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 husbandâ€™s ship. Frankly, the stories made the island sound awful â€”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 Guamâ€” with its beautiful scenery, abundant all-ages activities, and â€˜Hafa Adai’ Spiritâ€” was nothing like Iâ€™d imagined and I almost missed an awe-some summer!
My first concern about the island being â€˜uglyâ€™ dissipated with the morning sun.
It was 5:00 am the morning after I arrived and â€”having more time than I needed to get my hus-band to work on-timeâ€” 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 Governorâ€™s Complex â€”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 husbandâ€™s hand, my baby slept in the carrier, and my dog curled up at my feet.
Next, Guam dispelled the â€˜inappropriate for babies and dogsâ€™ myth.
Over the 4 weeks that followed my arrival, my dance-card was full of activities â€”all baby and (mostly) dog friendly. Everyday I found myself trying something new!
I hit the beach â€”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 â€”enjoying white sand and toddler-friendly sea from â€œGuns Beachâ€ in Tumon, all the way down to â€œGab Gabâ€ 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 â€œSpanish Stepsâ€ baby-wearing, my husband following with the dog in his backpack.
I attended island events. Between â€˜Fest Pacâ€™, â€œGuam Summer Beach Festâ€, the Liberation Day Parade/ Carnival, and the weekly markets, my days were fun â€”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 â€œHafa Adaiâ€ (the local indige-nous greeting) Spirit everywhere. From the â€œKracked Eggâ€ (where I became a regular after the 2nd visit) to the Guam Visitors Bureau, people greeted me with an â€œHafa Adaiâ€, a smile, and some warmth for my little ones. As a bonus, the island was filled with baby-friendly amenities (a â€œboys stallâ€ 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 Americaâ€™s Best Kept Secret. I did: beach yoga with the sunrises, hikes in Spanish Ruins down to hidden lagoons, â€œHafa Adaiâ€ 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 Iâ€™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 â€œWar in the Pacificâ€ 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 â€”majestic yet pillowyâ€” over a bright-blue, watery horizon.
Paradiseâ€¦ 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