Friday, March 28, 2008

Nava Khorram: Environmental Champion

At last nights Beautify CNMI! concert with Jake Shimabukuro, Nava received an "Environmental Champion" award for being the initiating force behind the restoration of the lighthouse. It was very cool for Nava. She was the first to be called up, and was recognized along with some other powerful forces of change on the island. We're proud of her. She's a force, and she's only nine (eight when she set this all in motion).

Here is the background about the award, taken from the Marianas Variety.
The winners of this year’s Beautify CNMI! Steward and Champion awards will be announced at the Saipan World Resort on March 27.

Beautify CNMI! volunteer Angelo Villagomez said the two recipients of the awards will be recognized for their contribution as exceptional environmental leaders during the last 12 months.
“Beautify CNMI! is celebrating its second anniversary and we will be giving out two award categories: the Environmental Steward and the Environmental Champion,” Villagomez said.

The Steward Award is given to an individual or an organization who has demonstrated real concern for the islands of the CNMI.

The Champion Award is given to a person or group who shows the true spirit of Beautify CNMI!

Among the criteria used for picking the winners are volunteerism, innovation, cooperation, creativity and the ability to spread the “beauty virus” all over the island.

Here are a few snippets from the Beautify CNMI! website about the Lighthouse and Nava, along with before and after photos.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006 (From the Beautify CNMI! blog)

Volunteer of the Week

From the Brilliant Star School Newsletter:

Over the summer, Kinney and Nava Khorram learned how to collect water samples using tools from the Stream Team. This year, one of the elementary student’s service projects will be volunteering for that group. They will be monitoring and collecting samples from designated streams in Garapan and turning those water samples in for testing at the DEQ. They will also plant trees and collect trash around our adopted streams. The Stream Team is a new volunteer organization dedicated to monitoring and improving the quality of the water flowing off the land and into the ocean around Saipan.
We have been throwing around the idea to restore the Navy Hill Lighthouse for a few months now, but we always came up with an excuse to ignore it.

Recently Nava asked her Dad to ask us to take the lighthouse on as one of our projects. He relayed her request to me over the weekend. Nava helped me collect water samples over the summer, so how could I say no?

Nava Khorram is the Beautify CNMI! volunteer of the week. Thank you, Nava, for providing the spark to get this worthy project underway. It took a kid...sorry, young adult to get us to finally do something. Now you have to prove your Volunteer of the Week status by bringing all of your classmates to the restoration event this weekend!

For those of you not on the Beautify CNMI! mailing list, this weekend we will be cleaning up garbage, clearing weeds, and possibly painting over graffiti and planting trees in the area in and around the Navy Hill Lighthouse. We will meet at the lighthouse Sunday, December 3 at 10:00 AM. The only thing you need to bring is two friends. Beautify CNMI! will provide all the tools.

Saipan Tribune, Wednesday, November 30, 2006

Beautify CNMI! sets upcoming activities

Beautify CNMI! is set to begin work on its holiday activities:

- San Antonio Beach on Saturday at 8am. Volunteers are asked to use Aguas Street (road between the school and PIC). The cleanup will head north toward Chalan Piao. This event is the monthly DEQ cleanup brigade.

“Want to be famous? We will be filming our first Beautify CNMI! commercial at this event,” said Beautify CNMI!'s Angelo Villagomez.

- Garapan Tourist District on Sunday at 8am. Participants will meet in the parking lot of the American Memorial Park. This is Beautify CNMI's third cleanup of the tourist district. It is being led by volunteer group MOVER.

- Navy Hill Lighthouse on Sunday at 10am. “You asked for it, you got it. David & Mara Khorram’s daughter, Nava, asked us if we could clean this historical area up. How could I say no? We are going to pick up trash, remove some weeds, and if allowed, paint over some graffiti,” said Villagomez.

Sunday, September 09, 2007 (From the Beautify CNMI! blog)

Lighthouse Cleanup

We painted the lighthouse from about 7 AM until 4 PM. A huge thanks goes out to Ken Kramer, Marianas RC&D Coordinator. He helped me all week coordinate today's rather large event. He was also the first volunteer to show up and the last volunteer to go home today.

Thank you, Ken.

We managed to apply a layer of primer on most of the Lighthouse and got a layer of paint on about two rooms worth of walls. We're not finished. We have to go back in a week or two.

