Friday, February 8, 2013

The Idiot Abroad

This story has no prelude it simply begins like this...

United flight 185 leaving Guam stopping in Palau and continuing on to Manila Philippines is the flight I am boarding. I'll be in Palau for three days for the upcoming construction project. It's been a long day and the 2 hour flight to Palau has rest written all over it. The flight is a third full but life working the way it does has me sitting next to someone on a plane filled with no-ones. Instead of staying in that seat I am assigned I move back one row to a completely empty row. I store my carry on bag in the compartment overhead I turn off my portable electronic device(Ipad) and put it in the seat pocket in front of me,I'm ready to rest,I'm ready to fly. When I wake up the drink cart is just passing by, which is good because I'm thirsty, my friend Travis is waltzing my way from first class with drink in hand, conversation and refreshment's are enjoyed. Time passes quickly and soon we are making the final approach into Palau. I'm excited, this is my first time to Palau. There's not much to see as we land because it's nearing 9:30pm local time. This is a little disappointing because I've heard so many comments about seeing Palau's "rock islands" from the sky. Oh well, there's plenty of time to see the island from ground level. I grab my carry on bag and I exit the plane. We're welcomed to Palau by a local brother who welcomed us to the island with a smile. He said we had just missed meeting some of the local friends who had not to long ago dropped off a friend at the airport. He made sure we had transportation and our keys for rooming. With a final handshake and a smile we left for the missionary home.

Even at night it's apparent that Palau is a beautiful and clean island. I look forward to the morning to come, when I will catch my first glimpse of an island illuminated. As the ignition of the car is switched to off I distinctly remember this sinking feeling in my heart, the kind of emptiness experienced when you realize that you've made a mistake that can not be erased. There is no amount of wishing to make the error go away, and in my case there was also no misguided hope that I was imagining things. I knew without an ounce of doubt that I had left my Ipad on flight 185 leaving Guam stopping in Palau and continuing on to Manila, Philippines. Speaking in hyperbole, I've put my Ipad in the seat pocket of the plane a million times before and I've never for a second forgot that it was there. If I leave my seat, I think about how vulnerable and scared it must be without me there by it's side. If I close my eyes to rest,when I awake I check the seat pocket in front of me just to let the Ipad know with a glance from my eyes that... "I missed you Ipad." But now here I am empty handed and empty-hearted in Palau, dazed and confused about how I have let this horrible thing take place.

I immediately call United airlines and ask them if anyone found an Ipad on flight 185. Can you believe no one had reported finding an Ipad on that flight??? The kind voice on the phone says that she will attempt radioing the plane that is now soaring through the night sky to Manila. I wait, I hope, I yearn for a response from the planes crew. The kind voice returns to the line with the news that the plane is too far away to contact them by radio. "WHERE ARE THE HEADED IN SUCH A HURRY???" I think to myself. "To Manila," myself responds to me. "Yeah but they have my Ipad," I reply. "You don't have an Ipad...anymore," my inner self heartlessly explains. I tire of the inner monologue....
The kind voice on the phone says that she will call ahead to Manila and inform them of the situation. She will let me know in the morning when she hears something. What more can I ask for at this point. I thank her and I wait. The fact that I'm writing this story tells you that when I heard from United the next morning they did not have good news to share. All the beauty and splendor of a tropical pardise could not burn away the thick gloom that hung over my head. For three days I searched and I called every United Employee on Palau, each and everyone of them bearing a similar response, "You did what!?" "That's terrible...your Ipad is gone."

I know that there are good people in this world, good people that already own Ipad's, and when they find mine sitting alone and scared in a seat pocket, they want nothing more than to return this Ipad to it's rightful owner. This is what I WANTED to believe. This is what I wanted to believe...

I return to Guam without the Ipad, resolved to be a more responsible man if I ever allow myself to buy another electronic device. That evening, on another electronic device, I check my email to see what I've missed while I was away. One email instantly grabbed my attention... MISSING IPAD. I couldn't open that email fast enough. Disbelief and curiosity were battling each other inside of me for emotional supremacy. In short the email went like this...

"Hello Matthew? My name is _ , I was on flight 185 and I found your Ipad. I would like to return it to you but I live in the Philippines and we can not mail electronic devices out of the country." A contact number was left and again it was mentioned that they had no intention of keeping the Ipad, they wanted to return it to the rightful owner. There are good people in this world, I think to myself while at the same time dialing the contact number left in the email.

