Keeping In Touch

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Several years ago, I worked as a teacher in South Korea with a girl named Coleen. She recently wrote a blog about keeping in touch, and her post made me think. This is going to be a long story, but I want to explore how meeting people and keeping in touch with people has changed for me as technology has evolved.

I should start by saying that I have lived through a very special time in history, which I feel privileged to have experienced. I think all of us who were born in the 80’s grew up constantly adapting to new technologies, and we had no idea how to do it because no one had ever done it before.

Sure, people had to adjust to the car, and the printing press, and other advancements of that nature. However, it’s different with computers. They fundamentally changed the way we think about the stock market, the value of companies, keeping in touch, privacy, the nature of identity, and the relative value of entertainment and information. The pace of change sped up in the 80’s, and has not stopped since.

People born in the 90’s or later have only ever known a world where the pace of change is lightning-fast. The world will probably be this way forever now, where ideas spread across the planet in moments and memes surface in culture as instant reactions to events. No one in the future will understand what a slow, simple life used to be.

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When I was a child, there was no Internet. I remember that I once sat at my grandma’s feet as she hand-addressed Christmas cards for all of her family and friends. It was a very long list since she was a politician from a big family, and it took her a week to get through them all. As she did it, she told me how she knew each person and about why they were special to her. I don’t say this with any particular feeling of nostalgia; I just want to explain that things moved slowly in the 80’s. People had time to hand-address hundreds of cards and tell stories about the people they were for.

When computers got popular I was in on the ground floor with a BBS. That stands for “Bulletin Board System,” and it’s how people interacted using computer before the Internet. One computer could only call one other computer at a time, via a phone line. When the caller connected, they would see a personal page for the computer they were connecting to, called a bulletin board (like the first websites.) It was just scrolling text and ASCII images. There was also a section to upload files or comments, and I guess that was the first peer-to-peer indirect discussion via computer. It was new and exciting, and I loved it.

We used to have something called a GT, or Get Together, where people who ran various bulletin boards would meet up and talk about their computers, the content on their boards, and various other things. So for me, I learned to think of computers as a way to meet new people outside of my circle of family and friends. A person’s world used to be small. You could meet people at school, at work, or through people you already knew. Meeting people outside of your existing circles was hard. My grandma literally went door-to-door talking to strangers in person when she ran for office. It was the only way to reach out to new people outside of her existing circles. In my lifetime, with the help of computers, that began to change.

A new way to connect evolved. Not by school, local community, church, or other proximity-based means. Rather, you could connect with people based on interests. This was a big step for humans.

Very few people know this, but AOL was not the only option when the Internet came to computers. There was another company, called JUNO, which at first proclaimed that “the Internet should be free.” Some people had AOL accounts that they paid for, but I had a free JUNO account. On a side note, I am carefully following the concept of mesh networks and the conversation surrounding how to come up with a more democratic Internet by going back to peer-to-peer transfers instead of routing information through corporations. But alas! That should be its own post because there is a lot to talk about there.

The point is: After the BBS system, the Internet came to computers in the 90’s and non-geeks started getting involved in computers. New, online connections were formed by people in saltwater fish forums and knitting chat rooms, and a new way to make friends and keep in touch with old friends was born.

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My male friends were hired out of High School into jobs that paid six figures because they could code. However, the business men of the 90’s had no time for a girl, and so I watched my friends drop out to go work for banks and corporations, and I went to college instead. I

t was during an awkward stage when MySpace wasn’t on the scene yet, and people were mostly hanging out in AOL chat rooms or on private websites. I hung out on a website/discussion board hosted by a guy in the UK called Alexander King-Prime. It was a rudimentary scrolling social media page, and we (the members) traded ideas and writing.

Finally, in the late 90’s, social media really took off with MySpace and LiveJournal. This was back when people still used “handles” online instead of their real names, and so for a moment, the freedom of the Internet coexisted with privacy in a golden age. If it was up to me, we would go back to that. Instead of posting personal content, we would post thoughts and ideas under a screen name and mask our IP addresses. Privacy was cool. It’s too bad it’s over.

As I see it, privacy was killed by Facebook. It was Facebook that pioneered the idea that being part of the online conversation meant giving up your anonymity online. I resisted for a couple years in spite of multiple invites, because I felt extremely resistant to the idea of using my real name on the Internet. Our fear back in the BBS days was always that privacy would be taken away online and the government would start to ruthlessly monitor people. Facebook seemed intent on making it all too easy.

