Two weekends ago, my friend Janice and I had one last adventure together, this time on the island of Guam. “What are you going to do on Guam?” a judge asked me a few weeks ago when I told her I’d be taking two days off of work. “Shopping and going to the movies,” I replied excitedly. “Ah, you sound just like a Palauan,” she said. It’s true that the preferred Palauan activities on Guam are those they can’t do here: shop (for anything, really) and go to the cinema.
I had been looking forward to this trip for several weeks, and I had a shopping list at the ready for the Ross store, which is located in the Guam Premier Outlets. We had also picked out the movie we were going to see. Supposedly the Ross on Guam is the “most lucrative” of all the Rosses. I am told that the Guamanians like it because you can find some unique items there, which is highly desirable in a place where everyone has access to the same shirts, shorts, and slippers (flip-flops).
When I first walked into the store, I felt overwhelmed. Back home, when tempted with the promise of sales and discounts, I sometimes like the little “pick me up” of retail therapy. But after a few minutes, I realized that shopping isn’t as satisfying as I had thought it would be. I don’t need to shop (do any of us?) At the movies, I experienced the same feeling. Sure, it was awesome to watch the commercials about local businesses in Guam and to laugh at the dancing cow featured in the Jamaican Grill advertisements (“Ya Mon, Serious Food”), but I didn’t find myself in the blissful state I expected to be in as I stared at the screen. As I would later discover during the weekend, solitary activities like shopping and going to the movies are OK in moderation, but I would much rather do something to connect with great people.
And thus, the best part of the weekend was spending time with new friends. Two recent graduates of my law school are working on Guam, and they kindly took us around for the weekend. I didn’t know them very well, but we all share a love for UC Davis, for the Pacific Islands (or Oceania, as we learned it’s called), and for clerking. Janice and I were delighted to be welcomed immediately into their social circles: on Thursday night we attended a birthday party then went to a concert, followed by a stop at Guam’s “ultralounge” the next night. On Sunday we had a great driving and hiking tour on the southern part of the island.
Several highlights from the weekend:
- Visiting the Guam Supreme Court, where I met the Chief Justice (also a King Hall grad!) and one of the judges we work with here on Palau on a part-time basis.
- Having frozen yogurt from Yogurtland—twice! We have nothing like it on Palau (though we do have soft serve that tastes like cake), so I really loved trying the mochi toppings and lots of special island flavors (taro; dragon fruit; passion fruit; and guava).
- Visiting the world’s largest Kmart — open 24 hours! I bought a few things that are impossible to find on Palau, such as a bike lock, bike pump (I inherited Janice’s bike), and fluoride mouthwash.
- Discovering, at 2 p.m. on a Friday, that we could go to a concert for a band I know from Los Angeles. A concert! My first and possibly last for 2012! It was the New Boyz, who developed a style of dance called “jerkin’” and sing a number of catchy but misogynistic pop songs. When we decided to go to the concert, we were in the capital, quite far from our hotel in Tumon (the tourist area). We didn’t have time to go home and change, so we spent 10 minutes shopping for cheap dresses, pronounced ourselves decently attired, and headed to the University of Guam Fieldhouse.
The Fieldhouse is a fairly small stadium, set in an area with outdoor parking that kind of reminded me of the county fairgrounds that I visited growing up in the Central Valley. The venue was full of screaming teeny-boppers, who were especially enthusiastic when the emcees would name all the villages in Guam: “Lemme hear you if you’re from Tumon! Is Agat in the house?”. The New Boyz’ opening acts included a lot of local rappers and singers as well as a dance troupe and fashion show featuring oddly styled stick-thin models with crimped hair. The concert was the true highlight of the weekend because it felt so Guamanian. I didn’t see many other ha’oles (white people) and everyone seemed to be enjoying the event. I especially loved when one of the rap groups had us show our “Guam pride” and we repeated, “G-U-A-M!” after him.
The New Boyz have only . . .
My week is off to a great/unusual start. Here are some highlights, and it's only Monday!
1. After three months of sweating it out in my office, I have a new air conditioner! It blasts freezing air right on top of my head. The maintenance men said I would probably need a sweater, and they are right. It is nice to feel cold again. I am so happy!
2. I enjoyed a delicious Indian food lunch at the Taj, a restaurant in downtown. My friend and I were able to chat a bit with the owners about why they started an Indian food restaurant in Palau. (Coming from Singapore, they missed Indian food, so they started cooking themselves and voila!)
3. I finished a bunch of work projects and felt very satisfied crossing them off of my to-do list. I'm off to Thailand and Cambodia in less than a month, and I have a LOT of work to do before then!
4. I rode my bike to work today! With gas prices rising to $5.45/gallon almost overnight, I was super excited to bike the two miles (all downhill!) to the office today. Janice left me the bike she brought, and I have a whole new appreciation for the effort it takes to bike in Palau. The Peace Corps and JICA (Japanese equivalent to the Peace Corps) aren't allowed to use cars, so I have a new level of respect for the effort it takes them to get around. Riding home was less fun (see comment about downhill, supra) but it was a great workout and I like seeing the families getting ready for dinner and the kids dawdling home after school.
5. I met with my moot court students, two juniors and a senior at the Catholic high school here. They are adorable and I am so lucky to work with them! They are really bright and motivated. We spent today talking about the facts of our case (involving interrogation of a minor accused of breaking and entering) and shared some laughs while they acted out the fact pattern. Stay tuned for more blog entries as we prepare for our big competition March 15!
6. On the "unusual" side of things, I came home to an evacuation notice (see photo) that a 1,000 pound bomb is being detonated on my island on Wednesday! What!? They are detonating it precisely at 1:30 p.m. and we're all supposed to stay well away from the area. (The bomb is too big to move and was discovered near some apartments about a quarter mile away from me, down the hill). Can't wait to read about this in the newspapers! And of course my journalism side wants to try to get close enough to see it and hear it....But my lawyer side wins out, so don't worry, Mom!
Palauans don’t really say “happy birthday,” but Lori, our librarian and source for many things Palauan, says a good translation is the Palauan word for “good”, ungil (pronounced "oo-neal")
, and the Japanese word for “birthday”, tanjobi
. I had a great birthday weekend with friends here in Palau, and I only hope that Oprah and Tom Selleck, who share my birthdate, had as much fun as I did! We’re on a Boat….
On January 27, a group of seven intrepid expats took a half day of work (thanks again, everyone!) to hop on the state boat bound for Peleliu. Peleliu is an island of 700 people about twenty-three miles (two and a half hours by state boat) south of Koror. We were going to Peleliu in part for a little vacation and to see the World War II sights through the eyes of Ryan, another attorney (and fellow Californian) who is also a very knowledgeable historian about the Pacific Theater.
The Battle of Peleliu is significant because what was thought to be a three-day battle turned into one of the bloodiest of the Pacific and lasted for more than two months. When the fighting stopped in November of 1944, 20,000 people died (more than 10,000 Japanese and about 2,000 Americans were killed (and Wikipedia
says 8,000 Americans were wounded or missing). What Historians generally agree that the battle was unnecessary, which makes the losses on Peleliu all the more tragic.
The boat ride was great, although I say this now, as there were a few things that seemed a bit dodgy when I first embarked. A ticket costs a “local” only five dollars plus one dollar for luggage. Sure, the trip was pretty noisy because we sat near the engine, but the views were awesome . . . . .