A voice answers and the story goes like this...

A girl boards a half empty flight 185 from Palau to Manila, Philippines only to find that her seat is mostly occupied by the person sitting next to her. All she wants to do is rest, so she moves to another seat. As she searches for something to cover her eyes in the pocket in front of her seat she finds a lonely Ipad. Rather than turning it into the crew(she fears that it will not be returned to the rightful owner), she holds onto it and decides that she will try to contact the person herself.

At this point in the conversation she asks me if I know of any way to get the Ipad sent back to Guam. I respond that I have friends in Manila who stay at the Manila Branch of Jehovah's Witnesses. If she can mail my Ipad there I know that I can have someone bring it to Guam from there. These words caused an uncomfortable pause in the conversation....................................................................................

"You are one of Jehovah's Witnesses?",she asked. Then she said,"I am also a Jehovah's Witness." This information was to much for my weak mind to comprehend. How is this possible? What are the odds? More questions than answers flooded my mind. I knew that there were good people on this earth, I should have never questioned where they would be found. As the story winds down it's worth mentioning that the girl who found my Ipad was also the girl who we had just missed meeting when we walked out of the airport in Palau. Turns out that she had been passing through on her way home from Yap where she had worked for the past three years.

In the weeks that ensued, many laughs and jokes have been shared(mostly at my expense)by those who helped reunite me with my lost item. Thank you to Rebekah,Naomi/Carla,Trittia, April, Reinalyn, The Pfisters,The San Nicholas',and many others who played a part in making this a story with a happy conclusion. But most of all I'd like to thank Louise Pedrosa for choosing seat 28D on flight 185 to Manila Philippines. Thank you for your honesty and kindness. One day we will meet and I imagine we have quite a story to share.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Stop Me If You Think That You've Heard This One Before

"Misplacing" items is a part of life. House keys and car keys go missing and no one cares. If you misplace your wallet or purse, you make a couple of phone calls to the credit card companies, and life simply goes on, possibly a few dollars the poorer, but life goes on. Certainly eyebrows are raised and anxiety goes up if you misplace your baby or young child. But misplace your passport and life will never be the same. Your name lives in infamy, and seldom do you see a friend without being reminded of your past transgression. My unfortunate story begins in ebeye, home of chaotic happenings and the epicenter of all things misplaced...

It's mid December and the year long project is at its conclusion. Our barracks that housed sixteen people must be taken apart loaded into containers and shipped of to one of our future projects. Tools, house supplies, lumber, and "personal items" all must be packed into containers as well. The construction crew is dwindling in size. People are moving as rooms become fewer,and we are still putting the final touch on the kingdom hall and missionary home. There was a lot going on.

I had moved a couple of times within a short period of time, and I wasn't planning on being in ebeye more than just a cople more weeks. So I never really unpacked. All my belongings were in a couple of suitcases and a couple more plywood boxes. Although there was a lot going on, everything was moving along according to plan. All were working hard and everything was falling into place, except for two things. 1) our final aircargo from Guam that was needed to complete the project was delayed because of all the freight being moved around the holiday season. 2) the cargo boat was delayed and no specific time had been given for its arrival into ebeye.

Early one morning I received a call from the container company(matson),they said the ship had arrived and they were on their way to pick up our final container. Point being.... ANYTHING that we needed to ship out had to be in that container ASAP. All other activities were put on hold and items were packed into the container with a quickened pace. I quickly assessed what I could bring on the plane( I was going to be the last to leave the island) and what I needed to load into the container. We successfully loaded the container and had it shipped away to Guam, home of our next construction project. A sense of relief and peace came over me. All that was left to do, was wait for the cargo from Guam. And wait we did. Earlier in January united airlines finally flies our cargo to Kwajalein. In order to pick up our freight we need to take a ferry to kwaj. and then receive clearance from the military to be permitted on the military island. The end is near.... Or so I thought. As I approach the immigration counter I reach for my wallet to show my ID. It hits me... I forgot my wallet at the missionary home in ebeye! How stupid!.... And then it hits ID does me no good, I need my passport!... Where is my PASSPORT???!!!...whatever joy or relief I had been experiencing up to this point had now fled. Disbelief reigned supreme. "Surely I didn't pack my passport into the container headed for Guam. It MUST be at home hiding under a sock or in between two pairs of under clothing. As soon as I got back to the missionary home I went looking for my "Misplaced" passport. As many times as I searched is as many times as I came up in want of a passport. As embarrassing as it is to lock yourself outside the office during your night watch somewhere in the middle of nowhere, it is infinitely more embarrassing to realize that you have trapped yourself on a little island the size of a thumbnail, somewhere in the middle of the pacific ocean. My passport was on a boat headed to Guam, and I was stranded on the island of Ebeye.

