Okay, actually it's Saipan, but it sure looks like southern California doesn't it? This photo was taken from the second story balcony at the front of our school looking northwest toward Mt. Topachau, which normally can be seen quite clearly from this vantage point but is now all but obliterated.
Last week Saipan got a taste of air pollution, as Anatahan the next island north of us spewed a noxious mix of fumes and ash from it's active volcano. Various meterological factors conspired to keep the haze hovering over Saipan for several days dirtying our normally brilliant blue skies and puffy white clouds. On Monday we heard that a random stranger slowed down next to the basketball court where some of the younger kids were playing and screamed at them to go inside before they were poisoned by the toxic air. On Tuesday the public schools cancelled classes due to the haze, and I noted groups of the students from Hopwood Junior High School walking home past our school, their hands over their noses to protect delicate airways.
Anatahan caused quite a bit of consternation, but do you want to know a secret? I actually kind of liked the haze. It was kind of exotic, and it made me feel like I was living somewhere else--the big cities of Los Angeles, Seoul, or Bangkok. Even a paradise like Saipan can get kind of "old hat" when you've lived here for 8 years. Seeing the vistas of Saipan transformed by gauzy gray-brown haze, the warm deserty glow created by the sun shining through, the burnished blue of the sky above, excited my imagination and had me humming "California", the theme song to The O.C. all week long. Of course, knowing that eventually the smog would float away and we'd have our perfect skies back again helped too. I mean, I love California. But I wouldn't want to live there!