Archive for December, 2006

Winter Break post-Christmas

Christmas was relaxing and festive festooned in our village bungalow.  But the next day was back to reality and work for Wally and Gwen which meant what to do with our three children.  Luckily, Guam is kind to people who like to wait until the last minute to make a plan.  On the morning after Christmas when many people are rising earily to get a jump on the after Christmas sales, I took the kids at 8am and signed them up for a 5-day soccer camp (runs through Saturday).  You can just walk up at the last minute and write a check!  In addition, Guam runs on island time so you don’t really have to show up at 8am, just leave your house at 8am and you’ll be fine.  One more Guam perk is cost.  Lot’s of things on Guam are stateside prices but kids camps are so reasonable.  15 hours of soccer camp for each kids only cost me $40.  Compare that to the stateside $110 for a morning camp.  I guess the kids will be seeing alot of camps this year!!

Camp ran from 8am until 11am because of the heat.  Wally and I took turns taking a early lunch to pick up the kids, feed them lunch and drop them off at a generous neighbor who has a 15 year old who can babysit (some things never change).

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Merry Christmas!!

Guam, where the sun first rises on America.  One distinct advantage of living so far out west is that we get Xmas before the rest of the country.  It’s xmas morning, and we just completed the marathon gift opening session.  The kids couldn’t sleep a wink last night.  They had trouble going to sleep and kept waking up at 2am, 3am, 4am and 6am.  Needless to say, we’re a bit weary.  Today is pajama day, ala Maggie.  The goal is to stay in jammies all day and play with all our toys.  There are plenty of books, dvds, and games to keep us occupied.

What did you get??

Happy holidays everyone!!

We’re back!

We returned home from Bali, Indonesia yesterday morning after a red eye.  Great 8 days in a third world country.

We were greeted at the airport with a sign warning of the death penalty for drug smugglers onto the Hindu island.  3 porters quickly descended upon us to help us with our 3 roller bags.  After rolling them about 50 feet, they held out there hand for a tip.  Already, I was shaking my head for letting them grab my bags.  Oh well, as time went on I learned when and where to receive assistance.

The entire trip can be characterized as one big negotiation.  Can I provide you tranport?  Need a taxi?  Can I arrange a driver?  Would you like tickets to ….?  This is all well and good as you try and figure out what the island has to offer, but can be annoying when you just want to head to the beach.  One afternoon, Gwen sat and watched Alex and me boogie board with 4 women around her wanting to give her a manicure, pedicure, hair braid, massage, etc.  Life is rough.  She was too gentle in her refusal for the services.

Bali a beautiful country with beautiful people.  They wear colorful sarongs, usually have a smile on their faces, and were overall incredibly polite.  Tourism is king, and tourism has been down for the past several years since the Kuta bombings in 2002.  Kuta is the main beach resort town in the south.  Second to tourism is art.  The balinese have developed thousands of artists in cloth making, wood carving, silver smithing, and stone carving.  Villages were literally lined with shop after shop of their wares.  Whole communities are dedicated to producing, for example, teak furniture.  We stumbled upon such a community when cruising on the motor bike one day.  Alex and I saw wood taken from log to furniture in open air workshops back in the rice paddies a few km outside of Ubud.  In these areas, lots of little children would be at play in the fields, waving and smiling as we rode by.

The kids really got a kick out of all the differences between America and Indonesia.  First, the dollar gets you 9000 rupiah.  The fact a dragon wood carving cost 200,000 rupiah was hard to get their minds around.  By the way, we bought the boys real swords.  They were too cool and cheap to pass up.  We’ve come a long way as parents.   Each hotel had incredibly elaborate gardens full of tropical plants and fruits.  There is a swimming pool or multiple at each, with pool side bars.  Everywhere you look are intricate stone or wood carvings on the walls, floors and furniture.  Nothing is plain.  Especially not the food.

