At the request of a mainland-based Army Officer, historian and militaria collector one of whose current projects is collecting sand from historical WWII sites, I collect sand from the historic Battle of Saipan landing beach known as Yellow Beach (San Antonio Beach). Don’t worry, I’ve gotten the okay from the Division of Coastal Resources Management and Fish & Wildlife that the “no take” policy only applies to Marine Protected Areas and other specific conservation spots.
In what appears to be a scam conducted on the island of Saipan, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the couple in the photos below arrived on Saipan in October, stayed at Coral Ocean Point and then the Hyatt between October 20 and October 23.
During that time, the couple, who went by the name Jim and Yao, paid for tours, skydiving and scuba diving using what now appears to be several different stolen credit card numbers. The scam was discovered when, 30 days later, charges made to these cards by local as well as online vendors were disputed as “unauthorized” by the legitimate card holders.
Vendors within the CNMI are cautioned to be wary of such scams, to be mindful to take all security precautions particularly for online sales, and to note these individuals in particular. (Note: in such cases, the charges are reversed–debited from the local vendor account– and the local vendors lose out) .This may indicate the early stages of a pattern of young travelers spending lavishly using stolen credit cards.)
“Jim” presented himself as a young tech entrepreneur along with his girlfriend “Yao” and spent lavishly on accommodations and activities on Saipan.
“We cannot chase him away. Where will he go?”
Randy’s Typhoon Yutu Story
It was four days after Typhoon Yutu tore through the islands of Saipan and Tinian, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), and Joeten Supermarket in Susupe, Saipan had just re-opened to the public, and so, it would be the first time I would resume my morning routine of checking the shelves for fruits and vegetables.
I approached the worker dutifully stocking the shelves in the produce department of Joeten Supermarket. His name is Randy Vicente. Originally from Cavite, Philippines, Randy has had only this one employer in his twenty-five years on the island. And, in all the years I’ve lived on Saipan and shopped there, Randy has always been quite friendly, always offering a bubbly “Good morning, Mr. Walt!” offering information on upcoming sales, asking if there was anything he could help with, and making this mundane experience quite pleasant. Today was no different in that regard. However, I could tell something was different. The area around his eyes had the telltale darkness and showed the strain of someone who hadn’t slept in days.
“So, what’s your situation?” I asked him.
“Oh, me? I’m homeless!” he replied, and despite the direness of what he had just said, he delivered it with the same bubbliness and smile as if he were greeting me on a normal day. “My roof is gone, and my apartment is destroyed,” he added.
“So..So, where are you staying?”
“Nowhere,” he replied. “For the past four nights, I’ve been sleeping in the front lobby of World Resort.”
(In this video, I asked Randy if the hotel staff and security gave him a hard time while he was in the lobby. He said no, but he overheard them saying “I cannot chase him away…where will he go?”)
“Did you try sleeping in a shelter?” I suggested.
“What shelter?” he asked.
I had heard from another worker that Saipan Community Church had a shelter. I told Randy about it, and he confirmed that he, too, had heard about it just that same morning, and would be giving it a try that evening after work.
“What about your stuff?” I asked.
“Oh, it’s still there.”
“You mean in the apartment?”
During the storm, as Yutu’s Category Five winds increased in intensity, Randy realized his apartment would likely not withstand the pounding and so he sought refuge and rode out the storm in the Nauru Building close by. He returned to find his room destroyed.
It saddened me to realize that here he was showing up for work for his 6am to 1pm shift, as he’d done for 25 years, spending precious daylight hours unloading boxes, stocking shelves and helping customers, while his own personal belongings were sitting in a roofless single room with only three and a half walls exposed to the elements, and with nowhere to return to shower and get a good night’s sleep. I thought about the indignity and mental strain of sitting in a hotel lobby hour after hour, night after night, while hotel staff and security guards passed by knowing you weren’t a guest.
The thought also crossed my mind that what was needed was some sort of free storage facility for typhoon victims.
