Friday, March 30, 2012

The Fresh Factor: How To Start an Herb Jungle

Monday, March 26, 2012

Kayaking Pago Bay

Yesterday Nick and I deviated from our regular Sunday afternoon golf plans. A few weeks ago friends from our church offered for us to use their kayak to explore Pago Bay near their home. That is exactly the type of offer Nick and I don't turn down, especially since there aren't too many areas of the island left that we haven't ventured to already.

Pago Bay is on the east side of the island, definitely the part of Guam we have explored the least in our time here. Part of the reason for that is the Pacific side is a lot rougher and less protected, so it doesn't have the gorgeous soft coral-covered, tropical fish-packed reefs that the west side of Guam is known for. Also, this side of the island is mostly tall cliff faces, so there aren't nearly as many stretches of coastline that are accessible. Pago Bay, however, is the exception. It's a long stretch of coastline that is extremely shallow within the reef line. It's most known for great fishing and boogie boarding.

Our first task was making it through the surf line, which broke on the very shallow and rocky reef. Nick and I got absolutely pummeled by 3 and 4 foot waves that decided to crash right on our faces. Always an adventure around here...
Once out in the Pacific, we were soaking wet but still smiling. Even when we realized we lost a pair of fins and a mask and snorkel off the back of the kayak.... whoops! Those waves were ruthless. We kayaked along for a little while until we got tired of wrestling with the 6 foot swells we were dipping in and out of. The Pacific definitely does not mess around! Nick did take a dip to look for fish and sharks, but none to be found.
So we surfed back across the reef line into Pago Bay to see if our fins and mask could be found. Pago Bay is this shallow across the entire thing. I bet you are wondering who took this picture. Funny story - A random guy was standing on the side of the cliff overhead. We saw him taking pictures of us and kayaked over. He yelled out "What's your email address?" We yelled it back and I had pictures of our Pago Bay adventure waiting for me in my inbox when we got home. How awesome is that? Nick and I usually only have the cheesy self-tripod (long left arm) shots doing stuff like this. Instead, thanks to our good Samaritan photographer, this time we have shots of the two of us from afar.

After no luck finding our gear, we paddled over and beached the kayak. Nick found a shady bush to sit under on a pile of bamboo poles.
Pretty fantastic view from under the shade tree. And there were butterflies everywhere! It was as if we had stumbled upon our own personal butterfly sanctuary.
Signs of spring... even here in eternal summer.

 We took a walk down the beach looking for sea glass. Unfortunately, we found a lot of glass but not much of it sea glass yet.
We saw some beautiful plants and flowers, including these berries. Gonna guess these aren't on the Guam jungle treats list or I probably would have seen them at a farmer's market by now. We opted just to look.

All in all, a beautiful day on Pago Bay... 
complete with surprise photos thanks to our new friend Bill!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Fresh Factor

A few months ago I was contacted by the owner of the Guam Guide. She had been following Peyt's Island and wondered if I would be interested in writing for them. Well, that was back in December when I was off island for several weeks. Once back on island, I hit the ground running with one thing after the next to get our Manila and Saipan trips going. Then we went to Palau. I also had two rounds of visitors and some major fundraisers at church. Given my desire to simplify this year, I couldn't justify adding a new commitment to my plate, even if sharing my zeal for exploring Guam did sound like fun.

This past week, with my major church commitments behind me, no visitors lined up to come, and no Facebook to distract me, I pitched an idea to the Guam Guide. I proposed doing a series of columns focusing on the fresh foods that are available here on island. This is something I have been passionate about ever since returning from Thailand, but I didn't know where to take it. Peyt's Island isn't really the right place, since my audience here is mostly Stateside, where it won't do you a bit of good to know what the Agat market has to offer. I didn't want to start a whole new blog and take the focus away from my original purpose of keeping in touch. So it dawned on me that the Guam Guide would be a perfect forum for exploring this new interest in my remaining months here. The right topic for the right audience... and finally, the right timing.

