Feb 24, 2007
2. I used to live on a farm.
3. I got lost in European cities at night. Twice. In less than 24 hours. The first time was in Utrecht, the Netherlands after I'd gone out with a girl I met and was trying to walk back to the place where I was staying. The second time was the very next night in Stuttgart, Germany when my buddy J and I couldn't find our hostel. We found it with only minutes to spare before they locked up for the night.
4. The first album I ever bought was Tiffany. It was 1987 and it was a tape cassette. I had a huge thing for Tiffany in 1987. Pictures of her cut out of Teen Beat in my journal and everything. Even today, every time I hear "I think we're alone now". . . .
5. And lest you think I'm a total weenie: I have fired every type of gun imaginable--44 Magnum, Glock 9 mm, pump action shotgun, 30.30, civilain versions (i.e. semiautomatic as opposed to fully automatic) of the M-16 and Ak-47, the list goes on. You name it, I've shot it. I bet you never thought I was so "gangsta!" Actually, my friends in high school Chris and Greg were serious gun nuts.
I’ve found the garden of Eden and it’s going by the name “The Mandi Asian Spa”!
Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking that nature “as is” is as God intended it to be. The untamed wilds, the dense jungles, the deserted beaches, the craggy mountain tops—indeed, these are beautiful and awe inspiring. But there is another kind of beauty, that I believe is also of God—the beauty that comes when man and nature work hand in hand. While it was God’s plan to create those wild places which no man can tame, he also gave us the responsibility and the privilege to tinker about with his creation and see what we might make of it. Made in His image, we are “makers” too just as he is.
The Mandi is one such place where the beauty of God’s creation and that of His children come together in pretty close to perfect harmony.
After Keisha’s birthday party, Barbara and I drove out to the Mandi. It was 4:30 in the afternoon when we left the beach, and I was secretly hoping “we” would decide not to go. It was late and I knew we’d only have maybe two hours at the Mandi before we went on to dinner at Coffee Care. This was to have been our “Valentines Day” date since we didn’t do anything last week. It was so busy with the REAL dinner show, Valentines Banquet, and fundraising seminar all weekend, that we decided to postpone our day of romance to the 18th. But then, we found out about Keisha’s debut and we spent more time there then we planned. And now it seemed like a waste of $15 for each of us, to spend just two hours there.
Fortunately, Barbara knew better and insisted that we go anyway. How glad I am that she did.
The Mandi Asian Spa is on the premises of the Marianas Resort—a low slung resort hotel that holds the distinction for being the northernmost hotel on the island of Saipan. The next stop after the Marianas Resort is the heights of Suicide Cliff, the wilds of Cowtown, Bird Island, Kalabera Cave and all the other highlights of uninhabited Saipan. The Marianas Resort is unassuming, giving little hint to the treasure it holds. The entrance to the Mandi is a humble gate off to the side of the main entrance to the hotel.
Babs at the main entrance to the Mandi Asian Spa
You walk down a winding landscaped path until you reach a second gate, an Asian style doorway, and when you step through you have arrived in paradise. There is quiet music playing, the furniture in the waiting area is all heavy, tropical hardwood. To your left is a locker area and a basket of complimentary straw sandals. In the Mandi, no one wears their own shoes. We stow our shoes in a locker, pay our entrance fee, are presented with freshly laundered towels, and then enter the spa area proper.
Babs and I separated to shower before going into the pools. This is a Japanese cultural practice—it’s considered really gross to go swimming if you haven’t showered first. I always hate doing it—I expected a pole with a couple of showerheads jutting out and a chain that I’d yank on to douse myself with icy cold water. I headed towards the men’s locker area. A vase sat in recessed display space in the wall dividing the entranceway to the men’s locker room—the kind of gratuitous use of space one expects to find in a five star hotel. I glanced into the shower area—not a shower pole in sight. Instead, massive marble private showers with large frosted glass doors, and inside each one dispensers with shampoo, conditioner, and body lotion. I continued on to the locker area—everything was wood—the lockers and the benches, and something about wooden lockers in place of the usual harsh, dented metal made the place feel richer somehow. Just being amidst all that warm wood, I could feel myself relaxing—my breathing slowing, and deepening, the tension in my muscles that I didn’t even know was there easing, my pace slowing.
