I've found that I miss Saipan. I don't mean this in the sense that most people mean it when they say they miss a place. When we say we miss a place, what we really mean is that we miss the experiences, the people, the life we had there. The place itself gains it's nostalgic beauty from what is associated with it.
But this is not what I mean when I say I miss Saipan--or rather that is not all I mean. No, I mean that I miss the land itself. I look at photos of the place--the verdant hills that rise to craggy cliffs at the North end of the island, the fiery flame trees and brilliant bougainvillea, the Beach Road commute with it's ever changing vistas of the sea--and I find a lump in my throat. I miss it. Even if everyone I loved moved here with me to the U.S.A., I would still miss Saipan.
But what I miss most is the beaches. Most of the oceansides of the world basically have one kind of beach. If you're on the coast of Oregon it's gray sand, towering rock formations; off the Atlantic in Maine craggy rocks and crashing waves; on the beaches of the Marshalls it's white sand and coconut palms. But in Saipan, we are fortunate to have the best of many worlds on one small island. The western side of Saipan and the island of Managaha is classic island beauty--crystal-white sand, brilliant blue sea, swaying palms. On the eastern side, it's rugged beauty--rough rocks, big waves exploding in a cloud of white spray, windblown foliage.
In the months to come, I think my longing for Saipan's beaches will only deepen. I can find greenery and rolling hills here in Ohio. But there is no beach. No sea. We are closed in, land-locked and the only thing that stretches as far as the eye can see is the farmland along certain stretches of I-70. Oh, don't get me wrong: it's beautiful, it really is. I've come to America's heartland determined to look for and find beauty and I have found it, everywhere. I also know that Saipan has it's eyesores. I could talk about the tasteless and tawdry buildings, the crumbling garment factories, the trash that washes up on the shores of far too many of Saipan's beaches. So I guess, I've chosen to see the beauty in Saipan, rather than the ugliness. I'm making that same choice here in America.
But nonetheless, there is no substitute for the seaside, and so I will feel the absence of the beach especially keenly.
As you may recall many of my Saipan To-Do list items were beach visits. Here's a tour of some of the beaches I checked off my list
Managaha Island, Sabbath, June 20 and Sunday, June 21, 2009.
On the weekend of June 20, the Piersons and Paezes went camping with us on the island of Managaha. It was a quiet, relaxing trip and we spent a good portion of our time on the beach.
Sunrise Series: Managaha
Vespers at Ladder Beach, Friday, June 12, 2009.
We clambered down the stairs which give the beach it's name just before sunset. We enjoyed a time of worship and fellowship with the Pierson, Paez, Lacorte, and Barro families, along with Virle, Joeie, and Twyla.
Some of our church family. That's Elijah in the middle, being held by Virle.
I know you can't see much in this photo, but I love the deep blue of the sky in the upper left, lit by the last touches of twilight, and the flare of the fire on the right.
San Juan Beach, Sabbath, June 13, 2009
This beach has special significance for me. It was the launching point for some great adventures for Grant Graves and me. From this beach we got lost, at this beach we got found, and after that from this beach we began some more prudent exploration; on this beach we had our men's campout. Although the waves weren't big enough for washing this time, we still had a great time here on a recent Sabbath afternoon exploring the tidepools and letting Elijah dabble his feet in the water. The only thing to mar to the trip was the loss of our camera when it was accidentally dropped in the water. Joining Babs, Elijah and I were the Pierson's, a new family to Saipan whose Bosnian last name I cannot pronounce but the first names are Goran and Marisol and their daughter--these three will be part of the post-Maycock era in Saipan, the Zietzke's, and "J" and host of other youth from the church.
The blowhole at San Juan Beach
Three amigos on the hunt for adventure at San Juan Beach. The boy on the right is soaking it all up. As with us, these are his final weeks in Saipan before he moves to Oregon with his family.
When the tide is low and the waves are low, you can walk far out on this outcropping and around the corner of the cove to find tide pools and other cool stuff.
A view from near the edge of the outcropping.
"J" with a little girl from our church, coming back from outside the cove at San Juan Beach
Babs checking out the massive rock faces at San Juan Beach.
Jefferies Beach, Sabbath, July 4, 2009.
I had never before been to this beach, located just down Saipan's eastern coast from San Juan Beach. I was glad to get a chance to go on our last day in Saipan. Even underneath cloudy skies, the beach was respledent in its wild, rocky beauty. I went with the Piersons, John Mo, Laurie & DJ, Twyla, Ricardo Rankin & his son, Philip, "J", "Little Sister", "PK", and "Ji".
"Little Sister" with a spiny brittlestar, scientific name, Ophiocoma anglyptica(Thanks, Beachcomber, for the starfish lore. I knew I could count on you!)
The other Old Man by the Sea. I guess the reason you don't hear about this guy so much is because he can only be seen from one side, the oceanside. The beachside of the rock doesn't show the profile.
Oleai Beach, Thursday, June 11, 2009.
The great thing about Saipan is you don't have to drive far to find a great beach. In fact you don't have to leave civilization at all. You can just drive down to a great beachside place like Oleai Bar and Grill and have dinner while you drink in the natural beauty.
The view from our table looking away from the beach. It's quite beautiful in it's own right with the flame trees and Topachau looming in the background.
It doesn't get any better than this. This dinnertime view is priceless.