As on Guam the previous morning, rain clouds hang overhead and a morning shower blesses the land. The Port Authority has readied a welcome for our visitors!
Meanwhile, our small team is about a mile away finalizing our game plan and "play it by ear" itinerary for the arriving guests.
Filipina Carmen, American Jim, Chinese Selina, Jamaican Walt, get ready...get set...
Dockside, final preparations are being made while the passengers go through the necessary customs check onboard the ship.
Vicente Camacho and Gordon Marciano handle logistics and discuss special plans and recognition for a few of the arrivals
Dancers greet the arriving visitors on tarmac still wet from the rain
As the passengers finally alight, we meet and greet our charges for the day!
Shirley (in red) wanted a Cantonese-speaking guide to help personalize her mom's and dad's Saipan experience
Dad, Mom and Shirley...Wish granted! Done!
Susan and Dave wanted to do Saipan at their own pace, away from the big buses and maddening crowds. She said: "We would prefer a private tour to a ship tour. More insight and fun. We would like the focus to be on history, WWII, culture...things like that.... he [her husband, Dave] loves tours, hearing stories, getting a feel for Saipan.
Dave and Susan! Wish granted! "Gangplank to tour van" pickup and drop off, no extra charge! But you can tip the driver/photographer!
And, drum roll please...the man (and his lady) of the hour, Lloyd and Judy Glick, wanted a private tour of this significant island; significant not only in Lloyd's personal life story, but as the site of a major battle pivotal to the outcome of World War II. We can do that, too....along with a few surprises!
We head first to the American Memorial Park!
Chief Ranger, Jason Beatty greets Lloyd and Judy at Memorial Park Visitors Center.
After the showing of the "Island called Saipan" mini-documentary, the auditorium full of visitors is treated to a special recognition ceremony!
A plaque and flag from Memorial Park to Lloyd
Vicente Camacho confers a certificate, commemorative medal and calendar from the 60th Anniversary Committee.
Then, I share the story of how Lloyd and I met, how we corresponded, and the autobiography that "we" created out of that online relationship.
Lloyd, the proud new author of Bugleboy to Battleship, view more at http://www.bestofsaipan.com/bugleboy
After the ceremony, representatives of the press, get the opportunity to quiz and question the returning veteran.
The Saipan Press Corps interview Lloyd and Judy
Finally, when the media frenzy is over, I get to take Lloyd on the pilgrimage of a lifetime....
Judy, Walt, Lloyd, Dave and Jim at the Old Japanese Jail...Did Amelia Earhart spend her final days here on Saipan during the war, check out
http://www.discoversaipan.com/amelia, then ask yourself that question again
a shining medal captures the sun! Posing with Saipan residents who've already heard of Lloyd's presence on island
Learning about Saipan's history at Sugar King Park
Receiving a special gift from Robert Hunter at the museum; holding copies of We Drank Our Tears.
Imagining the Beauty and Banzaii. The contrast that is Saipan.
Seeing the Last Command Post
Many more stops along the way!
It's a long, enjoyable day with great conversation and comradery.
At the end of the day, the two groups meet up at the Tuesday Farmer's Market in Garapan to say our final goodbyes!
Big smiles=good sign! A fun time was had by all! Thanks, Selina!
And we make a brief stop at I Luv Saipan for souvenirs, and head back to the ship!
Thanks for joining me on this latest DiscoverSaipan adventure! These past two days I've spent with Lloyd and Judy and everyone else on both Guam and Saipan have been amazing! These private tours are more than just a service transaction for me. My guests and I spend quality time together... really... and we really get to know each other! We create the beginnings of real friendships that we can build upon in the future if we choose. At the end of the day, we often leave each other reluctantly, with real hugs and sometimes tears in our eyes.
Oftentimes, I learn as much, and often more than I actually impart, and I get to experience people at their best:
Months ago, when I informed Susan and Dave (today's 2nd group) that, having already committed myself to Lloyd and Judy's Pilgrimage Tour, that I therefore would not be able to be their private guide for the day (which at the time was still months away), Susan graciously conceded and added:
"if you can not meet up with us, for sure we will be back and catch you the next time we are in town. My priority is that Lloyd and his wife are pleased with their day. This day is really all about them." and, she later added:
"I am happy for you that you are able to be in on his going back in time especially with your background and interest. Just a handful of these guys left, a real American treasure. What memories and stories he must have and you are there to capture it for all time. Hope the day exceeds his expectations!"--Susan
Well, Susan. We were both right, the universe IS perfect, things worked out, and we were both able to spend the day with Lloyd after all!
Now, as I say goodbye to Lloyd and Judy, I'm not sure if or when our paths will cross again for a face-to-face greeting, but I'm glad I was here to share this moment with them and help them "Discover Saipan!"
See you next time!
p.s. to see the red carpet rollout that Guam had in store for Lloyd, visit http://www.guamdaytours.com/glick
p.p.s. to go back in time to 1944 and join Lloyd aboard the USS North Carolina and share his memories of life aboard that battleship during WWII, check out
Bugle Boy to Battleship: A Battle of Saipan Veteran's Memoirs by Lloyd Glick, as told to Walt Goodridge