November 13, 2013
The sun does not shine every day here in the Pacific Northwest. I suppose it does shine, however, the clouds are often in the way. It is beautiful when the sun breaks through, lighting the sky and the vivid green, yellow, orange, and red leaves of autumn. I think it's beautiful here even when the clouds are in the way, beautiful, but not quite right. I suppose the land is right, but I am not quite. I am not used to missing the sun for more than a few hours at a time.
I spent my college years in southern California where it was practically always sunny and hardly ever rained. I did not experience true seasons there either. It got hotter than Saipan in the summers and was certainly colder during fall, winter, and spring than I was used to. But the changes were subtle. There almost seemed to be two seasons, beginning with a slow transition into a mild winter and another slow transition into a hot summer. The trees are different there than they are here. There are palm trees there and other trees that don't go through the same spectacular transformation as they do up here.
I love watching the seasonal transition. I don't know what the norm is here, some days it feels like there should be snow on the ground, other days it feels like I should leave my jacket at home. I think the norm is this greater arc of seasons, encapsulated within are the daily highs and lows. Always in progression, always pushing on.
September 23, 2013
My eyes are closed, I sense my hair ruffled at my neck and shoulders. My feet are covered by a thin sheet. I am cold, but I don't reach for my blanket. My hands roll off my belly and fall at my sides...
The store illuminates and dims through evenly spaced skylights. Half empty clothing racks stand sparsely throughout the warehouse-like building. Though there are no physical indicators, I know we are on an upper floor. My companions are familiar, but I don't know them. We are together, but the man and woman standing with me are strangers.
In the far corner I see it, the light green bird from home. Except this one is different, it is cartoonish with a plump body and exceedingly large round eyes that seem to focus on me from across the room. It flies in place, upright, like a hummingbird.
The plump bird hovering in the warehouse twists its body and tilts its head, like a bashful character in a children's movie. It is flirting with me, staring at me more intently than seems possible for such a tiny delicate creature. I try to tell myself that it's just a little bird. But my heart begins to ache and I reach out slowly. I want to hold the bird. I want to stoke its feathers, I want to admire its beauty.
It darts away. In an instant, too quick for me to see the entire movement, my dream bird has flitted away. Clouds roll in and the warehouse darkens. I can't see the my stranger companions anymore...
My feet are cold. I feel a drop of water slowly roll down my cheek and disappear along my neck. I try to raise right my hand to wipe my tears but my entire arm is numb and does not respond. I prop myself up on my left elbow and drag myself to sit up.
The sun has not yet made its way over the horizon. It is far too early to be awake on a Sunday, whatever time it may be.
I have no idea where I was going with this piece. But I felt like sharing it with you.
September 13, 2013
It may surprise you to find this out - it almost surprises me when I think back on it - we didn't always have fruit trees in our yard on Saipan while I was growing up; well, other than coconut trees. But we did have them when my kids were born - coconut, papaya, tangerine, mango, avocado, guava, starfruit (well, the guava and starfruit technically aren't ours, but close enough.)
I really enjoy seeing apple and pear trees when we drive through neighborhoods out here. To me, apples and pears, especially pears, are fruits to buy in the grocery store. Blackberries too.
Berries have always been expensive grocery store fruit. Strawberries are ten dollars a pound on Saipan! I promised the kids that I'd buy them strawberries and blueberries and any berries they wanted when we got to Washington because no matter what the price was, I knew it was less than on Saipan. What I didn't know was that the blackberries would be free.
They're everywhere. They're in fields, by ponds, at parks, they even line the freeways!
So we picked some.
We had fun.
It was cold.
September 05, 2013
None of us were good with goodbyes, so we hugged Eddie soon after unloading at the airport and he quickly departed.
Auntie Debbie and Tami surprised us at the check-in line with departing gifts for the kids.
We said goodbye to my sister at the bottom of the security entrance. I didn't expect to cry as much as I did.
Knowing we had a six hour layover in Narita, Japan, I had previously purchased day passes to the Delta Sky Club. Money well spent.
It was a safe and comfortable place for all of us where we could eat or drink at their great little buffet, send some emails or play online, freshen up in their clean restrooms, watch the airplanes come and go, and just relax. I did have to take the kids downstairs a few times to walk off some of their pent up energy.
There were shower rooms available, but we didn't use them. Having been on a three hour flight from Saipan and proceeding onto a ten hour flight to Seattle, I made sure to pack a change of clothes and toothbrushes for everyone so we could at least freshen up at the end of this long layover.
A man who had been on the same flight with us from Saipan was waiting to board his flight to California at the gate next to ours. While it was a very kind gesture of him to give the kids some Yen so they could buy ice cream, it wasn't a very practical idea. The kids had been up for about fifteen hours, which maybe isn't too bad until you remember that the fifteen hours started at 3:30 a.m. Combine that with the excitement of traveling and a sugar rush and you get near pandemonium.