I undressed and padded down to the showers in my towel, found an empty shower and entered. The water was mercifully warm, the pressure nice and strong. This was not a hurry-up-and-rinse-off-before-the-fun-begins—this was part of the Mandi experience! The shower alone was worth the price of admission!
After a luxurious hot shower, I pulled on my bathing suit and left the locker area and went out to wait for Barbara. This is the site that greeted me:
I sat on one of the wooden benches, listening to the splash of the water falling into the pool and the unobtrusive music, and watching a couple frolic happily in the pool. Eventually Barbara joined me and she set out to show me all her favorite spots. First we went out to one of the deck areas, facing the Philippine Sea.
The view of the Mandi looking back from the deck
As sunset neared we considered swimming in the main pool, but then opted for the flower bath instead—another heated pool located in a secluded area and brimming with tropical flowers that provide a subtle aroma. Sunset came while we lounged in the flower bath, and we came out and found a place on yet another deck to catch the final glory of the sunset before night fell.
The "regular" pool at the Mandi at twilight
As I settled on of the wooden deck chairs (The Mandi loves wood. I don’t think I saw a piece of plastic or metal the whole time I was there), I remarked to Barbara that the temperature was perfect. Here I was, having just toweled off and still wearing nothing but a wet bathing suit, and I was completely comfortable. There was not the slightest hint of a chill, not even remotely hot—just comfortable in way that air conditioning can never be. We sat talking for about 45 minutes and not once did I begin to feel chilled or start to sweat. It was then, as I watched the sun disappear and a sliver of moon appear with a single brilliant star above it, and a sprinkling of stars beginning to dust the darkening sky, that I thought of the Garden of Eden.
We don’t really know what heaven will be like. The Bible tells us “eye has not seen nor ear heard” what God has in store for us there. Whatever we can imagine, heaven will be that much better. Sadly as result, the failure of our imagination, perhaps leads us to place a low value on paradise. We can’t imagine a life without stress, without pain, without the ever-looming Clock inexorably counting down the minutes left in our lives, and we find it easy to assume a life without these constants would be “boring” or “lacking in meaning.” Or we assume that God will take away whatever are our dearest pleasures in this life and replace them with long white robes, and a lot of harp music and cloud-sitting. People argue that there won’t be marriage in heaven, that there won’t be sex, that our pets are ineligible for salvation, and I sometimes think that insisting on these questionably “Scriptural” truths unintentionally detracts from what eternity has to offer. We may not mean to, but we are essentially suggesting that heaven won’t be that great. Wouldn’t it be so much easier to just expect that all those things—every joy and every pleasure found on this earth—will be found in heaven. Even if they aren’t it’s not like any of us would be disappointed since whatever will take their place will be so much better. But in the meantime, I like to think of heaven having the very best of life on this earth with none of the bad to mar it. It’s hard to imagine, or appreciate I know, but if you’re having a hard time picturing heaven, I suggest a day at the Mandi. Paradise won’t seem so hard to picture there.
For a long time I wasn’t really interested in going to the Mandi. Barbara had been raving about it ever since her first visit more than a year ago, but for some reason I just never felt like it was for me. I guess it just didn’t seem like a very masculine place. And while, I’m pretty at ease in my masculinity and was sure I’d have a “nice” time if I eve went, it didn’t seem like the sort of place I’d seek out. I guess I pictured a lot of women in mud masks and cucumbers on their eyes getting massages and doing yoga.
Of course I was wrong, and for my fellow men who may be reading this blog a few suggestions for putting the “Man” in the Mandi.
