Just Photos Around Guam

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This is me at the top of Mt. Lam Lam. There are not a lot of mountains to climb, so I just climb the same one over and over. Island life, huh?

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This is the “desert” side of the island down South. There are a lot of trails to valleys with waterfalls and pools to swim in. I like the tall grass and the red dirt. They contrast well with the blue sky and the fluffy clouds.

 

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This is me with the first waterfalls that you come to on the Tarzan Falls hike. They are smaller than the main waterfall, but still pretty.

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This is Tumon Bay, where we live. It is the most beautiful view I have ever had, and I know we’ll never have such a beautiful view out of our windows again.

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These are wildflowers out on the trail. Usually you just see types of ground orchids, but these pretty lacy flowers are new to me.

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Rich and I at Hamamoto Fruit World. It is basically just a really big orchard for tropical fruit trees, but I really liked it because I love plants.

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This is the view from Two Lover’s Point. You are looking down at Tumon Bay, and one of the short little buildings in the middle is our condo building.

passion flower

This is my favorite flower. It is called a Passion Flower. They come in different colors. When I was a little girl, my aunt had some that were orange and purple. I loved them. The ones here are mostly white, but they are still pretty.

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!

College Reunion

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I recently went on a long trip.  One of the things I did was go to my unofficial college reunion in Arizona.

My best friends in college were two lovely women named Sidra and Clarice. Both of them are doing well now, and it was a lot of fun to catch up. I am really glad that I took the time and spent the money to make it possible.

The reunion brought up a lot of thoughts and feelings for me. Most of them are sort of private, but I did want to share a few things that might help others.

1. Keep in touch with snail mail.

I am always surprised at how much it means to people to get post cards and seasonal greeting cards. I guess this is because mail is always exciting. You can hold it in your hand, and put it on your refrigerator. It is a way to display that someone thought of you. Most people just get bills and junk mail, so getting things you didn’t expect that make you happy can be very special.

I have been sending post cards and holiday greeting cards for about 20 years, and I think this is part of what makes people feel like they are still connected to me, even after years apart. I had not seen Sidra and Clarice in 10 years due to all of us being in different countries, but we still felt connected and like we were good friends.

Though it might seem silly, I will also add that I never got a label maker, nor do I run envelopes through my printer. I hand address each envelope, write a personal message referencing things in the person’s life, and include a Holiday Letter talking about my year. People bring up these personal touches when they see me, and thank me for them. That is how I know that they matter.

2. Make connections in college.

We all know that nepotism is how people get the really good jobs. The narrative is that anyone can do anything if they go to college, but the reality is that without connections, your degree is meaningless.

In college, I was so busy working to support myself, studying, and looking after my wayward aerospace engineer boyfriend that I missed a lot of chances to connect. I should have gone to my professor’s office hours and “kissed ass,” as they say. I should have tried to make more friends on campus. (And, probably richer more powerful friends.) I should have seen the scholarship breakfasts I had to go to as an opportunity instead of a burden.

The truth is; I was so busy surviving that I forgot to live. I wish that I had put more effort into climbing ladders instead of just working hard and thinking that would be enough to succeed. I bought the lie. I regret that.

3. Take chances.

I still regret winning a scholarship to study in Costa Rica in college, but then deciding not to take it. I was afraid that my boyfriend would get kick out of school while I was away (since he had so much trouble getting up in the morning.) I was worried that my boss would replace me at work. I was worried about where to store my stuff…

The truth is, I still regret not going.

If you get the chance to have a new or different experience, just take it! Even if you have to find a new job when you get back and put your stuff in storage. Just do it!

It’s true what they say: You only regret the chances you don’t take.

Over the years I have done a lot of wild things, like running away with the Renaissance Festival and then taking off to teach in South Korea. I don’t regret any of those things. But I still regret not doing that semester abroad.

I am hardly an oracle of brilliant advice. I am just a person who has been wandering around the world for awhile now, and I would like to think that those three pieces of advice are pretty solid.

