Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Catching Up is Hard To Do

Well, I didn't win NaNoWriMo this year---I had high hopes but... I know exactly what I have to do in the coming year to make it possible. So, it wasn't a complete waste of time.

This past weekend was so full, on Monday I couldn't remember what I had done at work the previous Friday. We got up and ran a 5K for the USO where Drew was featured in the PDN photo gallery. I managed to snag a PR--25:53 (I just wish I had pushed a few seconds harder). A woman named Erika beat me for third place in the women's Master division. My New Year's resolution was to run a sub-24:00 5K. I didn't make it but I came close. There aren't any more 5Ks for the rest of the year, so I'll have to start over in January.

After the run, we had tennis and judo. We couldn't wait any longer so we saw "Quantum of Solace" at the local theatre. Just our luck---it's showing on base this coming Saturday for free. We ate at our favorite Japanese restaurant, Tairyo Sushi, then came home and finished watching "Amadeus."

On Sunday, we had church and I totally blanked that we were doing Children's Sermon. Gregg presented a great talk on being seeds that grow into trees from the Old Testament reading (Isaiah). After church, we came home and pulled out the decorations for the Christmas tree. It was a heated discussion on whether we should post the tree in the living room or on our newly-enclosed patio. The living room won out---for now.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Drew and I celebrated Thanksgiving by running the 37th Annual Turkey Trot 3.5 Mile Run with the Guam Running Club. Drew came in 12th; I came in 64th. We had a brief torrential downpour prior to the start of the race that left me with squishing shoes and soaked socks and part of the race was cross-country. However, I did win a beach chair and Drew won two coffee mugs and a $20 gift certificate to National Office Supply in the post-race raffle so we did very well.

By the time Drew and I returned home, it was time to start the potatoes for the Orphans' Thanksgiving Potluck at Calvo Beach. This year, Panini went with us. Panini is a full-blooded Chamorro Sport Hound. Previously, this breed was classified as "boonie dog."

We had a great time sharing food and stories while enjoying the beach and the warm weather. The picture features Drew playing checkers against Sarah with bottle caps and baby coconuts. King me, baby!

NaNoWriMo - Losing Very Quickly...

Well, less than four days separates the winners from the losers, the wheat from the chaff, the women from the girls...

Here's my sorry word count:

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Seabee 5K and Diabetes 5K

Well, this is the last time I anticipate the family running all week-end with me.... 

There were two races scheduled. Gregg played golf on Saturday, so the rest of us ran the flat course at Chamorro Village. Coming off my most-excellent time last week, I was certain I could trim half a minute off. I was wrong and turned in a disappointing 27 minutes 55 seconds. Another runner told me this course was actually 3.12 miles and the race last week was short. 

On Sunday, I had four numbers but I was the only runner because everyone else wanted to sleep in. The race grand prize was two round-trip tickets to Cairns. Unfortunately, my luck was so bad, I couldn't even win a 12-pack of diet Pepsi. Oh well. I ratcheted my race times back because of Saturday's performance and the fact that this was a hilly course, ending with an uphill sprint to the finish. Lo! and behold! I turned in a reasonable 27 minutes 33 seconds and I asked the runner next to me if he thought the course was short. He thought it was just right, having run the PIC 5K a few weeks earlier. I overheard the the runner to my left tell someone else she was convinced the course was long because she and her son turned in a 34 minute run time when they expected 31 minutes. I guess it all evens out.

Friday, November 14, 2008

I Got My Purple Belt!

This is what I've been practicing toward since starting class. It has always amazed me that I can throw people heavier than me with no effort. Of course, they need to be moving so I can use their momentum. But, I am thrilled and hope to continue my studies when I leave Guam. 

Sensei notified the base newspaper and they sent a reporter to interview me.

Judo lessons teach skills for the mat and for life

Thursday, November 13, 2008

NaNoWriMo Update

Well, the news is not pretty. It is nearly half over and I have a whopping 10,988 words in my account. That's only 20% of the way. I will be honest. I have not devoted myself fully to this task. Now, I could complain that the family and the dog have really taken a toll on my discretionary time (and while that would be true), the sad fact is, I have not pencilled this in as a priority in my life.

I've been using John Truby's book, Anatomy of Story, to help me understand where I want to go and why my characters want to do what they do. I think I've managed to come up with some compelling situations and characters. Now I just have to keep my butt in the chair.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Outstanding Performance at the Armed Forces Committee Inaugural 5K!

I hadn't planned on running the 5K today since we are also scheduled for the PIC 5K tomorrow. When I found out there was a unit competition and Naval Hospital was encouraged to participate, I asked Drew if he wanted to run on Saturday AND Sunday. "Sure, Mom," he said. "We can run both days and I can rest on Monday." They don't have school on Monday.

It was my best time so far. I turned in 26:42 which means I was running 8:36 splits. I am SO thrilled. I hadn't even been running except for around a few blocks in the morning with our new dog (well, she's new to us, not so new to the world). What made the difference is my diet. I must have been hovering around low normal for a while then plummeted to real anemia (H&H: 10 & 32) for the past few months. I started taking iron and also supplemented my diet with a protein powder. I truly believe that has made all the difference. If I actually get out and train, I might even meet my goals for a sub-24:00 5K by the end of the year (I was thinking I was going to have to settle for consolation prize for my New Year's resolution). Now I have hope.

Drew was just a little in front of me this time. His time today was 26:12, not good enough to compete with the 13 year-old cross country boys from GW. Anna turned in a respectable 39-minute 5K---she is not a runner and despite my cautions, she wore denim shorts. Now she knows why I advise the knit shorts---chafing.

I am woefully behind on my NaNoWriMo project---but I have the rest of today to scribble several thousand words and get caught up. Remember---NO EDITING! That comes in December.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

National Novel Writing Month Just Days Away!

Well, I've committed to joining the NaNoWriMo contest once again. The last time I entered was 2003 and I didn't come close to achieving 50,000 words---I accumulated only a meager 7238 words. I consoled myself that I was doing the single parenting thing (Gregg was TAD for the entire month), I had two small children under the age of 5, and I was working full-time. But. Those are just excuses.

If you're seriously considering the NaNoWriMo, read How Not To Write's post on NaNoWriMo. He gives very good advice and, as a nurse, I must endorse his use of the 12-step plan.

Now all I have to do is find some good Chamorro buddies to keep me honest! Oh, if you can't write or can't commit, consider donating. Literacy is so important---for your health, for your career, for your spirit. Now, go get your word on!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Crackberry on Guam!

I am now more technologically advanced than Gregg!

My Motorola cell phone died. I could receive calls and listeners could hear me, but I couldn't hear them. I guess the amplifier must have just given up the ghost. What to do, what to do...On the advice of one of my corpsmen, I searched Ebay and my phone was so old, I couldn't even find a phone that looked like it.

My Blackberry 7290 arrived in the mail today (yay!). I took the HafaTel sim card from the Motorola, inserted into the Blackberry and voila! the friendly woman's voice came on, saying, "You have no minutes left" because my pre-paid phone card expired back on the 9th.

Mission for tomorrow: Buy a new pre-paid card from Guam Cell (which took over HafaTel). I buy $10 cards which expire 30 days from activation. The cell company makes money off me because I never use up the time and they just pocket the difference. My phone is used strictly for 2-3 minute conversations. The benefit is I probably won't get brain cancer.

For those transferring to Guam, this is one way to use a cell phone you're bringing from the mainland. Typically, a sim card package costs $39.95 and includes the sim card and $20 in pre-paid calls.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Operation Christmas Drop Needs Your Help

I feel badly that we did not get up and run the Christmas Drop 5K at Piti this morning. I don't like registering for a race on the day of the race because it means it costs more and because I have to leave the house earlier because of the time it takes to register at the race site. The other reason we didn't run is because I've had a non-stop headache and anemia (which makes me feel better that I actually have a reason for feeling tired and draggy over the past few weeks).

