Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Exploring Peyt's Island

So I’ve been wanting to share with all of you what a typical day looks like out here now that Nick has started traveling, but until this past week I didn’t know myself.  I will say---it has been quite fun, and at times exhausting, figuring it out. The first night after Nick left, some of us went out for Karaoke night! This will definitely not be a one-time event.

I have to say it would be pretty easy to sleep in every day here and wake up whenever I want, which sounds deceivingly wonderful.  Actually, a good day around here is one where you have a reason to set an alarm. Most days that’s for a workout class at the gym down the street, which has a pretty nice selection of yoga, spin, and body sculpt classes to get me moving in the mornings.  
Also in the past two weeks I have tried some new things, such as playing golf with the ladies.  Until last week, I’d only ever golfed with Nick.  It’s great playing with him, but it was also fun with a group of girls. Wednesdays are great because ladies play free at the beautiful air force course. No excuse not to get out there. 

Another first was playing 18 holes all by my big self! It somehow sounds lonely or lame---but not at all. I actually really enjoyed it. It was easy to focus and I found myself hitting some great shots.  Still haven’t broken 100 yet, but it’s coming soon… I can feel it. It's official. I'm addicted.
Yet another new activity has been swim lessons. Okay, so you know from previous diving pictures that I obviously know how to not drown in the water. But I’ve been wanting to learn how to swim a stroke properly so I can ride my bike to the pool or run to the ocean for my cardio workouts or swim back to shore if I'm ever lost out at sea (not to scare you, Mom). I was referred to a lady who my friend took lessons from. She referred me to her daughter, who had me meet her at the pool this morning. Typical Guam. When I got there at 10, we found out the pool didn’t open until 11 (yes, SD friends, this is why I missed Bible study). Given the 20-30 minute drive to get to the pool, it just made more sense to sit and wait. So I waited and I’m actually glad I did. I got excellent instruction in freestyle and breaststroke. My next lesson is on Friday, and the great news is that the pool is right down the street from the golf course. Friday’s going to be a good day!
Sailing with Kate & Andrea

I also finally went sailing out here. It was a bit of a disastrous start, since I hadn’t rigged a sailboat that small from start to finish since 7th grade sailing camp (and surprisingly no one on the marina staff knew how to rig it).  Let’s just say, for the first time in my memory, some trees were involved in a sailing outing.  I’ll just leave it at that.  Luckily I had some adventurous friends on board.  Once we got out of the harbor, we had a lovely sail, with some hefty winds and beautiful sunshine.

And my last new activity is hiking. On Sunday my friend (and golf buddy) Caitlyn, who goes to our new church, took me up to the top of Mt. LamLam, the highest peak in Guam. It’s only 1,332 ft. above sea level, but rumor has it that since the “mountain” of Guam technically starts in the Marianas Trench (and isn’t at risk of “capsizing” as some Congressmen presume), this peak is the largest gain in elevation on planet Earth (38,300 ft.). No need to attempt Everest anymore. 

From the top, you could see a 360-degree view of the entire island! In some ways it made the island seem so big, with its beautiful rolling green hills. On the other hand, you can see the entire island from one viewpoint. Pretty small. Luckily we could also see a storm in the distance. We went down quickly, esp. since LamLam happens to mean "lightening."
View to the south - Cocos Island
View to the north - everything else
In my free time (which I suppose I distinguish from my “active” or “social” time), I’ve been reading my old journals (which is beyond entertaining), playing the piano, Skyping into my old Bible study, and hanging out with new friends. There’s only been one point where I was on the verge of a freak-out.  This past Saturday I spent the entire day by myself, worked out, golf course, cleaned the house, ate dinner and somehow it was only 5:45pm.  Was wondering what I was going to do with myself for the whole evening (I was somehow the only person from the entire command whose husband was gone). I got an unexpected knock on the door about 8:00p from my neighbor, asking if I would join them for a movie with her and her two boys (6th and 10th grades). So we saw Step Up 3D (which was actually really good). I was so grateful to be saved from a first Saturday night alone! Just one more example of how great the military community is out here. And somewhat ironic that we moved here all the way from San Diego and still ended up living next door to Mexicans.

