Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Managaha Island

Last Saturday we took a trip with a couple of friends to Managaha Island. This is a tiny island off the Western coast of Saipan. Rrreally tiny - easily walked around the entire island in about 15 minutes. Managaha is covered with mango and coconut trees and all edges are covered in white sand. This is an excellent place to snorkel because the water is crystal clear, there are a lot of WWII wreckages still submerged, plus the fish are protected here so they're very abundant and tame.

In the photos you'll see a statue and grave on the island that is a tribute to Chief Aghurubw. This is the Chief that led the Carolinians to Saipan from the Caroline Islands. The Carolinians are known for their navigation skills using the stars, sun, moon, clouds and water to navigate. Some of the photos show shots of wreckage under water - check out the Japanese Zero. The Zero is about half way to the island. This photo shows how clear the water is - the plane sits about 20 - 30 feet under water. We all (exept Norah!) jumped out of the boat to swim around and look at the Zero. Okay, to all the grandparents reading this - don't worry, the water is so salty it's very hard to not float and this is not a shark area! The other shots are us on the way out to the island. Brent and Brian work with Isra and have been a lot of fun for the girls - more good dads. Next time we'll have to get a shot of Isra! He was behind the camera this time.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


"Gong xi fa cái! Hóng bao ná lái"! or in Cantonese style...Gong Hey Fat Choy!
Roughly: "Congratulations and be prosperous, now give me a red envelope!"

It's been a busy week here. The Lunar New Year fell on Valentine's Day for the first time in 77 years so we had to switch locations quickly over last weekend to make room for the many (better paying) visitors ;-) and then move back. We're so glad we're here to see this celebration. Amazing! This is the biggest celebration of the year. Chinese New Year is also called Spring Festival, which is a 15-day celebration that ends with the Lantern Festival and is the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays. The holiday means new life which brings new hope and new happiness. :-)

In the first photo the girls show their hong bao (red envelopes) they recieved. Typically the kids receive a lot of hong bao filled with at least 5 dollars but hopefully the red hundred bill! We were told that kids could receive around $2000 each Lunar New Year! To celebrate a little more, we peeled and ate mandarin oranges, ate some fish for lunch and left a little on the plate (to signify abundance in the New Year)... however we didn't do much house cleaning or get haircuts.

The next photos show the Lion Dance. There are many different stories about why the Lion Dance is performed but it seems most of the traditions have to do with warding off evil and welcoming good things, including prosperity. In Saipan the Lion Dance Troupe travels from shop to shop for two days. The two lions dance and play fight to reach the lettuce hanging from the ceiling all while loud cymbals and drums are played. Lettuce is used because the Chinese word for lettuce sounds like money. The lion has to shred the lettuce and tucked inside is an envelope with money. The long string of red firecrackers are lit at the end of the dance to ward off evil spirits. Super loud!!! The last photo shows the shredded lettuce and paper from the firecrackers - they look like rose petals scattered on the ground and for more luck they shouldn't be swept up.

At the end of the day we could smell oranges and gunpowder in the air. :-)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Mt. Tapochao

One thing we haven't talked about much in our blog is the war history on this Island. The Battle of Saipan was a very important point in WWII history. We'll try to touch on a few of the sites of the battle in the next few blogs. This entry is about Mt. Tapochau....I've seen Mt. Tapochao spelled three different ways now: Tapochau, Tapotchau and Tapochao. I believe the Marines took the East and West coasts first and then worked their way North through the island having to get past Mt. Tapochau before ending at Suicide and Banzai Cliff. Here are some shots from the top of Mt. Tapochau, including the signs describing the battle.

Monday, February 8, 2010


Okay, so it's really hard to find fresh milk here...or if you do find it it's very pricey. However, if it's SPAM you want we've got it! SPAM is big in this area and started at the end of WWII with leftover soldier rations going to the locals. In fact, Hawaii, Guam and Saipan have the only McDonald's with SPAM on the menu. Did you know there were nine varieties of SPAM? Here's a few shots we thought you'd enjoy. :-) SPAM: so good it can cause a crime spree!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Coffee Talk

As some of you know, I've been having a lot of trouble finding a good cup of coffee since arriving in Saipan. So, I was very happy to hear about a coffee plantation on the island! Our new friend Alan introduced us to Chuck, owner of Mariana's coffee. The girls and I took a great field trip to meet Chuck, hike through the jungle (on a nice path) and check out his coffee operation on the slopes of Mt. Tapochao.  And (YEA!) discover a great cup of coffee! Here are a few shots of Chuck, the jungle path, the coffee trees, beans ready to roast and the view on the way to Chuck's.