Saturday, December 22, 2007

Rotary Manamko Thanksgiving Lunch

Wow, it's been a while. I guess I started taking a break before all the other Saipan bloggers decided to make it fashionable!
It's been a busy month, I've got some catching up to do and a few posts to write that have been brewing in my head for a while now.
I'll start here, the first photos in my library following the the Sugar Dock Clean UP!
The Wednesday before Thanksgiving saw the Rotary Club of Saipan do what they've done every year for a while now and that is host a lunch at the Manamko center. This year was my first year to do this and I got a real kick out of just how happy everyone was to get their picture taken.

After a few opening remarks the food was dished out and everyone chowed down! Then it was on to a few more speeches and BINGO!

I enjoyed capturing some candid shots of unsuspecting elderly folks as they waited for the next number to be called. Judging by the smiles I got after the flash gave me away and the requests for additional photos I'd say everyone had a good time!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Clean Up & Scavenger Hunt - more

Sugar Dock - where to start! A few years back there was a big movement to save it, a few months back part of it fell into the sea making access to the end a little more difficult but that does not seem to have made it any less popular with everyone from kids swimming and jumping to fisherman trying their luck. Its also only a short ride to one of the best dive spots on Saipan - Ice Cream.
This past Sunday was no different, lots of people enjoying Sugar Dock

That is till we showed up! Ok, everyone still enjoyed themselves but this morning began by giving the water and beaches around the pier a little make over with the collection of trash and debris. Around 9AM folks began to show up and sign in for the big Marianas Dive & Dive Saipan cleanup / scavenger hunt.

Before long we had nearly 50 people sign in before being set loose to scour the grounds for garbage and golf balls! The golf balls were planted here and there and represented prizes from our donors. Of course there were garbage golf balls in there too so if you found one it didn't mean you would win a prize - it had to be an official golf ball!

Now if there was anyone among us that was sure to find a golf ball in the rough it was this man! After all, practice makes perfect - sorry Harry I just couldn't resist after playing golf with you last weekend. Seriously though it doesn't take long to fill up a bag with trash at this popular hang out, thanks for pitching in Harry!

Now I've never played golf with this man but if I have half the motivation and energy that Mr. Olapai has a at 50 I'll be pretty happy! He's dedicated to teaching his family and others about the traditional ways and how it once was in the islands . I'm sure it must be hard to see your land and home treated with such disrespect most of the time but on the other hand I know seeing another 50 people, who truly care out there doing their part must be up lifting to some degree. Thanks for bringing the boys along Leno!
Then of course what Marianas Dive event would be complete without cupcakes! I think Julie started something at the pumpkin carving contest and here's Rose with an extra little twist, look closely at those cupcakes! Look closely in the background - is that a new dance?

So after an hour or so out there picking up trash on the beach and with our kayak surface support team ready to go it was time to give out a few prizes for the land portion before getting the troops ready for a cool refreshing dip.

Plan - there is no plan really! Go that way stay with the dive float and the kayaker and make sure you come back with garbage and golf balls! Watch out for falling golf balls and only one prize per person!
And they're off
Wait one last picture - oh ya that's a keeper! That's Bev and her Cannon!

So why Sugar Dock. It's not really a dive site so why would a bunch of divers want to clean the waters around the pier. The main reason is the scene below is played out nearly everyday with dive shops bringing students to the area for their confined water sessions or for a quick refresher before hitting an actual dive site. The water is not deep especially at low tide but it is always clear and calm. With extremely easy access it makes a pretty good place to conduct a SCUBA course- except of course it is usually littered with trash! I guess it's just too easy to throw things in the water rather than in a trash container - go figure!

So while a few of us manned the fort, the others gathered more trash, an hour later everyone was back on dry land and eagerly awaiting the awarding of prizes!
Unfortunately, for the visual story here, I did the rewarding so there are no pictures of all the winners but in the end everyone won because we did something positive in making the area a better place to hang out or dive and we spent the morning with fellow divers having a good time!

Ok some also won great prizes like a cell phone from PTI, a 40% off shopping spree from Speedy Tertle dive shop, a $100 gift certificate towards polarized sunglasses from Hardt Eye Clinic . There was also a dive trip for two on the Aqua Jet boats, The Underwater World of Saipan DVD, gift certificates from Porky's bar, PHI Pharmacy and Hamilton's as well as dive masks from Dive Saipan and T-shirts from Guam Tropical Dive station! Thanks to all our donors for helping to make the day that much more fun!