So, lots of fun and games so far. I’m not sure how it happened, but the rest of my week until Nick gets home is booked, starting tomorrow when I have my first appearance at work! I look forward to telling you all about that next time. Until then, Hafa Adai and thanks for stopping by!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Five Years and Counting

That’s right, five years ago today (Aug. 27th), Nick and I barely beat the start of BUD/S and the outer bands of Hurricane Katrina to make things official, beginning our lives together as Ensign and Mrs. Roberts amid a joyous celebration of family and friends in Texas. Part of me can hardly believe it’s been that long. But when I think about it, we’ve accomplished a lot these past five years (Nick’s training and graduation, four deployments, Master’s degree, new jobs, new friends, family goodbyes, four honeymoons, learning to dive, climbing mountains, overseas move, our own sailboat, etc.). As my mom put it, “That’s a lot of living in five years.”

(Side note: The weeks after our wedding when people started asking, “So when are you having kids?” our answer was “in five years.” Our answer hasn't changed.)
Two of my favorite people in the whole world :)

One of the wonderful things about moving is the chance to rediscover hidden treasures. One such treasure was an entire journal I wrote in college that I hardly remember writing… but I'm so glad I did. Skimming through the pages, I realized it was from the summer after our first year of college (written in the journal you gave me Sara! And happy birthday!). After working on summer staff at our church in Houston, I spent a month in Washington, DC living with my amazing Aunt Pat and Uncle Bill while working for my extremely generous and fun cousin Tracy (summer catering gig, episode one). That was such an exciting time in my life, a turning point I didn’t then recognize. Family definitely came through to make it possible for Nick and I to be together.
And on Wednesday, July 3, 2002 I have an entry with this gem: 
Visiting Nick after Plebe Summer

“I wonder, sometimes, if I will be able to do it… to be a Navy wife for a minimum of five years. Nick will have dangerous trainings and very dangerous trips where he will be able to give little attention to me. I wonder if I am strong enough to face the separation and the lifestyle and being placed second to a greater duty. I hear stories of two people being so in love but having it not work out because of the military lifestyle. At times, I wonder.

“But then I stop and remember the kind of God I serve, and I know that wondering is something I need not waste my time on. If it’s meant to be, it will work. If not, then God has something else planned for me… although I can’t imagine a greater plan than this.”

Turns out that as a college freshman, 19 years old, one year into dating, I got a lot of things right. Nick has spent many a night away from home on dangerous trips and dangerous trainings. I am, indeed, second to a greater duty. And God wrote out a beautiful, though not always easy, plan for us.

But what I know now that I didn’t then is that I am strong enough and we can do this. I now know the separations that tear us apart even at this very moment are what fuel our sense of attentiveness and adventure when the forces that be bring us back together. And so, like many team wives I’ve talked to, I have learned to love this lifestyle and embrace the opportunities it brings (two-year vacation in Guam, helloooo!). I’m grateful for having a husband who has remained so true to himself and true to me throughout many---too many---nights apart. 

Photo in Annapolis a day after the journal entry - July 4, 2002
And so on this, our fifth anniversary, I just wanted to take a moment to reflect on how lucky I still feel waking up every day knowing I’m married to a hero and friend. And I want to thank those of you who have supported us and celebrated with us, those of you reading this today. We are so blessed to have loving families and friends galore around the world.  
So honey, Happy Anniversary! I love you… looking forward to our next five years together!
Our fabulous wedding guests!
PS - Happy anniversary tomorrow Mom and Dad!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Blue Hole

Nick and I got to do our first dives off our Propeller Friday night. We loaded up the boat with our dive gear and four tanks and set off on our adventure. It's pretty awesome that Nick got off work at 4:45 and we had the boat in the water by 5:30... a whole hour until sunset and plenty of dive time. 

