Archive for April, 2007

The Backstreets of MongMong

Mongmong (I love that name!) is a village just south of the Guam International Airport that is regularly buzzed by commercial flights landing from Japan or Honolulu at 2 AM in the morning. My job has taken me into over 40 homes in the last three weeks as part of a federal program that replaces homeowners doors and windows with sound reducing doors and windows. Some of these houses are so close to the planes that you have to cover your ears when a plane flies over head for fear of hearing loss. Imagine hearing that every night of the week.

Alex eating a ‘star apple’.  It’s super sweet and mushy.

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The people we have met have all been interesting and some down right hospitable. The crew is made of 4-5 philipinos, 1 chamorro, and me, the only hoale. It is not unusual for us to arrive at a home and some nice old lady has made us banana muffins or fried up some bananas in lumpia wrappers-yum. Everyone offers a drink and many people have made up a cooler of drinks to give us. On the occassion that refreshments are not provided, usually one of the crew has brought a little something to share-maybe pickled green mango or a philipino dessert made of coconut milk and rice flour. The best part for me has been learning a few tagalog words on the sly and getting to try different local fruit hanging on the trees. Sometimes it is helpful to be uninitiated because I can ask what that funny fruit is growing and the homeowners are happy to share their knowledge and their fruit with us.

The other interesting thing about this project is that is proves the old adage, you can’t judge a book by its cover. Guam is so like that. We have learned that you have no idea what the inside of the house will look like by looking at the outside. Little tiny houses in front can extend forever and be massive. Houses, that look like mansions can be pigstys on the inside. And little non- descript houses can be loving maintained and sweet on the inside.
Gwen

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Guam on the Colbert Report

Some of it is tasteless, but if you live on Guam, it was pretty funny. And, there is a little history information to boot.

Click on Colbert Report on the right under blogroll.

Coming up on 9 months…

Well, not only are we getting new cousins to the family – Garland and Martha are both pregnant – we’re also approaching our 9 month mark on the island. We are just over one third of the way finished with my contract. Hard to believe. While the struggles from the early months are like a distant bad memory, we still miss the mainland and our friends and family terribly. Life is generally good on Guam. We have a nice home in a quaint neighborhood with roosters, dogs, pigs and toads running wild. The flora here is just amazing and the nights on the back porch are precious. There are lots of activities – free or cheap – for the kids. Soccer is played year round, and the summer should offer some good opportunities for the kids to learn something more about the culture and unique environment of Guam. Gwen and I are making friends of both folks like us from somewhere else, and with the natives who have such a unique perspective on family and living.

We’ve been to Bali and Palau, and will visit Japan in a couple months. There’s a good chance we visit Australia in July when the Steiner-Rileys are there. Not bad for a year of vacations. Gwen is enjoying her part time work at a small local environmental consulting firm. Her co-worker has opened a tavern call the Mermaid which I hope to have a regular seat and hear the shouts of “Wally” when I walk in. Gwen is visiting homes in the flight path of the airport and getting them retrofitted for sound proof windows, new air conditioning and insulation free of charge to the homeowner. She’s seeing a slice of Guam I will never see. The kids are taking their studies seriously with each having a course called bible studies. Our dinner discussions have taken on a new branch. I’m playing competitive men’s soccer again and finding out what it is truly like to play with guys half my age and all the injuries I regularly need to recover from. I’m not used to playing only half a game, but that’s my goal.

All in all, I’m glad we are here. There are cycles of frustration, home sickness and joy of being on an island in the tropics. We invite any and all to come for a visit. In any case, stay in touch and be talking to you soon.

Highlights from a visit to Guam

Joan, Tracy and Kaden just spent 10 days in the Pacific Ocean with us.  We spent a few days here, fly to Palau for a few, then back to Guam for another few days.  Other than my suffering from a terribly itchy rash – probably caused by the Palau poison tree – the trip was amazingly fun.  Here’s a list from Joan.