Here is the lighthouse before we really got started:

Saipan Navy Hill Lighthouse

...and here is the lighthouse at the end of the day:

We are about half way done. We're going to have to go back and add a little more primer and then paint over the whole thing with a final coat of paint. Here are a few more pictures:









The money for the paint was donated by the Marianas Visitors Authority. They donated $10,000 to Beautify CNMI! about a year ago, but it wasn't until this week that I was spurred to action.

There were two things that made me finally get off my butt and paint the lighthouse. The first one happened last Saturday when Dr. David Khorram's daughter, Nava, handed me an envelope full of dollar bills and coins totaling $49.02. She told me that she had collected the money at school to pay for paint for the lighthouse. I felt so guilty.

The second thing that made me decide that it was time to paint the lighthouse was one of the music videos from the Fiesta Pop Music Festival. The video was shot at the lighthouse and the whole structure was just covered in graffiti. It was time to do something about it.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Stuck to the Toilet

(Here is my Saipan Tribune column for this week.)


A few weeks ago, the news story was published about a woman who walked into her bathroom one day, and just decided to stay. She took a seat, and for two years, she sat on the toilet, until eventually, her skin grew around the toilet seat, linking her to it. Her partner commented that he thought that when she went into the bathroom, she would be out soon, but the minutes stretched into hours, days, weeks, months, and that it just became a way of life for them. Everything was normal, except that she was stuck on the toilet. Things become so weird, and you don’t know how to cope with them, so you eventually start to think they’re normal. Then one day, someone walks into your bathroom and you realize the anomaly of your situation. “Hello Mr. Fireman. What brings you into my bathroom today?”

Gradually, over the past few months, the city water supply to our home has diminished. We already only get water for an hour a day, but for years it’s been enough to fill our tank. Now, every few weeks, the tank runs dry. I call the ever-ready trouble desk at the utility. I say something like, “Salutations. Thou art hearkening to the namesake of biblical kings. I summon thee from yonder naval knoll. Liquid hath gone thither. Wherefore art thy words to bring peace to puzzled souls?” As expected, the answerer at the trouble desk says, “huh?” So I repeat myself, word for word.. “Hello. This is David Khorram. I’m calling from Navy Hill. Our water has run out. Can you help us.” Well, if I’m going to say the same thing, then the answerer is going to say the same thing. He responds, “huh?” This will go on for several exchanges, each time with me using fewer words to simplify the description of the situation, until finally, I’m down to “Nothing water Navy Hill.” The response: “Call back tomorrow.” I call back tomorrow. We do it all over again. Day after day, this exchange takes place with high anticipation of a different outcome. But every day, it ends with the same Shakespearean quote rambling in my head -- “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow creeps in this petty pace from day to day to the last syllable of recorded time; and all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death.” I find myself getting used to the absence of a solution. So, we’ve been paying an extra $100 or so a month to have water delivered to our home when we run out. “Hello Mr. Fireman. Why are you bringing a crowbar into my bathroom today?”

I’ve been doing some work with a freelance graphic artist who lives in a country where snow is currently falling on the ground. All of his work is for clients that live around the world, all done through the internet. I was going to suggest to him that he move to Saipan. After all, his location matters not, because he is “internet based”. Then I realized I had forgotten that a one man show like his, and like thousands around the world, who would love to relocate to a low-tax tropical island and set up clean environmentally friendly businesses that consume and generate only electrons, needs a reliable source of electrons. Power. Electricity. Sure, bigger businesses can buy a generator. But the little guy can’t. And, wow, the economy that could be built around selling Saipan to these freelance internet entrepreneurs! But, people from most developed countries don’t think about the prospect of not having power for hours at a stretch, certainly not for days out of a month, and absolutely not on a scheduled rotating basis. “Hello Mr. Fireman. Look, my skin has grown into the toilet seat! Please don’t pry me loose.”

Let’s just fix it. Power and water. Those are some pretty basic first steps toward calling yourself a developed “investor friendly” “tourist friendly” “resident friendly” place. C’mon guys. It’s time to pry ourselves off the toilet seat.


