Monday, December 21, 2009
Our day started with a small planning meeting with the EIS Action Group. This is a group of concerned local folks (plus me and one other imported troublemaker) uniting to disseminate information regarding the EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) and the proposed military buildup on Guam. If you keep following this blog you will hear plenty more about the buildup and how I feel about it, but for now, I’ll just say this: Guam is an island with an estimated 180,000 people. The proposed military buildup will bring an estimated 80,000 people to the island, increasing the population by 40%. There is NO city, county or state on the U.S. mainland that could sustain, or would allow, this kind of increase under any circumstances. The difference is, Guam is not a state, but an unincorporated territory of the U.S. (much like a handbag, or a vacation property). They have no voting member in congress, and their local government answers to the U.S. Department of the Interior.
But, back to the meeting! After a few minutes of planning, Vicky got a phone call from her Auntie Hope (former local Senator and Miss Guam Universe!!!), with an opportunity to do an interview with international freelance journalist Akiko Fujita.
You may be familiar with Ms. Fujita from her regular reports filed on NPR’s The World, WallStreetJournal.com, or Voice of America, the official external radio and television broadcasting service of the U.S. Federal Government. For obvious reasons, we cut the meeting short and headed to the mayor’s office in the village of Agat to rendezvous with Auntie Hope and Ms. Fujita.
From there we headed to Mt. Lam Lam, which is technically the tallest mountain in the world (it's base lies at the bottom of the Marianas Trench!). More significantly, it is one of many Chimorru-Catholic heritage sites that will be commandeered if the military buildup occurs as planned. With Mt. Lam Lam in the background, Vicky told the world what was at stake for her and her people… very powerful stuff. It was particularly powerful to watch three women, each impressive in their own right, working at the forefront of the struggle to protect the land… after all, you’ve never heard it called Father Earth..
On Wednesday we hit three spots: The Venue, Ralphy’s, and then some cutty karoake spot where we did our best to imitate the bands we’d been watching all night. I guess they call it “courage juice” for a reason.
Two of Vicky’s friends from the States arrived, and after stopping by their hotel, we headed right back out for another round of drinks and live music at The Venue. One thing that I’ve been impressed with so far is the quality of the live music here on Guam. Eat your heart out Seattle, this island is pound-for-pound one of the live music capitals of the planet, as far as I’m concerned. Granted, most of the bands only play “covers,” but they do know how to pick the tunes.
Every night we go out, and every night I can expect to catch a good act—without paying a cover (more money for libations!!!). This time Plan B was playing, and playing well. I can’t give all the details on how the night ended, but I met some more good people and made some good connections, including a kid that plays on Guam’s national soccer team (are you thinking what I’m thinking?). Also, before I left, the keyboard player offered to bring her sax next time so that I could jump in her spot at the ebony and ivory… that should be fun.
The highlight of Friday night was our dinner at Proa, a nice fusion restaurant near the beach. While most folks tiptoed around menu, I broke down and ordered the whole Prix Fix… what better way to spend my money, right? Chorizo empanadas, tasty fresh salad, pan-seared salmon over a linguine with sun dried tomato cream sauce… and yes, pomegranate frozen yogurt! I tried to take a doggy bag home for the next day’s lunch, but we ended up killing it on the late night at Vicky’s friend’s house. Makes me want to bring back the word “scrumptious.”
I got my first trip to the village of Talofofo in the south of the island. What started off as a birthday celebration for Vicky’s friend evolved into a 4-hour roundtable conversation about politics, iPhones, and everything in between. The conversation was fueled by two cooler-sized batches of "Mojo", a potent dranky drank punch concoction—something like island brass monkey.
After almost sleeping in, we piled in the car for a tour of the beautiful southern side of the island. Guam is broken down into 19 villages, each with slightly different geography, demographics, and twists on the local culture. The northern end is more densely populated and developed, while the south is known for being… well… BEAUTIFUL.
I got to ride a caribao (water buffalo), and I had my first taste of puqua (betel nut). Check out these pics from in and around the village of Umatac.
After the south island tour we regrouped and got ready to celebrate the graduation of one of Vicky’s cousins. Like me, he took his sweet time with the whole undergrad degree thing, so the finish line was that much more satisfying. One of the highlights of the night was when a mad band of people under four feet tall stormed the dance floor for the cutest rendition of the Cha Cha Slide you have ever seen.
Maybe I should not have been surprised, but I damn sure was when the New Boyz came on and one older kid started Jerkin’ harder than any kid out of the Inland Empire. The only thing that wasn’t completely authentic is that his jeans weren't three sizes too small and his shoes weren't neon green.
This time around I was prepared for the ridiculous amounts of meat prepared ten different ways, as well as the free-flowing drinks, big family, and all around good time.