Weather

Weather in Guam

I Survived My First Tropical Storm!

Tropical storm Halong is on it’s way west now after making a mess of Guam for the day. I’m sick of writing about the weather, but this year we’ve just had bad luck. There have been a few close calls with typhoons and storms in the last couple of months.  This morning (Wednesday) we were put in COR 1 (condition of readiness), which means typhoon winds are expected within 12 hours. The night before we were told that the storm would hit the next evening, but the next morning they said the storm had moved quicker than anticipated and would arrive at noon! I was a little worried because we weren’t prepared. When Peter was released from work, he stopped by the only store he could find that was still opened and bought some supplies.

I decided to cook brunch in case we lost electricity and sure enough, the power went out. Peter called GPA to report the outage and 20 minutes later the power came back on. I finished cooking, but at noon we had lost power again. We spent the next few hours listening to the radio, watching movies on my laptop, napping, and waiting. Thanks GPA for calling us throughout the day to make sure our power was still on!!

I wasn’t scared because the meteorologists didn’t seem too concerned about it escalating into anything more serious. The scary part, or the part that made me anxious, was that with out typhoon shutters closed I could hear loud noises outside, but couldn’t see what was happening. Occasionally we would open the door and check things out. The wind was SO strong and the rain was coming at us from all directions.

By 3:00PM Peter and I were STARVING. All we had available was dry food; rice cakes, granola, cereal, peanut butter, bananas; not very fulfilling. About 30 minutes later, our power came back on!!! We actually jumped for joy and ran to the kitchen and began cooking!

In Oregon, our weather is pretty much predictable. Sometimes in the summer we get windstorms, but they last 30 minutes and don’t cause much damage. So as you can imagine, neither of us having experienced this type and strength of a storm, we were a little nervous. I’m so thankful to K57 Newstalk radio who kept us calm and aware. That’s the best way to get news during a storm, so make sure to have a battery powered radio handy!

It’s still dark and rainy, but I’m relieved that the worst of the storm is over. Damage to the island was very minimal and all the villages are in clean up and recovery mode. I can’t wait for rainy season to be over!

What to do During Rainy Season

I didn’t even get to say goodbye to the dry season.

So what the heck is going on with the weather in Guam?!! I really feel like I’m in Oregon again. It’s been dark all day today and rained most of the morning.  The only difference is the intense humidity that follows the rain. The forecast doesn’t look very promising and from what I’ve heard we are having monsoonal rain. Along with the storm, I’ve come down with a cold. So that means that our weekend has been spent inside, cuddled up on the sofa, watching movies and eating soup. Sounds fine to me!

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 This is about the most sunshine we’ve had
in a couple days, if you call that sunshine.

Sooner than later I’m going to get tired of being indoors and will want to do something. So what is there to do when the rainy season arrives and you live on an island that has mostly outdoor attractions? That’s what I’ve been trying to figure out for the past few years! Here’s what I do!

1. Guam’s super cool aquarium Underwater World. I took my parents here when they came to visit.

2. Shop, shop, window shop! There are a few malls across Guam and luxury shops in Tumon. Even if you have no money to spend, it’s nice to get out for a walk and window shop. Peter and I often take walks in Tumon, grab some chocolates from Godiva when we want to feel fancy or eat at one of the many restaurants located in the area.

3. Eat! I’ve tried a couple new places this month. One day I was craving steak, which is rare for me as I don’t eat beef regularly. We went to Angus Steak & Grille in Harmon for the first time and had a great meal! The servers were very pleasant and informative.  A few days ago I was invited to JOINUS Restaurant Keyaki, a traditional Japanese and Teppan-Yaki food. I didn’t know what this was or what most of the food was! I ordered what I recognized (chicken teriyaki) and watched as they set everyone’s food on fire!

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4. Watch the sunset because even though it may be covered by clouds, the colors in the sky and the way the clouds are illuminated are amazing!

5. Wait for a break in the rain! (You could be waiting a long time) The rain seems to slow down in the late afternoon, which is when we usually leave the house because we ride a motorcycle.

6. Go swimming anyway because you’ll be wet either way. Although right now swimming can be a little dangerous with the high surf and rough waters, I still see vacationers making the most of their trip to Guam and splashing around at the beach.

7. Visit museums! There are a few history museums on Guam and this month there was an art exhibit in The Plaza called Guam Art Exhibit. I went to this last year and I was so impressed. This year we attended the spoken word event and had a lot of fun.

8. Bowling is a pretty popular sport on Guam, Peter and I were part of a bowling team and we played for a year! Lots of fun and food. If bowling isn’t your thing, Central Lanes  also has ping pong and video games so check it out!!

9. $5 movies! Peter and I like to catch an early movie because it’s quiet, cheap and something to do while it’s raining.

