Culture

FAQ – Guam

Recently I’ve been receiving a lot of messages from people asking the same questions about life in Guam. I’ve been answering them all back, but I thought it would be better if I just did a post containing the most frequently asked questions. I blog mostly for myself so that I can have a way to look back on my memories in Guam. I also do it for my family and friends to show them that I am doing well. As much as I like interacting with and helping people, it’s not my intention to be a guide about life in Guam. I’d much rather keep blogging fun for me and just post about things that I do. It’s also tedious to email each person individually with the same thing when I could just do one blog post and answer all the questions. These are my opinions about my experiences from moving to Guam from The States and living here for two years. 

Is it hard to find a job? This has to be THE most frequently asked question I receive. Finding a job on Guam depends on you. If you’re fresh out of college and ready to put your degree to use, Guam is NOT the place for you. If you have at least 5 years of work experience and a degree, you will have better luck. If you don’t have a degree or don’t care if you use it and you’re willing to take any job just so you can live the Guam life, then there is work for you.

You might be able to find a job if you can speak Japanese or Russian. The pay might not reflect it, but Japanese speakers are highly sought after because of the million Japanese visitors that vacation in Guam each year. The visa for Russia has recently been made available and for the past couple of years, the number of Russian tourists has been on the rise. Currently there is a Russian fusion restaurant being built, which is the only one on Guam. This is definitely an emerging market and there may be opportunities for someone with Russian language and cultural knowledge.

Another thing is that people in Guam aren’t very good at answering emails so, if you can, I suggest calling if you’re interested in working somewhere. You might not be able to apply for jobs until you are on island. Hiring off island is frowned upon as the island is trying to “support local.” Also, you will probably need to obtain police and court clearances, which has to be done on island. Police and court clearances, two different clearances, basically is you doing your own background check.

Aside from the lack of jobs, the hardest part about finding work on Guam is the saying,”It’s not what you know but WHO you know,” that is very true. Along with that, the questions, “Are you a military dependent and how long do you plan to stay on island?” Making it really unfair to anyone who is not local. Don’t give up though, the people on Guam are really friendly and always ready to have a good time!

How long did it take you to find a job? It took me about seven months. Just as I was about to lose my mind and give up, I found a job. It wasn’t at all what I had wanted for myself but it was better than nothing.

What is the cost of living? Guam can be super expensive. Minimum wage is about $7.25. The cost of rent depends on which village you choose to live in and what kind of home you want. You could find an apartment for $500 a month, but it would be the junkiest thing you’ve ever seen. Roaches, rats, no AC, dirt roads, dirty people and unsafe. If you want to rent a house you will be paying at least $2,000 per month. And home ownership is just as ridiculous. Oh and don’t forget about the high cost of electricity and water. I live in an apartment so I don’t have to worry about the price of water, but the electricity bill makes up for that. You should expect an electricity bill of at least $200 per month for an apartment with two people (also depends on how much you use your AC and what floor you live on). Gas and cars are expensive, groceries are expensive, EVERYTHING is expensive. It would be a good idea if you could find roommates to share the burden of the bills.

Most places try to charge really high rental prices because of the military presence. They know that people stationed in Guam get a monthly stipend to pay for their rent and landlords use it to their advantage. Unfortunately, that means for regular people who have to pay their own rent, it’s almost impossible to be a single person and live on your own. I was lucky to have found my apartment on Craigslist. The landlord charged a fair amount for the location and condition and I’m VERY happy.

Below is an estimate of costs to keep in mind based on a single person.

$1,000/month Rent

$300/month electricity

$6,000 used car, $1,500-2,200 scooter/moped

$50-100/month cell phone

$50/month internet

$25-300/month gas

What kind of jobs can I find? 