The Christmas Drop 5K was done to raise funds for Operation Christmas Drop, the longest running humanitarian aid effort in the Marianas. Most of the supplies are obtained from military members and Guam residents and businesses

Donation boxes can be found at the following locations:
Ace Hardware 653-2237 Yigo/Dededo
Andersen Middle School 366-3880 Andersen AFB
Andersen Commissary 366-2425 Andersen AFB
New BX/Four Seasons 366-6136 Andersen AFB
Cost-U-Less 632-2533 Harmon Loop
First Bank of Hawaii 475-7884 Route 8 Branch
Guam Premier Outlets GPO) 647-4032 Tamuning
Guam Tropical Dive Station 477-2774 366-6975 Marine Dr.
Micronesia Dive Association 472-6324 Marine Dr.
Navy Commissary 339-5173 339-5177 COMNAVMAR
Navy Exchange 339-6594 COMNAVMAR
Micronesia Mall 635-1103 Dededo
USO/Royal Orchid 649-2000 Tumon
DHL 646-1765 Tamuning

If you want to get in on this year's airdrop, don't feel like you have donate money or supplies to be valuable. Operation Christmas Drop is always looking for help with inventory, sorting, packing and getting the word out to business and community leaders not only on Guam, but the rest of the world as well! Send them an email or give them a call and they'll be more than happy to put you in touch with one of their project-leaders!

The most crucial items needed are
  • parachutes,
  • first-aid kits,
  • garden tools,
  • school supplies,
  • toys,
  • fishing gear,
  • snorkeling equipment,
  • hygiene products,
  • canned and non-perishable foods and
  • used clothing.

There is a critical need for handsaws, tools, machetes and cooking utensils.

Take a look at the photo gallery. We are most blessed to have what we have.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Another Weekend Races Past...

Drew turned in an acceptable time for the Freedom 5K at Hagatna on Saturday---he came in third place in the male youth division. He didn't run a PR, and most of the fast runners in the youth division were at the other race sponsored by St. John's in Tumon. He also won a raffle prize to Jamaican Grill so he was thrilled.

I also signed us to run the 5K sponsored by SDA on Sunday morning, but Drew bailed, Anna and Gregg declined, and I lost track of time trying to get my iPod shuffle to work. I am finding it harder and harder to run while keeping my mind occupied---and I'm not happy having nothing rattling around in it. The shuffle is perfect because I download the free audio podcasts from NPR and become engrossed in the dialogue. Running to music has never satisfied me and running to cadences is even worse, but at least there are usually a lot of other annoyed people running with me in formation.

I found these 20 commandments for runners:

1. Don't be a whiner. Nobody likes a whiner, not even other whiners.
2. Don't make running your life, make it part of your life.
3. When doing group runs, start on time no matter who is missing.
4. Don't compare yourself to other runners.
5. When standing in starting lines, remind yourself how fortunate you are to be there.
6. The faster you are the less you should talk about your times.
7. Don't always run alone.
8. Don't always run with people.
9. The best runs sometimes come on the days you didn't feel like running.
10. Be modest after a race, especially if you have reason to brag.
11. All runners are equal; some are just faster than others.
12. There are no short cuts to run excellence.
13. There is nothing boring about running, there are, however, boring people who run.
14. Look at hills as opportunities to pass people.
15. Don't try to out run dogs.
16. With out goals, training has no purpose.
17. Go for broke, but prepare to be broken.
18. Unless you make your living as a runner, don't take running too seriously.
19. Runners who never fail are runners who never tried anything great.
20. Running is simple. Don't make it complicated.

Drew said this was a wonderful weekend---he and Anna celebrated a classmate's 8th birthday at Tarza. Tarza is Drew's favorite water park. He adores the Lazy River.

I've fallen in love with NPR's Song of the Day and have been introduced to an eclectic mix of writers and songs. Check out this song by Adele from her album, "19" called "Make You Feel My Love." While I like this arrangement, I prefer the version she sings here: NPR Fast forward to 14:00 to start this song.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Life Has Been Very Full Lately...

The past two weekends we have really managed to cram a lot of living into the space of a few hours.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Accepting Where You Are

Going through my email recently, I encountered two separate messages on the same theme. One was from A Purpose Driven Life:

Have you ever been somewhere you didn’t want to be? Maybe it was a job, a town, or a marriage. Maybe it was a stage in life, like singlehood, or a state in life, like a disability. It’s very possible that as you read this, you’re wishing you were somewhere else – anywhere else – living a different life, but you know it’s not likely that anything is going to change any time soon.

The second email linked to PS Pirro's blog, Crooked Mile:

Loving where you are means relinquishing all those comforting contingency plans that spare you the work of local affection – those plans that allow you to leave half your life packed in boxes in the garage or the attic, half your heart tucked away, and half your imagination wandering the map in search of a better place. Loving where you are means calling your imagination home and putting it to work right where you are: learning the names of the people and trees and plants and birds and creeks and flowers, and letting them speak to your heart – your whole heart -- and show you what needs to be done, right here, right now.

People usually end up on this blog after searching "living in Guam." Maybe the detailer offered you Guam and you were excited; maybe you didn't know what to think because you didn't know where Guam was. Maybe Guam is the last place on earth you'd rather be. Maybe it's all true. Maybe it's not.

In any case, I hope the messages I received today give someone comfort somewhere that this is where they are meant to be.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Yokosuka Article 32

Traveled to Yokosuka this week for an Article 32 hearing. An Article 32 hearing is analogous to a grand jury proceeding in civilian criminal law. An Art 32 officer, typically called the Investigating Officer, or IO, is appointed to conduct the hearing. The hearing is then scheduled for a specific date when the prosecution will present their evidence and the defense will have an opportunity to rebut the evidence and present their own evidence.

The purpose of the hearing is to give the IO the opportunity to examine all the relevant evidence and determine whether the prosecution has adequate evidence for trial. The burden the prosecution has to meet is “preponderance of the evidence,” sometimes described as 51%, or “more likely than not.” The prosecution does not have to meet the “reasonable doubt” burden at the Article 32, but will have to at the actual trial, if the case goes to trial.

After reviewing the evidence, the IO produces a report for the Command that convened the Article 32. The report provides the Commanding Officer with a comprehensive review of the case, including background data, the charges, the evidence, the witnesses, etc. The report also provides a recommendation to the Commanding Officer on how the case should be adjudicated.

I really like doing these Article 32’s. They give me a chance to keep my litigation skills honed, and also give me a chance to work with the other attorneys in the area. Plus, I have the opportunity to travel to Japan, one of my favorite places to visit.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Tokyo - Days 4 and 5

We did it. We climbed Mt. Fuji. Wow, what an incredible experience! If you ever have the opportunity to do this, you must. Words simply cannot do justice to the majesty and beauty of Fuji.

Our adventure began at 6:30am on Tuesday, July 22nd. We woke, showered and had another great breakfast at the New Sanno Hotel before beginning our trek to the 5th Station of Mt. Fuji. We would have to take two trains and a bus to get there. We left the New Sanno at 7:45am and arrived at the 5th Station at 11:10am.

The 5th Station is the traditional place for Mt. Fuji climbers to begin. It is located at 2300 meters (7500 feet), so climbers are already well up the mountain before they begin their ascent. There are several stores and restaurants at the 5th Station to help climbers prepare for their hike.

One must-have is a climbing stick, which is made of wood and is about 4 feet long. The sticks come with a flag and bells, but most people remove these to keep from becoming annoyed by the constant ringing and flapping.

