Feb 29, 2008

The Strange & Quirky World of Asian Market T-Shirts

Message t-shirts are all the rage these days. We've all seen t-shirts, usually worn by kids, teens, and young adults, with humorous slogans, ironic declarations, and jaded commentary. Many of these t-shirt messages make me chuckle, a few make me fear for the next generation, and then there is a unique subgroup that makes me scratch my head in confusion. I call them "Asian Market" t-shirts because they are generally worn by my Asian students--and most of the time I can't figure out what their messages actually mean. Usually the slogans are positive, aspirational, and often vaguely poetic compared to "American" message t's.

It's hard to explain, so I'll just show you. Herewith, some samples from the strange and quirky world of Asian market message T's.

This has to be one of my favorites. Simple and to the point. I'm just not sure what the point is. I've never associated a "rebel yell" with hugs. Do you shout until someone hugs you. I am confused. . .

This t-shirt featured a whole poetic rumination on love, loss and the Manhattan skyline. The front of the t-shirt is above and the back below

Disney is a popular theme with these type of t-shirts. This one reads: "Mickey is always ready for adventure and action!!"

Dream is another popular theme. . .

I really couldn't figure this one out at all. I think it's about beer? I'm really not sure.

Just another small way my students make my life richer and more interesting! I'll have to get one of these t-shirts of my own one day and leave the people I meet scratching their heads in wonder. . .

Feb 15, 2008

Managaha 08: Miscellany

Thursday night "skittles" game with Miss Judith . I love the deep blue of the sky that shows up in this picture.

2 dozen boxes of a dozen donuts. The thinking goes: "I'm in a big hurry and I've got to get something for the potluck on Managaha. Maybe I'll just buy a dozen donuts real quick." Apparently a lot of parents were thinking along this line. We had more donuts for potluck than I've ever seen in my life!

Shark Living. . .

. . .Shark Dead.

Babs took the top picture of a small black tip shark from the dock at Managaha. There were quite a few of these creatures swimming about near the dock. "The Vice President" found
the dead shark. presumably on the beach. It smelled pretty bad and looked rather macabre, but it was fascinating to see a shark that up-close.

Riki, one of our preschool teachers, tunes up for Friday night worship.

Mwuhahhahahahahahha! It wouldn't be a campout with at least one scary-flashlight-face photo!

My sensei, Malou Bautista (on right) strikes a pose with fellow food committee member Carol Paez. This was my second year on the food committee, but my first without my sensei, my master Managaha chef, Malou. Malou has been involved in the Managaha meals ever since we've had a Managaha campout. She is an expert at whipping up tasty meals for the masses and I have sat at her feet and learned much. Still, I didn't feel quite ready to be on my own this year--but I had no choice--Malou didn't arrive on Managaha until Sabbath morning after breakfast. So I jumped in gamely, basically running the meals from Thursday through Friday night mostly on my own. The whole time, as I organized the kitchen storage tent, as I prepared the corned beef hash and scrambled eggs, as I washed up the dishes--I kept wondering, what would Malou do? Would she approve of my culinary decisions? Would she look kindly on the way I ran my kitchen or would she disappointed? Was the apprentice worthy of his teacher? I deeply hoped so.

Sunday morning on Managaha. There is an exquisite exhaustion that comes with Sunday morning on Managaha. You've been camping for four days. You got about four hours of sleep last night. You've been with the students twenty four hours a day for the better part of a week. Mai, Jessica, and Judith capture that fatigue perfectly in this photo. The best part about that exhaustion is the deliriously delicious nap you take Sunday afternoon when you get home--after a nice long shower, snuggled under clean, dry sheets, with the air conditioner humming contendely away.

Feb 14, 2008

Managaha 08: Captured by Joy

My recap of our annual Capture the Flag game on our last night on Managaha. Interspersed throughout the account are portraits of this year's "hall of famers"--key players in this year's game.

Last year’s Saturday night Capture the Flag contest on Managaha was an exercise in character-building and growth. I learned a lot about humility and grace.

That’s another way of saying it wasn’t very much fun. Some good things came from that night—I detailed them in my blog last year—but it really wasn’t what the game was supposed to be about. Games are supposed to be fun. They can be fun for lots of reasons from the thrill of trying to reach a simple goal—put a ball through a hoop or over net, snag a flag and bring it back—to just the basic joy of running after and from your friends. Some people, like me get a kick out of strategizing, while others love the adrenaline rush of creeping over in to enemy territory. Some folks, like my friend Riki even seem to enjoy the waiting game—remaining, silent and hidden for hours until the moment of action arrives.

