Friday, April 23, 2010


So I know I normally post updates on the happenings in the family however lately there has been something on my mind that I just have to get out on paper or computer in this case.

I was a history major and chose it not so much because I wanted to learn about history but I wanted to be able to learn how history affects modern society and how we can avoid repeating mistakes today. I tend to look at a lot of societal issues that way. So it's no surprise that my analytical mind has all but exploded since moving to the lovely island of Guam. Now this island has its charms. The beautiful beaches are pretty much the coolest part. However, it's also a third world society heavily dependent on the US government to function. After all we offered welfare up the wazoo just to occupy the island after WWII, welfare is certainly nothing unfamiliar to us Americans. Did you know that many of the ancestors of Guam's WWII victims are still paid war reparations for the treatment they endured during the Japanese occupation? Holy cow.

One might think this is a society that depends on funds solely from the US federal government, after all they do depend on them. However, thanks to my friend Wikipedia, Guam has a functional government that consists of a popularly elected Governor and a unicameral 15 member (known as Senators) committee. While it's nice to see democracy has found its way out here the lack of education is rampant. What good is a democracy if you don't educate your voters?

So here are a couple of issues that have been on my mind lately. Please note they are just my opinion based upon my observations and experiences.


Now we all know many states (ahem, California) are firing teachers left and right and can no longer afford art departments and school supplies. This has pretty much been going on since I was a kid (the district would bus kids from neighborhoods outside our school's area in order to balance the ethnicity of the school's population.  As a result we had to provide our own transportation...buuut I'll spare you that rant). If you look at Guam, the average California school could easily be given prep school status. GovGuam recently built a brand new school, complete with air conditioners. However they left one of many things out. Library books. Yep, their library is completely empty. I spoke with one of their Social Studies teachers last May and he said he was the fourth teacher assigned to his class THAT YEAR. He has to supply papers, pencils and even books as most of his students cannot afford to provide their own. I just wanted to hug him for his enduring heart for those kids.

In June 2008 the school district discovered some major problems in the infrastructure of JFK High School here. Among many reasons, asbestos and mold forced the district to relocate the student body to a temporary campus until renovations were complete. The construction company went on strike shortly after the construction commenced and the district still has yet to settle things to get this school back in action. My question is, why didn't they see this coming when they picked up the bid and why on earth do they continue to put this poor school on the back burner. There must be over 100 handmade posters taped to the fence of the school from students and teachers, angry with the school board. I don't blame them one tiny bit.


This is a topic no one leaves Guam without having an opinion about. I know I have to be careful about what I say but man, I just have to get it out! Generally it is known that islanders drive slower than the rest of the world. There isn't room for freeways, I understand that, I even understand the slow pace of life. But Guam takes this problem to a whole new level. It is absolutely INSANE here. The main road on the island is called Marine Corps Drive (MCD for short). It spans most of the length of the island, 17 miles from the Air Force Base in the north to the Navy Base in the south. It is riddled with pot holes, everywhere. But get this. It has 33 STOPLIGHTS. It currently takes one an average of 1 hour to get from one end of the road to the other. That is an average of 17 MPH! It may sound crazy but it's completely true. Every time another fatal accident occurs on MCD, another stop light goes up. Like a band aid. I wish this government could invest in some drivers education instead. DUI's are way too common. People "fiesta" every weekend and there is never a shortage of Budweiser in the coolers. I am willing to bet every time I get on that road I will drive past a drunk driver. Seriously.

Since the north half of the island is mostly residential, most of us have to drive at least 10 miles, usually more to get to the store, church or beach. Our church is 13 miles from our house, about a 40 minute drive on an average day. We know it's far but we are committed to it and enjoy going. I have trouble putting a distance limit on church, it's important to find one that fits! Anyway, due to different commitments around the island I drive into town about 4-5 times a week, no drive is less than 10 miles. Now picture this. Most cars on the road are what we lovingly call "boonie cars" or "guam bombs".

