Thursday, 28 April 2011

Move In Day(s)

After exactly 2 months of being homeless and 23 days in a hotel we have moved into our house. As we drove to the house Tuesday morning for the pre-move in walk through we were giddy with excitement of cooking our own dinner, having a place to lounge and relax (without having to climb over suitcases), and a chance to get life back to normal. Don't get me wrong, staying at a hotel is lovely. Fresh towels, clean sheets, someone else takes out the trash, and a gorgeous pool to enjoy. But you can only have food that fits in the mini fridge, you have make your sandwich on the bathroom counter, take your clothes to the most ghetto laundry mat ever, and have to decide each night where you want to go to dinner. After 23 days, it gets old.

As I drove away from our apartment 2 months ago, I called my dad and said "Dad, moving is so much easier when you pay someone else to do it for you." Not so sure how much he appreciated it, although I did promise to never ask him to make me move, again. A dozen or so times was enough. I had no idea how true that statement really is until this week.

Tuesday we had a delivery of 'essential goods'. We had a few plates, cups, and bowls. Some pots and pans. 2 sets of towels. An air mattress and sheets. Just enough to spend the night when we will call home for the next 3 years. Here is just a glimpse of our day.
Taco Bell for lunch while we wait on the delivery of 'essential goods'.

our pet outside the master bedroom. No worries. He's not poisonous.

First dinner... sitting on an air mattress, using a plastic tote as a table. Wahoo! We didn't have to go out.

Wednesday brought the delivery of our house hold items. 6 crates, packed full of all our belongs. 
It was basically like Christmas morning. Who knows whats wrapped in all the brown paper. Or packed so delicately in the padded paper. However, we quickly realized ALL of our belonging had been packed in 2x4's and plywood and sitting on a boat for the 2 months it took to arrive here in Guam. Leaves you with a strange feeling. Did it all make it? I hope so. 

We are getting settled it. Unpacking our entire lives. Arranging and rearranging furniture. Hanging pictures. Dreaming of having a small flower and herb garden... okay that might be a little ambitious. As soon as we have everything in order we will post pictures and take you all on our little tour of our house on our rock in the middle of the pacific.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Happy Birthday to Em!

Happy Birthday to me... Happy Birthday to me... Happy Birthday to me....  

Celebrating a birthday on the island is lots of fun. Okay, just being on the island is fun. We had a super busy day taking care of some military stuff and getting our power and water turned on to the house. What a great birthday present! We finally move in on Tuesday. Only 4 more days in the hotel.  We have officially been homeless for 2 months.  Thanks to great friends (Ryan, Sarah, Maddie, Wyatt Thompson) and wonderful parents we have had a roof to sleep under. But needless to say our lovely room at the Sheraton is getting a little small. 

The birthday dinner of my choice was to the Chamorro Village. (Please see previous post on fabulous details of this fine establishment) All joking aside; it's gotta be some of the best food on the island. For dessert: no fried bananas or fruit fry ice... but... 


With that we share the great news. We have a Great American Cookie Company. Unfortunately, we don't have an Auntie Anne's Pretzels. Or Sonic... today would have been a great day for a 'Route 44 Diet Cherry Limade'. 

Thanks for all the FB birthday wishes. I totally felt the love.... all the way over here on our rock in the middle of the Pacific. 

Monday, 18 April 2011

2nd Annual Banana Festival

After discussing our weekend adventure over breakfast Saturday morning we decided it best to attend the second annual Talofofo Banana Festival. Island Time magazine promotes it  saying it is "for both locals and tourist to experience locally grown bananas, banana recipes and food". Yum. Armed with sunglasses, bottles of water, a map (designed only for tourists hot spots), and directions from a hotel staff member, we hit the road. "Leave the hotel, turn right at the first light. Right at the next light onto Marine Corps Drive. Then go to the turn loop and go up that road. I don't know the name of that road. Then just go straight. You'll find it." Walking out the door Ryan and I just laughed thinking we might as well drive to the palm tree and hope for the best. Seriously, go straight and we'll find it. Alright. 

Good news. We did find the festival. After driving the wrong way on Marine Corps Drive and passing Ipan Beach Park (festival location) we arrived. The festival was not what we expected. The entire park was no bigger than Pritchard Park in downtown Asheville. With maybe a dozen vendors we had the chance to see the classic festival souvenirs including over sized inflatable animals, glow-in-the-dark necklaces, and balloon creations. The animal park include a 'tropical caribou'. I kind of think it was just a caribou. A few tables were set up with literature about the value of bananas. We didn't see any banana recipes. Next year, I'm going to teach all the Talofofo residents how to make Banana Pudding. They won't know what hit 'em.
bunch of bananas and pepers. 

