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.
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.