Monday, May 12, 2008


There is a storm somewhere. Somewhere near Saipan. Actually I have a better idea where it is but it means nothing to most of the people reading this except that you know it is not anywhere near me and there is no cause for alarm. If you want to know exactly where it is-west by southwest from Saipan-check it out on the net. But I haven't written in a day and a lot has happened. Let me start at the beginning.

Fortuitously I ran into a man named Mark on Friday evening when I was sitting watching Nuri's swim practice. I first met Mark on the beach on the day before my flight was scheduled to take me back to Tokyo. He was kite-boarding (again google it if you wanna know-it looks awesome!) and ended up getting blown up onto the beach right next to me. I was reading and lying on the beach and I watched him get untangled from the strings and fold his kite up for awhile before I ventured some questions at him. He ended up being extremely friendly, and asked, as everyone does, why I was on Saipan. I shared with him my story, and finished with the information that I was actually trying to make a decision at that very time about should I stay or should I go. (heh heh) We talked some more and he gave me his number and told me to call him if I stayed. Less than two hours later I made the decision to stay here for the next six months.

And so here I was, three weeks later, and seeing him again. We struck up conversation, and he was once again very easy to talk to, and I got a very gentle, easy-going vibe from him. In a few, quick words I will try to describe him. Married with a 13 year old son. Tall, lanky, surfer, yoga practicer/instructor, special-ed (autism!) teacher/educator, previous participation in a Ruhi study circle here...His son and wife were as kind and welcoming when I met them. He told me about the possibility of surf on Saturday and told me to call him.

So after children's classes Saturday morning I did. I rode the bike down to the track to meet the whole family at Kai's track meet. On the way, I stopped and stared out over the usually calm lagoon. Having never seen anything besides the normal beaches of the U.S., it had taken me a little while to realize what I was looking at here in Saipan. There is coral reef all round the island, but on the west side, the reef forms in an almost continuous line at varying distances from the shore, which creates the beautiful lagoons. It also creates a line where the waves break, and for my entire time here, it had been a very gentle break out there, with a minimal amount of white water showing at any time. Much different from a beach on which the waves break at all different times and locations, I was standing at the beach path looking at one solid line of breaking waves, as far as my eyes could see to the North and South. The swells produced by the storm were crashing into the reef, creating an amazing sight, unlike anything i had seen before. I could not keep m face from breaking out into a grin, and I hopped back onto the bike after a few moments of taking it in to hurry on to my rendezvous with Mark, Patty and Kai.

I met them and we went back to their house for the afternoon, because the waves at the surf spots hadn't materialized yet as forecast. Mark and I talked about a lot of things, family, history, beliefs, while sitting outside in his hammocks. Around 3 o'clock we checked the waves again and he made the call to head out to the island of Managaha, a small uninhabited island about a mile away from the beach on the west side of the island at the edge of the lagoon. Some of you may recall, I attempted to walk to it during my first week on Saipan, unsuccessfully. We packed up three boards, and the four of us hipped in the Rav4-which may be the most popular car on the island; they have two of them-and headed to their boat.

The boat was a very small boat, with just enough room for the four of us and the boards. Since there was no promise of anything staying dry I left the camera in the car, unfortunately, because I would have had some amazing, close to magazine quality pictures. At least the magazines I've been seeing around here! Before we ever made it to the island, Kai (the son) spotted a reef break and we headed towards it. They are even bigger up close, and I had more than one moment of trepidation as we idled nearer and nearer to the break. After everyone agreed on the safety of the situation, Kai was the first one out of the boat with his board, paddling toward the waves. I donned scuba fins and a mask with snorkel, which was fine with me because I had no plans on practicing my surf skills over a reef on waves the size of which I was facing.

I won't bore you by describing too much, but if you have ever seen surf videos or even pictures, you have seen the shot taken as a wave crests and starts to create a pipe for the surfers to attempt to shoot. Although there was no pipe, simply being on the face of a wave watching a surfer take off from that type of was so awesome. Even in trying to describe it, I see why surfers talk as they do...because I can't think of a much better word than awesome to describe it. This wave was crashing onto exposed rocks less than 100 yards from us, there was a reef nearby, and we were at least a mile from land. These people were standing up on water and using it...anyways it was awesome.

We got back in the boat and motored over to the break near to the island. This time I was out of the boat and in the water, paddling towards the break. I don't have that much surfing experience. This was probably the fifth or sixth time I've been on a surf board. I stood up on my first wave, and was immediately reminded of the feeling that I got the last time I did that...indescribable elation, tempered with a feeling of peace and ease. We surfed at that break for about half an hour, as the sun set behind the clouds, before the darkness brought an end to the trip. I paddled back to the boat thoroughly exhausted, sore, and anticipating the waves that were to come when the sun rose the next day.

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