Every square inch of the car is rusted, dented and/or broken. In fact, when a car reaches the end of its life, one will drive it off the road into the edge of the jungle leaving it to anyone to part it out. So burned out upside down cars are the norm here. It's cheaper than paying to have it disposed of.

So it is easy to understand most of these cars cannot exceed 45mph. The max speed limit on MCD is 35mph. Most of these cars barely get up to that. It is not uncommon to get stuck behind a "Chamorro Road Block," two cars scooting along at 25mph on the road, next to each other preventing other cars from passing them. Pretty sure that's got to be illegal in the states. Or it should be. It aggravates the trash out of people, as a result road rage is a huge problem here. I admit I am one person to pass a car in anger once the next lane clears up, but for the record I would never pull any stupid moves. Now if they just did this on purpose to aggravate us mainlanders, that is one thing. But the kicker here is many of these people are COMPLETELY UNAWARE of their surroundings. They'll have that drunk stare in their eyes, often drifting into the other lane, slowing for no reason or pulling out in front of a car leaving their car in a nice accordion shape. They'll slow from a fabulous 40mph to 10mph to make a right hand turn. Left lane = fast lane? There is no such thing. I can only wish the cops would ticket people for going too slow. Sadly they'll ticket a car for going 5 miles over the speed limit instead, and that is if they're even around. The Guam Police Department typically sends 3-4 cruisers to call outs. Is this necessary?

I guess this is where education comes to mind again. I can only wish this government would invest more in their own people. Many countries on this globe could use some of that. Educate the young, teach them to be responsible drivers and hold down a steady job. Amazing what a difference could be made!


So this is probably another big anger point for me. Mostly because there are too many lost lives here due to poor choices in the water. Everyone here knows Guam is surrounded by a reef line. It makes for some gorgeous Scuba diving and swimming. But it also makes for an incredibly dangerous shore line. MOST people have the common sense to swim within the reef line. That is, in the lagoons after the wave breakers. The reef has a way of creating a washing machine like current that will swallow even the strongest swimmers. It scares most people to stay within the safety zone. However there is a whole other group of people, mostly fishermen who often ignore these concepts. As some of you know the Navy's helicopter squadron here provides 24/7 Search & Rescue operations for the Navy and Coast Guard. They'll be called out to look for missing boats, lost swimmers, hikers and fishermen. Sadly most of these efforts are often recovery efforts. We just had two fishermen disappear from the reef late Friday night. The fishermen were free divers (no Scuba equipment) who used spears to catch large fish. Many will often wear weight belts to help them stay under. While I understand there are fish that only come out at night, why on earth would one free dive at night during one of the windiest months of the year?  These horrible situations area a result of zero common sense. As a result tens of thousands of dollars are spent by the Fire Dept (boats and logistical ops), Coast Guard (boats and divers) and Navy (helicopters) looking for these people. In the States, the Coast Guard will send a bill to the victim's family. As a result of the bad decisions these two divers made, over a hundred people spent over 24 hours searching for them. And what about their families? What they are left to endure, parents, wives and children, having to cope with such a loss.

I suppose this is where the education theme comes in again. I wish more children were taught at an early age how to approach the waters around this island. I once learned that women in some of the surrounding islands are not even taught to swim, it goes against cultural standards. I don't know if that is completely true but it wouldn't surprise me. Tribal culture is still very prominent in this area of the world. It saddens me to see the lack of respect people have for not only their own lives but their family's and government resources. Knowing how much these people depend on the government, that may be one tie-in right there.

So there's my two (or maybe 62) cents on some of my experiences. If you're still reading, you may just be bored but my heart thanks you. My biggest wish is that I could do something to help educate these younger generations. To give them a better chance at a successful life. It's tough for us outsiders to be taken seriously, after all we never grew up here. However it is time we all learn from these mistakes and better this society. I'd love to see Guam improve it's reputation, it certainly is a beautiful island. I guess we'll just have to see.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Ice Cream Martinis anyone?

So my good friend Julie and I threw a baby shower for our friend Kate yesterday. She's having a boy! It was such a great time, I decided that hosting at someone else's house is way more fun. Not to mention my friend Andrea took some awesome pictures of the event.

