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Sitting on Top of the World

I don’t know the significance of these crosses on top of the hill near Leo Palace. We’ve passed them a few times on our way to the red dirt trails, but this time we stopped on the side of the road to follow the path up to see what they were. We sat in the grass and watched the clouds pass by and the hills illuminate as the sun set. Tons of young, microscopic grasshoppers jumped all over us, but we were too mesmerized by the view and calmed by the breeze to care. Just another beautiful day in Guam.

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It’s Not Always Perfect in Paradise

I’ve received a few emails from future Guamanians asking me what the hardest adjustments were for me in Guam. I’d like to think that I adjust easily to new environments, especially since I’ve moved around a lot in my life. At first, Guam seemed pretty perfect to me. Aside from the things I usually complain about; the cost of everything, bad drivers, extreme heat, lack of variety in stores; I was pretty happy with the island. Now that I’ve been here for a few years and once I started working and interacting more, I became aware of some major differences between living in The States and living in Guam.

  • Healthcare - When I decided to move, I went to Google and typed in, “Guam.” The first thing that popped up was a news article about a young, pregnant woman who had lost her baby while waiting for an ambulance to arrive. I thought “Maybe ignorance is bliss,” and closed the screen. I told Peter about what I found and he said there was only one hospital on Guam and that the woman lived in the southern part of the island. I mostly hear horror stories about the hospital. People going in for a routine surgery and dying, babies having their pinkies chopped off for no reason, no space, no medical tools…really terrible things. There is an urgent need for doctors. Most times people have to go off island (The States or the Philippines) for treatment or to see specialists. This explains why so many people have medical fundraisers (if you move to Guam you will probably be invited, no doubt). The lack of good medical care really scares and worries me. It’s also pretty much impossible to self insure, which is super irritating.
  • Business/Work – My first job in Guam reminded me of a job I had in my small hometown. Everyone was either related or were family friends. There was a lot of gossip and a very relaxed atmosphere — too relaxed. Prior to my move, I was in banking where we were always made aware of our rights as employees as well as how to work in a professional setting. Working in Guam (my experience) was very different to that. I was often asked by co workers/managers how much money I made, how much I paid in rent, how much Peter made, how much I spent, and other personal questions. There is also a strange attitude that I saw at my job, and in many businesses, where the employees have this unwarranted fear of their boss and being fired or punished. That fear was definitely taken advantage of and very shocking to see what people would put up with. On top of all that, I found an overall lack of professionalism and customer service in work and as a customer. Whether it was not receiving a reply to my emails or phone calls, not completing a job duty, or not being prompt; it is always frustrating doing business. Many people would take extended lunches or come in to work late, which was just annoying and hard to get anything done! My first work experience here was terrible so I will just stop there!
  • Environment – This is the issue that really hurts my heart the most! When people find out I’m not from here, they always ask me what I don’t like about Guam and I always say how much trash is dumped everywhere and that there are so many cars on this tiny island. Their answer is usually something like, “I know” or “That’s Guam.” I feel like the people who say “That’s Guam,” or “That’s not my trash, not my problem,” are part of the problem. I guess if you’re a tourist, haven’t lived here that long, or don’t ever go beyond the beaten path you might never see the dumping; it is the ugliest thing about the island. It’s now to the point where I can’t even enjoy sitting on the beach because I’m assaulted by the putrid smell of garbage! Someday, if island leaders don’t do anything NOW, the tourists who come to Guam for its natural beauty will have no reason to come anymore.  It just seems like Guam is a small island trying to be a big city/state without all of the same resources or space. We need easier ways to recycle and dispose of our garbage, to teach people how to minimize their impact on the environment, improve public transportation and encourage people to use it, and reduce the number of cars on the roads. There isn’t a reason why there should be traffic jams and people using their cars to get across the street, the island is too small for all of that.  

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I saw that someone had graffitied this onto a park canopy in Umatac. It says, “Respect Umatac like everyone should ok…” I thought it was quite stupid and ironic that they are asking for respect by showing disrespect. This pretty much sums up how Guam treats its trash problem, not very smart.

It’s been a process for me to learn how to accept the differences without letting them affect my happiness and also learn how to live in and love Guam, flaws and all.

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Groceries on Guam

We were running low on food in the house this weekend so I really wanted to go grocery shopping, especially before the first. I’m not sure what happens around the first of the month, but it is the worst time to go grocery shopping in Guam. It’s so chaotic and busy at grocery stores that people park on a major road waiting in line for a parking space at the 7 Day Mart. There are so many people shopping that Sweet Home (the $1.95 store next to 7 Day Mart) has to close for the first two days of every month because their parking lot is taken over by grocery shoppers. There are so many shoppers that if you don’t go before the first, you won’t be able to find bananas, meats and other foods anywhere! So I try to get my shopping done before the start of the next month to avoid the crowds, long lines and lack of food.