With no tourists arriving these days, many of the hotels are offering a local rate of about $70-$80/night. It’s a small thing, but I’d like to provide Randy–and anyone among the hundreds who are living in tents or in their cars– a few nights in a hotel to regain some semblance of normalcy and dignity, and to replace some of their damaged, water-soaked belongings. Electricity, running hot and cold water, a bathtub, a clean, soft bed, the privacy of a toilet–one that flushes and is not shared by dozens of other individuals–these are a few of the “luxuries” you take for granted, that would make a world of difference for victims of Typhoon Yutu three weeks after the storm, even if it’s only for two nights. Your donations will offer such a gift to Randy, and others, to encourage them to stay strong….CNMI strong. As usual, I’ll film the disbursements so you can see how your contributions are actually impacting real people’s lives. http://www.gofundme.com/cnmistrong
I had the honor of presenting long-time Saipan, CNMI, resident, Manny S. Vitug with a check for $500–a show of support from some of my previous tour clients–to help with the recovery of his business and life after the devastation of Category 5 Super Typhoon Yutu. Thanks to Ward S., Carl M., Laurie H., Al Z., Dean F., Ronald M., and Stacey Spencer-Willoughby.
News of the gift appeared in today’s (Wed Nov 14, 2018) Saipan Tribune, thanks to editor, Jayvee Vallejera: https://www.saipantribune.com/index.php/for-want-of-a-mechanic/
HEARTBREAKING: Manny’s Typhoon Yutu Story pt 1– (“For Want of a Mechanic…”)
Manny’s Typhoon Yutu Story pt 2– (“For Want of a Mechanic…”)
Manny tells his story part 2:
“FOR WANT OF A MECHANIC…”
How even a small donation to one person can uplift an entire community!
You may recall this proverb: For want of a nail the shoe was lost. For want of a shoe the horse was lost. For want of a horse the rider was lost. For want of a rider the message was lost. For want of a message the battle was lost. For want of a battle the kingdom was lost. And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.
If you’re wondering how your individual contribution–large or small– can help, consider that proverb, and consider this: Over its years in business, an affordable auto repair shop with a generous, empathetic owner can help thousands of individuals stay mobile, keep working, earn a paycheck, support their families and avoid becoming destitute.
For 31 years, Manny Vitug has lived in the CNMI where he has owned and operated a community-focused auto repair shop (ELS Auto) business. He’s been known to undercharge people for his services. Some have had their cars repaired “on credit” and paid him back when they’re back on their feet and able. For some looking to make a purchase of a used car, he’ll often assess a vehicle’s road-worthiness just as a courtesy at no charge.
Now, however, after years of helping people in this way “on credit,” after growing a business on two islands, employing others, securing a nest egg for his retirement as well as a legacy for his children, Manny, in his own greatest time of need, has been told he “doesn’t qualify” for assistance or loans because he doesn’t have this thing the banks call a “credit history.” I want to show Manny that there are other sorts of credit histories–Karmic credit histories, if you will–that can come to his aid.
The success (or failure) of a business can have a domino effect on many others who are not directly connected to it. Manny has employees, tenants, family members and customers whose lives, livelihoods, futures and fates are intimately and intricately connected to his.
Who knows, if you or someone you love ever visits Saipan or Tinian on vacation or to relocate, it might be through Manny’s or his son’s repair work that your tour guide’s vehicle is able to provide a reliable and memorable experience of these beautiful islands.
Yes, it’s all connected…from nail to kingdom.
When it comes to telling the story of Saipan’s recovery after being hit by Super Typhoon Yutu–the strongest typhoon EVER to hit the Marianas, the SECOND strongest to hit the United States (mainland AND territories) EVER, and the THIRD most intense in terms of pressure (EVER), let’s not allow ourselves to write or say:
“For want of a mechanic, the future was lost…”
Manny is the first of several individuals I wish to help through the “Be Strong, CNMI Strong” disaster relief campaign.
Listen to Manny tell his story, view scenes of the devastation,
and show your support (and if you can’t support, then please “share”) at http://www.gofundme.com/cnmistrong
Walt F.J. Goodridge
CNMIStrong GoFundMe Campaign Administrator
Scenes from the actual storm and aftermath, why I started this personalized campaign, who it will help,and a plea for your support. I’ll be filming the disbursement of funds so you can see where and to whom your money actually goes!
If you can’t support at the moment, then please share, like and help spread the word! Be Strong! CNMI Strong!