(Photo above curtisy of Jacqueline Hernandez)
In the end these dedicated volunteers and a few more who couldn't stick around for the final picture helped rid the beach and water of all this!

Thanks again to everyone who participated! We'll continue to organize clean ups of popular areas topside and underwater every third Sunday of every month so if you missed this one check the Marianas Dive website for details on future events!

Big Prizes!

I'll write more soon but just wanted to say thanks to all the people who helped out and to the prize donors for yesterdays very successful beach and underwater clean up / scavenger hunt at Sugar Dock.
Here's the picture from the front cover of the Tribune today. Please visit their site so they don't get mad at me and also if you have not already done so you should visit the site of Jacqueline Hernandez who takes most of the great cover shots (including this one) for the only daily news paper on island.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Clean Up & Scavenger hunt update

Ok so it's worth mentioning again....

Sunday November 18th Sugar Dock underwater clean up / scavenger hunt.

Why is it worth mentioning again, ya it's a good cause and you'll have fun with fellow divers but now there are prizes too!

So lets review.

Dinner for two - Porky’s beach bar
Sunset champagne -Porky’s beach bar
The underwater world of Saipan DVD x 2 - Mike Tripp Productions
$100 Gift certificate for polarized sunglasses - Hardt eye clinic
Nokia 6030 Cell Phone with SIM card - PTI
Shopping Spree 40% off voucher, anything in the store - Speedy Tertle dive shop
Pizza from Hamilton’s - 2 gift certificates for a large delicious pie.

And this just in-

Aqua Jet is donating a dive trip for 2 on their big red boats!

All these are up for grabs during the underwater clean up!

You can

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Underwater Clean Up & Scavenger Hunt- Sugar Dock

When: Sunday November 18th
Where: Sugar Dock
Time: 9AM
Who is this for: Beach / Topside Clean Up - Everyone.
Underwater Clean Up - Certified SCUBA Divers only!

A PADI Project Aware Event
Tanks and certificates of participation provided by Dive Saipan
Includes a scavenger hunt with prizes!
International recognition

Hello Divers!

As you know Marianas Dive has begun a series of underwater clean ups at popular dive sites around the island. On the third Sunday of every month we meet in the morning to clean a topside area followed by a cool refreshing clean up underwater! So far we've managed to pull out a considerable amount of trash from the beach and dive sites at Lau Lau Bay and Obyan while having a good time doing it!

This coming Sunday November 18th we will be meeting again at 9AM, this time at Sugar Dock. Although not well known as a "dive site” many people, including tourists, take their first real breaths underwater right here- right next to one of the most popular piers on island! While other agencies such as DEQ, CRM, BCNMI and NMDOA have made great strides in keeping this area clean there is always more that can be done, especially underwater.

That's why we are calling on all divers, dive shops and organizations to help support this effort. In addition to being good for the environment and our tourism industry we will also be seeking international recognition by making this a PADI Project Aware event open to anyone that wants to pitch in. Thanks to Mr. Lee at Dive Saipan each participant will receive a Project Aware certificate and a group photograph will be sent to PADI for publication in The Undersea Journal giving individuals and businesses involved worldwide recognition for their help in keeping our environment pristine!

In addition to the Project Aware materials Dive Saipan will provide tanks for anyone that needs one while DEQ will provide trash bags and a limited number of mesh bags for use underwater. At this time we are also looking for surface dive floats and additional mesh bags as we are anticipating a good turn out of volunteers. If you, your dive shop or organization can help out in this regard it would be very much appreciated and recognized in the official press releases.

Another exciting twist to this event will be the placement of prize vouchers underwater turning the clean up into a real live scavenger hunt rewarding those with sharp eyes and attention to detail.

As always the underwater portion is restricted to certified divers but the topside trash collection is open to anyone that wants to help out. As Sugar Dock can be a busy place with boat traffic we are also in the process of coordinating surface support with DPS and boating safety. In addition we plan on having a few kayaks patrolling the surface ensuring divers and boaters don’t meet unless it's for transport to one of our fabulous offshore dive sites following the clean up!