The highlight for me (Em) was the man selling fresh crab. Yes, fresh is the right way to describe them being they were all still alive. We had heard about a creature on the island called a Coconut Crab. I'll confess I didn't buy into the stories. Then I saw it. A Coconut Crab does not get its name from it's appearance. Instead it is known for its ability to open a coconut with its humongous  pincher (yes, that is a scientific term). They crack the coconut open and eat the meat. Warning: don't get your fingers, or your arms, caught in his grip. You could loose phalanges. 

Since we are preparing to move into our rental house I took the chance to look at some tropical plants a nursery was selling. The colors and textures of topical plants are so different from what we grew up with in the mountains. I want to try to plant some of these. They look pretty resilient and maybe, just maybe, I will be able to keep it alive with my brown thumb. 

Well since the festival was a bit of a flop we continued on down the road. Em took the chance to get into the ocean (Pacific Ocean to be exact). The beach is coral so you can see the breaking waves in the distance. I did see a shell I wanted take with me, but after reaching down to pick it up and little pinchers coming out after me, I decided to leave it be. 
Ryan went trudging through the brush looking for the Miliana Japanese Pillbox that was advertised on the side of the road. He never found it. 
We took a chance for a photo-op and decided it really is more fun to snap a pic like the Japanese tourists. 
note Ryan's "peace" sign
The news highlight from this past week is from a construction crew working on a bridge we drove over on our way to the festival. While digging, part of the crew uncovered an unexploded Japanese ordnance. The Navy EOD removed it. Rumor has it, last month the same crew uncovered human remains from the Japanese invasion. Did you know the Japanese invaded Guam within the same hour as attacking Pearl Harbor? Many miss this fact because the history books date the invasion on December 8. Its a different date only because of the international date line. Your piece of useless knowledge for today. 

Off for the next adventure on our rock in the middle of the Pacific.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Happening Wednesday Nights at Chamorro Village

Food, crafts, food, island wear, food, flip-flops, food, music, food, cultural dance, food, food, food. Every Wednesday night a small area nestled between the marina and baseball park is buzzing with tourist, locals, and military families looking for, you guessed it, good food.  The Chamorro Village is home to numerous ‘mom & pops, walk-up and order at the window’ food joints. The village is nothing glamorous. Simple stucco buildings with screen doors and sole windows. But some of the best food you will find on the island.

Chamorro food is a clash of Asian noodles and rice meets Jamaican ‘jerk’ tradition meets southern fried chicken. With vendor after vendor biding for your business they offer over flowing plates of red-rice (their own flare of seasoning) noodles and veggies, grilled corn, shrimp patty, spare ribs, fried chicken, fried pork chops, fried whole fish (like the just dunk the entire fish, skin, gills, eyes and all in the deep fryer) grilled BBQ chicken or pork kabobs.

So far we have loved everything we've tried. We've yet to have the afore mentioned fish. Think I'll wait for Dad to visit and try his. Best idea to visit hungry and be prepared to try a variety of local food. 
Spare ribs were quite tasty. 

Mixed in with the food, craft vendors are selling almost anything one could think of. Birdhouses made from dried coconuts, hand crafted leis, beautifully colored sarongs, hair pins displaying the local flowers, sea shells of all sizes, baked goods (some of the best banana bread (they call it cake) I’ve ever had), piggy banks made from drained coconuts, and the list goes on.

In the main pavilion is live music. Well a couple of guys to play guitars and a single drum along with a music track. With song after song filling the air the crowd enjoys watching both the young and old dance to new hits and old classics.

If anyone ever doubts, the electric slide is universal. I [Em] have never been 
anywhere that when the song started everyone in the room didn't move to get in on the action.

As with any open air festival, there are plenty of people to watch. Some who would rival the Asheville locals at Bel Cher, I promise.  I [Em] find it intriguing to watch the Japanese tourist trying to take in this island culture meets eclectic wandering souls. Unfortunately, I was unable to get a good picture of a couple who looked like they simply jumped aboard a ship and sailed straight here from Mardi Gras. Maybe next time.

A mere 30 yards from the pavilion is an amphitheatre where students from different public and private schools perform the cultural dances from Guam and other surrounding islands. The pride the students have in their cultural heritage was inspiring. Boys and girls as young as 4 were dressed in native attire. The teenage girls dawned the grass skirts classic to the island cultures. The teenage boys were proud to display the warrior dances familiar from many islands in the Micronesia area. It’s not often in the states when you find students so anxious and proud of their heritage. Such a special treasure the island is able to protect while being so isolated. 