So, I'd like to introduce my new column, the Fresh Factor. My first post is boldly titled "How to Cook Local on Guam." I say boldly because this headline makes me sound like some sort of an expert, when I myself am still very much learning the "how" part of that statement. But I am really interested in this and have picked up some great information and ideas that could at least help other people get started. I will be linking the articles here as they appear, so feel free to take a look. But Peyt's Island will stay the same, sporadically recounting our adventures here. That, is, until September when it all comes to an end. That's right, we've got orders (yes, actual paper orders... crazy). But for now, I am excited about this new venture that will have me continuing to make the most of my time here by branching out into new local flavors. Let the deliciousness begin!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

While You Were Sleeping

So we're at our friends' house Saturday night, hanging out with a group of people on their patio. We'd only been there for about an hour, but I had to leave to go home and take a turkey out of the oven. Yes, because of our new eating lifestyle, we bake full turkeys and turkey breasts to use as lunch meat for the week. And every so often our turkey stash runs out when I don't anticipate having time the following day to cook another turkey. Since Sundays are reserved for church and golf, we were resigned to bake a turkey Saturday night or (horrors!) forgo our designated eating regimen (fascinating, I know... read on!).

Just before I got on my bike to start the two-minute trek back to the house, Nick whispered nonchalantly, "Bring back the devil mask. Don't tell anyone else you have it."

Many people might respond to such a request with, "Why? What on earth for? What are you going to do with it?"

Instead, I simply added it to my list. I rode home, took the turkey out of the oven, switched the laundry from the washer to the dryer (a glimpse into how exciting the night life is around here), and grabbed the requested devil mask from the Halloween box in the storage closet. I put the mask in my backpack purse (a glimpse into how little fashion matters around here), and rode back to the gathering.

Back at the party, I jumped back in the conversation, enjoying catching up with everyone, especially since I have been off Facebook for Lent and had been feeling a little out of the loop. I had already forgotten about Nick's strange request when someone picked up the baby video monitor that had been sitting on the floor and said to our hostess, "Hey Erin, you might want to take a look at this."

"AAAhhhH!! What the....!!"

So turns out this is what Nick wanted the devil mask for:

Monday, March 19, 2012

XTERRA Excellence

Usually the morning I drop my sister off at the airport and send her 7,000 miles away would be a really tough morning. Except that this particular morning, there was more than one reason to be up before the sun. Last Saturday Nick competed in Guam's XTERRA Triathalon for the second year in a row. He has been training for this race very intentionally since the beginning of the year, and I was so excited to see how he was going to do. We all woke up early and ate one last protein-filled paleo breakfast together, then we dropped Nick off at the race staging area. Court and I ducked out to head to the airport and I returned to the race just in time to see Nick entering Piti harbor for the water start.

This year's race was even more exciting, as the Guam XTERRA was, for the first time ever, a XTERRA world championship qualifying event. That meant there was a large international field of pros and more amateur competitors here than ever before. Nick's primary goal was to beat his time from last year, 3 hours and 33 minutes, including the fact that the swim was now 500m longer than before.

Going into the race, Nick had pretty good odds that he would beat his goal. Last year he was traveling to and from Sri Lanka for the first three months of the year, which didn't make for a great training schedule. He also showed up at the 2011 race with a sinus infection, just not feeling that great. He powered through the race and, though he still did really well, he was really beat at the end of it. After witnessing his extreme discipline over the last few months training every day for one of the three events in addition to his regular workouts, and even losing 15 pounds in the process (yes - he dropped into the 160's for this race!), I was really excited to see if he would meet his goal. Or, more realistically since we are talking about Nick, I was really excited to see by how much he would exceed his goal.

And they're off! XTERRA Guam 2012 has officially begun!

