And, oh man, was it a long day. I got back to my house at about noon, took a shower, washing my hair about 8 times to get all the sand out, and went to bed. I felt like I had run a marathon. I got up in time to meet Mayumi and the students from Marianas High School National Honor Society for a cleanup of Micro Beach...but only barely.
But enough about my whining.
Friday's activities started at American Memorial Park. The students were transported from Hopwood to AMP in a bus provided by Tasi Tours. Again, thank you a million times, Tasi Tours. Since I live in Garapan, I just met up with them at about 9:45 at the Park.
We met Ranger Nancy at the Park Museum. She gave the kids time to go through the World War II exhibit, then signed them in for the days activities, and gave them a short talk on National Parks and safety.
When I was college I had a professor, Dr. Barry Allen, who posed the following question during one of our lectures, "Who owns the National Parks?" The other students ventured guesses like the Federal Government, the Department of the Interior, and the National Parks Service, to which Dr. Allen pointed directly at a student and said, "No, YOU own the National Parks."
That stuck with me. Ranger Nancy told the kids pretty much the same thing. She told us how lucky we were to have a National Park on Saipan and she explained that is was Our responsibility to take care of Our National Park.
Ranger Nancy took the students through a short walking tour of the Park, leading them towards the site of our tree planting, where we were met by Representative Cinta Kaipat.
I invited Cinta to participate in our tree planting and to talk to the kids about the creation of Beautify CNMI. In introducing Cinta to the kids, I told them that although Cinta was a lawyer and a lawmaker, she had chosen to make the Environment the central focus of her public service to the CNMI. I want the kids to understand that there are many ways to work the environment into your career. Maybe someday the CNMI will even have an environmentalist governor. Maybe.
After her talk, the students presented Cinta with their models of coral reefs. Cinta is going to display them up on Capital Hill for a few weeks...but then she has to give them to Ranger Nancy so that they can be displayed at American Memorial Park.
Then it was time to plant trees! Earlier in the week, Brad Doerr came into camp to teach the kids about tree care and propagation. He came to camp again to help the kids plant six Flame Trees. Thanks, Brad!
Ranger Nancy told us where she wanted the trees planted, then with help from Brad and Rep. Kaipat's staff, we broke up into six groups and dug our holes.
After all of the holes were dug, Brad and I helped each of the groups plant their Flame Tree.
It was time for lunch by the time we finished planting our trees, so we all walked back to the AMP museum and made sandwiches. A big thank you to Boni Gomez for dropping off lunch supplies!
Today was going to be a really long day, so we gave the kids most of the afternoon to relax. Our ferry to Managaha didn't leave until 3:30. We needed the kids to be awake for our night time activities. In hindsight, we should have made the kids run a few laps to tire them out. Oh well, live and learn.
Tasi Tours transported us from AMP to the dock and from the dock to Managaha, the small island a few kilometers North of Garapan. When we arrived we set up camp and got ready for a fun night.
Once camp was set up we let the kids run free for a while. They played beach volleyball (or at least tried) and went swimming. While I watched the kids, Bree got the fire going for our delicious dinner of hot dogs and vegetables...and beef jerky, chips, cookies, soda, and candy.
We couldn't have picked a better night to have a campout. The weather was perfect and the view was stunning.
Aren't we lucky to live here? Some people on Saipan don't realize what we have. For some of the kids, this was their first trip to Managaha. It was also the first time camping for a few.
After the sun set we got the fire roaring again so that we could make s'mores. Bree had to go to three different stores before she found any marshmallows. We told the kids that they could have as many as they wanted, as long as they didn't throw up.
Then, of course, no camping trip would be complete without a giant teddy bear and a ukulele:
The kids did some learning, too. We had an activity where we looked for zooplankton and phytoplankton and we talked about the shearwaters (a bird species) that nest on Managaha. In my opinion, though, the best lesson the kids learned is how much fun and how beautiful places like Managaha can be. I mentioned before that some of the kids were visiting Managaha for the first time. How else can we get kids to be interested in protected places if we don't get them to visit protected places?
Although I hope that these kids remember the difference between phytoplankton and zooplankton and why both are important, I think it is more important that these kids take home a love for the outdoors, camping, snorkeling, Managaha, Saipan, and the CNMI. One day these kids are going to join the military or go off to college, they'll be in Baghdad or Los Angeles, and they're going to remember the island where they were born...then they'll really appreciate what we have.
One day they'll return and they'll understand the importance of protecting our Natural Resources. They'll want Saipan to stay Saipan and not become Guam or Oahu.
(steps off soapbox)
Or at least they'll remember how much fun it was getting buried in the sand:
Bree wrote about the weeklong camp on her blog, Land of the Ayuyu.
Mylene also wrote about our trip to American Memorial Park and to Managaha. Hope also wrote about Managaha. Sami hasn't written anything about the camp. Come on, Sami, start writing!