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Unfortunately, I got cancer. I needed healthcare fast, and I couldn’t afford it in the US. So, I moved to Asia. Being 7,000 miles away from people I cared about meant having to use the Internet to keep in touch, and that meant joining Facebook. I tried to keep my account locked down pretty tight and never allow games access to my page. I checked my privacy settings once a week because every time they changed something, they made sharing information the default. I was fastidious in the protection of my content.

Then, I gave up. It wasn’t one of those gradual things were I slowly stopped being concerned. I went from rarely uploading any content at all and carefully guarding what I did upload to consciously deciding to give up my privacy online.

It was 2011 and I was living in Suwon, South Korea. I guess my decision was partially related to learning how the Internet worked in Korea (you have to use your national ID number to get online.) It was also partially about a realization that I missed home, and I did want to leave a digital footprint and be searchable online so old friends could find me. If I am honest, there was some vanity in it as well. I do like to think that my life is interesting enough that someone else might care about it. It may sound self-absorbed or narcissistic, but part of me does hope that I have something to add to this collective conversation that our species is having.

Several factors were involved, but the realization hit me all at once: I should just give up on my old screen name and my love of being anonymous online, and let my content be archived with everyone else’s. I surrender. In the modern world, we all make digital footprints. I have to learn to live in that world, instead of holding on to the privacy I once treasured.

This blog used to be to review places that I visited, but it was devoid of personal content. It was about art galleries, bands, and lovely places. Yet in 2011, I gave up on the idea that it’s just to share beautiful things with the world. It was a nice idea, but anymore, having a blog is about managing your online content. It’s a place to post the pictures that I want people to see when they search my name, and to post the details of my resume and my skills. This is where I promote myself, because that is what the Internet has become; a place to promote yourself and manage your online image. We sell ourselves now like corporations used to sell frozen burritos. I can’t change that, so my only option is to embrace it.

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Giving in to using my real name online wasn’t enough for people. As soon as I joined Facebook, everyone started talking about Google +, Webbo, Pinterest, Twitter, Tumblr, Fetlife, LinkedIn, Instagram, and a thousand other sites that they wanted me to use to “keep in touch.” I tried for a while to join the sites that people asked me to, but you have to draw a line in the sand somewhere.

I have lived a lot of places, and I have known a lot of people. I loved Burbank, Portland, Phoenix, Suwon, Waxahatchi, etc… and my memories of the places that I have lived and the people I have met will always be special to me. However, I can’t get pressured into joining every online networking site that pops up. Social media (and computers in general) should only take up a limited amount of hours in a day. It has to be contained. If you let it, a computer can take over your entire life.

In fact, I think that is the biggest lesson to all of this: If you let it, a computer can take over your entire life. 

This means that each of us has to make our own personal compromise with technology in terms of how much we want to use it. It’s a very individual choice. I have a friend who loves video games because she enjoys the novelty of interactive stories (as opposed to TV and books where you have no control over the outcome.) I respect her love of video games and I don’t judge it. However, I am too obsessive with games (I’ll choose playing over eating and sleeping.) So, it turns out that they’re not for me. The same goes for Pinterest and DIY craft projects, living based on the opinion of Twitter, and a host of other things that other people enjoy.

I don’t make judgement about how others use technology. It’s up to you if you want to care about what’s hot on Instagram or what is streaming on Netflix right now. Some people invite a digital pretense into their home as well, in the form of AI like Cortana or Alexa. If you are comfortable with that, then I won’t judge you for it.

Jenifer DeLemont

My personal compromise with technology is this:

I update my Facebook a couple times a week because the bulk of my friends still check Facebook at least weekly. I keep a YouTube Channel of things I see that are cool. And, I update my personal website in order to maintain control of my digital footprint and protect “my brand” online. However, beyond that, I try to just create moments with people I care about in the most authentic ways that I can, so that I can maintain relationships over distance.

Example: I have Skype dates with my adopted family in Oregon because they like to see my face. I send flowers and chocolates to my grandmother in her nursing home, because she likes to show off that she gets flowers, and because she misses chocolate (she’s not supposed to have it because of her diet.) I invite friends who travel into my home, and try to bond with them over cooking meals and watching sunsets when they visit. And, I try to plan my vacations around being able to visit with at least one or two people I care about.