David Khorram, MD is a board certified ophthalmologist and director of Marianas Eye Institute, as well as the author of World Peace, a Blind Wife, and Gecko Tails. Comments and questions are welcome. Call 235-9090 or email him through, or leave comments at Copyright © 2008 David Khorram

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

George Carlin on Comedy and Humanity

Jeff Turbitt handed me a fascinating book today: Comedy at the Edge - How stand-up in the 1970's changed America. It's a history of modern stand-up starting with Lenny Bruce. In the chapter on George Carlin, Carlin states:

"I think I was looking for familiar frames of reference that lend themselves to distortion. Because distortion is one of the most important things in comedy. You look at an ordinary event, an ordinary tableau, and you say, what element can I distort in this? And suddenly you have at least the potential for a joke."

Later, Carlin more darkly observes,

"I sort of gave up on this whole human adventure a long time ago. Divorced myself from it emotionally. I think the human race has squandered its gift, and I think this country has squandered its promise. I think people in America sold out very cheaply, for sneakers and cheeseburgers. I think they lost their way, and I really have no sympathy for that. And I don't think it's fixable."

Monday, March 24, 2008

Ladder Beach

It was a weekend of beaches for us. On Friday, we celebrated the Baha'i New Year and the end of the nineteen day fast with a party at Marine Beach. On Saturday, we went to Ladder Beach, and yesterday, we went to Tenke Beach where my nine-year-old environmentalist daughter brought garbage bags and made us all pick up trash. Here are some photos of Ladder Beach.

Years ago the only way to get down to the beach was with a ladder. Now there are stairs. That's Tinian in the distance.

The natural overhangs at Ladder Beach provide shade during most of the day.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Greatness at Hopwood

(Here is my Saipan Tribune column for this week.)


I was invited to participate as a judge at the Hopwood Junior High Science Fair this week. I had never been to Hopwood, but I was impressed.

A junior high is a place of potential and promise. On this day, the cafeteria was teeming with students and their science projects. I was impressed by the care that they had put into their presentations. They reported on the moons of Saturn, global warming, the ebb and flow of the tides. Some used color photos and graphs to illustrate their points. Others cited the scientific literature from which they had gathered their information.

Other students went a step beyond, and conducted scientific experiments. They formulated hypotheses, experiments to test their hypotheses, recorded their methods, collected data and recorded their conclusions. There were experiments to answer questions like, what is required to conduct electricity? Is Outrageous Ooze a solid or a liquid? Can a very small amount of pollution cause a plant to die? Can the heat from the sun cook a hot-dog? How does wind speed affect the waves in the ocean?

One group of students showed amazing computer skills and creativity, forgoing the traditional three-panel cardboard display, to produce a digital film that reported on their subject: volcanoes.

The science fair was a glimpse into the greatness walking the halls at Hopwood. The age is a time of transition between childhood and youth – potent internal changes, self-doubts, questions about meaning and purpose. Those short years are a window of opportunity opening onto the vista of the person to emerge.

There was a light in the eyes of most of the students, but a light which they themselves do not seem to see. Their own vastness, they do not recognize. They are, for the most part, unaware of their own greatness, bound and gagged by an innocent awkwardness. It is at this age, in a search for Nirvana, that kids either recognize their importance to the world, and aspire to all that lies within them, or they slide into a haze of sex and alcohol and reefer and mediocrity.

If I could say anything to all those students I met, I would say, you have greatness within you. You can aspire to anything. See not your limitations, but the vastness of your souls. Dream big, huge, gigantic dreams. Accept no ceilings. Aim for the stars. Whatever obstacles that may stifle your hopes can be overcome. You have God-give talents. Set out to discover them. Dream of solving the world’s problems, because you can. The greatness at the halls of Hopwood is the same as in any school in the world. Believe it. Accept it. Act as if it’s real. It is. The light of the world is within you.


David Khorram, MD is a board certified ophthalmologist and director of Marianas Eye Institute. Comments and questions are welcome. Call 235-9090 or email him through, or leave comments at Copyright © 2008 David Khorram

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Ever since I returned from Hawaii in January, I've been unable to find the charger and USB cable for my digital camera. I knew I packed them and got them back to Saipan, but the day after opening my suitcase, they were no where to be found. I looked everywhere, and finally just decided they must have slipped out of the suitcase when TSA was doing their inspection, or just disappeared into that black hole that seems to exist in every home, maintained by the hands of small children. Today, Mara found the black hole. Some small child had taken the plastic bag full of these gizmos straight out of the suitcase and carried them into the family room, opened the cabinet of videos, and stuffed the bag behind them.

