Few of us living on Saipan are native to this beautiful island. The true native population, consisting of Chamorrans and Carolinians, is dwindling and will continue to do so over time. The bulk of us come from the mainland, Korea, Japan, China, Phillipines, Russia, Czech Republic and a smattering of other places.
I made the move to Saipan in my late 40's...a daunting and mutually exciting time for me. For more than 5 years, I had pondered leaving Chicago for a land somewhere other than Midwest US. At the time of my search, I could not have anticipated landing here...on Saipan!
The move to Saipan was, unquestionably, a major life change, yet, I was not alone. Even while in Chicago, packing up the last 25 years of my life and purging quite a bit of it, too, I was blessed enough to make friends with a young woman. Susan Book took me under her wing, adopted me into her family and helped me build a family here. I was already in love with the school where I would be working; I just was uncertain about Saipan. She helped me sort things out, patiently answering a myriad of questions I had about life in general on the island.
Saipan may lack many things, but it is also rich in many things, not the least of which are the people who live here, regardless of where they originate. The welcome I received was, honestly, a bit overwhelming yet tremendously appreciated. Open arms and hearts welcomed me, with little regard for my shortcomings. Whatever I needed, whenever I needed it, there was always at least one person, often more, who were ready to help.
Many have come after me; some have left before me. I have watched this scenario play out each time by Sue and so many others who bless my life. Everyone, for the most part, interacts with everyone, regardless of heritage, career, economic standing, religion or age. And I believe these practices will continue for years to come. In part, because it is an island. In part because it is a very small community. In part, because for many of us, this is not our native home, a place where we were born. We all remember clearly, no matter how long or little we have lived here, that moving to a place unknown, can be daunting, overwhelming, filled with many mixed emotions.
Saipan is not, nor will it ever be (hopefully) a metropolis. Yet, people from all over Asia, the US and parts of Europe come here and call this beautiul place home, if even for a year. Many more come to vacation here. The diversity in the people who come here adds to the value of living in Saipan.
There are no art galleries or museums, concerts are few (compared to Chicago); there is only one movie theatre (which recently held an International Film Festival), and we do not have a symphony orchestra. We do have several opportunities to celebrate the many cultures living on the island; opportunities to become involved with interacting and preserving the ocean life and reefs that are found here. There are many other things we have and lack, but these will be discussed in future blogs.
As I try to sort out the length of my stay nearly 1.5 years after moving here, I honestly am still baffled by the fact that I live on an island...any island. There are many days when I get annoyed with things here, and many days when I am so grateful that I am here. Yet, each time, at least for now, when I think about moving anywhere else or returning to the mainland, I always end up with an unanswered question: Why would I leave here?