The flight to Seattle was rough. We were squished and uncomfortable and it was a long flight. The in-seat movies kept the kids entertained - a little too well, if you ask me. It took a long time for Katelyn to turn off her screen and go to sleep and it took Jacob even longer. I could not believe how hard the kid kept fighting sleep. Francesca slept most of the flight in my arms. Which is great, unless I wanted to eat, use the restroom, or just move. I was able to rest my head and close my eyes, but I never really slept.
The people around us heard a collective gasp as the elevator doors opened and we saw James standing a foot away with open arms.
We completed the puzzle that is SeaTac arrivals and baggage claim and were about to head to the parking lot when James asked for the car seat. What?! I forgot to pick up the car seat and boosters from baggage claim! I'm not even going to go into that headache. Let's just say that forty-five minutes later, I was about five pounds lighter.
When we got home, James took the kids to the pool so I could take a nap with the baby. It wouldn't have made a difference if I had gone with them. After being awake for over thirty hours, I would have fallen asleep in the cold Washington water.
September 03, 2013
James was set to start his new job in May, but the kids' school year wouldn't end until June. We decided that James would move to Washington in May and we would follow later in July, which would let the kids spend about half of their summer in Saipan and the other half in the states.
It was a long two and a half months from when James left to when we followed. In June, school came to a close and Jacob graduated from Kindergarten.
Then I came down with a cold.
The kids took swimming lessons in the most beautiful of places with the most beautiful of instructors. And I was still sick.
My sister went off island and I volunteered to help out with a teeny-tiny job for her business while she was away. And I was still sick.
In July, I attempted to clean, to organize, to pack. But I was too sick. I tried to sell what I could and my sister helped me tremendously with a few garage sales - all while I was sick. I was near useless. I could hardly clean, organize, or pack. I kept putting off going to the doctor because I didn't want to spend the extra money since I didn't have health insurance at the time. I was sure I'd get better. But I didn't. This is the point where it could turn into a super long story. Just know that two doctors visits, three chest x-rays, a breathing treatment, an inhaler, and a course of antibiotics later I finally learned my lesson.
I was so worried about controlling the finances that I forgot who gave me those finances in the first place. I shouldn't have risked my health and put so much priority on money. Well, I got my comeuppance. I also got a reminder of that simple saying, Let Go and Let God. It's sounds so simple, but it can be so hard.
I'm so grateful to my mother, my sister, and Ate Liza for helping me and my kids throughout that whole time. After the physical illness, I felt emotionally drained - for having been apart from my husband for so long, for leaving all of my things in a mess for my sister to deal with since I had been too sick to take care of them myself, and for knowing that I was leaving behind my precious family, friends, and island home.
I was still coughing when I left Saipan. My inhaler was never out of my reach. But thank the Lord, I am better now. And totally dependent on Him for everything. Living out here, away from everything familiar, away from the safety net of family, it is....tough.
August 30, 2013
We moved to Washington at the end of July and have been enjoying the weather and the fruits. More to follow....much, much more.
June 23, 2013
A friend of mine once told me that she didn't always enjoy spending time with her friends who were about to move off island because, no matter how much they enjoyed their time on Saipan, they always complained about the place before they left. Complained incessantly. About the place where she and her husband chose to make their home. The place where they are raising their children. A place where, despite its troubles, they still love.
I'm not a passerby, no matter what comes in the future, Saipan will always be my home. I tell people that our move is bittersweet. I tell them that because it is true - I'm both reluctant and excited to go. But the truth is, I'm more excited than reluctant and now I find myself complaining incessantly too.
I'm not complaining about politics or the cost of living. I'm not complaining about product accessibility or healthcare. Every place has its problems. I'm complaining about the heat. I can't take it anymore. I've never felt so strongly against something before. I am against feeling hot, I am against feeling dehydrated, I am against sweating. I can't take it. I just can't take it.
Each year it seems to get hotter and hotter. I still love Saipan, I really do, but I am ready to go. The heat is crushing my spirit. Every day the heat pushes me a little more. It pushes at my shoulders, my neck, it pushes at my hands and my calves. Slowly, the heat is crumpling me into myself like a discarded piece of aluminum foil. I can't take it. I'm more irritable and less patient and I don't like being that way.
As much as I will miss my family, I wish I was leaving sooner if only to escape this oppressing heat.
I've never felt this way before. I've also never sweat so much before in my life! Not even when Jenni and I used to wrap ourselves in plastic wrap from the waist down before going to the gym.
I think it's a defense mechanism. Something to push me into wanting to leave; into moving on from my island home that sheltered me and my family for so long. Saipan, I will miss your beauty and and love.
