Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Ambivalent Softball

A few summers ago, I started playing softball. I got into it through the crew I play pickup touch football with on the weekends who played IM slow-pitch softball through BU in the summertime. The BU Intramural league is great because it's competitive, but pretty relaxed. It's a 10 game season with players of varied skill. Not ever having played organized bat/ball sports (mostly because I had always hated it) this was a perfect introduction. My team basked in the fact that we were pretty bad and the self-effacing humor helped cut any tension. While I always hated when I muffed a play, I never felt like the guys got on my case.

Five years later, I still play with those guys and we ended up making a few playoff runs culminating in a pennant win in '05. I've gotten a little better every year and I feel I can play at a mediocre level. This year I joined a work team that plays in a league with other community teams. These guys are significantly more serious about their softball, making a big difference in the team atmosphere. It's very different for me in many ways. First, it's modified fast pitch so instead of slow arching training softballs, I'm swinging at regular softballs rocketing at me at a decent speed. Not to mention that some pitchers have junk to throw, so I see curves, knuckles, and change ups. Secondly, I'm wearing a cup. I'm thinking I want to have kids some day, so gotta protect the junk. I rarely wore a cup in the past, even when I played football in high school and lacrosse in college. I think I was just lucky all those years. Anyway, playing with a cup affects my mobility. I think it's cause my thighs are big and rub together at the crotch anyway. The cup just gives me one more thing to chafe with.

But, really that stuff I've gotten used to. It's the other things that have made this season so much more onerous. I think it's all just part of the game though that as an inexperienced player, I missed out on. I found our team's mission statement while cleaning up after a game, here's a few choice passages.

1) Take the game very serious. This is a community softball league, and scouts could come by to assess our talent. In the last 10 years since leaving high school, your skills have probably increased exponentially, so you could probably quit your day job and head to the Big Show.

2)One way to prove you are ready for the Show is to really get on your teammates when they drop a fly ball or let a grounder get past them. Getting angry and yelling, "Come On!" is an excellent way to motivate someone to get better and very constructive criticism. "I told you to ..." is also a good way to show your coaching ability. It helps if you have other teammates to yell out contradicting instructions to help the player stay focused.

4) Play at least 3 games a week. The more games you play, the more likely it is that your teammates will start cutting out other parts of their lives that would interfere with softball. When they are completely socially isolated, they can feed of the emotional support of their teammate's constructive criticism.

5) Speak in as many different languages as possible to show your commitment to diversity. This is particularly helpful if you are talking about benching a guy who looks Asian and probably didn't take 5 years of Spanish in high school.

So basically, I am at the point where I can't wait for the season to end. I was praying we'd lose last night and get knocked out of the playoffs. Ironically, we pulled off a huge comeback victory after being down 8-0 capped by a 2 RBI single by the only kid who is probably worse than I am. This kid has gotten more grief than anyone, but shows up to play almost every game and came through in the clutch. It felt really good to congratulate him.

For the chance for one more magical moment like that, I'm willing to play one more game.

Monday, August 11, 2008


I had an adventurous weekend to say the least. Friday night, we went snorkeling on Pau Pau beach on Saipan; happy hour at the Hyatt with some docs, and then we went to go get a car at the hospital- couldn't find it- got "security" (a dude in a polo shirt without a flashlight - it's dark at 7 here) to help us out- found it- went to dinner, then out to Godfathers for some people watching, and then crashed. Saturday, we were supposed to go on a hike to forbidden island. It's apparently steep and treacherous when slippery, and it rained, so we didn't go, but were basically swept away to a howley (sp? aka "white people") restaurant Wild Bills for a few hours of bullshitting. Afterwards, Miss M and I decided to go kayaking to Managaha (another really small island off of Saipan. about 1.5 miles away). It was the most beautiful and nauseating thing I've done in Saipan so far. Definitely sea sick, I puked on the way back. Three times. Seriously, as soon as I could get out of the boat, I flung onto all fours and heaved. But we got a mango smoothy, went out for Indian and crashed again knowing that we had plans to go to Tinian (another island of the CNMI, about 23 miles south of Saipan) in the AM.

