Friday, August 24, 2007

Writing for Stars & Stripes

I got an e-mail yesterday that equally surprised and shocked me. Since I've started writing a blog, I've heard from a lot of different people. It put me back in touch with my step brother in law (I think that's the proper term) Bill, and I've literally heard from people all over the world. A guy named DJ was reading my blog in Japan and contacted me about finding someone to take him diving on Saipan. I just find it interesting the way things work and how things come together. Anyway, DJ wrote me yesterday asking if I'd be willing to write weekly stories for Stars & Stripes to run in the Guam and Japan papers promoting diving and tourism on Saipan. Now as if that wasn't shocking enough, he told me they would actually pay me for the stories. That's like telling a seal you'll pay him to eat fish, SWEET! And get this, they don't just want my stories, but they want my pictures as well! Am I dreaming? Could this actually be happening? No, I won't be quitting my day job anytime soon, this is strictly a part time gig, but it's something I'm already doing here anyway, now I just tailor it for the military.

The cool thing is that this plays right into what we've been talking about in our Marianas Dive meetings lately. It is a way of promoting the Marianas and getting some of the military interested in visiting and spending their money here. And unlike the old MVA model of spending money to promote our islands, this doesn't cost us a thing, in fact it actually puts a little money in my pocket for air fills, and maybe even a new camera.

I think it's important to point out that this whole thing happened because I write a blog talking about diving and showing off my dive pictures. I certainly didn't do it with the thought of getting a writing gig out of it, I do it because I enjoy it and because it's a way for me to share my love of diving with others. If I hadn't been writing a blog for the last 2 1/2 months, I wouldn't have this opportunity now. So if we all network together, and get a main Marianas dive portal website going, what other opportunities may pop up as a result? At this point, I think we'd have to say none of us have any idea just what cool things may come our way as a result. But is it really worth pursuing? Well, my pictures are being published in 2 different books now and now I'll be writing weekly pieces for Stars & Stripes, so I'd say yes, it's absolutely worth pursuing and putting a little time and effort into.

Now hopefully this will result in service men and women coming over spending money in our hotels, restaurants, bars and dive shops, but I also see other possibilities. We have mentioned offering home stay programs a couple times, the bed & breakfast concept. I'm guessing there are quite a few of these guys who would love having that more affordable option open to them as well, after all, they are living on a military salary. And since they also have a hard time finding a dive shop that will answer their e-mails, rent them equipment or even be open during the day to fill their tanks or talk to about going for a dive, I think it also will open up opportunities for those willing to take these guys out for guided dives. Some of our dive masters will be able to promote their services on our diving web portal and put their contact information there. It will open up brand new opportunities for some of the dive boats. And if you're just an average every day Joe Diver like me, there will be some cool opportunities to meet new people, make new friends, and help our island economy in the process.

And I'm not just limited to being able to promote Saipan in my stories, but they also welcome stories and pictures from Rota and Tinian as well. So it looks like I may wind up doing some weekend trips for diving and picture taking to our sister islands as well for these stories. However, I'm not made of money so if the Mayor's offices would like to help fund these excursions, or if hotels can give me a break on rates, it would help me to make covering your islands more feasible as well.

For years I've said I was one of MVA's most valuable assets as I've been giving free tours to tourists and taking them diving for years. I guess it only made sense that this would be the next step, and I can't be more excited. Speaking of playing tour guide, I was making a fuel run to our generator on Mt. Topochou yesterday when I saw a couple Japanese girls walking on the road up to Topochou. I didn't think much of it when I passed them on the way up, since I didn't know if they were staying at those condominiums or what the story was. But as I was coming back down the mountain, one of the girls was laying off to the side of the really steep hill, so I stopped to see if she was ok. The other one told me she thought her friend was sick from "hot", I interpreted that as meaning she was experiencing heat stroke. Fortunately I had just bought a V-8 Splash, so I gave that to her, picked her up and put her in the truck and let her get cooled down for a few minutes. Then they asked me if I could take them up to the top of Mt. Topochou, so I told them Axe Murderer Tours at their service. I need to remember that title may scare unsuspecting Japanese girls. I smiled, and told them I'd love to take them up there. Axe Murderer Tours could now claim a couple more victims. All in a days work.