Day One: Guam

img_6320I arrived in Guam around  midnight to begin my visit to the islands.  I was met at the airport by some of the judges and lawyers who invited me and was bestowed with a beautiful lei.  It was the first demonstration of the super friendly environment of Guam. My first day involved a challenging hike arranged by Karen Quitlong, Law Clerk to Chief Judge Frances Marie Tydingco-Gatewood, United States District Court for the District of Guam.  Karen knew I was an avid hiker and arranged to have two friends accompany us on a hike through island to see waterfalls and breathtaking views of the South of the island.

I had asked for the longer hike and Karen found an amazing choice.  We were guided by Linda Tatreau who is a retired science teacher who is well known on the island for her long work with the environment and conservation.  Tatreau has been hiking these hills for decades and shows no evidence of slowing down.  We were also joined by Senator and attorney Therese Terlaje who part Chamorro and knows a huge amount about the island.  They were the perfect companions and they each able to share a great deal of information about the local flora and fauna of Guam.

Our guide hiked through the saw grass and jungle in bare feet.  The saw grass does cut your legs and hands at parts, but, you with the high heat and humidity, it is a trade off to be either cooler or more protected.  I elected shorts and preferred the choice.  Admittedly, I was pretty jet lagged (I do not sleep on planes and only got a couple hours of sleep).  However, we made it to the large water fall and were able to rejuvenate in the water.  First we passed through the “Bad Lands” which was an incongruous area in the jungle of erosion revealing volcanic rock.  We saw a Karabao or water buffalo as well as fresh tracks of some of the many wild pigs.

Once at the waterfall, you descended the steep rock with a rope.  I will admit to being a bit reluctant but Karen is adept at peer pressure and I was delighted by the incredible view at the base.  Sitting under the falls was incredible and truly rejuvenating.  This is all surface runoff (and it rained this morning).  The water was warm and created turquoise pools.  After eating wonderful sandwiches made by Chez Quitlong, we made our way back.  I must admit to be totally spent, particularly with the steep hike up the mountain to the car at the end.   However, the hike was an incredible introduction to this unique place.

Karen later took me to a local Chamorro restaurant, Terry’s Local Comfort Food at 901 Pale San Vitores Rd, Tamuning, 96913, Guam.  It was assume. Chamorro tend to be hot (which I like) and hearty.  We ordered shimp and chicken Kelaguen for appetizers.  Karen then order fried parrot fish.  I had a combination of short ribs and chicken.  It was awesome.

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Here are a few photos:

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37 thoughts on “Day One: Guam

  1. Regarding your second sentence, I think that you meant to say that you were presented with a beautiful “lei”since among its various other definitions the word “lay” is also a vulgar slang word meaning sexual intercourse.

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    • It beats the alternative. When I was stationed in Japan I experienced Ikezukuri. The Japanese like to know their sashimi is fresh, and it doesn’t come any fresher than serving the fish while it’s still alive. The chef cleans the fish and then scores the flesh, leaving it attached by just a small strip near the backbone. So the fish doesn’t live long, but for the first couple of morsels of sashimi it’s looking at you and trying to breath.

      I really like Japan, and I like the Japanese. Even though we removed the militarist yoke from their necks by winning WWII (the entire nature of the country changed because of the fanatical nationalist militarist fools who took charge of country by force during the ’30s; the fact that a great many Japanese were not on their side is confirmed by the fact that the militarists had to conduct a campaign of assassination and intimidation to prevail, and left to their own devices the Japanese would have entered the forties like they entered the thirties, playing or watching baseball, jitterbugging and listening to jazz). The Japanese can seem cold but that’s because in many ways they’re not very self confident. For instance, a lot of them are embarrassed to interact with foreigners. I can speak and to some extent read Japanese, and I’ve been in rural Japan where people have tried to wave me off when I asked for directions because they don’t speak English. I’d point out I was speaking Japanese and still they’d say “No igirisu (English).”