+ Hospitality

+ Restaurant workers

+ Construction (Electricians, cement masons, metal workers, carpenters, tile setters…)

+ Civil engineers

+ Bus drivers

+ Military

Where is the best place to live for someone new to Guam? I’ve only ever lived in Tumon and I absolutely LOVE it! Tumon is the place where 95% of the tourists stay, so it’s nicer in every way and there are more police out and about. The beach is beautiful and there are sidewalks and tons of restaurants; although, it is more expensive than most other villages. Anything north of Tumon (Yigo & Dededo) is too crowded for me. Most likely your job will be in the Northern part of the island so living too far south (Merizo, Agat, Umatac) might be an inconvenience. As I’ve stated in previous blog posts, driving is my least favorite thing to do and I’d hate to have to deal with the traffic everyday. I do love the southern villages though!

If I didn’t live in Tumon, I’d want to live in the capitol, Agana. There are many historic buildings and Chamorro culture throughout this village. Tamuning is in between Agana and Tumon and this where you can find a lot of those trashy apartment buildings if you’re not careful. It’s a good place to live if you want cheaper rent but still want to stay close to Tumon.

Since Guam is mainly a tourist destination, you will find hotels, car rentals and everything you need to get you started. You might need to stay in a hotel for awhile before you find a vehicle and home.

How did you support yourself? I didn’t just move here without being prepared. I had enough money saved to get me through those seven months of unemployment. I think it’s wise to have enough saved, at all times, to purchase a ticket back home. You never know when you will need to leave. 

How is the crime rate on the island? Crime is relatively low; although, recently there has been an increase in home invasions and robbery. Most of the home invasions I’ve read about have been perpetrated by an acquaintance of the family. Sometimes tourists are robbed too. There is a lot of corruption among police and government employees as well. 

Where are the best places for hiking? The link that says “Hiking,” at the top of this page, are posts about the hikes I’ve done on Guam. If you’d like more information on hikes, check out the Guam Boonie Stompers on Facebook or go to Bestseller at the mall in Guam and buy the book called, The Best Tracks on Guam. It is overpriced, but has a lot of good hikes and includes detailed descriptions of how to get to the trailheads. Most of the hikes I’ve done were prior to buying the book. I found them using a Google search.

It’s hard for me to tell people what life will be like because our circumstances are not the same. Some people might have jobs lined up or know people living on the island before they arrive. Some might be making a huge life change and not know or have anyone or anything on island. I think if you’re coming here on your own (no job or family), life will be hard. But if you really want to be here then you will find a way to make it work. Remember, you are not the only one planning to make this move and island life is really worth it!

Have a nice day 🙂

Helpful Resources:

USA Jobs

Pacific Daily News

Guam Jobs Online

Indeed Guam

Guam DOL -Guam Department of Labor

Guam Home -Real Estate and rentals

Craigslist – Everything!

Moving to Guam

Cost of Living in Guam

Guam Chamber

Past Posts About Moving

There are a lot of Facebook groups where you can find cars and furniture for sale, I’d join a few of those too!

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Happy Liberation Day Guam

Last year I convinced Peter to take Liberation Day off so we could watch the parade and celebrate Guam’s liberation from Japan during WWII. He actually took the day off, which was a miracle, but we didn’t watch the parade. It was one of those days on Guam where you’re like, “I think I died and went to heaven,” because there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the ocean was so pretty and sparkled like diamonds. We swam in the warm as bath water ocean and lost track of time, which usually happens when we’re at the beach. As we were walking back to the shore, I noticed this giant fish and I called to Peter so he could look. As I got a closer look, I realized that it wasn’t a fish, it was a baby reef shark! Peter and I were both stunned by this majestic creature. It was beautiful. We stared as it was still for a moment and then darted away deeper into the ocean. “I can’t believe we saw a shark!!!!” I screamed. We ran to our apartment to grab our snorkeling gear and spent the rest of the day looking for the shark, but it was long gone.

This year, Liberation Day fell on a Sunday and my friend invited us to sit with her at her canopy. The Liberation Day parade is a big deal on Guam. People camp out along the road in Agana to save their family a spot. Everyone sets up their canopies, fly their Guam flags or their family names on banners and start BBQ-ing! So from 9:30am until 4:30pm, Peter and I watched the world’s slowest parade while we drank and ate Chamorro BBQ! I liked seeing all the floats and the families with their elaborate set ups blaring Cha Cha music! It was quite the experience.

