Jun 26, 2008

Our Future

Elijah's clothes waiting for their owner.

The other day I ducked into our guest bedroom, and there it was--our future all layed out neatly in front of me.

I used to get a little misty eyed whenever I'd see baby shoes or baby clothes that would someday belong to my son. Now, I get excited. To most people, it's just baby clothes--but to me and Babs, it's a glimpse of our child. Soon he's going to fill all those clothes (and yes, those diapers too--hoo boy!), and they will take on his personality. Memories will be made in these little clothes. I can't wait!

Thanks to all the generous friends and loved ones who've already started ensuring Elijah will be well-dressed from head to toe!

Chronicle of a Suicide Monday

One of my favorite views in Saipan. I paused on the bike ride down the cliff to take this panaramic photo of the rest of Saipan stretching away to the south.

Sucide Cliff, from the base.

So, I've made a commitement to running from the Last Command Post at the base of Suicide Cliff, to the top of the cliff every Monday morning. This past Monday, June 23, which I chronicled in the pictures and video below, was my fourth run up the cliff. The first was on Memorial Day with the 4Runners, the second was that memorable Last Day with the 4Runners, and the last two have been on my own. The first run, Riki got some pictures and video, but this entry will give you the runners-eye perspective.

It's a really rewarding run and I feel like it is really whipping me into shape. I guess it is a pretty demanding run--it's uphill virtually the whole way--but the way I run, it's not unbearable. I always feel a great sense of accomplishment once I get to the top and I feel like the challenge has made me a stronger runner. Right now my goal is to gradually reduce the time it takes me to get to the top. I can track the time of course--right now it takes me 37 minutes, but I also use my ipod as a type of timing device. I always listen to the same set of songs, my "Mountain Run" playlist, and right now I'm finishing right at the end of "Lifetime" by Mat Kearney and right before "Beautiful Day" by U2. It would be great to finish before Mat Kearney's song starts by the end of the summer.

I'm looking forward to the rest of my Suicide Runs every Monday this summer!

The Run Begins

If you look carefully, you can see that Monday was a "Moon Day"-the moon was still high in the sky at 6:25 A.M.

The promontory in the foreground was the exact spot I was running to. I don't think you can see the railing in the photo though you could just make it out with the naked eye.

I start with a walk to warm up, and begin running when I hit this mile marker. It is not 11 miles to the top. I'm not sure where we are 11 miles from. At this point the run is still level--no inclines yet.

One of the first inclines. Not too steep.

Looking east

Ah shade!


Getting close!

Running towards the light.

Triumphant at the top!

A very short video of the bike ride down. I usually bike down since it's faster than running and I have to get back home on the south end of the island, shower and have breakfast and get in to teach my summer school class. But after next week, when my class is done, I think I will run back down.

Jun 21, 2008

A Different Kind of Summer

Another gorgeous summer morning in Saipan. . .
Summer vacation 2008 is turning out to be a very different kind of summer, and not just because Babs and I are staying here in Saipan all summer long this year (something we haven't done since--gasp--we were both in our 20's; the year 1999 to be precise).

Usually summer is about indolence--reading till my head hurts, watching movie after movie, and most importantly, staying up really, really late. An average summer bedtime for me has been around 1 or 2 A.M. with a wake-up around noon.

This summer is proving to be a completely new experience. While the pace is definitely slower and more relaxing, my days are surprisingly full, and they start--and end--much earlier than I would ever imagined possible for summer. Herewith a look at a typical summer day for me in 2008:

I have to begin by talking about how an average day for me ends--because that's what makes the schedule work. I've been going to bed, generally between 9:15 and 9:45 P.M. every night. Now a big part of that is because last week our rolling power outages had our neighborhood scheduled for blackouts from 8 to 10 P.M. every evening. Babs and I would climb into bed right about the time the lights flickered out and watch a movie on her laptop or read with our handy book lamps. Invariably, I'd begin to nod off sometime after nine, and there was no reason not to go ahead and turn in for the night. The end result, of course, is that I wake up, naturally, quite early the next morning, thus setting the tone for the rest of the day.

One Reason You Can Be Glad You DON'T Live in Saipan: Power Outtages. This photo of our bedroom lit by flashlights was taken on Thursday night, June 19. On that night we were without power for about seven hours! Ridiculous. And while, I know this photo makes our bedroom look very romantic and inviting, it got very hot as the hours wore on (and no, I don't mean that in a fun way! I mean hot as uncomfortable, stifling, and sweaty. With not even a fan or even a slight breeze it was pretty close to unbearable).

