Villages

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.

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Why I ❤ 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.

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  • 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?

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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Things I Don’t

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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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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!

 

Asan Falls

I’ve been trying to do one to two small hikes/walks a week just to get some fresh air and see something new. We’ve been getting good use out of our trail book, so I guess the money was well spent. Some of these trails have no trailhead so it would be impossible to find, if not for the book.

Yes, we found ANOTHER waterfall. I had no clue there were this many on Guam. I guess I can check that off my bucket list for Guam (if I had one). This time our adventures led us to Asan. The trail started behind some newly constructed homes, which I was worried that they would someday restrict access to the falls. The book said the hike would be very difficult, but to the top of the waterfall it was very easy. It looked as though the way to get down to the larger falls would be difficult.

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We again didn’t come prepared to swim so we just sat at the top of the falls and looked down. Another peaceful retreat away from our day-to-day life in Tumon. From here I couldn’t hear anything but the water falling and frogs. From the top of the road I would never have guessed that this beauty was here. More Guamanian mysteries.

I felt that this was the perfect spot for a doughnut break (everywhere is a great place for doughnuts).

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The other, larger waterfall further down, which we were unable to locate a way to get to, has a 25 foot drop. I’m sure we will go back and try to find it. We found this rope that Peter used to climb down and check things out. The swimming hole looked very deep, but probably not deep enough to dive.

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After that we drove to a little viewpoint on Nimitz Hill and watched the sunset. That’s our Guam life!

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Go Eat!

This Sunday (May 4th), was one of the best days I’ve had in Guam.  We were invited to the Inarajan fiesta again!!!!! I’ve been counting down the days to the fiesta since Peter came home and told me.  Last year was the first time I’d ever been to a Chamorro fiesta and I definitely learned a lot of things, which you can read about here. I feel like this time I was slightly more prepared, but I still felt like I was wide-eyed and there were still things to learn.

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We rode the motorcycle down south to the historical part of Inarajan, just like we’d done last year. This time it seemed like there were more people, the roads were crowded and parking was limited. When we arrived we found Peter’s coworker fanning away the flies from the food. He said, “We don’t believe in the small plate. So what you need to do is get two BIG plates each. One for rice and one for your meat!” Yes, that’s what he said TWO plates!

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I wanted to take pictures of everything but it was kind of crowded and by the time we finished eating, the food was almost gone! I did take home two kiwis and a grapefruit, which I’m proud of because I NEVER would have done that before. There was a huge pig, cooked breadfruit, taro, chicken of all kinds, TONS of fresh fish, and Oh my goodness the dessert table was filled with treats. I had one plate full of dessert. I loved the dessert so much that I dreamt about it and was craving it the next day! I ate lumpia, red rice, dried beef, chicken, and a Chamorro tamale.

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An endless amount of  food and drinks,  a gorgeous day, and a band playing island music; what more could you ask for?! We sat at a table under a coconut tree with Peter’s coworkers; an occasionally a breeze would pass through and it felt so good. I wished I had a hammock so I could take a nap after eating all that food! Fiestas are a great way to become familiar with the culture and to enjoy life. No one is worried about calories or gaining weight. Eating well is the only concern.

We stayed at the Duenas family fiesta for awhile just listening to the music and enjoying life! As Peter’s coworkers left, a few local people sat down with us at our table. I’m not sure how the conversation started, but we had about five guys telling us about fiestas. I feel like as soon as people here find out that we’re not from Guam, even though we’ve lived here for three years, they are so eager to tell us everything about Guam.

They encouraged us to try the crab and to get more food. They said that the fiestas in southern Guam are different than the north. In the South, you don’t need to be invited, you can just show up and go to all the different family’s homes holding fiestas. One guy said, “You can’t call yourself an islander until you’ve eaten these three things. 1. Red rice 2. Dried beef 3. Local crab.” Another man said, “You can’t ever lose weight in Guam and no one is ever skinny,” as he pointed at his plate full of food. They were so nice, so interested in us, and so informative. I’ve never felt so welcomed, I felt like we were all related and it was a refreshing feeling. Kindness for no reason.

