I Keep Trying

It seems nearly impossible for me to break whatever innate behavioral programming “most people” hold. An uphill battle to even garner a conversation. See? I already seem like I’m negative and whining with an intro like this. I’m an optimist and idealist, this is why I keep trying. To break through, to reach somebody willing to engage in one. single. conversation.

I cannot possibly address everything, nobody would read all those words. Either I find somebody open-minded enough to want to talk, or I don’t. I recognize the odds are severely stacked against me. I’ve gone up against this before. Everywhere. All the time. If I thought like everybody else in the world, I wouldn’t be needed. If every social program or economic revitalization worked, poverty would already be solved. Clearly that isn’t the case. How does one fight the status quo? How could I possibly appeal to your own personal ambitions if I don’t know what they are?

I’m ready to move on from trying to engage in dialogue with Saipan and the CNMI. Momentum is waning and I see the law of diminishing returns already setting in. I’m offering whatever I can, to dedicate myself and my life, work tirelessly, with integrity. And… for almost nothing in return. Seriously. Just an opportunity. Because I want to help do something amazing. Different. Unique. Impactful. I know what my “market value” should be. I also know that I don’t care, and that I’m too desperate – or motivated – to care.

I’m living 20% below the federally-defined poverty line. LOL. All because people are so willing to judge me rather than listen or talk with me, incapable of seeing what I am. Looking at me and treating me like I’m not even human. It’s not like I’m deformed or dumb or rude. Confirmation bias: people see & hear what they want to. I don’t prioritize wealth, so this part is easy. I know that makes people feel uneasy, skeptical, dubious… that I could possibly be what I claim. Yeah, I’m more open and honest than I should be, I know. It’s a fault of mine.

Have I scared you away? Okay, just another ‘filter.’ Rest easy, others are just like this, too. Preconceived judgments are tough to break. Chances are you would not be the open-mind leader I seek. The one reading my words, valuing my thoughts, recognizing my value. Okay.

Is it that hard to believe somebody wants to do good? Push them out, dismiss them, ignore them, must be crazy. Gosh, what does that say about our world and our society as a whole?

Whatever, you’re seeking to accomplish… I’m offering help and support. I could post links for hundreds of business models, books, resources, white papers, research studies, statistics, and other data. The fact is, if one hasn’t already sought them out on one’s own, why would one bother to read tens of thousands of pages for thousands of hours? Just because I post some link? Hardly. Why not get me involved, with all that I wish to offer? My knowledge, experience, exposure, interests, and ideas? What would it cost?

That there might be the issue? Guess what?

I’m ONLY available because I’ve suffered from terrible loss, pain, suffering, and trauma. I wasn’t contacting the CNMI when I was making $80K in my mid-20’s. Or when I worked for the biggest fashion designers. Or after I established my professional photography business and charged up to $1600 for a single pet portrait. Or when I sold my oil painted canvases for $1500-2500 each. Or when I had my own business with clients as big as The Museum of Natural History in New York, Monterey Bay Aquarium, and SF Jazz.

No. I’m contacting you NOW. Because all of that is gone.

My loss could turn into something beneficial for some community willing to try. Wanting improvements and innovation. Any community leader, politician, or nonprofit/NGO/agency has the ability to help allow me to transform my current life from hardship into something beneficial. All it takes is giving me a chance to help the world. Sadly, I know… Most are too judgmental of my circumstance– or offer– to even bother. Life goes on. So do the world’s problems and biggest issues…

Soon, I’ll be forced to seek other communities. The five weeks of intensive, exclusive research I’ve done into the CNMI will be in my rearview as I look towards dozens of other impoverished communities possibly willing to consider my offer to help. I’ll bet it will be the same process I’ve faced before. Pretty much nothing. I’d be willing to bet that the first city, the first leaders to contact me will be where I’d move to. I really don’t care where. I just want the challenge of helping to solve the most difficult issues. I know I can contribute something. I’d prefer Saipan and the CNMI. But it doesn’t really matter. I’m going wherever I’d be valued and able to participate. Detroit, El Paso, Camden, East St. Louis, Albuquerque, Philadephia, Flint, Baltimore, Louisiana, Georgia, North Carolina…

I would look forward to starting a dialogue. Sincerely,

david @ soju . org

Maybe.

Hafa Adai. Since I posted “I Want to Help Saipan,” I’ve received over 100 unique visitors from the CNMI and Guam, accounting for roughly 200 page views. In barely one week. Thank you. It’s a start.

