New Blog...

We have a new blog that we will be posting to on a much more regular basis!  The address is:

It will feature a chronicling of letters to our daughter, Niall Rebecca, about her adventures with her family.  Please join us there to hear about updates from Team Elger!


Lizzie-San and Steve-San

Elizabeth hinted in her earlier blog post about her training for the Saipan 10K.  However, what she didn’t mention was the amount of overwhelming encouragement she received from a teacher at our school, Chang Wang Jang (you can’t make that up).  Mr. Jang, who is a delightfully quirky individual with tireless endurance and optimism, has participated in 27 of the 30 half-marathons run on Saipan.  Even more impressive is the fact that he’s run most of those WITHOUT SHOES.  He provided Liz with inspirational quotes and training regimens throughout the process and was the first person to tell us that her picture was in the paper finishing.  All in all, he was truly a Mr. Miyagi to Liz’s Daniel-San.
Lizza-San with her Mr. Miyagi
 Also crucial to Liz’s attack on the 10K was her partner in running, Mr. Brian O’Laughlin.  While Brian wasn’t able to get registered in time to “officially” run in the race, he hopped in right after the start and ran with Liz all the way (hopping out right before the finish line).  Brian and Liz both completed their first 10K and became local celebrities in the process (Liz’s finish shot below is priceless).  Great job Liz and Brian!

Finish Line Picture, courtesy of Saipan Tribune
Brian and Liz after the race

Liz, Steve, and Michael (friends of ours) after the race being filmed by a Japanese film crew!

Our good friend Steve Gardiner (Daniel Stafford’s roommate) is quite an accomplished runner in his own right, and ended up finishing second in his age group in the half-marathon (see picture above).  However, his Karate Kid moment really came through another popular Asian pastime, table tennis.  Steve’s coach, Jean, is one of the better players on Saipan, and has enabled him to improve leaps and bounds in his ping pong skills.  Liz and I were fortunate enough to witness part of his “coming of age” moment a few weekends ago in a tournament held at Ada Gym.  Eliminate all preconceptions you have of a leisurely backyard game.  Players were from all over the CNMI and Guam.  Serves all had tremendous spin, players were backed off the table to handle the velocity, and there was no such thing as an easy match.  Nonetheless, Steve not only competed well but also won…not one, but TWO MATCHES!!  Mad props to the Wiley Washingtontonian (representing Bainbridge Island) for taking down Cobra Kai and exposing us to the entertaining world of international table tennis!  And, of course, thank you Jean for serving as Steve’s Mr. Miyagi!

Enjoy these pictures...

Steve before his last match of the weekend.  Confidence!

Jean, Mrs. Miyagi, coaching her Steve-san up.  Sorry it's a bad picture!


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Smith Invasion of Saipan

Mom and Dad came to Saipan, and it was in a word...awesomeamazingmemoryfilledspectacular!  We got to spend two whole weeks with just them and us.  None of us could remember when the last time (or if ever) that has happened.  We were definitely spoiled rotten.  And, you will all be very proud to know that Mom really took a vacation!  She truly took the mantra of the island to heart...Relax!  Here is their visit in pictures....

They were greeted at the airport by the Elgers and the O'Laughlins.  Brian O'Laughlin's Dad, Jim-O, was on the same flight from Tokyo as Mom and Dad.