So, here are some pictures that I never got to post.

This is Dr. Salofi, whom I met at the Hawaiian Eye conference and who is now working at my old stomping grounds -- the eye clinic at the LBJ Tropical Medical Center in Pago Pago. (Why do they call it "stomping grounds"?)

Here is our team at the conference. Emilly Taitano, me, Russ Quinn, and Melonie Norita.

Me in Cairns, Australia, from February when Mara and I went. I'm taking my Beautify CNMI t-shirt around the world with me.

With old friends and new friends in Cairns. Dinner at the Zadeh's with the Bolton-Bound family.

Monday, March 17, 2008

This week, I'm a teacher.

Spring break has started for the kids, and it's always a challenge to plan activities for them. This year, I'm doing something different for the older two, and their friends. I'm teaching a class on religion and spirituality. So far, so good. These Montessori kids are pretty self-motivated. I got them started on a project, and they're off and running.

I have become increasingly convinced that the Montessori method of education is the future of reaching the multiple intelligences in a classroom. The essential focus is that children are given learning tasks and set out to complete them, with guide from a teacher. It avoids nailing children to a desk, and allows them to discover the reality of things for themselves. I spent a few days last week observing in their classrooms and asking questions of their teachers, so I could get a sense of how to design these classes to keep them engaged. It's working!

Here is the invitation I sent to the parents.


I’m going to be teaching a class for elementary age children that will explore religion and spirituality. (I was a comparative religion major in college.) I’ll be approaching it from the perspective of the Bahá’í Faith, which emphasizes the oneness and unity of all religions, taking the approach that they all come from the same source at different times in humanity’s history to provide socially and historically appropriate guidance to the world.

The subjects that I plan to touch upon include:

  • The lives of the Manifestations of God: Krishna, Buddha, Zoroaster, Moses, Christ, Muhammad, and Bahá’u’lláh.
  • The key teachings of the major world religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and the Bahá’í Faith.
  • Exploring the concepts of God, the soul, prayer, meditation, and the purpose of life.
  • Developing virtues in our lives: Truthfulness, trustworthiness, courtesy, kindness, etc.
  • Social principles related to Peace Studies such as the need for independent search after truth, the oneness of the entire human race, the elimination of all forms of prejudice, the harmony between science and religion, and the equality of men and women.

I hope to convey this information through some lessons to stimulate their interest, and guide the children in their own research of the subjects. We’ll also have art and drama, as well as physical activity.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Jake Shimabukuro Concert

I saw Jake a few years ago when he was here, and it was a phenomenal evening. (I wrote about it in my book.) This a concert you don't want to miss. He's one of the biggest entertainers in the world. He's in Melbourne next week playing at the music festival there, and he was on Conan O'Brien recently. Marianas Eye Institute is one of the sponsors of this concert... see, right there by Jake's left foot.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Two Outstanding Posts

The Saipan blogs have produced two of my all-time favorite posts this past week.

The first is from Jeff Turbitt. His post on an unexpected death moved me to tears.

The second is by Bev, whose post has inspired me to participate in next year's XTERRA triathalon. It just needs to be scheduled so it's not during the Baha'i Fast in March. Didn't it used to be in April?

If you haven't read them, head over to their blogs and take a look at these two moving pieces.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Book Blog

I don't know how to make a website, so I set up a blog for the book I've written. I've tried to design it like a website. There you can read the first few pages of the book, which include all the blurbs, the foreword and the introduction.

Amazon is setting up the "Search Inside This Book" feature on their website, but it apparently takes six weeks. In the meantime, a little bit of World Peace, a Blind Wife, and Gecko Tails is available by clicking on the title.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Is your name on this list?

My book has been published and has been available on Amazon for a couple of months. I just got my first piece of fan mail from Cindy in Virginia. Thanks, Cindy. I figured I'd put a link to Amazon on my blog.

I ordered 200 copies for distribution on Saipan, but they are on the slowest boat ever. It's been over eight weeks, and they are still not here. Hopefully, they'll arrive within the next couple of weeks.

I'm planning on giving a copy to all the people who helped in one way or another. If your name is on this list, you have a gift copy coming from me.