This story started because of Coleen, so let’s frame the point I am making around her for a second. The last time I saw Coleen I was on a trip back to Korea to visit people, and Rich got hit by a car in Seoul. He was in the hospital, and I took a break from haunting his bedside to get on a train to Busan and have dinner with Coleen. I brought her a towel from Guam, because American towels are in short supply in Asia and I knew she would get a lot of use out of it. We sat on Haeundae beach and looked out at the waves, and just shared stuff about our lives since we’d last met (which was several years before when we taught together at Avalon.) She’d lived in China and Iceland since then. I had lived in Oregon and Guam since then. And so, we caught each other up on our adventures.

That moment was not easy to create. I had to leave my husband in the hospital alone, buy an expensive train ticket, spend the day travelling, and bring a gift. However, it was worth every bit of effort and money. That is the real moral of the story of keeping in touch. True connection that is meaningful is often quite hard. It requires time, effort, and money.

Unless you live your entire life in one place, keeping in touch is always going to be a challenge. Technology can help you do it, but it can only do so much. Genuine connections are rare, and they don’t happen without putting in work. I am just saying that you should put in the effort to create moments with people, because it has a big impact on you and on them.

That said, I acknowledge that it is real work to update social media, as well. My friend Helena is a social media manager, and her entire job is updating social media for companies. I definitely don’t think anyone should shrug off or abstain from social media just because I have decided to put in a controlled and rationed amount of effort. That’s just my personal choice because I have a limited amount of time, and writing novels takes a lot of it (a purely selfish pursuit, but everyone should be allowed one or two selfish pursuits.) Anyway I don’t want to minimize the importance of online interaction because it can be really helpful. I met almost all of my friends through the Internet via various groups that led to meetups. I even met my husband online.

I just think there should be a balance between in-person interaction and online interaction, because one without the other is less meaningful.

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I also believe that in-person interaction can be augmented with objects if distance is an issue. I mean, I spent the last four years living in one of the most isolated places on Earth (the Marianas islands -of which Guam is a part- are in the middle of the Pacific Ocean pretty far from anything.) In spite of this, I managed to maintain good relationships with people.

My secret weapon is The Holiday Card. I came of age at the same time that the Internet was coming of age. I am supposed to be a “Xennial,” (the micro-generation between Generation X and the Millennial Generation.) I am told that this means I think everything should be augmented with technology, but I disagree. I think there is a little bit of pre-tech mentality in all Xennials, and in fact, maybe even in all humans.

A card is something you can touch and hold. It is tangible, and it can sit on a shelf and remind people that you love them even when you are far away. I create a whole experience with a holiday letter, a recent photo, and a card with a personal message inside and maybe a little drawing of a coconut tree with Christmas lights or something. On trips back to the mainland, I have seen shoeboxes labeled “JD,” and filled with my holidays cards and post cards. This is why little scraps of paper sent across the world matter. They are special to people. People save them and treasure them. And when you can’t be with people, it makes them connect with you from half a world away.

The next step in technology will hopefully be virtual reality goggles and upgraded chat rooms. I’ll put on my headset in Guam and walk into a room that only exists online, and there will be my friend rendered in 3D, sitting at a table. I’ll sit down next to them, and we’ll lift our glasses and toast (hopefully complete with glass clinking sound effects,) and we’ll catch up as if we were together. It’s won’t be easy with time zones, as Skype has already taught me. But, we’ll make it work once every six months or so.

Until then, I guess I will just keep maintaining my digital footprint, updating my Facebook, keeping a YouTube Channel, and sending little scraps of paper covered in love to people around the world. We’ll all just keep working on negotiating our personal relationships with technology while trying to maintain relationships with humans, and hopefully, we’ll keep making it work.

For those who are struggling to find connection, please never hesitate to call me, Skype me, text me, e-mail me, or connect in whatever way you find most comfortable. I don’t want anyone I care about to ever feel alone or alienated by the world. Connection makes people happy. We thrive on being loved and feeling like we are part of a group. There is so much to balance these days with work, social media, recreation, family, and romance. A human can wind up feelings totally overwhelmed by obligations and still not connected. However, I will always do what I can to reach out and make a personal connection with someone in need.

