A Year in Saipan and What Do I Have to Show for It.

The usual run-down of the year 2012 as seen by Jim.

I had saved my pennies and liquidated my assets and finally was able to buy a plane ticket and secure an apartment on Saipan, and at the end of January, I crossed the World’s Most Beautiful Bridge and left the St. John’s Infirmary.
Saipan was all roosters and refuse, much of the refuse speared by multiple tangan-tangan trees — our 18 foot dandelions.  Everything else, including the tangan-tangan is green.  Lush to da max, bwah.  Like the Road to the Pali, but more.
Saipan is also a tiny place with only 40,000 people, but chained to the Federal system.  Thank goodness that chain is nearly 8,000 miles long, and since we are not a hot commodity on the terror spectrum, the negative imprint of the US bureaucracy is minimal.  Hence, people mostly live without the mental, emotional and cultural defects that mainlanders endure daily.  So what if the locals like fish that has been cooked till the eyes have been turned into charcoal.
Everybody has been very open, friendly and surprisingly kind: A friend of mine just got offered a house and farm, rent free just for scaring away the boonie dogs.  I’ve made friends with beach-bums, entrepreneurs, posers, bigamists, born again zealots and government workers and politicians, each with wonderful stories to share (which I’ll get around to writing when I can find some shit as good as Portland had to offer.)
When Joe Local introduces me to someone, I learn the person’s name (which never seems to find a place in my brain), where in the government the person works, and how that person is related to the speaker.  The important things to remember are 1) all Chamorros and Carolinians work in the government, and 2) everybody is related to everybody else.
I got here wanting to grow bamboo in different varieties.  Little did I know that the bamboo here is treated with benign contempt.  The bamboo grows wherever it can, and can’t be removed.  With little or no commercial value, the bamboo just enjoys the neglect.
So I thought about what kind of product would be useful for the people who live here, and in June or July I came up with ‘bamboo charcoal’ — The law here is very quirky, and if you cut tangan-tangan, you may violate “land-clearing” ordinances, but if you harvest bamboo, it is only considered “plant care.”
The traditional style of making charcoal in a slow-burning pit or heap is stinky and takes days: I found some references to newer methods and have applied for a Grant to make a cooker that can do the job in a few hours and burns clean: pyrolysis.
It so happens that pyrolysis is big, big, big: The agricultural community wants “bio-char” to remediate dead soil.  Recycling folks can turn auto tires and styrofoam into gasoline.  The energy people want to use it to light up homes or power cars.  In fact, after WWII when gasoline was not available, German folks actually used pyrolysis to get around:
I showed this pix to a friend who looked at it for about 30 seconds and suggested that we could power homes just by cooking the sword-grass that grows everywhere that the tangan-tangan isn’t growing.  He gave me a scythe.
I’m still not sitting under a bamboo grove sipping a blue fru-fru drink, but I’m closer.
That’s what happened in 2012.  Mostly.
Jim Hinds

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