Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Now for the good news, MV 28

By Jeffrey C. Turbitt

I once saw a comedian do a bit about how the news reports should really just be called the "bad news" because of the media's proclivity to focus on the negative. The point seems spot on, but I'll try to confuse that notion this week by pointing out some people who have impressed me of late by displaying excellence around the islands.

Will DeWitt and his music students at Saipan Southern High School topped the band competition at the 4th Annual Tumon Bay Music Festival in Guam last week. This same band then proceeded this week to get an invite to the opening ceremonies at the Summer Olympics in Beijing, China. "Eighteen months ago the kids weren’t even playing an instrument, so within a year and half they elevated their skills to a level that is internationally competitive and they proved last week that they’re the best in the region," DeWitt said, noting that this was his proudest achievement as a teacher.

Friedrich Nietzsche famously said, "Without music, life would be a mistake." DeWitt and his students are showing how correct life is, and everyone in this community from the sponsors, to the parents, to the community at large should boast in what is being done by this former teacher of the year runner up and his dedicated group of student musicians. The students begin rehearsing each day even earlier than the rest of the 8:00 am SSHS school day to make this all possible.

Similarly, Saipan Southern High School Basketball Coaches Jesse Tudela and Joel Punzalan and all the coaches and players from all the teams in the MISO Basketball League ran a successfull program this year that resulted in varsity and junior varsity championships for SSHS. Basketball is the only high school sport that looks to be as well supported, popular and organized here as high school athletics in the mainland, and I know this season was a proud moment for all involved. This was the first year for the junior varsity team to suit up as well. Athletics teaches teamwork, self discipline and instills the ability to set goals.This program is extremely helpful to the island's youth, and everyone who participated or donated their time and talents should be proud.

On the student academic front, Hopwood Junior High School Language Arts Teacher Beth Nepaial seems to be doing wonders in teaching a writing program to her students at HJHS. During professional development last week she had several students in her classroom on a student day off getting extra instruction from high school teachers on their writing skills. I was able to assist a few of these students and see the fruits of their writing labor, as well as their genuine desire to learn -- always the fuel the powers teachers -- and it made me feel good to see what a well organized classroom Nepaial is running, which will help PSS meet its goals, and more importantly, put these students on track to greater academic, career and intellectual success.

Physical success is important as well. When a person lives on a tiny island in the middle of the ocean, medical options are limited, but to be honest, I've always gotten great care on this island for five years now. I've previously written about my good experiences with Drs. Daniel Lamar, Norma Ada, Nathan Tan, Ben Sawer and Robert George. The latter three have moved on, but I can now add Dr. Jennifer Linden, who is managing a very busy obstetrics division at Commonwealth Health Center, to that impressive list. She is able to handle the relentless queries of this first time, from scratch at least, father to be with great aplomb, and she handles an extremely busy division with great resolve, patience and a sunny temperament that inspires confidence.

Speaking of confidence, the idea that any single individual human being could complete a 1.5-kilometer swim, 30-km mountain bike, and 12-km trail run back to back staggers my mind. The following CNMI residents recently did so in the 7th Annual XTERRA Saipan Championships: Eli Torgeson, Mieko Carey, Nate Hawley, Lewie Tenorio, Butch Sublemente, Florian Braig, Joe Ngiraibuuch, Brad Ruszala, Manny Sitchon, Rudy Villegas and Heather Kennedy. Another 29 local residents completed the race in some other form such as relay and sport relay race, and they only did it through great determination and hard work -- which also happened to bring good publicity to the CNMI.

When it comes to publicity, many people have felt that descriptions of the good, the beauty and the excellence around us have been missing. Dr. David Khorram recently self published a book called "World Peace, a Blind Wife, and Gecko Tails," which offers his views on the joys of island living. He is now planning on putting together a book culling the best writing on the CNMI from the many CNMI blogs that have sprouted up over the last two years to help counter the negative publicity the CNMI has endured over the years.

Another way to boast about our islands involves capturing the bevy of photographic possibilities around us. Fortunately we have people eager to do that. At the new 360 Restaurant are some fabulous pictures by local photographer Mark Robertson highlighting both the underwater world and the above ground landscape. He displays a print of Forbidden Island that is especially impressive. KZMI Director Harry Blalock also has his pictures displayed at the monument leading to the Grotto and has numerous staggering underwater photographs here: http://www.saipandiver.smugmug.com/ Those pictures lend the world a new appreciation to the underwater world around us, and his nudibranch photographs have been published in several scientific books.

Finally, for two weekends this month I was able to witness several local actors from the Voices of the Marianas ply their craft in the "Play Buffet," a set of original theater pieces written and performed by CNMI residents and organized by director Barbara Sher. Especially impressive were the pieces written and performed by Richard Hamilton, Nahal Navidar, Donald Cohen and a group of mostly Marianas High School students who did a sketch on life's changes, or lack thereof, over time.

So much for the bad news. It's good to remember we have a small, vibrant community of people here who do unique things with great passion. The CNMI is a place where people can invent and reinvent themselves.

Jeffrey C. Turbitt is the language arts department chairman at Saipan Southern High School, as well as an avid scuba diver and traveler. He offers more thoughts in his blog Hypercritical Thoughts at: www.turbittj.blogspot.com/ He welcomes feedback, tips and story ideas at turbittj@yahoo.com. His column appears regularly on Wednesdays.


Bruce A. Bateman said...

The young musicians are especially inspirational.

I'ts nice to look at the positive to balance all the negative crap, here and elsewhere.

Jenny Lnden and her husband Tom come to Porky's from time to time and we always enjoy their company. Good people. She had a baby herself not long ago, and they also have another young child. Very cute kids.

Harry Blalock said...

Thanks for the plug for my smugmug site Jeff, I've been uploading a ton of pictures to it recently.

Mark Robertson said...

Hey, Jeff,

The folks you mentioned do indeed make our island a better, healthier, more enjoyable place to live as they strive for and achieve excellence. I am pleasantly surprised and quite honored to see my name along with theirs. Thanks!

Mark Robertson