As climbers ascend the mountain, they purchase stamps for their climbing sticks at 200 yen each (2 dollars) at each mountain hut they pass. The stamps are actually brands burned into the wood with hot irons that serve as a way of memorializing the climb. The goal, of course, it to collect all of the stamps by reaching the summit. Each stamp has a unique design, but most include the name and altitude of the hut.

Another good-to-have item is a can of oxygen. At high altitudes, where the air becomes thin, some people can experience altitude sickness. A quick snort of oxygen can help relieve the symptoms.

So, with climbing sticks in hand and bottles of oxygen stuffed in our back packs, we began our climb at about 12:35pm. The first part of the climb is relatively flat, leading clockwise around the mountain to the ascending trail on the far side. In a way, it lures you into a false sense of optimism. You begin to believe that this is going to be easier than you thought. Then you the reach the 6th station where the ascent begins, and reality sets in.

The second part of the climb is a series of zig zags, or switch-backs, that wind their way up the mountain. The path ascends at a steep angle for 100 yards or so, then turns 180 degrees and ascends again. At first we could knock out three or four of these legs before resting, but as we climbed higher in altitude and became more tired, we slowed to only two, or even one, before stopping.

Then it became harder.

The legs turned to rock climbing, making the ascent far more difficult and much slower. Still, we kept making forward progress and were in good spirits. I have to say I have never been prouder of both my children. They were real troopers and didn't complain about anything. In fact, I had a hard time keeping Drew from leaving us all behind and practically racing up the hill.

We reached the 7th Station (around 2700 meters, or 8900 feet) around 3:30pm or so and stopped for a rest at one of the mountain huts. We bought our first stamp and then had some water and hot chocolate. We also talked briefly with a high school student who was working in the hut as a summer job. Very nice young man who spoke excellent english. After a 30 minute rest, we once again began to ascend.

The rock climbing became more difficult, further slowing our climb. We passed several huts on the ascent, purchasing stamps at each one. We didn't reach the 8th Station (3100 meters, or 10,170 feet) until 5:30pm. Five hours of constant climbing had taken their toll, so we decided to stop for the night and sleep in one of the mountain huts there. We had hoped to get farther on the first day because we would have less to climb to the summit on the second day, but the sun was setting and we didn't want to get caught on the side of the mountain in the dark.

The hut was much like a youth hostel, with open-bay sleeping quarters and communal dining. For dinner, we had a traditional Japenese dinner, complete with obscure vegetables and and an odd-smelling, oily type of fish. The sleeping area was a room with wall-to-wall futons and sleeping bags with buckwheat pillows (read uncomfortable rockiness) side-by-side. Our four were against the far wall. At around 8:30pm we turned in for the night. Unfortunately, Anna, Mary and I didn't get much sleep. Other climbers were continuously entering or leaving the room, and some of those sleeping were snoring. Then there was the unfortunate young child, about Drew's age, who developed some sort of respiratory problem and was wheezing practically all night. But then there was Drew. He went to sleep immediately at 8:30pm and didn't wake up until 5:00am the next morning.

So, it was around 5:00am when we all got up and prepared to resume the climb. But first, we gathered with the rest of the inn guests (about 50 or so) out front for sunrise. This was the moment we had been waiting for, one of the most beautiful sights we may ever see. Sunrise on Mt. Fuji, above the clouds, at 10,000 feet. Before the moment the sun began to rise above the clouds, there was much excitement among all the guests. All were sharing their climbing stories and excitedly pacing about. Then the sun peaked over the distant horizon and everyone became silent. No one wanted to disturb the incredible experience we were all sharing. After a few moments, cameras began to click as each guest sought to record the sunrise, as if anyone would ever need to a picture to remember that awe-inspiring sight. The crowd remained hushed until the sun cleared the horizon. Then a Japanese tour guide stepped out in front of the guests, said a few words, and everyone began to cheer. We had witnessed sunrise on the side of Mt. Fuji. That moment, that exhileration, that once-in-a-lifetime experience was worth all the hard work it took us to get there. We will never forget it.

We began our next leg with the other inn residents, but didn't get far before Anna began to get sick. Drew had earlier experienced some nausea as well. It appeared they may have been suffering from altitude sickness, so we decided to begin our descent instead of trying for the summit.

The trail down was nearly as difficult as the climb up, but in a different way. The slope was significant enough that we had to be careful not to slip and fall as we practically slid down the mountain. We were on our heels for most of the way down, holding hands to help each other balance. After about and hour or so, the trail leveled off and circled back counter-clockwise around the mountain to the 5th Station. We finally arrived at there around 7:30am.

Unfortunately, the first bus didn't leave for the train station until 8:30am, so we had to wait. We were not alone, though, as many others were finishing their adventure as well. When we finally started to enter the bus, the driver began to speak in Japanese and was saying something I couldn't understand. I was afraid were not going to be able to board. Then, from behind me, the young Japanese man we had met earlier at the mountain hut stepped forward and began to translate for us. What luck! Turns out the driver was saying he could not accept large bills, so all I had to do was get some smaller ones. We boarded the bus and settled in for the 50 minute ride down the mountain to the Kawaguchiko train station. From there, it was another two hours or so by train and taxi to our hotel.

At last, around 12:30pm, we stumbled into our hotel and collapsed in our room. One by one we showered to clean the lava dust off, then took a deep breath and congratulated ourselves on our accomplishment.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Tokyo - Day 3

We all woke up early after going to bed at 9:00pm last night. Had an excellent breakfast in the New Sanno cafe, then took off for the Meiji Shrine, built to honor the beloved Japenese Emperor who died in 1912 after ruling for 45 years.

While at the shrine, we stumbled upon a traditional Shinto wedding ceremony procession. Very formal and very beautiful. Anna and Drew loved it.

Next we went to Harajuku, a fashion district that showcases the unique and eclectic style of Japanese young people. Very cool.

After Harajuku, we were back on the train again, traveling back to Electic Town that we visiting on Sunday. We needed some accessories for my camera and Mary's PDA. Found what I needed, but unfortunately were unable to find anything for Mary. Her PDA is Hewlett Packard, and American company, so they don't have much for it over here.

Finally got back to the hotel in time for dinner. After dinner, we packed our hiking equipment, went for a quick dip in the pool and hot tub, then settled in for the night.

Tokyo - Day 2

Lots of traveling by train today. First, went Yokosuka Naval Base to pick up our climbing gear for Mt. Fuji. We stopped in at my favorite rotary sushi just outside the back gate of the Naval Base so I could finally show the kids what I'm always talking about.

While there, we visited with friends from Guam who recently transferred to Yoko. Had lunch with them at the onbase Chili's. We all love Japanese food, but it's always good to have some familiar comfort food when in a strange land.

We didn't get back from Yoko until late, so we called it a day and went to be early. Have to save our energy for Fuji!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Tokyo - Day 1

The day started early, around 4:00am, so that we could make our 6:35am flight. After a four-hour flight, we had another hour layover, waiting for the bus to our hotel. The bus ride was another two hours or so. We finally made it to the hotel in Tokyo around 1:00pm. We are staying in the Sheraton Miyako Hotel. Very nice, but very expensive. Of course, most things here are expensive.

After checking in and dropping our bags in the room, we caught a shuttle to the Meduro train station. Lots to see and do here, including a rotary sushi where we had a mid-day lunch. Found a 7-11 store, or 7 & Holdings as they are known in Japan, and Mary was able to get some yen out of an ATM. My card was not accepted anywhere here. Lesson learned - A Visa debit card is accepted at more places than a Master Card debit card.

