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Rigalu Foundation

February 16, 2013

Guam – Monday, February 4

I was in line at the tax and passport building before they opened this morning. The police officer thought this would be a good place to start as far as sorting out the possibility of flying to Saipan late tonight. The office takes care of a lot of things and there was a long line, but once I was in, not too many people were headed for the passport area. There was not much they could do. They gave me a passport application form, and didn’t seem to understand I couldn’t really stay on Guam for 6 weeks while waiting for a new one. I decided to simply go to the airport to talk with the airline and security about my flight.

The airport was quiet, and there was only one person at the United counter. I explained my predicament. I had no photo ID, but had brought along everything I could with my name on it – old boarding passes, car rental papers, flight reservations etc. She took that stuff and went back to talk with her supervisor for a while. Eventually she came back, and said if I could get TSA approval to fly, they would be happy to issue a boarding pass. I went upstairs to talk with TSA and luckily it was quiet up there too. I talked to several of them, and then they went and got a supervisor. I explained my story again, and the supervisor was very helpful, although she couldn’t do anything at the moment since my flight was scheduled during the midnight shift. She did make notes, and told me I wasn’t the first person who wanted to fly with no identification, and that TSA had access to a huge database of information which could help them prove I am who I say I am. She gave me the names if the 2 supervisors on the night shift, and said she would email them about my situation, and asked me to be there nearly 4 hours early, which I was happy to do. So it sounds promising. I was worried about being able to fly to Saipan – it would be so disappointing to be only a 45-minute flight away, and not be able to get to the last Pacific territory on my journey. I went back downstairs to update United with what TSA said, and the midnight supervisor happened to stop by, so he knows what’s going on, and they’re set to let me fly assuming everything goes well with TSA.

I felt better as I headed back to the hotel. I had been playing phone tag with a news reporter who wanted to do a story, but we still couldn’t connect. I was scheduled for a short interview at the local TV station, but had emailed them about the need to take care of flight problems first. After a few more phone calls, I headed to the TV station. The broadcaster was a fellow Northern Michigan University graduate (nearly 30 years after me!) and it was funny to think that 2 people who went to school in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula were now doing an interview thousands of miles away in Guam. Small world! The interview went well – I just sat at a table, and responded to her questions, but no matter what the camera man says, it’s hard to pretend that big camera isn’t right there! After we were done, they wondered if they could come along while I made my next donation, which was going to be for the Rigalu Foundation at the Governor’s Complex. Apparently they are no strangers to doing stories there! That was fine with me, but I didn’t expect the camera man to ride in the passenger seat of my car with his big camera! They filmed me driving and walking up the steps to the Governor’s Complex, and talking with them and writing out the check. It was going to be on the news tonight, but I won’t have access to a TV, so Betsy sent me a link when the story was done.

The Rigalu Foundation is one that Andrea at the Habitat for Humanity had told me about. It has several goals – one is to improve bus stop safety for the many students who have to wait on busy roads; another is to continue working to provide a safe foster home for kids who temporarily need to be taken away from bad situations at home; and another is to promote sports and tourism in Guam. It sounds like an ambitious organization that was started by the governor’s wife, and has many volunteers and people helping to fulfill its goals. When I called last Friday to see about making a donation, I spoke with the First Lady’s photographer. He had passed my story along, and her staff asked if I could come back later in the afternoon to maybe meet the First Lady, so I said I would.

In the meantime, I went back to the motel to finish packing and check out. Then I got in about 4 miles of walking by the bay, and then went back to the Governor’s Complex. The First Lady was still tied up with business but she sent some of her staff down and it was fun meeting them. I learned more about the foundation and they treated me to some banana lumpias from the snack cart (bananas that are wrapped in a light egg-roll type shell and then fried – tasty!) and they gave me a t-shirt and took a photo.

Then I finished off some walking at the national park site by the ocean. I had to go back to the car rental place – we’re still waiting for the formal police report to proceed with payment for damages to the window – Discover should still cover that, but we have to figure out paperwork, and the lady is being very kind about working me with all this.

I drove around a bit more, sightseeing before the sun went down. Then I got a bite to eat, and went back to the hotel lobby to use their wi-fi service until it was time to return the car and head to the airport. Just as I was closing down the computer, Toni sent an email about receiving a phone call saying someone had found my passport on a street! She gave me the number and I called immediately, but no answer. I waited a few minutes and called again. I let the police know there was now at least a phone number and they asked me to come back to the station. It was also time to be at the airport, but I wanted to pursue the passport too. By the time I got to the police station, they had traced the number to the mayor’s office in a town north of where we were. And considering it was after 11pm, no one would be answering until morning. So I decided to go ahead with my flight (hoping I could go)and follow up with this in the morning from Saipan. I was feeling mildly hopeful that my passport really was recovered, and maybe my driver’s license and other stuff too, since it seemed to be a promising phone number.

I turned in my car, and we decided to deal with the window damage when I returned to Guam for a day after my week in Saipan. At the airport, I went to security and waited while they went through their shift change and briefings and a short meeting. Then the TSA supervisor came and got me and we went to a quiet place where he called the “command center” which has access to lots of personal information as far as motor vehicle records, business records, etc. etc. the command center relayed questions to the TSA supervisor who relayed them to me and so on. After about a half dozen questions they were convinced I was me, and then he accompanied me downstairs to approve my boarding pass, and then had to personally okay my passage through security, and after waiting a couple hours, I was allowed to board the plane for the 45-minute flight to Saipan!! Whew! The flight left at 2:45am which seems to be a very strange time for flying, but this seems to be good times for connection flights for Asian travelers, and there’s a lot of them!
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