Things to Do in Guam: Chamorro Village

Chamorro Village is a night market with music, food, animals and local vendors. During the day there are a few restaurants open, but only on Wednesday evenings does the real fun take place. I’ve heard that it’s also open on Friday evenings but every time I’ve tried to go on a Friday, it hasn’t been opened. Recently it has been extremely overcrowded, which hasn’t really made my experience too fun. It’s so crowded and hard to walk, there’s no place to sit and eat and you have to wait in line to do/see anything. Aside from that, it’s a nice place to go maybe once a month and enjoy the music and food!

Locally owned businesses serve food, drinks, sell crafts and souvenirs. You can ride a carabao, drink from a coconut, watch traditional Polynesian dancers, dance the Chamorro cha-cha and hold coconut crabs, snakes and monitor lizards! My dad would LOVE this place because he loves dancing.  Every time I’ve gone to watch the band play, there has been an older man dressed similar to Elvis. He usually wears a red shirt that says, “Thank you Elvis” written in sloppy writing on his back. He and his dancing partner are quite popular with the tourists and very fun to watch dancing.

I go for the food honestly! It’s delicious! I always get a few BBQ chicken sticks, red rice and a rice ball or two. Also, the fruit slushy drinks are AMAZING and the flavored popcorn is good too. The last time I went I tried something called a Latiya (pronounced Lateeza), which is a cake with pudding on top sprinkled with cinnamon. It’s very, very good!! As I mentioned it is crowded so I just go to whichever food stand has the shortest line. This week I decided to see why so many people wait in the LONG line for food. Sometimes the line is so long it wraps around the building. Anyway, I ordered the Fiesta Plate (in Spanish that means Party Plate) which is the standard Chamorro food plate. This was enough for Peter and I to share. It came with red rice, BBQ chicken on a stick, BBQ pork on a stick, pancit, some fried shrimp thing and fina’ denne. I soon realized why the lines are long and why people don’t mind waiting. The food tastes SO much better! Better pieces of meat, better tasting and all for the same price. So just wait in line and you will be happy!

I don’t know about the rest of the world, but Guamanians really love their choreographed dances. At any party, including Chamorro Village, you will here The Cupid Shuffle, Wobble or any other song that has a dance to go with it. People of ALL ages know the dances. Most of these I had no idea came with dance routines ha! One of my favorite things to do is watch the dancers old and young!

 

If you visit:
Bring cash!

Most souvenirs are overpriced like the swimsuit coverups and some of the jewelry. 

It's in Agana near the baseball field
YOU MUST EAT EVERYTHING!

Creatures of Guam: Carabao

I grew up in a very small town in Oregon surrounded by farms. Horses, cows and sheep were a daily presence in my life . As the daughter of a sheep herder, I watched as my dad and his friends helped the sheep birth lambs, I fed them and road around in the truck while the dogs and sheep herders herded the sheep. Taking the back roads to college everyday, I’d often see cows grazing in the pasture. Occasionally one would escape and make me late for class because it decided to stand in the road.

Guam isn’t home to many animals at all, but when I first saw a Carabao eating grass on the side of the road, I shrieked and did a double-take.  Its horns were massive and I thought it was going to charge at me! Carabao are very lazy, slow animals and don’t attack! I know that now.

The further south you go, the more common these creatures become. If you’re lucky while driving south, there is a man who walks his carabao along the roadside, but the funny thing is that sitting on the carabao’s back is his dog!

I recently spent a day at my friend’s ranch just past Mt. Lam Lam. Her family happened to have a carabao and offered to let us ride him! Peter was the brave one, as usual. He jumped on the animal and road it down the hill. There is a special way to steer the carabao using the heel of your foot and two large ropes to guide its head. At one point the carabao walked into some branches and nearly knocked Peter off of his back!