1. First, take a hard ride on your mountain bike out on the northern end of the island first. Let the Mandi be your reward. Arrive at her gates sweating, dirty, exhausted but triumphant.
2. Take a long cool shower.
3. Settle on one of the decks chairs for a good long read. I recommend “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” or a good Steven Ambrose title.
4. Be sure to take a bracing dip in the cold pool. A guest while I was there said he was in that pool to “remind him of home” (I guess the water was that cold. I chose not to be reminded).
5. Move on to the infinity pool. (Bringing your book for more reading is optional).
6. Take a few laps in the main pool.
7. Do a little writing on one of the decks or kick back with some Hemingway in the relaxation room.
8. SKIP the flower bath and the hot tub (unless you’re with your girlfriend or wife).
9. End up the day with long and lazy hot shower.
10. Go back to your life, refreshed and energized.
Keisha. Strong. Smart. Brave. Beautiful.
My first memory of her is of her in third grade, my first year at the Saipan SDA School, showing up for the school Spirit Week "twins" day dressed as a twin of her stuffed cow--the two of them both wearing a black and white Holstein dress and Keisha scowling, daring anyone to laugh at her. From the start, Keisha made an impression on me and she's never stopped. I'm very proud of all that she's accomplished and wish her the very best and brightest future. God bless you, Keisha, and Happy 18th birthday!
Keisha's been a veteran of REAL Christian Theater since she was in fifth grade! Here she is on stage performing in Rota last fall.
"Bono Girl" Keisha Paez, the woman with a million shades.
On Friday, February 16, our dear friend and former student Keisha Paez turned 18. On Monday, Februray 18, she had a beach party debut. She’s half Filipina and for Filipina girls, the 18th birthday is a really big deal. Most girls have a huge, fancy party called debut which features people in formal wear, 18 roses, and 18 escorts and all that kind of thing. Well, Keisha decided to do debut in her own unique style and had a huge beach barbecue at the beach behind Aquarius resort.
The highlight of the afternoon was when various people had the opportunity to share memories of Keisha and give her advice for the future. Barbara and I were both asked to speak and we were honored to be a part of this special moment in Keisha’s life.
Keisha and Babs chopping up chicken for barbeque. Keisha's on the right with the towel on her head. The night before Keisha's debut (which was also the night of Keisha's directorial debut--pun intended--she was the director of Class Reunion, our dinner theater show) Babs and I went over to the Paez house to help with making the food. Actually Babs did the helping, I just sat around and watched and went on the internet. . .
Feb 23, 2007
"Dickie Morgan" Before (Circa 1987), Pictured with girlfriend "Tiffy Leapalong"
"Dickie Morgan" after (Circa 2007) Pictured with a person he claims he used to date; She disputes the claim.
Sunday morning, the day of our REAL Christian Theater dinner theater fundraiser. The phone rings and it’s Grant. He's been sick all weekend, and now he's called to say he’s still pretty sick and won’t be able to make it to our dinner show performance that night. Aloud, “I say, hey it’s okay, we’ll work it out. Get better soon.”
Inside I was cryng “Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!”
What were we going to do? Grant had one of the major roles in the dinner show, that of the ultra-arrogant and annoying Dickie Morgan! Who were we going to replace him with? I tried my friend Dan, a professional actor. He couldn’t do it. That only left one person: me. I knew the play well, having helped Keisha direct it during the rehearsals. I could use the script but hopefully I’d be familiar enough with the lines to not have to read them all. There was the little detail of me looking nothing like Grant, but we’d have to let that slide.
I frantically started studying the lines. I’m afraid I wasn’t much help to Carol and Britni during the set-up and decoration. I was too busy studying lines like mad.
In the end it turned out great though. I actually ended up not having to use the script at all, and I don’t think I missed a single line. And playing Dickie was FUN! It was really fun to play such an obnoxious, conceited fellow, to say and do all kinds of bombastic things I would never say or do in real life. I had a blast!