Mom was given a huge hug, and I got a mommy hug that I had been waiting months for!  This was the longest time-frame Mom and I had ever gone without seeing each other.  It certainly made me appreciate Joey going to college so far from Georgia.
They were greeted with tropical weather.  What a change from the snow in Georgia!
Welcome to Saipan, Jim-O!
Dad met his long-lost brother, Jerry Facey.  These two were seriously separated at birth! 
Dad adopted a "boonie dog" named Blue!
They got to see all the tourist sites on Saipan...Here they are at the Bird Island Overlook.  Both of them were amazed at all the shades of blue in the water in Saipan.
Mom and Dad spent a great deal of time with Uncle Jerry and Aunt Irene.  (We are hoping that the Faceys will be in Georgia this summer to celebrate Uncle Jerry's birthday!)
Dad got lots of hugs and snuggles from his favorite daughter!
Mom and Joey played on their mobile devices...Mom was playing her bubble breaker game, and Joey was checking scores.  Good to know life can be normal in Saipan!
I took Dad and Mom snorkeling for the first time in their lives!  We saw tons of fish and even blue starfish. 
We went to Tinian to see the historic sites.  Here they are in our little plane.
Dad and I looked down from the second floor of the Old Communications Building.
Mom found the "Inspector's Office" on Tinian and felt right at home.
Dad loved riding his scooter because it brought back memories of his motorcycle days!
Dad and Mom drove down Runway Able (the same one the planes carrying the atomic bombs took off from).
Dad got to see one of the Seabees monuments on Tinian.  Side story...My favorite Great Uncle, Uncle Tite, was a Seabee during World War II.  The Seabees were, among many other things, responsible for building the runways on Tinian.  We know that Uncle Tite was on Saipan during the war and fought in the Battle of Okinawa.  There's a high likelihood that he was also on Tinian and played a part in building the runway.  It's a very long way from Evinston, Florida (where Uncle Tite and Dad are from) to the Northern Mariana Islands.  It meant a lot to all of us to have perhaps walked in the same footsteps as Uncle Tite half-way around the world and many decades later. 
They played Trivia at Wild Bill's with Jim O, Colleen, and the Elgers.  We didn't win (like the Crash Test Dummies), but we did have a great time!
Mom and Dad enjoyed the view from Mt. Topotchao...and enjoyed wearing matching outfits!
Mom wanted to re-enact her "spill" she took at the top of Mt. Topotchao.  Thank goodness there was a beer can in the bushes to break her fall and stop her from falling down the mountain.  This is Saipan, after all!
My students (all 143 of them) got to meet two of my favorite people in the world!  Mom and Dad spent an entire day with me at school.  The students asked them questions about their relationship, what I was like as a child, life in Georgia, where they've traveled and other important things they've done with their lives, etc.  Mom and Dad got to ask my students about life on Saipan and their dreams and aspirations.  It was truly a very special day!
Mom and I got to be Saipandas!
Mom took TONS of pictures with her Crack-berry.
Mom and Dad enjoyed Thursday Night Street Market.  They even got to see some of our students dance!
Richard Allen Smith got to meet his long-lost grandson, Richard Matsuyama.  (Yes, that's Richard's cartoon drawing on my wall of himself to the left of where he's standing.)
Mom enjoyed drinking the local beverage, Kava, because it took her back to her days at Emory!
Mom and Dad hiked to Bird Island and loved it!
Dad was a little tired afterwards, though.
They also hiked Old Man by the Sea...again in their matching outfits.

Based on the pictures, it looks like they did a lot during their time on Saipan.  And, trust us, they did.  They also did some stuff that wasn't pictured.  They ate Thai food for the first time (and loved it); met our U.S. Congressman, Gregorio Kilili, while dining at our favorite local restaurant; bought new sandals from Pay Less; ate lunch with us almost every day; took us out for ice cream almost every afternoon; attended a Wine and Cheese fundraiser for a local school and met all of our friends; were entertained at Casa O'Laughlin with homemade lasagna and apple pie; understood how much stuff actually costs on Saipan and were shocked; saw some movies; took naps; read books; saw my cheerleaders and Joey's soccer girls; shopped at local stores; enjoyed spending quality time with each other; had long talks with their favorite daughter and son-in-law; gave and got loads of hugs!  In a word...awesomeamazingmemoryfilledspectacular!


Tsunami Survived!

All is well in Saipan!  We are safe and sound on our precious, little island.  Thank you to the many who called, sent texts, emails, facebook messages, and sent up prayers and good thoughts.  We felt you and have a much better appreciation for the distance we are away from our families and friends. 

What an experience!  Joey was at soccer practice, and I was at school (one of the many benefits of having one car!).  I was told at 4:30pm that a tsunami warning was in effect for the island (it was slated to come ashore at 6:53pm), and we were to evacuate the school ASAP (we're located right across from the beach!).   I tried to call Joey, but our one and only cell phone was dead.  Isn't it always in situations when you really need it?!  So, I patiently waited for him at school.  He arrived around 6:00pm, and we headed home.  He or his players had no idea we were under a tsunami warning! 

Everyone, and I mean everyone, on island was on the roads heading to higher land--mass exodus.  Gas stations had cars lined ten deep; stores near the beach had their storm windows shuttered; and the convenient stores near our home were packed with people getting necessary supplies...not bread and milk, mind you, but beer. (This is Saipan, after all!)  We arrived home around 6:30pm and braced ourselves...

Nothing.  Absolutely nothing. 