We went back to the hotel to relax a bit, then went out again to Akihabara, otherwise known as Electric Town. 50 square blocks of electronic gadgets and games. While we were riding on the train to Akihabara, a friend of mine, Mike Torrisi, from Yokosuka got on the same train and started to sit down right across from us. What an incredible coincidence! I had just worked a case with him in Sasebo, Japan, the previous week. He was in Tokyo for a Star Wars convention and decided to go to Akihabara too. What are the odds that he would be in the same city, get on the same train, in the same car, and sit right across from us?! Pretty cool. Mike walked around with us for awhile before we parted ways for dinner. Oddly enough, we ran into him again on our way home.

We jumped on the train and returned to Meguro Station, where we ate at a traditional Japanese restaurant known as Wendy's. We were hungry and tired and just looking for comfort food. After dinner, we returned to the room for the night.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Memorial Day 2007

Beyond just "rainy season," the weather is drizzly, overcast, and windy. A tropical storm about 300 miles southeast of Guam is setting the mood today. And it's probably appropriate for a day that, for many, brings memories and tears.

Check out this web site for a tribute to our fallen comrades:

Monday, May 19, 2008

A Quiet Stay-At-Home Evening

This weekend was another fun-packed weekend in Guam. Gregg left in the wee hours of Sunday morning to catch a plane to Vietnam with a friend because I couldn't get time off from work due to staffing issues. We woke up just a few hours later to run the Guam Adventist Academy's 5K where Drew took first place in the 6-8 year old male category. If you look at the opening photo, Drew and I are about 5 people behind the kid in the light green shirt and blue shorts. But you can't see us because we're short.

I got a call from Dr B last night to go in on a SANE case, but it was nearly 9 o'clock at night. I had to decline the offer because all my babysitters are around 14 years of age and it was a Sunday night. The two neighbors I thought I could request a huge favor from are currently off-island and I'm not friendly enough with my other neighbors to ask this big a favor (not unless it was a mass casualty event, in which case most anybody on the street would be willing to help out). So, maybe next time.

Then, this evening I was supposed to meet at the Mermaid Tavern with all the other Nurse Corps officers to break bread with Admiral Bruzek-Kohler, but I forgot I needed a babysitter. Try calling around at 5:00 on a Monday evening. No one is home. So, I missed out on this face-time opportunity.

On a plus, my article celebrating the 100th birthday of the Navy Nurse Corps was published in the Pacific Navigator!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The 108th Sub Ball in Guam

The 108th Submarine Ball was a blast as always as everyone got dressed up in their party clothes and remembered those who went before. They remember all 52 submarines and it is very poignant to remember those who never came home. When I played the organ for the Pearl Harbor Submarine Chapel, we paid tribute each Sunday to those who were "still on patrol." We would sing the first verse of the Navy Hymn and then sing the verse unique to submariners:

Bless those who serve beneath the deep,
Through lonely hours their vigil keep.
May peace their mission ever be,
Protect each one we ask of thee.
Bless those at home who wait and pray,
For their return by night or day.

Lieutenant Alayna Schwartz was able to get away from the Mother-Baby Unit long enough to sing the National Anthem which just gave everyone goose pimples, she was that good. Of course, what would you expect from someone who gets a perfect score on Karaoke Revolution?

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Drew Betters his Time in the Run for the Son 5K

Drew bettered his time in the Run for the Son 5K sponsored by the Archdiocese of Agana on Saturday, 5 April 2008, completing it in a blistering 25:09. I lagged a few minutes behind, coming in at 28:16---not bad, considering I only ran on Monday morning because I caught strep and spent the rest of the week feeling very tired. Drew made the PDN again, this time with a black-and-white photo accompanying the runner places.

It was a week characterized by priorities for me. I wanted to present a revamped Powerpoint for the Diabetes Self-Management Education class I facilitate and that needed to be ready for Tuesday's 0900 class. I then had two presentations on Thursday for the University of Guam's senior nursing leadership class: "Motivating and Developing Staff" and "Evaluating Staff Performance."

Friday was the new session for judo and I wanted to donate some hours to G.A.I.N.'s annual spay and neuter efforts on Saturday, especially since I had gotten approval to do a story from the editor of the Guam Pacific Stars and Stripes newspaper.

I'm also spending this next week TAD in a course titled, "Clinic Management." I have homework due for that as well and I'll work on it tomorrow after we're done scoping. When I made my return flight, I went ahead and decided I would run for the airport: the class ends at 1130 and my flight leaves at 1400. Fortunately, the airport is practically down the street from the class site, and I'm hoping that the instructor says they've had positive experiences with other students in this situation. In any case, Gregg was aghast that I would schedule things so tightly. I told him I don't get back until Saturday evening and if I waited until Saturday to fly, I wouldn't get home until Sunday. I go to work on Monday and I just didn't want to have my whole weekend blown. As it is, I miss out on a 5K, two judo classes, and a mentoring session with my senior nursing student from UOG.

Anna has spent the weekend putting aloe lotion on her back and ibuprofen in her mouth because of a major sunburn she got while snorkeling at Polaris Point. "I've learned my lesson," she declared. "No more spray-on SPF!" She got up with us on Saturday because she couldn't sleep, but I couldn't persuade her to run.

Drew had Jack and Ben stay over last night and all of them reported they were awake until after 2 in the morning. However, Gregg disputed this, saying they were all asleep before midnight.

Pastor Fred suggested we prayerfully consider using our free round-trip tickets to Manila to assist with the Volunteers in Mission project to build a church near Manila in late July-early August. Gregg and I will have to talk about this more in-depth; it would be a wonderful opportunity and it also falls at the worst time of the year (and in a place normally off-limits to military personnel without connections to the Philippines). We'll keep you posted on what we finally decide.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

My Review of adidas Supernova Run Skort Womens

Originally submitted at Dick's Sporting Goods

The adidas® Supernova® women's run skort is a comfortable and versatile option for all your morning runs. It's crafted using the moisture-wicking ClimaCool® performance fabric that draws sweat away from your skin for quick and easy ventilation to keep you cool and dry. The flatlock seam...

Fabulous Running Skort!

By EmKay from Santa Rita, Guam on 3/25/2008


4out of 5

Fit: Feels true to size

Pros: Breathable, Lightweight, Stylish, Allows Free Movement, Comfortable

Cons: Waist not adjustable

Best Uses: Warm Weather, Casual Wear, Running, Competition

Describe Yourself: Competitive Athlete

I plan on wearing this to make me look as good as I feel during my morning runs and to out-psyche the competition on those weekly 5K races here in Guam! The skirt sits a little lower on my waist than I am used to; I wish it fit a little snugger. The skort is much shorter than other running skorts I have tried on; however, it appears that it is just as flattering, if not more so, than my current running skort wardrobe. If the feel of a hem against your thighs while running might distract you, consider this skirt for its shorter length.


My Review of Marika Adrenaline Pleated Mod Mini Womens

Originally submitted at Dick's Sporting Goods

The Marika® Adrenaline Pleated Mod women's mini skirt is a cute option for your next tennis match or workout. It's crafted using a built-in short with a moisture-wicking fabrication that draws sweat away from your body to help keep you cool and dry. The pleated design creates some added flair, ...

Pleated Mod Mini Too Cute to Run in

By EmKay from Santa Rita, Guam on 3/25/2008


4out of 5

Fit: Feels too big

Waist: Feels too big

Length: Feels too long

Pros: Attractive Design, Comfortable, Versatile, Flattering

Cons: Too big

Best Uses: To School, On a Date

Describe Yourself: Bargain Shopper, Classic, Career, Eclectic

I am 5 ft tall and weigh 95 lbs. I like to run. I thought this skirt would make me look good while I run (or to wear to work before I change into scrubs). Unfortunately, the skirt would need someone about 4-6 inches taller and 10-15 lbs heavier to look fabulous in it. This WOULD be a great skirt for a casual event where you need to look alternately chic and be able to play a pick-up game of ultimate frisbee. There's nothing wrong with this skirt except it appears to run large. At this price, it's definitely a bargain and I would recommend going one size smaller than your normal size.