Jayvee Vallajera, Frances Demapan, Carol Danelius, Houdin Dehnad, James Oh, David Yamartino, Sarah Johnson, Anne Erhard, Mark Robertson, Cinta Kaipat, Walt Goodridge, Randy Clark, Jeff Turbitt, Senator Maria Pangelinan, Jeff Schorr, Bob Coldeen, Michael Ernest, Angelo Villagomez, Jaleh Slominski, Ed Propst, Annette Donner, Don Bader, Bud Carroll, Robert T. Torres, Joseph Kevin Villagomez, Kirk Johnson, Velin Saramov, and Daniel Lamar.

If your name is Oprah, and if you contact me, I'll send you a copy too.

I wish I had gotten copies before JP passed away.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Fasting Thoughts

Mara and I had a nice dinner last night with Angelo, who joined us in fasting for a day yesterday. Great food, great company, and we were all happy to eat.

It's the seventh day of the fast today, and I've been doing well. Every year during the fast, I seem to gain some insight. One of the things that I've been mulling over this year has been about my relationship with "whatever you call it," you know, that thing well all so flippantly call "God."

One of the quotes from the Baha'i writings that I read said in effect, fast not out of fear of punishment, or out of some hope for self, but fast out of the love of God. As a result of thinking about this -- the motivations for fasting -- I realized, I really had no idea why I was fasting, and it would be a good thing to understand. So, after letting the thoughts incubate for a few days, I sat down with paper and pen to try to sort this out. I do best concentrating when I write it all out.

Here's what I came up with. There is definitely some element of fear involved when I fast. Not like a fear of punishment, but more like a fear that I'll miss out on something if I don't fast. Okay, I can shed that line of thinking. Next, I realized that I am definitely motivated by some hope that the fast will do me some good. After all, it's supposed to be a time of turning inward and reflecting and of spiritual recuperation. I guess those are all great outcomes, but as I came to understand it, they should not be the motivation for fasting. So, I kind of decided to shed that attitude too.

Do I fast for the love of God? I have never really thought about that. It opens up a bigger can of worms, because, it calls into question the whole issue of "God." It evokes questions like, "How does one love God?" and "What, really, is God?"

I thought about my image of God. Despite knowing that God is an "unknowable essence," there is a part of my brain that developed an image of God during my childhood, and that image remains. This is going to sound crazy, but it's this sort of giant head, like the Wizard of Oz (not the guy behind the curtain, but the big floating head). Years ago, I read some of the writings of Rabbi Kushner, the guy who wrote, "When bad things happen to good people," and he stated that in all his years as a Rabbi, any time a person came to him in a theological crisis, it was because they were thinking of God as a person -- as having human-like thoughts, reactions, emotions. They had an anthropomorphized image of God. And why not. That's the language with which much of religious literature depicts God.

I've written about this before, this difficulty with the "God as dude." And despite knowing that this is not accurate, that green wizard head comes pretty quickly when I say the word, "God." Honestly, it's hard for me to think of loving that God, or that God loving me. My experiences with authority figures hasn't been exceptionally loving, and I think that it carries over to this anthropomorphized God in my mind.

Parallel to this, is an image of God that has been developing for me over the past few years. It's an image of God as "The Force" -- the benign loving essence of the Universe that binds things together, gives life to all things and uplifts all things. "The River" in the story from Illusions. I really like this image of God, and although I know that any image I conjure up is of necessity just my imagination, this image serves me well. I can actually love this God, the Force. I can love it for my life. I can realize that it lives within me. I can thank it for the portions of its limitless blessings that it has showered upon me through my family and friends and the love that surrounds me. I can fast for the Force. I can fast as a sign of my love for the Force. The Force says, "fast, as a sign of your love for me," and it makes sense. (Of course, I get thrown off the minute that the Force "says" something because that requires a mouth of some sort, or uses the word "me," because that requires some sort of individual identity that seems human, and then that ridiculous Wizard head pops up in my brain, but in any event, it's a start to a healthier approach for me.)

Well, that's as far as I got. It was a relief to dissect my thoughts and bring them to the forefront of my own consciousness. I need to gradually let the Force supplant the Wizard. Next I have to grapple with the idea of the Force having consciousness. I have more time.

What's your image of God?

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Seasickness Drug

Well, it took some work, but I tracked down my sailing friend and go the name of the drug out of Europe that is good for seasickness. He had sailed to Saipan from Mexico, worked at the hospital for a few years, and then headed on to the Philippines on his boat. Now he's in New Zealand, flying to Borneo in two weeks to meet his boat and head out again. Here's his email about the drug.