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Stormy Times

This morning I woke up, looked out the window, and saw the beautiful blue sky. Not long after, Peter called and said there was a tropical storm coming and they were preparing for it at work. I don’t watch T.V. and I rarely grab a copy of the newspaper, so I went online to check the weather stats. Sure enough, the news were reporting on the tropical storm that is headed straight for Guam. Now, I never really know whether I should take things seriously because it seems like the media blow things out of proportion. There have been so many storms that people were worried about and were hyped up, that ended up missing us completely. Either way, Peter and I always stay semi prepared. We have flashlights, batteries, food, propane and a burner, typhoon shutters, and we will usually do a big grocery shopping trip just before the storm arrives. It’s better to be safe than sorry. It’s been a realllyyyyy long time since Guam was hit by a typhoon and people say we are overdue for another one.  Over the last three years that I’ve lived in Guam, we’ve been pretty lucky that the typhoons haven’t formed until the storm had passed our island. I’ve never experienced a typhoon and I hear that the past ones have left parts of Guam without power and water for MONTHS. Let’s just hope that this storm doesn’t turn into anything bigger over the weekend. The rainy season has wasted no time in giving us scary storms. Looks like it might be a rough one this year.

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Photo of the approaching storm.

(map from : http://goo.gl/n1ARyA)
 

At the moment, we are in condition 2 readiness. Read what that means here.

Stay safe everyone!

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Who Rents a Convertible During Typhoon Weather?!?!

   WE DID!!

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Since we haven’t done any traveling this year, we decided to extend our 4th of July holiday weekend and do something fun. We’d been planning our Guam stay-cation for over month. We were going to rent a convertible and drive around the island and also go zip lining. But the weather in Guam had other plans for us. When our long weekend arrived, so did a tropical storm.

We hung out at The Beach Bar with some friends Thursday evening and, that should have been our warning, we were blasted with sand as gusts of wind came through. At the end of our evening, the rain started pouring down. The next morning it wasn’t raining but it was gloomy and so, so windy. For some reason we thought it was still a good idea to rent a convertible and cruise the island.

That evening all of the 4th of July festivities had been cancelled so we ate at Arashi Bowl in Harmon. From the outside it doesn’t look like much, but once you open the door Manga artwork covers the walls and it’s really cool! The food was delicious too!

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Saturday morning we woke up, hopped in the car and began our drive south. During our drive down we’d feel drops of rain, pull over, put the top back up, drive off, think the rain had stopped, pull over, put the top back down. We did this until we reached Piti and saw a HUGE, dark cloud hovering over the village and felt the cold breeze. The weather was all downhill from there. We continued on South, pulling over a few times because the visibility in the rain was terrible. We ended up at Jeff’s Pirates Cove and had a late lunch. The rain intensified and so did the wind and incredible thunder and lightening! We stayed there for a couple of hours but the storm was only getting stronger. Finally, the time came and we needed to drive back to the car rental to return the car.

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Later that evening the storm had calmed a bit so we walked to the Tumon BBQ Block Party. We ate empanadas from Sea Grill and tried some of the BBQ meats. At the end, we stopped for fresh coconut water and decided to go home. I think the rest of our weekend was spent trying to stay dry. I guess I should say goodbye to the dry season and an unwelcome hello to the rainy season! Stay dry, Guam!

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I’m an AC Baby

A few months ago the power went out for about 6 hours (as it usually does at least once a month) and I tried my hardest to deal with it; by 2:00pm I ended up walking to a nearby coffee shop to cool off. This got me thinking about something that a co worker on Guam had mentioned to me last year. She referred to her daughter as an AC baby. Not knowing what she meant by that she explained that even though her daughter was born and raised on Guam, she was raised in air conditioned cars/homes and couldn’t stand the heat. This made me think about all the people I’ve seen who do anything to avoid the sun. I never understood how someone can live on Guam and 1. not be tanned 2. avoid being hot. But this whole “AC Baby” concept sort of explained it all. Police officers leave their cars running with their hoods up to avoid overheating (not sure how safe that is),  so that they can leave their AC on while they’re doing checkpoints and then jump back into a cool car when they’re done. People have found ways to live on this hot island without actually experiencing too much heat.

Our first apartment on Guam was a first floor unit that was shielded from the sun on one side of the building, making it much cooler. That meant that I could go most of the day without using the AC. For the first six months the AC in my bedroom didn’t work so I slept in the heat with just a small fan. It was hot and uncomfortable, but bearable, and I grew accustomed to the temperature. We now live on the third floor and there is no shade to protect us from the sun. By 9:00am the apartment is pretty warm and by 12:00pm it’s too hot. Opening the windows in different rooms to get a cross breeze going is no use because there’s not enough wind on Guam and it makes the apartment hotter! I think there are certain parts of the island that are cooler and windier than other areas. I really don’t like using the AC so much not only because of the cost, but also because I’d like to just breathe natural air and I feel like the AC makes my allergies worse. Unfortunately I’ve also become accustomed to the cool air and whenever I’ve been inside all day, the moment I step outside it’s like a shock to my body and I start saying, “Ahh why’s it so hot and humid, what’s happening, I’m sweating!” And to top it all off, if I leave chocolate out on the table, within an hour it’s melted and that’s the last straw for me.

It’s official, I am an AC Baby.