Carabao are hot commodities and people will actually try to steal these monsters! They are used as natural grass cutters, very slow carriers and to keep tradition alive.

Maybe someday I will ride the carabao at Chamorro Village…when I get the nerve!

Things to Do in Guam: Two Lover’s Point

What kind of Guamanian blogger would I be if I didn’t write about Two Lover’s Point? A very popular  tourist attraction, the story behind Two Lover’s Point is Guam’s own version of Romeo & Juliet. It’s a story about two young lovers whose parents try to keep them apart, so at an attempt to stay together for eternity, they jump off the cliff at Two Lover’s Point. The story is romantically crazy and looking out over the cliff, where the lovers were supposed to have jumped from, gives me chills!

I’ve been to this park a few times, but I never actually went up to the viewpoint. There is an entrance fee of $3, or $2 if you have a local I.D.  Finally, we  decided to go up to the viewpoint! We chose a clear day, just before sunset. As you walk around the park and up to the viewpoint, there are HUNDREDS of locks attached to the fences and some parts of the rock that the viewpoint sits on. There was a large group of tourists waiting for the sunset when we arrived. I’ve never been disappointed with a sunset on Guam. I think we have the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen! Even though I live here, they still put me in awe and make me thankful for having the opportunity to experience this life!As we watched the sun go down, it was very dramatic and wonderful. “Another day down,” Peter and I always say as we say goodbye to another day on Guam and welcome another day of us being together.

As I was looking out over toward the sunset, I noticed to the left there is a chapel right on the cliff and below that, a CAVE! I think we are planning on exploring this cave sometime…

The park closes at 7:00pm, so on our way out we found a good place to attach our lock to. It is a tradition to put a lock on the fence with a message to your loved one. I’m sure someday we’ll come back to check on our lock.

Finally, we rang the bell for love and headed out.

But not before we stopped to look down this HUGE natural hole. I have no idea what’s up with these, but throughout Guam there are various sizes of these holes. I’ve asked the park person what is it and what caused it and he had no clue what I was talking about. I’m not sure if it is connected to the cave, but it seemed to be. Anyway, that’s a mystery I will hopefully have solved soon!

Part 1: So You’re Coming to Guam.

Don’t be scared! Breathe.

When I told everyone I was moving to Guam, of course they had their own opinions. I did my own research and didn’t want to hear any negative comments that would put doubt in my mind about Guam.  Some people told me that Guam is full of poor people, that it was a third world country and that there were wild animals everywhere. These were people who had never actually been to Guam, so of course I didn’t take them serious. I did listen to some people (like my co worker) who had lived in Guam for a few years. She gave me tips on what foods to try and places I could apply for work. I really appreciated that. I wanted to come here with an open mind and I think that’s the key if you are going to move to Guam, or anywhere.

Guam is part of the United States but it has its own culture too. Chamorro’s are the native islanders here and they have a wonderful culture that was influenced by the Spanish. Guam is also very influenced by Philippines, Japan, Korea and the U.S. military. It is in the middle of the Pacific ocean, far away from anything else, so that creates some limitations. Being an island, some people have never left Guam. Many people haven’t been exposed to other types of music, foods and people. Don’t come here expecting everything to be the same as where you came from or you will be angry and disappointed. We live on an island, things go very slow, everyone knows you somehow and it’s pretty hard to get away.

So after being here for just over a year, here are a few things that might be helpful to know.

1. Your hair will probably become frizzy.

2. Coming here alone will be hard. It’s very important to be friendly. Then you will be invited to BBQs and family parties, which are always fun 🙂 If you’re a little anti-social like me, then it will be very hard to get by on your own.

3. The roads are bad (potholes and poorly made), there’s way too much traffic and people regularly run red lights so be careful.

4. Everything is expensive.

5. Guamanians speak English.

6. Unfortunately there is a high rate of robbery and theft, so be smart. Despite a few recent events, the island is usually very safe.