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions and if you are able to help out including donations of prizes for the scavenger hunt please let me know. Also, I encourage you to circulate or forward this to anyone who may be interested in helping make this event a success! Together we can make the Marianas a better place to live and dive!

Thanks again for your support and we look forward to seeing you on Sunday for a dive and a morning of fun with fellow divers!


Mike Tripp

Marianas Dive

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Underwater Pumpkin Carving - Finally!

Ok so it's well over a week ago that Marianas Dive held it's first annual underwater pumpkin carving contest!
If you have not already checked out the posts on the forum go here. Mark has some pictures on his site here and Brad did a video in a much more timely fashion than I have so he's already posted a video here.

All in all it was an excellent day. I learned a thing or two about carving pumpkins underwater AND had some of the best cup cakes I've ever had. Julie says they came from a box but they were pretty tasty, the cup cakes that is! - I digress.

I also learned that some people take their carving very seriously complete with an assortment of tools and gadgets designed to get things just right. It was therefore fitting that our judges also took their job very seriously and deliberated over the entrants for quite some time before deciding on the winner based on criteria they only know!

In the end it was Tammy James with the winning creation and resulting new large dive beach towel. A close second was Rusty followed by the tool lady herself Rose Callier.Of course honorable mention also must go to Doug for his work on the smallest entry and Susan who didn't sell out her design by adding a dive flag or Marianas Dive AND had to over come judging bias!
So after an hour of carving and about 25 minutes of video (captured while dodging the rest of the pumpkin paparazzi including Mark and Mark with still cameras and Brad with his video) it was time to sit down and get to work on the editing.

Here's what came of it all!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Death at Lau Lau Bay

The news papers and TV are reporting on a "SCUBA" diving death at Lau Lau Bay on Saturday. The Tribune here, the Variety here.

From these reports and a few discussions with people privy to more direct information than I it appears that the lady had either entered the water and was at the surface before deciding not to go down or that she never actually entered the water but was preparing to do so just before canceling her dive because of chest pain.

It also appears she did not make it all the way back onto the beach before collapsing and in fact was assisted from the water to the beach by the instructors where CPR was preformed.

Although extremely unfortunate this does not appear to be a "SCUBA" diving death beyond the possible contribution of physical exertion required to don a tank and walk to the edge of the reef. I've heard the lady was in her late 50's and although there may have been heightened anxiety about diving and the exertion factor this diving death is likely a sudden cardiac arrest that has no more to do with diving than someone collapsing at golds gym and saying the tread mill caused it.

The other spin as reported by the papers is that the dive instructor or the shop he was affiliated with does not have a business license to operate dive tours. This has ramifications well beyond the SCUBA industry as the Department of Immigration and Commerce are sure to be involved. It has also been suggested that the accident may have been prevented if the divers were part of a smaller group and that the dive industry needs to do a better job in regulating it's self. Although I agree with the latter point in general the first is likely just not true in this case. Not much can be done to prevent an elderly person from having a heart attack whether they are part of a one on one course or a larger group. Likely a bigger factor in this particular death was the limited and difficult access to Lau Lau bay, a result of the horrible rode conditions which would make the trip quite long for emergency response teams.

With regards to the dive industry regulating its self it appears in this case that any set of regulations on diving would likely have been ignored just as the regulations for owning and operating a business were. It also seems to me a certain amount of the blame should be focused on how this particular "business' continued to attract divers, or why business was directed their way if they were not a legal entity and why there is no safe guard in place to identify and eliminate operations that don't meet even the most basic of standards.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Endorphins & the Act of Giving

One thing I've started to do lately is take my little girl out to parks and places I like to go on the island. Many of these spots see tour buses role up while she says "Trolley Bus ding ding" and runs after any small child that may exit. She kind of stalks them, and can sometimes scare them by how ready she is to give them a hug. Most of the time the kids are tourists from Asia and the parents are more than happy to spend a few minutes watching the little ones interact. Sometimes though, she can be so infatuated that they get a little freaked out. It usually ends up with me trying to get Morgan to properly say hello (in the language of choice) and demonstrating a handshake or a bow with the parents. By that time she's happy to stare in amazement and clam up like, well, like a clam!

