Marianas March Against Cancer 2015

Marianas March Against Cancer actually happened last month but I guess too many things have been going on for me to blog it — and as I was uploading pictures from my actual camera (Canon Powershot, rather than my iPhone) — I realized I had taken pictures with my camera that day and never shared them.

Marianas March Against Cancer is an annual fundraising event for the Commonwealth Cancer Association and has been wildly successful over the last few years. It is like ‘Relay for Life’ in the States where each team fundraises for this common cause and spends the night remembering and celebrating life and carrying a torch/baton around a track. Here, the event lasts ~12 hours from the night before until the dawn hours of the morning. I went two years ago and ended up staying the whole night — but this time I had work the next morning so stepped out early.

Again, the most traffic that I have ever seen in Saipan showed up at this event. (Okay, it’s possible I just don’t go to crazy well attended events normally since I’d prefer to sit at home on my porch!) But, always such an uplifting thing to see all these people coming out to an event like this. Knowing more about cancer, hearing about cancer, seeing survivors of cancer and current fighters of cancer is important. It’s important for those cancers that can be caught early so people know to get checked. It’s important for those cancers that can be prevented so people can know what they can do to lead healthier lifestyles. It’s especially important to know, see, fight with, and support those whose lives are on the line — to experience and be involved in the lives of people affected by cancer.

So, here goes.. My recap based on the random few snapshots I took.

This year I showed up just as it started. They kick it off with an acknowledgement of the survivors and fighters of cancer.

IMG_1271 IMG_1280You can see the makeshift track here on the field, already lined by some luminaries.

IMG_1265The survivors then took a lap around the track surrounded by a chorus of cheers. They got to walk with their families. One of my patients was able to come out and enjoy this event, which was such a blessing for me to see.

IMG_1283The sun was setting just as they rounded the bend… super pretty.

IMG_1272I spent the rest of the night mostly at this booth but there were plenty of booths around with various carnival games and snacks — all to raise more money for the event. Even when I left around 9:30 there were still people who were just showing up with their families and friends to join in the fun.

IMG_1286 IMG_1289By later in the evening, more luminaries were put out and the track was being well trodden with torch bearers for each team.

Glad I got to participate in part this year again. If you want more information about cancer, visit which is run by the American Cancer Society.

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A little photo dump


Post-typhoon run up to the top of Tapochau – very windy and noisy but otherwise not so bad. IMG_4685

The fog was moving super fast across the waving grass — clearly the picture doesn’t cut it.


Here’s a series of pictures I took of the sunset the other day. I soon as I saw these clouds when I got home from work, I knew we’d be in for a wonderful God-painting of the sky. IMG_4706 IMG_1311 IMG_1309

I mean, seriously… you can’t edit pictures to look like this… it’s like a Monet painting!IMG_1312IMG_4722

The sliver of moon I saw the other night. IMG_1295

A reprise shot of sunset from the day before the typhoon. IMG_4739

Flame trees in bloom — wish I could catch a better picture of it since they are really probably at the reddest it will be for the rest of the year. View from my new balcony.IMG_4727

Pictures from a run this morning at Suicide Cliff. IMG_4734

Two kingfisher birds on a branch spotted on a run. I really love the way these birds look in general so always have an eye out for kingfishers!


Not a bad place for a run, right?IMG_4725

More to come soon. Also — if you like reading blogs and .. If you’d like to read a bit about two friends’ experience in Nepal, please visit These are two friends from my college days (when I used to do Beer Bike at Will Rice with them!) who were traveling the world. Please check it out and support the recovery efforts there.

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Swimming at Pau Pau Beach

A week or so ago, I went for a swim at Pau Pau at the request of a friend who was leaving island. I knew it would be a fun swim and the sun was out so I prepped my iphone waterproof case.

Honestly, my review of the Watershot housing is that it is kind of inconvenient. The phone gets kind of heated up in the housing and since my iphone’s battery is already slightly worn down (there was a recall of my battery but since I’m nowhere near a United States Apple store, I wasn’t able to get it replaced) — AND — because you can only use it in the housing with the app, you have to turn the phone to airplane mode and keep it from locking the screen. This is a problem because I use an exchange server email (for my California school’s email account) and when you have that email address linked to your phone, it somehow disables the ability to never autolock your phone. So, everytime I want to use it I have to undownload that email address from my account and then reinstall it afterwards. Whew, so I rarely use it. I also had the little “you only have 20% battery left” sign show up mid-swim and I had to carefully open it up holding it above water and click that ‘acknowledge’ button away before being able to use it again.

But, perhaps these types of pictures redeem it.

So, here goes.. my pictures from a short swim out to a buoy and beyond towards the edge of the reef and back.

IMG_4556The beachfront.. not a soul in sight.

IMG_4561Testing out the housing before submerging it!

IMG_4571My friend’s dog joined us — surprisingly doggie paddle gets you pretty far (and sometimes faster than I could swim to keep up!)

