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I looked at the calendar today and realized that exactly one year ago was our first day in Saipan. Honestly, I can’t believe we’ve been here for a year already!
In tribute, we made a List of Saipan tonight. It chronicles the bad, the good, and the quirky of our little island home and is a pretty good summation of our year here.
the best cure for homesickness- VISITORS!
Missing our people– Far and away the hardest part of living here is just being so far away from the people we love. The time difference just complicates this.
Lack of access– Oh Saipan and your limited grocery stores, your crazy shipment schedules, your non-existent healthy food options and your unpredictable inventory. You keep me on my toes in the worst possible way.
The Cost- There are a few exceptions here (they’ll make their way onto The Good list), but almost everything here is just really expensive. Like gas. And restaurants. And power. And food. Almost everything, actually.
Power outages– I remember feeling extra inconvenienced to occasionally lose power for an hour or two in Denver. Oh how glorious that schedule would be to me now.
havoc from Tropical Storm Bavi
Natural disasters- We’ve weathered two typhoons, one tropical storm, an earthquake and several wild fires this year. No thank you.
Pests- We are winning the battle against rats and mice and cockroaches. And totally losing the battle against the ants. Ugh.
Humidity (and it’s partner mildew)– Sticky. And smelly. And more smelly stickiness. Did you know that clothes mildew if you don’t wash them often enough? And that leather mildews? Crazy, right?
The time together- Combine Adam’s much lighter work schedule (and all of his time off) with far fewer commitments and you have yourself some seriously fabulous family time. I am in love with that part of our life here.
The beaches- We thought it was going to be beautiful here, but the natural beauty has surpassed anything we imagined. The beaches of Saipan are pristine and empty and wonderful. And the chance to see sharks and octopi and sting rays and sea turtles and a million different kinds of tropical fish is pretty great too!
The people- Moving to Saipan creates an instant bond with, you guessed it, anyone else who has moved to Saipan. And I can’t say enough great things about how helpful Adam’s staff at the clinic (all locals) has been to our family this year. We love the people here!
Old Man by the Sea
Hiking- It is hilarious to me that we moved from the outdoor paradise of Colorado and then found our hiking groove on a tropical island, but we did. We mostly hike in sandals or watershoes, carrying a beach bag full of snorkeling gear. Totally hard core.
Our house- Renting a house sight unseen is a risky venture, but one that turned out great for us this time! Even though driving up our driveway in rainy season resembles four wheeling in Moab, the fact that you can see the ocean from every room more than makes up for that. And since it’s so expensive to run our AC, we cherish our breeze-y hillside.
Travel- The chance to visit Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia were some of our favorite parts of last year. And our on-the-docket trips include South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam and an epic New Zealand road trip. So exciting. We love having the chance to explore a whole new part of the world while we’re here!
Seafood and local produce- Since tuna, mahi mahi and wahoo are all local, and since seafood is so very cheap (about $2 a pound if it was caught that day), we eat TONS of fish here! We’ve also loved trying the local produce- five different kinds of mangoes, coconut as it’s own food group (so cheap and plentiful), soursap, dragon fruit, local pomegranates, starfruit, guava, mountain apples, Japanese sweet potatoes, the list goes on. And remember our chocolate making adventure from the local cacao pods? So fun!
A blast from the past- Living in Saipan is like stepping back in time 25 years. The internet speeds rival those from our high school days, businesses do paperwork on actual paper (remember carbon copies? Totally still a thing here), people shop for airline tickets at an actual travel agent, most people still don’t have smart phones (and why would you- see my note about the internet), GPS is not even a thing. And we’ve heard more 80s and 90s music than we have since, well, the 80s and 90s.
Appliances- Our washer sometimes makes our clothes dirtier, our dryer requires a special 10 minute rotation between ‘air fluff’ and ‘low heat’ in order not to burn things (aka- we hang dry almost everything), we have to turn off our hot water heater when we are not using it and our dishwasher’s “light” cycle is three hours long. Oh the adventures.
Expired food- I don’t think stores are allowed to sell expired food in the States, but they totally are here. And the outdated section is my best tool for helping keep our food budget in check. This means that our diet is a hybrid between farmer’s market and the expired food section. It’s funny. Also, I should note that we seriously never have bad experiences with outdated food. Turns out “best by” really means “will stay good wa-ay past this date.”
The hoop jumping- Everything is done in person, never over the phone (or heaven forbid online). And I’ve never in my whole life had so many things notarized. And all of the systems are notoriously inefficient. And island time is a thing. These factors combine to make seemingly basic tasks like obtaining an ID a seven stop, multi day process.
the state of our speedometer more often than we’d like
The driving- Let me just say this- if you struggle with road rage, Saipan is not the place for you. Getting behind the wrong neighbor can extend your 10 minute commute by 20 extra minutes. It’s pretty much Adam’s nightmare every time he gets behind the wheel.
The proliferation of mustangs, hummers and selfie sticks- Also hilarious photoshoots on the beach or posing on the aforementioned mustangs. The tourists add a whole new dimension to this island, that’s for sure.
The wildlife- We have a couple of giant species of spider here (have you heard of huntsman spiders? Guys, the first time I saw one of those, I screamed out loud). And if you open a door or window at night, the chance of a gecko falling on you is about 80%.
Getting directions- Because there are no street addresses here, getting and giving directions is an exercise in ridiculousness. And not just to people’s homes- listening to the guys on the radio giving directions to local businesses is great. The use of poultry (chicken farms, rooster cages, chicken roosts) as geographic markers is also hilariously common.
Our overall summaries of this year-
Adam’s- “We are more flexible than I thought. Also, the tropics with no AC is hotter than I thought.”
Kirstin’s- “Our life in Denver was more overcommitted and stretched thin than I thought. And I love living on an island just as much as I thought.”
Burke’s- “Legoland was more awesome than I thought.”
Piper’s- “I love snorkeling and swimming more than I thought.”
I can’t wait to see what Saipan Year 2 has in store for us!