We ate very well.  The indonesian dishes are full of flavor.  Alex lived on nasi goreng the traditional fried noodle dish.  It was a mainstay at the hotel buffet breakfasts.  Fresh fruit was everywhere.  We had many servings each day of fresh papaya, mango, watermelon (both yellow and red), and pineapple.  Mango lassies were the kids usual dinner drink.  We ate in nice italian restaurants with wood fired ovens, and ate noodles (Bakso) sold from a man on a motor bike for $.50.  All the restaurants were open air, usually with thatched roofs with teak posts and framing, and full of plants and ponds and trickling waterfalls.  Like I said, everything is elaborate and beautiful.

We stayed most of our time in Ubud, away from the beaches and in the heart of the artist community.  They also happen to have a monkey forest carved out in town where the monkeys run wild.  The kids loved it.  The little primates were sometimes aggressive, even snatching bananas right out of the kids hands.  One climbed all over Elli, who held it together on the outside, while she shivered with fear on the inside.  I shooed it away, but was immediately met with growling and a big set of monkey teeth staring me in the face.  It was not uncommon to find monkeys walking the streets like any local or tourist.

By the end of the trip, we were throwing out indonesian phrases, were savy at the markets, but still looked like the rich tourist with a pocket full of cash.  It’s been 17 years since I first visited Bali with my girlfriend, now ex-girlfriend and wife.  We couldn’t recognize much.  The Hard Rock cafe now sits on the beach in Kuta.  We very much enjoyed our time walking the streets, lounging by the pool, and getting cheap massages.  I’m glad we experienced it again.

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Vacation!!

A little quiz for you. We’ll be at Latitude/Longitude 08° 39S, 115° 13E. The island is 10 times larger in area than Guam. It has a population of 3.3 million, is nearly 90% Muslim, and is part of a country with the the 4th or 5th largest population in the world. They speak Bahasa and we’ll be body boarding, white water rafting and getting inexpensive massages. Give up? Stay tuned for pics and the answer in a week!

Can you have xmas without snow…

And cold weather? It’s early December and xmas lights are adorning buildings, street light poles, and all the retail shopping areas. The malls are decked out with angels, stars and even Santa and his sleigh. But without the cold and the need for a cup of hot chocolate, we haven’t the normal triggers to start turning up the heat, so to speak, for the holiday traditions.  (Garland would love the heat!)  Yes, we have stockings hanging on the living room bookcase but no fireplace to hang them on. Yes, we’ve been wrapping packages but in silence. Gwen hasn’t even felt the need for xmas music. Usually, the xmas music is blaring a few days after thanksgiving.
No worries though. We are thinking of all our friends and family on the mainland. We know you are either skiing or throwing snowballs, planning get togethers and cutting trees up in the Cascades. Some will wear that xmas sweater that only good friends will admire. We will be with you in spirit. We’ll be thinking of you as we picnic on the beach xmas day. Or at least I hope to be on the beach. The kids want a pajama day for xmas, staying in pajamas and not leaving the house all day long. Yep, we’ll be having xmas.

Our Lady of Camarin.

December 8th is a state holiday to honor the island’s patron saint Santa Marian Kamelan. Tradition relates that a statue of Santa Marian Kamalen, Patroness of the Marianas islands, floated into the shores of Merizo (a town on the south end of the island) escorted by two crabs with lit votive candles on their backs over three hundred years ago. Made of ironwood, which does not float, her arrival by way of sea was a miracle in of itself. It is told that the statue was brought in by a fisherman who presented her to the Spanish Governor. Legend relates that the fisherman drew near to the statue repeatedly but it drifted away. It was until he fully clothed himself that the floating statue could be approached and touched. Our Lady was housed in a shed or camarin until she could be moved to the Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral-Basilica in Agana (Guam’s capital) where it sits in a perch above the church’s altar.

Since the early 1900s, on December 8th, the Basilica is closed, the statue is taken down from the apse, groomed by a select group of people, and is placed atop a karosa or cart of blossoms. The cart is pulled with the centuries old figure being a central visual image leading a Catholic procession around Agana. Throughout the procession, the sound of prayers in various languages weave through the thousands of faithful believers honoring Jesus [through Mary who is identified as the Immaculate Conception]. As with religious traditions in the Marianas, Catholics do not pray to statues or do not worship statues.

The tradition is a carryover from 1825 and 1834, when Guam’s faithful made a “promesa” (promise) to hold a procession in Mary’s honor after a series of devestating earthquakes.

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