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So This is Happening…

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There’s a typhoon somewhere in that picture that is causing all the ruckus on Guam. Today is the first day in the last three that it hasn’t been raining the entire day. I went out briefly Thursday evening and Tumon didn’t look too bad. The roads were flooded but the tourists were still out, covered in plastic for protection from the wetness. Since then, I haven’t left the house and I’m going crazy! We lost power for a day and it has flickered on and off every-now-and-then, but so far things are good for me. I can’t say the same for others on the island. There has been a lot of flooding, in some areas it looks waist deep. Trees have fallen due to the strong winds and some villages are without water. I finally went out to see the damage and I’m so happy that I live in Tumon because it’s not all bad. There were actually people swimming in the ocean against warnings that it was dangerous. I hope the rest of the island is doing better! The storm is slowly moving on but the rain and wind should stick around until the end of the month.  I guess that’s the trade off of living on a beautiful island, sometimes you have to withstand the storm to really appreciate the beauty of the island when it has passed.

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The Rainy Season

Being from the Pacific Northwest, rain is not unusual. I think we (North-westerners) are all born with the skill of managing to stay nearly dry when it’s pouring outside.  You know you just wear a hoodie or put your head down, shoulders up and speed walk to get where you need to go. The rain doesn’t really bother me much and I’m used to days, weeks and months of gloom and sunless skies. I’ve learned how to drive in the rain and avoid hydroplaning. I know that you never wait for a dry spot in the clouds because you will be waiting forever. And when the skies cleared and there wasn’t anymore rain, I’d feel out of place. Like, “What is that bright, ball of fire in the sky?!” as I shield my face from the sun. That’s what being an Oregonian (Northwest at least) is about.

The sun makes me feel happy and my mood changes according to weather.  I’ve been so spoiled by the weather in Guam. It’s sunny and perfect everyday. I always wanted to be an island girl I just didn’t realize that; although, there aren’t the usual four seasons there are the dry and rainy seasons. At first it’s just a little rain during the day, then there is thunder and lightening and then it rains all day everyday for a month. The rain is so intense and the skills I used in Oregon for staying dry don’t work here at all! The rain gushes down the streets and it feels like it’s going to flood. Last year it did flood, thankfully not where I lived. Somehow, overnight it seems, all the puddles evaporate and you’re left with the thick, heavy, humid air…until it rains again. Even though the temperature may be 77 degrees, it’s still an unbearable 95% humidity!

As I’m writing this, it has been raining all day.  My first year on Guam I arrived near the end of the rainy season. Last year I’m pretty sure there was one full month of rain and the season lasted from around July to November. It’s hard to plan anything because, riding on the scooter, we never know when it’s going to rain.  We are also usually confined to our house. Just a few minutes in the rain during Guam’s rainy season will leave you drenched all the way through to your underclothes.

It’s not like in Oregon when it rains everything is green. On Guam, when it rains everything looks grey, bringing out the grey in all the cement buildings. It’s not until after the rain ends that everything is green and beautiful again. Guam is actually quite ugly when it rains because the ocean water mirrors the dark sky. Then one day you wake up and the grey skies are gone and everything is back to normal. You’ve survived the rainy season!

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!

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Humidity Is Not Friendly

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Even though there was really no way that someone could describe the humidity in Guam to me, I wish I could have really known just HOW humid Guam can be before I arrived. The humidity is far beyond anything I could have imagined. I’ve been to Hawaii before, but that was nothing compared to what I felt when I stepped outside of the air conditioned airport and into the hot, sticky air in Guam for the first time. It took me a long while before my breathing was normal again and it took me MONTHS before I stopped sweating profusely. I would be sitting, doing nothing and still feel overheated and sweaty! Yes, it was uncomfortable and disgusting. Slowly but surely my body adjusted to this new norm and I felt much better. Even though I’m complaining, I prefer the heat and humidity to what I came from in the north western side of Oregon, which was rain and gloom. Along with the sweaty, stickiness I felt due to the humidity, my hair went WILD! I have naturally wavy, thick hair and when it was exposed to the humidity, it tried to straighten in a large, fluffy, crazy way. Nothing would help. I tried to straighten it and the moment I stepped outside it became large and fluffy again. That was just a dreadful time for me. Oh and if you wear makeup, just forget about it because it will not stay put! All you really need are sunblock, water and to sit still!

Now, a year later I’m feeling very well adjusted to the weather. I don’t get overheated and I know how far to push myself in the heat. My hair on the other hand, is still struggling . There’s not much for me to do about it.  One day I noticed that it was beginning to lighten and feel very dry due to the sun, so I had it cut to my chin. As of now, it’s in the growing process. To keep it from being damaged by the sun I use leave in condition and spray sun screen mixed with water to protect it. Because of the way my hair texture has changed, I usually just tie it back. It has grown quickly and I’m getting the urge to cut it off again. Sometimes it makes me want to cry and sometimes I wish it would just make up its mind. I’d much appreciate any suggestions to manage this tangled, jungle-like hair of mine!