Herewith a description of REAL Christian Theater’s fundraising dinner show, Class Reunion, as described in the voice of the character I played, Dickie Morgan:
As you can see from the pictures above I’ve changed quite a bit since high school. I know it’s hard to believe that a guy as good-looking and popular as I was in back in the day could actually get better. But there you have it. The pictures don’t lie. Time has been good to Dickie Morgan, what can I say. You can see that I have gotten a great tan. . .this is because I’m now based out of Hawaii. I own and operate a very successful food franchise business there, as you may have heard. We’re just raking it in, to be honest with you. And that’s what it’s all about isn’t it folks? Making the big bucks. We’ve got an operation in Oahu now and plan to open a second location in Kauai by the end of this year. I’m sure you noticed how trim I look. Amazing isn’t it? What happens to most ex-football players as they enter middle age? I’ll tell you what happens! They get fat. But not me. I work out daily in my personal gym in my home—actually in both my homes—the one in Hawaii AND Manhattan. And despite what you may think, especially looking at my facial features—no, there was no plastic surgery (to speak of). That’s just those amazing Morgan genes. Those of you with a discerning eye were probably looking at that jacket I’m wearing and thinking, “Hey, isn’t that Armani?” And, hey! You’re right it is! Lucky for me, with my business success, buying Armani is like shopping Wal Mart is for most you. I figure, here am I a successful, wealthy businessman, I might as well look the part, you know what I’m saying?
Mrs. Stonecipher and Gina Gofar (Above left back in 1987, and above on the night of the Class Reunion)
Our class president Bernie Duzalot revs up the crowd
Mrs. Stonecipher boring us to death as usual.
Simon Reedlip, now going by his rock n roll stage name, Bobby Breedlove. Gimme a break.
What a loss to the world. At any rate, after that the rest of the play is my classmates trying to figure out who did me in, but I won’t go into that. It’s not that interesting anyway, since I’m not in it anymore. The only thing I can’t figure out is why someone would want to kill the most likable, most popular and successful, and good looking guy at the party—me! Jealousy, I guess. That’s what happened to all the greats—Lincoln, Kennedy, Lennon, Dickie Morgan. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.
Feb 16, 2007
Mt. Tapachou as seen from the grounds of the Whispering Palms School in Navy Hill, Friday, February 16, 2007.
This week it was all about the mountain top moments. . .moments of great success after grueling effort, and persistent commitment. You might say it all began with my comrade Grant Grave's triumphant ascent of the mountain you see pictured above this past Sunday. You can read his inspiring account at his blog. Just click on the link to his blog at the bottom of this page. From there it was the tireless effort of one teacher to realize her vision of a memorable Valentines Banquet for the kids, kids finding their own inspiration and motivation to create and learn, the premiere of a TV show that many of us worked long and hard on, and a basketball team that finally won their first game after a season in the cellar. This week was all about the reward that can be won if you just keep trying and never give up. . .
It has been a very busy week. About mid-week my postive outlook began to flag, as overwhelmed as I was by the sheer amount of “stuff” to do. We had rehearsals every night from Sunday through Tuesdays from 6 P.M. to 8 P.M. preparing for our dinner show fundraiser this weekend. Wednesday, we had one merciful night off, and then Thursday we had our full dress rehearsal, a performance for the kids at the SDA School for their Valentines Banquet.
Herewith a few snapshots of a busy week:
Our school lunchroom transformed. Missy Chamberlin, our fundraising coordinator and human dynamo, did a fantastic job, pulling the whole thing off practically single-handedly. She conceived the decorating scheme, put the kids to work to help pull it all together, made the food, and tirelessly marketed it to the grades 5-9 to encourage them to attend. Well done Missy!
Grant Graves in character as the arrogant, smarmy, ex-football hero Dickie Morgan in the dress rehearsal for our murder mystery dinner theater, Class Reunion. The official production is Sunday evening, February 18 at the Hafa Adai Hotel in Saipan's tourist district.
