Digging into anything and everything that makes the CNMI tick beyond politics...

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Leisure time at the walkway

THIS long strip of walkway along the beach road beneath the shade of pine trees is one place residents pass by several times each day, and many have always taken this place for granted, but have you ever tried taking off a few minutes of your time to walk, jog bike or just spend so
me leisurely minutes on the walkway? If not, you are missing one of the best things in life on Saipan that’s free and is in no danger of closing out.The walkway along beach road is a favorite of many joggers and runners early in the early morning and late afternoon hours.
Whether you want to walk your dog, keep in shape, or give your baby a whiff of fresh sea air, this is the ideal spot to do it. You can sit on one of the benches facing the sea and meditate, or let your imagination fly. The beach road walkway offers you a hundred and one ways to spend your leisure time, and feel refreshed and renewed afterwardAfter several months, I finally got the chance to spend some time to walk along the wooden walkway along the beach road, although the time I picked was far from ideal--12 noon!

Except for a woman with her baby on a stroller and a couple of fishermen who were hoping to catch some fish their luck to with their poles, I practically had the whole place to myself. It was exhilarating to stroll without thinking of work and deadlines, and stopping by every few minutes to snap photos of anything and everything.

The slack traffic on the road on that Friday noon added to the tranquility of the place. Ah, and one more bonus-sunsets at the beach road walkway are just spectacular. The walkway is just there offering you everything for you to see, hear and feel for free—the endless stretch of blue sea and skies, the gentle lapping of waves on the shore, the soft breeze blowing your hair away, the grunt of a fisherman when he discovers the fish devoured his bait but got away, or the grin on his face when he pulls in his line with a fish squirming at the end, the camaraderie between friends and acquaintances, smiles from strangers and a lot more. All you need is to take few minutes of your day to shed off the daily pressures and you’ll feel refreshed.

This article was originally published HERE

Saturday, February 7, 2009

A trip to CNMI's past

BEFORE we get our feet wet in the pristine waters of CNMI’s beaches, dive into the ocean’s spectacular depths, or explore the islands’ nooks and crannies that draw visitors from far and wide, let us make a first stopover at the commonwealth’s bank of artifacts and take a trip back to the past.
The door of the Northern Marianas Museum of History and Culture is just within your reach, a key to transport us back in time when the islands were under different governments.
From the outside, many of the residents in the islands may not even give a side glance to the old building that used to be a Japanese hospital before, but the old buildings hold valuable treasures and pieces of history that every resident, as well as visitors must not miss.
“Every piece and every artifact that is in the museum carries a piece of history of the CNMI and it tells its own story about the past,” museum executive director Robert H. Hunter said.
A tour of the museum will take you back to the pre-compact period or the Spanish period, German period, Japanese period, the Trust Territory and the present commonwealth.
Wander into the different sections and get a chance to see what life was during the different periods. Artifacts like old canoes, jars of all shapes and sizes, exhibits, gold pieces, World War II relics and memorabilia, and other pieces of history. You will come to discover that these artifacts are worth preserving for the future generations.
“We have hundreds of boxes of artifacts in our storerooms that were donated by people from everywhere, and these are very valuable pieces that should be preserved as they are a part of the history of the islands,” Hunter said.
Going back, Hunter said the idea of putting up a museum took place in the early 1970s when some dedicated individuals worked together to get the museum organized.
He said the first museum was located at the old Japanese building by the old mayor’s office in Chalan Kanoa. It was later moved to a smaller building down in Garapan which is the present location of American Memorial Park where it went into operation for about a couple of years before closing down.
He said most of the displays then were a hodge-podge of artifacts donated by people from all over the world.
“It was relocated somewhere else afterwards, until the government invested about $10 million for the rehabilitation of the museum,” he said.
Hunter said the present location of the museum is the first permanent place which has been designed as a formal museum.
Hunter said credit goes to persons like Herman Guerrero and Mike Fleming who persevered in trying to come up with a proper museum.
“This is the only state museum in the Marianas, and we get a fair share of archaeologists from Guam and other places who come here,” he said.
He said that the displays are just about 20 percent of the total collections. The rest are in the storeroom as a bigger display area is needed.
He said that on the average, the museum gets about 20-40 visitors daily, and an approximation of 500 visitors monthly, mostly from student field trips.
Hunter is inviting everybody, and not just the visitors to step into the museum and get a glimpse of how their ancestors lived years ago.
You have to step into the museum to get the feel of the place. Each artifact that had been a mute witness to the lives of people of the past portrays its own message.
The NMI Museum is open from 9am to 4:30 pm Mondays to Fridays, and from 9am to noon on Saturdays. For more information, call 664-2160.

This article was originally published HERE

Thursday, February 5, 2009

US cable network airs episode on Saipan collapse

These are some photos I took showing some of the Saipan establishments that have
already shut down in the past two years as the CNMI’s economy continues to get worse.

VISITING Saipan nowadays is like coming back to what was once a thriving civilization that had been destroyed and abandoned. This was according to Adam Yamaguchi, a television correspondent and producer at Current TV, a cable network founded by former Vice President Al Gore.

He visited the island recently to document the “rise and sudden collapse of a tiny piece of America.”The trailer for his documentary “The Battle of Saipan” is available online: http://current.com/items/89699623/battle_of_saipan_trailer.htm

“Saipan is a nice place that I would pay a lot of my own money to visit, but Saipan is facing one of the fastest economic collapses in history,” Yamaguchi said in the trailer.

He added, “The present battle of Saipan is an economic one, and throughout the islands you can see the victims.”

He said many of the foreign workers who came to work for garment factories are now loitering the island, jobless and have no means to go home.

He said some factory workers have resorted to prostitution just to survive.

The Current Web site includes an excerpt from “The Battle of Saipan” showing Yamaguchi talking with guest workers now in the sex trade. (http://current.com/items/89782146/adam_picks_up_a_prostitute.htm)

“Saipan used to have the best of both worlds — cheap labor to allow it to compete with the prices of garments in U.S. mainland manufacturers, and no quota on what it could ship to the mainland,” Yamaguchi said.

He added that a few years ago, 17,000 Chinese workers were making clothing in over three dozen garment factories, earning $3 an hour “which is just 60 percent of the minimum wage rate in the U.S. mainland,” Yamaguchi said.

All this ended when World Trade Organization rules took effect in 2005 following a 10-year transition period.

Now, garment factories in Third World countries, where labor is cheaper, can also export their apparel to the U.S. without quota restrictions.

“Once the ultimate globalization success story, the island of Saipan now faces one of the fastest economic collapses in history,” the Current Web site stated. “After suffering a harsh history of military struggles as well as a temporary economic boom after becoming a U.S. commonwealth, the island now stands devastated. Scores of factories remain empty, rotting shopping centers litter the country, and former factory workers turn to the sex industry for survival.”

This article was originally published HERE