In The States my average grocery shopping bill was $50; by the end of my first shopping trip in Guam I had spent well over $100, a first for me. I was disgusted by the price difference and felt like they were trying to take advantage of people! This happened a few more times until I decided that I couldn’t just grab whatever I wanted and I needed to plan out my meals and cut back on my favorites. The cost of groceries is just one of many factors that add to the high cost of living in Guam.

I think the most expensive thing on our shopping list was spinach, which is $5.99. We NEVER buy pineapple or watermelon because they are just way too expensive. Fruits and vegetables cost a lot, which I thought was strange because many can be grown on island but are brought in from other places and we sure do pay for it. It’d be nice if Guam could become more self sufficient by growing more food locally, that might cut costs for us shoppers. $100 later this is what we bought, no household products just food. This shopping trip might last a week or two, we will definitely have to make another trip back for meats!

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I also eat on a special diet so that means that I require special food (more expensive), but it’s really hard to eat healthy on Guam because there aren’t many options. Another reason why I only shop at Payless because they have a decent health food section. People usually refer to Payless as Paymore because it is so expensive. I get frustrated with it because one week I’ll find food that I really like and then the next time they won’t have. Very inconsistent with their stock.

Even after three years, I’m still learning to adjust to this area of my life. I guess it’s just another price I pay for living on an island!

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Exploring at the War in the Pacific Historical Park

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The park is one of Guam’s well known attractions. Lined with palm trees along Asan beach and wide open spaces that are great for kite flying, there’s more to it than what meets the eye. To think that some of the bloodiest battles on Guam happened here; it is now a peaceful, breezy park where I enjoy watching the sunset. When the sun and temperature go down, locals begin walking around the large grassy space for exercise and fisherman end their day by packing up their fishing equipment and heading home.

One afternoon I decided to explore the park beyond the usual area where the picnic tables are. We ended up finding this whole other area of wartime history and gorgeous views. It was a little hard to see through the overgrown shrubs, but up a steep hill near the park entrance we found Asan Cave. It was a small and VERY dark space.

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Further down the paved road to the park, there is another small sign on the left that indicates a trail. From the road you might not be able to see it, but if you walk toward the restroom then you will see it better. This is where the good stuff is!

The path is dark and intimidating because of all the trees and bushes that enclose it, but this makes for a nice shield from the sun. The trail splits into three directions, on my first trip we chose to go left which led to the area that is above the cave.

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On the way, we spotted a pillbox! The small windows look out toward the Piti Bomb Holes. We stopped here for a little picnic and imagined what is was like during the war. The pillbox was built into the cliff and looks out over the ocean. The space inside the pillbox is narrow and dark.

At the end of this trail, the views were incredible! In one direction the view looked out toward the road and hills, another toward the Fish Eye Marine Park, and another over the park, bay and the Governor’s Office.

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On another trip to the park, we took the path that goes down the stairs.

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Here we found another WWII remnant and a very secluded beach. I was amazed and surprised to find this shelter on the other side of the park. Does anyone else know that it’s here? It still amazes me that these historical structures are all over the island without any sort of protection. We should feel lucky that we get to learn about our history AND see it.

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From here you can either go left, to a beach with some really cool rock structures, or to the right where the water has carved out a shelf that allows you to cross to an even more secluded beach. (another great area to watch the sunset)

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Finally, back to the path that leads three different directions. Taking the path to the right took us down a grassy path that had colorful hibiscus, butterflies everywhere, trees, and breadfruit. This trail leads to the main area of the park and Asan beach.

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This was a great, easy walk for me to get out and enjoy Guam’s nature. I love exploring and finding new, to me, places. I feel like Guam is full of secrets and whenever I do something like this, it’s like I’m slowly learning what those secrets are.

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I Left My Heart in Inarajan

DSC_0070You would think that living on an island means going to the beach everyday, enjoying the sand and sun, and living a laid back lifestyle. Living in Tumon, it’s easy to forget that I’m on an island because things seem much faster. That’s why every-now-and-then we go south, where the true spirit of island life seems to live.

I first went to Inarajan when we were invited to a fiesta (Don’t Be Ashamed!) and again this year (Go Eat). It quickly became my favorite village on island. The historical part of the village is like walking down a street in the village that my dad is from in Spain. That’s what I love about it. It felt nothing like the other villages I’d been to. The Spanish influence was evident in the architecture of the old houses. The streets are narrow, the homes are dilapidated, and on some there pretty murals that depict a part of Guam’s culture. It’s beautiful and there’s no other way to put it.

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I again visited the village when my parents came to visit in February. My mom also felt that it reminded her of Spain. I think we both felt nostalgic and it seemed like she loved Inarajan as much as I do.