Example: on Valentine’s day, someone I know in the mainland US was feelings really alone. I spent some time chatting and tried to figure out what would most help. Two days later an envelope arrived on their doorstep with a flash drive full of data customized to cheer them up. It was like a hug from 7,000 miles away. I am quite proud of that because this is a person had sort of a hard time in Afghanistan and has sometimes leaned on me for a feeling of connection in the past, and I am honored that I could help.

Humans need to look out for other humans. We are a society, and we are all responsible for each other. If we let people fall (into addiction, crime, or suicide) then we are all failing as a species. Every mind has a unique beauty, and a distinct and special perspective. So computers or not: take time to connect with other humans through some medium.

Keeping in touch is so important, and it will never go out of style.

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Australia


First, I am back home in Guam. We will be here until around August or September. Then we move to Oahu.

Now then:

I recently went on an Australian adventure. I will do a few detailed posts about the things I saw and did, but here is an overview of where I went.

First, I went to Bondi Beach and stayed in a hostel there. I did the coastal walk and snorkeled in Clovelly Bay with a woman from my Snorkel Travel Friends group. I explored the shops and sat and talked with people, and I had a great time.

Later, I moved to a hostel near central station in Sydney. I took the Big Bus Tour and got off to see all the major attractions like the Opera House and some of the old Cathedrals. Then I went on a Blue Mountains tour and met up with my friend Shari from Melbourne.

Finally, I met my friend Melissa and took a flight to Cairns. We went out to the Great Barrier Reef and snorkeled at several spots while living abroad a ship called The Kangaroo Explorer. After that, we went up to the town of Kurunda to see the rain forest.

My very last day was spent in Sydney watching the fireworks for Australia Day. Finally, I flew to Hawaii and then home to Guam.

Right now I am catching up on my sleep and sorting through photos, but soon I will share some of the better shots of the reef, and of my other adventures.

My Artwork

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I have never considered myself to be an artist.

However, I do make art from time to time.

It’s not great or anything, but it’s fun to make.

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I started out just drawing things with colored pens, because I am about five years old on the inside.

However, there is only so much that you can do with colored pens.

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However, inspired by my friend Will, I have started doing watercolors which I draw on with pen.

I thought I would share, since I guess that is what this blog is all about.

I hope you like them!

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Memories

As I get ready to leave Guam this year in August, I am feeling nostalgic about places I have lived and visited.

I have been so lucky so have had such cool adventures. I thought I would tell you about some of my favorites.

I grew up in Arizona. People think that it’s all desert, and some of it is. However, a lot of Arizona is also forest. It’s a very diverse state.

Jenifer DeLemont
Me with Oak Creek Canyon Behind Me

 

Jenifer DeLemont
On My Way to Graduation

 

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In Flagstaff with a fern

 

Jenifer DeLemont, JD DeLemont
At Havasu Falls inside The Grand Canyon

Then, there was South Korea. I loved it there so much! I got to experience seasons for the first time. I also got to teach cute kids and make lots of friends that I still keep in touch with.

I also learned to read and write Hangul, which is the Korean written language. My spoken Korean is not as good as my Spanish, but I did my best.

South Korea is an amazing country. If anyone is thinking of visiting: I recommend it!

Jenifer DeLemont, JD DeLemont
In Busan in front of the Aquarium

 

Jenifer DeLemont, JD DeLemont
At EverLand, and Amusement Park in South Korea
Jenifer DeLemont at The Folk Villiage
At the Folk Village in Suwon, South Korea
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At the Cherry Blossom Festival in Seoul

I also went to Japan and spent some time there. I really liked the Shinto cemeteries, which have clapping sticks to keep the dead company.

I went to a Cherry Blossom Festival, enjoyed the night life, had tea at a traditional tea house, and in general just enjoyed Tokyo. It was a beautiful place to visit, and I hope to go back some day.

Jenifer DeLemont
Uneo Park in Tokyo
Jenifer DeLemont in Japan
In front of a Pagoda in Japan
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In front of a stone lantern
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A Shinto Cemetery I visted

France was amazing as well. The food was so good! I know it’s a cliche to say that the food was the best part, but it really was impressive.

I went for Christmas, so I got to see Paris all decked out for the holiday. It was cold, but thankfully there was no snow. I get cold so easily since I am from the desert…

Jenifer DeLemont
Standing in front of the Eiffel Tower
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In front of Notre Dame
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Amazing Cheesecake in Paris
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In front of the Louvre

I also went to England to visit my cousin Stacy. It was really lovely.