Before we left we happened upon 2 Japanese women selling "Fruit Fry Ice". Yes, they said it just that way. Go ahead, laugh. Not 'fruit fried ice', fruit fry ice. I know each of you can hear these little Japanese women trying to peddle their product through the load roar of the village. Even though we stood their and watched them make it, we are not sure how it was done. Basically they poured some pineapple juice and pineapple puree on a really cold metal slab. Kind of like marble slab, but the contraption was plugged in to keep the extreme cold temperature. The pineapple nearly immediately froze into this smooth, slushy, almost sherbet like consistency. Then, just like Marble Slab, they mixed in your choice of 2 fresh fruits. We selected strawberries and mangoes. Topped with a few candied cherries it was ours to enjoy. Oh my goodness did we ever enjoy. It was spectacular. Possibly one of the greatest things I have ever had. Okay that might be an exaggeration. But so refreshing and in the top 10. I think Ryan will have to get his own next time. 
One other thing that I will certainly have to learn to make in the next couple of years is fried banana lumpia. They are served on a stick, just like a corn dog. Unfortunately, I devoured it before Ryan could take a picture. 

We are off to try more food here on our rock in the middle of the Pacific. 

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Top 10 conclusions and lessons learned from week 1

1. NO ONE is safe from the sun this close to the equator. If anyone ever wants to mail us anything we prefer Banana Boat. SPF 50 is a must!
2. Everything is "5 minutes" on the island. "Five minutes to the restaurant." "5 minutes till your table is ready." "He will be here in 5 minutes." "5 minutes to the closest Starbucks"... oh wait, no that's in Japan.
3. We could not survive with out the commissary. Second night here we stopped by "PayLess Groceries". Don't let the name deceive you. 1/2 gallon of milk, 2 boxes of cereal, bunch of grapes, 12 pack of coke, 1 bag of Doritos, couple of things of yogurt and $50 later we were out the door.
4. The Corolla would not have made it. It would have died in a pothole day 1. Thanks for the pre-shipment alignment on the purple people eater, Steve. Money well spent.
5. Japanese peoples hair gets frizzy too.
6. Guam has the only food court in the world with 21 food vendors... 2 taco stands, 1 pizza joint, 1 burger place, 2 icecream shops, 1 coffee cafe, and 14 places serving various Asian inspired dishes.
7. Pizza Hut will be a luxury. 1 large Stuffed Crust pizza for $28.99. (Bummer Grant)
8. The DMV can be a pleasant place to visit. Especially when everyone around you wants to know "how the family is" and the lady behind the desk gets to sing along with her favorite compilation of songs.
9. We have to figure out how to freeze ice thicker around here. My diet coke gets watered down way to fast.
10. No one in WNC should (have) ever complain about I-26. It's got nothing on the roads here.  Buckle up, hang on tight, and NEVER bring a full drink with you. (Yes, speaking from experience.)

Until next time, farewell from our rock in the middle of the Pacific.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

I spy....

I spy 5 Japanese pillboxes... can you find them? 

A pillbox is a "dug-in guard post, normally equiped with loopholes through which to fire weapons; often camouflaged in order to conceal their location and maximize the element of surprise."-Wikipedia

Happy Hunting! 

(okay. stop looking. we can't find them either.) 

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Exploring Asan Beach

With the threat of a government shut down and the closing of all National Parks we decided it in our best interest to head to the "War in the Pacific" at Asan Beach. A space as expansive as 3 football fields with lush green grass gives way to the exposed coral and crashing waves. Scattered about are plaques and monuments telling the story of the days and detailing the life of this plot of land. 

Multiple cultures have left their mark on this point of the island. But none as dramatic and demanding as the U.S. Our time on the island is far more extensive than I imagined. From 1901-1903 the U.S. government in the Philippines banished Filipino rebels to a prison camp on Asan Beach. In 1917 after the U.S. declared war on Germany, a crew from a German auxiliary ship were taken captive by American troops and held here. 

The main event on the beach occurred on July 21, 1944. Mortar shells bombarded thousands of U.S. Marines riding ashore on amphtracks and trudging through the loose coral and crashing wave. The Japanese swept the beach with unending fire from camouflaged pillboxes. Landing crafts shuttled dead and wounded back to the ships. 
could it be the remains of a Japanese pillbox? 

The beach head was hard-won but it was not the final objective. Heavy fire continued to rain down as U.S. troops used Asan as a staging point to continue their assaults on Japanese strong holds. This land remained home to the U.S. Navy civilian employees from 1945-1967. In 1975 the abandoned camp became a welcoming area for thousands of Vietnamese refugees. 