Nick was the 23rd swimmer out of the water (out of 123), swimming the 1.5k distance in 27:14. If 23rd doesn't sound that impressive, consider that 12 of the people who came in ahead of him were pro triathletes.

Clearly not slowing down for pictures
And he's out! Ahead was a 22-mile bike ride that starts by riding up one of the biggest hills on Guam. The remainder of the ride goes down some crazy rugged trail-like pathways (since Guam doesn't really do trails) all through the jungle. Nick knocked this portion out in two hours flat... a full ten minutes faster than last year for the exact same course. Woohoo!
Awesome photo by XTERRA Guam

Weather wise, these guys really lucked out this year. Conditions were absolutely perfect. It didn't rain much at all the week leading up to the race, so the bike course wasn't nearly as muddy as last year.

One other difference between this year's race and last year's is that this year I had friends who were also there to cheer on husbands and workout buddies. While our men and friends were working hard pedaling across Guam in the hot sun, our little entourage went to Jenny's house and had brunch :)
Right at two and a half hours, Nick was off to start the run through the jungle. Crazily enough, just as I took this picture, the first person crossed the FINISH line. Of the entire race. As he passed me (his XTERRA paparazzi) Nick said, "Really!?!? That guy just finished!" And here Nick was just starting the final phase. Hopefully that spells out a little more how ridiculous the pros are at this race. I guess if all you do is triathlons you get pretty darn good at it.

All throughout the morning it was so fun cheering on friends... Go Chad go!

Go Dave! Dave was the only person we knew who did the entire XTERRA last year (and he happens to be one of my coworkers on staff at the church). He unfortunately landed a running injury recently, so this year pulled his weight as the bike portion on a relay team. Great job Dave!

Our other friend Jaime also did the race. We were all completely amazed at her willingness to even attempt something like this. Complete badassery.

The race finished with a run, or rather a tromp, through the water in the harbor. It was so exciting to spot people coming in the distance... and then not so fun to watch them suffer for the next five minutes trying to wade through a quarter mile of thigh deep water to the finish line. Go Nick!! And now the moment we've all been waiting for:
Nick crossed the finish line at three hours 24 minutes, exceeding his goal by 10 minutes (he shaved about 9 minutes off his run time from last year). Factoring in the extra length of the swim, he finished 18 minutes faster than last year!

So glad I got a picture of this... the moment they handed Nick his race results and he found out not only what his splits were, but also that he placed FIRST in his division! He was the first guy in his age group to finish the race, which means... he qualified for a spot to the XTERRA World Championship race later this year in Maui! We're not going (we will already be on the East Coast by then)... but it sure is awesome that he qualified for it!

And unlike last year, Nick didn't even look that spent. Great job guys!

It was exciting watching everyone cross the finish line, but especially our friend Jaime, one of the few girls to participate in and finish the race. 

These were some pretty proud kids.

And a proud husband too... awesome job Jaime!! She also earned a spot to Maui!!

  Great job, friends! Such a fun race to be a cheerleader for.

Definitely proud of this guy... shattering his goals and coming in first. I know humility is a virtue and all, but times like this, I just gotta brag. Way to go Booser... you rocked it!! Not surprised, but at the same time, completely impressed!!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Creating the World

In the beginning the wall was formless and empty, and darkness fell over it. 

So we scraped

 and primed
 And went to great heights to prepare the wall 
(nice work Kevin!).

And God said, "Let there be light."

And God saw that it was good. 
And there was evening and there was morning---the first day.

And God said, "Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place and let dry ground appear."
In order to make the dry ground appear, we got up at 4:30a to head to the church while it was still dark so we could project the image and trace it on the wall.
 Racing the sunrise clock to finish before the projected image became too light!

 The artist presenting all the possibilities for shading and highlighting

 And it was so
And God saw that it was good. 
And there was evening and there was morning---the second day.