Due to fuel shortages, antiquated power generators, and general mismanagement, power outtages have become an increasingly normal but no less annoying part of life in Saipan. My friend David Khoram speculates in this brief but insightful entry from his blog that Saipan is teetering on the edge of Third World status. Sadly, I think he's right, and our governemnt leadership for the most part seems unwilling or unable to do much about it.

Usually the newspapers publish the load shedding schedule for the week so you can sort of plan your week around the two hours daily when your area will be without electricty. However, the schedule doesn't apply if the power plants break down--which they do, at least once a week--and that results in unannounced outtages of indefinite length while the intrepid engineers at CUC dig out their baling wire and scotch tape.

This coming week our area is scheduled for power outtages from 10 A.M. to noon, so it will be hot, stuffy classrooms instead of hot, stuffy bedrooms.

A little nighttime reading. This book lamp is actually very powerful. Babs was using it late one night and I woke up and thought morning had come and it was getting light outside. If it weren't for the heat, the power outtages might almost be bearable.

Time for my morning run! This is the view at approximately 6:00 A.M. from the beginning of the Beach Pathway, one of my morning running routes.

The second reason that I get up so early, is because I am running in the morning. The 4Runners may be gone, but this OneRunner soldiers on alone (and on Wednesdays I do still "run" with Mai, sort of. She's in Canada and I'm here, but we run at the same time--6:00 A.M. Wednesday mornings on the Beach Pathway for me and 1:00 P.M. Tuesday afternoons in her Kelowna neighborhood for her). Mondays, I get up extra early and drive out to Marpi to do the Suicide Cliff run. Wednesdays it's the Beach Pathway, Fridays I run either the medium or big loop in our village. It's a great way to the start the day!

My Summer School English Class: These three tenth grade girls are doing extra English work so that their credits will match up with the public high schools they are transferring to next year.

This is the third reason that I end up going to bed early (and getting up earlier). I'm teaching part of the summer high school English class for the first four weeks of the summer. Granted, it's a pretty cushy schedule. I teach from 9:00 A.M. to noon--just three hours, though I usually am in the classroom by 7:30 or 8 to do prep work and work on other school-related tasks. One of my favorite things about the summer is the relaxed pace of the mornings. Due to my early bedtimes, I'll usually wake up refreshed and ready to go, around 5:00 or 5:15 so I'll have my devotions before I go running. After my run, I still have time for a shower, a leisurely breakfast at home, and a quick perusal of the internet betfore I amble off to work.

At school there's never any rush either. I feel like if I don't get a task done, it's no big deal because I can always keep working on it tomorrow. After all, I've got all summer! To feel like you're making progress without feeling hurried is a great way to work!

Class at Spicy Thai. I try to make summer school at least a little fun for the girls too. I try to take them somewhere at least once a week. The first week we went to one of the beaches to explore the tide pools and write descriptive essays about what we saw. This week we walked over to Spicy Thai to enjoy Thai tea while we studied our grammar. I'll think of something fun for next week too!

Lunch with Babs and the soaps.

One of my favorite things about the summer is that Babs and I eat together for almost every meal. We can usually sit down for breakfast together, we always eat lunch together while catching one of Babs's favorite guilty pleasures--the soap operas (though, unfortunately my favorite one, The Young and the Restless, doesn't air until later in the day), and we eat supper together too.

Working on the Novel. The first week of the summer, I went back to the school in the afternoons, to work on getting my grades and other end-of-the-year tasks done, but starting this past week, about three hours every afternoon after lunch have been devoted to working on my novel, tenatively titled Loss of Power. My goal is to finish it in the next six weeks (which essentially is the end of the summer for me. At the end of July, I fly to Hawaii on Barbara's behalf for principal's orientation and teacher orientation. When I return, school will begin a week later). I'm really excited becaues I think I'm really going to do it this time. I divided up the remainder of the novel into six segments, and if I finish one segment each week I'll have a draft finished by the end of the summer! And so far, I'm right on schedule!

SAT Tutoring with "CK Girl"

Around 3:30 in the afternoon on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays I drive down to Garapan to tutor one of my former students for her SATs, which she'll be taking this fall. She's fun to work with and the extra money helps me put a little more aside for baby Elijah and also for Babs and me to have some cash for a special date each week this summer.

Me and "CK Girl"

Gold's Gym, baby!

Usually, I go to the gym two or three times a week (Sundays if I'm not diving and Tuesdays and Thursdays during the week). While I like to go in the morning, on Thursdays I'm going in the afternoon after tutoring "CK Girl" since the gym is nearby and I can save gas that way. With gas at $4.80 a gallon, every little bit helps.

