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An Overview

An overview of life on Saipan, Tinian and Rota.

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SaipanLiving.com is a website for people who live or plan to live on the island of Saipan, CNMI (Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands). We provide up-to-date information, as well as products and services to facilitate living, working, raising a family, or starting and operating a business on the islands of Saipan, Tinian and Rota.

The Truth About Saipan

Hi, My name is Walt Goodridge. I am the founder of Saipanliving.com

If you're like me, a title like "The Truth About [Anything]" is a compelling one that makes you want to read more. I believe we all, on some level, yearn to know the truth. Especially if you've heard contrasting things about life on Saipan, it would be nice, once and for all, to get to the truth of it all, wouldn't it?

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The truth is, however, there is no single truth about Saipan. In any attempt to uncover the truth, what we find are subjective perspectives, opinions and observations determined by individual agendas. Some agendas are simple: (eg. "I want to make everyone as miserable as I am"). Some agendas are complex. (eg. "We will organize a federal takeover, reshape it in our image, and make this a military R&R spot for the troops.")

Even the news media has an agenda. People joke that the media's motto is "never let the truth get in the way of a good story!" Good (read salacious) stories sell papers, magazines and advertising. Yes, the truth changes based on who is speaking and what they want out of life.

So, whether Saipan is a paradise or a den of corruption is all based on one's agenda. If you are a pessimist who wants people to wallow in your misery, then Saipan is one thing. If you're an optimist, bent on helping improve conditions it's another. If you call yourself a "realist" (generally a pessimist in disguise), then things generally tend toward the negative with the disclaimer that you're just being real.

But that's all okay, because if you know a person's agenda, then everything they say and do makes sense (unless their agenda is specifically to confuse you about what their agenda is; or unless they're just crazy). And, if you know a person's agenda, then you won't be unduly misled by their claims to truth.

Walt's Agenda

So, with that said, what's MY agenda? As the author of several passionpreneur books, and as evidenced by the title of my weekly column, my agenda is to encourage people to start their own businesses based on their passions. However, I have other agendas as well. One is to help ALL peoples optimize their assets, achieve empowerment, and maintain control over the things that matter to them. Here on Saipan--for my own selfish reasons--I'd like to maintain the cultural diversity, natural beauty, and uncomplicated lifestyle that I've come to love about living here.

But wait, there's more. There's also a part of my agenda that some may consider subversive, and that is to reveal the underlying deception of most modern ideals and belief systems, encourage a lifestyle that values simplicity and minimalism instead of consumerism, and excess, that favors the natural over the artificial, and at the same time honors everyone's right and freedom to choose whichever lifestyle works for them.

My goal is to help people arrive at a set of choices that creates a clean environment, promotes optimal health, safeguards the rights and freedoms of all, and offers an effective understanding of reality.

Every column I write, every website I launch, every project I embark upon includes a combination of some or all of those agendas. But don't be misled. Remember my agenda. It's not my nature to focus on the negative, however "real" the realists say it is. People who harp on doom won't start businesses or see the opportunity in the "doom."

Even my "facts" are selectively offered based on my agenda and what I want you to see. I can strive for a 50-50 balance, but even then, I'll always tend to give at least 51% (accentuate the positive, and eliminate the negative, as Bing Crosby sang) to aid the possibility of victory and the triumph of hope.

The Truth About Saipan

So, with that said, here is my truth about Saipan:

