guam culture

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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Working in Guam

For awhile, I thought I would never find a job on this tiny island. Though there are many job openings, there are a lot of  unemployed people searching for work. After a few months of searching, the job hunt became discouraging and I began to question myself and miss the job I had left in Oregon. As I’ve come to learn, you can have a degree (like I do) and years of work experience, it really comes down to WHO you know. Of course, I didn’t know anyone on the island and had to keep trying, applying and hoping for an interview. Toward the end of my search things started to pick up and I was called in for a few interviews. Then FINALLY, I got a job! By this time I was just so relieved and ready to begin work.

As you can see there are small cultural differences between Guam and anything I’ve experienced in The States, which are things I will have to adjust to. Family, friends and maintaining relationships with those people who are loyal to you are very important here. Which is why people give preference to their relationships when it comes to things like a job opening. So, if you’re moving to Guam don’t be surprised or discouraged and just keep trying.

It’s also hard for military dependents to find work off base because many companies don’t want to have to deal with losing an employee when they have to relocate to a new base. I’ve been asked during interviews if I’m military dependent and how long I plan to stay in Guam.

I now work for a large Guamanian company. People were very curious about my story and how I ended up in Guam. Everyone has been very friendly and welcoming. There aren’t too many differences between Guam and The States and it has been an easy adjustment working here. I do have to say that Guamanians LOVE to celebrate anything, so there are always BBQs and potlucks at work, which I enjoy 🙂

Tip:

Most jobs are posted online. I used these websites during my job search. Most importantly, make friends with everyone and they will lead you in the right direction!

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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!