 Day 3 brought us a team of friends to help our creation story move along much faster
God made two great lights - the greater light to govern the day. He set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth and to separate light from darkness.
 Painting this in the playground of the preschool, we had a very enthusiastic audience.
And God saw that it was good. 
And there was evening and there was morning---the third day.

The next day we got up at 5a.m. again to head to the church and use the projector. 
In the rain. After spending most of the day resting and hiking, we returned to the world refreshed and ready to finish.

  Thankfully we had more help!
And God saw that it was good. And it was evening (which was great so we could use the projector one last time!) and it was morning---the fourth day.

With the final day of creation upon us, we started our morning with the sun.
The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. John 1:9

 In him was life and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. John 1:5

And finally, on day five, our mural was complete!
God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. Genesis 1:31

What I Learned from Helping Create the World
Spending the week painting with my sister was a lot of fun. During the countless hours brushing and rolling color after color across many of the lands I have visited and those I have yet to see for myself, I couldn't help but think about what this world might be able to teach me. Here are a few ruminations from our experience creating the world.

There is something profoundly beautiful about a clean slate. It was amazing to see what a difference our simple coats of primer and white paint made on the wall. The whole backyard looked better immediately, even before the first brush of color made its appearance.  
"If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has gone; the new has come." 2 Cor. 5:17

It is utterly ridiculous how small some parts of the world are that get the biggest amount of the world's attention. Ahem Korean peninsula... There are many more, but as I splattered paint across this little blip on the wall, it seemed particularly fitting.
Conversely, it's amazing how big and intricate some parts of the world are that get so little attention. I had no idea the northern Canadian islands were going to require the most amount of attention of our whole world. So many crazy coastlines up that way. Part of me thinks that might be a great place to explore one day. If only it weren't so cold....
You never know where a thing of beauty may be found. Among the two dozen or so rusty, unlabeled, hopeless-looking cans of paint that were donated for the project, we found every single vibrant, gorgeous color we needed for our world. A few of the cans were complete duds, needing to be disposed of immediately. But what remained was absolutely perfect---on the inside. 

"The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." 1 Sam. 16:7
In fact, even that which is thrown aside can be a thing of beauty.
(Yes, this is a macro shot of the inside of the mural trash bag. Maybe splatter painting from the 80s will have its comeback soon... so fun!)

One of my favorite moments from the week was when Courtney overheard one of the preschool moms asking her son, "Where does Grandma live?" His reply: "Blue!" and "Where does Aunt Cindy live?" "Red!"

Made me think of John Lennon's lyrics... Imagine there's no countries. It isn't hard to do...

I loved considering the innocence of these little people who have no idea what wars and turmoil are going on at this very moment. Their only concern is playing on the playground until snack time. O that all the world could be so simple.

The scale of a place is relative. Guam is definitely not bigger than Hawaii. 
But it sure is to us!

Creating the world is hard work. No wonder God rested on the 7th day. We didn't make it that long. We actually rested on the 4th day. We spent part of the day napping and lounging around the house, and part of the day exploring God's actual creation, which included Waterfall Valley and this very lovely butterfly sighting. From the top of a waterfall, Court also spotted a freshwater eel (which I had never seen here before). Waterfall Valley is such a beautiful place. It could be a mural in itself. It made me consider that perhaps all the world could be a mural.

My favorite part of the mural design is the positioning of the "Far East" on the left side and the Western hemisphere in its proper place to our right. For those of us who grew up on the left side of the map, this is certainly a new way of looking at things, and a reminder that everything, after all, is a matter of perspective.

Despite the last touch-ups we did in our final hour of work, our world isn't perfect. And no amount of paint or artistic prowess could ever make it so. But even with its missteps in balance and scale and texture, our world is somehow still beautiful. The colors, the shapes, the vastness all come together just so to create wonder, provoke mystery, and inspire greatness. And here we are---for such a finite time---positioned to enjoy and explore all that it has for us.
"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them 
in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." 
Matthew 28:19