7. Nepotism exists and that is unfortunate and means there are a lot of people doing jobs that they aren’t qualified for. This is VERY frustrating to me.

8. Military guys run rampant throughout Tumon on the weekends.

9. There’s a lot of litter and people dumping their garbage in the jungle. It’s also very hard to recycle.

10. There is a reef that surrounds most of the island. It creates blue, clear water that sort of looks like a swimming pool. If you go past the reef, there is a VERY long drop and swimming becomes dangerous. The beaches are beautiful and there are tons of fish, which is great for snorkeling.

11. Lots of stores don’t ship here. Products are limited so if you have a favorite lotion or food, you might not find it here. If you do, it will most likely be double to the price.

12. Most of the news and events will be in the newspaper. The two main newspapers are Marianas Variety and Pacific Daily News.

13. You will probably gain at least 10lbs because the food is DELICIOUS!

14. Knowing Japanese or Russian will greatly benefit you.

15. Lots of great hikes and outdoor activities; although, the paths aren’t very clear and you will have to do a lot of exploring.

16. There are very few homeless people and always someone to help you out when times get tough.

17. Catholicism is the main religion and you will find it affects many things in your life, whether you practice or not.

18. Internet speeds are slow and that’s just the way it is. Phone service is spotty.

19. There’s a lot of corruption in government and police, but I see it getting better.

20. Electricity is expensive and almost as much as a mortgage/rent payment at times.

21. There are many beautiful, clean beaches and a lot of WWII history.

22. Cars tend to rust quickly because of the humidity and the salt in the air. On top of that, cars are ridiculously expensive. Repairs are also pricey. I wish someone would open a Les Schwab! We bought tires for our car and a week later we had a flat. So we went back and they had not properly put the tires on. They fixed it and tried charging us $50!

23. It’s VERY hot here. Probably worse than the heat is the humidity. Since I’ve been living here, the coldest it has been was around 78⁰F and the warmest was about 98⁰F.

24. There are a lot of small earthquakes and sometimes tsunami threats from earthquakes around the area. At first I was really scared about this, but there are evacuation routes and safe zones. The Marianas Trench, the deepest part of the Pacific Ocean, usually absorbs most of the potential damage.

25. There are two seasons: rainy (June-December) and dry (January-May). Rainy season you really need a car to get around because it is intense. Dry season makes you forget there ever was a rainy season. It’s just an absolutely beautiful time.

26. Guam is located in typhoon alley; although, there hasn’t been a typhoon in MANY years.

27. There’s always a local/military price and a tourist price. Always ask for the local price.

28. Just think of it as an extension of the U.S. Very small town feel to it, same problems as anywhere else you might live within the U.S.

29. Shopping is limited. The only large department stores are Macy’s, Ross and the Filipino SM store. There are other small shops as well.

30. Explore and don’t be afraid! We’re living on an island!

I’d be interested to hear what other people have to say about living on Guam and the differences they encountered!

Signature

Let’s Make Fina’ Denne’!

Fina’ Denne’ is a delicious sauce that you can dip your BBQ meat into or, like I do, put over red or white rice! It’s so good and simple to make.

♥Ingredients♥

1 onion, chopped
1/2 cup soy sauce
3 fresh hot chili peppers, seeded and chopped (optional)
1/4 cup white vinegar

♥Cooking Instructions♥

Stir together the soy sauce, onion, chili peppers, and vinegar in a small bowl.

**Recipe from 671recipes**

Guam’s Fruity Festivals

I LOVE fruit, so when I saw the advertisement about the Banana Festival at Ipan beach I was more than excited! I think this was either the 2nd or 3rd year for this festival. Everything was cute, from the carabao rides to the banana princess!

There were even games, like the one Peter played where he had to choose a crab and make him get to the end of a maze by pushing him with a large leaf.

There were so many beautiful flowers for sale. I really like the colors of tropical flowers. I also watched a few of the cultural dance performances  Chamorro culture is VERY similar to that of Mexican culture, which makes sense because both have been heavily influenced by the Spanish.