Friday, March 21, 2008

Easter Weekend and the GIAA 5K for Make-a-Wish Foundation

Today was our first hilly run since the New Year. Running Ypao is tough for the hills that only go up (well, maybe it just FEELS that way). Drew only added a minute to his normal run time and part of the problem was he ran the wrong way. His time was 26:42. I managed to come in at 28:53. At least this is better than the times I turned in previously at this site. I thought I didn't have anything left coming around the parking lot, but at the end, I thought, "I could have pushed it a little more." I am going to have make up my mind whether I truly want to commit to the pain of getting my run time down another 3 minutes....

We came back and I enjoyed a cup of hot chai and read my newspapers. I love this habit and can remember fighting over newspaper sections with my parents. They would read at the kitchen table and I would read on the living room floor, then we'd trade sections. I can't seem to get Anna or Drew interested in reading the paper, and for Gregg, it's a mere cursory glance.

MWR held an Easter Egg Hunt at 1000 at Orote Point so I took Anna and Drew. We just made it in time and Anna managed to snag only two eggs. In an effort to be healthy, the eggs were filled with plastic toys like kooshes and crayons.

Gregg has been sick this weekend; he thinks it's from Tarza---I think it's just going around because colleagues have been sick at work and the flu is still trending strong in the mainland.

I have been listening to kd lang sing Leonard Cohen's song, "Hallelujah" (you might recognize it from "Shrek"). I hadn't paid much attention to kd lang because she started out in country and that wasn't my favorite genre back when. I have to thank Rhonda, one of my university friends who felt called into nursing to help with the AIDS crisis, for introducing this wonderful singer to me.

Easter Sunday started out lazy. I woke at 0510 and couldn't get back to sleep (curse you, 0500 weekday run habit!) and I had the house all to myself for an hour or so. We dressed for church and said farewell to George and Carol Butler who are leaving Guam to live in the mainland. We planted a mango tree in their remembrance; they told us they wouldn't be gone forever. As believers in Christ, we already know that and today was a celebration of that promise.

When we got home, Flea had deposited a little blue mousie on my pillow and this is a picture of him playing with a teal-colored mousie (check out his claws). Drew and Gregg spent the afternoon calibrating the software for the upcoming Pinewood Derby and Anna built a house for Spongebob out of Legos.
PS: Gregg was not thrilled with Drew's outfit because of the mix of stripes and plaids---Drew loves to match colors, but not necessarily patterns. I think he made a spectacular choice for an Easter outfit!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Best Days Ever, According to Drew

The kids have been on spring break this week so Gregg took leave and I used special liberty for Tuesday and Thursday (to avoid increasing workload for everyone else).

On Tuesday, we had our home visit with Grace. It's always humbling to see ourselves through someone else's eyes. We have a number of tasks left to complete and one is the expensive one---the trip to INS to get our fingerprint cards and immigration paperwork...

After the visit, I took Anna and Drew to Micronesia Mall so Drew could watch "The Balls," his name for the dynamic display outside Macy's. He could stand there for hours and watch the balls travel around the tubes and wires. We ate lunch and waited for Funtastic Park to open. We rode the "Creature Coaster," crashed into each other on "Road Rage," and they finished up with a ride on the "Pirate Ship." I was running out of money and Anna wanted a smoothie before we left the mall.

We stopped at the NEX on the way back so I could get a new watch. My old watch, which was a Mother's Day present 3 years ago, had developed a metal snag on the mesh wristband and I had already snagged my uniform skirt and poked myself a couple of times.

We hung out at home until time for judo class. I told Drew I would be testing for my blue belt on Friday. He was aghast. "I've been taking judo longer than YOU, Mom," he declared. I learned how competitive Drew was because he asked Sensei how long before he could get HIS blue belt and reported back to me.

Today, Thursday, we went to Tarza. Drew has been begging forever to go. According to Drew, this week has been "The Best Days Ever." Isn't it wonderful when we recognize every day has the potential to be "The Best Day Ever"?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Kick the Fat 5K, the Holiday Resort Stay, and Everyday's a Holiday!

We had good intentions to run the Kick the Fat 5K on 15 March as a family. We also had to use our certificate for a free night's stay at the Holiday Resort and Spa in Tumon because it expired on 14 March. Of course, everything else was going on 14-15 March: the grand re-opening of the Clipper Landing which all our friends were going to, regular judo class, and a full day of work beforehand with NOD.
After much angst and discussion, we went to Tumon and checked in to our hotel. We inspected the hotel pool and promised Anna and Drew they would get to play. We ate at Tairyo Sushi and learned the place gets much busier later in the evening; we make it a point to go when it first opens. When we got back to the hotel, the pool was closed for the evening. Anna and Drew were disappointed, but I promised to take them first thing in the morning---after we ran the 5K, that is.

Gregg wanted to go to the Tower of London Pub because COB was going to be there. I sent him with my blessings. I called reception to request a wake-up call and settled in to read and relax in a strange bed with the kids.

On the day of the race, Gregg groaned. I didn't push him further; Anna decided to stay and sleep in with Gregg. Drew and I took off for Chamorro Village. I didn't think we got there late, but by the time we crossed the street and wasted time looking for a public toilet, we had to join the race at the back of the crowd. When the start was announced, we ended up walking for a while until the crowd thinned out. Even then, we wasted a lot of valuable time dodging in and out of clueless people. And then, the turn-around point was WAY beyond where they said it would be! So, I think the course was actually longer than 3.1 miles. Race etiquette says that once you're in the chutes for the finish, you don't pass people. Unfortunately, clueless people start walking at that point, not realizing the clock doesn't stop for them until they pass the finish line... I had already resigned myself to not improving my times and this was seriously demoralizing. The only good thing about the race was the t-shirt with the cool Chamorro pictograph.
We didn't stay for the awards or prizes. I had NOD so we went to the hospital and made rounds. It was quiet.

Back at the hotel, Anna and Drew changed into their swimsuits and played in the pool for an hour before getting bored. We got showered and dressed and headed out for breakfast. We checked out the hotel buffet, but wanted something a little different. Unfortunately, there is nothing open or for breakfast within a reasonable walking distance so we ate at the hotel. Drew loved it and told me he thought it was almost as good as the breakfast buffet in Hong Kong.

Gregg needed to get back to base to finish up a legal matter so we swung by the Boy Scout Hut to pick up another pinewood derby kit for Anna and some weights (just in case). Because I was the NOD, I was assigned to a funeral detail for LCDR Michael L. Murphy. You know, the obituary said there were no surviving family members, only friends and that would be who received the flag. I was terribly afraid the funeral detail would be the largest contingent there for his memorial and burial at sea. But the Chamorro culture is fabulous and many families showed up, including children. I was so proud, both of the Guamanians who adopted him as their own and of LCDR Murphy, whose personality must have endeared him to his adoped family. I would volunteer again to do burial detail.

I took Anna and Drew to tennis practice at Tiyan. I really like their tennis practice. I get to sit in the shade and read for an hour. It's so relaxing for me.

We had a Saint Patrick's Day celebration at Senior Chief's house---only this twist was multi-cultural instead of Irish-focused. Gregg's contribution to the festivities was Thai beer. I came back early to clean the house (which had suffered from all our activities in the morning) and considered making rounds at the hospital, but I was so tired I wouldn't have been safe driving. I did phone calls instead and it was still quiet, always a good thing.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Another Improvement in Run Times for Bank of Guam Run for the Red 5K

I swear, the course for the American Red Cross 5K must have been short because I find it hard to believe I dropped nearly 2 minutes off my run time. I ran this 5K in 27:09. Of course, it was a relatively straightforward course that didn't require making multiple turns around the block in Hagatna. It was also set up counter-clockwise, so I had difficulty figuring out where I was in terms of landmarks and where I could safely speed up, knowing I would have enough oomph to finish the race.