Guam Highlights
1. The Herron-Moon family!!  Definitely the best part.
2. Snorkeling-GabGab beach was Tracy’s favorite (I think it was the octopus)
3. Shave Ice Surprise (we all agreed on that)
4. The WWII lookout point above the naval base
5. Tarza Water Park
6. Circumnavigation of the island.
7. And many more…. (talk to Joan, Tracy and Kaden if you want more)
Things We Wished We Had Brought or Done
1. Studied WWII history.
2. Checked our snorkels for leaks before we got there.
3. Brought water shoes (so Gwen didn’t have to go buy them for us when we got there.)
And Glad We Brought
1. Sun shirts-long sleeve.
2. Flippers for snorkeling.

ps- we loved having them!

More pictures from Palau

These were taken with my $12 underwater camera.

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The creature from the black lagoon – Joan.74320014blog.jpg

The real creature hovering over a giant clam (Alex photographer).74320017blog.jpg

The clam up close.

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I’m sinking!

Feeding the fish

Although we shouldn’t have done it, we gave the fish some bread and were surrounded by the critters.  That’s Tracy on the right holding an empty plastic coke bottle full of bread.

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Palau for Wally’s birthday

Well, the trip wasn’t planned to celebrate my 43rd, it just happened. Joan, Tracy and Kaden are here and we decided to explore other parts of the Pacific during their stay. We flew out on Easter night. The flight was only 2 hours, but the shuttle from the airport to the hotel, Palau Pacific Resort, was curvy and caused some drowsiness.

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We arrived too late to see the surroundings, but in the morning I was too excited to sleep in. Just after sunrise, I found the resort quiet and peaceful.

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That changed quickly after our delicious breakfast buffet of fresh tropical fruit, grilled salmon, rice, eggs, french toast and on and on and on. The kids were itching to see all the healthy coral and giant clams…in the pool.

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The women were eager to see the coral life as well.

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Finally, some braves souls took to the treacherous waters. The resort sits on a man made beach of white sand and coral in shallow water. Healthy coral is everywhere. What’s unique in this area are the number of giant clams. Some were 5 feet wide weighing close to 500 lbs. We also found many types of fish, sea snakes, sea stars, spiny urchins, and the plenty of brain coral. The bay was wide and long offering many many hours of exploration. Like many resorts, they offered sea kayaks and boats for rent. I secured a hobie cat for 3 hours and sailed around with Tracy and kids.

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The next day we were picked up by Sam’s Tours for a Rock Island kayaking and snorkeling trip. They are called the Rock Islands as the limestone juts above the ocean surface and is covered with soil and vegetation. A boat came to the resort dock and whisked us away to a remote starting point in the islands.

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There we loaded into our double kayaks and were led off by our naturalist and guide Chad. Chad had tatoos everywhere and the women seemed to want to see and talk about them all. We paddled to places called Kingfisher Bayand Shark Tip reef. We saw a variety of birds and bats and felt like there was no one around for miles. This was a peaceful journey. We took breaks from the paddling and splashing to eat lunch and snorkel. We saw the rare Mandarin fish, coral fans and large jelly fish. Unfortunately, we did not make it to Jellyfish Lake. Jellyfish lake is an inland lake that was once connected to the ocean. Jellyfish became isolated from their marine brethren and have evolved in the lake losing their ability to sting.

After a full day on the water, it’s a local tradition to belly up to the bar for the Palauan Red Rooster pint. Here’s Gwen first in line for the tasty brew.

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All of this activity makes one hungry, but not for chicken with salt. We headed into town to search for some local cuisine and ended up at Tototo, a Japanese-Palauan restaurant. In addition to serving the mangrove crab, they boil a mean fruit bat stew. The crab had huge claws and tasted like a good dungeness.

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The resort had a happy hour on our final evening so we took the opportunity to pose in front of the camera and the beautiful sunset. Needless to say, we were sad to leave Palau.

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