My Typhoon Yutu account for those who’re asking how I fared:
Super Typhoon Yutu hit the Northern Mariana islands of Saipan and Tinian on October 25, 2018. With winds of over 180 miles per hour. The howling winds kept me awake all night, and THEN at about 2am as the winds got more intense, I realized that the sliding glass doors of my bedroom balcony were shaking and shuddering. I had to stand and brace them from 2am to 7am STRAIGHT (old mattress on the outside; arm strength and body weight on the inside) because the entire frame had come loose and a really strong wind would have ripped it out for sure! I couldn’t risk letting go for even a second or else I might now have a gaping hole in my back wall! Three of the five apartments with balcony sliding doors lost theirs.(see photos on blog)
And, of course, while in mortal danger fighting against the elements and 180 mile-per-hour winds, in the dark, on a 13 mile long island in the vast, raging western Pacific ocean, I did the next most logical thing anyone in my situation would have done at that moment: I took out my selfie stick, attached my smartphone and video recorded it!
On a serious note, however, there was much damage left in the typhoon’s wake. I’ve started a GoFundMe campaign to help a few people of the hundreds here on island who have been left homeless. Please check it out
If you enjoy looking at photos of strangers you’ll never meet, food you’ll never eat and videos on the street, well THIS is the blog post for you! Here is a wrap-up of my Jamaican in Thailand adventure! There’s a short video clip at the end…
Yes, Bangkok was a great adventure! I’ll definitely be back, and will check out Chang Mai and other areas! Stay tuned! Now, however, I have to start making my way back to Saipan! Next stop: Macau!
More from the Yanhee series! Here’s the full video of my panic attack in hyperbaric chamber #21 at Yanhee International Hospital in Bangkok, Thailand! (Featuring Uma Thurman making a “guest appearance!”) Click the link for more!
Sam, whom you met in a previous episode, and whom I met in a “chance” encounter in a 7-11 store (but, as you know, there ARE no chance encounters) introduced me to Mango Vegetarian & Vegan restaurant and I haven’t eaten anywhere else since!
I didn’t order anything from the menu that first time I went (since it was after 5pm and I only eat one meal a day between 12-3pm), but I vowed to return the next day…and I did! It was, perhaps, a little awkward for Sam (eating alone, and all), but, as I tell anyone who invites me out in the evening, I go for the friendship and conversation, so please don’t be surprised if I don’t eat!
As I discovered in Vietnam and here in Thailand, too, even vegetarian and vegan restaurants often use sugar and MSG in the seasonings of their dishes, so it’s difficult to get a meal without those ingredients. Mango, however, does not! Yay!!
Location: Thanon Tanao, Wat Bowon Niwet, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok, Thailand, just a short walk from Amarin Inn where I’m staying!
The menu was overwhelming! The have breakfasts, gluten-free, desserts, fresh-squeezed juice, raw meals and a HUGE selection of unique dishes! The next day, I ordered #41, the Quinoa Buddha Bowl Salad (“A high protein meal with healthy salad. Mixed greens, quinoa, sweet potatoes, barley, Job’s tears, carrot, flax seeds, chick peas, pumpkin seeds, black beans, mango, tomato, beetroot, avocado, and other seasonal fresh fruit”)
The serving size was so large that I had to request half of it “to go….” um, so I could order a second dish!
This was menu item #57 “Chick Pea with Mixed Vegetables Fried Rice” (“Fried rice with chick peas, barley, Job’s tears, vegetable and ginger in Massara spices sauce”) Heaven!
The next morning at about 11:15 (they open 10:30am), I returned to experience one of the breakfast dishes! It was earlier than I typically eat, but this turned out to be my single meal of the day!
This was menu item #18 “Gluten free pancake with choice of side.” (Pancake ingredients: Organic rice berry flour, Lord black grains flour, young coconut milk, coconut sugar, coconut milk and brown rice milk.) I chose mango and dragon fruit as my topping.
My new friend, Mango staff member and culinary advisor, Wan, is taking me on a journey through the 99 menu items! Things will only get better!