      They worried that I’d run out of Japanese and then they might be confronted with a gaijin trying to communicate with them in English and the potential awkwardness of the situation was just too much for them to bear.

      But you get past that and it’s like you’ve been best friends for life.

      So now that I’ve established my love for the Japanese people, I have to admit they can still be awfully callous. I remember watching a Japanese cooking show where the chef is going to do something with Lobster tail. I still don’t recall what exactly as he cuts the tail off a live Lobster, and then begins some soliloquy about the tail. But I’m distracted by the fact that the rest of the Lobster is crawling around on the counter. I can’t listen to what the guy is saying, I can’t take my eyes off the Lobster.

      “Can you just shut up already and kill the damn Lobster,” I yell at my TV.

      I’m just back from a caribou hunt in Alaska, and I’m at my favorite izakaya (a casual restaurant that serves sake and food that goes well with sake), Ozeki, in Seya town near where I was stationed showing my good friend, proprietor, and Rugby team mate and his lovely wife pictures of the hunt. I’m sitting at the counter and the guy next to me pipes up and says he hates hunting because it “breaks” nature. I let him finish and I say, “And you just ate a live fish.”

      My friend laughs and says, “He got you there.”

      The guy looks down at his plate and says, “I guess you’re right.” No more criticism from him about “breaking” nature.

      I prefer all my fish dead. Keep those pictures coming.
      .

        • It gets worse. A popular izakaya near NAF Atsugi used to serve up a shot of sake with a scoop of loaches. Loach fish are apparently popular with people who like to keep aquariums, and some can grow rather big. But most are small, and drop them into a glass full of sake and they go crazy, racing around in the glass. As well they should; it’s not like oxygenated water or something they can live in.

          And then you’re supposed to down it. If you’ve ever witnessed a 220 pound Seabee or Marine get his @$$ kicked by an eleven year old Muay Thai fighter in a bar in Pattaya, you know this does not end well.

          So they took it off the advertised menu after they became tired of cleaning up he puke, which didn’t take long. Locals could still get it, but not Americans. Because, vomit reflex.

  2. Travelling around the world eating stuff without thinking about it never used to bother me, but more recently, because of so many anti-biotic resistant bacteria floating around, I’m nervous about food prepared by others who may not be in the habit of washing their hands and maintaining sanitary kitchens, especially in tropical climates with lots of little critters running around. Now every time I watch a travel documentary showing the guide eating local food, I worry about him/her. You see the local cooks handling food with gloveless hands, coughing, sneezing, etc. Locals develop antibodies to local microbes. Visitors don’t have those antibodies. It helps that you are strong and healthy to begin with. Nevertheless, paranoia sometimes reflects reality. Stay safe.

  3. Although beautiful, Guam has NO birds. The birds were killed off by snakes that were imported years ago and have no predators. I could not live in a place that had no birds but an abundance of snakes. Of course, the photos are beautiful,as always, JT. As well as the descriptions of food and hikes.

    • No birds, you would think in a jungle setting there would be an abundance of beautiful parrot like birds. As far as snakes go we have a great deal of them here in D.C., there are the elusive Congress and Senate Snake noted for disappearing during hearings. Fish and Game have been unable to GPS tag them because they constantly change position to suit their prey. A pesky little bugger.

    • While it’s not absolutely true that Guam has no birds, beakie48 is correct that the situation is dire. There were 12 species of forest birds on snake-free Guam. The the brown tree snake was accidentally introduced in the 1940s by hitching rides on ships and now only representatives of two species remain and then only in populations in the hundreds. These birds only persist in pockets where the snakes are aggressively eradicated. The Guamanians and the USFWS are doing their best but it’s a losing fight.

      Migratory sea birds that have experience dealing with snakes also remain.