And finally after all that, I'm ready for some well-earned downtime. Babs and I will hang out in the evening, have dinner, putter around the house or on the internet, and before you know it, it's lights out--literally-- and another summer day in Saipan is over. It's a different kind of summer to be sure, but it's a really good summer too.

Oh, and the weekends? There's usually some fun outdoor Saipan activity to do. Last weekend I went snorkeling with John Moreno and Megan Perry, our summer school SM. Tomorrow John, Amy, Megan, Carol, Babs, and I are planning to go out to Managaha for a couple of hours. We haven't gotten bored yet!

Judith! This is the real reason I talked you into leaving your fins behind in Saipan. I'm using them! Ahahahahahahahahha! (Actually, I didn't bring my fins last Sabbath when we went snorkeling at Pau Pau and John let me borrow the ones Jude left behind!) :)

Jun 17, 2008


For the second year in a row I have been surprised by a friendship of unexpected depth. Last year, it was Grant Graves. This year it was Mai Rhea Odiyar. Our friendship grew up around me, almost unnoticed, rooted in early morning runs, REAL rehearsals, Capture the Flag camraderie, and school trips to Australia and Palau. It was nourished in simple passing conversations during drives to and from the gym and in the quiet after a good run. And one day, just a little more than a week ago, I woke up and realized that this friend was about to be uprooted, transplanted to grow somewhere else. And I realized that the gap she would leave behind would be much larger than I might have guessed.

Mai gave two years of her life to Saipan and I think Saipan gave her a lifetime of love and memories in return. She was one of the original rock stars, and the only one that returned to stay for a second full year. Because of her longevity there's much I've said about Mai already--but it was only this year that I learned how Mai's unique qualites made for a valuable friend. In June of last year, I wrote about Mai's brave decision to stick to her commitment to stay in Saipan a second year, even when all her friends were leaving (and based on her own reflection on the growth she experienced this past year, I'm betting she's glad she did). In November I included her on my list of inspirational heroes in my life. Since that time I've come to know Mai's characteristics of commitment and depandablity as hallmarks of her friendship as well. I learned that Mai could be counted on not just at work, but also to be there to with a listening ear and a supportive word. I learned that she was committed not just to her missionary tasks but also to being a faithful and trustworthy friend. Mai is a person of her word, on a personal as well as professional level. If she said she was going to run the next morning, I knew I had to be there. She would never skip out on me and I knew I couldn't skip out on her.

And now Mai is gone--off on the next Big Adventure of her life--a journey that will take her from Canada to Orlando and back around to this side of the globe to Thailand, in January. I know that she will be to her new friends and colleagues what she's been to us, a solid and dependable presence; a faithful and trustworthy friend.

Mai--have a blast next year! There's much to look forward to and one very fortunate "YR" to discover :) Keep running, stay strong, love God, live life to the very fullest. Though you, my friend, are gone, the friendship remains and for that I am glad.

A great picture of Mai, Jess and. . .Judith's torso?!?

Mai--looking pretty good for having been up for 31 straight hours! (And she hasn't even begun the 24 hour long haul to North America!) She had the most amazing amount of energy the last day she was in Saipan. I kept asking her if she was tired, and the answer was always "Nope, I'm fine!"

Me, Mai, and Babs at the airport on the day of Mai's departure, Tuesday, June 10, 2008.

My buddy, Mai. "So. . .are we running tomorrow?" Yes. Yes, we are. :)

Mai and Judith's Long Walk

Mai and Judith, friends and roomates on Saipan for the past year were fortunate enough to be able to fly out together, not parting ways until they reached Portland, Oregon. I'm sure it softened the pain of leaving a little bit. They left Tuesday, June 10, 2008.

Babs and Carol at our early morning breakfast with Judith and Mai. Between the time of Jess's departure at 4:00 A.M. at Judith's and Mai's flight at close to 9 A.M. a group of us went out to breakfast at the only restaurant on Saipan that stays open 24 hours--a greasy spoon called "J's". While the food was passable and we were all ridiculously exhausted, the company was unparalleled and our time together, precious.

So I wanna thank the One who leads us
For the way that He has led
For the times we’ve spent together
And the times we ain’t seen yet
And still somehow this is a path we must both walk alone
And we can’t measure the distance
But we’ll treasure every step
And I know His love will give us
The strength we need to press on
So let’s hold on to Him and He will show us our way home

--Mitch McVicker & Rich Mullins, "New Mexico"


The Whimsy Peddler. She trades in well-crafted stories, organic products, and large stores of love.