I guess it also goes without saying that you should never lose touch with your friends. I am so glad I kept in touch with Clarice and Sid all these years!

Bagby Hot Springs

A lot of people do the Baby Hot Springs hike because they want to soak in the hot springs. This is a perfectly reasonable thing to do most of the time, but not while I was there!

I was in Oregon was the worst heat wave that they had seen in a long time, and even up around Mount Hood, it was still extremely hot.

Still, we went up to soak our feet in the cold stream near the hot springs, and to relax in the shade where it was cool.

After three years of hiking through jungle, I have to say, it’s really very pretty in Oregon. I forgot the dark shades of green that you find in the forest, and how beautiful the bark is on pine and cedar trees.

As you know,  love plants.

And, the plants in the forest near the hot springs are so lush and pretty even in the midst of the heat and the dry weather.

We even saw various kinds of neat fungus along the trail.

I went with my adopted mom and my husband. The three of us are not the kind of hikers who go for distance. We go for experience. And, this is an easy hike and a nice experience.

That reminds me, if you are interested in other easy hikes in Oregon, I would recommend The Creaky Knees Guide, which my mom got me for my birthday.

It has a lot of trails for those of us who are looking for more -shall we say- relaxing hikes?

I should warn that the stream is snow and glacier melt, so it’s not really a good idea to swim in it. We did see some people jump in (seemingly to prove that they could.) However, they got right back out.

Sometimes people don’t realize that you can get hypothermia in Oregon in the dead heat of summer. However, when you are in 35-degree water for too long, I assure you that you can.

The pools in the stream near the hot springs are absolutely deep enough to swim in. There is no reason you can’t swim in them. If you are hot and sweaty, there is no doubt that it would be refreshing.

Just, don’t stay in too long.

Mom soaked her feet because they swell when she hikes. She’s a nurse, so it was really nice of her to go hiking with us in spite of the fact that she spends 14-hour days on her feet all week at the VA.

However, I think we all enjoyed spending some time in nature. There is something about running water, moss, and deep green trees that soothes the soul, if you know what I mean. It just feels good.

There stream is mostly wide with a lot of deep pools, but it funnels through this one part where it is narrow, and I took a video because I love the way water looks crashing over rocks. Enjoy!

Thoughts on Seaside

Hug Point

One of the places that I went while I was on my stateside trip was Seaside, Oregon.

This is a town that is hard for me to explain, because it strikes right at the heart of middle-class American life in a way that makes me nostalgic and a bit sad.

My biological family (who abandoned me, as you all know) used to go to Rio De Mar in California each summer for a family reunion. So, the adopted family also having a beach reunion can -in and of itself- cut a little deep.

However, there is more too it than that.

Seaside is a town full of what I can only call classic American kitsch and, it can make anyone Generic American feel nostalgic. I fear that bit might need explaining…

Seaside

I hate to talk about race/culture differences because people always attack people who bring it up (like if you ignore it, it might go away.) But if I want to be honest about the Seaside experience I have no choice but to mention it.

See, as a kid I went to a summer camp at Sierra College. My two best friends there were a Chinese girl who went by “Christine” (so white people could say her name) and a black girl named Michele.

I used to sit and eat lunch with them every day, and we talked about our lives and our toys, and things we did with our parents.

Their stories were different than mine.

Christine went to CLC (a kind of Chinese school,) watched her mom pay Mahjong, and helped out at the family business. They went on summer trips to visit family in China, too. Christine always brought food that I liked, so we traded lunches. She was excited to eat my peanut butter and jelly, and I liked to eat her cold noodles and rice crackers.

As for Michele, she usually had a bought lunch because her mom didn’t have time to pack her one. Her family came from Somolia and she didn’t talk much because English wasn’t her first language, but she did tell us bits about being Muslim and attending an Eid festival.

I want to stress that their experiences were no less American than mine. But they are not Generic American. They are uniquely American. (Which is maybe cooler since diversity is kind of our thing as a country.)