After we said goodbye we walked across the street to another fiesta to see if what they said was true. This one was much smaller but had just as much food and a stage where people were dancing the Cha-Cha. We were like, “This is awkward we don’t know anyone here.” Then this man walked up to us and I thought he was going to ask us who we were. Instead he said, “Go eat!” We smiled and said thank you but  we had just left another fiesta and already ate and he said to eat more! I love it!

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After that we walked through the village and made our way to the cultural center to watch the parade. Every time I feel like I might be falling out of love with the island, I have an amazing day like this and meet such nice people that it makes me fall right back in love. That day I just felt so good.

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I love Inarajan! 

 

Photos at Latte Stone Park

A few months ago Peter and I decided to check out this small, dark park in Agana that we often see. It’s shaded by tons of huge trees and very well maintained. There are latte stone and a cave from WWII. It would be a nice, quiet place for a picnic or to relax during your lunch hour. Definitely stop by if you are in the area!

Don’t Be Ashamed!

In May, Peter’s coworker invited us to his family’s house to celebrate the Inarajan fiesta. We headed down to the beautiful village, following the directions he gave Peter, the party was located across from the church. It happened to be a beautiful, but HOT day in Inarajan. The village is gorgeous and I want to spend more time exploring the historical buildings and beach. Just as most of Guam is influenced heavily by Spanish culture, Inarajan felt like I was back in Spain in the village that my father is from.

We walked onto the Duenas family property, where TONS of other people were enjoying themselves. This was the first Chamorro fiesta that I’d ever been to. I don’t know if all the people at the fiesta were related to one another, but it was a huge party. There were canopies set up, a band playing, a bar, and so much food!!!!  We cooled off under one of the canopies before we braved the buffet style food tables. I spotted a few tables where fruit was piled high. One thing I love about Guam is the way people celebrate. Like I’ve said before, if there’s cause for celebration, no matter what the reason, they will go all out. Everyone loves to share food and feed anybody that’s in the area. It has taken me some time to get used to, I always feel uncomfortable eating people’s food.  My dad raised me to never eat unless invited and to only get what I could eat, but in Guam it’s different. Peter and I walked to the intimidating table of Chamorro food. I was so excited to eat! I grabbed a plate and began picking out my favorites. When I sat down I watched as other people piled food on their plates. When I say pile I mean PILE. Mounds of food on these styrofoam plates that looked like they were going to break. Then I saw a lady grab a bushel of bananas from the fruit table and another grab a whole, uncut pineapple. I was shocked. I couldn’t believe what was happening. Is fruit that expensive on Guam that you have to take them from family parties? I went back for dessert but made the mistake of grabbing a small plate. As I was eating my cake and cookies Peter’s coworker came up to me and said, “Why did you get that plate?!” Then he said it, what I’ve heard so many Guamanians say to me whenever food was concerned, “Don’t be ashamed, take what you want!” I felt a little embarrassed the next day when all of Peter’s coworkers were talking about how I took the small plate and no one EVER uses the small plate.

If I knew then what I know now, I’d have taken a pineapple home and gone for seconds! So if you’re ever in Guam: always take more food than you can eat, if you’re at a fiesta it’s okay to take the fruit home with you and if someone ever says, “Don’t be ashamed!” that means you’re not eating enough and you better eat more!

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The Dead Whale in Guam

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Last week I read about the dead whale that washed on to the reef in Guam. The whale died at sea and ended up in Ylig Bay in the village of Yona. It was both sad and amazing. Over the weekend I went in search of the whale using the map and directions from the newspaper. The small road that leads to the private property was lined with parked cars and people walking to see the whale. We basically had to enter the private property, which included crawling under a locked chain linked fence. We walked past the person’s home and down to the beach. People have been asking me if there was a bad smell, but I didn’t smell anything. The whale had been there for a few days by the time I went to see it. As I reached the bottom of the hill, I could see the massive carcass stuck on the reef. I stood there for awhile and watched as a few crazy people walked out to touch the whale. Hopefully we will find out more about how the whale died and what they are going to do about the carcass. As far as I know, it will be on the reef for awhile!