A while back my wife commented on an article she'd read in a parenting magazine about how to instill the concept of giving and feeling good about it into your children. I read the article; I thought it made sense not only for kids but for parents too. Not long after that we saw something on CNN where "they" (the scientists) have actually shown the level of endorphins (the natural brain chemicals that make you feel good) goes up when people engage in the act of giving. I haven't followed up to see what the study was but basically they said it was similar to the "runners high" you get with exercise without the pain!

That sounded good to me!

I started carrying around a DVD in the side pocket of the diaper bag a while back. Just in case the need should ever arise to show it to anyone or in fact give it away. Now after reading that article I’ve started letting Morgan do it. We've been giving one away every now and again, with no particular reason but, usually to those unsuspecting tourists who miss out on the sites they’ve come to see because they’ve taken the time to chat or they’ve had to protect their kid from the all too friendly white girl!

Last week we were at the lighthouse by smiling cove watching the boats come and go to Managaha. Sure enough a bus load of 6 emerged from their air-conditioned monster. We were sitting on the lighthouse having a snack when she saw him and quickly went into pursuit mode. Fifteen minutes later she had given (and taken away) the DVD to this young boy about 5 times. Each time she gave it to him the boy smiled and looked very excited. Every time she would take it away he looked a little nervous and it took a little effort to make her realize he was in fact going to keep it. When it was time for him to go she gave it to him one last time and said Bye Bye. Of course the send off came long after the bus had started rolling.

Now every once in a while when she finds a copy of the DVD in the house somewhere she picks it up and say's "here boy" with an outstretched arm and emphatic "open".

Perhaps it was the repetition. Perhaps the imprinting but perhaps too those endorphins are some of the same chemicals needed for memory retention!

A double bonus for giving! Feel good and improve your memory AND no pain!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Marianas Dive Obyan Clean Up

Last Sunday October 21st an even ten litter conscious and dive crazy types descended on the white sandy beach known as Obyan. I’m not sure how it gets its name but it’s pronounced Ob john. I’m not exactly sure how long it is either but it takes at least 15-20 minutes, at a decent pace, to walk it end to end. The backdrop of Tinian and the turquoise blue-green water that separates the two islands is always easy on the eyes. Palm trees provide shade and the odd falling coconut. No really, directly under the trunk of these trees is not a good place to set up your beach chair.

An 8:30 start; ok 8:45 for Morgan, Denise and I. Everyone else was there ready to go. I guess Angelo was right when he said it’s only Lau Lau Bay clean ups where everyone sets their watches back an hour- interesting! A few greetings all around and the crew went to work spanning out both ways from the parking lot. While the 20 month old didn’t cover much ground every little bit helps.

All in all, after an hour or more, we were back in the parking lot commenting on how clean the beach was- yet we still found enough garbage to take up considerable space in the back of Ron’s pick up.
The unanimous feeling from everyone was “what’s with the batteries”. I’ve noticed it whenever I’ve helped out with a clean up at Obyan and so have the others.
Mary, who’s foot is graciously modeling the loot, actually carries a separate bag just for batteries, not a bad idea for everyone to do at all the clean ups. We didn’t get a total battery count as that would have meant dumping out a few garbage bags with diapers in them. No thanks! Rest assured there were way too many of them (batteries and diapers) to call it an odd one or two or an accidental drop.

So we all agreed there is a problem here. A problem of education perhaps? To all of us it seemed pretty simple that batteries and the chemicals they hold just don’t mix well with the environment. Obviously others do not see it that way or just don’t care. We’re all hoping it’s the lack of knowledge because that is easily corrected. If it’s the latter then we’re in trouble.

So, if you happen to read this and know of anyone who discards batteries randomly into the environment let them know that it’s just not cool. The outer casings erode over time releasing the chemicals inside. It may not seem like a lot but given enough batteries over enough time and damage can be done to the shore as well as the marine life. If you need to change a battery, keep the old one and start a recycle box at home. Then, every now and again, take that to the transfer station and dispose of them properly!
Ok, enough with the environmental lesson. After working up a sweat most everyone except me headed out to cool off and look for more garbage underwater.
An hour or more latter they returned with bags half full and stories of another great dive.
Not much garbage….The water was calm and visibility good. We could easily go along the shallows….. There are lots of cool little caves in there….. Ah that was nice and relaxing….. Did you see that scorpion fish, their ugly and he wouldn’t move… I found more clothes….
And of course what dive would be complete without the tailgate chatter, which then lead to the invitation from Mark and Tammy to join them at their place for hot dogs and a swim!
How could anyone resist this face!
Thanks so much to everyone who helped out. Ken, Crystal, Ron, Mary, Tammy, Mark, Denise, Morgan, Susan and even me!
Visit Marianas Dive for more information on upcoming clean ups and events like the underwater pumpkin carving contest!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Rotary Club.