I’ve learned that a good game of Capture the Flag has something fun for everyone. This year, thanks to a few critical rule changes, was such a good game. If last year, I was captured by grace, this year I was captured by joy.

This year's team captains: Me and Pastor Glenn. Glenn played hard, he played fair, but he played with joy--the zestful, good-natured enthusiasm that were the hallmarks of this year's Capture the Flag contest. Glenn, thanks for some tough competition and a truly fun game!

This time around we employed a key change to the rules that one of our former teachers, Grant Graves suggested after last year’s somewhat contentious game. In the past, team members who were tagged by their opponents had to go “prison” where they would remain until the game ended or they were rescued. This could often mean literal hours of boredom in prison for unlucky captives. And it was usually the impatient players who were eager to dash across the line in a hurry who were also least equipped for a lengthy stay in the slammer. Grant suggested that we set a limit on prison time. After the set time had passed, we’d conduct a prisoner exchange and all the prisoners would be back in the action. We made a few other adjustments to facilitate this rule change—moved the prisons closer to the boundary line to make prisoner exchanges easy and added a little timer that could be set to ring every 20 minutes from the time the first player on either team was captured. At the end of those 20 minutes the prisoners would be free.

The result of this change was that everyone had more fun. There was a lot less lounging on the line and a lot more action—after all the players had a lot less to lose darting across the line—they knew if they were caught that their time out of the game would be short and soon they’d be back in the game again. Throughout the game there were constant shrieks of excitement along the border as the kids—generally the younger ones—chased each other back and forth across the line. And for the rest of us, there were other kinds of fun. The fantasy soldiers were still able to creep across enemy lines shrouded in darkness and hidden among the jungle foliage. The defensive players were still able to find shadows to melt into while awaiting their prey. And military-style strategists like me had new tactics to employ. Now we were running against the clock, and I quickly made a point of timing our runs at the opposing team’s flag according to the “prison clock.” I’d send my troops across the line at the 15 minute mark, ensuring that even if they were caught, it would only be a short wait before I’d have them back and we could try it again.

Another change in strategy is that I found I didn’t worry too much about capturing the other team’s players or even guarding the prisoners carefully. My old strategy of filling up the prison and thinning the ranks of the opposing team before going for the flag was no longer useful. Prison was good for halting an advance on our flag and keeping our line loungers busy, but beyond that I didn’t worry too much if I lost a prisoner here and there.

Amy Foote, our preschool director, was a key player on Glenn's team. She kept an eye on the prison clock and had lots of great suggestions for tweaking the game as we went along. She says that in year's past she's always focused on freeing prisoners, but found it less rewarding this time, since they'd go free on their own so soon. Amy is a true student of the game and I think she'd make an excellent captain next year.

These three fifth and sixth grade students were my key line soldiers and prison guards. They spent much of the evening chasing down and tagging members of Glenn's team who dared to cross the line.

I had two simple goals. Keep our flag safe and, of course, capture the other team’s flag. I failed at both in the first game—as in the first two years, the game was over almost as soon as it started. There was a fatal flaw in our defense; I knew it, but our flag was stripped away before I had a chance to fix it. Our territory in the first game was hard to manage—much of it was in dark jungle and with only a sliver of moon, it was pitch black—darker than I can ever remember it being in a game of CTF. It was so dark, that much of the time my key defensive players, Mai and Riki, hiding the requisite 20 paces from the flag couldn’t even see the it. For me, using a flashlight back in those woods was no longer a luxury but a necessity. Mai and Riki made two corners of a triangle with the flag between them. The third corner of the triangle was unguarded and that proved our undoing. One of my former students EJ Bautista, now a high school junior, who joined us for the weekend, boldly used his flashlight to snatch the flag. In seconds he was past my guards and from there he was able to run unchallenged all the way to the boundary line. We gave chase, but we didn’t have a chance against his long legs and the thick darkness. The game was over.

And you know what? I felt good. I really felt fine. I’d lost fair and square. I didn’t feel cheated, I didn’t feel humiliated. I knew the gap was there—I just didn’t fill it in time. Losing that way hardly hurt at all. In fact, I couldn’t wait to try it again.
So a second game began. We switched sides and this time I made sure all of my exits were covered—Riki on the beach, Mai on the back path (the same one EJ had used earlier to win the game for his team), and Jessica hidden the trees off the main path. The triangle was sealed this time.

