Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Toto, we're not in California anymore....

As mentioned in the last post, there are most definitely things here in Guam that you would not find in most parts of the US. The following is a list of observations which is by no means exhaustive, yet might give you an idea of things which we are learning to accept as part of our ever-evolving definition of "normal".

1) Wild dogs live here in abundance. When I say "wild", what I mean to say is that they roam the island freely just as the deer roamed freely about our house when we lived in Pacific Grove. I have not encountered any of these dogs in close proximity to determine just how wild they are, nor do I have any desire to do so. I am content to observe the mangy creatures from the safety of the car and to note the decided difference between the feelings evoked by seeing either a graceful deer or a filthy dog. You can feel free to assume from the previous statement what my thoughts on this might be.

2) As unappealing as these dogs can be, they are nothing to the wild pigs which roam about. If the word 'pig' conjures up the image of a cute little Charolette's Web or Babe-style pig, then 'pigs' do not roam about here. These animals are hairy, scruffy, and ugly. There is a section of land here on Andersen where hunting is permissable and these pigs are the most common trophy.

3) It is just as common if not more so, to see pick-ups with a crowd of people hitching a ride in the bed. More often than not, these trucks appear to be a "family vehicle" with half of the family in the cab, and the other half in the back.

4) Folks here are resourceful and use the back of their pick-ups for more than jeopardizing lives. While enjoying a family drive after church last Sunday, I observed 3 trucks which had protest signs mounted in the back pleading for the use of shark fins in soup to be put to an end.

5) The first time I saw a tire stand, I chuckled to myself and wondered about the poor individual who thought a profit might actually be made by throwing a pile of tires on the side of the road, standing under a tarp, and waiting for someone to drive up in need of a tire whose origin was a mystery. After driving around for a few more days, I realized that either the same individual had set up multiple stands or he was only one of many who thought that this was just a great idea. Needless to say, this is not uncommon and people do seem to make use of these stands. My fifth observation might be the very thing which keeps these guys in business...

6) Potholes. I don't know how there could ever be a shortage of jobs on this island as long as there are people who are willing to take a job with the road department. The potholes here can be out of control in some areas. We drove down to a beach the other weekend at the very northernmost tip of the island (incidentally, the same tip which Magellan sailed by during his famous voyage) and the road was so bad that there was a dirt road which had been created over time paralleling the paved road in order to circumvent the nastiness of the potholes. I am not sure what makes the roads so prone to this problem, though PJ told me at one point that the asphalt here contains coral. I'm not even sure why this would contibute to the problem, but for as little as I know about the composition of roads, the fact that these contain coral might as well be a factor in this situation.

7) While annoying at times, the roads can be quite useful should you want to follow the Tsunami Evacuation Route signs that are posted about the island. These blue signs are smaller with white writing and, in my estimation, seem altogether too inconspicuous for the impending disaster which they are supposed to direct you away from.

8) Boonie Bees. Upon arriving, we have been warned by many about the aggressive bees which inhabit this island. These bees do not lose their stingers as "normal" bees do, allowing them to sting repeatedly. From what we have been told, the initial sting hurts, but the increasing pain which follows the sting is miserable. The bees are territorial and make little hives almost anywhere, thus making their territory very broad and the chances of encountering them very high. We found our first hive in our front yard on moving day, pointed out to us by one of the kind movers who is native to the island.

9) Geckos are abundant. I actually captured one for the first time today. We see them all over our house and are slowly getting used to sharing our personal space with these small intruders. I have been able to make my peace with them by considering the fact that they are most likely living off of any bugs that they can find in the house. There is one Gecko who lives in the air conditioning vent in the dining room and will come out most often in the afternoon to hang out on the wall. Maddie has named it 'Sarah' and so now, every Gecko we see is Sarah-except for the one in the bathroom light which Grant has named Henry.

10) Almost any window here has steel storm shutters to protect the glass during severe weather.

11) Coconut palms are plentiful. I feel nervous whenever taking the kids for a walk that a rogue coconut might happen to fall directly onto one of their heads. I always try to hurry them under the trees which are laden with the fruit, but of course these are the trees which fascinate them the most. They garner much entertainment from gathering anything they can find to throw in the air in the hopes of knocking a coconut down.

12) The are cylindrical metal containers hanging from many fences are not decorative touches, they are snake traps. When baited, they contain either live rodents and/or potatos.

13) It's always been pleasing to me when I find a little sandcrab at the beach. It makes me feel as if I'm experiencing the beach as God created it to be-in more of a 'natural state'. The same goes for finding a beautiful shell. For those of you who might be amused by this, understand that I've been conditioned by childhood experiences at Huntington Beach which is largely devoid of anything but sand, questionable water, and wanna-be surfers. Since we've hit the beaches here, we have encountered large crabs who probably snack on sandcrabs while roaming about the shores which are littered with exotic coral, shells, and rocks.

Different? Yes. Home? We're all here together so most assuredly, yes.