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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7 comments

  1. Guam can be a huge culture shock to most people. Heck, I grew up here (from birth until 10 years old) but after moving to Hawaii and then coming back to Guam I was appalled at how bad things really are here. Most people who have lived on Guam for so long have learned to just accept it. We’re so busy with our day-to-day lives, we don’t really pay attention to how many abandoned buildings we pass on the way to work, or how our parks don’t even have decent restrooms. We want change, and sometimes we do try to make a difference with beach clean ups and the like, but I believe that in order to REALLY make a change, we need to do more. We take for granted how beautiful our island is and there is so much more beauty on Guam than just the beaches. I have an idea that I think would be great for us to work on together to give locals AND tourists a different perspective of the island. I’ll email you!

    1. I think that might be a large factor in why things haven’t changed much. People who have lived here for a long time seem to get used to things and they become normal. That’s why I like to complain! haha and it’s good to have an outsider’s perspective sometimes! Cleaning up after people isn’t always the answer, I think something major needs to change. I will be replying to your email soon!

  2. I totally agree with you, these three issues are probably the hardest things about living here for me, too. As rewarding as it’s been for me to move back to Guam, it’s been frustrating and even terrifying, especially since the root causes of these problems aren’t black and white. It’s hard to feel like there’s anything that can be done. But I kind of feel like progress is happening, even if it’s slow, and I hope that’s not just the rose-colored glasses talking.

    1. Great observations! I’m a born-on, return, and re-export.

      I think all those are plagued by complacency: there is hardly ever a sense of urgency to implement or improve.

      It’s a good thing the beautiful scenery and spirit help make some of those things tolerable.

    2. You’re right, it isn’t just black and white. It’s easy for me to point out the problems, but coming up with a solution makes me feel helpless. I’m always saying something I don’t like about Guam coupled with something I love about it, I guess that’s the way a lot of us feel. Thanks for your comment!

      1. I think anywhere you go, there are going to be things you like and don’t like about where you live. I loved Los Angeles for the diverse cultures, the currency of talent, but I didn’t like the mean people or the angry drivers. I think some of the deep rooted issues can be traced back to the war and other issues can be traced back to supertyphoons and yet more issues can be traced back to the length of time policymakers sit as senator (not long enough to hold government agencies accountable to the laws that have already been created). Taking the good with the frustrating together as sort of a tapestry is what makes a place so intriguing, I think, but I do hope that as time passes, the quality of life will improve in these areas you mentioned. Because life is so good in so many other areas.

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