Two jog strollers passed me by this time, but when they're pushed by men who are at least 6 feet tall and have legs that end at my neck, well, I know I can't compete. However, I did hear one jog stroller behind me that pushed me the whole way. Every time I heard the creak and whirr of those hideous plastic wheels on pavement, I sped up. I heard a male voice say, "You need to loosen up. You're running like a boxer all tight." I imagined this person running and giving advice to me the entire race and I think that might have been what pushed me forward. However, it was a fast race overall as the third place finisher, Marie Benito, finished in 18:52. She placed first in my division, the master. I don't think I've ever run faster than 6:21 splits and that was when I was running 4-6 miles a day and about 20 years younger so I'd really have to put out some effort to be truly competitive.

Drew also improved his run time, but I'm not certain it's correct. He says it is 25:34, but that would only put him 7 seconds better than his best. I would like to think he also ran faster this time. I'll wait until the PDN prints out the race times.

We also ran the 3.5 mile Rainbow Run last Saturday. My run time was 33:25, which equates to about a 9:30 split. As long as I keep dropping my splits, I'll be very happy. Because more competitive runners were off challenging themselves with the Hafa Marathon, I managed to snag third place in my division. Not bad! And Drew got 5th place in his division. I wish I would have taken a picture of him standing with the boys who were all a foot or more taller than him.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

I Bested My Run Time in the DODEA 5K

Finally! I ran the DODEA 5K yesterday in 28 minutes and 57 seconds so I came under 29 minutes in my year-long quest to run a sub-25:00 5K. It's so humbling to remember that at one time I used to run 6:15 splits....I just don't enjoy the pain (nor the dry heaving) at the finish line. Despite the conditioning runs I did in the week leading up to this race, I was fatigued for the rest of the day.

I was only passed by one jog stroller this time and, quite frankly, he would have crushed me easily without the jog stroller.

I have to tip my hat to Deb Bute, though. She caught up with me at the turn-around point at Alupang Beach Towers and I vowed I would not be passed by another jog stroller for the rest of the race. So I sprinted a little, then settled into a higher race groove. She caught up to me and I had to sprint once more. For sure, I thought I had her now because she was shoving the stroller ahead and trying to get some ease---ah, ha! weakness! Alas, a little later I heard her daughter cheering her on and looked back to see she was gaining on me again. No. More. Jog. Strollers. I sprinted for a while this time and finished ahead of her.

Richard A Lovett advised in the Jan/Feb 2008 issue of Running Times, "[W]hen you pass people, pass in a manner that indicates you expect them to remain passed." But he also recommended against starting out too fast. I actually started out faster than I normally run this race and that is because I knew I would have enough energy to finish---I needed to push myself and even if I slowed down, I would still be running faster than I would if I started out at my usual rate. This article from Runner's World explains my rationale and the research that supports it.

Drew was tired and didn't come near his personal best of 25:41. He was still satisfied. He's always a "glass-half-full" type kid and we are so blessed to have him. I am still trying to talk Anna into running with us and I might have her with this argument: "You don't play tennis to get in shape; you get in shape to play tennis."

JFK High School is sponsoring a 5K next weekend and it will probably be hilly. The Guam Running Club is sponsoring its Guam Hafa Marathon the same day. Decisions, I run the tried-and-true 5K or push myself for the 13.1 miles? No problems deciding on races for the following weekend, though, because that is a flat course to support the American Red Cross.

We finished up the day with more activities: I supervised taking blood pressures at our health display at the NEX in support of American Heart Month. Anna and Drew went to tennis lessons, this time at the Tiyan Tennis Courts because of the ongoing competition at the Tennis Center, and we saw "We are the Pirates Who Don't Do Anything," at the base theatre. What a great movie! It started off slowly, though, and I was very concerned that this movie was not up to standards, but it completely redeemed itself after the slow start. We had a nice family discussion on the short car ride home.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

SHRM President's Day 5K

Drew ran his best time ever----25:41! He's even pictured in the Guam Pacific Daily News.
I wish I could say I improved my time as well, but I discovered it really does matter what I eat. I also didn't pay attention to hydration the day before the race. As a result, I felt major GI distress that left me walking part of the course and feeling malaise the rest of the day. It's just another lesson learned on my own goal towards running a sub-25 minute 5K. If you're curious, my time was 33:02, which is still a respectable time. However, of all the women's age groups, the runners in the 40-49 range tend to run the fastest---Mylene Garcia ran the 5K in 24:04.
I've been trying to talk Anna into running---it's excellent cross-training for tennis---because she could medal every single time if she ran even as slow as me.

Friday, February 15, 2008

No Park and Run Today

Last night we discussed running the International Reading Association's Read-a-Thon 5K but I decided this morning to bail. You see, the race had no pre-registration and I didn't want to have to leave 15-20 minutes earlier than we normally did in order to register for the race. Another reason was last night's sparring session at judo left my aging bones and muscles in a slight degree of discomfort.

After judo, I felt exhilarated because I was sweating and my muscles were warm. However, a night of sleeping surrounded by furry black cats left me sore and stiff. I got up at 0100 to take some ibuprofen and still woke with a headache. So, rather than being a running morning, it became a yoga morning. I didn't get any complaints from the kids about my decision. We'll still run the SHRM 5K tomorrow so I should be able to benchmark my time.

Drew lost another tooth, this time at school when Cole accidentally hit him in the mouth. The tooth fairy was very diligent and delivered on-time and on-budget...

Today is a relaxing day as I put the kids to work cleaning the house (Drew loves the vacuum cleaner duties). The kids wanted to make cookies so we'll get the cookie dough for shaping and rolling out in the refrigerator chilling for baking tomorrow. I'll pick up Cole for the tennis lessons this afternoon then we'll do our neighborhood progressive dinner. Finally, I'll prepare for tomorrow's children's sermon and make something for the potluck after church. I'm still undecided about doing a cardboard boat for the regatta on Monday. A little voice inside my head keeps telling me, "But it'll be fun!"

Friday, February 8, 2008

Moylan 5K Run for Your Heart

Well, Drew and I got up and ran another 5K today. Unfortunately, there were two 5K's scheduled for today and the other run (Our Lady of Lourdes 5K) must have gotten the automatic timers because there were no times for this run. I know that I ran faster than 30:46 because the third place male finisher in the Senior Division (60+) ran that time and I passed him. I was only passed by TWO jog strollers today and they passed me very early on. I even passed other people (including the old guy) toward the end. I know that running more than once a week is paying off because I felt very good throughout the entire race.

I am rather demoralized at realizing the first place finisher in my division (Master) finished in 23:10. The third place finisher was under 25 minutes. The top runner, Lisa Mason, finished in 18:06.

Drew is going to Jack's birthday party and they are touring a helicopter at Andersen. I will take Anna to tennis lessons and Gregg will be going to play poker at the neighbor's house. Tomorrow is a little busy. We will go to church and Anna will sell cookies for Girl Scouts at the NEX while Drew goes to Boy Scouts. I, of course, will be getting the house in order for the next week and doing laundry. Fun, fun.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Running Out of Weekend

When we moved to Guam, I assumed most of my time would be spent lazing at the beach, working on my blockbuster novel, and wearing sundresses with hats and heels (and, of course, work would figure in there as well). Boy, was I wrong. We tend to run out of weekend before we run out of activities.

This post is an effort to update everyone on what has occurred since we returned from Thailand.

