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Post typhoon…

This pic was taken less than a week before the storm. I can’t upload more pics right now, my data is being a jerk, but I will when I can.

My coffee sipping sight this morning:  a rooster hightailing it into our portico; a few seconds later it’s a boonie dog zig zagging its scent.  In what used to be the jungle, a few chickens squawk while another boonie dog heads toward them.  There is nowhere to hide.  

A dog’s gotta eat.  But, there are so few of the chickens left.  A friend said maybe they’re in hiding somewhere, but me thinks only the lucky survived — now they just gotta keep surviving.  

It’s kind of where we are right now.  We’re happy to be here, but some of us have an advantage that others do not.  While I’m no boonie dog, I am living in a condo that has water and air (thanks to the building generator).  My friends a few floors higher do not have water (pump can’t push it up that high; something in it is damaged), so they built a tent around the pool shower.  Our pool is now a sludge of bacteria that we don’t even want to use to flush our toilets. I suspect a new species will emerge from it by next week. 

It’s been a week since the typhoon began tormenting our island.  School is now out for the rest of the school year, work is sort of done from home —- it’s kind of hard to do when you’re living off of spotty data (sometimes it works, mostly it doesn’t, but we’re so grateful when it does).

We’re in a heavy rainfall warning now.  Our streets are flooding, which they do when it rains, but now we’re saturated, have bald cliffs and clogged drains, so yay flash flood warnings.

Communication basically is a bitch.  Radio stations are finally back on air, which is so much better than hearing Poltergeist static.  People are working around the clock to restore water and power, but from the latest report I’ve been able to see basically most of us are still without.  It’s hard for any of us to know what we need to know because the posts on social media are slow, and we all have issues actually getting to social media.  At least now we can hear reports on radio. 

The updates I do get to see tell us trash is getting picked up —- we’re still waiting in my area —-and that there are landfills where we can dump our green waste.  It aint the shrubbery we need to get rid of.  Garbage bags are now sandbagging dumpsters, so no one needs to worry about dumpster flooding. 

The National Guard and police are escorting fuel trucks to gas stations; they are also directing traffic and monitoring the long lines at gas stations.  Cash is in high demand.  There are some stores and restaurants open, some even manage to take cards, but most tell you cash only.  I’m down to $6 and have mooched off of my neighbors. Everyone on this island is grateful to others who have helped them with something during this time — we have our uglies to report, but we also have our good.

Apparently some people are breaking into cars and siphoning gas; shit I guess I should check my car for that.  A few of the broken windows we see might be from looting, or people looking for a dry place to sleep.  There’s a bubble tea shop at the bottom of my street; I saw the owners sleeping in it when I took a morning walk.  Many mom and pop shops are doing this.  

The chickens aren’t the only ones who found refuge in the jungle, apparently there are more people living in abandoned structures than I knew.  There are four structures within feet of my place that also have abandoned cars.  People, including children, live there.  I see them now from my balcony.  According to Guam Homeless Coalition (can’t verify sources with this damned slow service) there are almost 800 homeless people on island, 92 households with children, and almost 53% of Chomorro, Mariana island natives (I need a better word because that one feels like it has negative connotations), are homeless.

Before, when I walked and met the few regulars I see on the beach, I just assumed they lived this life because of drugs or alcohol — and I’m sure many do —- but whatever the reason there’s impoverished living in rain and mud while listening to generators churn away the voltage that keeps some of our air conditioning going.  I don’t feel guilty for being where I am, I earned it, but I do feel something is very wrong with this balance. 

In essence the typhoon blew away our fairy tale of paradise.  Behind the plumeria and palms hid some of our inhumane truths.  I can no longer unsee it, so I’ll do my entitled bits of good here and there, but damn.  Mama hugs to all of us; the wet, the dry, the greedy and the giving.  May we find the strength to do better. 


Mawar Mayhem

Our beautiful beach a week before the storm

I just came in from sitting outside watching the violent waves pummel my bay.  The beautiful beach I walk on daily has turned from a tropical paradise with plumeria, coconuts and jungle right up to the turquoise water to a barren vat of debris, rocks and shredded fauna.  The water is still blue but it’s tainted with black silt and mutilated tree and building bits viciously torn from their foundation.  The jungle that is everywhere on this island is shredded to a scene from the apocalypse.   Our paradise has been plucked bare and is as sad and ugly as a featherless bird.  The chickens are still in hiding; I hope they made it.