So today I became a Rotarian!

Rotary is a worldwide organization of more than 1.2 million business, professional, and community leaders. Members of Rotary clubs, known as Rotarians, provide humanitarian service, encourage high ethical standards in all vocations, and help build goodwill and peace in the world.

 There are over 32,000 Rotary clubs in more than 200 countries and geographical areas. Clubs are nonpolitical, nonreligious, and open to all cultures, races, and creeds. As signified by the motto Service Above Self, Rotary’s main objective is service — in the community, in the workplace, and throughout the world.

I even wore pants! I don't like pants but I do like what this group stands for!

I must admit that up until this past year I didn't know much about this organization. I knew they existed, I'd seen the signs in many communities and read about a Rotary thing here or there but I never really knew what they were about. I think as a kid growing up in small towns across Canada I would say I had the impression this was another veterans type group like the Canadian Legion with cheap beer halls available to those who just wanted to drop in and share a story or two with a fellow vet.

That changed a year ago when I was first introduced to the FOUR-WAY test. This really did it for me. It just seems that the world would be a better place if everyone lived up to this on a daily basis no matter what they were doing.

So after I attended a few meetings with my sponsor, Laurie Peterka from Practical Solutions I decided I could live with the few interesting things done at meetings, including singing a short song and saying a prayer before eating. Really I mean I'm a white Canadian Male with no rhythm and even less skill on the vocal front. Fortunately no one is judging my singing abilities.

Anyway, the real reason I'm writing this post is because I wanted to write out the very hastily written notes I made in preparation for the few minutes I got to speak to my fellow Rotarians without fear of being fined! The fines are a whole other story but the thing is I basically left out a whole line of thought primarily because I had scribbled these notes at the last minute before the meeting knowing I should have done it a lot sooner and, well, I missed a whole page!

So here goes.... If I could say it over again!

Thank you President Patrick and fellow Rotarians. (A bell goes off and you have to pay a fine if you don't address fellow Rotarians properly!)

I came to the island 5 years ago to work as a pharmacist not knowing what to expect and not knowing how long we would stay. I will admit that it took a full four years here before I came to really know about the Rotary club and what it stood for. Sure I knew it existed but I never really knew what it was about. Until this (holding up the Underwater World of Saipan DVD). (That's kind of a joke b/c if I was to do that at any other time in a meeting I would of course be fined!)

This (the DVD) gave me the opportunity as a business man to sit in Ben Babauta's office at DFS, month after month, every time reading the 4 way test posted on his wall. It just made sense and as I've gotten to know Ben I can see that he operates with this mentality.

As some of you know I lost my father unexpectedly a few years ago, right before I started to put together this DVD (hold up DVD again!). In fact it is dedicated to him. Every time I've sat in Ben's office and read the test I've thought of my dad and how proud he would be to know that these are the principles his son is attracted to and following in his business and in fact his everyday life.

Now, as you all know, I could very well follow these principles without becoming a member of the Rotary. And that's what I did until I began working on a project with Laurie of Practical Solutions. (Laurie's got a fine coming!). I mentioned the four way test in Ben's office and from there I'm sure I started the "secret process" of recruiting Rotarians. Regardless, it was ultimately the discussions with her that made me realize one other important aspect of Rotary I could not over look and that is "You have to eat lunch"! (Insert laugh track here)

Seriously though, I'm glad she brought me to a meeting because I saw a number of faces I've come to know and like over the past year. It made me realize that surrounding myself with like minded folks would help keep me going especially on those tough days. Like wise, I also realized that my passion for what I'm doing and my expertise in the area could impact and help the community that much more if facilitated through the Rotary Club.

(this is the start of what I forgot to say!)
Besides loosing my father a few other things have happened to me in these 5 years here. I turned 40 and judging by the room I'll suggest that almost everyone here knows first hand life does not really start until you hit 40! I also got married- some might say life ends at that point but not so in my case especially since it has lead to the birth of my first child!

