image of the Guam flag

My New Penpal!

By now, you know that I have relocated to Guam for a few years because of my hubs’ job.  A friend of mine back in Texas had some questions and I thought, maybe some of you have questions too.  So, here is the conversation that I had with Mia- a 7-year old student in Austin and she asked some GREAT questions.

This is the message I received from her mom, one of my old band-mates.  Mia studied Guam today during her humanities time. She’s gonna put together some questions about living there to ask you. I know you’re not an expert yet, but we’d appreciate any feedback you can give. Trying to keep it interesting during School at Home time! Congratulations, you made the cut!!!  Thank you in advance!!!

A –You bet!!!! We would love to be Mia’s penpal! ???

Mia’s Questions and My Answers

Q- What is the weather like there? Is it hot today?

A- This tiny island is forgotten by most and I’m so thankful you want to know more. Guam sits in the middle of the North Pacific ocean. We are only 933 miles from the equator while Austin , Texas is over 2,000 miles . Because we are so close to the equator our weather is the same every day! Do you know what it means to be close to the equator? It means that we get the same amount of sun every single day of the year…we don’t have long days or short days AND we don’t use Daylight Savings Time either because it wouldn’t matter! Every day our temperature ranges from 70-90 degrees. It is VERY humid- meaning lots of moisture in the air- because we are in the middle of the ocean.

This morning it rained for almost three hours straight, but now it’s beautiful and sunny outside. You know what is the best part of being here after being in San Antonio? Everything is green! There are real, live jungles on the island! It’s really neat. There is always a breeze blowing across the island from the ocean so, even though it’s hot, it’s not so bad because the wind is always making the leaves of the trees dance.

Guam location
Guam is a barely perceptible speck inside that little box

Q- How many beaches are there? Have you been to one yet?

A- Well, we are on an island which is made mostly of coral. There are lots of beaches! There are over 40! From Tarague Beach on Anderson Air Force Base which is only open to people who are in the military (we went there just the other day!) to Tumon Bay Beach which is where the Japanese and South Korean tourists like to go. Guam is a great vacation spot for people from Japan and Korea because the can “come to America” without having to fly all the way to the other side of the planet. Guam is a US Territory which means that the United States is responsible for the island, and the islanders are citizens of the United States but they do not get to vote in US presidential elections.

The southernmost beach is around Coco’s Island which is a resort and popular for the military to visit. It is about 1/4 mile off the end of the island and is surrounded by clear blue water and has white sandy beaches. The island is made of mostly coral. Coral is the skeletal remains of a living aquatic organism. There are high cliffs and steep roads. We drove around the island just last weekend and saw some beautiful vistas and clear views of the water. It’s lovely. I have to be honest, I’m afraid of the ocean (for a couple of reasons), so it’s going to take me a while to be comfortable getting into the water. But, I’m looking forward to working through my fears and enjoying this lovely bit of God’s creation.

cocos island diving
Diving at Cocos Island

Q- What are the houses there like? Do they look like houses here or different?

A- The houses are all made of concrete. There are a lot of apartments and single family homes, but they are all made of concrete! Do you know why? Every year the island is hit by typhoons! A typhoon is a tropical cyclone with winds faster than 74 miles per hour! Every year the entire island is hit by wind and rain! Lots of wind and rain! So, they have to build their houses out of something that will consistently withstand that type of weather. We have found a house that we will be able to live in for the next 3 years and it’s also made of concrete. All of the houses have typhoon shutters on the outside that, when you hear the typhoon siren, you have to secure so that your windows don’t break.

Our little Guam house

Q- Besides family, is there something you miss about Texas that they don’t have in Guam?

A- Mr. Holman has been on a search for saltines! Saltines are just plain crackers. We can’t find them anywhere! I miss HEB Central Market Blue Corn Chips!  Because Guam is a US Territory we have many of the same things that the Continental US has. We can shop at the grocery store and buy Jell-o, Tyson chicken, Bob’s Red Mill Oatmeal and most of the same things you can! Things are a bit more expensive, though, because they have to be brought here on a cargo ship. We have all the same comforts that you have, so there’s not much besides family and friends that we are missing.

We haven’t had a chance to make any new friends, because of the COVID virus. The island is on lock-down and we are only allowed to go to the grocery store for necessities. Something that is different here, though, is that everyone is like family because it’s such a small place and no one is hoarding supplies. Everyone just buys what they need! There is plenty of toilet paper and other food stuff. The only things I can’t find are rubbing alcohol and hand sanitizer…but I don’t like using hand sanitizer anyway.

Q- Have you tried any different food there that we don’t have here?

A- One of the big things that Mr. Holman was looking forward to eating again- he was stationed here with the military way back in the 1980’s- was Hineksa’ Aga’ga’-Red Rice! Red Rice is something that the people of Guam eat all the time. It is prepared with water colored from soaking achote (annatto) seeds, which gives it its usually deep orange color. I looked up a recipe and have made it a couple of times already! It’s yummy!

One of the first meals I had at a restaurant here was Estofao. It was YUMMY! I am trying to learn how to make the local food since we are going to be living here for a while. Have you ever heard the saying “When in Rome do as the Romans do?” It means when you’re visiting or living among a different people group, you should do the things that they do.

Chamorro Estofao
Estofao- Yummy!

Here’s a video about Estofao and how to make it! 

She Had Some Follow Up Questions

A few days later, she wrote back:

Wow! I learned so much. I looked up Guam on a map and saw how close it is to the equator. So cool but hot! I like how you can see all the way through the water. We looked at Coco’s Island and the natural pool it has. You should definitely visit there. I had a question about your concrete house. Is it really bumpy or smooth? Are you scared of being in a typhoon? We watched the video about estofao. Looks yummy! One of my favorite foods is soy sauce so I think I would like it. WE also watched a video about Chamorro bistek. That looks good, too. Hope you try it!

So, is it bumpy or smooth?

A- Mia, more great questions! Our concrete house is just made of concrete. Just like the houses back in Texas, they have guts! You know the stuff that holds them together. In Texas they make wooden frames and then put all the electrical and plumbing inside the walls and then put up wallboard to cover it all. If you feel the walls in your house, I bet they’re not completely smooth. Many times builders will put texture onto the walls before they paint them. It’s kind of like that here too. They build the houses out of cinder blocks or poured concrete and then they coat the walls with something, I’m not sure, then paint it. Lots of houses, on the outside, have etched in designs to look like bricks or rocks.

Am I scared of being in a typhoon?

A- Well, I’ve never been in a typhoon, so I don’t know what to expect. I’ve seen tornadoes from a distance and those are kind of scary. Mr. Holman lived on Guam way back in the 1980s and he says he’s not scared. Because of the way the buildings are built, if you just stay inside, close your typhoon shutters, and always have food and water stored up for when the power goes out, everything is just fine.

I Love Her Curious Little mind!

She asked some really great questions!  Do you have any questions about Guam or Aromatherapy?  Let me know!

Oh, Guess what! I made Estofao last night for dinner! I took the bones out of the chicken before I cooked it, though. It was so yummy!!!