I've always said women are the better players in CTF. From left to right, Riki, Mai, and Jessica were my key defensive players (except of course when Mai switched to offense and won the game). With these three women anchoring our team, I never worried much about our flag in the second game. I remember one of the students telling me, after we'd captured him that we really needed to watch our beach. "There's no one down there," he told me. "I'm not worried," I said. "No really," he inisted. "I didn't see anyone. I was able to go all the way down the beach and no one tagged me." "I'm not worried," I repeated. And I wasn't. I knew Riki was there watching coolly from the shadows. And she was. She later told me she'd seen the student but figured she'd go after him once he was past her, if she needed to. "We're more than willing to let you come into our territory," I told the student. "We just don't plan to let you back out."

This game was much longer—several times they came within a few yards of our flag, but our defense was strong, and our flag stayed put. Meanwhile, I was probing Glenn’s forces in time to the prison clock—looking for a way in. Eventually we hit upon a plan to send in three players—two of my stalwart offensive players and Mai. Mai would be the decoy—we expected she would be captured while the one of the other two nipped the flag in the confusion. After plotting out our strategy in the starlit sand, the three disappeared into the night. And we waited. It wasn’t long before word came across the line that both students had been caught. But Mai was still out there. It was up to her now. Some minutes later I heard urgent shouts in the jungle, and a high yell that sounded for sure like Amy. I knew either they had Mai or Mai had their flag. It turned out it was the latter. Mai came racing up the path, jubilant and clutching the other team’s flag. She’d won us the game! (You can read Mai’s exciting account of her foray for the flag in her blog. Just click on her link.) Did I mention its fun to win too?

Hardcore offense. These two were vital offensive players for my team. They worked with Mai to bring back the flag in the second game. The boy on the left is a sixth grader, a member of our church and a former student at our school. He and his family joined us for the weekend even though he is no longer enrolled at SDA, and we were glad to have him. Hey, once a part of the SDA School family always a part of the SDA family. The boy on the right is "M", one of our 8th grade students. In about a month I'll be taking him and his classmates on an adventure of a lifetime in Australia!

These two stalwarts were also on my team. "T" on the left, disappeared into Glenn's jungle for what seemed like hours before he reappeared--in their prison! The guy on the left, who I'll call "Center" (the position he plays on our basketball team) relieved Mai on defense so that she could run for the flag. Without him, it might have been our flag instead of theirs.

It was just after 1 A.M. and the kids were eager for a tie-breaker, but we decided one win each was a nice way to end the evening and we returned to the camp where we all sat around in the pavilion reliving the exciting plays and thrilling moments of another great night of Capture the Flag. No one seemed to mind losing, and the winners didn’t seem to be obsessed with the victory. It was the moments of excitement and fun during the game that we told and retold to each other—not the wins and losses.

And this is what games are supposed to be. Sure they can build character, sure they can grow you and teach you about life and about grace, but they’re best when they are simply joyful fun.

This energetic sixth grader spent more time in our prison than just about any other player on Glenn's team! He just wouldn't quit! He got a little banged up during a close encounter with a tree.

Glenn poses with his lieutenants, Judith--keepin' it gangsta--Amy, and Vero.

Feb 13, 2008

Managaha 08: Outside the Classroom

The older kids listen to a presentation on protecting the environment presented by Reina Camacho from the Department of Environmental Quality.

The younger kids work on sand sculptures during one of the class rotations.

Our annual campout to Managaha is officially known as Outdoor School, and indeed Friday counts as a regular school day, and even though the classes are non-traditional and loads of fun, the kids still receive grades for their work and those few students that elect not to go on the campout are saddled with makeup assignments when we get back. But the learning doesn't stop at 3 o clock Friday. Throughout the weekend, the kids are learning whether it's cooking skills when they make their own dinner Friday night, teambuilding activities on Sabbath afternoon, and of course lots of learning about God throughout the weekend.

Herewith a pictorial of a weekend of outdoor education:

Two students, "The Vice President" and "Micronesian Queen" warm up with the guitar before our first evening worship, Thursday night, February 7.

Friday morning is the high point of outdoor school, when our entire school from pre-school through 10th grade is together on Managaha for a day of learning. In the picture above Barbara addresses the students and parents just after their arrival on the island.

Friday evening was our traditional "Make Your Own Meal" activity. The kids are divided into groups that plan the menu in advance, bring the food, prepare it and share it with the other groups. Here's two members of my team above roasting hot dogs on the grill.

One of the boys in my group stirs the chili on a camp stove. In addition to chili dogs, my team also made macaroni and cheese.

On Friday night for our worship activity our groups presented shadow charades. We chose the story of the golden calf, ably protrayed by "Ko", the boy on all fours in the picture above.

Miss Vero with some of our students during the Sabbath morning worship service.

Sabbath afternoon team building activities.

More team building activities.