It seems I’m still up against a lot of the same prevailing mindset. People everywhere believe nobody knows their community’s struggles, without living there. Even though the persistence of hardship, poverty, lack of advanced educational attainment, corruption, inept politicians, and greed are literally everywhere. True, localized problems are always unique, yet I believe the same general principles and problems exist. However, solutions need to be applied based on local. Resources, talents, interests, needs, etc.

“Nobody is stopping you from moving here.”
Each person who dismisses me by saying this has every right to think as they think. “Just wait, if you move here, you’ll see how SaipanSucks.” I get it. What might one in the CNMI know of East Palo Alto or Camden, NJ or Albuquerque? Are their problems more similar or different?

Whether anybody is willing to consider things from MY perspective seems inconsequential. Move 6,000 miles? Without enough financial resources to ever leave the CNMI? With so many discontent and cynical? Where many would rather prejudge me and put me down (or Saipan and the CNMI down) rather than openly engage in productive conversation? Where corruption, greed, and nepotism are rampant. Where funding is scarce. Where educated leaders are few. Doesn’t reflect any of the open-mindedness I seek.

Doesn’t sound very promising, and involves every sort of risk for my own future. All I’ve asked is for people to chime in. There is no “Donate” button on my site. I’ve not asked for money. Just time and effort. I haven’t asked for a job. I’ve asked for dialogue. I’ve asked what can I do to help.

Let’s consider what it would take for me to move. Flight, moving costs, shipping costs, short-term motel or apartment rental, not having ANY furniture or essentials like a bed, mattress, cooking pots/pans, tv, and hundreds of other needs. Think it’s cost-effective enough for me to bring my own power surge protector/extension cords or cordless drill or inkjet printer? What of my few books? Silverware, sewing machine, clothes? USPS shipping seems to cost about $250 per 40-pound box to Saipan.

How much of my entire life can I pack into the two allowed suitcases and a carry-on bag? I’d be living on $735 per month without my current California state subsidy to SSI Disability. Without any interest, without further discussion about potential opportunity, this would be a completely irresponsible gamble for me to take. That’s just how I see it, and it’s my life being determined. If it’s about the CNMI, then it just takes a few minutes for anybody who wants to to open a discussion with me.

If it’s not worth that to you, then it sure as hell isn’t worth it to me. Not dedicating my effort and my life and my livelihood. Not for such unknowns. I’ll move on, I’ll seek another region, another city. One that aligns with my interests and has the same types of hardships and challenges as the CNMI. I’ll find one. Or, maybe I won’t. Maybe I don’t move anywhere. Okay, then, I don’t.

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What would it take? Maybe. Maybe some knowledge of others who would share in whatever cause. To improve schools or after-school programs. Enterprise and small business. Environment. Vocational training. Agriculture and food justice. Wanting to open a commercial kitchen. Whatever, anything at all. But all are too complex for me to continue these one-sided blog posts– without knowing more from your end. I cannot specify everything from here on the mainland.

I won’t write 40 speculative business plans and PnL’s. Trying to cover every single potentiality. Why would I? That’s useless, unproductive. I’m investing a lot of time and energy already. Sure, I’ve read hundreds, perhaps thousands, of pages of documents, policies, briefs, surveys, stats, reports, news articles about the CNMI. I try to get myself informed. You don’t have to care. Sympathy doesn’t hold any value. It’s still easy to say I don’t know. Okay. Fine. Why not share with me how you see things, what can be done, who I might speak with, what you’d like for your future on the CNMI. Maybe. Or, don’t.

Take multiple problems, and address them. A more complex solution. These are available. There are proofs-of-concept. Yes, they have proven to work. Yes, they have found funding. Yes they can do good. Great things. Where are we looking? For what combination of factors? How could they be adjusted to be most beneficial. Most viable? I’m not sure. Local input would be vital. More discussion.

Money is available. There are grants. There are corporate grants. Foundations. Philanthropies. Charitable causes. Social venture funds. And even social funding sources (like GoFundMe, Kickstarter, and Kiva). There are appropriations in city, commonwealth, and federal budgets. There are specific targets like revitalization, reducing blight, job creation, environmentalism, social justice, health and nutrition, fighting poverty, crime, rehabilitation, hiring disadvantaged persons, education, and more. Where to start, what to work on?

