So now that we’re all moved in, it’s time to reflect on things I have learned about Guam in the nearly three weeks since we’ve been here. First off, the phrase “Hafa Adai” is to Guam what “Aloha” is to Hawaii. It’s some sort of friendly local greeting that’s EVERYWHERE… on tourist buses, radio ads, political slogans, you name it. If it’s in Guam, it says “Hafa Adai.” Now for the running joke: Say this key phrase out loud fast. Sounds sort of like “half a day.” There are many variations to this interpretation, such as the ever popular “half a day” work schedule of the Guamanian people. (I was giving Nick a hard time for calling the locals lazy but can’t anymore ever since our mover said [when they took a lunch break an hour after showing up], “Hey man, this is Guam. People here are lazy.”) Then there’s the “half a day” it takes to complete a simple endeavor, like ordering breakfast (or five days of calling for movers to come pick up the boxes). And for my personal favorite, the half a day that disappears during a round of golf!
Another source of frustration is the radio. There are some half a dozen stations that play music. The caveat is, unlike the States where everyone picks one genre of music to play (the country station, the pop station, classic rock, etc.), here each station plays whatever they want, whenever they want, and most of it is 80s music that I’ve never heard before. For example, as we were scanning the airwaves, we found a station playing a Reba song. Sweet, a country station. Wrong! It was promptly followed by John Mayer, then a crappy 80s song, then (I kid you not) straight up elevator music (“Sweet music, Hansel”). The first Sunday we were here, we flipped on the radio and I was thrilled to hear they were syndicating Casey Casum’s Top 40. “Well at least they can’t mess this up!” I blurted out. A few minutes later it dawned on me that Casey Casum stopped doing the Top 40 several years ago. About that time, several unfamiliar 80s songs later, we figured out it was the top 40 from some random week in 1984 being replayed. Thank goodness for iPods.
The influx of Japanese tourists makes for some interesting observations. Because it’s only a 4-hour flight from Tokyo, Guam is like the Hawaii getaway for the Japanese (it’s actually poor man’s Hawaii… the rich Japanese go to actual Hawaii). So the middle class Japanese, local Chamorrans, and Americans are constantly intermingling around the island, especially on golf courses, restaurants, and hotels. Staying for a week at the Hilton here was a strange mix. The Chamorrans are working the service jobs. The Americans are staying there because they’re on the island for something work-related. And the Japanese are on vacation (and apparently have never used elevators before).
For the very first dive we did in Guam, Nick took me down to a touristy place called the Fish Eye (which he calls “Fish Eye for the Jap guy”). It’s a long pier that goes out into some gorgeous water and at the end is an underwater observation tower (where you can wave at the Japanese tourists on the inside who take pictures of you) AND a popular adventure called the Sea Walk (aka SNUBA = snorkeling + SCUBA). The tourists put on space suit looking helmets that have hoses attached to air compressors above land. They walk along underwater holding a hand rail and breathing through the bubble helmets while pictures of the fish and the scuba divers. Meanwhile, the Americans dive down to take pictures of the ridiculous looking Japanese tourists on the Sea Walk. Such a win win, as everyone ends up with great pictures.
All in all the Japanese seem to be very nice. I mean, they always let us play through ahead of them in golf, to which Nick always says, “Arigato Mr Roboto” (the only Japanese we know). This nice behavior on the island is a switch from 60 years ago during WWII when they invaded and brutally killed any of the locals who had any sort of education. The week we got here included Guam’s Liberation Day, their 4th of July moment from the 40s when the American Marines swooped in and freed the Chamorrans from the evil Japanese tyrants. It’s a strange feeling sitting in a restaurant the morning of Liberation Day being served by a local who should be off enjoying their holiday, surrounded by Japanese people who are indirectly the people Guam is celebrating liberation from. I guess it’s all water under the bridge now, especially since Japanese tourism makes up 60% of Guam’s economy (a whole new kind of invasion). And since we live here now, it’s especially nice that everyone can just get along.
One last observation about the Japanese: Their tourist shuttles have a designated stop at K-Mart. Apparently no trip to Guam is complete without a stop at the big red K, as is evidenced by the charter buses lining the parking lot. Nick and I have pondered what the equivalent would be for American tourists in Japan. Surely they must find some of our tourist destinations strange or mundane? They must think it’s odd some of the things we choose to take pictures of? That’s one of the places we hope to make it to while we’re here, so we’ll let you know. Until then, Hafa Adai to all of you.
And now to figure out what I’m going to do for not just half, but the entire day (times two years). Still working on that…