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As we walked through the village, we spotted this giant statue of Chief Gadao the chief of Inarajan located next to the Baptist church. Someday I’d like to walk to Gadao’s cave that is located in the area!

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(Read about the legend of Chief Gadao here)

That weekend they had a cultural festival where they taught us how to husk a coconut and throw a talaya (fishing net). Peter and my stepdad entered a coconut husking contest where they both cut their hands on the coconut grater!

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sew-HO3hLeI

We ate red rice, with finadene and bbq chicken and stared out into the bay; we were hypnotized by the cool breeze and shining water. It was a hot day, but we didn’t care! After that we walked over to the bakery where the baker had made fresh bread. He taught us about the history of the village and the stove where they bake their breads on Sundays. Apparently many of the homes are historical houses and can only be renovated in a way that reflects their original appearance, which is too expensive for many people to accomplish. So instead, they are left to wither away. If I could, I would buy one of the homes and renovate it and turn it into a museum or something. I wish I could live in Inarajan! It would be a nice place to retire or raise kids.

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After our busy day at the festival, we headed to the Inarajan pools and watched the sunset.

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Mangilao Night Market

It’s nice to get out of Tumon to visit other villages. I finally went to the Mangilao Thursday night market! I don’t spend much time in Mangilao, but I will be going back to this market. Most markets in Guam start either super early in the morning (4am) or in the evening because of the heat. I’m not sure what time this night market starts because some of the vendors said they had been there since 3pm and sold out of most of their food. We left our house at around 6:30pm and stayed for maybe an hour. By that time, some of the vendors were starting to close up.

The market is located in a park next to the church and when we walked in, a lady on a loud speaker was calling out numbers from what I assume was a drawing they held. When she was done, they started playing island style music from a stereo. I immediately spotted the elusive tamale guy! Actually, I learned that his name is T.C. and he is from Guam but lived in The States, where he learned how to make pretty delicious Mexican food. He now sells them at various markets on island. He’s always very nice and friendly and we like to support his business. We bought some beef tamales and drinks.

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Across from him there was another food stand where I ordered a plate (pancit, bbq chicken sticks, lumpia). There weren’t too many places to sit, but we found some bleachers next to the playground and ate our meals. SOOOO yummy!

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After that we walked through the rows of vendors. Some were selling used items and some new, lots of fresh local produce, clothing, DVDs, handcrafted wooden tables, shell jewelry, and lots of other things! If you’re looking for an old school video game (NES, Super Nintendo, PS, original Gameboy…) you might want to check some of these vendors because they sell used games for older consoles.

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I’m always on the lookout for locally made products, which seem to be hard to find, and stumbled upon this booth. They had a variety of locally made products. One of the vendors ran over to me as I walked away and handed me their business card. The website is pretty cool and I’m definitely a supporter of the small business owner. They sell individual products and gift baskets, for those of you who are homesick, you should visit their website Guam Gift Baskets and for those of us who just want some cool products like coconut oil sugar scrub, body oil (a fav of mine for my hair), cookies, tea, clothing and other handmade items.

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On our way out we met a very friendly man who was trying to raise money for his cousin or sister who was running for Donne Queen for the Donne Festival! We bought a book of raffle tickets from them because they were so nice and funny.

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The Donne festival is in September and will be at the same location as the night market. Thanks for a good night Mangilao!

 

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1000 Days

 

So this is what 1000 days feel like.

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(Source: TheyAllHateUs)

My three year Guamiversary is just around the corner! Oh how time flies, I still feel like I just arrived and I can vividly remember my feelings upon my arrival. I’ve done a lot while I’ve been here. If I had to leave tomorrow, I’d be pretty satisfied with the time I spent in Guam. Although, it went absolutely NOT as planned. That is why I don’t like to make plans anymore, I just go with the flow. So don’t ever ask me where I’ll be in five years because I don’t know and I like it that way!

The last 1000 days have consisted of some lows, highs and in betweens. I’ve had lots of sunshiny days and acquired a nice golden tan. I’ve survived tropical storms, typhoon threats, and earthquakes. I’ve eaten too much gyoza, fried rice, and bbq chicken. I’ve fallen in love and gotten engaged <3 travelled to the Phillipines and Japan, felt island fever, hated Guam and loved it, taken thousands of pictures, laughed really hard, cried from homesickness, learned how to snorkel, parasailed, and swam in the Philippine sea. Saw a shark, dolphins, sea snakes, eels, colorful tropical fish, and a dead whale. I’ve hiked to Mt. LamLam, Sella Bay, and trekked all over the island. Drank fresh coconut water, met some really cool people, and started this blog! I’ve learned a lot about myself and who I want to be. I’ve chilled out a lot and feel peaceful, which is a new feeling to me. I no longer drive but ride on a motorcycle, which I never thought I’d do. I try to lead a very minimalistic life, spend time outside as much as possible, cook healthy meals, and never take things too serious.