  • Saipan is overcoming a branding challenge. In other words, what comes to mind when people think of "Saipan" isn't always what those of us who actually live and work here think are its best assets. We're emerging from the shadow of an era tainted by a controversial garment industry, and other bad (accurate or not) press.
  • Like the rest of the world, there's an economic transition taking place on Saipan. In addition, there are agendas for federalization, immigration and labor reform, which make this an island on the verge. However, even with these and other changes and challenges, there are a multitude of assets which make this a great place to visit, vacation, live, learn and love!
  • Great Weather--Saipan holds the Guiness World Record for most consistent temperature. The average difference between night and day is greater than the average difference between winter and summer. Those of us who actually live and work here on Saipan enjoy warm tropical weather year round.
  • Natural beauty--there is natural, prisitine beauty here in the form of beautiful sunrises, beaches, foliage, fruits, sunsets, rock formations, aquatic life and more!
  • Proximity to Marianas Trench (the deepest part of the world's oceans)--while no one actually goes diving that deep, our proximity to such a rich, bio-diverse, unexplored region of the world's oceans has blessed us with underwater life that makes Saipan one of the best places for….
  • World class diving-- World class shore diving, "Eagle Ray City", and the Grotto are just some of the activities and locations those who dive our waters rave about.
  • Discovery of Ecological significance--Scientists and students of ecology can learn much about life on our planet from our coral reefs (estimated value comparable to Hawaii), and the pristine, biodiversity of our waters. The US Government recently created the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument (an area of over 12,000 square nautical miles) in recognition of this significance.
  • Cultural diversity--Life on Saipan has been influenced by the Spanish, Germans, Japanese, and Americans! The indigenous Chamorro and Carolinian people, immigrants, guest workers, tourists, investors and students from Asia, the Pacific, and America, make this a place of unprecedented cultural/ethnic potential.
  • Historical significance--Without needing to glorify war and violence, it stands as fact that Saipan was key battle site during World War II. It's been said the cold war started in Tinian, the island just 3 miles south of Saipan! That's where the atomic bombs dropped on Japan were launched!
  • Archeological significance--ancient artifacts of some of the planet's earliest civilizations are found here.
  • Unsolved Mysteries--he case could be made that there are stories waiting to be told about the Amelia Earhart Mystery, sunken Spanish treasure ships, World War II disappearances, ancient civilizations in which Saipan figures prominently. What might you discover on your own?

    And that's just some of the truth about Saipan. (Don't forget my agenda). Despite its challenges, many who come, stay. Many who leave, miss it terribly. And many who travel the world over, come back to enjoy a way of life they can't find anywhere else. Those of us who actually live and work on Saipan know this to be truth.

    "Come See For Yourself!"

    Ultimately, the only way to discover the truth about Saipan, is to come see for yourself! But it would be wise to heed the moral of this story:

    Once upon a time, a person moved into a new town and asked one of the town residents, "What are the people in this town like?" "What were the people like in the town you just left?" The resident asked back.

    The new person answered, "They were unfriendly and nasty."

    And the town resident said, "I think you'll find the people here are just about the same."

    Later, the same resident was approached by another new arrival, who asked the same question. Again, the resident asked, "What were the people like in the town you just left?"

    The answer was "The people were warm and friendly." And the resident answered, "I think you'll find the people here are just about the same."

    Saipan Living Invitation

    As founder of SaipanLiving.com, I receive questions and inquiries every day from people who are considering moving to Saipan to live, work, start businesses, rent property, escape the rat race, or simply live a different lifestyle. If you'd like to share your truth with them, as the content on the site is being developed, please visit www.saipanliving.com and/or email me to become an expert and answer their questions. I encourage you to participate, otherwise, their perception of Saipan will be "the world according to Walt," (and who wants a bunch of subversive, minimalist, Jamaican, vegan idealists running around island?)

  • Introduction to Saipan

    map of saipan
  • Saipan is an island in the Pacific Ocean. It is the capital of The US Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands ("the CNMI"). The CNMI is a fourteen-island chain of islands (an archipelago) that stretches 400 miles (north to south) along the edge of the Marianas Trench. Saipan, just 5 miles wide by 12 miles long, and is the largest and most populated of these 14 islands.

  • Geographically, Saipan is located at:
    Latitude: 15° 7' 13" N
    Longitude: 145° 43' 49" E

  • By plane, Saipan is about 3 hours from Japan, 5 hours from Shanghai, China, 4 hours from Korea, 15 hours from California, 6.5 hours from Sydney, Australia, 8 hours from Tuluksak, AK

    The Host Culture

    The indigenous population on Saipan--what we refer to as the "host culture"--are the Chamorro and Carolinian people. Archeologists are discovering that some of the oldest civilizations on the planet are in this region of the world.