We were supposed to meet up with another doc, and her husband to take the ferry to Tinian at 9:30. We were running late since the ATM near their house wasn't working, and they ran down to the car so we could speed off to the port. We got there, and Doc N didn't have an ID so we couldn't get on the boat. Her husband raced home to grab her id as they held the boat, and when he came back, they looked at it, and it was expired, so she couldn't get on anyway. They were pulling, "I'm a doctor at the hospital" kind of strings and cards, and the ferry folks wouldn't have it (I don't blame them). So, instead, we took the plane, which is faster, but twice as expensive. They brought their 10 year old son.

We got to the airport, and signed in. You don't need an ID to fly to Tinian. We waited and the pilot finally showed and we hopped into a 7 passenger plane. I sat up by the pilot. It was very cool. It's only a ten minute flight, which is enough for me to get my kicks, but it's quite beautiful up there. I took lots of pics and will put them up soon.

Sorry this is turning into a novel, but it gets better. We land, and the hospital there knew we were coming and because Docs from Saipan visit them every couple of months we were hooked up with a car. We took a tour of the hospital, which was so small and quiet and doing it's best, and then went to lunch at, I think, one of three places on island to eat. The mahi was good, and afterwards we decided to go get scooters.

Miss M and I are virgin scooter drivers/ riders but we were game and were assigned our own scooter. She drove. I took pics. We headed all the way up to the other end of the island, towards where they stored the two Atom Bombs dropped on Japan in WWII. Miss M and I took a corner a little quickly and wiped out. My first concern was her, then my camera hanging around my neck. I landed right on top of her, scraped my chin, hand and knee, and snapped my head back, but the camera was fine! I'm ok too, nothing other than scrapes, and having three docs on hand made things a little easier. It was really kind of hilarious. We continued on, saw the pits (it's cool and weird) and headed back to the scooter place so we could get the car, go to the hospital to clean our wounds (you can end up with some nasty shit here) and then to the beach. Funny thing is, it POURED on us on the way back. We were soaked and there was no where to find shelter until we weren't too far away from the scooter place. Nice thing is, that it never rains for too long here. We saddled up (I road with Florian after our spill) and returned our rides. We were a scooter gang.

We invaded the hospital ER, went to the beach to snorkel (rough, salty water, and ok sites to see, but a storm was coming it in making the water choppy and murky). We decided to head back to the plane to go home. By the time we arrived at the airport, about 30 ppl werewaiting to fly back to Saipan. It's a 7 passenger plane. We were told it would take 2 hours before we could leave, so we went to the Dyansty Hotel, which is a giant, marble-coated casino in the middle of Tinian. It makes no sense. It's ornate, elaborately staffed and decorated and empty. We had some dinner, and headed back to the airport, where we waited for another 40 minutes before they told us that there were no more flights or ferries leaving for Saipan that night. Sweet. Basically prepared with what we needed for the day, and having run into so many strange and funny moments already, we got back in the car and went back to the Dynasty to get two rooms for the night.

It was quite nice, $100 and as soon as we got into our room, I showered, put on a robe and ordered an ice cream sundae. An ice cream sundae, a 5:30 am wake up call (we were told to return at 6 am), bandaids, vaseline, ice, lotion, a club sandwich with fries, a fruit platter and gauze. All for $28. I think they were just excited to have someone staying there.

By 6am we were in the airport and waiting to see if we could get on the first flight- we were all set, hopped in and back home by 7:30. We flew home to change and to get to work, where I changed my bandages. I'm exhausted and useless at the moment. It was a hell of a weekend. I hope yours was a blast, too!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Sea Kay-Yacking

This weekend is my friend's last in Saipan. We've been here for four weekends together and every Saturday that we've made plans to hike up to Forbidden Island, the Grotto, etc, it's rained. We're not afraid of melting, but of slipping off lava rock or coral in the jungle, which deters us from treading into the boonies. So, as expected we had arranged to have a friend with a large 4x4 truck to bring us out to Forbidden Island this morning and the instant he picked us up, it poured. He bailed out as our tour guide and took us to Wild Bills instead. After a few hours of bullshitting, the rain ended and Miss M and I decided to go kayaking to Managaha.

Kayaking to Managaha, a small island just off the coast of Saipan, has been on our To-Do List, so we were excited to check it out. We rented a sea kayak for two from the Hyatt ($35 for four hours) and headed out to the island. Having grown up on a lake, I've been kayaking for some time now. I thought this would be just like home, right? Get in, hold on tight with the right hand, let the oar slide through the left, 45 degree angle into the water and straight on til morning. Funny thing is, this was the ocean. Before we departed the vendor said, "Nice day to go to Managaha- calm water." Duly noted and appreciated. We slid into the water and with the heave-ho of a kindly fisherman, we were off. Me in the back, Miss M in the front and Managaha straight ahead.