Our first stop was an amazing deep (and therefore short) dive aptly named the Blue Hole. This is a pretty well known dive out here.  It's right off a peninsula of the navy base and you can only access it by boat because of the several-hundred-foot cliffs that jet into the water beside it. From the top of the water, it literally looks like a hole in the ocean floor. I have to wonder who was the first person to decide, "Hey, that looks like a cool place to go swimming." I'm glad they took the risk because this turned out to be a pretty amazing 14 minutes.

The hole starts at about 50 feet. Once inside, I used my dive light to highlight the intricacies of the hole itself.  This isn't one of those dives you do to see cool wildlife, although there certainly was some.  It's more of a "Holy crap! I'm sinking through a hole in the ocean" kind of dive.  

After several quick minutes of sinking into said hole, which was indeed very blue, we found the exit, right at 131 feet as our dive site reviewers informed us. It was crazy how fast we sank those 80 feet. At that depth, the visibility is absolutely incredible. It is hands down the clearest water I have ever seen out here. The only caveat is that at 130 feet, I was experiencing what the dive books call nitrogen narcosis, or in diver terms, "narc-ing out." When you get that deep, nitrogen levels are so high in your body, you start to feel a euphoric high, where everything is sooo beautiful and the world just feels good. People who don't realize they're narc-ing might become oblivious to reality and keep swimming deeper. Not really a risk when you recognize what's going on (I was expecting it). Once we returned up to 100 ft., the sensation went away. We poked around looking at the gorgeous fish along the ocean ridges, then returned to the surface.

We took our time heading to our next dive spot, Dadi Beach. Once there, we got our gear set up, ate a snack, and waited for it to get good and dark. I'd say we watched the sunset, but it was blocked by the thunderstorm in the distance (yeah... we could see lightning but couldn't hear thunder, so pretty sure we were safe... uhhhh). We jumped in and hung out under water for an hour. 

Night dives are pretty awesome because you are completely surrounded by pitch black water and can only see what you're shining your dive light on. The corals are much more vibrant looking, the fish don't scare off as easily, and there is generally more wildlife out and about. There weren't a whole lot of new things to see, but Nick got these fabulous macro shots.  He's becoming quite the underwater photographer (which means I luck out because I get to be the diver model in his awesome pictures, like the gem at the top of the page). 
Scorpion Fish
Such a fun night... and such a tease! Nick had to leave for his first work trip to the Philippines the next evening, so we've only gotten to do these two dives off the boat so far. But it was so easy and fun, I know there will be plenty more hours spent doing Propeller dives. Yet another reason to come visit... our own dive boat right in our driveway. Needless to say, I can't wait for Nick to be home in two weeks so we can start crossing some more of these dives off our list. This might be my favorite "to do" list of all times.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Introducing... Propeller!

Most of you know we had a sailboat in San Diego. Many of you who had the chance to join us on it know we never quite got around to naming it. There were lots of great suggestions (such as "It's a floater," "NavyGator,"and "Tootenanny"), but nothing really stuck (correction: nothing that really stuck and was appropriate enough to say at church). We sold the boat without naming it. (My sister went on the last sail and decided its name was "Anonymous." Great idea but too last-minute as usual Court :-P)

Knowing the potential for off-shore diving and fishing here, we brought a small boat with us from San Diego. It's a 12' inflatable catamaran zodiac type with an 18HP motor. It's zippy, lightweight, big enough to handle us and our dive gear, and small enough for the navy to ship it for us. We (actually Nick) custom adapted a trailer to fit it. We were ready to drive it off into the sunset the second it came off the moving truck. It, however, wasn't on board. But after a few frustrating weeks of motor troubleshooting and a weekend getaway at outboard rehab, it works! A whole new layer of exploration and adventure on Guam has begun!

