Saturday, 28 January 2012

January... the short version... well part of it.

Dinner... to celebrate US!
January has proven to be an adventure filled, petal to the metal, no holds barred kind of month. Seems we have tackled everything from cleaning up from the Christmas festivities to hiking some pretty major hikes, hosting our first (of hopefully many) house guest, continuing training for Ryan's job with M-4 qualifying (way to go babe!) and beginning a new job for me. Yes that is correct. For those who have not heard, I was hired over Christmas break as an assistant teacher at Andersen Elementary. High-five to me, finally broke through into the federal employee world. Took 3 years, but I made it! Speaking of 3 years, we celebrated our 3 year anniversary!

Our first hiking adventure proved to be full of beautiful sights and challenging cliff passing. The hike is called Hilaan and we found it in our handy-dandy "The Best Tracks on Guam" book. So far the handy-dandy guide has not let us down. Always proving to be a treck, that leads to some spectacular sights, experiences, laughs, and stories we headed out on a 2.6 mile treck. Not too bad right? No. 2.6 miles is nothing for those of us who grew up hiking around the Smokey Mountains and Pisgah Forest. To top it off it was only a 40 foot elevation change. NO WORRIES!

Well, 2.6 miles in sand is slightly different than 2.6 miles on solid packed mountain side. With no worries on our mind, 6 of us enjoyed our treck up the coast line of Guam. Hilaan is a pristine environment of bright white sand beaches, aqua blue reefs, and towering green cliffs. It is home to an ancient chamorro village with archelogical findings still being discovered. Lost Pond sits back off the coast and is home to 1 of 2 freshwater pools in the northern half of the island. Unfortunately due to recent rains, the pond was really merky and nasty, so we opted not to engage in the tarzan style rope swing. Sharks cove is off the coast and ideal for snorkeling. Looking north you see, in the far distance, Ritidian Point (the northern most point in Guam).

The beauty of the island never gets old. Each time we are out and about there is something else that catches your eye. I am constantly amazed at the mighty hand of God forming each rock, placing each grain of sand, and pulling each wave out of the ocean. "The heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the work of his hands," Psalm 19:1.

victory picture! we made it back up the steps.
We planning our next adventure the goal was to find something "not so challenging". Haputo beach was it! Located on Nictam (naval base on the north end of Guam). The beach is a white sand cresant shape beach with lush green forests and crystal clear blue water. Only .6 miles long, but with a eveleation change of 300 feet we quickly learned we were in for a bit of a workout. 212 slim concrete stairs lead you down a narrow path meandering through the jungle occasionally rewarding you with a spectacular view of the beach and ocen.

Haputo ecological reserve was established in 1984. It preserves 252 acres of coral reefs and native forests. The coral reef within the reserve is well established and is home to 150 species of coral, 300 species of fish and is habitat to the endangered sea turtle

One of the most interesting features of Haputo is the unique rock formation at the south end of the cove. The limestone rock has been formed into the shape of a mushroom as a result of undercutting by the oceans waves.

Our third big hiking adventure turned into quite the unexpected undertaking. Ritidian to Falcona Beach is a 6 mile 10 foot elevation change hike... again along the sandy beaches. Our handy-dandy book does give us a disclaimer, that we ready after just escaping with our lives... "Hiking Falcona Beach is recommended only when the trade winds are not blowing, when the ocean is calm, and during low tide since the adjacent oceans can be hazardous. Thus the best time of the year for this hike is usually July to September." Well, we missed the suggested months, the winds were blowing incredibly strong, and it seems the tide was coming in while we were heading out on our hike. But an adventure awaited.

look close, you'll see Ryan and I!
As we headed south the waves were spectacular to watch. They were huge and crashing into explosive white caps agains the off shore reef. The first challenge came barely half a mile down the beach. A cliff that extendes into the ocean. Can't go over it. Can't go through it. Guess we will go around it. With one step into the ocean you can feel the current.

Along the soft sand we passed several privately owned beach houses and deserted cabanas. The waves contined to crash, the wind kept us cool (for Guam), and the white sand stretched on as far as we could see. Well, at least till the next cliff that we had to go, yep you guessed it, around. After hiking for about 1.5 miles we happened upon a resort that we had heard about, but had never seen. Ann Marie and I went to talk to a couple of life guards and explained where we were headed. They wished us luck and off we went.