Regarding the antiemetic, the generic name is Cinnarzine, usually sold under the brand name Stugeron, but I don't think it's available in the US. Scopolamine is a good place to start, but you should put the first patch on 12 hours before departure, and keep up a steady intake of nibbles of dry crackers (like saltines) and sips of flat ginger ale. Not too much, but just a little at a time. I know some people can't get over the seasickness at all, but this regime works for me for about 24 to 48 hours, then I'm OK for the rest of the trip.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Saipan: What I like about you

Fairly often someone contacts me about the possibility of moving to Saipan, and wants to know about the good and bad of living here. Here’s my list of the good things.

  1. It’s a tropical island. The weather is beautiful. The lows in the dead of winter are in the 80’s and maybe the upper 70’s. The water has incredible colors, and the island is small enough that you’re almost always within sight of the ocean. The vegetation is lush. Life is simple. It’s the sort of place people dream of retiring to. And we get to live here. Sometimes I’ll become acutely aware of the incredible beauty around me, and just laugh with glee.
  2. The sense of community. More than anything else, relationships matter here. There is a strong sense of family and of community. Everyone knows everyone, and I think that results in an element of safety that doesn’t exist in many parts of the world. Sure, there is still crime, but my kids can be out playing in the neighborhood without me thinking about it. They can wander off in the grocery store, and I don’t panic. People look out for each other. There is no anonymity, so people tend to behave better and are accountable to a larger degree than in a large impersonal community. It’s not quite Mayberry, but it’s a rare day that I walk into a store and don’t stop to talk to a few people I know.
  3. Diversity. Saipan is a mish-mash of people, cultures, languages, foods, and foibles. Because of the influx of contract workers over the years, there is such a broad mix of people, that almost everyone is a minority. Besides the indigenous Chamorro and Carolinian ethnicities, there are sizable populations of Filipino’s, Chinese, Koreans, Japanese, Thais, and Bangladeshis. There is a smattering of Indian and Nepalese, a few displaced Europeans, some white people, and a few African-Americans. On most days, there are two Jamaicans on the island. If you don’t like ethnic diversity, if you think you’re right and everyone else has something to learn from you, this isn’t the place for you. If you’re from America, you’ll experience what it’s like to be a minority, and it’ll make you a better person.
  4. A Great Place for Kids. All that toxic stuff that influences the minds of children and youth is a far away. It’s still accessible, but it doesn’t infuse the society and the culture. TV is not ubiquitous. Most people have no idea what last week’s episode of America’s favorite sitcom was all about (or even what the favorite one is). The cultural icons don’t permeate our lives here. Kid’s grow up without many of the mental and emotional toxins of Western society.
  5. Friends. If I lived in America, my friends would be limited to people in my professional or in my social class. Here, those boundaries don’t really exist. My friends are from all walks of life, ages, ethnicities and cultural backgrounds. Over the years, they’ve included park rangers, coast guard officers, teachers, lawyers, business people, government officials and cabinet members, houseworkers, gardeners, and people flipping switches at the utility.
  6. You can do anything. For some reason, Saipan is a place of self-discovery. If you have an idea, all you have to do is pursue it. If you’ve ever dreamt of being something, in Saipan it’s likely possible. I arrived as an eye surgeon and Mara as a health information specialist. I don’t think I ever thought of doing much else besides that. But, in the fifteen years that we’ve been here, we have done all of the following just by virtue of will, effort, necessity or just simple desire. We opened an eye clinic and became business owners. We founded a non-profit school to educate our children. We have served as substitute teachers, school administrators, principals and PE coaches. I’ve become a newspaper columnist and published a book. I’m becoming a stand-up comic. I’ve acted in a community play and sang in a chorus. I’ve played co-ed soccer, and I’ve tried out for the CNMI Men’s National Team. Mara opened a lei business, imported flowers from Asia and became a part of the tourism industry. And this sort of pursuit of the diverse facets of the soul is fairly typical in Saipan. If you’ve ever had an interest in something, Saipan is the place to explore it. You’ll discover interest here you never knew you had.
  7. Travel. Most people live and die without a passport. My kids have a gazillion entry stamps in theirs. In our years here, we’ve traveled to China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, the Philippines, Thailand, Australia, Singapore, Bali, Papua New Guinea, and the islands of Micronesia.
  8. Casual Atmosphere. You’ll never see a suit on the island. Sometimes you’ll see a tie. You’ll find people in t-shirts and shorts at all occasions – weddings, funerals, at work, in meetings of any kind, in fancy restaurants. A corollary to the casual nature of the island is that there is very little emphasis on material possessions. There is no such thing as keeping up with the Jones’. It doesn’t much matter what you drive, where you live, or what the tags on your clothes say. The symbols of materialism take a back seat here.
  9. Family first. This is a double-edged sword, but it has changed me for the better. Family is more important than work. It’s not a struggle to live your life under that premise here on Saipan. In America, you may want to, but the minute you try to take off work because your kids are sick, or because your sister needs help moving, or because you want to go fishing with your brother, you’ll not be taken seriously as a member of the workforce. Your career will head into a skid. Here, it’s the norm for people to miss work for any of these reasons, and it’s actually encouraged. Why not? We say that work is not the most important thing in the world, but why not live in a way that shows we mean it? That’s the way things are here, and I think it’s a more sane way of living. Of course, things do suffer in the workplace, which can be frustrating as an employer or a co-worker, but you just try to plan for it.
All of these combine to make Saipan home.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Best of This Blog

