Wednesday, November 17, 2010


So the last few posts have described exciting trips and fantastic visitors. Thought I would take a moment to update about some less photographic things that have been going on behind the scenes.

On Jenny's first day here, I got a call from the DOD school down the street. I'd put in an application over the summer to do fill-in type work. They said they had an opening, and while my first instinct was to blow it off given all I have going on right now, Jenny convinced me to at least go to the interview. Definitely the right call, as I got completely different information in the interview than I did over the phone. The position was helping out the speech pathologists, nurse, and special education assessor doing their paperwork. At part-time (3.5 hours a day) and only working days when kids have school, I thought it would easily fit into my schedule out here. The pay is decent, the commute is three blocks, and it's an in to the federal government GS system. It's a bike-ride away, so it's easy on our one-car situation, and I thought it would be really interesting to learn about the special education system. All in all, sounded like a pretty good deal, plus it allowed me time to continue with my youth director gig and keep up my workout schedule.

Day one. Nick came home from work and asked me how my day was. "Fine," I replied.

"What's your job like?" he persisted.

"It's fine. I can't really think of much more to say about it." Not a lot to get excited about sorting forms and checking up on signatures. I mean, I knew the job would be heavy on the admin/clerical side, but I didn't realize that's all it would be. But no worries, it's part-time and temporary. I can just stay until June when school's out. It's only 3.5 hours/day, after all.

Day two. Coworker who's training me casually mentions she may be leaving Guam before the school year is up, so instead of us splitting this full-time job, I could do the job full-time. Hmmm...

Later on Day Two, check email. Get an email from San Diego girlriends talking about a reunion in January in San Diego. Several of the girls won't be working for various reasons, so it will be fantastic hang-out time. I consider replying with the immediate truth of, "I can't come because I started this new job." And I just can't get my fingers to type that. Discard email reply.

Later on, Nick comes home and tells me that there's no longer an opportunity for me to visit him in Sri Lanka in January because of a schedule change he's had (boo!). He will now be gone for almost all of the month, leaving me on my own to do whatever. Considering I can fly Space-Available on a military flight back to San Diego for free, the only thing standing in the way of me and my friends and family is, sadly, this job.

Day three. Go to work. Tell coworker that job is not for me and that I don't intend on doing this job past June and it's a waste of their time to train me. She fesses up that she was thinking of leaving in January to head back to the States, which would have left me full-time in January (oy!). Talk to HR person. They pleaded with me to stay until they can hire someone else, so I committed to the end of the calendar year. I will also come back on board when I get back to Guam, but as a substitute teacher. I've already done the paperwork to get in the system, so I might as well. That way going forward I can at least make my own schedule... and get to interact with the kids :)

So that's what happened. Part of me feels like I made a mistake by ever accepting the job in the first place. Now HR has to go through and re-interview and hire someone new who has to get background checked, blah blah blah. And all they're getting out of me is four weeks of work and a new sub (which apparently they need, so that's good).

On the other hand, this job mistake has done wonders to help me assess my priorities. I need to go home to see my friends and family, sooner than later in some cases. The money I would make from this job just can't replace that time spent when we are so far away in every possible sense. And whatever mental block I have that sneaks up and makes me think I'm not contributing enough because I don't have a "real" job... just needs a big kick in the face.

Taking and rejecting this job has also helped me realize how much I absolutely LOVE my youth director job. In the past month, I have helped plan a middle school girl's slumberparty, beach clean-up, photo scavenger hunt, Halloween party, and a lock-in for 18 youth (we usually only have about 9... yay for growth!). In addition, I am now planning a mission trip for our youth to go to the Philippines this summer (!). Last night the education committee approved funding for our trip, and the pastor and committee insisted on the church paying for me and the other youth director to go. Unquestionably this is definitely the right job for me... getting paid to travel to a third-world country to help a bunch of teenagers better understand God. Yeah. Home run.

Photo scavenger hunt

Bowling at the slumberparty

Beach clean-up... featuring Nick's truck
 I feel like it sometimes takes a few mistakes to figure out the right way to go (and I am not ashamed to make a U-turn). So steering by starlight, I will keep moving full-speed ahead, exceptionally proud of my 10 hours/week in youth ministry, and very much looking forward to my trip back to the States in January (hopefully making it to Texas and Florida too!)... and equally excited about my trip to Manila in June.

And sooner than that, thanking my lucky stars that in just two days Nick and I start Honeymoon #5... off to New Zealand to meet up with Courtney and Ben! I can't imagine anything I'm more thankful for at this point than the chance to spend Thanksgiving with my husband and my sister and her awesome (and conveniently local to NZ!) boyfriend. Looking forward to sharing pictures and stories with you from the other side. Until then, Happy Thanksgiving to all of you. And while we're on this topic of gratitude, thanks for keeping in touch with me through Peyt's Island. It does so much to close the gap when we're so far away :)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Weekend with Jenny

Jenny and I had a blast gallivanting across Guam all week. But meanwhile, poor Nick was stuck at work (boo!). Friday afternoon he was finally able to join us for something more exciting than dinner, with a nice easy snorkeling trip out at Gab Gab. This was one of the spots Jenny and I hit up at the start of the week, but five days later after some rogue surf had a chance to calm down, the visibility was SO much clearer.