It was a beautiful day and a lot of fun. We even made it in the local newspaper!

Even better than bananas…mangoes! The next festival I went to was the mango festival in Agat. This one seemed more organized and had a much larger attendance. They crowned the mango queen, had a mango competition and other entertainment. I had a rice ball and a pineapple slush drink, both were delicious. The sweet rice ball has a strange texture and is quite sticky. I also bought some coconut oil from a local vendor which smells incredibly good. Even better was the location of the festival. The sunset was amazing and breathtaking. Sometimes I forget where I am.

Liberation Day Carnival

In addition to celebrating the Fourth of July, Guam has its own Liberation Day celebrated in July. This year, they started the celebrations early with the carnival! I’ve gone to the carnival about four times already. One of the MAIN attractions is the casino. During the rest of the year, Guam has no casinos available so this is a huge deal. I actually learned how to play Black Jack and played a few hands and did well…until I let Peter have my winnings and he lost it all! haha…

My favorite part about the carnival is the FOOD! One afternoon, I had a craving for Chamorro food so we went to the carnival where I had a plate full of BBQ chicken, salad, red rice & finadene, and an extra long fried lumpia. I also had a four season slush drink. Just writing about it makes me super hungry! I’m surprised Guamanians aren’t  obese because the food here is all fried and delicious! We also ate a large funnel cake smothered in chocolate sauce!! Are you hungry yet?

The games are fun; although, some are a bit expensive especially if you have small children who want to play over and over. A few attractions I found interesting were the Zorb and the paintball shooting range.  I didn’t try the Zorb, but it looked really fun. If I ever want to feel what a gerbil feels running on the wheel, I might try it. I did shoot at the paintball shooting range where I did pretty well and won a prize. I enjoy shooting and when I was in Oregon I’d shoot with a rifle, so this paintball thing was fun.

Overall the carnival is rather small, and if you’re comparing it to the carnivals/fairs in The States then you might be disappointed. I will probably go a few more times before it leaves. Weekends are the WORST time to go because of the crowds, but during the week it’s much better.

Liberation Day Video I uploaded a short video of the carnival on the weekend. This video was taken on a weekend so you can see all the people. You can also see that most of the rides are for kids and some of them look homemade or just put together unprofessionally. I really enjoyed the few times I went there and the food and music is superb!

Villages in Guam: Umatac

One sunny Sunday afternoon we decided to take a drive around the island and ended up in Umatac. Before arriving, we stopped at a couple viewpoints. One in particular was near Sella Bay and Mount Lam Lam. We took pictures of the bay and continued on. Umatac is my favorite village in Guam. Immediately upon entering the southern village I knew I would like it. It felt much different than any other place on Guam. It was quiet, clean, had a small-town feel and just reminded me that I am in a different country with a very rich culture and history.

We first stopped across the street from the village church that was built when the old church crumbled. There is a large white cross now where the old church used to be. The view was absolutely amazing. The water looked like a thousand diamonds were sitting on top. The houses along the shore were brightly colored, just like most homes on Guam. I really like the architecture of the homes here. They make me want to buy a house! My favorite houses are the ones that have staircases that lead up to the rooftop! After looking out over the bay, we hopped back on the scooter and headed around the corner. Umatac is known for being the place where the Spanish first landed. There are bright red bridges over the Umatac Bay that lead up the hill to the Spanish Fort.

As we entered the Spanish Fort park, I spotted a carabao and had to take a picture with him! The fort is extremely old and most of it has withered away. There were a few canons, which I’m not sure are original but I’m thinking they were just replicas. There was also an interesting stone structure which I never figured out what it was used for. The fort is on the top of the hill, so of course the view from up there was incredible. Looking down upon Umatac you can see the cemetery in one of the photos.

If I had to settle down in Guam forever, even though it’s so far from jobs and stores, I’d choose Umatac. Definitely a great village. On our way home we stopped at a park in the village of Merizo where I found a group of chickens wandering around. Next village post: Merizo!