So backing up, I have to tell the story about the packers from moving day San Diego. When it was time to tackle the boat pieces, they approached the motor cautiously. It was a pretty big monster on its motor stand. All wrapped up in brown paper and plastic wrap, it looked about the size of a refrigerator. When it was ready to label, I could see two of them discussing something in Spanish. I, of course, was trying to eavesdrop without letting on that I knew a word or two. Then one of them looked over to me and asked, "Ma'am, thees ees a boat motor? A motor for boat?" I said yes, of course, and assumed I would see "boat motor" scribbled out in sharpie along the brown paper.

"See?" he told his buddy. "It's a propeller!" He was so proud to have remembered such a big, specific English word. He wrote "Propeller" all over the brown paper covering the boat motor and on the move paperwork. I didn't have the heart to tell him that... it's actually a boat motor and a propeller is just one of its many parts. So, that's how we came to name our second boat "Propeller." It's quite fitting... because that's exactly what it does. In fact, we would be completely unpropelled without it.

So our first chance (the hour we picked it up from the shop), we took it for a spin. It's so easy to hop out and go snorkeling off of. Haven't tried diving yet, but I won't be able to say that for long (waiting for Nick to get off work so we can dive
the Blue Hole!). Here are some more pictures from our first excursion with our trusty Propeller.

A rainbow found its way into our picture :)

Free diving... and rockin the swim skirt

Nick found a sea turtle! Tough to see because he's down about 30', but it's there!
Reef fish
Propeller, views above & below water

Someone's been working out (shocking, right?)
Nick says, "Come visit us, or I will beat you up."

Monday, August 16, 2010

Our “Happy Gilmore” Home

Hard to believe, but we've officially been in Guam for one month now! And one month in, I’ve had my first request for a writing topic, which is great for two reasons. First, it means at least one person out there is actually reading this (shout out to Kristen in San Diego!). And second, the request was for pictures of our new home, which makes my life easy since I’ve been spending a lot more time at home now that Nick is working and we only have one car, er, truck.
So as I may have mentioned previously, I didn't have the best first impression of our house here. In fact, I had a two-year-old-style meltdown the first time we saw it (luckily, the only meltdown of our first month here). But now that we're all moved in and have memorized where we put everything, I actually really love it. For starters, there are eight closets inside and two outdoor storage units. The closet at the front door where coats usually go (really, Guam?) is entirely dedicated to our golf stuff. Combine that with the fact that we live on Gilmore Avenue and aren't afraid to practice chipping in the front yard, and that's where we get our loving nickname, the "Happy Gilmore" house.
Continue through the entryway, and welcome to our living room, the only room we chose to paint (those of you who know Nick know he hates painting more than any other type of Home Depot-type project, so this was a real victory on my part). Nick came up with the genius idea to create a concert space for my keyboard (though when my disharmony fills the whole house, he may be rethinking just how genius this is).
Behind the piano is our sitting area, featuring our new rug, new coffee & end tables, and same comfy couches that are just as easy to snooze on here as they were in Coronado. I can't wait to watch Tuesday Morning Football in this cozy space.

One of my favorite areas, and the place where I update Peyt's Island from, is the dining space. On the left wall, we have a shrine to San Diego, complete with a panorama of the bay, a sailboat, a picture of our sailboat, and some of our favorite mementos from our last home, including the grace book that many of you have been forced to read out of before diving into steaks. Yes, the tradition continues!