The next day we showed Jenny a perfect Guam Saturday... sleeping in, having a lazy morning, then taking the boat out in the afternoon to explore some of the harder to reach areas. We took Jenny to some of our favorite snorkeling spots. Guam did a great job showing off many of its beautiful sea creatures for our visitor.

A starfish doing the "starfish" yoga pose :)

We found a couple of Nemos!

 Signature diver down flag
Signature Jenny saying: "Heeeeeeeeyy!!!!"

I know we aren't in Japan, but a boat of Japanese tourists pulled up next to us. Couldn't resist!
Sunday morning we went to our beautiful church and took this picture - the only one of the three of us in real clothes (not in bathing suits) all week! We look so much better without mask faces. Maybe we should have taken more like this :)

After church we jumped back in the boat, this time launched in Apra Harbor on the navy base (home of "vacation blue" water).
 After a ten-minute boat ride across the harbor, we curved around Orote Island and approached the gorgeous Spanish Steps lagoon. And while yes, you can reach this place by hiking, it's so much more relaxing to pull in by boat. And you get to avoid the mosquito farm in the jungle on the way up.

Crystal clear green water, towering mossy cliffs, and luscious reef ecosystems make this a snorkeler's paradise. Jenny's visit is a great example that you don't have to be a scuba diver to have a great under-the-sea experience here (hint, hint to anyone considering making the trip).

This beautiful octopus was the prize discovery of our weekend. We got to watch this guy hover for about ten minutes before it finally jetted off, changed colors before our eyes, and snuck underneath a reef rock. I've seen this phenomenon several times on the Discovery Channel and such, but nothing beats getting to see it happen in person. The instant camouflaging trick was pretty unbelievable. Hopefully one day we will catch it on video of our own.
This is the one picture Nick took of the Octopus fully extended right before it turned gray and hid. I didn't notice at the time, but it's funny now to see how all the other fish are turned staring at it, just like Jenny, Nick and I were. So beautiful!

After gawking at the octopus for some time, we left the shallow reef are and swam all the way around Orote Island, which is a big rock out on the very tip of the Navy base peninsula. It's at this tip that the rolling swells from the Philippine Sea collide with the exiting waters of Apra Harbor, creating very strong currents. We were hoping to spot some sea turtles or sharks out in these deeper waters, but no luck there. The only new thing we discovered was a boatload of Japanese scuba divers, which Nick promptly free dove down to harass.

This picture is tough to make out, but Nick basically dove down next to one of the Japanese divers, pointed at some stuff, the Japanese diver looked up and had shock-face when he discovered a big white dude with no air tank giving him the "okay" sign from two feet away... down at 40 feet! So funny also to see the Japanese divers writing in Japanese on their underwater etch-a-sketch. It never occurred to me what it would be like to dive in another language.
 Okay so after my trip to Japan I might have made it sound like I felt bad for making fun of the Japanese tourists in Guam. I did come back with a much better understanding of their culture in their element. However, there's just something so out of place about the Japanese here in Guam. I don't know what it is, but the tour buses and boatloads full of them still crack me up, and now I know I'm not alone (thank you Jenny!).

After this awesome weekend of snorkeling and week of exploring, there's nothing I wanted more than for Jenny to get to stay longer. But alas, the week was up, and when Monday morning came, it was time to take her to the airport for the long journey back. On our way to the airport, I decided to take a few last detours to see what other beautiful island views we could fit in before Jenny headed back to the mainland. I found it fitting that in our last hour together, standing at the highest point on Guam we'd been all week, we looked down at the ocean and saw this beautiful rainbow glimmering back at us, seemingly just a stone's throw away.
And while I was sad for my Guam buddy to leave, the rainbow was the perfect omen for our dear friend as we sent her on her way back home. Thank you, friend, for coming all this way, for bringing us a piece of home, and letting us share our beautiful island with you. I would say, "Come back soon!" but I know that's too much to ask. So, thank you for coming, Jenny, and please say howdy to the folks back home for us!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Our First Visitor!

During our many going away gatherings back in June and July, Nick and I heard the ever predictible "We're going to come visit you in Guam!" line. While it's fun to think about having each and every one of our friends out here, we know reality sets in when it comes time to choose dates on the calendar, sit on a plane for 14 hours (each way), and fork over the four-figure dollar amount for a plane ticket (yike$). Well, we had our first taker this past week! Call her a dedicated friend or call her crazy, but our good friend Jenny came out all the way from Texas. It was so wonderful having a piece of home find us here in Guam!

First, a little background for those who don't know Jenny. I met Jenny when I moved to Texas for my junior year of high school. She and two other friends picked me up on my first day at Stratford so my mom wouldn't have to drive me (phew!). She was a great friend to me in high school and college and was one of my bridesmaids in our wedding. She's actually known Nick since middle school, as they both had a class together in sixth grade (cute!). Jenny has earned the title of "Most Dedicated Visitor" because as of now she is the only one who has visited us in Annapolis, San Diego, and Guam. 

