DSCN2494p

There have been only a handful of times that I ever questioned my decision about moving to Guam. One of those times was the evening that I arrived on island. As the taxi pulled out of the airport and onto the road toward my new home of Tumon I noticed that most of the island was dark. I asked Peter where the city center/downtown was and he responded, “I don’t think there is one but I guess Tumon.” I looked out toward the bay, darkness, and in that moment I realized just how small Guam is.

People often ask me where the best place is to live in Guam. I have no idea. For the last three years, I’ve lived happily in Tumon. It was important that I live somewhere that was pedestrian friendly and near the beach, since I didn’t have a car. What’s the point of living on an island if I can’t walk to the beach! Although it is a little pricier than other villages, it can be done affordably. We chose to live a different lifestyle than the one we led in the states. We don’t want a car or smartphones (shock!), we rent furnished places, and try to live as minimalistic as possible. Even though we’ve lived on Guam for a few years now, we try to have fun and live like we might leave tomorrow; enjoying everything we possibly can.

If apartment hunting in Tumon, make sure that you aren’t fooled by the location of “upper Tumon.” People like to advertise as upper Tumon to charge more and make their place more appealing but, there isn’t an upper Tumon, there is just Tumon. If you can’t easily and quickly walk to the beach or you have to cross Marine Corps Drive to get to the beach, you’re not in Tumon. I consider Tumon to be From the Hilton Hotel all the way down San Vitores to Gun Beach/Fai Fai Beach and a little bit up the hill toward Tagada.

DSCN6994

Why I <3 Tumon

  • Although I’m curious about life in other villages, I love Tumon because I feel like I’m on vacation. That’s partly due to all the tourists running around and having fun.
  • There’s always some form of entertainment available; whether it’s the beach, bars, coffee shops, dancing, restaurants, aquarium, parks, live bands, shopping; the list goes on and on.
  • Every hotel has different restaurants, bars, and cafes that are really good.
  • Driving down the hill after a long day at work and seeing the sparkling ocean is just another perk of living in Tumon.
  • And OH MY GOODNESS, cloudy or clear, the sunsets are ALWAYS amazing.

DSCN6970

  • There are so many fun and free things to do in Guam, especially Tumon, that we don’t have to spend a lot of money on entertainment if we don’t want to.
  • Any kind of food you want at all price ranges, you’ll find it in Tumon.
  • There are sidewalks up and down the main road that’s great for running or walking.
  • During my morning walk, I usually pass a foreign couple getting married at one of the many chapels that line the beach. I see them so often that I’ve noticed their weddings are all the same, but I’m sure to them it is a unique and memorable experience. Who wouldn’t want to get married in a chapel made of glass overlooking the ocean?

DSCN6423

  • Beach access is just a few minutes away…can’t beat that.
  • Tumon is the best place to live if you want to be in the center of all the activity and fun. There are festivals throughout the year at Ypao Beach Park and in the Pleasure Island district.

DSCN7210

  • It’s pretty safe and doesn’t take long for police officers to come when needed.
  • Most places have generators in case of power outages (which happen frequently).
  • Sometimes I stop to watch a fisherman throw his net to catch the really small fish near the shore. The beach is a great place for people watching.

DSC_0269

Things I Don’t <3

I wish though, that Tumon was either pedestrians only or that the weekends were, because the cars drive WAY too fast, don’t respect people walking or crossing the street, and tear up the road. During rush hour it’s really hard to get out of Tumon because of all the cars driving through trying to avoid the busy roads.

DSCN6747DSCN6995

As much as I think tourists make Guam a better place, living in Tumon has made me appreciate the towns and cities that aren’t tourist attractions. It is definitely more expensive, crowded, and fast-paced and I can see why someone might choose a different village. Although generally the tourists are fun and friendly, they seem fascinated with Peter’s and my hair. I didn’t think my hair was out-of-the-ordinary and at first I didn’t mind when they’d point at me and squeal, “kawaii, kawaii!!” and sometimes they’d ask to take pictures with me. Then one day my family and I were having a picnic when a tourist came over and pointed to Peter’s hair and then to her camera. I suddenly felt really offended like, “We’re not part of your vacation package nor are we animals in a zoo!!” I kindly said no and from that point on I decided not to let people take pictures of us anymore and to be more mindful of things that I might do when visiting foreign countries. If you can afford to visit Guam, then you probably have a T.V./internet where you can see people with curly hair.