IMG_4578Here we are out at the buoy (that kind of cross looking string with stuff growing on it on the right). One of the benefits of swimming most places here is that you can touch the ground wherever you are (if you are an adult).

IMG_4590Ooh! A blue starfish!

IMG_4592Our best attempt at a picture with the starfish without touching it — didn’t want to disturb it!

IMG_4583Here’s a view looking back from the buoy back at the shore. Next to Pau Pau beach is the former Palms hotel. It was purchased and reportedly is being restored and probably will be open for business soon. There are a ton of rooms so it will be good for the economy all these places on island to stay (there are times during the year.. i.e. the Saipan marathon.. when we don’t have enough housing for visitors!)

IMG_4616The waters were typical of Saipan that day, but I love how the phone in the housing was able to capture the shimmery clear waters. I can’t say the housing wasn’t worth it, that’s for sure!

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Typhoon Dolphin Follow-up

Thanks for sending out your thoughts to Saipan during the typhoon. It actually turned out more mild than Tropical Storm Bavi that happened earlier this year. It probably helped that everyone was prepared this time around. Besides some grumblings about getting gas (the gas stations were all closed once we hit condition of readiness 1 on Friday morning) and a Saturday full of chores cleaning up the yard, I don’t think there have been any major issues. There’s still going to be news filtering in from Rota (the southern most island in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands) about how they did but some preliminary pictures looked like downed power lines but no horrible reports.

The storm brought with it winds as well as bands of sideways rain that I could see from my porch — and there are still some remnants of that left, now more than 12 hours after the eye passed. The storm discussion started on Friday morning and by about noon, predictions were that the typhoon would pass between Rota and Tinian (Tinian is just about 5-10 miles south of Saipan). As the afternoon wore on, I constantly was expecting my power to flicker out as the winds picked up so I kept everything charged and the only things plugged in plugged in thru a surge protector. It is amazing how efficient a typhoon makes you. I made some food and promptly washed all my dishes afterwards because I have a fear of dirty dishes and no running water apparently (despite the fact that in any other scenario I hate doing dishes).

Every few hours, there was an update from the national weather service and at the last minute, the storm turned westward which made it turn to pass right over the northern part of Guam.

typhoon landfall national weather service trackingFrom what I’ve heard on the internet, there are many places in Guam without power but it sounds like they were able to weather the typhoon as well. Now, it’s clean up time everywhere. Hope this fluke in the weather is the worst of it and hope Dolphin slowly dissipates before it hits any other landfall.

So, thanks for the thoughts — I am also happy to report that there are still some mangoes attached to their trees which means the mango season may still have some life left here in Saipan.

(In other news, there are still some flame tree blooms.. not as many as in this picture from two days ago.. but there still did hang on too!)


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Typhoon Dolphin approaching

Just wanted to write a quick post about Typhoon Dolphin coming our way. This storm has been forecasted to come since last week but it moved slowly — which unfortunately means it took longer to get here but has picked up quite a bit of speed and force.

Here was sunset yesterday with some fast moving clouds but beautiful colors.

Because of its slow movement, there has been quite a fluctuation in its predictions of where it will cross the Marianas Islands chain. Unfortunately, it has been inching northwards. Here are prediction models from yesterday when it was supposed to hit Guam directly.

typhoon2 typhoon

Unfortunately, here is the latest this morning.

typhoon3It is tracking slightly north of prior predictions and heading right over Rota. The typhoon has been advanced to a category 1 warning so I’m hoping that people are spending today preparing their homes. There are definitely homes here that are constructed with cinder block walls and tin roofs with tenuous access to electricity and running water so likely the damage will take awhile to recover from and hopefully people living there will go to shelters. The schools and courts have already been closed.

Dolphin-WindytyYou can see the wind models from a few hours ago.. and can faintly make out the outline of the islands below the eye of the storm. Like I have said before, and many people have said, this is extraordinarily rare — first that there have been so many storms in the recent months (when most don’t appear until late summer/early fall) and it is extremely rare that they pass anywhere near our islands in any significant way that affects us. I guess the chances are low since the islands are so small and the eye of the storm is not so large.

As of now, here’s the view of the clouds outside.. am charging up my devices and ready to go to the hospital to help if needed. Will try to update soon but likely there will be power out by this afternoon. They sometimes prophylactically turn it off so there won’t be any power surges or blow outs so I expect that all will be a humid mess before the storm hits. I’m not scheduled to work today but will probably be out helping others get ready if possible.


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Save the Mango(e)s Part 2

I have oral allergy syndrome against mangoes (also known as mangos).. want to find out if you have it? See my description here.

Despite this bad sounding ‘syndrome’ that I have, I love mangoes. They are sweet, juicy and .. for me, mouth swelling-ly good.

I had mis-remembered mango season in Saipan and thought it lasted basically all year round — just kidding (that’s probably what I dreamed), I do remember it lasting all throughout traditional ‘spring’ (March – May) but it really is a 1-2 month period when it is most available. This usually coincides with the flame tress blooming. The mangoes have been available starting truly in full force about a week ago. Just now are there mangoes on squashed on the road, starting to ferment in the sun. Hence, time to start saving the mangoes. See part one of my campaign documented here.