Jenny's job back in Texas has a busy season from June and October, so she wanted to do some relaxing on this trip too. We squeezed in a little of that when we weren't snorkeling, exploring caves, touring the island, or working out. So hopefully she got some of the R&R she was looking for! We spent the first day exploring three of the beautiful beaches on base, doing some snorkeling here and there. I love that Jenny is always up for doing just about anything :)

The next day I grabbed a couple of friends (Crissy & Kate from the Saipan trip), and we went up to the north side of Guam to do some shopping and beach laying. As we headed to a new beach (new for me), we found ourslves driving down the side of some huge cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Once back at sea level, we lounged on Tarague Beach for some of the afternoon and shared travel adventure stories that everyone seems to keep racking up. Tarague is a gorgeous beach, but its crazy currents and rough surf make it a tougher swimming/snorkeling destination. We kept to the beach this time, which was certainly no hardship as we had the whole beach to ourselves :) We found a great new place for lunch (hello crepes!) that my friend Caitlyn recommended and headed home for an afternoon workout and dinner with Nick.

Wednesday I took Jenny on a tour around the southern half of the island. The farther south on Guam you drive, the less developed and more authentic it is. The southern end is quite mountainous as well, with gorgeous views of the hills on one side of the car and the ocean on the other. I was a little frustrated at how rainy the day looked. As soon as we started on our tour, the skies opened up and it absolutely poured. The bright side was when we looked up and saw several giant waterfalls that I'd never seen before. I guess they only make their appearance right after it rains, and we had very lucky timing.

Continuing around the coast, we stopped at the overlook for Cetti Bay.

And then rounded the corner to the area of Guam called Magellan's Landing, the site of, well, yes, Ferdinand Magellan's landing spot on Guam back in the 1500s. Crazy that he was able to find this speck in the middle of the ocean way back in the day.

This glorious overlook called Spanish Fort is home to one of Guam's home-grown icons, the caribou. Jenny, being a true Texas girl, knew exactly how to pose upon mounting the caribou. "Yeehaw!" she said. "It reminds me of a Texas Longhorn!" The caribou's owner told us her name was Bessy... or Beshy... or Besty. I don't know because he had a strong lisp and very bad teeth. One of the best things about having visitors is that you have a reason to do all the touristy stuff you'd never otherwise do in your own town. So you betcha, I hopped on Beshy/Bessy/Betsy too.

Surely some of you who were previously on the fence about coming to visit are now sold because of the caribou experience awaiting you. We had a blast, although based on the look on Beshy's face, I'm wondering if she feels the same...

The rest of the drive around the island was one beautiful viewpoint (see above) after another. I love this drive and I always manage to find something new every time i drive it. This time, we stopped at the Inarajan Pools, a naturally pooly rocky area that you can swim in. This place is typically crawling with kiddos and beer-filled Chamorros on the weekends. It was gloriously empty and calm when we rode by.

Wednesday night, Jenny and I ventured to Chamorro Village. I'd heard great things about this weekly town festival. I'd heard the shopping was good, the Japanese tourists were a-plenty, and the meat-on-a-stick was to die for. All rumors turned out to be true, and we were having a great time until our visit was cut short. With meat-on-stick in-hand, we stopped in our tracks when the lights all around started to flicker and then one by one went dark. Power outtage! Interestingly, if you ever find yourself in a power outtage surrounded by Japanese, you will probably notice as we did that they are unusually calm and orderly. After witnessing this firsthand on my trip to Tokyo, I could have expected this, but they really were calm. We all pulled out our cell phones to use as flashlights, and realizing many of the grills were being shut down, we jumped back in the "BBQ Express" line for more meat-on-a-stick (this stuff is AMAZING - dare I say BETTER than Texas BBQ?!). The Chamorros don't have it all figured out, but they have an amazing knack for grilled pork! (on a stick!)

Thursday Jenny and I went Boonie Stomping. This is Chamorro slang for what we outdoorsy folks often refer to as "hiking." Kate came along and convinced our guide to take us on a harder hike than the one we were planning to do. So off to Sigua Falls we went. The start of the hike was extremely muddy. As we could have expected, it only got muddier.

And, of course, it promptly rained on us, which made things, yes, even muddier.
So the steep hills were a bit of a challenge, especially for prego Kate who was trying not to fall (no one, including the guide made it through the hike without at least one spill). Jenny did a great job on her first boonie stomp. The bottom part of the waterfall involved lowering yourself down slippery, muddy, mosquito-farm trenches using somewhat sketchy ropes. Due to our general disgustingness at that point, I have been banned from posting pictures of that ordeal.

We made it - whew!

The five-mile hike was absolutely beautiful, and treking through it with friends was the best part.

And once again it looks like I have more stories and pictures than I have time, so I will leave the second half of Jenny's visit (enter Nick!) until next time. I mean, if I could make her visit last until the end of the year, I absolutely would because we definitely had a blast and we miss her already!