June 14 marks the day my kids and I started our new journey here on Guam a year ago. It’s been quite an adventure and wonderful experience so far filled with laughter, new learnings, booboos and lots of bonding moments.
Here in lies some of the quirks of living in this beautiful island we now call home…
1. Mabuhay! becomes Hafa Adai! – It’s a greeting used practically anywhere and everywhere to anyone and everyone. Pronounced like “half a day”, it’s Chamorro for “what friend?” “what partner?” literally but really means “hello!” “what’s up, friend?”
2. One is either “on” or “off” island – This perplexed the grammarnazi me. Why say on and off, when you shouldn’t one be “at” a place, when it’s small (e.g., at school) or “in” a place, when it’s big or in reference to a political entity (e.g., in the Philippines)? Apparently, it’s correct as long as it’s used in a geographic context. So there, my kids and I have been on island for about a year now.
3. Traffic – People complain of traffic here and we just don’t get it. There are even morning/afternoon patrol reports on radio about traffic. We came from Metro Manila, a highly congested metroplois in the Philippines, where a daily drive of 2-3 hours is normal, and anything less than an hour’s drive is considered short, and fast… a blessing! Here on Guam, traffic means anything more than a 10minute drive, or getting caught in several traffic light stops instead of none, or having the unfortunate luck of being caught behind a minor vehicular accident or a school bus stopping for kids. I guess everything is indeed relative. But guess what? These days, my kids and I have actually caught ourselves complaining of traffic, and discussing fastest route (route with least number of traffic light). We’re becoming locals.
4. Parking! Parking! There’s parking everywhere but people here spend extra 5, maybe even 10 mins going around just to find the perfect, nearest parking slot. Why? They don’t want to walk the extra few steps needed…and since there’s really no rush…
5. There’s really no rush. Forgetting we weren’t in Metro Manila anymore, the kids were ready before 6am on their first day of school, then had nothing to do since school starts 8am and we live a mile away from school. Every meeting practically has at least 30 minutes of pre-meeting conversation on life, love, and whatever the latest news is on island. The older people you’re meeting with, the longer the pre-meeting conversation becomes. Same is true for most regular encounters such as when you’re paying for groceries or doing a teller transaction. “How’s your day?” isn’t a pleasantry and not answered by a curt “fine,” but rather a longer conversation of how the day actually went. And sometimes, the conversations are picked up from the last encounter. It’s a very interesting thing to witness and experience.
6. Everybody knows everybody here. If not, then somebody you know knows that person. Six degrees of separation is likely just one or two here. It’s still quite a maze to us right now how everyone is related to one another but we’re slowly getting the hang of it.
7. There’s certainly a Hafa Adai spirit among the locals. It is not just a pleasantry, nor is it just a campaign slogan for tourists. It is lived by the people here who are very welcoming of tourists, visitors, and newbies like us. We certainly feel very much part of the community here and do not live the expat bubble, which can sometimes be very alienating.
There is so much more to write about for another time. Some funny, some interesting, some frustrating – but certainly, all are enlightening as we get to know more about the island we now call home.
About the Blog: Originally written the night of Jun 13, 2014, as a quick reflection on Guam since the kids and I have exactly been on Guam for one year. It's been a very pleasant experience so far and intend to write more about it.