Now one thing I quickly learned becoming a dad is that nothing turns your thoughts from "self" to "responsibilities for others" like having a child! It also makes you take a good look at what you really want to be remembered for through the eyes of that child. Community service and service above self seems like a motto I'd like my children to grow up with.
(this is the end of what I did not say!)

I'm an individual that tends to always look at what needs to be done rather than what has been accomplished. I hope that as a Rotarian I can help improve our community through the application of my skills and in return I'm hoping you, my fellow Rotarians, will remind me from time to time what has been accomplished and help give me the strength to keep going!

Thank you once again for inviting me into your group and accepting me as a fellow Rotarian!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Coral Triangle

No we're not trying to copy Bermuda and their famous triangle that seems to take planes, vessels and lives without warning.

No we're talking about a region of the earths ocean described by the World Wild Life Fund WWF as....

No other place on Earth is as rich and varied in marine life as the Coral Triangle. Spanning Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Fiji and Northern Australia, this extraordinary expanse of ocean covers some 5.7 million square kilometres. The Coral Triangle echoes the richness and diversity of the Amazon rainforest.
I know it doesn't look much like a triangle, try this one. Here we are clearly within the boundaries!
I realize the primary area of the triangle is Indonesia and surrounding countries but it is important to note that the Marianas does sit within this important ecological zone.
We do in fact contribute to the vast array of species this region accounts for. We have rare hard corals and other critters the scientific community recognizes as occurring here and perhaps no where else. In fact it was in my first year on Saipan that a group of researchers found 8 previously unnamed species of fish. See link here. Then on another survey this was a quote from the NOAA team after returning from the Northern Islands in 2003. See Tribune story here

“Many of these species are new records for these islands, as very few previous surveys have been conducted at most of these islands. Many species were also present in the size ranges at which they recruit from the plankton, or as very young juveniles,” the team said.

I think it's also important to note that in relative terms the scientific community has barely scratched the surface when it comes to surveying our vast waters. Who knows what else is out there just waiting to be discovered. We know there are plenty more dive sites around the Islands of Saipan, Tinian and Rota that are worth discovering and going to on a regular basis. We also know that divers have witnessed the mating of two different species of nudibranchs a phenomenon that was previously just a theory but now thanks to Harry (The Nudibranch whisperer) it's been witnessed. Bottom line is when we say we are privileged to dive in some of the most diverse waters of the world it is true!

Now isn't it just a little more appealing to live in the triangle that breeds diversity rather than swallow up ships and planes like a giant black hole. Perhaps just one more advantage we have over our Caribbean counterparts!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Monday, October 8, 2007

Two Months & Counting

Sometimes you just have stop and say Hmmmmm.

Today I sat down to put together a little summary of the Marianas Dive group. A few deadlines set by the group are coming up. By the 15th we want to have most of the content included on the sidebar links of the website ready to go. That includes my assignment- filling in the blanks for "Who We Are" and "Our Goals" among a few others. Anyway, I've been writing and speaking a lot about this group in various places and know putting this together really means organizing everything into one summary. I started by looking back at exactly when this group first got together. I knew it was almost two months ago but I didn't remember the exact date. We'll it turns out- two months exactly today.

Our first meeting was on August 8th. This makes me go double hmmmm because my little girl just turned another month older yesterday, the 7th. I've always been the worst when it comes to remembering birthdays but I'll never forget the 7th. So because of this I'm probably much more likely to remember the "birth date" of this “dive organization with a mission”.

It's been an interesting two months to say the least. I'll admit at times it feels like its been a whole lot longer but at the same time I think "two months- that's it, we've done all this in two months". I even took a week vacation on Guam in there!

The second meeting I was elected President of the group and quickly found folks referring to me as the PM (Prime Minister). Can’t say I object since any reminder of Canada without the wet and cold is just fine with me. The first task given to the executive branch (Harry got the nod as VP and Katrina as secretary) was to establish our mission statement.

Basically our goals are to create awareness for what lies beneath the Marianas waves not only locally but also internationally. We also want to promote conservation as a way of thinking and to help preserve what we have for generations to come while improving everyone’s diving experience. By doing this and assisting with specific destination enhancements we also believe expectations of what the Marianas has to offer and the actual experience delivered can be elevated to that of other, well known, world class dive destinations.

