A Legend of Guam
With my head full of dire sailor stories, I imagined many things before making the 20 hour, three-legged flight out from California to Guam to meet my husband’s ship. Frankly, the stories made the island sound awful —ugly, inappropriate for the 9-month old and Chihuahua-Poodle travel-ing with me, unwelcoming, and (of course) full of snakes. Fortunately, I decided to go despite my imagination. It was fortunate because Guam— with its beautiful scenery, abundant all-ages activities, and ‘Hafa Adai’ Spirit— was nothing like I’d imagined and I almost missed an awe-some summer!
My first concern about the island being ‘ugly’ dissipated with the morning sun.
It was 5:00 am the morning after I arrived and —having more time than I needed to get my hus-band to work on-time— I pulled the car into Asan Beach to watch the sunrise. Mid bagel, the sun burst through the grey pre-dawn like a laser from behind the Governor’s Complex —painting the towering mountains of clouds shades of candy pink, tangerine, and lavender. My first good view of the island was all sky, clouds and soft jungle-carpeted hills, illuminated with golden light. I held my husband’s hand, my baby slept in the carrier, and my dog curled up at my feet.
Next, Guam dispelled the ‘inappropriate for babies and dogs’ myth.
Over the 4 weeks that followed my arrival, my dance-card was full of activities —all baby and (mostly) dog friendly. Everyday I found myself trying something new!
I hit the beach —teaching my little ones to swim in warm, shallow, turquoise waters. I drove the entire way around the island to scout out the shore and then sampled every beach I could find with shallow water —enjoying white sand and toddler-friendly sea from “Guns Beach” in Tumon, all the way down to “Gab Gab” at the Navy Base.
I went hiking. Using 360Guam.com to figure out where to go and then I put my baby in the Ergo, my dog in a backpack, and lathered up with sunscreen. I even rope-climbed down the “Spanish Steps” baby-wearing, my husband following with the dog in his backpack.
I attended island events. Between ‘Fest Pac’, “Guam Summer Beach Fest”, the Liberation Day Parade/ Carnival, and the weekly markets, my days were fun —looking with wide eyes, dancing, and laughing with my family while my dog wagged alongside.
Throughout the experience I was also delighted to encounter the “Hafa Adai” (the local indige-nous greeting) Spirit everywhere. From the “Kracked Egg” (where I became a regular after the 2nd visit) to the Guam Visitors Bureau, people greeted me with an “Hafa Adai”, a smile, and some warmth for my little ones. As a bonus, the island was filled with baby-friendly amenities (a “boys stall” in the bathroom at Agana Shopping Center, play areas at every mall, and changing tables in most restrooms) making me feel surprisingly welcome as a traveling mama.
Instead of an inhospitable summer on an ugly island spent kung-fu fighting snakes, I spent my summer in America’s Best Kept Secret. I did: beach yoga with the sunrises, hikes in Spanish Ruins down to hidden lagoons, “Hafa Adai” greetings with the locals, sunset ocean swims with my husband, and play-time with my little ones in the shade of coconut palms.
No, Guam was nothing like I’d imagined.
Today, thinking about this contrast, a loud laugh of joy escaped my lips. My little ones both paused in their play on the bright green grass of the “War in the Pacific” National Park at Asan Beach and smiled before excitedly going back to the business of waiting for a small purple crab to come out of its hole. Meanwhile, a salty breeze teased the sweat near my hairline with prom-ise of evening coolness while towering clouds raced —majestic yet pillowy— over a bright-blue, watery horizon.
Paradise… not a snake to be seen.
Imagine, I almost missed an amazing family summer because of a few negative stories. How fortunate that I went to see Guam for myself.
Written and photo by Kira Palmer