April 11, 2021
Imagine the warm sun hitting the sand, bright blue water, and palm trees swaying. Some may call that a vacation, but I get to call that my home.
After being born and raised in Guam, I am proud to call the beautiful island my home. Guam is located in the heart of the Western Pacific and is considered a U.S. territory. Guam has been taken over by three different colonial powers in the past 400 years: Spain, the United States, and Japan. With over 4,000 years of history left behind, there is always something new you can learn and experience.
It is the perfect destination to get away from the fast-paced life as you will be able to stop to relax and enjoy some simple living. Most will mistake Guam as a rural area where we don’t know how to speak English and live in grass huts, but Guam is so much more than our history left behind. It has become a melting pot of so many different cultures and has grown to be a bucket-list destination for everyone in the world. It is a full cultural experience that is so unique to itself that it will make you fall in love.
When you practically live in a vacation destination, you will often take for granted all the beauties the island has to offer. The hotels and resorts are great for giving you the vacation feel by the pool and spa, but if you really want to experience life as a local, you need to be ready to do a bit of exploring. The mile-long hikes and scenic waterfall trails make for such great adventures, and you are usually rewarded at the end with a nice swim to cool you down. You truly can never get bored when you are surrounded by the endless ocean, palm trees, and jaw-dropping sunsets. When the sky is lit up with the amazing colors of red and orange, it is like the cherry on top to every perfect day.
Any weekend I have free, it’s a must to grab my swimsuit and towel and head down to the beach. One of my favorite activities includes going down to Fish Eye and snorkeling alongside all the cool sea creatures and pretending to be one of them. The open waters allow me to experience so many different types of fish and habitats. If I’m lucky enough, sometimes I can catch a glimpse of some sea turtles. After a long day of paddle boarding and making new fish friends, I love to just kick back and enjoy a nice beach-side barbeque with my friends. Another must to check off on the “to-do list” would be to visit all the cool little local shops at Chamorro Village which occurs every Wednesday night. I love shopping at all the small shops and chowing on the best local cuisine while I’m there. You’re able to get the full experience with live island music playing and cultural dances being performed on the stage. My favorite thing is watching all the older couples get out on the dance floor and cha-cha like no one else is watching.
Part of getting the full experience is eating the best local foods. Each Chamorro dish you will try will be like nothing you’ve ever had before. We got all the dainty coffee shops and diners you have to hit, but personally some of the best local cuisine is actually made at fiestas where the elders have passed down their perfected recipes. The perfect fiesta plate consists of lumpia, red rice, barbeque chicken, keleguen, and finadene sauce on the side. Then to end the night with a bang, one slice of latiya will leave my stomach happy and satisfied. Just talking about it makes me drool a little! Luckily, it is very common to find a barbeque or family gathering happening every weekend that you could attend. Growing up, I was so used to being dragged to so many family gatherings where we would stay so late that I would be knocked out asleep in my parent’s lap while they continue to party on. It’s definitely the part that I miss most about being home.
Not only is the food amazing, but the people there are too. You won’t go anywhere without being greeted with a nice smile and “Håfa Adai,” or hello as they say in Chamorro. The culture is so rich and evident in everyone you will meet, and it narrows down to two of the most important things: family and respect. This means having respect of the island and every person there. This also means treating any stranger like a friend and being welcoming to any visitor. I was taught from such a young age what this looks like first-hand that I never knew any differently. These are the kind of lessons that must be passed down to the younger generations, so the culture won’t die out over time.
What’s there not to love about a never-ending time in paradise? Once you visit the first time, you will automatically fall in love and leave a part of your heart there. My love for the island is endless, and I am forever grateful that I get to share a bit of home wherever I go.
If you want to sound like a real local, here are some basic words you can say in Chamorro!
Hello: Håfa Adai (HAW-fah-day) / Thank you: Si Yu’us ma’åse’ (see DZOO-oos mah-AW-see)
Written by: Gaby Paulin
Gaby is a Sophomore studying Strategic Communications. Having grown up on the island of Guam, she is passionate about traveling and learning about other cultures. She loves expressing her love for people and community through her writing.