      New Zealand is in even worse shape. Invasive species have killed off nearly all the native birds. I was there ironically enough to hunt animals that were introduced by the British. One because sailors were in the habit of releasing animals like sheep, goats, and pigs on islands to act as a sort of larder. They couldn’t carry enough provisions for a long voyage and had no way to keep fresh provisions for long, so they’d let animals go feral on islands they knew how to return to, and then hunt and kill what they needed to keep going. And the Brits in the colonial administration were keen sport hunters so they introduced proper game animals.

      Which explains the Cook’s sheep (named after Captain Cook), Red Stag, and Fallow deer on my wall.

      But the whole time I was there I didn’t hear a single bird. Except geese. I commented on it and my guide, a gentleman in his seventies, said that when he was young you could hardly stand the noise from all the birds, but they’re all gone now. Now all you hear is silence.

    • Guam DOES have birds. The brown tree snake did serious damage to the indigenous flightless birds like the Guam rail. Pigeons, doves, sparrows and swallows do pretty well but even those birds took a serious hit from three typhoons in the ten years ending in 2002. The recovery took a long time but continues.

      JT won’t see any tree snakes while he’s here. In order to see tree snakes it’s usually necessary to go out into the boonies at night. The apochryphal snake stories are often written by people who been here. I haven’t see a snake for two or three years.

  4. I was going to ask if JT has seen any birds. Those snakes that’ve hijacked the island are everywhere, in motel rooms, kitchens, and venomous.

  5. There are Fed govt. jobs in places one would not think thanks to the DOJ. I know a tech guy who moved from his US Court job in Wisconsin to the US Virgin Islands to help them get up to speed on PACER.

  6. Food looks good. Can you see anything from WWII still standing? I think one Japanese soldier held out on Guam until 1972 hiding in a cave thinking the war was still going on.

    • http://mattstodayinhistory.blogspot.com/2007/01/last-japanese-holdout-on-guam-january.html

      “…Yokoi was spotted by two village locals on January 24, 1972, while they were checking their shrimp traps. When he charged the two men, they quickly subdued him and took him to the local Commissioner, but not before they took him to one of their homes and fed him. He was eventually transported to Agana Police Headquarters, where he began to tell his tale. To everyone’s surprise, Yokoi admitted that he had known the war was over for twenty years, but had remained in hiding for several reasons. First and foremost, he was afraid that the Americans on the island would kill him if he surrendered. Second, he had not wanted to return to Japan as a defeated soldier. Sometime later, he told a Japanese journalist that he was from a broken home and that he had had a tough childhood full of unkind relatives: “I stuck to the jungle because I wanted to get even with them.”…”

      There were holdouts on Luzon that never surrendered, just blended in. They knew the war was over they just refused to admit it.

      • I can understand the fear that the victors may harm him but that’s an awful long time to live like that without contact with other humans.

        • A while back the Civilian Marksmanship program was offering a special batch of M1 rifles for sale that had been seconded to the Guamanian police to hunt down Japanese holdouts.

          http://thecmp.org/

          As I recall they sold at a premium because of their pedigree.

  7. I’m just grateful your arrival did not cause Guam to capsize and tip over. You may recall that in a hearing involving potentially moving some military personnel from Japan to Guam, one of the Democrat’s best and brightest told an admiral he feared Guam may capsize if too many people are on it. So wear your lifejacket while walking around the island, just in case. Democrats are The Party of Science®, after all.

    • Yes, Hank Johnson was serious. What is truly astonishing is that Admiral Robert Willard managed to keep a relatively straight face throughout Johnson’s questioning. This is an admirable quality in a “straight man” when playing to a comic. Although Johnson is not a professional comedian by any stretch, the fact that he holds public office is itself a joke. And the people who elected him are dupes and dopes even dumber than he is, hard as that may be to imagine.

    • I’ve known “Rat” Willard since he was the skipper of our sister squadron, VF-51 the “Screaming Eagles.”

      The guy is a hoot.

      I was never surprised the congresscritter couldn’t put Rat off his stride.

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