I’m from Saipan

I present 5 things I most often hear when I say, “I’m from Saipan.” In no particular order:

1. Where is that?

This is usually followed by a blank stare as I use my hands to position an air map of where Saipan is in relation to Japan. As many of my Saipan peers must also experience, I have to ask, “Do you know where Guam is? Yeah, it’s near there.” No offense to my Guam peeps, but it wears on me. The Vietnamese woman who does my nails misheard my geographic explanation and still thinks my family is from Guam. This has been going on for two years and I haven’t corrected her. I don’t want her to mess up my tips. If people do not know where Guam is, I also say, “It’s between Japan and Hawaii.” You know what’s really between Japan and Hawaii? An ocean. And Amelia Earhart’s sunken plane.

2. Wow, your English is so good. You don’t have an accent at all!

Is this a compliment? Should I bow and say thank you? Did you expect me to communicate by drawing pictures in the sand?

3. Are you a U.S. citizen?

One of my brothers-in-law asked my husband if I was just trying to get citizenship. Doesn’t he know? I didn’t marry my husband for a passport. I married him so I could get his 2003 Nissan Altima which I’ve already named “The Silver Bullet.” Duh.

4. Do they have airports on Saipan?

How in the holy hell did you think I got here? No, they don’t have airports, sir. I had to take my canoe and wait for high tide. Oh, you’ve seen Castaway? Yeah, it was just like that, but without Wilson.


5. What’s it like?

I think this is the most forgivable of questions since people are curious, but how do you answer something as general as that? In Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried,” one solider says it’s hard to sum up what war is like because that it’s not like anything. He says it’s like describing what chocolate tastes like. (Another solider chimes in, “Or shit.”) There is a lot of negative reporting which can easily be googled, but this does not tell the whole story or even an accurate one. One horrible boss, whom I named TDV (The Dry Vagina), handed me a New York Times article discussing the high military recruitment on Saipan. “So it’s really poor there, isn’t it?”

“You know what’s poor? The humidity in your cootch. Why don’t you sit on some KY and STFU, woman?”

And that is what I wish I had said. One of my sisters-in-law went to Hawaii and now speaks of that vacation as her trip to Asia. “The native Hawaiians were so nice, Mona!”

“Where did you meet these natives?”

“All over Waikiki.”

“Oh, you mean the JAPANESE TOURISTS at Ala Moana?”

Tangent: Back when I was living on Saipan, an attorney who wore floral mumus attended a local party. The first thing she said there was, “Saipan is so boring. There is nothing to do here.” DebbieDownersayswhat?

“And what would you be doing?” Someone asked. “Tae-Bo?”

Saipan sunset

I think about how I’m going to explain Saipan to Nathan. My son will grow up here in Seattle with memories of the Northwest rather than the Northern Marianas. He won’t know about the incredible beaches and sunsets and food. That makes me sad. I hate that it costs $600 to get to Paris but $1500 to fly to Saipan. I hate that I haven’t been home for three years.

I love Saipan!

I’ll probably start with, “Mommy’s from Saipan,” and work from there.

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  1. rache a jew says:

    I did not know where Saipan was until I met you…But that was in the beginning, before you got tired of explaining it to people. You were nice about it. I have a professor from India who told me once that people always tell her “wow, your English is so good,” and that she gets frustrated with it. I told her to tell them “Why don’t you go rent Ghandi jackass!” Is there any movie like that about Saipan you could suggest for people? Or, you should make a movie about it!!!

  2. girl, you are wicked funny.

  3. …and you’re so well spoken!

  4. lmao. i love your humor mona. you tell ’em! i’m a fellow saipanese too. i have family all over there.

    your son, is just so adorable.

  5. i sooo feel you. many asked robert if i was a u.s. citizen.. i’ve recently told them that after 5 years of dating i’m finally going to hit him up for the green card. because i mean, why else would i marry him.

    have you ever been asked if you knew what a “department store” was?


  6. I haven’t been asked if I knew what a department store was. I have been asked if I knew about Bryer’s ice cream. This lady proceeded to explain the ingredients to me like that commercial with the kids reading off the label.

  7. I’d have to say that those were my top 5 too. I actually met three people while I as in college who had heard of Saipan…no wait, 4. One was my doctor and an Amelia Earhart buff, two friends heard of it because of the war, and one knew of Saipan because his father was from Guam.

  8. Oh dear God. Don’t let me get started about how Southeners react when I say Saipan. At times, I want to punch them for being so ignorant, but I figure…naaaah, it’s not worth it.

    One black girl asked me, “You chinese?”

    “No, I’m…pacific islander.”

    “Pacific–what? Is that asian?”


  9. Anonymous says:

    I mean “Southerners”

  10. Thanks Donna. Here’s what I hate: filling out forms that force you to choose an ethnicity and only give you: “ASIAN/PACIFIC ISLANDER.” It’s not the same!

  11. Mona, forms: YES! I hate that!!! You know what else I hate? When I enter my address online and the only option they give me for a state is GU!!! And when they actually list Guamanian as an ethnicity on a form!!!!

  12. I know by Guamanian, they really mean Chamorro. But this irks me because not everyone on Guam is Chamorro! Generalizing much?

  13. la vie joie says:

    You are freaking hilarious. I have similiar experiences when explaining I’m from Guam. My favorite question is “do you speak guatemalean?” huh??

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