There are differences in race/culture in this country, and there is no point in denying that some of us had experiences that others didn’t.

The point is: Seaside is nostalgic for people raised in the Generic American culture of the 80’s and 90’s. Christine would not find Seaside nostalgic because her childhood cultural experience is not represented there. But, mine is.

Also, a disclaimer: When I say race/culture it is because it is not one or the other that determines experience. I know white people from Poland who were raised Polish rather than Generic American. I also know people of Chinese or Mexican decent who had the same Generic American experience as me with crystal-growing kits and light brights and the whole thing. So when I say Generic American, it is exactly that. It is the experience that Americans have when they are not raised with extras, and only get the generic culture laying around.

I hope that makes sense, because I think it helps explain Seaside.

Seaside Aquarium

Seaside is a small town with restaurants, an aquarium, shops, and boardwalk attractions like bumper cars and mini golf. It really can’t be described as anything other than Classic American Kitsch.

I saw a Simon game in a store and remembered the hours I used to spend playing with one of those. I saw a tie dye kit and remembered the adults bringing us one when I was a kid to keep us busy while they sunbathed (and yes, of course we all ended up covered in dyes of various colors, as you do.) I saw bottles to put sand in, bags of shells for sale, and every other generic thing you ever had or saw as a kid.

I guess some of it is classically west coast. I mean, I hear that the shells and beaches are different on the east coast. I have never been to an east coast beach, so I really couldn’t say. But my husband is from Massachusetts and he says its different over there.

me in birthday hat

Seaside has a hat store full of silly hats that everyone goes in and tries on because the photos are amazing. There are squid hats and pizza hats. There are huge hats that look like Jacky-O would have worn them, and silly hats for festivals or Halloween.

There is also a carousel, because on the west coast I feel like every beach town is required to have one. The fee was $2, which I considered a bit steep, but what can you do? It might be things I remember from the 80’s, but the prices have inflated (as, I guess, is to be expected.)

And of course, there are store full of junk. I don’t know what else to call it. It’s just stuff.  I know lots of people like stuff and work their whole lives to acquire it. But, as someone who moves all the time, stuff is just dead weight to me. I guess that means I don’t appreciate it properly. Sorry. But you might appreciate it, so I took lots of pictures.

silly things for sale

We have been stationed in Guam for three years now. Before that I was in South Korea for three years. The plants are strikingly different in those places, and so there is something about walking down the streets in Seaside and seeing pots full of succulent cactus. There were also lots of lavender and hollyhocks, and post of petunias and violets.

As you know if you know me at all, I really love plants. I notice them more than I think most people do, and they are a huge part of what I feel to be the soul of a place.

Anyway, Seaside plants are of the same sort that you find in Northern California (Where I was born and spent the first 12 years of my life.) So, it feels a lot like home. I even saw California poppies in front of the little museum the town has.

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The air is amazing too.

I post of lot of pictures of Guam. When you look at one, you can see what Guam is like, but you cannot feel what Guam is like. Each picture of a beach in Guam should come with the oppressive heat and sun that only the equator can provide, and mosquitoes buzzing in your ear the way that they always are in Guam. That’s the full experience, you know?

By the same token, pictures of Seaside don’t really cover what it is like. You are missing the biting cold wind that makes you snuggle into your hoodie, and the clean smell of the air that makes you feel happy and alive.

Another thing that I found striking was to remember the sound of the waves. In Guam, the waves break out of the reef, far away from the beach. But in Seaside, the waves come right up to the shore and you can hear them breaking. It’s a lovely sound.

cute little shops

My adopted mom loves the salt water taffy. I think that was a big part of the west coast experience when she was young, about 50 years ago. She talks fondly of seeing it made in store windows and such. I tried it and it is rough on the teeth. (I have a lot of fillings.) However, I don’t hate it.

There are also a variety of other restaurants. When my friends drove down from Seattle to see us, we even found one on the main street that allows dogs (since they brought their new puppy.)

