Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Island Hopping

This post will be a little off the topic of Okinawa. A large part of our experience involved getting back to our roots, and introducing our children to our culture. This was one of the most exciting opportunities we had. One of the places we traveled to was the island of Guam. Where in the &%$# is Guam, you ask. Don't be shy. I asked the same exact thing when I met Ron. Well, you might want to grab a magnifying glass, because it's not very big...
My husband's father is from Guam and lived in Guam. My father-in-law was diagnosed with colon cancer before we got there and he was due to undergo surgery to remove part of his colon. So, along with other family members from the mainland U.S., we traveled to Guam to be with him.
Guam hits you right after you get off the airplane with a wall of pure humidity. It falls in the Tropic of Cancer, just north of the equator, so it is a tropical paradise. I could see truly living off the land with the different native bananas, coconuts, papaya, mango, avocado, breadfruit, and guava trees. We also had to acclimate to the constant company of chickens running around everywhere. You would think this would make for prime free range chickens, but these chickens are rarely eaten. They're just part of the landscape and experience.
Guam also has some of the best snorkeling. My kids, husband, and I took full advantage of being there to check out the underwater life as well. Who needs an aquarium when you have the off shore coral reefs to see all the wildlife in its real habitat.
The culture on Guam is very similar to the way I grew up. There is a very heavy Spanish influence there because it was under Spanish rule for awhile. However, there is also a strong Asian influence because of its proximity to Asia and the Japanese occupation of the island. So, like my family in New Mexico, they have empanadas and tortillas. The pronunciation is a little different. For example a tortilla is pronounced tor-tiya in NM and most other Spanish speaking areas. However in Guam, a double l sounds like "z". So, tor-tiya becomes tor-tiza. Takes a little getting used to. Also, you'll hear the "y" sound being pronounced as "j". So the common name Reyes is pronounced Ray-jiss. A northern village on Guam is Yigo. It is pronounced Gee-go. Get it? Got it? Good. There will be a test. I very much enjoyed the laid back island style of Guam. The culture is a beautiful amalgamation of Asian and Spanish. Family is a very big part of the Chamorro culture. Since the island is so small, there are many references to cousins or uncles that you are related to in random places. You go to the mall and someone sees your surname, "Oh, my so-and-so was a Quinata," or "You're my uncle's, wife's cousin." Many native Chamorros can associate your name with your village. For example, the Quinata Family is primarily from the Umatac village in Southern Guam. Sometimes someone who is from Guam will recognize Quinata as being a Chamorro name. "Where are you from?" will be the inevitable response. We were able to get back to the island several times while we lived in Okinawa. The final time we went before we left was to say good bye to my father-in-law who lost his battle to cancer in the winter of 2014. He was a simple man, patriarch of the family, who didn't like a lot of attention, but liked things the way he liked them. He growled a lot more than he grinned, but his love for his family was infinite. We miss him dearly. Although, we've left Okinawa, we still travel to Guam from Hawaii. My husband is deployed to Guam so my kids and I have flown out to see him and our family there to enjoy the beautiful island that holds our roots and remember a great man.

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