Marianas Variety

Last updateTue, 22 Oct 2019 12am







    Sunday, October 20, 2019-9:46:43A.M.






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Variations: Buy the book

IN 2009, Walt F. J. Goodridge co-authored with Chun Yu Wang a book titled “Chicken Feathers and Garlic Skin: Diary of a Chinese Garment Factory Girl on Saipan.” Back then, I called it an “important” book.

I misspoke. It is a very important book and remains essential reading for anyone curious about that controversial period of CNMI history. (The other equally important local books in English about the NMI include: “From Colonialism to Self-Government: the Northern Marianas Experience” by former Chief Justice Jose S. Dela Cruz; “The Rope of Tradition: Reflections of a Saipan Carolinian” by Lino M. Olopai; “Without a Penny in My Pocket: My Bittersweet Memories Before and After World War II” by Marie S.C. Castro; and “A Degree of Success Through Curiosity” by David M. Sablan.)

Walt has written and/or published other useful books about Saipan and the CNMI. This time he has co-authored with CHC nurse Riza Oledan-Ramos a certifiable page-turner, “Drinking Seawater: Of Storms and Survival.” Riza is a mom of two and has a very demanding job, but “Drinking Seawater” is her third book already. Walt also helped her publish two charming children’s books: “Germ Stopper Boy: The Clean Hands Hero (The Boy on Saipan)” and “The Boy Who Dreamed to Be With His Parents on Saipan.”

“Drinking Seawater” is about life on a small island after a typhoon had plowed through it. It is a 168-page book that includes many photos, a disaster resource guide and a glossary. Like any good story well-told, it begins in the middle of the action:

“ ‘Grab the papers and follow me! I’ll bring Junior to the car! Now! Go! Get the passports!’

“I had second thoughts about following my husband Ferdinand’s orders. I had heard that fleeing in the middle of a storm was not safe, but when I saw the water pouring in through the ceiling and into our living room like a waterfall, I knew we had to leave. Just moments earlier, we had heard loud cracking and splitting sounds and the walls shook violently. It would probably be only a matter of seconds before the entire house collapsed in on us!”

I couldn’t put the book down. I was also on island on that awful evening, and like everyone else in those horrible post-Soudelor days, I, too, was swept back to what seemed like island-life in 1915.

“Drinking Water” also recounts Riza’s pre-Saipan life. Her husband has been working here since 1995. Four years later, she took and passed the NCLEX on Saipan. She started working for CHC in 2006. I recommend Riza’s book to anyone who may be interested in knowing something about overseas Filipino workers in the NMI because her life story shows that not everyone’s story is the same.

Riza’s narrative also explains why so many typhoon victims patiently waited for relief goods and other assistance in those long, infernal lines. “Since the typhoon,” she wrote, “we’d been spending more than usual on food, bottled water, plates, spoons, paper cups, baby wipes and candles. It made sense to take advantage of the help that was available to save some money.”

But after going through the tortuous process of obtaining FEMA money for her damaged house and other belongings, here’s what Riza has to say: “Dodge ball. Basketball. Volleyball. Any kind of ball being bounced from one hand to another — that’s how I felt. If this money were for me alone — if I were single — I would never go through all of this. It was like begging, and I felt like a desperate beggar willing to jump through any hoop for a handout. I felt like being selfish and simply walking away, but I couldn’t. This was for my family, for my children, and God alone knows how much I would sacrifice for them.”

She received her check on Nov. 3rd, or three months after Soudelor slammed into the island. “The money helped us get some things we desperately needed. I thought about my father…. I’m not sure disaster relief is the hard-earned money [he] talk[ed] about, but, believe me, we did work hard to get it to our hands!”

There are many other memorable passages strewn all over the pages of this slim, splendid book which is alternately funny and sad, fascinating and moving.

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