetts, Virginia, and Washington DC mix in my memories with smells of horses and corn fields, grass on cool summer evenings, and cement warmed by bright sunshine. I can tell you what those eastern states smelled like because I know I felt that at the time, but I can't dig the scents out of memory. The smell of corn doesn't take me back there, warmed cement reminds me of Saipan as well as well as our nation's capital, horses smell like horses, not Amhurst. But the scents of Washington and California have carved out their own neural pathways, connecting my youth with my adulthood.

The summer scent of Washington will live with me forever. The smell of warm bark, of sprinklers washing over trimmed grass, the smell of earth and sweat and flowers in the air. Therein sweeps the soft, warm, changing air of Washington in summer. I smelled it in my youth. I smelled it when I stepped out of the rental car two years ago. I smell it today.

Today marks two full years of my family's time in Washington. We are here because God put us here. We'll leave when He moves us. It has been joyous and sad, plentiful and meager, it has been beautiful and heart wrenching.

July 10, 2014

Potato Salad

I made potato salad for the first time! And it was good. Yes, a thirty-something Saipanese woman made potato salad for the first time last week.

I only sort of like potato salad. And by sort of, I mean, I like potato salad, but I don't eat the potatoes. Why not? Because I don't like potatoes. Though I do like well-seasoned hashbrowns with over easy eggs. Also, I may, on occasion, snag a soggy fry from my kids' Happy Meals or have a few bites of really cheesy scalloped potatoes or crispy tater tots, but other than that I don't like potatoes. No, I don't even like them in chip form.

So why did I make potato salad? Because it was the Fourth of July and my husband asked me to. We had baked baby back ribs, hotdogs in King's Hawaiian buns, grapes (because the two-year-old can't get enough), and potato salad.

Potato Salad
It's not really a recipe, more like loose directions so just add amounts to your taste.
  • Peel, cut, and boil russet potatoes until fork tender or whatever toothsomeness you like 
  • Drain and cool potatoes (I stuck mine in the freezer) 
  • Mix with salt, black pepper, chopped olives, chopped parsley, finely minced onion, mayonnaise, and chopped hard boiled eggs (I used one egg for each medium potato)
  • Sprinkle with paprika and garnish with parsley and sliced olives

June 27, 2014


It was a lovely day today, despite it being overcast with the occasional drizzle.

We headed to the park in the afternoon where Jacob played with several kids who were just younger than himself.

A three-year-old girl was quite curious about Francesca. And it seemed the two wanted to communicate and play with each other, but they didn't quite know how.

Katelyn lost a tooth tonight while fiddling with it when she was already in bed. I helped her rinse it off and told her to put it under her pillow. She chuckled and looked at me with raised eyebrows. She humored me. Maybe it was for me or maybe it was for the money.

She's known who the tooth fairy is for some years now. When do they reach the age of just outright exchanging the tooth for a buck?

June 18, 2014

It can be difficult to tell exactly when things change.

Sometimes finding that first gray hair is easy. "Oh my gosh, my first gray hair. When did this happen?"

But then you keep searching and find another. And another still. And you realize that you really have no idea which one was the first one.

Some years ago I realized that you boast differently as you grow up. I don't know when it happened. One day you're young and eager to show you're friends your new whatever-it-was. And the next day you're showing off the baseball cap you "rescued" from a dumpster.

When we were young it was all about the newest and best.

"Check out my new bag. It cost $125." 

"Only ten pairs of these shoes were made. Sure, now I have bunions, but look at how cute they are! By the way, I'm having surgery next week."

"This dress is made of unicorn hairs, woven by fairies under the light of a blue moon."

Now it's like,

"I got this bag for twenty cents at the thrift shop! It has a scratch on the side, but I just colored it in with permanent marker."

"I love my [insert ugly shoe name]! They're so comfortable!."

"Dude, check out my jeans. I'm using a safety pin because the button popped off last month, the back pocket is ripping off, I patched a huge hole in the crotch, and I have to use WD40 to get the zipper to work. I love these jeans!"

PS: I have never spent $125 on a bag.

PPS: I know I've said this before, but I'm going to try harder to post more.)

May 20, 2014

Music That Made Me

It's nearly the end of May and I haven't done my before post. I thought I might take this time to share with you just a few of the songs that made my childhood great.

Christopher Robin by the Stonemans:

Lookin' Back To See - as performed by Buck Owens and Susan Raye - this was one of my favorites

Dance with a Dolly by Bill Haley

MTA by The Kingston Trio - I pretty much love everything by The Kingston Trio

Reverend Mr. Black by the Kingston Trio

All I Have To Do Is Dream by The Everly Brothers

The Work of the Weavers by the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem

The Wild Rover by The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem

The British Army by The Dubliners

April 02, 2014


Five years ago, my brilliant and talented nephew turned twelve, my amazing son turned two, and my lovely niece was born; I launched a new blog, which I have since discontinued at its own domain, but still exits at blogger; I shared a Flame Tree Festival booth with my friends Lynn and Geraldine; I made some things; I made food, we dyed eggs, we had fun; I took pictures of lizards and a frog; and I made some yummy vegetables and other food. This was April before.

Four years ago, I was a self proclaimed TV consultant, I was irritated by the chicken tree and crappy driving; we watched Fantastic Mr. Fox for the first time, and although you can't tell from the post, it was nearly a life changing event, I LOVE that movie; I failed, yet I was forgiven; and I was sunburned.

Three years ago, I wrote two posts. Count 'em, two: here's one about being pooped and the pooper and here's the other about me not giving up anything for lent.

Two years ago, I was always hot (and now I'm always cold, by the way); I found gender neutral baby clothes; we had a great time dyeing eggs and decorating cookies with my sister and her kids; and I created a daily fridge calendar

One year ago, we took a quick visit to Managaha after I shared with you that we would be moving to the states


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