The beaches are gorgeous, with white sand and blue water. Unfortunately there are so many hotels that have monopolized the shores, filling them with large water toys and beach chairs under umbrellas, that it’s hard to find a nice shady place to set up your own beach towel and swim.

DSC_0259

And of course after a busy weekend of BBQ’s there’s the garbage problem.

DSCN7119

There is more good to Tumon than bad and living here has allowed me to lead a completely different lifestyle than I could have in Oregon. I feel like a beach bum half of the time! I truly am lucky to have such a wonderful life, to have had many of my dreams come true, and to be able to experience life on an island. I’m glad that we chose to live this way. I feel so free and never tied down by having too much stuff. It is a great feeling and on top of that I can’t complain about the beauty that I get to see everyday by living in Tumon.

DSCN6941

“Thanks for Nothing…”

If you live in Guam you’ve probably been bombarded by political signs along every road, blocking your view and getting in your way over the last few months. If you’ve tried to watch a Youtube video or visit a website, you’ve most likely come across an ad for Eddie Calvo, the current governor of Guam. So it was to my surprise when the video below, showing a different yet enlightening point-of-view played. What do you think?

(The Truth About Calvo)

DSC_0001

Japanese Memorial, Park Life, and Pig Trails!

Hey everyone, hope you’re all having a great month! Just wanted to share some of my recent explorations in Guam. Starting with the South Pacific Japanese Memorial Park in Yigo. This shrine is in one of the buildings on the main part of the park.

DSC_0001

I’ve been here before but this time I wanted to see the Japanese caves. I took the stairs, which are covered by tree branches, down to the trail that leads to the caves. The trail also leads to a water well, that the Japanese soldiers built to collect water while living in the caves, and then out to the main area of the park.

DSC_0016DSC_0017

Below, shows the area where a Japanese general took his own life during WWII.

DSC_0013DSC_0012

Down in the lower part of the park where the Japanese caves are, we were surrounded by bamboo forests. They make a squeaking noise when the breeze moves them, it is a little eerie at times but so peaceful.

 ——–

On sunny days we go to the park! Sometimes when we don’t have time to go for a hike or leave Tumon, you can find me sitting at Ypao Beach Park in Tumon. I love reading, people watching, and feeling the sun on my skin.  Just enjoying my life. Occasionally there are people at this park making boats, like the one in the photo below.

DSCN6866 DSCN6877

 ——–

Finally, what started as a hike to explore more Japanese caves on Nimitz Hill ended with a swarm of mosquitoes attacking us. We hopped on the bike and drove off and around the corner to the trail that goes to Fonte Dam. We followed the trail all the way down until we couldn’t take the bike any further. Because it has been raining on-and-off these past few weeks, the trail was muddy.

DSC_0084

From there we hopped off and walked around a bit. There was this random bridge over a stream that allowed us to walk up some more. It was a pretty hot day so we just sat down, drank some water, and ate the snacks I packed.

DSCN6898

Of course I found LOTS of pig trails, and some dog prints too, that led to a muddy pool of water; I’m sure the pigs like to cool off in that puddle. Although, I would be terrified if I ever ran into a wild boar on a hike, I am always curious about them.

DSC_0089

Some of my best days in Guam have been exploring places where people don’t usually go. We have found a lot of wartime structures on random walks in the jungle. It’s nice to get away from the hustle and bustle in Tumon and see a different side of the island that not many people get to see.