If you're a regular reader of this blog, I need your help. I'm putting together a "Best of This Blog" list and I want your input on what posts to include. Take a minute to just think of your favorite ones, just off the top of your head. If you want to tell me what you liked about the post, all the better.

I want to hear from everyone. That means you, in Lynchburg, and in Tempe, and in Eau Claire, and Sacramento, and Durango, and Guam, and Saipan, and New York, and Manila and everywhere else.

You get to read this blog for free. Now help me out. Leave your suggestions by clicking on "comments"

Play Buffet

I saw the production last year, and it was quite entertaining. Here is Jeff Turbitt's article, taken from his blog, as usual, without permission.

By Jeffrey C. Turbitt

Last year the public jammed the American Memorial Park for the original theater production "In Transit," which united the disparate stories of several individuals "stuck in an airport" into a common theme. The public reaction was so positive that the company responsible for that production, the Voices of the Marianas, put together another incarnation of original theater on a similar theme. The new production is called The Play Buffet: A Little Something for Everyone's Taste, and it debuts Friday, March 7 at 7 p.m. in the American Memorial Park with followup performances March 8, 13 and 14.

The cast includes a list of veteran actors, including two drama educators in Harold Easton and Nahal Navidar, as well as high school students and general island gadflies such as Donald Cohen, Brad Ruszala, Elizabeth Henke, Susan Fishman, Richard Hamilton and others.
Like its precursor, the new play is a variety of original stories. “Some are taken from people's real lives, some from their imagination,” said producer and director Barbara Sher. "The idea is to have original theater in which people from different cultures, walks of life and ages can have an opportunity to tell their stories. In the show we have ten pieces that run the gamut from a Hollywood 40's type piece to very personal epiphanies. As I said, a little something for everyone. It's about life. That's why we called it the Play Buffet because life is a buffet, the good, the funny and the yucky. We hope to entertain, enlighten and delight our audience and perhaps inspire them to want to express their voice for the next show."

For Navidar, an accomplished actress with a degree in theater and English who has a piece about discovery of self and God in this play, theater is a means of expression. "Theater satisfies my soul. For the community and the world at large, theater is one of the most effective ways to make people question, and perhaps recognize, a piece of themselves in the characters and situations presented. Barbara Sher's passion for this project is contagious and I love working with her."

PTI Marketing Associate Brad Ruszala isn't a theater veteran exactly, but his interest in the craft became reignited when he played Patrick in "110 Flights" opposite Navidar last year. "I became interested in live theater as a senior in high school when I was cast in a musical. I've always wanted to participate in on-stage productions ever since. This play is special because it will give the audience an intimate view into the real lives of some of the performers. I was moved watching my friends and neighbors display their creativity in rehearsal. It'll definitely be a treat for everyone who comes to watch the show. It gives me the opportunity to get on stage and have a little fun acting out a part. It's a wonderful opportunity to enjoy another aspect of our culturally diverse community and the play offers another avenue to making new friends on Saipan."

Tickets are available for $5 from cast members, at the door or inquire via email at