Mary's New Year Resolutions
My resolution this year is to decrease my run time by five minutes. To do this, I'll need to increase the amount of running I do and increase my efficiency as well as improve my overall nutrition. I caught a severe cold the first week we got back (I would have sworn it was the flu except I never ran a fever) and I couldn't breathe through my nose. I was miserable. The second week I had duty and getting up at 0430 meant I would have to get up at 0400 to run (if someone didn't call in the middle of the night with questions or problems---which, of course, they did).

So, no more excuses starting Sunday. I WILL set the alarm for 0500 and get up and run. I have been doing yoga in the morning which has helped with the tight hamstrings and hips most runners get (and makes me feel better overall). I also bought a running watch to help with interval training. We will see if this changes anything. Here are my run times for the 5Ks run in January:
12 January: 30:15
19 January: 29:39 (I started counting the number of people I passed and the number who passed me---it was a pretty good ratio, then it went downhill. Once I was passed by two jogging strollers, I stopped keeping statistics)
26 January: 29:55 (and today I came in 44th in the female race; unfortunately, I was passed by FOUR jogging strollers)

I'm also keeping my uniform at work so I come home in PT gear. That means no excuses for not stopping at the gym for a quick weight-lifting session.

Incidentally, Drew turned in his best PR last week with 27:12. Not bad for 7 year-old stubby legs...

Anna and Drew
Anna is taking piano lessons and will re-start tennis lessons this afternoon. Drew has started piano lessons and will also be starting tennis lessons for the first time this afternoon. He also continues with judo and turned in a 3rd place performance this morning at the competition at Kontenda's Gym in Tamuning.

Gregg started judo lessons with me in the adult class and Drew was very happy. However, he is still not satisfied. "My whole family needs to take judo," Drew says. Gregg will probably be taking a break for a few weeks because he "popped" a rib during a throw and had troubles breathing afterwards. He was feeling fine the next day so he decided to lift weights because it was his "shoulders" day. This was probably not the best decision as he felt fine until he attempted the 5th set.

Random Conversations
We were listening to the car radio on the way to the competition this morning and the announcer was discussing the 2008 Presidential hopefuls.
Drew asked, "Is Hillary a girl?"
I replied, "Yes."
"Why are they talking about her?"
"Because she's running for President."
"She can't," Drew declared. "Anna's going to be the first girl President."

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Sixth Day in Chiang Mai (Sunday)

Today we went to the Mae Sa Elephant Camp. We watched the elephants shower and their handlers scrub them in the river. One elephant tried to stand on his head, but he couldn’t get his hind feet completely in the air.

We walked to the elephant show where the elephants paraded around and performed many tricks. They danced, they kicked soccer balls, and they painted beautiful pictures. After the show, we fed them bunches of bananas and bundles of sugar cane. They hugged us with their trunks and we took many photos.

We were very impressed with the elephants’ artistic ability and bought one of the pictures they painted. We also stopped in the elephant souvenir shop where the profits were dedicated to caring for the elephants. Our guide, Kung, said some people feel guilty about the elephants in the camp. She said we shouldn’t feel this way because the elephants don’t have enough work to do with the loss of teak logging. Performing tricks is one way they can earn their keep.

We went to the Drew Cent---oops, the Monkey Centre, after that. We watched the monkeys count numbers, ride bicycles, and dive after a waterproof watch donated by a willing participant. Drew won a banana by finding the number “4” after the monkey was “tired” of the game.

After the show, we fed the monkeys tangerines and bananas. Anna and Drew played with two baby monkeys and Anna learned the wisdom of keeping her hair away from the monkey’s reach.

Kung took us back to our hotel and we had to decide what we were going to do with our afternoon. We ate sushi at Ikue and Drew and Gregg stayed in the hotel while Anna and I went walking around. I was in search of interesting textile shops and the one I was truly interested in, a wholesale silk factory outlet shop, was closed, which was probably a very good thing. We stopped at Naruk’s and I got my feet massaged for an hour while Anna got her very first pedicure and manicure.

We ate at the Walking Street Market which is held every Sunday from 4-10pm. Everyone, locals included, said this market was better than the Night Market. I have to agree, if only because I did not feel claustrophobic and the prices seemed a little better.

Anna and Drew ate fresh fruit for dinner---watermelon and cantaloupe. Strawberries are in season now and we got a cup. Drew took one bite and said, “Mom, they ruined the strawberries. They’re not supposed to have salt on them!” The strawberries were seasoned with salt and sugar---I’ve heard of freshly cracked pepper on strawberries, but never salt. I was the only one who finished eating them. Gregg ordered fried rice noodles with in an egg omelet---it was only 20 baht.

Anna and Drew chose a few "voodoo dolls" on key rings as mementos of their stay here in Chiang Mai. They finished up with cotton candy---a distinctively non-Thai tradition.

Third Day in Chiang Mai (Friday)

We met our driver, "Eddie Murphy," in the lobby and drove to the first temple, Wat Suan Dok, the oldest temple in Chiang Mai. There we met a disabled artist, Pong, who painted pictures of her childhood on paper she created from "Buddha leaves."

We drove to Doi Suthep which most tour guide books say, "You haven’t visited Chiang Mai if you haven’t been to Doi Suthep." We took the cable car up, thinking it was a really long steep climb to the top, but it was only 306 steps up (or down). Doi Suthep is the site of the holy relics of the Buddha carried to the mountain top by a white elephant that dropped dead at the top. We walked around the temple site, remembering to circle clockwise on Eddie’s advice.

I picked up a brochure on meditation which explained the basic principles of Buddha. It’s very easy to be holy when separated from the world; I am reminded of the book, Sacred Marriage that explains marriage is also a holy endeavor and probably much more difficult to accomplish for spiritual enlightenment (the book review suggests "God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy").

When we got back to the hotel, we ate at a barbecue that displayed kabobs I saw on an earlier trek through the streets. Unfortunately, the kabobs did not live up to expectations. After the meal, we went to the Night Market and Drew got his beloved insects---with the provision that the mounted bugs stayed behind their glass that would be hung on his bedroom wall at home. If Drew couldn’t agree to that, Gregg wasn’t going to buy them. After much hand-wringing and bargaining, Drew finally agreed to Gregg’s conditions and the bugs joined our family.

In the meantime, my watch had hit the floor and the wristband broke for the third time. The first time it broke in Guam, I took it to a watch repair shop where they told me it couldn’t be fixed. I took it home and super-glued it. I dropped it another time and super-glued it again.

It fell on the floor while I was timing the kids’ fluoride rinse here in the hotel and that’s when I told Gregg I wanted a Rolex. So, I got one. Not a real one, but a nice fake one. Maybe someday I’ll want the real thing. Gregg bought a fake Submariner Rolex. What I found hilarious was the shop owner kept these "premium watches" locked away from the rest of his goods and we had to sit down in this large closet to view his selection. I also fell in love with the Rado (which I was not familiar with outside of Vogue magazine), but it did not have minute markings, so it was not very practical for work (which is why I wanted a new watch). However, even a fake Rolex is probably over-the-top for everyday wear…especially when blood and guts are involved.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Chiang Mai Day 5 - The Hill Tribes

Mary K writes:

We woke up the earliest we’ve had to since leaving Guam to visit the Hill Tribes---a three-hour trip each way to a little village very close to the Thai-Burma border. We stopped at the Orchid Farm in Maerim where we learned about the life of orchids and butterflies. The orchid jewelry was exquisite---they took orchid flowers, covered them in resin to dry them out then coated them with lacquer. They edged the flowers with gold. So the flower jewelry really is flower jewelry, not an artistic interpretation. They also did the same thing with the butterflies.

We got back on the bus with our nine other new best friends (from Australia and Hong Kong) and continued to Chiang Dao Cave where a monk lived 100 years ago. The waters caused erosions in the rock that imaginative Thais saw as the animals of the jungle. We walked deep into the cave to view the Buddha statue. This Buddha was notable because he lay on his back "like a commoner," our tour guide, Maia, said. Most Buddhas lie on their sides.