This year, it seems I have to ramp up my efforts so I spent this morning doing just that. Why do I have to ramp up my efforts? It seems there is another big storm slowly making its way towards the Mariana Islands. (Again, how bad can my memory be? I don’t remember thinking about typhoons at all last time I was here!) Tropical Storm Dolphin is on its way.

typhoonI received a bag of mangoes from a friend’s family and have some that I had purchased earlier in the week. For now, there are mangoes everywhere — at every store there is a box with a paper sign. I think the going price is around $0.50 per pound if you are purchasing … although if you know someone with a mango tree on their property, they’ll probably pay you to pick them off the ground and take some home since they can start to sour if not dealt with soon after falling. (It’s Saipan’s kids’ version of raking the leaves, instead they have to pick up mangoes.. what a horrible life.. haha!)

Anyway, in light of the impending storm now that the mango season has just begun, there is a pervasive fear (okay, maybe not pervasive but all-encompassing in my mind) that there will be no more mangoes after the storm passes through. Just like the trees during the last typhoon got stripped of some of the early flame tree blooms and delayed flame tree seasons, this tropical storm/typhoon force winds (by the time it gets near us by predictions it will be typhoon force) will likely knock all the baby mango fruits off the trees before they have a chance to grow up. As a pediatrician, I think all babies should have a chance to grow up nice and strong .. including mango fruit!

I decided to cut up and freeze this little stash of mangoes I have to ‘preserve them’ likely for use in an amazing smoothie some time later (or for me to eat in a frenzy if the generator at my new apartment doesn’t work and we are without power for long stretches – fortunately though my new apartment does have the added benefit of a reliable generator so it should be fine even if we lose power).

IMG_4631Here I am mid-process. These mangoes are very easy to peel. I don’t know if this is the ‘right way’ to cut mangoes but I cut off the two fleshy sides around the middle white seed, leaving that center with the seed left.

IMG_4632The two sides can easily be carved out of the skin — literally I just take my finger and stick it under the meat and slide the meat out of the skin. I then take the center portion and peel off the peel and core it like a pineapple or corn on the cob to get a few pieces of flesh.

I ended up with five little ziplock bags of perfect mango meat which promptly went into the freezer. Here is part of the aftermath.

IMG_4634Suffice it to say, my mouth was a little bit tingly after this (someone had to get the last little bits off the cores!).

Hopefully this typhoon changes course and no one is seriously affected by it, including the mangoes.

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Flame Trees in Saipan

It is flame tree season in Saipan. I feel like it’s a bit later this year since the Flame Tree Festival already happened but this week has been aflame literally.

Something about trees abloom makes you think about spring, although I guess technically the weather is pretty much the same as usual. There are more flowering plants out there lately.

Honestly, I’ll let the pictures do the talking. I’ll have to go down towards the airport sometime soon because the road to the airport is lined with flame trees, right by the football field.

The flame trees are super captivating and their vivid red against the blue sky dotted with clouds make for irresistible pictures. Here are pictures I took from my car, one at a stop light in front of World Resort and the other from the parking lot at the hospital.


IMG_4550Clearly my photos don’t do it justice. Here are two from a friend, pc: Jan Vallarta.

jan flame tree jan flame tree2The red blooms on the tree are actually clusters of red flowers — unlike red leaves for example in fall foliage.

Pc: Jill Derickson

Pc: Jill Derickson

One of my favorite things that is not well captured on film is looking out into the green forest and seeing pops of red. Here’s my attempt of a picture of this from my new places’ balcony.

IMG_4552In various places on the road in Saipan, you can look up at the expanse of green on the hills and can see the red blooms scattered throughout.

The flametree festival was two weeks ago and kind of snuck up on me – probably because at that time the flametrees weren’t exactly blooming yet. You can see some information about the festival here.

Here are a few shots from the festival. I went to watch a ukulele group perform, taught by my ukulele teacher.

The line of booths. I was there right around mid-day heat so there weren't many people.

The line of booths. I was there right around mid-day heat so there weren’t many people.

One of the booths -- they invite local artists and producers. This booth was for noni inspired products

One of the booths — they invite local artists and producers. This booth was for noni inspired products

Stage at Flame Tree Arts Festival

Stage at Flame Tree Arts Festival

Flametree season marks beautiful trees lining Beach Road and certainly is a site to see — definitely makes for some great pictures. It also marks the time around when mangoes and avocados should start coming so I’m definitely looking forward to that. They are definitely starting to pop up!

Here are some extra pictures from recently that I wanted to share.


Not my picture.. nor was I there. but a picture from some friends up at the Tapochau, the highest point on the island. Check out that view!

Not my picture.. nor was I there. but a picture from some friends up at the Tapochau, the highest point on the island. Check out that view! (And mini-rainbow!)

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