Culinary Interlude: I’ve eaten there three days in a row. However, yesterday, I spent the entire day and night until 11:30pm hanging out with hostel owners Kulyanon and Ahmad, helping them film and upload an interim Youtube video for the hostel, and then accompanying them as they visited family in various parts of Bangkok before their flight today, so I didn’t eat anything during the day (even though Kulyanon tried desperately to get me to eat something!)….
….and so, guess where I’ll be TODAY?? Wrong! I’ll be at MANGO, silly!
Come on! Don’t act like you’re not curious! Don’t pretend your interest isn’t the least bit piqued to see what it looks and feels like when 25 liters of warm, coffee-tinged water is introduced into the colon (no, not through the mouth…use your imagination!) in order to clean and remove toxins, debris, undigested food, impacted fecal matter, bacteria, parasites and mucoid plaque from the colon in order to improve digestion, nutrient absorption and essentially reboot the digestive system!
So, being the narcissistic exhibitionist I am and, perhaps, being the armchair voyeur you are, I’ve answered both our desires! Check it out! (It’s completely anonymous! No one–not even me–will ever know you watched!)
Note to the squeamish: Don’t worry, I don’t actually show the “stuff” coming out!
Background: Ever since I discovered Jason Rupp’s Youtube video and his glowing recommendation of Yanhee International Hospital in Bangkok, Thailand, for a colon hydrotherapy session, and the amazingly low cost (by US standards), I decided to check it out for myself! I’ve done colonics in the states, in Hong Kong, and now in Thailand (Hmmm. Is this a new type of fanatical-cleansing-thrill-seeking subset of medical tourism I’m pioneering?)
p.s. A friend saw a photo of me at this hospital and asked if I was okay
My reply: Yep, I am faaaantabulous! FYI: I do the colonics and oxygen therapies, and coffee enemas, and extended waters fasts as part of my normal, regular health maintenance (See my books, A Clean Cell Never Dies and Fast & Grow Young) to keep myself young and vital. Plus, I’ve been in in some high-pollution zones recently, so I definitely wanted to do a detox, AND you can’t beat the prices here in Thailand!
There is a specific reason I film and share what some might consider mundane travel experiences such as: who says hello to me, how we meet, who invites me to dinner, who gives me directions, who fixes my laptop, how to get a colonic in Bangkok (oh, trust me, that’s coming up!), where to buy cheap produce, how to purchase airline tickets cheaply, and other seemingly trivial traveler tidbits (and it’s not just narcissism!).
For instance, in addition to the tour guides, restaurant owners, and hostel managers you’ve already met, there was–among many others–the techie in Da Nang, Vietnam who upgraded my RAM and fixed a non-responsive USB port as a courtesy….
….there was Lala, the Da Nang, Vietnam hostel manager of Conical Hats Homestay, who came out to greet me as I walked through the streets…
There was the Da Nang, Vietnam appliance store rep who went out of his way to help me locate another competing store at which I might find a Lavalier microphone to record better audio for my videos….
In Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), there was Khoa, the hotel tour clerk at a hotel around the corner from my hostel who printed out my inbound and outbound airline reservations on the hotel printer (at no charge) so that I could apply for my Thailand entry visa…
In Saigon, there was Bun, the cute shoe factory worker who interrupted me filming a video intro….
…gave me a thumbs up for my all white suit… (that’s the extent of my fashion consciousness: I can match a white top with a white bottom! I got this!)
…and invited me to accompany her on a walk through the park. (This was mostly done through “sign language” since my command of the Vietnamese language and her command of English were both minimal, so we used Google translate thereafter.)
….There was the Saigon Grab bike operator who, once I told him I was Jamaican, said he knew of Usain Bolt and taught me how to say Usain’s name in Vietnamese (I think). Then, after telling him I lived most of my life in the US, he–unprompted–went out of his way to point to his skin and mine and said that here in Vietnam: “we same,” and that “Vietnam people love everybody!”
In Bangkok, Thailand, there were the two customer service reps at Tesco Lotus who made calls to my hard-to-find hostel to help me locate it…
…and the laundry service operators in Bangkok a few blocks from my hostel who were up early, and who ironed my shirt for me the morning after I arrived since I never learned how to pack a suitcase like an adult. (Yes, I was half naked in their open front shop as passersby may have wondered if there was a new Jamaican striptease show in town!)