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Once recognized as “The tallest building in the English Empire” the Royal Bank of Canada building (in Montreal) sat vacant, neglected, and blighted until a recent renovation into a stunning social workspace, cafe, and job center.

I dream of introducing a commercial kitchen.

Take a blighted building. Maybe damaged in Typhoon Soudelor, or some other neglected, vacant building. Work with Habitat for Humanity of Guam or some other agencies and/or local contractors to renovate it into something amazing. Train some youth in basic carpentry skills for future jobs.

Costs can be reduced through some sort of exchange. A time bank or alternative currency. Credit for when the business opens, future meals. Venue rental for a large party or wedding. Anything at all. Create a meeting place for professionals, student groups, social groups, meetup groups. Town hall meetings, conferences, parent groups, civic engagement. Make it a cafe and restaurant.

Train and hire those from culinary, hospitality, and business management programs from the likes of NMC, OVR, CNMI SBDC, or the CNMI Strategic Workforce Action Team offer. The NMTI culinary program fits this perfectly. Eucon International University and Taiwan’s Ching Kuo Institute of Management and Health are funding training for restaurant and hotel jobs, hospitality, elderly care, and noni fruit cultivation on the CNMI. Hyatt has a funding RFP currently available. Congressman Kilili was instrumental if gaining $13 million in funding for the State Small Business Credit Initiative for the CNMI.

Grow fruits and vegetables. Or noni fruit. Or mushrooms. Or all of those. Seek USDA funding. Hire disabled veterans or other disadvantaged people. Seek environmental funding for food security as urban, organic farming. Reclaim restaurant and grocery compost and convert it into nutritious soil components. Involve with local middle schools and high schools. Other schools in the U.S. have started community gardens as a method of teaching environmental awareness and preservation. Some also hold a farmers market to sell their crops, expanding their educational outreach to include business and financial management to the students.

Nearly everybody can cook or bake something amazing.

One doesn’t need to be a “chef” or have gone to CIA (Culinary Institute of America). Just like a person can make one’s own clothes without being a fashion designer by trade. I’ve never heard a single person proclaim they are an accountant simply because they file their own taxes. But many hold family recipes, perhaps passed down for generations. And these can be amazing. Better than those by highly-acclaimed CIA-trained chefs. Let’s monetize this.

What is it you make? There is no bias. Anything at all. Jams, pasta sauces, empanadas, tamales, kelaguen mannok, roti canai and dipping sauces, bibimbap, curries, rotisserie meats, slow-cooked BBQ, bacon, handmade salmon or andouille sausages, seafood paella, congee, gyoza, pies, scones, brioche, quiche, flan, cookies, unique ice cream flavors, mung bean brittle, satay, pad see ew with black beans.

Use our commercial kitchen, with pro-grade appliances and supplies. If you do not have good credit, let us establish the line of credit needed for your food supplies. Buy in bulk, save money, lower costs, lower prices. Teach classes, make some money. Or exchange labor hours for NMC tuition. Distribute goods to affiliated restaurants and cafes. Sell at farmers markets. Help furnish more delicious and nutritious meals to the PSS (public school system).

Learn all that is needed to open a restaurant or food truck. Get help, support other local businesses; and they can help support you. Offer potential for secondary income for those who seek it. Come bake almond brioche one day per week, and let’s see if you can earn an extra $800 per month. Meanwhile, taking the unemployed and putting some to work improves the economy, the tax revenues, the CNMI. For infrastructure. For public officials and governance. For more growth and support. For expansion, another commercial kitchen or restaurant or cafe. More programs. More double ovens or cottage industries. Or maybe to start an artisan coffee roastery. Or handmade cheeses. Local pickles or kimchi. Maybe a facility for canning and jarring. Or to license a fantastic pressure-treated pasteurizing process developed by NASA. Or to dehydrate, powderize, or package food stuffs in order to diversify markets.

Grow some crops, maybe aquaponics. Maybe a vertical farm. Maybe hiring veterans. Maybe mushrooms. Let’s learn what would be most beneficial. What do restaurants or farmers markets or resident need most — that are cost-prohibitive? Fresh coconut juice or coconut milk or coconut oil? Ghee? Honey? Vanilla? Saffron? Strawberries? Let’s find out. Name it.

Together, let’s brainstorm.