Being an American, I guess I think of the U.K. as where most of our culture came from. It certainly has a certain amount of familiarity to it.

The British Museum was a lot of fun, and I tried my first fish and chips after! I also saw all the London Landmarks.

Jenifer DeLemont
Big Ben and the London Eye

 

Jenifer DeLemont in London
At the British Museum with my cousin Stacy

 

Jenifer DeLemont
Me with Big Ben

 

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In front of Westminster Abbey

As for Thailand, I always wanted to go there, because I worked at a Thai restaurant in High School and they made it sound so amazing. I have to say, after 20 years of wanting to see it, I was not disappointed! I got to meet elephants, swim in the ocean, and check out several temples.

I only spent a month backpacking around in Thailand, and it left barely long enough. Definitely plan a long trip if you go!

Jenifer DeLemont
On a waterfall hike outside Chang Mai
Jenifer DeLemont
An orchid stall at the flower market in Bangkok.
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On the island of Koh Samui.
Jenifer DeLemont
Meeting elephants!

Australia is fabulous! I really fell in love with the land and the people.

I went to visit my friends Melissa and Shari, but I had always wanted to see the country as well. I felt drawn to it because most of Australia is as dry as Arizona. They could also easily rival each other in terms of dangerous animals.

I highly recommend visiting Australia.

Jenifer DeLemont
The Blue Mountains

 

Jenifer DeLemont
Hiking in the Blue Mountains

 

Jenifer DeLemont
A blue grouper in the ocean in Sydney.

 

Jenifer DeLemont
Watson’s Bay in Sydney

 

Jenifer DeLemont
The opera house

 

Jenifer DeLemont
In the rain forest in Kuranda

 

Jenifer DeLemont
On the Great Barrier Reef

I lived in Oregon after South Korea and before Guam.

It is where my family still lives. My mom is in Gresham, which is right outside Portland. And, my aunt is in Hood River. We have our family reunions in Seaside.

I love the Pacific Northwest. Even though I didn’t grow up there, having my family live there makes it feel like home.

Jenifer DeLemont
At the Shakespeare Garden in Portland

 

Jenifer DeLemont
At the Japanese Gardens in Portland

 

Jenifer DeLemont
At the lava flats in Oregon

 

Jenifer DeLemont
At the Oregon Coast Aquarium

Guam has been fabulous.

At first it was a little hard to move to an island. Islands are so small, and it’s a challenge to find anything on island (food and clothes, for example.) Sometimes all the stores are just out of everything. And no one delivers to Guam!

However, I really came to love the reefs here and the whole underwater world. It’s been so much fun, and Rich has liked his job here on the USS Emory S. Land.

Jenifer DeLemont
Rich and I at Umatac Bay

 

Jenifer DeLemont
Just me scuba diving
Jenifer DeLemont
Hiking to waterfalls in the jungle

 

Jenifer DeLemont
A bite of dragon fruit, which grows here on Guam

 

Jenifer DeLemont
Tumon Bay where I live

And now we are off to Oahu. I have visited several times, since we need to go through Oahu to get anywhere from Guam. So far, I have really enjoyed it. I am terrified about buying a house there and finding a job. But, I know I’ll be able to do it.

Jenifer DeLemont
Me with a turtle in Oahu

 

Jenifer DeLemont
Holding a pillow star fish in Oahu

Happy Western New Year

We have reached the end of 2017 by the Western Calendar, and that means we are supposed to be reflecting on the past year and looking forward to the next.

(Those of you in Asia can wait until the Lunar calendar caches up in February. And, happy year of the dog to you!)

Looking back at my last year, I have spend nearly all of my time taking, editing, and compiling photos of the reefs around Guam. These will be donated to NOAA along with my notes on things I have observed on the reefs since my arrival.

I am really grateful that this is the year we leave.

It has been heartbreaking the last few years to watch the coral reefs dying, and I don’t like being an environment that makes the raw pain of it completely inescapable. Plus, it has been summer now for three and a half year. I mean, it’s always summer in Guam. But I have been in Guam for three and a half years.

Only my Arizona friends can truly understand why I would be so salty about three and a half years of summer. No one else dreads the summer like those of us who have lived in a desert.