Believe me, being stranded on Ebeye was not the horror of this story. I really enjoyed living there. The nightmare was informing the Branch of what had happened. As a side point... It's amazing how quickly news like this spreads. When I finally made it to Guam, EVERYONE knew of my story. Not just the friends at the Branch, not just my friends in the construction crew and on the island, but even my friends on ALL the other islands knew! The greeting was always the same.... I heard about your passport! Always accompanied with a smile and a laugh.... I want to explain how it's not my fault that this happened, but there is no excuse to be found nor any reason that I can come up with to shift this blame. I'm THAT guy. I put the baby on the top of the car and then drove away.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Drawn Out Story

Last week just before lunch two children in their school uniforms walked up to the construction site and handed me two pieces of notebook paper. They both had drawn pictures of the kingdom hall/missionary home. I'll let their drawings speak for themselves.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Pictures from Ebeye

this is Dijo. Dijo lives right next door to the construction site. over the last six months Dijo and i have become friends. he often is the first person to greet me on the way to the construction site. last week when it was pouring down rain i saw Dijo standing on the street, under a broken umbrella waiting for me. he wanted to walk me to the site under his umbrella so that i could stay dry. the smile on his face in this picture is exactly the way he made my heart feel. how can a child with so little be so happy? i haven't that answer, but i'm happy to have such a kind and happy friend.

didn't your parents teach you not to play with sharks? mine didn't have too. i'm pretty sure this kid didn't get that life lesson. last month a group of kids were coming down the street chanting and jumping around ( not that unusual for ebeye ) i walked over to see what the children were celebrating about. this kid ( two pictures down ) had this shark in his hands. he was holding the shark by the tail and had the sharks head in an old cardboard ice cream container filled with salt water. apparently they were playing in the ocean when this guy was swimming around. instead of fleeing the scene, the children decided to capture this shark. as you can imagine, the shark was the one who was wishing that he could leave. children of ebeye 1 shark 0.

same kid.... rides his bike around with a chicken as his hood ornament. does anything really need to be said?

last and most certainly least. apparently this guy had somewhere to go and he needed to take these pigs with him.

more pictures to come soon. a special thank you to Jude and Jakob Cunningham for visiting the blog and trying to figure out where Ebeye is on the globe.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Recipe Of A Mad Man

3,2,1....3,2,1....3 rock, 2 sand, 1 cement. Repeat....3 rock, 2 sand, 1 cement. this is the recipe for making concrete. 3 parts rock, 2 parts sand, and 1 part cement. i've been repeating this formula since i was drinking formula(milk that is). i have no memories where concrete was not part of my life. even when i was playing in the sand box with my brothers, i was actually pretending to mix concrete. we would spend hours in that sand box paving pretend roads and making everything you could imagine out of concrete. and now here i am, almost 30 years on from those days, and i am still mixing concrete. just in the past month we've poured a concrete floor, concrete steps, concrete beams, and concrete headers. how did my life turn out this way? what the heck? every story needs a hero, and all hero's need their villain. growing up scibetta means i had both villain and hero in one lead character...... my father.

what possesses a man to learn a trade and then abandon it at the drop of a hat? where does one find the drive and the time to learn how to fly, how to sail, and then lose the interest almost immediately? who goes out and plants a substantial vineyard in their backyard, has grapes shipped to his house from half way round the world, spends countless hours honing his skill in making wine, and then suddenly destroys all his hard work, and decides he will plant peach trees instead? who gets licensed in hvac, cdl, and electrical, followed by pastry classes, massage school, and culinary classes, just to drop them all at the blink of an eye? who would imagine learning how to do body work and welding because they had nothing better to do? the answer to this is the very man who had the idea to bring five boys into this world and with all that knowledge and experience he would teach them.... concrete. you would call him crazy. i call him dad.