How many effective AND cost-effective ways can we work with to solve the CNMI’s biggest issues. Fresh produce, lower costs, reducing carbon, saving the environment. Healthier food at lower prices. Longer shelf lifes, less preservatives. Maybe half-cooked prepared foods for those busy working long hours. Job creation. Food security. Renovate a blighted building. Prepare more construction workers, allowing more capable residents to help with the next major typhoon. Create social space, meeting space, conference space. Increase land value. Increase neighboring businesses’ re-investment into their workplaces. Increase tax revenues, helping to propel infrastructure and other localized improvements. Advance educational means and goals. Build a stronger, tighter community. Clean up trash and waste. Repurpose materials, divert them from the overflowing landfills.

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It doesn’t have to be a commercial kitchen, social space, and urban farm. It could be anything. That’s why I really need input. A mentoring program that helps pay college tuition. A health care system to provide for the rapidly growing senior population. A satellite health care center staffed with nurse practicioners. A public transit system. A creative makers lab. Maybe. Anything at all.

You tell me. How can I help you, Saipan, and the CNMI?

Let’s figure it out. Otherwise, I’m only able to conclude that it’s not responsible nor viable for me to move to the CNMI. I have a lot at stake. My move is final. Permanent. I have no reasonable ability to move again. All I want is for a community to give me a reason. Tell me about the how. Rather than saying I DON’T KNOW, why not ask me? Talk with me. Tell me.

I’ve received an email about interest in renewable energy for the CNMI, for instance. Okay, good. Let’s start there. Utilities are outrageously expensive. The incinerators and power plants have some added funding for improvements. Let’s review how Elon Musk got EPA funding for Tesla. Well, his massive, multi-BILLION dollar tax incentives from the State of Nevada (for his GigaFactory) won’t be applicable from the CNMI. Alright. So, how can renewable energy get funded? How can it avoid the pitfalls of all the renewable energy scams?

One CNMI Senator has contacted me directly about environmental conservation for Rota. Sure, let’s work this through. Let’s discuss the rights of the indigenous Chamarro and Carolinians and increasing their historical preservation and recognition. Let’s discuss water pollution along the coastlines and illegal fishing activities. How about a time bank currency? Instead of asking people to simply volunteer for beach and trash cleanups, let’s work with local business partners to incentivize the necessary work.

A contest to design a local monument? A coastal preserve to fight rising ocean levels? Maya Lin shocked a lot of people when she won the design contest for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. Carolyn Davidson was paid $35 for designing the Nike Swoosh logo while she was still a graphic design student at Portland State University. Any who followed Frank Gehry’s work prior to the stunning architectural marvel the Guggenhim Bilbao, would be amazed that design came from him. But he’d worked on it, and various iterations of the Disney Concert Hall before the Guggenheim got green-lighted. Talent and inspirational work can come from the most unexpected sources.

Airlines use vacant seats as commodities all the time — frequent flier mileage programs. What about empty movie theater seats? Empty restaurant tables? Empty desks in NMC classes? Can we swap those and fulfill multiple issues at once? Why not? “Volunteer” for 2.5 hours and get a free movie ticket or meal at a restaurant or something else of value. If somebody has an advanced, necessary skill like land surveying or electrical engineering or environmental law… Trade for a free advertisement spot with tv or newspaper or billboard space. Know how to fix cars or boats? Exchange some hours to the park service or coast guard and maybe the Small Business Administration “waives” your annual business license fees? I dunno. Maybe. Maybe anything.

Have you seen the incredible living green walls being created?

It’s all about unmet needs and underutilized resources.

I still hope more local CNMI residents and leaders will be in touch.

It’s easy to sit back and judge that I don’t know, cannot know, wouldn’t be of any use. I’ve furnished a lot of ideas, information, research, case studies, examples, links, and experience. Strategies, plans, quotes, citations. You can read my words, furnish nothing, and yet you are proven right by default. Because I won’t engage in defending myself to your negative assertions, and you already presume you are right. I don’t know. You have that right. I can’t and won’t stop you. Couldn’t even if I wanted to. You needn’t qualify yourself in any manner. That you’ve experience dealing with think tanks from M.I.T. and Stanford University. What you’ve read. What you know. How many leading politicians you’ve worked with directly. What your work experience is like. Whether you also have experienced hardship and can address these difficult issues better than those in charge, who have not. Therefore, you ARE already right. I’d rather somebody ask, “What do you think about helping to solve ________ ?” Or “I’d like to work with you.” Or any other discussion that can help propel change, improvements, or make an impact in the CNMI.

I guess we’ll see. Maybe.

Thank you for your time. Cheers.

— David