There are quite a few places to get elephant ears, cotton candy, and hot dogs. I guess that is pretty standard boardwalk food, although Seaside doesn’t have a boardwalk. I guess to sum it up, if you were feeling like an old-fashioned root beer in a glass bottle and something on a stick, you would be able to find it in Seaside.

flower by the beach

There are also a lot of places that are only a short drive away. Canon Beach, for example, is just up the road and full of all kinds of lovely art galleries and bakeries. It’s a nice place to spend a day.

There is also Astoria, just up the coast. It’s the town where they filmed a movie called Goonies, and also another cute little ocean-side town full of kites for sale and beach blankets.

We went to Hug Point this year, and the beach there is charming. I also loved the tide pools, full of sea anemones and star fish. There is even an old section of highways down on the beach, which is completely covered in barnacles and muscles.

So, if you get a beach house in Seaside and then want to take short adventures, there is no shortage of nearby places to go and see.

 

 

bumper cars

I guess my strong emotional reaction to Seaside is rooted in growing up on the west coast in a very generic american household of middle class people. It is exactly the kind of place that people like I grew up with go on vacation, and it is really intense that my adopted family should hold their reunion there.

It is no accident that I was re-reading the Harry Potter series on this trip.

The family reminds me of the Weasleys. They are not rich or fancy, but they love each other deeply. And they adopted Harry because he was alone in the world and they felt that everyone deserves a loving family. That is, as far as I can tell, the same reason that the Layman family adopted me.

It’s not exactly the same as having a biological family. Nothing is. But when you don’t have a biological family, the next best thing is to have loving people adopt you. I am very lucky to have been adopted by the family, and I am very lucky that they let me come to their reunions.

 

 

tie dye kit and such

If any of you are also west coast kids, then I hope you can appreciate why Seaside is such a charming place.
And just because it is so different from my beach (or at least, the beach I live on), here is the ocean at Hug Point:

Turtle Beach

Turtle Beach

While Oahu, I also visited a place that the locals call “Turtle Beach.”

There is not a lot of sea grass or algae in the water for the sea turtles of Oahu to eat. However, on Turtle Beach, there are several rocks that are covered in algae.

Turtles

Every day at low tide, the turtles slide themselves out of the water, and come up onto the rocks to eat.

I was always led to believe that turtles are really awkward on land. However, these turtles seem to have no trouble at all scooting around.

You could even see turtles that were not up on the beach playing in the waves.

Turtles in Waves

The lifeguard on the beach sets up a barrier to keep people from getting too close to the turtles, and you can’t go swimming in the water directly in front of where they come ashore.

However, it is magical to watch them from behind the barrier and enjoy seeing sea turtles in a whole new way.

Kalua O Maua “Three Tables”

While in Hawaii on the island of Oahu, we went to a place called The Pupukea Maine Conservation District.

Within that area, there are a few places that you can snorkel.

We initially tried to go to Waimea Bay, because we had heard good things. However, there was no parking.

Instead, we followed the road a little farther, and parked in front of the Kalua O Maua, or “The Three Tables.”

I was really glad that we ended up where we did, because we saw so many green sea turtles!

Turtles are one of my favorite animals, and I adore sea turtles. There is one back home in Guam that I love to go visit.

You do have to be careful. The waves are strong, and it would be easy to get pushed into one of the “three tables” (which are just big pillars of volcanic rock.)

They aren’t sharp, but they are full of baby sea urchins, so you wouldn’t want to touch the rocks.

However, as long as you are careful, there are a lot of really beautiful things to see. There are some flat corals, and lots of fish.

The turtles looked a little worse for wear. Quite a few of them had shell of flipper damage.

However, they were reasonably calm around us. We didn’t get too close (obviously) because of the restrictions in the endangered species act.

Seeing them from a distance and being able to zoom in and get video was pretty magical, though.

The waves were high, but the water seemed calmer than on the other side of the island.

There were certainly more people swimming, and we didn’t see any dramatic rescues of screaming people like at Electric Beach.