We saw a drowned rat in the debris, so the animals fared as poorly as the plants.

I don’t know when I’ll get to post this (internet, along with everything else, is down), but we are in our third day of wind and rain from Ms. Mawar the super typhoon.   Her outer bands reached us on Tuesday, but it was Wednesday that was the worst.  Today it’s still gray with rain and wind gusts that previously I would have called ‘big ones.’  Now, I know they are nothing compared to Mother Nature’s fury when she’s on a roll.

Our building rocked and swayed while she punched and whipped it with her 140 plus MPH winds.  And she did this for about 8 hours.  Prior to the 140 she bitch slapped our little island all day long with constant wind and powerful gusts.  The rain, oh my goodness the rain, was horizontal, and it bore right through our sealed windows and doors. 

There’s a lot of buzz that surrounds the whole idea of a typhoon heading your way.  For those of us who have never lived through this kind of storm, it’s exciting.  We run out to the store, stock up our adult bevies and food —- and drinking water, lots of drinking water.  We fill up our bathtubs because seasoned folk tell us to, and we button down the hatches —- learning that those metal typhoon shutters we normally ignore are not so easy to close and lock in place. 

In my case, since my husband is out of town, I buddied up with my neighbors on the 7th floor.  We have a lot of fun together and never hesitate to turn anything into a party.  So whoop whoop Typhoon party time.  Tuesday night we ate a feast (that we spent Tuesday making) played games and drank enough to sleep through the pesky outer band winds and rain.  We also packed up a goody bag to bring to the weather station, since one of us works there and he was going to be there until today.  We giggled at how wild and crazy we were taking a field trip during a typhoon —- the outer bands, my friends, are not a proper typhoon.  They are the fun but non memorable aperitif.

And then on the drive home, we heard the report of just how monstrous our reason for a party was going to be.  It didn’t damper our mood, but we each snuck off to send our loved ones the messages you send when you’re not so sure you know what you’re in for —- and then we continued to do what we do best.

Wednesday we made fun typhoon-themed cocktails and sat outside (in a concrete corner that protected us from the winds) to cheer on branches snapping off (in hindsight we were the gladiator spectators, but we didn’t know it at the time).   And, we witnessed this (my fellow species isn’t the brightest on the planet)…

Keep in mind we were having gusts up to 75 mph at this point lol and then he swept his balcony off. Sadly the drainage pipe to the left of him did not make it.

We got to toast other neighbors (above is in another complex) also stepping outside to feel the wind, and, overall, we had ourselves a great time.  When the winds and rain got too strong, we went inside and watched Twister because is there a better movie to watch during the ultimate twister (and our generator was working great at that point)?

The winds got stronger; the noise was unbearable, feeling the floor sway beneath us was unsettling, but we kept each other in good spirits.  Each of us had our doubts and secretly prayed the building would hold, but we did not fail our companions by focusing on what could happen. We told our stories and embraced our moments of quiet.   When our generator went out, we lit candles and enjoyed the ambience despite the banshee pounding on the shutters, and the loud bangs of things falling apart.  We went to bed early —- really just hoping to sleep the storm away —- but Mawar made sure we heard her tantrums.   The news told us the eye wall finally returned to sea around 2:30 a.m. but the winds were feisty long past that —- we’re still getting gusts of it now.

You can google to see better pics; I just don’t have great cell service right now. One day I’ll post more.

And, now we sit in the aftermath.  My neighbors and I are incredibly lucky.  Our building is built the way a building in the Ring of Fire and Typhoon Alley should be built —- it’s tough and while I don’t like it swaying, I do know that’s what I want it to do.  It’s built to move so that it doesn’t break.  I like this. We also have a generator that keeps us and our food chilled.  Our apartments got wet (I lost two rugs), and one of my friends lost an entire railing from her balcony, but we are unscathed.   Those are minor things that will be replaced. Our cars also made it without injury.  Too many on this island will not be as lucky.  And, while, we will all pull together to rebuild and help each other, it will take us weeks, maybe months, to repair what one three-day storm has done.  