I often joke that I reached my lifetime allowance of sunshine a few years back and I don’t ever need to see the sun again.

While this is largely a joke, I have already had melanoma removed from my nose. (Thank god I was diagnosed in South Korea where a plastic surgeon handles any facial tumors being removed.)

I genuinely hope we get Alaska or Washington next so that I can enjoy some darkness and cold for a few years. I know that some of you can’t understand that sentiment. But, I hope some of you can.

Anyway, Happy New Year!

Where We Go Next

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I am saying this with all the love in the world, but friends of mine: We need to talk.

We found out that we are going to Hawaii after we leave Guam. The moment I posted about it on Facebook, I was inundated with people saying “We’ll come visit you.” More than 50 people sent me messages over the course of two days telling me that they planned to visit me in Hawaii and that they expected to be able to stay at my home.

This was really disappointing to me, and I want to talk a little about why that is.

1. Our home in Guam is really nice. Seriously, we live in a beachfront condo. You just go down the elevator and you are on the beach. It’s RIGHT THERE. We have a Jacuzzi that looks out over the ocean, so you and your travel companion (or just you) can soak in a huge tub with jets bubbling, and watch the sun set over the ocean. The place is nearly 2,000 square feet with a big living room and a master bedroom big enough that you could fit the apartment I lived in when I was in college into it. I frequently post pictures of the view from my desk saying “We will never have a view this nice again.” That is so very, very true.

The reason that I am telling you this is because a beachfront condo in Guam doesn’t cost that much, but a beachfront condo in Hawaii starts at $2 million dollars. We will not live in a beachfront condo in Hawaii. It’s a tourist destination, and as such, it is expensive. We are going to end up in a shack. I was looking at apartments in Hawaii and the ones in our price range are the size of the master bathroom in our current home. I am talking under 400 square feet for the entire place.

So a big part of why you should visit us in Guam is because we live a life of relative luxury that just isn’t possible anywhere else. And that matters, because I don’t really want you to come stay in my 390 square ft apartment. In fact, I don’t even want to share something that small with Rich, and we are married.

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2. I don’t have a job on Guam. I have a car and I have time, and I can chauffeur you around to any place you want to see. I can take you hiking to see waterfalls, get you on base for exclusive snorkeling and diving, or take you to empty beaches like Tanguissen and Haputo. I have time to play tour guide and show you around while I am here on Guam.

The reason that I have time to show you around is two-fold.

First, Rich gets two extra living allowances here; one for utilities and one for “sea pay” since he is technically on a ship.

In addition, it is so remote and hard to live here that it is considered a “hardship duty station,” (which comes with extra perks that we won’t get in Hawaii.) A lot of this is because there are no stores for furniture, clothes, and food, and it’s just not an easy place to live. If you visit it’s no problem, but if you were here long enough for your shoes to wear out, you would soon find out that you can’t buy new shoes here. And no, we have no access to Amazon Prime and most places do not ship here.

Anyway, those extra living allowances and perks let me not have a job because they cover our expenses. But when we got to Hawaii, all of that goes away.

Second, there are no jobs here on Guam besides those in restaurants.

I hurt my back about two years ago, and my physical therapist told me that I cannot lift more than 30 pounds anymore unless I want to have disks fused. So, restaurants and the heavy lifting that goes with them are out. Yet all other businesses here will only hire locals, so I haven’t been able to work.

However, I will be working as soon as we get to Hawaii because there are jobs I can do there, and that means I will have no time to play tour guide. If you come stay in our shack in Hawaii, you will be on your own for adventure.

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3. And finally, Guam is a better place to visit. It may be hard to live here, but if you are only coming for vacation, it is the superior destination. There are only 170,000 people on Guam, and many of them are military or hiding in a shack in the jungle. That means that very few of them go out to the beaches. I frequently go to the beach and am the only person there. I am not Photoshopping tourists out of my pictures; there just aren’t any.

If you come to Guam, we can walk over to turtle rock, put down a beach blanket, and sit in the shade listening to the waves for hours without a single bird, human, or anything else to bother us. It is peaceful.

If you come to Hawaii, you will be lost in a mob of tourists. There are places that you go snorkel there where you can’t even get into the water until they check your sunscreen to make sure it is coral safe, charge you a “protection fee,” and then make you watch a safety video. There is traffic, noise, and every single beach is crowded. And if you bring food, the birds will take it. (Unlike Guam where we literally don’t have birds. No really. Google it.)