"The years have dimmed the sight but not the memory. There is a special flavor to life for those who fought on the beach of Asan that cannot be shared... Nowhere else does the brotherhood of battle extend so fully between the liberators and the liberated Chamorros because nowhere else were the experiences so mutually identifiable... we have felt each other's pain... and we are grateful for a precious turning point in our lives."~Ben G. Blaz Brigadier General U.S. Marines 

To walk the coast line stretching no longer than 2 miles and think of what took place on that seemingly peaceful land is breath taking. I found myself standing on a rock in the middle of the ocean with goose bumps. As eerie as it sounds, it was nearly impossible to not think of the fallen Marines being tossed by the waves. Even Ryan made a comment that it is so strange to be standing on the very place where Marines battled the Japanese so many years ago. 

We hiked up a hill which over looks the beach. The Japanese hid in the brush and in barricaded pillboxes silently waiting for the troops to come into range. Looking over the beach it is easy to see why the Japanese chose that spot. The ability to pour fire down the hill would seemingly ensure a victory over the unexpecting troops. The parks quiet terrain is haunted by violent struggle. Asan beach drastically changed the lives of the Chamorro people, the outcome of the war, and, as petty as it sounds in comparison, where life in the military brought Ryan and I. 
The view from the top of the hill.

On a somewhat comical note one park sign warned, "Dangerous Explosives: unexloped ammunition can be deadly. It can still be found anywhere on the island and in the waters offshore. During the pre-assult bombardment in July 1944 , tons of bombs and naval shells fell on Guam. After battle, the Americans disposed of the ordnances... Fifty years later, despite cleanup efforts, live ammo can still be found eroding from hillside caves the ocean floor." We heard that a construction crew uncovered an ordnance a few block away just last month. That would make for an interesting job site. 

Stay tuned for more adventures and discoveries from our rock in the Pacific. 

Thursday, 7 April 2011


Hafa Adai! (For all us "southern speakers"it's pronounced [half-a-day]) 

Greetings from Guam. We arrived safe and sound with all our luggage on Sunday evening. After checking in to the hotel we called it quits to the never ending day. We timed it. 23 hours and 26 minutes. Who knew the sun actually stays up all day.

So far we've enjoyed some quality time by the pool. (See pics on Facebook) I think I could get used to this life. The ocean is really as gorgeous as it looks. Close to the shore it is a clear turquoise and as you venture out (perhaps where the island drops off into the deepest waters in the world) the water turns into a spectacular shade of midnight blue. Warning: the beach is not like my favorite vacation destination, Myrtle Beach. As soon as you hit the water the ground is coral. Bring your water shoes! It will tear your feet to pieces.

Tuesday, after spending about an hour at the DMV, we picked up our truck from port. What a blessing it arrived a month early! With in a few hours of being transportation independent we successfully drove [almost] the entire length of the island. Go us! It only takes about an hour to drive all the way around. No long road trips for here. 

Most of our time has been spent house hunting. There are some VERY nice places and some VERY uhmm, whats the word, GHETTO places. Lets find a place somewhere in the middle. 

As far as houses... we looked at 4 places Monday evening and 4 places Tuesday. Only 1 is worth telling you about from Monday.... basically its a huge house that a Japanese man remodeled into 4 condos. But it is fully furnished with custom built furniture. As stereotypical as it sounds.... everything was the top of the line electronically. For example- the door does not have a key lock, its a digital key pad. The television and Bose surround sound in the master bedroom and the living room are top of the line, the unit is totally sound proof. The appliances in the kitchen would require a manual to learn to use. "Living here for dummies" do they sell that at Barnes and Nobles? Both the guest bathroom and the master bath have stand up showers and tubs, the master being a Jacuzzi tub. There is a Jacuzzi on the patio. You need a remote to operate the television, lights, ceiling fans, blinds, and black out curtains. The unit was breath taking. I told Ryan I would not be able to leave the house by myself cause I would never figure out how to get out the door. Guess that is not the place for us.

Reality is we are looking at a house in a neighborhood about 8 minutes from base. The neighborhood is composed of about 90% military. Great news for all of you wanting to come for a visit, we have 3 guest rooms. Plenty of room. Can't wait for y'all to come!  Bad news, we don't have any of that cool stuff like the Japanese man. Who wants to sit in a Jacuzzi anyway? Its like 90 degrees outside. 

Well on that note, I hear its supposed to get to 70 is Asheville so y'all enjoy! 
We will do our best to keep everyone updated on all the adventures, experiences and discoveries here on our rock in the middle of the Pacific. 

Love you!