I want to end with something pithy, but all I can come up with is, pay attention people.  Mother Nature is a bad-ass bitch and we are all but fleas on her back.  Embrace the good she gives and do your best to keep out of her wrath.  And thank all the powers that be for the friends we make in this world —- they help make the ugly beautiful.  

p.s. it’s Friday and I hotspotted my phone. screw my data plan… please forgive any typos, since I copy and pasted and uploaded as quickly as I could.


We’re in the midst of Guam’s dry season, but it is most certainly not Phoenix or Arabian desert dry.  Like everyone else, I have my list of talents, but the one I excel at is sitting outside sipping and staring.  The rain, which hasn’t gotten the “dry” memo, tends to enjoy keeping me company most mornings.  This morning it snuck up on me like a child holding back giggles attempting to startle me, but then full on laughter when realizing the gig is up; I know it’s there. It tags me and then darts off to taunt others.

I hear it wake the starlings (oh my goodness we have birds!  Something the island almost lost thanks to the hungry brown snake), and then the roosters (with their loud sore-throated look-at-me I’m awake!) and their hens squawking to shut the eff up.  Like any child, it can’t have its moment without a mess, so our morning song includes the spillage from our balcony and roof drains flushing the geckos out of their beds.   Later in the day the rain might decide to throw a temper tantrum and douse us while we’re enjoying the island’s beaches and jungles.  But, it’s all good because we know that when there’s rain, there will almost always be the birth of a rainbow.  

almost here

Ta da! There she is showing off her colors.

While the dry season, thankfully, does not end the rain, it does bring on the trade winds.  These are adolescents who wake later in the day and amaze us with their coolness and then frustrate us with their unruliness.  They do what they like, when they like, regardless of what we do to try to prepare for them. 

So, we live our days alongside the ebb and flow of celestial children.

It is a beautiful existence.  It is an almost perfect life, but as magnificent and magical as all that I am blessed to embrace, it does not replace the love of being with my own.  I am lucky to have the internet and an income and vacation days that allow me to buy flights home.  That said living so far away has its cost:  I miss being physically present for my own children’s magic.  

I am so incredibly proud and thrilled to announce that my daughter has given birth to her daughter, appropriately named Isla.  Originally I wasn’t going to see her until this summer, but I booked a last-minute flight yesterday. In just a few blinks I’ll be in the midst of all the chaos little ones bring with them, and then, too quickly, I’ll be gone again.

Torin is amazed to now have a sister to hold!

Because my working days include travel and glimpses into lives I fantasized about in my youth, my retired life will focus on being back with family, where I’ll enjoy the bruises, the tears, the sheer joy of children’s laughter.  In between the play and fights, I will introduce my grandchildren to the places I’ve visited and lived.  I will, hopefully, pass on the desire to know the world and cherish all that it has to offer.  May they too spend their years marveling at the many gifts life gives us.

However, I am not yet in the retired world (and won’t be for a few years), so until then I am grateful that I can share my bits of wonder with all of you.

Sailed the ocean blue

A glimpse of what I saw on my morning walk

I have another long weekend thanks to Christopher Columbus, although here it should be called Magellan day since around 100 years after Columbus sailed the ocean blue, Magellan’s crew landed in Guam, leading to Spain calling dibs on owning it. I’m pretty sure the Chamorro and Native Americans had the same choice words for their conquistadors, but here we are celebrating the discovery of what would become America and America’s territories.

It’s a day off, and I’ll take it! I love that I get these long weekends, which I haven’t had since I’ve moved overseas (don’t feel sorry for me, I also had a lot of extra breaks that were a week to three weeks long). There’s something extra special, though, about having a Monday off. Fingers crossed it’ll contain less rain than the weekend that led to it. I had every intention of spending a day on the beach reading and sipping, but Mother Nature had other plans. Luckily, I’ve managed to fit in morning walks before the rain swooped in. We are most certainly not suffering a drought.

All is well in my little corner of the Marianna islands. I’ve been super busy with work, discovering my own bits of new or purpose in our ever-changing seas of academia. I’m enjoying it.

