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