Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Local Student Wins Essay Contest

The essay contest to find a local person to join our expedition to Maug ended last night. Two essays stood out, one from a young student and the other from a young teacher. In the end we chose the student, but the vote was not unanimous.

Dennis Chan of San Vicente, an 18 year recent high school graduate, will accompany us to the island of Maug next Monday.

Congrats, Dennis.
Friends of the Monument
July 13, 2009

Why I Want to Visit the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument

I am eighteen and have just graduated from high school. I am no fishermen, not an excellent swimmer, cannot dive into meters deep water and wrestle whales. I’m from Saipan and if were chosen would well-represent my age group. I want so badly to get on that boat to Maug to experience the greater Marianas.

People my age, my fellow graduates and many of my friends still in high school easily diss the commonwealth, their Saipan that they reside in. Whether it is the government, school or the smallness they feel holds them. Our memories are still fresh of the summer of 2008 in the rolling blackouts in the sweat. I’m sure we love Saipan, I love Saipan, we swim at beaches, climb down, climb up the stairs of the grotto, and stroll the street market, however there’s a perception that we know all there is to know, we’ve sucked all the sap there is on Saipan. It’s been said that Saipan is a bore. Our eyes look to taller buildings, the malls of the mainland. We sigh, jaded and discontent after signing in, signing off, signing in, signing off, Myspace, Facebook, waiting for that viral video to load—we sigh worn with the immediacy of the Internet. “Saipan sucks.” My home sucks. This commonwealth sucks. Nothing’s happening. I’ve heard these things many times. My perception and theirs are limited to what we know. I feel strongly that there is something beautiful, not as immediate as a video on Youtube, but ever present. More reliable than whatever government is in place, more reliable than your water or electricity, more secure than an accredited college status—Saipan is not the Marianas, the Marianas rolls in blue expanse over miles and miles and settles some in the green and the trees and the beaches. I want to go to Maug and see this happen.

Perception is always jolted with new experience. I spent a week in Tinian without the internet or decent showers, kept awake with damp and smelly tents. We camped at Tachungnya. Our head instructor Ms. Valencourt remarked at the campfire how she gathered from what she heard, that we kids thought Tinian to be a foreign country. Tinian is right next door! Tinian is our sister and brother. Tinian holds so much history—I stood over the uncovered pits of Little Boy and Fat Man and was overwhelmed, viewed pictures of cities obliterated and was grave.

I may not speak for all my age, but our perception of fun forms in that media mold: what TV offers, what they say. But there is grandness here; there was on Tinian. On Tinian where Tachungnya houses fish a few feet from shore—the butterfly fish and its second rear eye swims by, on Tinian where the limestone trail deters to an edge to a view filled with blue, green and beach, on Tinian were destruction sat in pits that should have never been dug. Tinian has no theater, no stop lights, we joke, and yet Tinian was unique. All of us Saipan campers agreed on this.

That was all a tease though. Tinian’s become a tickle, and I think there might be more. I want to see the rest of my Marianas because I tasted Tinian.

Tinian is a ferry ride away and I felt it was another world. I’m naive for it, and maybe naive in thinking partly that a trip to Maug would render me to some enlightening epiphany. I want to go because I know I’d appreciate it. I want to go because I am young and feel the universe expanding, running and that I better catch up, or keep a good pace before it escapes me.
To the north on a boat to Maug maybe I’d get to know my home more—the greater Marianas. Maybe I’d taste some great fish, share in words that bewildered me and maybe other youth will read and decide to see for themselves. I want to go because I believe that the monument reveals and protects a Marianas with a different, better thrill than we, my age, have imagined finding elsewhere. But I want to know firsthand.

Dennis Chan
San Vicente


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