(my father- relaxing)

meet michael anthony scibetta. he gave us the gift of life and then taught us a trade that at times makes us wish that we had never been born. my father is a man who has honestly learned all those things i wrote in the preceding paragraph. he learned those things in his "free time", his secular job since i've known him has been pouring and finishing concrete. my childhood memories are incased in concrete. my bothers and i have concrete handprints all over the town that we grew up in. when he would drop us off at school in his work truck he would sing songs through the speaker he rigged outside of his truck as he drove away. when the school bus dropped us off at home, he would again, sing songs to the other children while he was finishing concrete. we had the most useless areas of concrete around our house. i kid you not, we had a helicopter pad in our backyard JUST IN CASE a helicopter was ever flying by and needed somewhere to land. he built a little cottage out of concrete pavers that he had acquired from a previous job. he built concrete pools and concrete fountains. when i was a child he once invited his employees over for a barbecue. when they showed up, minutes later three concrete trucks showed up behind them. he said," let's just pour my driveway, then we'll eat." this is my father. he is this stories villain.

so for nearly two decades, their has always been at least two scibetta boys that have worked in the family business. at our dysfunctional peak, the five of us actually worked together. while we were seldom productive, and frequently late to any job we were working on, we definitely managed to have a good time. i dare to say... great times. in large part, this is my fathers doing. he trained us, he raised us, he bought us baseball gloves that went on our dominant hand. we had no choice, we were going to be concrete finishers. so when i look back over the decades i've spent in this profession, my mind is littered with concrete moments. some of those moments were really tough days and tough times. but they were always spent with family, and that makes them good memories. and now here i am, half way round the world, mixing and pouring concrete on a tiny island in the blazing hot middle of nowhere. at times i can't help but wonder how i got here. not in my wildest dreams did i ever picture this scenario. maybe my dad did all those years ago, when we were playing in the sandbox. what we called playing, he called training, a mad man teaching his children his recipe. and the only man i could imagine being crazy enough to be a stories villain and it's hero. a better life i could not ask for. a trade i've been taught that has lead to the greatest adventure of my life. a profession learned that has brought me closer to my family. and a family that has taught me the importance of having a wonderful mother. dad i know you will read this one day. you are crazy, but i love you. thank you for the recipe.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

What's Going On... In Ebeye

here are some pictures of the work here in ebeye-

here is what the previous hall looked like.

you can see the tremendous amount of work that was involved with tearing down the previous hall and missionary home. the lower concrete pad is where the missionary home was. the concrete pad above it is the old kingdom hall floor.

once the old structures were demolished, we could begin working on the new kingdom hall. you can see in this picture that we had a lot of digging to do. what makes the job challenging is finding a place to put all the dirt. the worksite here in ebeye is pretty small and were putting a pretty big building in the space available.

after about a month of demolition and preparation, finally we put up the first of ten columns. these columns have over 30 vertical pieces of #8 steel and they are sitting on two giant 8x8 steel mats also with #8 steel bars .

here you can see how much work has been done in just the past month. last saturday we poured the base for our 4th and 5th column. do you see where the steel splays out from the columns on the picture to the right? that will be roof height of the kingdom hall. these columns have to go up one more floor because the new missionary home will be above the kingdom hall.

there is a lot of work ahead. everyone here is having a great time and we feel very privileged to be on an island with so many kind and generous people

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Where Antennas Never Die and Imagination Is Crystal Clear

i remember the days of childhood where i would spend countless hours staring at a fuzzy picture on our television screen, wishing, praying, that my favorite show would come in clear enough to make my eyes not ache and dry out. i remember stephen slowly turning the antenna dial to rotate the antenna on our rooftop as i willed the tv to become fuzz free with my hopeless eyes firmly focused on the grainy image. these were the days of under roos, legos, and limitless imagination. where anything was possible if you just had the desire to pretend a little bit harder. knight rider and the great american hero were tv shows to die for and a clear picture was worth the sacrifice of a brother.... sorry aaron. this was childhood and these were days passed, or so i thought. it's fitting that on an island of children i find that i'm watching television the same way i did as a child....with an antenna. ebeye's "skyline" is defined by it's sea of antennas( yes i just combined the sky with the sea, anything is possible here in ebeye). this week i installed my very own antenna here in ebeye. the memories of childhood all came rushing back as i gazed at my television screen through the fuzziness hoping, praying, that the reception would suddenly come in clear. and as i yelled out the window to zak debeque as he slowly rotated the antenna on the top of a coconut tree searching for the best possible signal, i think to myself- 1) what really has changed but the location? besides the under roos... of course. 2) imagine how awesome knight rider would have REALLY been if david hasselhof had actually been cool.