You can tell the difference between the various Buddhas once you’ve been educated. Burma Buddhas are different from Thai Buddhas which are different from Chinese Buddhas. It’s all very interesting and we’ve decided to learn more about Buddhism so we can better understand the Asian culture.

We stopped at the best "truck stop" restaurant. The meal was served family-style: cashew chicken, sweet-and-sour-chicken, and mixed vegetables with steamed rice. We ate a chicken broth and tofu soup for starters and finished with sweet seasonal tangerines, probably from the local farms. Delicious! On the suggestion of our tour guide, we bought "healthy" snacks from the mini-mart to hand out to Hill children.

We made one more stop to view a giant Buddha and look out over a rustic northern Thai resort.

Finally, we drove up a rutted road and clambered out of the van. What an eye-opener. The various tribes are refugees from Burma and Laos: the Karen, the Palong, and the Akha.

Gregg writes:

Today we visited the Hill Tribes of northern Thailand. The Hill Tribes are the remaining members of three separate tribes from the Northern Thailand/Burma/Laos region. They are the Karen ("Longneck"), the Palong ("Black Teeth"), and the Akha.

The "Longneck" tribe got their nickname from the rings the women put around their necks starting at 5 years of age. In earlier times, the rings were used to protect the necks of females from tiger attacks in the woods, as the neck was where the tigers would attack. A second reason for the rings was to alter a woman's appearance to look like a swan, which was revered for its beauty by the tribe. And finally, the rings "protected" the soul, or spirit, of the wearer, which was thought to reside in the neck of the tribe members. Likely because that was where members were bitten by tigers when their spirits were lost at death.

There are significant downsides, of course, to wearing the rings. The life expectancy of the women who do so is between 45 and 55. And they suffer terrible back and neck pain throughout their lives. Not to mention the incredible discomfort they must experience on a daily basis.

Today, Longneck women are no longer forced to wear the rings - they are still forced to start at 5, but can decide to stop wearing them at 10. The decision is a difficult one, though, since those who choose not to wear the rings must leave the tribe and their family and go to another tribe that does not wear rings.

The second tribe we met was the Palong. The Palong are known for their extremely black teeth, which they get from chewing Betel nut. They chew the Betel nut for the "high" they get, which I'm told is something like that of nicotine but stronger. The chemicals in the Betel nut eventually turn their teeth completely black, as you can see in the picture below. The Palong also have extremely large ear lobes which they get from inserting increasingly large ear rings. Unlike the Longneck tribe described above, there are no underlying reasons for enlarging their earlobes, other than perceived beauty.
The final tribe we met was the Akha. They had no physically distinguishing characteristics, but they were consummate sales people. An unattractive trait they inadvertently picked up from the Thai sales people in the markets in the south. They specialized in selling Hill Tribe clothing for kids, as well as an annoying wood carving of a frog that makes a very loud noise when stroked with an included wooden peg. (Drew, of course, had to have one.)

Meeting these humble, extremely poor people was overwhelming. We already knew we were blessed with riches when we saw how poor the Thai people living in the cities of Bangkok and Chiang Mai were. But these proud people were poor even by their standards. Thatch homes with dirt floors covered by bamboo rods, a kitchen that was nothing more than a fire pit, and no running water to speak of. They had a communal shower that was a water pipe with a rubber hose attached, fed from the stream nearby. Yet they were too proud to beg for anything. (Not the Akha, who were quite adept at begging.)

We were all deeply moved by the experience and are looking for ways to make donations to help make their lives better. The guides who took us to visit them didn't have any suggestions on what we could do, so we are investigating on our own.

In the meantime, the one thing we all took away from our visit was how incredibly blessed we are compared to most other people in the world. I knew before going that there was abject poverty in the world. I've seen it in the Philippines and, of course, on TV. But I've never seen anything like this up close. It will stick with me and give me perspective when I hear others, particularly those living in the United States, complain about how little they have. Believe me when I say that the poorest people living in the US are unimaginably rich compared to the Hill tribes.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

New Year's Day in Thailand

We weren't sure what would be open on New Year's Day in Bangkok, but we knew no one would start early. We hired a taxi to take us to Chinatown. The driver suggested he drive through the main artery in Chinatown and if we saw something interesting, he would stop and wait.

I mentioned the Bangkok Doll Factory to him and he pointed us in the direction of the toy section of the market. We spent 30 minutes (we could easily have spent more, but that's how much time we budgeted before having him return for us). Anna fell in love with a yarn bird marionette and Drew snagged a multi-pack of Lego-type cars.

Our next stop was Vimanmek Mansion. However, the guard told us it was closed. The zoo was next door and it looked busy, but no one really wanted to go. Our driver asked if we wanted to go to the aquarium. This turned out to be an inspired choice as Siam Ocean World was a terrific treat! While more expensive than we had budgeted, it featured a theme close to the hearts of all school-age boys: Monsters of the Deep.

We were familiar with Underwater World in Guam and have annual passes. At Siam Ocean World, we received a free drink with a souvenir squeaky squid lid, rode on a glass-bottom boat and watched the sharks feed, and ate some of the best popcorn we've had in southeast Asia. We also viewed a 4D short movie as part of our entry package.

On our trip to the Floating Market, we watched a video in the van. Drew fell in love with Pingu. We traipsed through the Siam Paragon Mall trying to find a copy of the DVD without success. For consolation, we let Drew pick the restaurant for lunch; he chose Hard Rock Cafe Bangkok. After eating, we returned to the hotel to wait for our ride to the airport to travel to Chiang Mai. Fortunately, we didn't wait long.

Our First Full Day in Chiang Mai

Arts & Handicrafts Tour
As part of our tour package, we chose to tour the tourist industries in Chiang Mai. Our first stop was Jolie Femme, a silk factory where we learned how much time it takes to weave the more elaborate silk brocades and how much the typical weaver makes in a month. Then, we had the opportunity to view and buy products made from silk.

Our next stop was the Gemstone Showroom which achieved ISO 9001 status. I turned to Gregg and told him I didn’t know artistic endeavors could aspire to this award. You learn something new everyday.

We visited a teak wood furniture store where Gregg searched for an elusive wood carving to hang on our wall. He couldn't find anything that fit his ideas and our budget. They had some exquisite pieces there, but we had just purchased a teak outdoor set from Bali. After that, we went to a rug showroom but there wasn’t much that caught our attention. Our last stop was the umbrella factory, Bor Sang. We were intrigued with the artistic abilities of the painters there and Drew had an artist paint a design on his shorts.

We came back home to eat lunch at Duke's.

Gregg was tired and the kids just wanted some downtime with their Nintendo’s, so I hired a tuk tuk and walked around Sbun Nga Textile Museum at Old Chiang Mai Cultural Arts Center. They didn’t allow photos so I spent over 500 baht on postcards and brochures depicting the historical costumes.

This was the only mix-up in our entire schedule. We waited from 1910 till 1940 for our driver who never showed. We hired a tuk tuk to take us to Old Chiang Mai Cultural Arts Center where we were so late we were shoved into a corner far from the stage. Fortunately, our friends were seated close to the stage so once we finished eating, we moved to their table. We couldn’t believe there were people who left in the middle of the dance program, but they did. So we snagged their seats on the floor (along with their pillows) for a real up-close-and-personal view of the dancers. Anna and Drew got into the spirit of the show by dressing in their Hill Tribe costumes (which we later discovered were representative of the Akha tribe).

The dance program consisted of two parts: the first part took place in the center stage where they did the “fingernail dance,” the sword dance, and the circle dance (where participants were recruited from the audience). The second part took place outside. The Hill Tribes were actual hill tribesmen (and women), not city people. We enjoyed it all and caught a lift back with our friends.