Saturday, June 9, 2007

The hardest part of Saipan

One of the cool aspects of Saipan is the myriad of different people from all over the world you have a chance to meet. Some of them you only meet once, others are in your life for a few weeks or months, others may be a year or two, and then there are those who have settled down here like you, and don't plan on going anywhere. We have met so many different people out here over the years, that unfortunately many of their names and faces have become a blur in my memory. That is partially because you get a lot of people who come out here for one or two years, then move on to the next place, or go back home. I wish I had been keeping a blog the whole time I've been out here, it sure would have made keeping track of all the people we've met over the years a lot easier. And there is something about looking back at pictures that just triggers a thousand memories.

I just got back from a dive this morning, I went with Zandra, Christine and Nathan. It was Christine's first successful dive. She tried last weekend but couldn't get her ears to clear (that's what happens when you plug your nose but blow out your mouth). I got to thinking about all the people that I've taken on their very first dive, the number is in the hundreds now. It is one of the things I love about living out here the most, being able to share my love of the underwater world with other people and watching their face light up with amazement at just how incredible and different it is underwater. And yet of all those people that haven taken their first dive with me, there are only a few still on island.

The people in the picture are Michael and Maew. Michael was on Saipan to set up some of the new equipment being installed by G.E. to screen baggage at the airport. It is supposed to make the TSA peoples jobs much easier, and the whole process faster. Michael lives in Alaska, but was here for 2 months installing the equipment. He had some people tell him that I'd be happy to take him diving while he was here, so from his first weekend on, Michael and I have been diving every weekend, except the weekend he went to Guam. Maew is his girlfriend and lives in Thailand, but came here for 3 weeks to visit him. Believe it or not, but we got to be quite good friends with Michael and Maew in that short amount of time. They even came to my daughter Sarah's 21st birthday party, we had it at Ladder beach. It was a perfect night for a beach party as there was a huge full moon, a blue moon actually, and tons of stars out that night. Michael thanked me a couple times that night for including them in a magical night and sharing the occasion with them.

I got to take Michael on over 20 dives while he was here, and even though Maew tried, she had trouble clearing her ears. So I pulled her out over the crevasse at Wing beach and let her look down on all the beautiful coral, she even got to see a shark.

These are just two of the many people that have come out here for one reason or another, got acquainted with Saipan, and will now have some great memories of it for the rest of their lives. The problem that comes in, and the hardest part that I referred to in the title, is that for each of these people that come into our lives, we inevitably have to say goodbye to another set of friends. Michael and Maew flew out this morning, she went back to Thailand and he went back to Alaska. I'm sure that I'll still hear from his occasionally, and with any luck, he may get back out here to dive again some day, but to me it just seems like I've lost 2 more in a very long line of friends who were once here, but now are somewhere else. And no matter how good your intentions are of staying in touch, most people give it up after a while, as it just seems to become too much work. Which is why we have come to hate the airport and the goodbyes that are inevitably a part of it. I guess that's just part of the price of living somewhere like Saipan, it takes a very different sort of person to live here long term. Which means that you'll be constantly meeting new people, getting to know them, investing yourself in them, and eventually saying goodbye to them.

So one of the things that makes Saipan such a cool place to live, is also one of the things that makes living here such a challenge. But time marches on, and I'm hopeful that I'll be able to introduce hundreds more people to the underwater world surrounding Saipan, and watch their faces light up with wonder at seeing all the creatures and beauty under the sea. And then as the hundreds who came before them, I will eventually also have to say goodbye to them. Such is life on Saipan.