….or Nok, my translator at the Yanhee International Hospital where I got my long-anticipated coffee colonic…(film at eleven!)
…or Beta (spelling?), the Nepalese tailor at PresidentSuits who has lived in Thailand for eleven years, who suggested I change my style from casual-baggy-Thai-neru-mandarin-monk-in-sandals to something western-traditional…
Here! You can hear it in his own words:
…or the Nepalese electronics vendors at MBK mall who tried to find me a lavalier microphone clone…
…or Sam, a customer in the 7-11 convenience store, who welcomed me to Thailand when he heard me tell another customer wearing a Bob Marley shirt that I was from Jamaica…then offered to help me find an authorized SIM card dealer (foreigners can’t buy SIM cards from just anywhere! Ask me why.). Sam has lived in the US for many years, so it was quite insightful learning a Thai national’s perceptions of Thai people from both the inside and outside!
Yes, there’s a reason my travelogue includes these types of stories, and does NOT include much of the standard tourist sites while focusing more on the people and interactions in everyday places.
To understand that reason, however, it may first be necessary to understand the mission of my Jamaican in China blog, facebook page and Youtube channel: To create an alternative travel narrative to encourage anyone who identifies with me to follow his/her passions, become a nomadpreneur if they wish, break free and see the world fearlessly (and inexpensively)!
As part of my PassionProfit philosophy and formula and nomadpreneur escape strategy, I’ve met and coached people who wish to travel, but who are afraid of how they will be received overseas. They don’t see themselves in many mainstream travelogues and guidebooks and so, they believe such travel is for others they can’t relate to. They worry about prejudice, about negative attitudes, about global perceptions and, faced with such paralyzing fears and unaddressed concerns, and no one to model, they never take action (plus, they are afraid it will cost too much)
My self-appointed mission, therefore, is to move such individuals to action. How will my mundane travel experiences accomplish that, you ask? Well, several years ago, I learned a little secret when I was part of a sales team with ACN (American Communications Network), a network marketing company. We learned that if you want to move someone to action (in ACN’s case it was to purchase a service or to sign up as a sales rep), you must take that individual through a process that has him or her thinking the following three thoughts:
1. “Me too!” (In other words, they need to relate to you and/or your background, personality, nationality, ethnicity, gender, etc., and see themselves in you)
2. “This makes sense.” (They must see the logic and/or common sense, or practicality or necessity of the action you wish them to take)
3. “I can do this.” (They need to be shown the details of how to do the thing you wish them to do so they can imagine themselves doing it and feel capable of doing so.)
Using a similar strategy, my mission, through this blog is to show the little human interactions of overseas travel, the smiles on the streets, the camaraderie, the welcoming gestures–the little things that can make or break a travel experience– and to show the images and videos of these that you won’t see in the mainstream guidebooks and travelogues so that readers who are fearful of travel for any reason, and who can identify with me in some way, can think to themselves: “Look! He’s just like me (Jamaican, Caribbean, skinny, vegan, former employee, civil engineer, of African descent, etc.), and he’s having a great time! He hasn’t been kidnapped! People are friendly! (And it doesn’t cost as much as I thought) Wow, if HE can do it, then maybe I can, too!” And if they do decide to follow in these footsteps, they may wish to check out thailand tours for exciting travel experiences in new and vibrant surroundings.
It exists for the express purpose of showing a reality others can point to and model in order to help them evolve into the sort of traveler they wish to be! If not for you, then please share this blog, and Facebook page, and Youtube channel with someone you know!
Finally, I’ll share two thoughts that are essentially saying the same thing and that I’ve found to be true in my life:
“That which you seek is also seeking you.”
2. “Whatever you focus on will grow in your reality.”
Walt F.J. Goodridge
The Jamaican in China…and Beyond! “I share what I know, so that others may grow!”
COMING SOON: “What’s in my suitcase?” (Confessions of an alternative-minded, health-obsessed, vegan nomad!”) Excerpt: “No, officer, the white powder in that plastic bag is Diatomaceous Earth. The other one over there is Non-iodized Sea Salt. That one over there is Bentonite Clay!”
“Sure, no worries, but, um, could you take the handcuffs off me now please?”