living in guam

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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Creepy Creatures: The Rhino Beetle

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One day as I was walking downstairs to the laundry room of my building, I noticed this small, black thing wedged in a crevice between a door and a wall.  As I approached it I immediately recognized what it was by its hind legs. A coconut rhinoceros beetle! Lately I’ve been reading a lot about the negative impact they’ve had on the island. Here is a story about the devastation from Pacific Daily News. According to the article, trees along the beach in Tumon have been chopped down due to damage by the beetle. One of the most beautiful things about the beaches are that they are lined with coconut trees, so I was saddened when I went to Ypao Beach and saw stumps where trees once flourished. As of now, the beetle has spread to all villages on Guam. There are different ideas about how to get rid of the pests, but I’m not sure if any of them are working. It’s surprising that these beetles are able to cause any damage at all because they look drunk and uncoordinated when they fly.

When Peter came back home from work, I told him what I found. I know that he’s been wanting to catch one so he was really happy. Without a second thought, Peter scooped it up into his hands and took him upstairs. He then tied a rope around the beetle and put him in a pot of dirt. The beetle began digging its way deep into the pot and stayed there. We considered killing it because that’s what you’re supposed to do, but it felt wrong. It’s not just like a bug you can squash with your foot. It’s thick and its signature rhino horn on top of its head is amazing! Unfortunately, I’ve been seeing a lot of these lately and I’m hoping that it’s not a sign that they are taking over. Let’s just hope that Guam is able to get this problem under control.

 

Flying a Kite on Mt. Lamlam

It’s not often that Guam has a very windy day. Peter bought a kite and was eager to fly it, but every time we went to the park there was absolutely no wind. We decided to hike up Mt. Lamlam, once again, and give kite flying a try! Knowing what to expect this time, I went prepared. That doesn’t mean that the burning hot sun and thick air didn’t make me feel like I was going to melt away; I just brought extra water, better hiking pants and more snacks! This time it was different, many of the crosses that led up to the top were broken and cut in half. I hope that this was due to natural weather conditions and not some disrespectful fool. Anyway, it was another perfect Guam day. We could see from one side of the island to the other. Perfect views of Coco’s Island, Sella Bay, Cetti Bay and a large freshwater lake that I hadn’t noticed before.  At the top of Mt. Lamlam we sat down in the grass and took a moment to enjoy the scenery. I love looking up into the sky and watching the clouds float by. After some time, Peter decided to set his kite up and give it a go. He looked so cute running through the tall grass while throwing his kite up into the air. Finally, he caught some wind and up it went! There may be times on Guam when it seems like there’s nothing left to do, that’s when I like to go on a hike and appreciate the beauty that I get to enjoy anytime I want. So take some time and fly a kite, it will bring the kid out of you!!

Thanks for reading and enjoy your weekend!

Questions about living in Guam? Click me

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!

Scoot, Scoot!

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Before I moved to Guam, Peter told me he drove a scooter and a motorcycle and that I’d have to get a helmet. I thought, “No way am I going to be able to do this.” Before we left Portland we went helmet shopping. Of course I had a panic attack, feeling like I couldn’t breathe in that thing! Here I am a year later and I LOVE riding around on them.

Surprisingly, not too many people drive scooters or motorcycles on Guam. Being an incredibly small island, there are a lot of vehicles on the road; thus, causing a lot of traffic. In addition to the traffic, the coral based roads are full of potholes. There isn’t really a dependable public transit system in place. Using the scooter has been nice to get around quickly and spend less on gas.  A few things have happened while scooting, beetles and other bugs ALWAYS fly into us and they usually hit us right in the middle of the face, sometimes geckos that are sleeping on the scooter fly off and onto our legs or arms, and sometimes we hit one of those potholes that shakes us up a bit!

Many people here don’t understand how we can get by without a car. When we had a car, it was the worst driving experience of my life! The roads on Guam are not built for all the traffic and the drivers don’t always follow the law (often running red lights and speeding). It took me nearly an hour to get home after work, when it should have taken me 15 minutes. I’m not sure where people are going at all hours of the day/night and why families need one car per person. A car does make life easier during the rainy season, but we got by without one before and we can do it again! The view is so much better when you’re not boxed in and the wind feels so good on a hot day! Just remember, if you see a motorcycle or scooter on the road, be a kind and respectful driver. It’s only unsafe for us out there when other cars  drive recklessly!

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Being Homesick Sucks

I’m not sure if I’ve been homesick since the day I arrived on Guam or if it just hit me, either way being homesick sucks. I don’t know what triggered it, but I suddenly just feel this really strong urge to go home. I’ve been having dreams of my loved ones and searching for something on Guam that will remind me of home. Over the weekend I met a man selling authentic Mexican tamales and they tasted so good. It reminded me of my family and made me feel very happy! I especially miss my mom, dad and sister. I used to see at least one of them every week and now I see none of them ever. The change is tough. The thought of being over 5,000 miles plus $1,500 away from home isn’t helping either. I can’t just hop in a car or plane and take a weekend to see my family. I am SO far away from everyone and I’m really feeling the distance right now. It’s hard to think about all the things I’m missing, so I try not to. When I moved to Guam, at first, I was excited by my new surroundings. I wanted to explore and indulge in the island. About a year later the sparkle wore off and the homesickness began. For some reason it’s just really bothering me this week. Especially since I don’t know when I will be able to take a trip back home. The gloomy weather hasn’t been helping my mood either, but I’m sure I will cheer up soon.

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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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August Adventures in Guam

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I can’t believe how quickly August has come and gone. Summer in The States is coming to an end and the rainy season in Guam is in full effect. Again, I put together a short video of some of my August activities. It’s funny looking back at the end of the month to see what I did. August was a peaceful month for me. I discovered a new beach that I hadn’t been to before. I also tried to bodyboard for the first time, which is actually quite difficult in Guam because inside the reef there aren’t any waves! At least I had fun trying and pretending I was awesome!

We also did some fishing, with no luck! I don’t know what we’re doing wrong. We had dinner at Jeff’s Pirate’s Cove where I had a chicken gyro and listened to the one man band.

I did a lot of staring up into the sky, laying on the beach and relaxing at the park! Sounds like a good month to me!

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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!