One event that I did not get any pictures of to my severe disappointment was the premiere of the pilot episode of “State of Liberty” the TV show I acted in this past fall. It was held at the Saipan Grand Hotel at the “V” Lounge. I got there late as it was the same night as the dress rehearsal for our dinner show, so I missed the “red carpet” and the first quarter of the screening, but what I saw looked really good. I felt a bit self-conscious seeing myself on the screen, but at the same time a little vain too, wondering when my NEXT scene would be and if anything got left on the cutting room floor! At any rate I was part of a large and talented ensemble cast and if their were any “stars” they were Dan, who was also the director who had some really funny scenes, Lie Hua, the Chinese ingénue who had some of the most emotionally demanding scenes and did a fantastic job, and the island of Saipan itself, which was on full, glorious display throughout the show. The show had more the feel of an independent film than the beginnings of a TV series, and it is something I think that all of us can very proud of. I hope we’ll get the chance to do more and that we can get some interested backers who can provide funding to keep the show going. Hopefully I’ll be able to get a copy soon so that I can share it with friends here on Saipan and back in the Mainland this summer.
So after the premiere there’s a lot of congratulating and of course seeing a lot of my fellow cast-mates who I hadn’t seen in awhile. So we all lined up on the red carpet after for a picture, and I’m feeling very Hollywood, and Barbara has the camera and I’m thinking “I can’t WAIT to post this on the blog. . .” and the camera batteries are dead. So much for the picture for posterity! Ah, well. . .
You know, a lot of the progressive thinking in education says that if you give kids the chance to learn and explore in their own learning style they will learn so much more and do amazing things. Well, I’ve always been kind of old-fashioned and a bit of skeptic, and I always thought. . .nah, I leave these kids to themselves they won’t do ANYthing. Well, my 7th/8th grade Geography routine was getting old—Go through the pages in the book on the geographic region, show a video on the focus country, several days of lecture on the focus country, followed by review and test. It was time to try something new. . .something more radical. So I came up with a list of seven basic objectives for learning about Japan, divided the kids into groups and told them they needed to devise a project that included something visual, auditory, kinesthetic (some kind of physical activity that they either did or had the class do during a presentation), and reading/writing. There was something for everyone. I listed a few suggestions for each category but other than that they were on their own. And this is what they come up with:
A model of a traditional Japanese home contrasted with the skyline of a modern Japanese city. Note the cherry blossoms!
A massive model of the Tokyo Government Building in downtown Tokyo constructed out of cardboard. Below is a photo of the actual building.
I’m so proud of my students! They worked really hard, every day—with only a few exceptions, I never had to get on any of them to stay on task during the daily work sessions that went on for several weeks. The kids needed more time than I’d originally allotted and I extended the due date by about a week and a half, but the kids weren’t procrastinating at all.
Of course, I wondered, did the kids actually learn anything. . .or did they just make a bunch of neat, artsy projects but have no idea what Mt. Fuji is? Well, during the first group’s presentation this past Friday it was clear that, at least so far, the kids learned a lot. There presentation was very well done. . .they covered all the objectives thoroughly and in addition to their displays did a “Japanese Talk Show” about Japanese culture, did a class quiz with prizes about Japan, taught us some Japanese words and phrases, and even took us outside to play “The Fat Man Who Tripped” which is the Japanese version of red light/green light.
So now what do I do for our next Geography unit? How will I. . and they. . top this?
Our first group of 7th and 8th graders make their presentation on Japan. Note their highly detailed and beautifully colored timeline of the history of Japan on the board behind them
Friday afternoon I volunteered to ref at our boys junior varsity basketball game. I’ve coached in the past, but this year other teachers took on coaching duties and most of the time I’d just show up when I could to cheer on the team (which isn’t often due to my tutoring schedule). But Fridays are free and Jari and Heather, the two coaches, asked me to referee the game and I agreed.