Moving into the kitchen, you'll immediately notice the beautiful marble countertops... Okay, so I'm pretty sure they stopped designing kitchens with these materials the year I was born. But while the design choices leave much to be desired in terms of aesthetics, the cabinets hold all of my kitchen gadgets and dinnerware while the countertops and layout make for a very functional food prep space. All this to say, I really love cooking in this kitchen.
And here's one of the reasons I really love it... We used our second cable box for Nick's old computer monitor from the Academy, and voila! I get to watch Sportscenter, or HGTV, or the Food Network while I make meals! More pure genius from my favorite husband.
Attached to the kitchen is a beautiful area I like to call "our first washer/dryer that does not require quarters or stepping foot outside the house!" Those of you who saw our last place may notice the old desk from the office (which made a horrible work space), recycled into a microwave stand, which fits perfectly (again, Nick's idea).
Moving on, there are three hallway closets, one of which is entirely dedicated to Nick's tools, gadgets, and other man gizmos I don't know the names of.
There's a guest bathroom that's not worth posting a picture of, followed by a guest bedroom that is currently empty.
We are going to wait until someone actually buys a plane ticket before we invest in creating the Happy Gilmore Bed & Breakfast. Until then, it's a great space to store things that don't fit anywhere else.

Enter the master suite, with the "sweet" part being that I get this entire room-length closet all to myself :)
Last but not least, we have the office/Nick's closet/sewing room, featuring our new bookcase, desk & filing cabinet that we put together once we got out here.
It's nice having space for everything, and we realize we are truly blessed to have this much space for just the two of us, especially with such a great location near Nick's work and the water. Yay navy housing :)

Nick had his first full week of work last week and between working out, hanging out, and keeping in touch with friends & family back home, the time really flew by. In the evenings after work and over this past weekend, we were able to fit in fun things like diving, snorkeling, golf, cave exploring, and lobster-less lobster hunting. More on that to come. Until then, thank you for visiting our home! Let us know if and when you are actually visiting, and we'll get moving on that guest room.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Golf Chickens!

Since we live on the navy base, most of our days, hour by hour, feel pretty much like being in America. We shop at the Navy Exchange, buy regular foods at the Commissary, and work out at a pretty normal navy gym. And for the most part, the main towns of Guam resemble the States quite a bit. There are a lot of the same food chains, like California Pizza Kitchen, Denny’s, and Outback Steakhouse. You can buy things for the house at Home Depot, K-Mart, or Macy’s. People drive on the same side of the road, speak English, and use the dollar. All in all, not a huge cultural adjustment.

There are certain places, though, that make it quite obvious we are no longer in San Diego. One of those places is most definitely the golf course. Our first day at the driving range on the navy course, we saw some chickens near the road. Didn’t think anything of it until we saw a big red chicken and five red baby chicks crossing our fairway on the 13th hole. After playing that course three times, we are now quite used to having our putting disturbed by roosters crowing in the woods 10 feet away. These aren’t just any old cock-a-doodle-doos. These roosters sound like they’re dying and this will be their last shout to the world. They seem to have even better timing when you’re putting for par.

In addition to the golf chickens and roosters, scrappy old boonie dogs roam the course. There’s a course boonie dog that follows some golfers loyally from hole to hole. We have also heard pigs snorting through the trees. And one day at the driving range, a pig suddenly started screaming like an angry child for five minutes (we heard it was caught in a pig trap but somehow got away). I guess the whole zoo atmosphere kind of makes it feel like we’re back in San Diego.

All in all, though, we can’t complain about the courses here. Granted, we’ve only played the two military courses, but so far we’ve yet to have to wait on a group in front of us, as the courses have been pretty empty. We usually finish 18 holes in 3 hours at the most. Despite being the rainy season, we’ve yet to be poured on. The fairways are some of the greenest fields of grass I’ve ever seen. And best of all, the view from the tee box can be simply breathtaking.

We are lucky we can fit in another round tomorrow (Monday) since Nick has the day off unexpectedly. It's nice that we've found something we can do together on land here. Maybe even do well... Nick got his best score down from 97 to 94 last week. No thanks, of course, to the golf chickens.

Gorgeous tee box view at Anderson Air Force Base
Anyone ready to come visit yet??

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Hafa Adai!

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…