    According to the book, Ancient Chamorro Society by Lawrence J. Cunningham, ...the customs, beliefs, and attitudes [of Chamorro society] were as intricate and well-developed as any insular Pacific society. Of particular interest is what the author describes as Chamorros' core value: "Inafa'maolek, or interdependence within the kinship group, is the key or central value in Chamorro culture" (p.86). Cunningham state s that inafa'maolek within the family is based on mutualism rather than western individualism. To illustrate the Chamorro value system, inafa'maolek permeated all levels of society, operating on the basis of chenchule' (reciprocity), ayuda (help), emmok (revenge), mamahlao (deference), and gupot (celebration) in seeking general harmony within the family or village.

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    Saipan may be Pacific's oldest archaeological site
    Sediment cores taken from Saipan's Lake Susupe in 2002 have yielded a continual record of plant pollen and other materials for the past 8,000 years that could make the island one of the oldest archaeological site in the Pacific, according to the Historic Preservation Office. HPO director Epiphanio E. Cabrera said that scientists who have been working with the CNMI recently announced new evidence that could push the date for the earliest human settlement in Micronesia back to nearly 5,000 years ago.

    Cabrera said researchers J. Stephen Athens and Jerome Ward from the International Archaeological Research Institute Inc. noted a series of abrupt shifts in Saipan's ancient environment, some of which appeared to have been caused by humans. Charcoal particles and an abundance of grass pollen and pollens from betel nut palm and coconut trees that appeared around 6,860 BCE were analyzed. Cabrera said the discovery predates the earliest archaeological sites on Saipan by more than a thousand years. "This is some of the earliest evidence for human settlement ever found in Micronesia," he said.

    Dr. Richard Knecht, acting staff archaeologist, said the recent findings suggest that sites 5,000 years or older existed on Saipan. "The challenge now is to use what we know about ancient shorelines, which will likely reveal more early sites and possibly the first movement of early humans into the Pacific from Asia," Knecht said.

    Cabrera said that future studies and coring of lakes and sinkholes in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) are required to refine the "very promising, though still preliminary" findings. Other studies of ancient sites also revealed early occupation of the CNMI.

    The HPO director said a core from Lake Hagoi on Tinian revealed coconut pollen and charcoal particles dating back to 5,444 BCE There were also similar finds at Tipalao Marsh in Guam and a sinkhole in the Kagman Peninsula on Saipan's east side also shows major changes in vegetation by about 6,520 BCE. "It probably took years for humans to alter the environment to the point where it leaves a signature in the sediment cores. Therefore, the actual dates of initial human settlement could be decades or centuries before those taken from the cores," he said.

    The earliest sites in the CNMI are Saipan's Unai Achugao site from 1,800 B.C. and Tinian's Unai Chulu site dating to 1,500 B.C. Cabrera said HPO's search to find the earliest site in the CNMI will continue as long as funding is available. "It seems safe to assume that our ancestors were here on these islands 5,000 years ago," Cabrera said.
    Source: Saipan Tribune (10 November 2005) Visit here for more on Chamorro culture

    Who are the TOUWALAWOS on Saipan?

    "Touwalawos" is just a fun word we coined here at Saipanliving.com to name a special group of people who have a distinctly different perspective and opinion of Saipan that one can only get by actually living here. It stands for "Those Of Us Who Actually Live And Work On Saipan"

    Weather on Saipan

    Saipan has great weather! Saipan holds the Guiness World Record for "most consistent temperature." The average difference between night and day is greater than the average difference between winter and summer. TOUWALAWOS experience cool nights of 83F to daytime highs of 93F, and just a bit cooler in winter months.

    The Saipan Economy

    Like much of the world, the Saipan economy is feeling the effects of number of factors. At the present moment, there are 5 factors that specifically impact what's happening here on Saipan:
    1. Federalization of Saipan's labor and immigration.
    2. The recent departure of the garment industry
    3. Drop in tourism from Japan and neighboring regions
    4. The proposed build-up in military troops stationed on Guam
    5. General economic downturn.

  • These factors and more are discussed at length in SaipanLiving's manual Doing Business on Saipan

  • Some great sources of historical economic data is available from Bill Stewart, economic advisor and author at www.SaipanStewart.com

  • An overview of the garment industry era on Saipan is available HERE

  • Tribune Article #141- January 14, 2009: The Last Garment Factory is Closing!


    Saipan is on the US dollar.

    Land Ownership

    At the present moment, land ownership is limited to people of NMI descent only. Everyone else may rent or lease property for up to 55 years.

    Tax Advantages of living on Saipan

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