Nothing to do in Paradise?
Just this past week, I bowled in my regular Sunday and Thursday night bowling league at the local bowling alley, in addition to a bowling tournament that the wife and I participated in last weekend. We also attendended a “debutante” celebration at the Guam Nikko Hotel, hit the beach, took in a movie, went to the mall and The Home Depot, visited a local coffee house for breakfast, and made regular morning visits to the gym. I also had a Dr’s appointment. It seems we barely had time to do much relaxing (let alone blogging and editing videos). Overall, this is about our normal pace of living on Guam. Seems I barely have enough time to squeeze in some fishing, snorkeling or diving. This morning I was sitting in the sauna with a few others after my workout and there was this guy from New York who was spouting off about how Guam is boring and that there is nothing to do on the island. I joined in and offered “You mean like in NYC in the middle of the winter during a snowstorm?” That ended that conversation.
When I was first stationed here with the Navy (two tours during the 70’s), I quickly observed how many of the young sailors who just hung around the barracks everyday and did nothing but listen to their huge fancy stereos and got their buzz on. We had a pool table and a couple of beer machines in the barracks lounge and it seemed there were always a few guys and gals that rarely left the building (except to go to work). Actually, I was also guilty of employing loud music and beer consumption during all hours of the day (shift worker), but after a while, I found it all to be a rather boring lifestyle. Being a flatlander straight from the cornfields of Illinois, I just had to get out and experience this strange new tropical world. I mean, I could have stayed in Illinois and listened to loud Rock ‘n Roll music and consumed alcohol! It wasn’t long before I realised that I could go to the beach and drink beer, and partake in other things like snorkeling, diving, and bikini watching! Point being, just sittting around drinking beer and complaining about having nothing to do was just, well… it was just an excuse to do just that,sit around and complain some more. It is also eeirly reminiscent of what many expats in the Philippines find themselves doing after a few years of living there (with the exception that there really is nothing to do in many places there… except drink beer!) Of course, there is plenty to do around Manila if you don’t mind all the traffic and no beaches close at hand.
What the Heck is this Chinese food?
After first arriving on Guam in 1974, and after a few months passed, I purchased a new motorcycle; a Kawasaki F-9 – 350cc, single cylinder, street-legal dirt bike. It was everything the doctor ordered to keep me from suffering from the affliction of boredom… and maybe even alchoholism. It was like having my freedom ticket punched and it allowed me to escape the “barracks life.” This is not to project that there was nothing to do whilst living on-post. The base provided a wide variety of recreational things such as intramural sports, a bowling alley, a movie theater, wood and auto hobby shops, swimming pool, tennis courts, racquetball/squash, a large gymnasium, and a library. But, you really needed transportation if you wanted to travel to and include the beach life. There you could include boating, surfing, snorkeling, diving, fishing, and all that that encompasses island living. Having those two wheels gave this corn-bred fool a chance to explore all that Guam and their Southeast Asian culture could throw at me. My first real exposure to rice eaters was here on Guam and my first ever Chinese food experience was here at the House of Chin Fe’ (and they are still here!). And then there were the fiestas! But I digress.
Today, Guam is even more alive than it was 45 years ago and offers just about every ammenity one could ever need to enjoy life. What I have observed though is that military barracks life still goes on, and many barracks residents still remain reclusive, with internet and gaming technology now to blame. No more beer machines in the barracks lounge to help babysit the young soldiers and sailors of years past with the idea that “self-entertainment” was designed to help keep them out of trouble. On the contrary… these days, the military looks at alchohol as the purveyor of all that trouble. My wife thinks that another reason for such reclusivity is due to a strange failure for these young kids to adapt to or readily accept Guam’s “Asian” culture. Believe it or not, there are those few that just DON’T like it here.
As one who has come to this part of the world to fufill his life’s ambitions, Guam and Philippines offer me a perfect variety of first and third (“developing”) world living. Spending time in both locations ensures a good mix of life’s simple enjoyments with some perfect relaxation. Of course it is cheaper to live in the Philippines, and while Guam is slightly cheaper than Hawaii, if you can afford to spend any time on Guam you will find that most any westerner’s wants and needs can be attained here. Occasionally I will cross paths with a traveling expat doing his visa run or maybe visiting Guam for medical reasons. I’ve met several guys here that have that same long-term physical connection with the Western Pacific as I do, and they also travel back and forth from Guam to the Philippines, just as we have been doing.
From Hagatna (Agana) Guam, it is only a 3.5 hour trip to Manila. There are main-land’ers as well as Aussies, Canadians, Europeans, and other nationalities living here, including a few Russians. My next door neighbor is a Brit. And many of us all have one primary thing in common… we all have Filipina or Asian spouses.
The last census breaks down the demographics like this: Chamorro 37.3%, Filipino 26.3%, white 7.1%, Chuukese 7%, Korean 2.2%, other Pacific Islander 2%, other Asian 2%, Chinese 1.6%, Palauan 1.6%, Japanese 1.5%, Pohnpeian 1.4%, mixed 9.4%, other 0.6% (2010 est.)