Not sure how the next 1000 days will turn out, as long as Peter is with me, it doesn’t really matter!

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(Photo by Damian Weiler)

 

Read my very First blog post !

Weekend Shenanigans – Recon 2014

Just a quick little post about Recon this weekend. 

There was this really cool convention, at the Agana Shopping Center, over the weekend. Recon! It was my first time going to this kind of event, so I had no idea what to expect.

I was so impressed with all the people who dressed up in cosplay and as their favorite characters, especially those individuals who participated in the cosplay contest! I thought it was brave that they could get up on stage and act out their character, I could never do that! And the creativity in some of the costumes was awesome! Someone had made their entire costume out of cardboard!

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 I’m pretty sure Peter was thinking, “Where am I, what am I doing here?!” He’s such a good sport. I had lots of fun looking at all the booths and artwork. I even picked up a few comics!

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There was a dance group that performed and, my favorite, The Guam Territorial Band that played theme songs from video games and movies.

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Why Guam?

While many Guamanians are leaving the island in search of new opportunities and adventures, statesiders are moving to Guam for the same reasons. When I’m asked, “Why Guam,” I know that they don’t mean, “What brought you to Guam?” they really mean, “Why would you choose Guam out of everywhere else on Earth?” People ask me this question with this look on their face like I might be a little crazy and when I answer, the look turns into confusion. For those of you who are moving to Guam, make sure you have the answer to this question ready because you will be asked this ALL THE TIME.

“Why Guam?” At first I think I gave them the look like they were the crazy ones. Sometimes I’d say, “because of this!” As I pointed outside to the incredibly blue sky. But still, people don’t seem to really understand or they want a better answer. The question has become a little annoying, especially when it seems like the topic of discussion at inappropriate times or I’ve been asked it more than once in a day. I do my best to answer without rolling my eyes! I wonder how long it will be before people stop asking? I can understand the curiosity though.

Peter moved here because he wanted to travel and see the world, but I think he specifically chose Guam because it’s a U.S. territory (all you need is a passport if you’re an U.S. citizen). I guess I moved here for the same reason and I sort of came along for the ride, because if it involves travel then I really don’t have to think twice about it. I can’t come up with some really legit answer (like my job made me move here) that makes complete sense, because I don’t have one. I just took a leap of faith and wanted to see where I’d land. And I landed in Guam.

I love the warm weather and never feeling cold, the beach and warm water, the small-town feel is nice, palm trees, learning about other cultures, new adventures and challenges, starting a new life where no one knows me, meeting new people, living on a tropical island, the sun, falling in love with everything, being able to travel to places I never considered before, collecting memories, and living a not-so-ordinary life. That’s why Guam.

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I Survived My First Tropical Storm!

Tropical storm Halong is on it’s way west now after making a mess of Guam for the day. I’m sick of writing about the weather, but this year we’ve just had bad luck. There have been a few close calls with typhoons and storms in the last couple of months.  This morning (Wednesday) we were put in COR 1 (condition of readiness), which means typhoon winds are expected within 12 hours. The night before we were told that the storm would hit the next evening, but the next morning they said the storm had moved quicker than anticipated and would arrive at noon! I was a little worried because we weren’t prepared. When Peter was released from work, he stopped by the only store he could find that was still opened and bought some supplies.

I decided to cook brunch in case we lost electricity and sure enough, the power went out. Peter called GPA to report the outage and 20 minutes later the power came back on. I finished cooking, but at noon we had lost power again. We spent the next few hours listening to the radio, watching movies on my laptop, napping, and waiting. Thanks GPA for calling us throughout the day to make sure our power was still on!!

I wasn’t scared because the meteorologists didn’t seem too concerned about it escalating into anything more serious. The scary part, or the part that made me anxious, was that with out typhoon shutters closed I could hear loud noises outside, but couldn’t see what was happening. Occasionally we would open the door and check things out. The wind was SO strong and the rain was coming at us from all directions.

By 3:00PM Peter and I were STARVING. All we had available was dry food; rice cakes, granola, cereal, peanut butter, bananas; not very fulfilling. About 30 minutes later, our power came back on!!! We actually jumped for joy and ran to the kitchen and began cooking!

In Oregon, our weather is pretty much predictable. Sometimes in the summer we get windstorms, but they last 30 minutes and don’t cause much damage. So as you can imagine, neither of us having experienced this type and strength of a storm, we were a little nervous. I’m so thankful to K57 Newstalk radio who kept us calm and aware. That’s the best way to get news during a storm, so make sure to have a battery powered radio handy!

It’s still dark and rainy, but I’m relieved that the worst of the storm is over. Damage to the island was very minimal and all the villages are in clean up and recovery mode. I can’t wait for rainy season to be over!