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Saturday, April 12, 2014



Where the heck is Micronesia
April 12, 2014

Ten years ago buoyed by my success in surviving my trip to the Cook Islands, I planned something far more adventuresome – three weeks in Micronesia.  I would be visiting the Islands of Saipan, Guam, Rota, Tinian, Palau and Yap.  For those of you who don’t know where Micronesia is, it’s approximately half way between Hawaii and the Philippines.

I had always wanted to go Micronesia since I was 12 and saw pictures of wrecked WWII Japanese Zeros and topless women in a copy of National Geographic.  It only took me about 45 years to get there.

Micronesia is a  series of tropical islands in the North Pacific, a spit away from the equator, and a hop away from the Philippines.   Palau, along with Yap was one of the I’d be visiting.  Technically speaking, Palau isn't part of Micronesia: In 1978 it withdrew and became an independent republic despite the fact that the entire population would into fit into a good size hockey arena. 
Battle of Midway in the Pacific

Some of the biggest naval battles in WWII took place in the waters surrounding Micronesia and the ocean bottom is strewn with wrecks.  I had taken an “introductory” dive in the Cooks and thought it couldn't be much more difficult to get my certification and explore the wrecks for myself.

It wouldn't have been challenging if I had taken the certification thirty years earlier – but at 59 I was the oldest person in my scuba class.  The next oldest student was 25!   Somehow I managed to huff and puff my way through the course and a few weeks later was awarded my “open water” certificate.  I would be off to some of the best and most challenging diving in the world with a total of two (my qualifying dives) under my weight belt.

Most divers can make a tank of air last more than an hour.  My personal best at that time was about 15 minutes.  The thought of being trapped underwater with a limited supply of air, and being reduced to number two on the food chain tends to make me hyperventilate and it’s difficult to breathe into a paper bag underwater.

To help compensate for my inexperience my son, Elan, an experienced graciously offered to accompany me – as long as I was paying – a decision he would soon came to regret. 

I spent several months during the winter researching my planned trip to Micronesia - costing my options on wear to stay, how to travel between the islands and the best dive sites.  One dive company I contacted was MDA in Guam.  When I explained to them the scope of my trip they offered to cost out the whole trip (minus the trip to and from Saipan) including accommodation, flights, and diving.  I figured it was a lot cheaper arranging it myself online - but thought what the heck- it’s not going to cost me anything to find out.  I was shocked to find out that MDA could do it a heck of a lot cheaper than I could – almost a third cheaper!  It was a lesson I learned and put to work on future trips as well.  I found that dealing with a travel agency based in the country I was going to visit could put packages together better and cheaper than I could – and if anything went wrong they were on site to fix it.  This worked extremely well for me on later trips to Africa, the Philippines and Vietnam.

To make this trip a bit challenging I planned to travel standby via Seattle-Tokyo-Saipan.  However I learned from my previous trip to the Cook Islands not to chose an airline that go out of business before  I planned to return.

So, without further ado, I give you my Adventures in Paradise.

Monday Nov 8, 2003


Best Value Motel Seattle
My flight to Saipan leaves tomorrow.  Right now I’m in Seattle.  I decided to take the Airport shuttle to Seattle and spend the night in a “budget” motel near the airport.    Looking online I found the “Best Value Motel” near the airport which looked like a good deal. Now here's my question?  If it's called the “Best Value Motel" is there a “Least Value" Hotel?  What would it be? A packing crate under an overpass?

The Shroud of Tinian
Actually it isn't too bad - except for the scary stain on the sheet.  I think it's blood. It's not a big blood stain - just a few drops dribbled out along the top right hand corner.  It's my own shroud of Turin, or should I say “Shroud of Tinian?" That’s because it looks strikingly like the Northern Marianas where I’m headed.  I can see the islands of Guam, Saipan, Rota and even tiny Tinian.   I’m not too concerned because it’s a king size bed and I can always sleep on the left hand side.  I settle the matter by covering the stain with bath towel.
The Northern Mariana Islands

Now I know most of you are asking why I don’t just ask the Better Value folks just to come up and change the damn thing.  Well that would mean I would have to take down the barricade I've erected in front of the door.  I put that up after I paid a visit to the office to complain to Rasheed, the night guy, about a non-functioning TV remote control.  

 “No problem, man,” he says. “I’ll come up to your room and reprogram it.”
“Can't you do it here?” I asked, not wanting him in my room.
“Nah, I need to have the remote and the TV together.”
I seriously consider carry the TV down to the office.  About a half hour later Rasheed shows up with my remote and piece of paper with the programming instructions.  He's distracted by the MP3 player on the desk.
“So how much did that cost?” he asks.
“I don't know,” I respond. “It was a gift.”
I can see the wheels turning inside Rasheed's head.  He notices my camera on the bureau and picks it up.
“Nice Camera.”
'Yeah, but it's old.” I say, trying to make it seem that it might not fetch a good price at the Sport's Bar up the street.  

Rasheed finishes programming my remote, tosses it on the bed, and with one final appraising look around my room leaves.  That's when I decided to erect the barricade in front of the door with the
heaviest object I could find, which according to the airlines, is my luggage.

Well tomorrow morning it’s off to Saipan!


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