I should have thought more about this adventure before we took off, if for nothing more than mental preparation, but I didn't. Yesterday afternoon, should have been my first warning. We went to Pau Pau beach for some snorkeling, and again, a water bug since a young age and never having a fear of water, I was surprisingly jolted by the turd-like sea cucumbers covering the ocean floor. I was assured at Pau Pau that I truly am a fresh-water kind of girl. The small threat of stepping on coral or animals, or being attacked by a shark was enough to keep my ass on shore for 20 minutes before venturing in; scoping out the action from above the water as friends happily snorkeled around and would surface routinely to point out the giant eel they just saw or the fish at their feet. Where I come from you can't see the shit swimming above or below you, and man and animal live happily oblivious to each other's existence, knowing that neither is a threat to the other. Here, not so much and damn sea cucumbers are nasty. Like I said, fresh water lady right here. Anyway, sea kayaking, was certainly a reassurance of this.

So, Managaha may be oh, I don't know 2 miles from Saipan? We were told to plan an hour of kayaking each way. We hopped right in, headed out, and having never ridden in a two man kayak, it took me a second to get the hang of it and another minute to hide-away the control freak in me, and follow Miss M, in the front. About halfway to Managaha speed boats started cruising by our little kayak and wrecking up large, rolling waves. At first, I thought, this would be a blast to go over in a jet ski! Then, our speed and direction were compromised by the large waves and my stomach began to slosh. Deuce can attest to the pathetic, inconsolable nature of a Nauseous Ans. It's not pretty and it's not fun to be with. It involves a lot of moaning and "Oh shit, I think I'm going to puke!"s. Poor Miss M. She's a trooper and she counseled my motion sick, useless ass to the island. I tried to help. I'd paddle, get ill, try to persevere and then just moan. With a lot of determination we crossed the waves kicked up by parasailing and diving boats and paddled as hard as we could against the rocky current. We hit shore on the eastern side of Managaha, and before Miss M could even touch the ocean floor she instructed me to just get the hell out of the boat. I didn't need to be told twice, and I plunged in, tore off my life vest and wet clothes and laid on the beach.

It wasn't even sunny out, folks. It was not the heat, I'm just a total pansy. Kayaking on a lake, is not like kayaking on the ocean. I get nauseous running on a treadmill for God's sake. I should have known. I recovered on the beach as Miss M circumnavigated the island in search for a snack shack. She returned shortly with a diet coke. Even at this point, I knew I owed her so much more than a coke. After a few minutes I felt fine, and we decided to move to the other side of the island, which was much calmer and swarming with at least 200 Korean tourists. Miss M took the kayak, and I walked.

Managaha is a small island with a bathroom, spray paint tattoo place, a gear rental booth and a snack shack. It's all about the water. The snorkeling in Pau Pau was NOTHING compared to Managaha. It was great. Beautiful, colorful fish swarming around you (sometimes a little too close) almost as if they were ready to be fed, which is probably the case since they encourage you to bring cooked rice with you to attract the fish. There's no need for bait; these fish were all about checking out the humans. It was a lot of fun, but a little freaky at first. By the end of the day we were swimming along with schools of fish.

By four, we had to head back and I thought we'd grab a snack before taking off, but I guess we missed the announcement that the shack was closing up for the night since all of the announcements were in Korean. So, low on food, tired from the sun and not too pumped to get back in to the kayak, I strapped on my life vest and pushed us off shore.

This time, I knew what was coming and I tried to think past the rocking waves knocking on the boat, and to focus on the horizon or the island, but it just didn't work. It was definitely a quicker trip heading back, and this time I sat up front, but it made no difference. Miss M was a freaking rock star, told me to stop paddling, she'd get us back, and to just relax. That's when it got real bad. So bad that I reverted back to soothing techniques that I did as a child when sick; squinting, tilting my head, rubbing my tongue on the top of my mouth (weird, I know, but it works); however, this is usually a bad sign with me. I knew I was going to puke. I announced this (probably several times) and Miss M pushed through, and talked to me about random things in an attempt to get my mind off the slapping of waves from all sides. Seeing that I was hopeless and basically dead weight in her boat, she offered to dump me at the nearest shore line and to come pick me up in the car. I couldn't even speak. I just nodded, focused ahead and tried to keep breakfast down.