Signature

DSCN6577-001

My Happy Place

After this last trip to Ritidian and the outdoor hikes I’ve done since then, I think I’ll be staying out of the sun for awhile and give my skin a break. I love going to Ritidian for hiking, swimming, and relaxing under the trees. I always feel refreshed after beach days, especially after days at Ritidian. It’s so quiet, I could walk on the sandy beach for a mile without realizing it, and when it gets too hot I like to wade in the water. I love chasing birds, looking at the shells and rocks that wash up on the shore, and staring into the sky. It’s always beautiful here, that terrible drive is actually worth it! This beach has a special place in my heart.

DSCN5200

Things People Want to Know About Guam 3

It’s that time again!

Part 1

Part 2

1. What’s the weather like in Guam?

Always hot & humid. Even though people refer to the summer months as summertime, there are really only two seasons: dry and rainy. Before I moved here I asked someone what the weather was like and she said, “When it’s hot, it’s really hot and when it rains it really rains.” At the time I thought to myself, “What kind of answer is that!?” Now that I live here, I completely understand. There’s no in-between in Guam, it’s either super hot and dry or super hot and rainy. It never sprinkles but always POURS.


 

2. Things to know about Guam?

I think it’s important to know about the history of the island and people. It might explain a lot about life here too. Sometimes the beaches are under advisory, which means there are high amounts of dangerous bacteria in the water that can make you sick.   The people born in Guam are U.S. citizens and speak English.


 

3. What’s life like on Guam?

It’s both relaxed and chaotic.


 

4. Worries living in Guam?

I worry about typhoons during the rainy season, about the cost of flying home in an emergency, and about needing medical care that can’t be found on island.


 

5. Are there any giant animals living in the deep blue sea we didn’t discover?

We shall soon find out. James Cameron was in Guam filming his deep sea dive into the Mariana Trench!


 

6. Is it easy to meet people in Guam?

Yes!


 

7. Vacation Guam or Philippines?

If you’re looking for safety or family vacation, Guam might be more appealing. Personally, if I had to choose I’d say the Philippines simply because money will go further. You can experience both the major metropolitan life in Manila and then take an affordable flight to another of the Phillippine islands, like Boracay or Palawan, and have a more relaxing and laid back trip. Sorry Guam, but you’re just too expensive.


 

8. Russian places in Guam?

There is a Russian restaurant that just opened a few months ago. Other than that, there aren’t really any Russian places, so that might be a great business opportunity for someone. I think people are slowly realizing that there’s been an increase in Russian visitors and hopefully will make things more Russian-friendly.


 

9. Fuji Ichiban Guam menu party tray

Can I come to the party?


 

10. Gun culture Guam

The gun laws are pretty strict here. So I haven’t really heard much about gun culture other than people hunting.


 

11. Does Guam get snow?

NO!


 

12. How big are cockroaches in Guam?

Pretty big. I’ve seen one the length of my palm. They also fly around at night :(


 

13. Why do people hate Guam?

Someone who has lived in Guam for more than 20 years told us that Guam is 15 years behind the U.S. and the other Micronesian islands are like 30 years behind. So I can see why people who aren’t from here might not like it. It’s quite dirty, people seem resistant to change, and the government has been slow at implementing things like basic recycling.


 

14. Best steaks on Guam?

We’ve been to Avenue (Tumon), Sea Grill (Tumon), and Angus Steak and Grille (Harmon) and all three were delicious with excellent service.


Signature

 

DSC_0022

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.

DSC_0005p

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.  

DSC_0005p

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.

Signature

DSCN6892

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!

DSCN6891DSCN6892

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!

Signature

 

DSCN5176

Exploring at the War in the Pacific Historical Park

DSC_0058p

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.

DSC_0061DSC_0064

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.

DSC_0103

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.

DSC_0099DSCN5138

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

DSC_0068

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.

DSC_0073

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)

DSC_0079

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.

DSCN5176

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.

DSCN4312

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.

DSC_0012DSCN5259

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.

DSCN5243DSCN4324

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!

DSC_0021

(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!

DSC_0045DSC_0028DSC_0048DSC_0036

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.

DSCN4322DSCN4312

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

DSC_0079

Signature