By faith, Judith, when she was called, obeyed by going out to a place she was going to receive and love; and she went out, not knowing where she was going. . .

It was how she arrived, and how she left--unsure of where she was headed but trusting in the heart and guiding hand of the One who led her. Her story is Abraham recast as an artsy, Oregonian chick with honey-blond hair, blue eyes, and a penchant for all things organic and earth-friendly.

In September I posted a blog about the miracle of Judith's journey to Saipan. Well, back then, we didn't fully realize the extent of the miracle God had wrought when He brought Judith to us. With wisdom beyond her years and a knack for teaching that would put many trained professionals to shame, Judith turned out to be one of the best teachers we've had at the Saipan SDA School. Judith is smart and creative; she taught with her head and from her heart. And what a heart! She loved unreservedly; she taught from love-- real, unaffected, unpretentious--love for God and heartfelt love for her students. But don't take my word for it; check out her Tales of a Whimsy Peddler and be enriched be her beautifully written perspectives on life as missionary teacher. Just one entry, My Secret Art Society, speaks volumes of the passion she brought to her work. Spend just a little bit of time with Judith Edwards and you'll find she shines from the inside out.

In addition to all of that Judith was a running buddy, a fellow debater of politics and theology, and a very dear friend. We shared a common outlook on life and our thinking processes were very similar, yet neither of us were afraid to challenge or push the other. We kept each other sharp. I will miss having Jude, my kindred spirit, in my daily life.

Jude, I'm thankful for many things about you, but most of all I'm thankful that you've listened to God. You let him lead you here and you have made a permanent place in our hearts, a lasting mark on this place. Now He's leading you on, and I know this much: that wherever you go, you will shine just as you did here,and that, if and when the time is right, He will bring you back again to this, your Promised Land. Peace out, my friend.

Jude with two of her fellow 4Runners

Babs, Judith, and Me at the airport on the day of her departure from Saipan, Tuesday, June 10, 2008.

Judith and Me.

Judith Marie Edwards. . .an arrow pointing in the right direction

Jun 16, 2008


Lee and Mai

It's a beautiful irony that Jess is fan of the TV series Heroes. If you're not familiar with the show, Heroes, tells the story of seemingly ordinary people living ordinary lives who turn out to possess unusual gifts--they are heroes. The irony is that Jessica herself would have fit right in on that show; you see she is a hero too. And yes, that is an official sneak peak at one of the names on my annual Heroes and Inspirations blog coming up later this summer. And so you'll have to wait until then to find out why Jessica Lee is one of my heroes.

For now, suffice it to say her inspiring courage is just one of the many things I love and will miss about the friend I often referred to simply as "Lee." I will miss her chilled-out, eclectic California cool personality. I will miss her advanced musical taste (I finally sort of like "Float On" by Modest Mouse, mainly cause I'll think of Jess everytime I hear it). I will miss her humble spirit and ready grin. I will miss all those Random blogs about Saipan (okay there weren't that many, but the few she did were so uniquely Lee). I will miss her unassuming yet completely hard-core running style--"Walk slow, run fast" was her motto. I will miss diving and tank swimming with her. I will miss the Heroes and Harry Potter discussions. I will miss having to do at least one "jump" photo every time it's time for a group photo. I will miss her camraderie in the "trenches" of work, commiserating over our challenging ESL students. I will miss the talks we had. In short, I will miss the daily presence of her friendship.

Jess, I admire you so much for how much you gave of yourself this past year. I know it cost you a lot. I know it was hard. But you made it and you made a difference and for that you have my deepest respect. Beyond that, I appreciate you so much for your faithful friendship to me. I hope that friendship will continue to thrive even across the seas and with the passage of time. After all, "some days are better than others," but the days I've known you have definitely been among the better ones.

Godspeed, Lee. You are in our hearts and prayers, always.

Jess and her fellow 4Runners, Mai and Judith, crash at the airport not long before her departure. They'd been awake for more than 24 hours by the time Jess flew out early on the morning of June 10, 2008.

Jess and John Moreno at the airport on the morning of Jess's departure.

Lee with Saipan friends.

Babs, Jess, and Me

Miss ya, Lee! But hey, thank goodness for text messaging, right? :)

Jess jumps into the great unknown. She's not lacking in grit or courage--she'll land on her feet (Photo taken in Palau, May, 2008).

Jessica Lee takes her Long Walk, and in classic Lee style, one final jump.