To be honest, we oscillated between taking the warning seriously or not.  Obviously, we did and were prepared for the worst.  However, our house is on very high ground, so it would have to be an enormous tsunami to actually reach us.  We have heard rumors that there was an uncharacteristic three-foot wave that came ashore during the time the tsunami was to hit on the northern part of the island, although none of our news agencies have confirmed that.  Saipan is lucky in its geography for situations like this.  The Marianas Trench and our coral reef that encircles the island are natural barriers for tsunamis.  In fact, we've asked a lot of locals, and they can't remember a time when a tsunami ever hit.  (Typhoons, a very different story.)

So, all in all, it was a normal night.  We liken it to when everyone in Georgia freaks out when snow flurries are in the air and heads to the Wal-Mart for the "necessities."  Why do we always buy bread and milk in situations like that?!  Anyway, it was an experience nonetheless, and we are glad it is behind us.

Unfortunately, this is not the case for the Japanese.  One of my students and Joey's soccer players cannot get a hold of his uncle in Japan who lives in the area where the earthquake and tsunami hit.  Please keep him as well as the hundreds of thousands that have been impacted by these events in your thoughts and prayers. 


Who knew that could be so much fun?!

As many of you can tell, we are thoroughly enjoying our time in Saipan.  Not only do we adore our kids we teach, our lives outside of school, and our wonderful home, we have taken much better care of ourselves.  This was our main goal for this year...to make our health a priority.  We've accomplished this by eating healthier, drinking lots more water, and exercising.  Joey has found his niche with soccer.  I have found mine with running.  When we arrived on Saipan, Joey and I would run after school.  Our training regiment was to run 2 minutes and walk 2 minutes.  I could barely make it to the end of the 2 minutes and dreaded the next run after our 2 minute rest.  Something happened, though, and I began to really love running.  It's easy to do when you have a beautiful ocean to look at and wonderful tunes rocking (my favorite being the World Cup 2010 soundtrack...just brings back such amazing memories!).  Having run my first 5K in December, I decided to start training for my first 10K.  With the help of Becky Iseman (who came up with my training schedule) and Brian O'Laughlin (who has been my running partner on several occasions), I have made it.  Tomorrow is the big day!  My goal is to finish but more importantly, enjoy myself.  Who knew running (and exercising, for that matter) could be so much fun?

Another activity that I haven't found fun in quite some time is reading.  Sorry, former English teachers, but I don't think I ever kept my secret that well.  I just didn't find pleasure in reading, and I certainly never made time to read when we lived in Habersham.  Without internet and TV at home, one finds time to do a lot of things, and reading has become one of them for me.  What makes all of this even better is that there are these places that you can get books for weeks at a time for FREE!  They're called LIBRARIES!  They have amazing selections of books and even people to help you with what to read.  I'm now reading on average 3 books every month (the really thick ones!), and I'm actually loving it!  I just finished "The Help," and if you haven't read it, please do!  You'll laugh and cry, even if you're not an authentic Southerner.  Who knew reading could be so much fun?

While I haven't cooked another gourmet feast, I am still cooking...and loving it!  I feel confident enough to cook without using recipes and experiment with flavors.  A few times, I've made some flops, but for the most part, my gastro-concoctions have been pretty good.  Let me put it this way, Joey and I aren't losing any weight!  We try to eat at home most nights, and even after a long day of work, practice, and running, I know that a healthy and delicious meal can be ready in just a few minutes.  Who knew cooking could be so much fun?

Colleen's Birthday

Colleen is 29!  I definitely feel like she is the "older, more mature friend" in the relationship, but alas, she is 3 years younger than I.  God brought some pretty special people in the world during the month of February, and Colleen Manion O'Laughlin is one of them.  In case you don't know, Brian and Colleen take entertaining to the extreme.  Visit their blog and read about their Thanksgiving party they threw for 20 of their closest friends.  Besides them being a ridiculous blend of Martha Stewart and Paula Deen (without the Southern accent), they're just downright great people.  So, how would they celebrate a birthday in true O'Laughlin style...Read on, my friends, read on... 
Brian took Colleen out to a fabulous dinner, and I arrived as a surprise with the dessert--a cake B ordered from a local bakery.  Scrumptious-delicioso doesn't do this one justice. YUM!
The weekend of celebration began with a Chicken Bus...It can only get better from here!

The bus, complete with a horn that sounds like a Cock-a-doodle-do!

The hostesses with the mostesses posing before our dive bar crawl.

In keeping with the "chicken" theme, Colleen and Brian had a basket full of eggs.  At various points in the evening, each rider had to draw an egg and do whatever task was inside!