June 18, 2013
But the truth is, I've always read. Maybe not as many books as you've read and maybe not the same books - unless you read Calvin and Hobbs compilation books too - but the books I have read, I enjoyed.
Then there’s poetry. Poetry is really how I started writing. I wrote my first poem curled up on the end of a soft but angular plush couch that was a maroon so deep it was almost brown. With the windows opened to the breezy tropical night, I wrote my first poem by the light of an old cork covered table lamp. I was nine. I think.
That first poem, along with all the other poems that I wrote up through my early college years, including one I wrote in high school that was published in a local humanities journal, was lost many years ago. Most of those poems were either very somber or quite lovey-dovey.
When I was in eighth grade, my dear friend transposed a Chinese pop song to be played on the piano. She played it to me over the phone one night and I wrote lyrics that she and I and my best friend would later sing at our graduation ceremony. But I didn't think I was a writer, just a girl who would really miss her friends when we moved on to different high schools. (They may have made some changes, but essentially I remember writing the lyrics as she played the song over the phone to me that night.)
Later in high school, I wrote a fun children's song for my beautiful baby nephew as I rocked him in his rocking chair one day. My sister and I still sing that song to our kids. In fact, I heard her sing it last month. But that didn’t mean I was a writer; I just wrote it out of love for baby.
The vignettes I've posted on this blog were fun first drafts, but when I wrote them, it didn't even occur to me to think of them as anything other than blog posts. I wasn't a writer, I just wrote for this blog.
Earlier this year I was called a writer by two people. Two different people thought I was a writer. Two people. Me. A writer. I was flattered. And embarrassed. I was flattered that even one person in the world would call me that. And I was embarrassed because, to me, a writer was someone with more wits and intellect and finesse than I have, and I didn't think I could be compared to one. Plus, how could I be a writer when I can't even spell 'restaurant'? R-E-S-T-UH...R-E-S-T-AH...spellcheck!
You don't know this, but I write stories. They are in my notebooks and on my drive. They are in my head and my heart.
Hi. My name is Deece, and I’m a writer.
June 16, 2013
April 28, 2013
Friday was a bit rainy and overcast. But Saturday, Saturday was glorious. We caught a late morning boat from Saipan. Probably half of the times that I have gone to Managaha, I was with my sister and her husband and we jumped on smaller boats that were owned or captained by their friends. The other half of the times I rode on the various bigger tourist shuttling boats. This was the first time I had ever seen one of those big boats so full. They didn't let us up on the upper deck, so we were seated shoulder to shoulder on the benches inside the cabin. And as more and more people the filled the cabin, my children's celebrity status was elevated.
Having grown up on Saipan, I'm used to visitors randomly asking to take pictures with us. But this was a whole different photo studio. These visitors were from China, meaning they did not speak English and we did not speak Mandarin - except for when my kids said "xie xie" in response to one of the women giving them a candy (I know, I know...just...never mind). I don't know what happened, but all of a sudden they were taking turns taking pictures with my kids. One would sit next to a kid and a friend would take the picture. Then they'd switch. Then they'd switch again and take pictures with my next kid. Then with all the kids. One after the other after the other. The women mostly, but the men too. It was really something else. The pictures stopped soon after the boat started toward the tiny islet, and the visitors' affections quickly turned toward the sea. But the kids weren't forgotten, one kind woman helped steady Katelyn as she stood on the bench to peer out the window.
We arrived on Managaha quickly, and I was glad too. I have never felt seasickness before in my life, but sitting in that boat as it rocked along, with most of the breeze blocked by all the people who swarmed to the windows to admire the sea, I started to feel the beginning of motion sickness. Which didn't feel good, but it did remind me to get some Dramamine before our big move.
My camera battery died quickly so I was only able to snap a few pictures as we walked around the island after we first arrived.
(Taking a moment to remember our ancestor Chief Aghurubw)
I haven't been to Managaha in a long time, like in twelve years long time ( I know, I know...just...never mind). The island is still just as beautiful, but quite a bit has changed. There are protected areas cordoned off for nesting birds, there is a really great section of the beach that has eroded away, and the concession area is huge now. And I've honestly never seen the place so full of people.
We walked around the island, but the area where I was hoping we could hang out had eroded away and the other good spots were already occupied by other locals. So we kept going and before we walked the whole way around, we found a spot near the edge of a touristy stretch. I would have liked to walk back to where we took the picture above, but it was just as well; at least this way Jacob and Katelyn made a friend and we were able to ask his father for the time. It was quite an interesting encounter as the man had lived in Covina and Washington State - you may know that James and I lived in Covina and now we're moving to Washington State.
The sun and water were glorious - clear, moving, sparkling, alive. The breeze never stopped. The birds flew overhead. It was perfection.
We caught an early afternoon boat back to Saipan. This time we sat on the upper deck and enjoyed the ocean, the sun, and the breeze. Paradise.