The last week of September, I was in Tokyo for an instructional specialist summit, where I learned a lot and got to meet colleagues who are based in South Korea and Japan. We were busy, so the only time we actually got to see the city was at night when we went out to dinner. Japan is opening up for tourism this week, I believe, so Joe and I will plan a trip as soon as we can (he’s in Arizona until December). There is so much, especially the countryside, that I’d like to see. The food that I did get to taste was amazing.

Shibuya Crossing on a weeknight when the city is closed to international tourism. Imagine how much busier this will be next week.

You know what I didn’t get to eat? Sushi! The week flew by, so I never got the chance to have sushi in Tokyo. It’s okay it’ll happen next trip, and the day after I returned to Guam I walked to a sushi place and had amazing sushi and miso. All is right with the world.

Mostly when I get home from work, I’m too beat to walk (okay too lazy), so I whip up something and sit on my balcony to watch the changing of the celestial guard.

It’s pretty spectacular.

Speaking of which, it’s about that time where I need to do that. But first, let me share that we have not one, not two, but three Ross stores here, where I’ve spent too much of my money buying frivolous stuff (I’m so desperate for my stuff to get here!), but the mug below is awesome and worth every penny of that $3.99. I don’t have to work tomorrow, so what goodness will she hold for me tonight?

Send me shipping vibes — if the stars align, the cargo ship containing my shit will land upon Guamanian shores this week (if a month-old email teasing me with an early arrival is to be believed).

Cheers my friends.

Home Sweet Home

Current view from my balcony

We found a home, and we’re moved in already. Our unaccompanied baggage (suitcases and duffle bags of things like towels, more clothes, sheets, etc.) is expected to arrive September 9, our car in October, and our furniture, dishes, etc. sometime in November. Sooooo, we’re borrowing sheets and dishes from friends. The landlord left an old couch for us to use, and we got rid of our master bed in Mons, so we bought a new one here. We could borrow more furniture from the Navy base, but I’m good with our camping phase for now. It’ll be a long while before our place truly looks like our home, but we love it.

We also don’t need keys since we have a digital key pad for front door. We’re within walking distance of restaurants, resorts, bars, the beach! It’s a 10-story complex on a hill, so we have to drive up a tiny, windy road to get to it (turns into a waterfall during our intense rain storms, which don’t last long, but man do they let out the water). We love where we’re perched because we also have lots of rogue chickens (seriously they should be Guam’s official bird) greeting us in our parking lot. There are also some stray cats and dogs (not in packs like we see in mountainous area), so I’m sure we’ll have them all named in no time.

I haven’t dived in yet, but I totally plan on testing out our pool this weekend.

View of the pool from my balcony. It’s tempting me.

Basically we’re shopping, exploring, making friends and loving life right now. I’m also really enjoying my new job. It’s interesting to be on the other side of the education curtain, where I get to experience what goes into supporting what happens in the classroom. I’m a little overwhelmed and have a lot to learn, BUT I am so freaking happy that the number one expectation of me is to support teachers. Yes, I represent district and school/district/HQ goals and mandates, but I understand more of why and what they are, etc., etc., etc. LOL I’m sure I’m boring you … so long story short, I love that I am getting to help people like me get what they need, so the kids we love so much get what they need to learn and grow. I was concerned that I might not like giving up teaching, but I think I’m actually really going to love this job. And, I’m really lucky because I swear I’m not lying, there isn’t a single coworker I’ve met that I don’t like. Not a one! How freaking cool is that?

I don’t know why I was stressing so much while we were packing out of Belgium. Joe and I both worried that we were giving up a good thing, and we were, but woo hoo we moved right onto another good (maybe great) thing. So lol we heart Guam too.

Some more Guam pics for your perusal. I just realized that I didn’t upload the best, but oh well I’ll have prettier pics for next time. That last guy is a small coconut crab. I met him and some of his buddies last night while we were having fun at a friend’s pool.

Well, that’s all I have for you now. We’re off to visit a beach and do some more shopping for apartment — throw out extended-arm-for-shower vibes lol because we really don’t like flooding our bathroom.

Have a great weekend! I’ll post some more info about Guam and its history and culture next time.

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