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Picking up the Pieces

February 16, 2013

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012Guam – Sunday, February 3

I didn’t sleep very well last night – still bothered by what happened. But I tried to look at the bright side – I would rather have my cell phone stolen than my iPad; I would rather have my real passport stolen (replaceable) than my National Park passports with 15 years of stamps and memories (irreplaceable); I would rather have my credit cards stolen than my camera; and I would rather have cash stolen than my checkbook with all its records. So in the end, I still have stuff that’s important and special to me.

I had to take care of a few more phone calls, then I ventured over to the Western Union store where Taryn had wired some cash to me. None of my kids or I have ever used Western Union, so this was a new experience. I found the store, only to hear that they no longer do Western Union transactions, and the next closest place isn’t open on Sundays. A minor bump in the road. I went back to hotel and gathered up a few things and packed a peanut butter sandwich for lunch, and figured I’d set out on a leisurely drive around the southern end of the island, which I was oing to do yesterday afternoon. But first I got online again, and Taryn and I both thought I should be able to pick up my money at any Western Union office on Guam. And I found a couple that were open on Sundays.

So I set off in the car into the Guam countryside, and driving in the peace and quiet in the hills of central Guam was very relaxing. It was a good day to do this. After a while I came to an IGA market that had a Western Union sign. We had a IGA market near us where I grew up, and it was unexpected to see one here. I was eventually able to complete the transaction, because Taryn had added a security question in there. Without ID of any sort, they weren’t going to just hand over the money. I was expected to know both the security question and the security answer. In the end, I walked out with the expected cash, and felt good at least having a little money. I continued my short way across Guam and drove around the southern end of the island. The interior of the island is mountainous, and is only lightly populated. There are some rugged hikes back in there, and that’s where the brown tree snakes are. I guess they’re nocturnal, and they hang out in the trees, and some people blame them for power outages. I admired the scenery from afar, but wasn’t going to go walking around on rugged trails by myself with snakes. I got out and walked when I could, but had been told there wouldn’t really be many good walking places except for occasional sidewalks in small villages. I drove along some pretty beach areas on the east side of Guam, but the water is rough on that side, and the coast is rocky – none of the beautiful blue shallow waters that are on the other side! There were a quite a few beachside pavilions and since it was a Sunday, there were numerous groups of families out BBQing and socializing, and a few brave people were swimming. I passed a bay and a memorial to Magellan who first discovered Guam back in the 1500s. The Chamorros (the native people) spent a long time under Spanish rule, and many were converted to Christianity, and then the US acquired Guam in some treaty with Spain, and then Japan came in later, and then the US took the island back from Guam. Apparently no one stopped to think that this was neither a Spanish, U.S. nor Japanese island, and the Chamorros just kind of got stuck in the middle of it all.

I continued my drive at a slow pace, with the ocean on one side, and the deep green of the interior mountains (not as volcanically rugged as Samoa) on the other side. There were a couple small villages, and lots of chickens running around. Many of the homes and shops on Guam are small concrete structures with flat roofs. The concrete is often painted. Concrete is the preferred building material since it holds up better in earthquakes and typhoons than wood or metal. I did see some structures made out of corrugated aluminum, and they definitely didn’t look sturdy. Those are the sorts of places that Habitat for Humanity is trying to upgrade. I got some walking in, but not as much as I would have liked.

I drove around the southern tip Of the island, and started making my way north again. I came to another section of the national park, and got out to look around. There were a couple old Japanese anti-aircraft guns and machine guns mounted on the old landing beach that were used to fire on the Americans storming the beach in their amphibious tanks. There was a college age Japanese guy standing behind one of the anti-aircraft guns while the girlfriend took a picture – he was pretending to swivel the gun around and was making loud firing noises and laughing. I couldn’t help but think that he and I were seeing and hearing totally different things. The Japanese took over the whole island when they arrived as they were expanding their empire, and they mistreated the local people, forcing them into slave labor and and shoving them all into “camps”. When the Americans arrived, it was a bloody long horrible battle, but in the end, the Americans secured the island, and they freed the Chamorros and gave them food and water, but life was sill anything but normal for them with the Pacific war still going on.

I did some more walking at the other National Park site by the bay, and then walked downtown a bit more to finish my walking. I picked up a noodle dish to take back to the motel, where I dealt with some more emails and got ready to be at the passport office first thing in the morning as the police officer had recommended. I was really tired – mentally and physically, and had an early night.

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