First stop, the Boss!  When Brian called and told them he was bringing about 20 people, they said, "No, Don't come.  Too many!"

Russ had to wear oven mitts the entire time we were at the Boss, according to his egg.

Amanda's egg said she had to be blind-folded during our visit to Boss.  Trey is leading her through the parking lot.

Trellis (from Atlanta who went to the same middle school as Joey and now lives and works in Saipan...small world!) sang some Boyz II Men in our private room.

You know Brian had to sing some tunes!

2nd Stop, the Manic Inn

That's right, it's a cafe, boutique, AND bar!  I think this concept should be trademarked.  This is such a GREAT idea.

They sell sexy dresses.  Don't these guys look FABULOUS?!  They also have other precious clothes.

They sell awesome shoes, jewelry, and adorable purses!  Why hasn't anyone in the mainland thought of this concept...mixing drinking, eating, and shopping in a quaint setting?!
Joey's task from his egg was to wear flippers during our time in Manic Inn.  Doesn't he look so cool?!
Adam and my eggs said we had to have one of Colleen's favorite drinks.  All the February birthdays shared one together!  Happy Birthday to US!
In keeping with the Raider tradition, our third bar was D' Pirates.  But, alas, it was closed.  So...

we got to go to the Flame Tree Lounge instead.  Just wait to you see the inside...

Colleen at the entrance.

Artificial flowers covered the entire ceiling, but the disco ball shown brightly!

And we all know that a bar is incomplete without its picture of dualing stallions

Rolls of toilet paper helped seal the crack between the wall and the air conditioner.  I'm sure this meets building code.  TIS!

Ben's egg told him to wear flippers during our time at Flame Tree, and he did such a great job!

Wearing a snorkel and mask was the egg prize that Peter won!  We all really enjoyed the experience at the hole in the wall that is the Flame Tree.  Scuba Steve ordered a beer that had to be opened with a bottle opener, but the bar tenders at the Flame Tree Lounge didn't have a bottle opener.  Why would you?  At a bar, I mean.  One that serves bottled drinks that is.

4th, Utopia

Utopia spelled out in lights!

The girls get their groove on on the dance floor!

One of the regulars, affixed with a man-bag/shoulder-wearing-fanny-pack, watching us.

Nicole's egg asked her to wear a dress.  Brian and Colleen were hoping that a male participant would draw this one!

Adam and Trellis pose with some of the "bar maids" during their game of pool.

The workers had such a good time while we were at Utopia, they followed us out to the parking lot to tell us goodbye!

The Islander Club is number 5.

Daniel's egg said to wear oven mitts, and Eileen drew the snorkel and mask one.  Don't they look so cute?!

Islander Club has it's own stripper's pole.  Trey, as well as many others, got busy!

Daniel gives two thumbs up for his dart performance!

Joey takes aim...

and gets his (almost) first bulls-eye!  He gives the obligatory "hang loose" sign for the photo.

My first time at darts...not too shabby!

Final stop of the evening...Charlie's.

Scuba Steve's egg told him to buy me a drink.

Eileen got behind the bar at Charlie's to put her bartending skills to use.  The people at Charlie's were awesome!
The decorations were awesome too. 

The History Channel was on, showing a documentary on the St. Louis Arch.  Colleen went to college in St. Louis.  How appropriate!

Again, check out the awesome decor?!
Charlie's has their own dart accessory container, complete with some awesome trophies!

Why wouldn't you have a Mobil Oil can split in half and be using it as a grill?
Which gas pump is the greater decoration?  Mobilgas?

Your guess is as good as ours!

Charlie's even uses coconuts to create decorations!
Charlie's also sells Genuine Ford Parts!

And, they support Jeff Gordon Racing, #24 in the program, #1 in our hearts!

Our driver who made the entire night possible.

The Crew at the end of the Chicken Bus Extravaganza!  What a wonderful memory of Saipan!
Our Dive-Bar-Pub-Crawl-Chicken-Bus-A-Palooza was definitely a night to remember.  Joey and I (and many of our friends for that matter) had never been inside many of these establishments.  Although, after our visits, we will definitely be returning to all of them (except for maybe Flame Tree).  In three of them, we were the only patrons present.  It begs us to ask the question, "How do these kinds of places survive in Saipan, especially in this economy?  And, what must this place have been like during the garment factory heyday?"  Overall, the evening provided us with a fabulous social and intellectual experience.  Leave it to the O's!