After climbing around cliffs, over coral boulders, and wading through nearly waist deep water, we spotted our destination. A PIRATE SHIP. Okay, a ship wreck, but if you ask me, and any of the other 5 poeple with me we would all agree it was a PIRATE SHIP! Take a gander at the pictures. Words can't really describe what we saw.


4 hours after we set off on our adventure we returned to our cars. Starving, thirsty, and ready of a dip in the ocean. That day we not only witnessed the power of waves, the guiding hand of God, but also learned to always check the tide table BEFORE setting out on a beach hike.  

Off to our next adventure... from our rock in the middle of the Pacific.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

     Merry Christmas 
        From Guam 

Despite the 85 degree weather, Guam certainly does not lack any Christmas spirit. Houses are strung with lights, yards filled with every inflatable character you can imagine, the smell of fresh backed cookies escape through the open windows, carollers fill the mall, gift wrapping tables are set up at every turn, Christmas trees are tied to the top of cars, hands are full of recently purchased gifts, children are lined up to see Santa, Christmas dinner shopping lists are being compiled, and plans are made to meet at your favorite beach.

One of the parks is decorated with everything Christmas. Statues of Santa, Elf's hard at work, a nativity scene, Santa's chair, huge Christmas trees, lights galore, toy soldiers, and even the surfing Santa.

I have to say, we participated in nearly everything mentioned above! Even though we were miles way from home, we joined with your military family to celebrate 'the most wonderful time of the year'. Our Christmas break was full of carrying on traditions and starting new ones. There were several firsts and many 'we gotta do that agains'.

The photo to the left is our Christmas tree. As we were decorating I realised there were several things I had never done before while decorating the tree. I had never decorated a Christmas tree in shorts and a tank top. I had never decorated a Christmas tree with the A/C on. I had never decorated a Christmas tree and broken a sweat. And to celebrate our great accomplishment of getting the tree up before Christmas, we didn't have hot chocolate, we had a sno cone!

Andersen AFB celebrates Christmas with Rota walk. It is a time for Units and base organisations to come together and decorate the houses of the higher ranking officers on base. The entire street is a glow with with lights, wreaths, figures, and anything else that can usher everyone into the Christmas spirit. Nate, Ann Marie, Ryan, and I volunteered to assist the Larcher's in passing out cookies in front of their house during the event. We put on our elf hats and aprons and prepared for the masses. Below are several pictures from the evening:

Ryan with the REDHORSE

Santa is in the Air Force... bet you didn't know that!

Thanks Med group for bringing us just a bit of snow.

coconuts painted to be Christmas lights
On Christmas Eve we went to the candle light service with several friends. I couldn't help but think of past candle light services at Biltmore Baptist Church. The congregation stood to sing Silent Night and as the song progressed the sanctuary was flooded with the lighting of candles. Each person stood proclaiming the truth in that "silent night... Christ the Savior was born". Even being surrounded by 100 or so people, the song, and the candles still had the same power. Christ was born to be the Savior, not just in America, but to all people.

After the service we went to the Wilson's to join friends in the "1st annual Grove Park Inn has nothing on us ginger bread house competition". Some of us took the construction rather seriously, other, well, lets just call it abstract.

My Pless family pool inspired masterpiece.

Ryan's "I put too much icing and it collapsed so let's see what else I can pile on" house. 

the house on the left is complete with a pretzel machine gun and teddy graham gunman.
Christmas day brought a day at the beach and Christmas dinner at our house. It was a new way to spend Christmas, with swimsuits and sunscreen, but was certainly a wonderful day with dear friends. Dinner included grilled chicken, steak pinwheels, spinach salad, mac and cheese, German potato salad, green bean casserole, Mexican pinwheels, and fresh baked rolls. DELICIOUS. Followed by a brownie sundae and apple pie... no one could complain... 

There was no chance of snow, no need for sweaters, but it was a wonderful Christmas. Until next time from our rock in the middle of the pacific.