Since Kate is a fan of ice cream and the party was to be held after lunchtime we created an ice cream martini bar. I once went to an event where they served mashed potato martinis, it was awesome! So we went out and purchased some adorable martini glasses and adorned them with different bows and ribbons for each guest to have and take home.

The stems on the glasses had a zigzag design which was not only cute but great for tying ribbons as identifiers (instead of wine glass rings).

Between Julie and I, I think we came up with every ice cream topping imaginable. As a result, it was a huge hit. Even the kids loved it (of course, what child doesn't love ice cream?).

Even though I have yet to have children I have been to enough baby showers (maybe that's a hint) to realize I didn't want to organize games in which guests were to smell a candy bar in a diaper or measure Kate's waist or keep their legs uncrossed. To say there are a lot of baby showers held on this island is a clear understatement. There isn't a whole lot to do so of course, we throw baby showers for the second, third and sometimes fourth child! So Julie and I decided to lose the games and just have a fun activity guests could do as they mingled. I created an acronym board which I have yet to name, suggestions are welcome. I cut out sheets of paper and using letter stickers, put the name "Sean" on them. Guests were invited to come up with adjectives or sentences to go with each letter of the baby's name. They then stuck them up on the board and after presents, Kate would pick her favorite one. The winner would announce herself and win a prize! It was certainly a challenging game but I was impressed with the creativity that came through. We also held a door prize raffle for two other prizes, including the floral arrangement we had at the table.

Acronym Game

Kate went home with a new wardrobe of baby clothes and a fabulous diaper cake made by our friend Andrea. I think I might try to make one some time, it looks like fun!

All in all it was a sweet success. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and as long as that is the case, I am happy as a clam. Even if we did forget the whipped cream in the refrigerator...whoops!


Kate, adorable as ever. Can you believe that's what six months pregnant looks like??

Thursday, April 8, 2010


He's home!!!!!!

Colin has officially been home a full week and I couldn't be happier for it! All my nerves went out the window the second he walked through Customs at the airport. If you've never experienced hugging the man you married after not seeing him for almost eight months, it's UNREAL. I'd say the first five or ten seconds it's a big strange, but it quickly comes back. The poor guy had been flying for 18 hours so he was pretty much dead to the world. I had my "welcoming committee" along with me, about 8 friends of ours who came out to welcome him back. It was all pretty overwhelming but in a good way. I think these guys sometimes feel under appreciated and perhaps forgotten after being gone so long. They lose touch with the world and as Colin said, it means the world to know you've been missed by so many people.

Me with his picture from church. Our church posts pictures of the deployed members, I was more than happy to take it down!

Love this one.

He must have been tired, we couldn't catch a picture of him with his eyes open!

The first few days were a little strange. I have no idea why I cleaned the house and thoroughly as I did. Before I knew it I had boots, flight gear, flight suits, BDU's, thermals, and a whole lot other sandy crap all over my floor! It's amazing to see what these guys have to carry with them. Then, yesterday his gorilla boxes, basically glorified rubbermaid trunks arrived. Of course I had finally cleaned up the first mess before the boxes exploded with all kinds of deployment fun. I will say Christmas arrived and I was very happy at the sight of that! Colin bought me a persian rug for our computer room and an Iraqi tea set. I wish we had room to display the tea set but I figure we probably will in our next house!

Colin kept telling Cheddar she was going to be shipped back to the states. Hence the facial expression?

Colin went straight back to work on Tuesday, since we didn't know when he'd be home we didn't have time to schedule leave and a vacation right after he got back. We enjoyed the weekend together and even took Oscar and Cheddar to Haputo Beach on Monday. The wonders of going to the beach while everybody else is at work/school. We had it to ourselves, what a gorgeous beach! The dogs of course had a grand time. They could barely lift their heads after we got home. 

So needless to say, it's been so nice to have him back. We don't "expect" another deployment for awhile but of course it's the Navy, it can ALWAYS change! So we'll enjoy the time we have together for now!