Day 1 – Saipan

Sunday, March 10, 2019

I was able to get 3 hours of uninterrupted sleep but that was enough to get the rest I needed.

After a quick shower, I packed my bags and proceeded to the lobby to wait for my shuttle to the airport where I met one of the other volunteers, PR Schrock who was also waiting for the shuttle.  During our conversation, PR mentioned that he had met Anet Gingerich, one of the other volunteers, on the flight from Guam and that she was staying at the Wyndham Hotel overnight.

The shuttle arrived at 5:30 am, as scheduled and promptly took us to the airport.   The drive only took 5 minutes, however, there was already a long lineup at the check-in counter, so this gave us a chance to get better acquainted.  After receiving our boarding passes, we got into the long line for checking our bags.   When we finally cleared the baggage check, PR and I proceeded to the gate and arrived there just before boarding time, where we met most of the other MDS volunteers; Dan Driediger, Phil Histand, Anet Gingerich, Ed Lombardi and Kendall Nolt.

It was a full flight and we were delayed from leaving by an issue with the baggage.    Even with the delay, we made it to Saipan shortly after our scheduled arrival time.   Once we were in the Saipan airport, we were directed to baggage claim before clearing customs and I was amazed at the size and quantity of bags and containers being picked up by the passengers.   Since Saipan is an island, bringing items on the plane as a passenger is an economical way of shipping them.

Ed had checked 4 large and very heavy bags containing tools for the project and since the other passengers had taken all of the carts, I carried two of the bags for him through customs.

Harold Miller, the MDS site director, Greg Olson and Duane Cookson ( aka ” Big D” ) had come previously to set up the project site and  were waiting for us at the airport entrance.  We packed the bags into a truck and then Harold and I went to the rental car building to pick up a rental car, while the others drove to the hotel.

I had been given authorization by FEMA to rent a vehicle, but unfortunately, I hadn’t received the specific paperwork with the information required to rent the vehicle so Harold decided to contact the FEMA rep on Monday to determine what we needed to do and we drove to the Grandvrio Hotel to meet the others.

The hotel rooms would not be ready until 3 pm, so we went to a local restaurant for some breakfast, after which we attended the Saipan Community Church service in the open air building along the beach.  At first glance the church appeared to have been heavily damaged, but it served its purpose.  The people were very friendly and sermon was very good.   During the announcements at the end of the service, a request was made for volunteers to help organize and distribute Operation Christmas Child boxes on the Island.  This was of particular interest to me because the preparation of these boxes for this program has been very well supported by the churches in the Niagara area back home.

Following the service, we toured the island for a while and met some of the recipients of the volunteer work done during the past 2 years.

At 2 pm we returned to the hotel to find out that we could check in.  At 3 pm we met outside the hotel lobby for orientation, after which we had some free time.  At 5 pm we went to a restaurant for something to eat, after which, Greg treated everyone to ice cream at a nearby McDonald’s.

Most of us were suffering from a bit of jet lag and were ready to fall asleep by the time we returned to the hotel even though it was still early.   I tried to stay awake, but by 8 pm I fell asleep.

The temperature in Saipan during this time of year is about 29 C ( 84 F ) during the day and 24 C ( 75 F ) at night with 80 % humidity, so we will be eating breakfast at 6 am so that we can be on the job site(s) by 7 am and finish by 3 pm to avoid as much of the afternoon heat as possible.

One thought on “Day 1 – Saipan

  1. Hi Ralf
    Well we jumped ahead an hour you know spring ahead. No were near the many hours differences you and the folunteers had to adjust to.
    It is great to travel with you. I marvel at the how travel can bring so many people from many place all together There is even a MacDonald’s. Any Starbuck’s?
    Most importantly you have arrived safely. Continued prayers…Carol

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