Sunday, October 23, 2011

Going, going, Guam, part 2 of 4

Part 1.

I’m halfway around the world and halfway through two weeks of author visits. The people of Guam are among the kindest and heartiest I’ve ever met in my professional travels.

Here is a photo-recap of my first full working week on island; 14 schools down, 12 to go!


"Hafa Adai" is "hello" in Chamorro, the language of the natives of Guam. The Hafa Adais I was treated to on Guam have been nothing short of spectacular.

Here are a few:

In seven years of author visits, this the first school whose sign backdrop
is the ocean. (It's that patch of dark blue beyond the palm trees—also a first.)

Another superlative: This vivid welcome sign is, I think,
the tallest that kids have made for me.

Here's one of the longest!

And one of the coolest. This was their play on my superhero work.

The two bottom rows of letters are on reproductions of the cover of
Vanished: True Stories of the Missing

Speaking of Vanished, at first glance, this promotional flyer
looks like another type of flyer...

No good way around getting the fence in this photo.

At one Catholic school, students had been asked to draw their heroes
using a superhero motif. Some chose religious figures.

Island views

This staircase leads down to a peaceful jungle site that was once anything but;
it's a WWII memorial to a squadron of Japanese who fought valiantly till the end.

I am probably the first visitor ever to go there in
a long-sleeved, button-down shirt.

Tranquil but haunting.

One of several caves Japanese soldiers hid in.

TV appearances

Above two photos: being interviewed by the
ABC affiliate that came to my first presentation.
Next few photos: filming a literacy Public Service Announcement
at the PBS affiliate
. I even got to write it myself.

With two of my kind hosts from IRA (International Reading Association),
Jonathan and Nel (far right), and PBS producer Leigh.

I had to stand in front of a green screen. I'm assuming they will use that
to somehow make me look less dorky.

They sold a lot of my books. The island-wide speed limit is 35
and, for added safety, this signed stack is being driven to
my next appearance in a car seat.

The two photos above are from my first-ever workshop held in a coffee shop;
it was marketed to teens but everyone from tweens to adults attended.
It was a really great group.

Local color

Most schools honored me by gifting me bountifully, including a necklace
(variously made of shells, flowers, leaves, beads, or other island jewels).

Guam is in an earthquake (and typhoon, and tsunami) zone.
While I was there, the only one we had a drill for was
the first; luckily, we had no real emergencies.

The coconut crab (shown here) is the world's largest land arthropod,
if I'm remembering correctly without googling to doublecheck.
If one pinches you, it will not let go even if you pound on it.
I've heard two ways you can make it release:
tickling its soft undercarriage or
touching a burning match/object to its rear.
Neither sounds fun, but both sound more fun than
a huge crab permanently clamped onto your finger.

At one school, the color scheme of the room I spoke in was
so serene, I almost felt like I was underwater.
I believe this was the first time I'd seen a gym with a blue floor.

One of the two Friday nights I was on island, I attended the lone
Jewish service available. It was on the naval base; the two photos above
show the sanctuary. In attendance: an active duty Coast Guard member
(the layperson who ran the service), the state archeologist,
a clown (no, not in costume), her two teenaged sons, and me.
Almost halfway to a cast of Survivor, and the right locale for it, too.


Another something I had not seen before: a sink with only a cold water knob.
I'm told this is because Guam's climate is tropical. Some sinks did have
a hot water knob—but most of the ones I tried didn't work.

This sink had not only a hot water option but also a
built-in water fountain; however, I saw no others like this.

Another bathroom feature I saw only once:
an ice-filled trough for—well, read the sign.

Highlights not covered by the pictures above:

  • Chickens were wandering everywhere. They belong to people but are allowed to roam free. Apparently they do come home to be fed.
  • Cars last longer on Guam. Small island = low mileage (in proportion to the age of the car).
  • Washers and dryers were often outside (though covered by an overhang).
  • Not specific to Guam, but a reading teacher at one of the middle schools I spoke at told me she loved jazz artist Henry Grimes's story in Vanished...and she and her husband are now listening to his music.

Lastly, in the bay behind my hotel rises a small island; you can see it at the end of part 1 and again in part 4. Though it seemed fairly far to me, I learned that during low tide, one can walk there.

So one day at 3:45 p.m., I put on my reef booties and did.

Outgoing took about 15 minutes; the way back felt longer, maybe because I was already wistful at the thought of abandoning "my" island. On the way there, the only living thing I saw in the clear water was a sea snake. When I arrived on the island, several kayakers were there, but they soon left, leaving me alone with the wee hermit crabs. I'd been told that this baby island was one of the best places on Guam to find nice shells, in part because it's one of the least trafficked. However, I searched an hour (including in the water) and did not find even one keeper.

En route back, as I was nearing the shore where my hotel was, a pregnant Korean woman at the water's edge was shouting to someone snorkeling a ways out. Turns out she spoke English and the person in the water was her husband; he could not, of course, hear her.

I volunteered to walk back out to him to let him know she wanted him. Normally, due to my aversion to both sand and midday sun, I am eager to get off a beach as soon as possible; in this case, with the tropical sunset and my little island still in view, I was happy to stay. (Pretending I was on a miniature "rescue" mission was also appealing. And delusional.)

Part 3.


Michael G-G said...

Hafa Adai.

Those welcome posters are awesome. Go going, Guam!

Michael G-G said...

I meant to say "Good going, Guam," but my keyboard's a bit sticky...