What a privilege to ref over our teams first victory of the season! (and I assure you, it had nothing to do with me!) Our team are all new to playing basketball competitively and it has shown. We’ve suffered some pretty disheartening losses. We’ve never endured a complete shutout but we’ve come perilously close (try 70-4, just last Friday). But our team is a good-natured one and they’ve taken even the most brutal beatings with a grin and a shrug before heading right back out for more. Well, finally playing against the Whispering Palms School (who had already beaten us once) the boys got their mojo going and won their first game 31 to 27. And they did with only five players! They took it in the same easy-going, happy-go-lucky style that they shouldered their losses. These boys are out to have fun, win or lose, and that’s what it’s all about.
There's the tip-off! We're the boys in blue.
In the heat of the action: That's me in the foreground running to keep up with game.
Hands out! The boys play "D"
Feb 9, 2007
Well, I’m trying a new look for the Journal Online. I’m not sure that this is really it. It looked so much cooler in the sample than on my blog. But, it matches the color of my current pen and paper Journal and my idea is that I’m going to change my Journal Online template whenever I start a new notebook in my pen and paper journal. I started Vol. 41 this week. The other forty notebooks I’m keeping in plastic storage box in my closet—my whole life since the age of eleven!
Anyway, I’ll keep plugging away at it until I finally have a “look” I can be proud of. For now, I’m not there yet. One thing I don’t like about this layout is that all my sidebars are down at the bottom of the page, so if you want to link, say to Grant’s page or the Piersons or to my favorite website (Interference.com), you have to scroll all the way down to know you can even do such a thing. I want to move them so they’re up at the top of the page but I’m not sure how to do it. And you should DEFINTELY check out Bev, Grant, and the Pierson’s blogs. They are doing way more exciting things than I am these days and they’ve got GREAT photos!
Below a few highlights from the past few weeks:
Two Saturday nights ago we went to see In Transit. . .Stuck in an Airport, a play produced by a group of Saipan-based writers/actors. The play was a series of monologues told as stories by people who were stuck in our own Saipan airport during a typhoon. Most of the monologues were performed by the writers and they told their stories of what it’s like to live in Saipan—some monologues were funny, some serious—many of them were both funny and serious. It was all very well done, and we had a wonderful, enriching evening. The thing is Grant and I had a chance to be a part of the production but we couldn’t think of any good stories we could tell and so we never followed up on the opportunity. I wish we’d thought a little bit harder because it looked like a lot of fun and I know we would have had a blast doing it. Maybe next time. . .
Layla indulges in some caviar. . .well, not actually. They are fish eggs though. They look like little orange candies, have the texture of pop rocks, and don't taste like much of anything.
Don't you just love sushi?
Here's my favorite sushi dip--soy sauce, some garlic cloves, and most important of all wasabi (a Japanese horseradish sauce. Very green and very HOT)!
The cast of our dinner theater mystery Class Reunion, the "Looneyville High School Class of 1987."
For the past three Friday nights REAL Christian Theater has been performing at Friday night church services. Unfortunately, my camera would run out battery before the show started so all the pictures below are from before the show began.
Friday, January 26, 2007, New Covenant Life Church: About an hour before showtime, Grant rehearses with the team on our show finale, "Where is God"
Friday, February 2, 2007, Saipan Central Seventh-day Adventist Church: Director "The Diva" (Left) and Britni set up sound and lights for our performance. ("CK Girl" and "Jeane" are in the background).
Friday, February 9, 2007, Grace Christian Church: The team joins in the praise & worship service before taking the stage for our performance.
A few weeks ago, Barbara was talking to her sister Jenny about Jesco, the dog we've semi-adopted. (You may recall that last fall we experimented with bringing Jesco inside. It did not work out). Well, at the time I remember saying that I'd put a video up of Jesco so she could see Jesco for herself and give us her professional opinion on him. (Jenny knows her dogs). So, Mom Leen, tell Jenny to look at this blog entry!