In order to do any of this or to accomplish anything meaningful over the long term we also know the community must come together and rally around something specific. From the first conversations Harry and I had we knew this rallying point had to be everyone’s passion for diving and their fascination with what lies beneath. Thus, the concept of an all-inclusive group, made up of individuals from various ethnic and cultural backgrounds, each with unique talents and levels of experience, was formed. The common denominator- the love of diving. Specifically a Marianas dive.

Taking shape.
Identified as a priority during the first meeting was the need for development of a one-stop-shop or central web portal relating to everything diving in the Marianas as well as general travel and information about Saipan, Tinian and Rota. Immediately a few of the computer savvy folks started work on the main page And the concept and user experience has begun to take shape. Thanks Jon, Mark and Walt! With user added content from the discussion board and contests intended to promote it’s use the site promises to be a valuable dynamic resource for those wishing to travel and dive here as well as for those who dive here every day.

In addition the word IS getting out. The topic of Diving seems to be entering the conversation and the media has been picking up on it. Among other stories Marianas Dive has been mentioned in Island Locator, introduced in Beach Road Magazine and has been reported on in the Tribune here and here. We’ve had television coverage with the KSPN 2 including an interview I did here (9/17/07) and a story following the DFW presentation on the rules and regulations governing our waters. Thanks to Harry there have also been a couple of radio shows and a feature article in the Stars and Stripes newspaper. I feel like I’m forgetting something, perhaps its all the blog stories by the local bloging community! We also can’t forget that MP magazine also featured a dive story in their second issue, not a Marianas Dive story but a dive story nonetheless. Bottom line, the word is getting out and folks are coming up to wish us luck and thank us for making the effort to use our natural resources as a focal point for improving the islands economy.

Perhaps the biggest indication of this so far as well as the impression that each of the agencies with a vested interest in our marine resources is willing to be a part of this group was the very successful Division of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) presentation at Porky's 3 weeks ago. Although there were a couple of technical difficulties with the visuals and the sound nearly 70 people attended and based on the questions and the comments following the presentation most everyone got something out of the evening. With folks from NMDOA, DEQ, CRM, DFW, NOAA, the legislature, the media and concerned citizens in attendance the goal of creating an organization that includes everyone and helps facilitate improvement in our dive industry was clearly evident.

Not to be forgotten is the social aspect of the group. From those first few meetings we identified the desire to plan and organize social events and group dives including clean ups as a means to facilitate the development of relationships and the growth of the organization. After all, all work and no play is not what divers are about!

On September 8th a group dive was done at Lau Lau Bay and I will soon post a video of the highlights but a fun day was had by all those who participated and was followed up a week later at the same place with a beach and underwater scavenger hunt (clean up) in conjunction with Angelo and Beautify CNMI. FAMB’s followed both dive days either at Porky ’s or in Mark and Tammy’s pool!

In addition to these group dives, through discussion board posts, many additional impromptu dive rendezvous have been arranged including boat dives, shore dives and dives assisting the training of our boating safety dive team from DPS. Exploratory dives have begun with boat operators using the board to get their information out and fill up their boats with paying customers.

As the group embarks on it’s third month in existence we’ve begun work on developing a logo and a contest to help involve the kids directly while continuing to educate local residents about the group and our marine environment. We will also be holding underwater clean ups on the third Sunday of every month with the next one scheduled for October 21st. The location is TBA at this point but we are hoping to clean the waters around Sugar Dock if assistance from the Division of Public Safety (DPS) can be arranged. The back up plan is Obyan Beach 8:30 AM.

Continuing with the social theme we also have plans to organize a dive weekend on Tinian with exploratory dives from both shore and boat in addition to underwater clean ups and a casino night at the Dynasty. Stay tuned.

Our paid membership continues to grow, as does the number of registered users of the forum and the mailing list. There is a long way to go for integration of each of the major language groups to occur but as more and more multilingual members join our ranks we will begin to break down the language and cultural barriers and get down to what counts, that passion for all things aquatic.

Paid membership includes the choice of a $20 or $50 fee. They both give voting rights as well as member discounts at various functions but only those paying $50 receive the coupon book currently in development. Adding value as well as a being a promotional tool for both our group and the local businesses supporting us, this package will be well worth the extra $30. Any businesses interested in contributing can post a comment or email me directly. Joining the mailing list or the online forum is free and easy to do from the home page.

