Sep 2, 2006

Saipan Journeys

In this blog entry, I’ll take you on some Saipan journeys, ranging from the pedestrian run on the beach walk to the awe inspiring trek to the top of Forbidden Island.

Our first journey is one I’ve been wanting to capture visually for quite some time now. It’s my twice weekly runs. This is hardly serious athleticism, just every Tuesday and Thursday running for twenty to thirty minutes at a not too demanding pace. These pictures were taken Tuesday, August 22 around between five twenty and five fifty in the evening, what we refer to in local filmmaking parlance as “magic hour” and I think you can see why. I met up with my running buddy Vince for our first run together since May.

Invariably, it is a gorgeous, soothing run, and the pictures below are typical.

We start our run at Kilili Beach park. Here's a photo of the paddlers that gather at the park, heading out to sea in their outrigger canoe.
The first leg of the run. The ocean is to our left.

After the turn around, the run back. The ocean is now to our right.

Some shots taken mid-run of my running buddy Vince.

On Wednesday, August 23, our last teacher arrived on Saipan. Her name is Layla Cole and she arrived late because she was on biology trip to Costa Rica. She just earned her degree in Biology and French, and so appropriately will be teaching Science and French. Unfortunately, I don’t have pictures of her arrival because her flight got in early and by the time I parked the car and joined the others at the gate, she had already come through (plus I forgot my camera).

On Friday, August 25 we had our first TGIS of the year. TGIS (which stands for Thank God It’s Sabbath) is an event we host for students 7th grade and older at our home every other Friday night. We have worship with the kids, eat a light supper and/or snacks and just let them socialize and be together in a “Sabbatical” atmosphere. Most of our students are not Seventh-day Adventist and we wanted to give them a sense of the joy and specialness of the Sabbath. For the past six years it has been a highlight of the school year for our older students.

Kids at TGIS.

G-Rant and our newest addition to the All Star team, Layla Cole at TGIS

Sabbath afternoon, August 26 is the scene of my next “Saipan journey.” It was a pretty close to perfect Sabbath afternoon. Brilliant blue sky, cottony clouds, the last of the flame trees still in bloom. Babs and I had enjoyed a quiet Sabbath lunch of ravioli and French bread together, and I’d even managed to get in a short Sabbath afternoon nap before the journey to Forbidden Island began.

We meet up at church member Oly Manibusan's house, located near the trailhead to Forbidden Island. Seated in the back of the Pierson's pick up is Missy Chamberlin, and leaning against Derek's (boyfriend of one of my former students Myla)truck is Grant Graves, and at the window is Kindergarten teacher Britni Gleason.

The hike begins.

Cue angelic choir. Behold! Forbidden Island.

Me putting on my shoes after wading across the shallows to the base of Forbidden Island and. . .

looking to the climb ahead.

The climbers ahead of me. Grant leads the way.

Ascending Forbidden Island

A shot down before the final, "rock-climbing" leg of the ascent of Forbidden Island. A little scary!

Pictures on top of Forbidden Island

"A cleft in the rock." The top of Forbidden Island.

We found this fossil imprint of an ancient shell in some rock on the top of Forbidden Island.

Crystal Pierson on top of Forbidden Island.

After returning from the summit of Forbidden some of the hikers took a relaxing dip in the swimming hole at the base of the island.

Jari Carmona, our grade 1/2 teacher poses for a glamour shot with the remains of a huge lobster found near the Forbidden Island swimming hole.

Farewell to Forbidden as we begin the grueling hike back. It was MUCH harder than I rememebered from the last time I hiked it, and during the last bit of it I was breathing hard, my muscles burning, digging deep to keep going.

The last little bit of sunset at the trailhead to Forbidden Island.

In the back of the Pierson's pickup on the drive home from Forbidden Island. Mugging for the camera is pre-school teacher Heather Tucker and to the right is 3/4 teacher Mai Rhea Odiyar.

After returning from Forbidden, I rushed home showered quickly and then Babs and I raced back over to the church where they were having a surprise birthday party for Crystal (Edmister) Pierson. There was simple food, karaoke of varying quality, and lots of fun.

Surprise! Crystal's (Edmister) Pierson's unexpected 28th birthday party at the church, Saturday night, August 26. Here she is with her husband Ken caught at the moment of surprise.

G-Rant wows 'em with his vocal prowess. Notice me looking on enviously from the TV screen, having just slaughtered Michael Jackson's "Man in the Mirror." The hair not withstanding I have found I cannot sing The Prince of Pop.

Our group of new teachers is amazing! These seven new women and one man, for lack of a better term are all stars and they rock. (Cue “All-Stars” by Smashmouth: “You’ll never know if you don’t go/you’ll never shine if you don’t glow/Hey now, you’re an all star, get your game on/go play/Hey now you’re a rock star/get the show on/get paid. . .only shooting stars break the mold.”). They just go full tilt all the time. They’re out scrambling all over the island, soaking up all the adventure they can. For example, at pre-school teacher Missy Chamberlin’s birthday party they played volleyball in the dark at the unlit American Memorial Park before deciding to go swimming, even as the rest of us more boring folks headed for home. On the night Layla arrived they joyously charged out the door to take her for her first swim in Saipan at nine o clock at night. On any given day you’ll see them piled into the back of Grant’s trusty rusty pick-up, all but cheering for the joy of being young, engergy-filled, and beautiful on Saipan. On any given night you’ll find them gathered in their apartment, cooking together, a multitude of laptops open and burning up the internet, the place ringing with laughter and good times. You’d think with all this fun, they’d be dragging into their classrooms exhausted, but not these All Stars. They arrive every day at work fired up and full of good cheer. They teach amazing lessons, charm the kids with their charisma, bring their A-Game to every school activity. We are truly blessed to have these girls and guy and we thank God for bringing them to our school this year. And special note must be made of the chief among them-- the man they call Grant Graves and who I refer to as “G-Rant.”

This guy does it all and then some. Here is a couple of pictures of Grant turning it up at Joint Worship this past Friday, September 1. He managed to lead song service all by himself, told a very entertaining version of the three little pigs (in which I acted as the “Big Bad Wolf”) with a twist on the ending that highlighted the importance of kindness. And then he and Mai Rhea, the grade ¾ teacher, had the students pair up into prayer partners and the entire school prayed together! Wow!

The all-star rocks the house.

Here's a wider view of Friday morning Joint Worship being led by G-Rant Graves.

Barbara awards a student her $100 recruitment prize.Any student that recruits a friend to come to SDA gets $100. Wish the teachers were allowed to participate in that program!


Anonymous said...

what a wonderful group of teachers! after reading your blog it makes me want to pack up and come down and teach too! :)


Ken & Crystal said...

Thanks for the "surprise" surprise party photo! ;-) Good entry. Nice job on covering sites of Saipan.

yolland said...

[followed a link from an old journal entry of yours over here...hope you don't mind :-) ]

Wow, Sean, these are BEAUTIFUL pictures! I really enjoyed getting a btter idea of what Saipan looks like and reading about some of the personalities at your school. Your Sabbath get-togethers sound like a wonderful tradition; I sometimes invite some of my grad students over for ours, too. And I am VERY envious of your running route!

I hope things are going well out there and that your electricity supply has improved.

Take care,

**p.s. I submitted this comment twice, because the word verification thingie completely slipped my notice the first time. I'm guessing this means you'll only receive it once, but in case not, that's why...pathetically e-challenged little me!