Oh! And don’t forget the coral. Hawaii has rocks. Guam has coral. Hawaii has a few fish and some turtles. We have as much life as the rain forest under water because the equator is like that. And don’t forget that the water here is as warm as a bathtub and calm, while the water in Hawaii is chilly even in the summer and has rip tides.

In conclusion, you are making a bad decision if you think that you want to visit us in Hawaii instead of Guam. I know it’s a longer plane flight to Guam and it costs a little bit more. But if you factor in your level of comfort, taxi and bus fare, and all the other extra expenses you would have visiting us in Hawaii, you’ll see that it’s really not cheaper.

Yes, marketing has told you that Hawaii is this beautiful vacation spot. I get that. I know it’s hard to imagine that it is the inferior vacation destination. However, that is exactly the case. It’s just not as nice of a place to visit as Guam.

Forget the marketing and listen to someone who has spent time on both the island of Oahu and the island of Guam. I have first-hand experience with everything I am talking about here. Guam is not the nicer place to live (because Hawaii has stores where I can buy things and Guam does not,) but Guam is by far the better place to visit. You want to come here before we leave in September of 2018. This is where I can offer you a really great experience.

I cannot promise a really great experience in Hawaii.

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What I Am Reading

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I always heard that it is important for a writer to read a lot. I think that’s true, although there is only so much time in a day, and I do love outdoor activities.

Currently, I am reading a book called Gulp, by one of my very favorite authors, Mary Roach. She has written some amazing books, my favorite of which is BonkBonk (because I actually giggled out loud a bunch while reading it.) But I have loved everything she has ever written, and been following her since she had a column in Reader’s Digest called Pardon My Planet.

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I also recently re-read the Harry Potter Series for the 20th Anniversary. They were good books to bring on our recent vacation because they are engaging enough to read on a plane with screaming kids.

Some books are good, but maybe not the kind of books that you can read in a train station in Calcutta or a subway in Seoul.

My battered paperbacks of Harry Potter have served me well through all the chaos of travel, and have managed to grab my attention no matter how loud my surroundings. If you need to ignore someone else’s screaming kids, Harry Potter will never fail you.

Plus, the TSA in the US is always scary and often they are not very nice. But, I got one of them to laugh out loud when he asked: “Do you have an e-reader, tablet, laptop, or other device in your backpack?” And I replied, “No, Sir. I have a book.”

The line got quite and everyone stared at me like I had horns and a tail. It was awesome. I pulled out my copy of The Half Blood Prince and flashed it around, and I got a lot of laughs.

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Another series I was recently reading was the Sookie Stackhouse books. If you have seen the HBO series called True Blood then I am sorry, because it was pretty awful. But the books are awesome and I had read them ages ago as they came out. I recently found out that the series was finally complete, and so I bought the last two and re-read the whole thing. It was a lot of fun, and each book only takes a day or two at most. Wait in a few lines at the post office or the bank, let a few meals simmer and stir occasionally while reading, and you’re done before you know it.

My students in Korea used to be aghast that I would walk while reading. They thought it was perfectly scandalous. But like any avid reader, I have read while doing pretty much everything, even showering (holding the book out of the spray, of course.)

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Sometime else I took a second look at recently was the Anne of Green Gables books. I hadn’t read them since 8th grade, and I forgot how… let’s say “dated” they are. But, I loved them dearly.

I actually cried reading them because it was so intense to read something that I had been reading back when I was an awkward pre-teen in a loveless home full of abuse. During some parts, I remembered my biological mother screaming at me so clearly that it was almost like she was in the room. It was always in such stark contrast to the books, where Marilla and Matthew love Anne and think of her as the light of their life.

Point is: If you never read Anne of Green Gables, they are charming and worth a look.

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I know a lot of people are re-reading American Gods because of the TV show. I thought about it. But American Gods is another one of those really engaging books, and so it used to be my go-to book on long plane rides. I think I can actually quote nearly the whole thing from memory by now, so I decided not to jump on that boat.

I do have the new Mary Roach book, Grunt, on the way. I am looking forward to that. But if you have any other recommendations, please get in touch and let me know. I always need book recommendations. I don’t have enough friends that read now, and I find that extremely depressing.