Upcoming events and meetings.
Check out the calendar on the web site but here’s a look at what’s on the immediate timetable.

Content & Logo Meeting
October 15th 7PM
Chambre Bar in the Fiesta hotel
Anyone interested in helping develop content for the website and the logo are welcome.

Marianas Dive Meeting (Every 1st and 3rd Wednesday of the month)
October 17th 6:30 PM
Porky’s Beach Bar
General update with focus on website content (holes to fill), event planning, goal setting and membership growth. As always non-members are welcome to attend to share a dive tale or two.

I would also be remiss if I forgot to send a big thank you to Bruce Bateman the owner of Porky’s for not only warm hospitality and a comfortable smoke free location to have our meetings but also for the simple fact that every time we have a function at his establishment he donates 10% of sales to our cause! Thanks Bruce you’re going to have a tough time living up to the legend as the evil one!

Finally, a big thank you also has to go out to all those who have participated, from those paid members who have been at nearly every meeting and event to those un-paid members that have been to nearly every meeting and event (but keep forgetting your cash) and to all those down the line who have posted comments on the board or helped out by spreading the word- thanks for your participation and support!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Proud Parents

I can't believe more than a week has gone by since my last post. I understand that in the blogging world leaving your blog for that long can have devastating effects on readership so it's my hope the 20 or so regular readers of this blog will quickly recover and cut me some slack! It's not like I've had my, you know what, up my you know what but, at the same time where do people like Angelo have the time to constantly post!

I struggled with the heading for this one since, although many specific things worthy of a comment have happened in the past 2 weeks, lately I've found myself thinking of my dad more than usual and specifically just how proud he would be if he were alive today. My mom was the one who told me yesterday I had better get back on my blog because it makes her feel more informed but thoughts of my dad go much deeper than just the difficulties with keeping in touch with friends and family over great distances.

For the past few months he has been at the forefront of my mind for many reasons not the least of which is the interview and resulting story that just came out in the September issue of Island Locator.
First, what parent wouldn't be proud to see their kid on the cover of a magazine! No it's not National Geographic (yet) but it's still pretty cool. Second, recounting the making of the DVD forced me to think of him more than I do on a daily basis. I agreed to be interviewed for the story when Alexie said she wanted to take a personal angle to the DVD and how it came about. I'm not going to ruin the story but The Underwater World of Saipan is dedicated to my father.

There is no doubt in my mind that the DVD would not be what it is if it were not for his death and that it simply would never have been possible in the first place without the support of both my parents throughout my life. They have always given me the courage and encouragement to follow my dreams and the feeling of safety to reach out and strive to make them reality.

As a new Dad I'm now just beginning to get a taste of what it feels like to be proud of your creation and one of the hardest things about my fathers death was that he was taken from this world quickly and before I had the opportunity to talk to him Dad to Dad! I have so many questions for him now that it is rare a day goes by without him entering my thoughts.

Perspectives change and having a kid is one of those major paradigm shifting events in life that compares to little else. Perhaps the death of a parent but even then there is sorrow and difficulty with looking to the future while the birth of your first born conjures thoughts of future possibilities, excitement, happiness, love and yes incredible apprehension. All the emotions that make life worth living.

In addition priorities change overnight. It's now all about making a better life for your child or in his case the four of us. I can only imagine what it must have felt like for him to hear his son was going to quit his job as a pharmacist and become a dive bum! He worked his entire life for the same company at many times in a capacity he was not overly happy with but he continued to do it for us and I will be forever grateful for his dedication to his family.

As I mention in the story I often thought he must have been disappointed or upset with my decision to throw away 7 years of university education but now I'm beginning to see how, on that night, being on his side of the conversation more likely conjured up all the emotions that make life worth living. Although there was sure to be plenty of apprehension there was also love, excitement and the thought of all the possibilities that come with watching your own creation follow their own dreams. I only wish he could have been here in person to see the fruit of his life long support and hear me saying "It's done, that's it, the final version - want to watch it again, - Dad wake up!

I'll always take solace in knowing my Mom, wife and my daughter (only days old) were all there to hear those words!

Miss you Dad.

Update May 2008
Here's the full article courtesy of Island Locator. Click on the photos to enlarge.

Photos by Mark Robertson.
Correction to the Turtle Photo - it's a Hawksbill turtle!