We got to shore at American Memorial Park, which butts right up to the Hyatt beach, and I fell dramatically onto all fours, heaved, shook (literally, shaking) and tossed my cookies. Not once, not twice, but three times. There have been only a couple more times in my life when I have succumbed to a pathetic state of vomit and needed someone to just take care of my shit for me. This afternoon was one of those moments. As I huffed, and puffed and blew the chunks out, Miss M collected my water, towel and sandals, placed them neatly on the beach (up beach from my vomit and at least three feet away) and said she'd be back as soon as possible. As always, I felt 100% better after my upchucking antics and offered to walk along the beach as she paddled and to meet her at the Hyatt. It worked out beautifully, and I watched my dear friend paddle a two man boat the rest of the way, by herself. We met at the beach, the vendor met up with us, saw that I was walking and asked if I had swum in. Hell No, dude. I was just puking about 700 yards north and walked back here.

It was an embarrassing, beautiful and humbling day. I will not be repeating that trip by kayak, again with Deuce. Tomorrow, we head to Tinian. We're taking the boat (or as a friend kindly referred to it, the "vomit comet"- awesome!) over and a plane back. Miss M is also Doc M and she's hooked me up with some motion-sickness pills. Let's cross our fingers and hope we don't have a repeat performance tomorrow. I'll keep you posted, but for the time being, here's a one of my favorite pics from Saipan.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Saipan Eats

Thai House: $12 for an ok meal. The owner has two small dogs that are pretty cute, but are sometimes put on the bar top to be adored. A little too close to food and drink for me, but that's the public healther in me. Typical stuff here.

Bobby Cadillacs: Excellent pizza. Has ice cream, and a great deal; if you order 1 large pizza you can get a free medium sized pie with one topping. Even can take a rain check on your medium and come back another time to claim your pie!

Yellow Mango: next door to BC's. GREAT, fresh fruit smoothies and good ice cream. Mango Strawberry is awesome and they blend it well enough that you don't have ice chunks sitting on the bottom of your drink.

Expressions: Excellent cheese and chocolate options. The owner is wonderfully sweet.

Himawari: Best kept secret in Saipan. AWESOME sushi deals, and a bakery. In my heaven, this is one of the food court options.

Len: Great Japanese food. Cool atmosphere. Great rice balls and curry soup.

Big Dipper: Deluxe Sundae for $3.75: two scoops, one syrup and one topping, but comes with a cookie, cherry and whipped cream regardless. Rocky Road and Moose Tracks? Yes, please.

Wild Bills: Great pancakes.

The Veggie Vendor next to 99cent on Middle Road: the nicest people and great produce for dirt cheap! I don't care if my racist landlady says they poop on their produce. Cows? People? We eat meat so maybe it's a little grosser, but that's why you wash it. Haven't gotten sick yet. (knock on wood)

Sushi Land: Good deals on sushi that's not half bad itself.

Hyatt: Sticky bun sauce, meat and sushi!

Fiesta: Cheaper, fresh berries, plain veggies, and cream puffs!

Hamilton's: Sunday night trivia, Monday night $1 sliders, Tuesday night $1 tacos. What else could you ask for?

Saturday morning market: Great corn soup at one vendor. Could cut back on the corn starch a tad, but pretty tasty. Not so tasty? The banana bread with MSG. I prefer if it tasted like my mom's and had chocolate chunks, rather than taste like miso soup.

Thursday night street market: The dudes at the far end, away from Fiesta- awesome yakitori (spicy chicken on a stick is my favorite so far) and apigigi (?)- the cocount. I don't care if they serve "chikn with rices" or if they "take foodstamp," it's good shit. Kasava cake- pretty good; the "Chicken burger," was questionable.

Best deal in town: the CHC cafeteria. Free for me, but cheap as hell for everyone! Good adobo and fresh fruit, and the nicest staff ever!