Feb 12, 2008

Managaha 08: Glenn

Glenn delivers his final message Sunday morning, with the sun streaming over the horizon and the Son warming our hearts. He left us with a reminder of hope--of a day when there would be no more goodbyes, of a "place we call heaven and God calls home"--and a riff on the traditional Jewish blessing at the end of Passover: "Next year in the New Jerusalem."

"I'd like to build relationships with the kids," Glenn said in the first day or so after he arrived, "But I know that realistically, I probably won't be able to do that in such a short time. But I'll try."

Well, it turned out Pastor Glenn Aguirre was a much faster builder than he realized. The One who is the Builder and Maker of all good things, including and especially, relationships hastened the process, and in the short space of a week Pastor Glenn found a place in the hearts of our students. Likewise, our kids won his heart as well, and I know he'll carry treasured memories of his week in Saipan with him always.

Glenn is a young, charismatic pastor based in Miami, Florida. He's the pastor at the home church of our kindergarten teacher, Veroynka. She's the one who recruited him to come out here for a week of prayer in the days leading up to the campout and then to be our guest speaker for the weekend on Managaha. I suppose the decision to fly halfway around the world wasn't so daunting for him; after all he has a history in Micronesia. He was a student missionary in the Marshall Islands 8 years ago and his wife is Marshallese (in fact, he flew up to Saipan from the Marshalls where he and his wife were making their first visit back to her home in six years. She remained there while he came to Saipan.)

Pastor Glenn's got all the requisite hallmarks of a great speaker for kids--funny stories, unique illustrations, a talent for the guitar, and of course that all-important but undefinable "cool factor." But all of those gifts, as vital as they were, were not responsible for the difference Glenn made last week. After all, Friday night Glenn burned his fingers on a hot camp lantern and was unable to play guitar for awhile--his ability to wow the kids from the front was suddenly muted. But fortunately for him, his impact was rooted in something more substantial than a flashy, hyped-up worship show. What made the difference was his authentic passion--his passion for the kids and his passion for God. He genuinely cared, He truly believed. The kids picked up on that right away, and they responded with real affection of their own for Glenn and for the Savior he spoke of.

Some of our kids take a stand Sabbath morning. Glenn was never shy about asking for a decision. His appeal though always low-key and low-pressure, always without emotionalism and scare tactics was also always consistent and unapologetic. He told us of how his wife went to an Seventh-day Adventist School for 12 years in the Marshall Islands, how she was taught by missionaries all those years and yet never once was asked to make a decision. She'd wanted to make a stand for years, but no one ever asked her to, no one ever gave her the opportunity. So Glenn always put the opportunity out there and there were kids--some that I wouldn't have expected--who responded.

I think the kids won Glenn's heart as well, and to be honest I knew they would. There's a reason we've been out here for almost 10 years now, and it's not the beaches. These kids dig into your heart and won't let go. Working here with our students is the most rewarding work I can imagine. And that's hard to explain to people who haven't been here. I remember talking to a mutual friend of Glenn and mine last summer about coming out here for a week of prayer, and I remember feeling like I was hawking a network marketing opportunity with Amway. How do you tell someone that if you come out to Saipan you'll want to be a part of this community forever? It sounds ludicrous! Until you've been here. And Glenn's been here. He knows. And I'm certain he'll carry with him for a lifetime the names, faces, and friendships he formed in seven short days. I know we'll always remember him.

Thanks, Glenn, for sharing your heart with all of us. "Next year in the New Jerusalem. . ."

Pastor Glenn, the "shoeless pastor."

Feb 11, 2008

Managaha 08: Island Vistas

Saipan is a gorgeous paradise, but Managaha takes tropical beauty to a whole new level. Rather than try to describe it, I'll let the pictures speak for themselves. (And even they are a poor substitute for actually experiencing the beauty of this little island).

This is the ferry the Jambalaya, that brought us to Managaha. This photo was taken on the pier of Mangaha.

A shot of the tourist beach at Managaha from the dock.

A parasailing boat about to head out. Isn't that blue amazing?!?

No, that's not a swimming pool. These are the crystal waters that surround Managha.

Our camp was just around the corner from the beach pictured here. That's one of our students sitting next to our empty water jugs which would be picked up the by the ferry and taken back to Saipan for refilling.

"Tent City": The girls' side of our camping area.

Unfortunately, Managaha is rapidly eroding. We used to camp further up the beach from our current spot in the early years. Some of the teachers were able to pitch their tent on the right side of the fence picture above. Now they'd be camping on the water line instead of the bluff that used to be there. We used to hold our nightly staff meetings at a pavilion that used to be where the water is in the picture below. If you look carefully you can see some the wreckage left from that pavilion in the water.

Leaving Managaha. Until next year. . .!