Yet to try:
360 Restaurant, Palms brunch, Oleai, Coffee Care, and so many more options. People of Saipan, share your favorite places to get (preferably cheap) eats!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Reading through the boring first half is worth it

"Island time," is a phrase that was used often before I left for Saipan. Everyone told me, the punctual, scheduled and routine me, to prepare myself for "island time." No problem. So far, island time has meant long lunch hours, short work days, and weeks that fly by. The sun sets here around 7, which is almost 2 hours earlier than what I'm used to back home; and after work there are either a million things to do or nothing. Being here for only a few weeks gives me reason to try to fill every waking hour with some activity. Lately, I've had to institute my own island time, and selectively choose what my next adventure will be.

Last week was week two of my practicum, which by the way, is going great. I work with a great pediatrician who is funny as shit and has two little boys who run around naked, eat dessert with no hands and tickle your ankles under the brunch table. I've been productive, so hopefully, by the time Deuce gets here we'll have enough free time to tour Saipan together. Anyway, last week, I set the Hash with a friend from here. It was a blast! We cut through land (with permission) up on the north end of the island, between Banzai and Suicide cliffs. The trail continued up a trail that goes from the base of Suicide (the Last Command Post) straight up to the top of Suicide. It was awesome. We spent several hours cutting the trail, and I mostly followed behind Dan (or "Tonsil Tickler" in the Hash world) as he hacked away at jungle with a machete. By the time it was all said and done, we had a great Religion, at which I was named. One week an FNG the next a virgin hare, and now named. Not bad.

On Friday, a friend, who is also working at the CHC, and I went to one of the Pediatricians' home for some Thai food (made by her Thai maid) and a dip in the Anaks swimming pool under the stars. It was great. Good food, great people, and more connections here in Saipan.

Saturday was consumed by the hash; spreading flour on the trail, more machete-ing, dodging runners in order to keep my pants on, etc. But, on Sunday, we ventured to the Fiesta for brunch. The last two weeks we've gone to the Hyatt and spent $33 each on an all you can eat buffet that makes my insides tingle (and cramp with delicious gluttony). Fiesta was great, cheaper, and we went with other friends from the hospital. Our original plans were to go to Forbidden Island for a hike afterwards, but torrential down pours ushered us to the movies instead. Mama Mia! a total cornball, chick flick that is so bad it's great. For $5 I'll go watch anything, and I would say it was worth my five.

It's already the beginning of week three, and I just can't believe it. Deuce will be here in two weeks from today! I'm excited to introduce him to the many people I have met, and the crazy, wondrous place that is Saipan.

Last night, we went to Joeten in Susupe to check out the deals and the monstrosity of a store. It's right next to Athlete's Foot, which to me, just doesn't sound like the next place I want to buy a pair of socks or shoes; and it in fact engulfs the Athlete's Foot, as they are both owned by JoeTen. I have to say I was a bit disappointed, until I saw the souvenirs! OH the souvenirs! Now, picture the most tacky picture frames, key chains, post cards, and paper weights you can imagine, plus a bit of lewdness and hilariousness, and you get this:


Go ahead, get a closer look. What? Yes, that would be a sea turtle swimming into the crevice. Beautiful. I didn't buy one, but I may have to go back before I leave to pick up one for someone special. Maybe my grandma.

Week two involved lots of hiking in Marpi, late night runs on the beach, flour up to my elbows, and eating. Week three has begun with Ass Magnets and a Deluxe Moose Tracks Sundae for $3.75 at the Big Dipper. Saipan is only getting better!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Don't Hate the Playa, Hate the Game

Better get all my gaming in while Ans is away. Probably shouldn't have bought that PS3 last weekend:

Hit the link for a humorous follow up:

I Love The Way She Calls Me "Baby"

During the trip home to Boston from my parents house in Delaware, I continued my project to listen to all of the music in my iPod, alphabetically by title. I started in March. It is now August and I'm at the end of the W's (My daily commute is only 15minutes each way, but I've also done several multi-hour trips). Anyway, I heard "Way I Am" by Ingrid Michaelson (Warning: Clowns!) and I got a little teary-eyed.

I could pretend that I had something in my contact or I was really tired from the 8 hours of driving in congested traffic or still recovering from a sweet RockBand hangover, but the truth is Ans loves this song and it made me think of her. Then I imagined us dancing to it at our wedding and that made me even more happy.

Not long after that I heard "We're All in This Together" from High School Musical and then I imagined us dancing to this as well. Choreographed. and that made me wet myself with terror.