Celebrating Guam: Titiyas Flatbread Recipe

Two Lovers Point  panoramicHafa Adai, Friends!  Hafa Adai is the warm welcome greeting from my beloved island of Guam.  Si Yu’us Ma’ase/ Thank you to all my friends and family members who reached out to my mother and I during this past week.  It means so much to us. We are delighted that our beloved island has been spared.  As a thank you, I wanted to share with you a very special and easy recipe for Titiyas or Tiyas (TEE-jus) as my family calls it- a delicious flatbread.  You will find it printed here along with an excerpt from my book Dee’s Dishes.  Read on for more information about Guam and her people.

Where in the World is Guam, Anyway?  a blog post written by my dad!

Why Guam was targeted.

Keep Calm, Guam. An interview with Korean expert and BBC notable Robert E. Kelly.

I visited Guam During the Nuclear Standoff and Loved Every Minute of It

My Guam Journals – posts and pics from my family’s vacation in Guam two years ago.

MY GIFT TO YOU: An excerpt from my book Dee’s Dishes- Available on Amazon in print and on Kindle. Stories and Recipes including more about Guam, including the Chicken Kelaguen recipe mentioned in many of the above links.

Remembering Grandma Santos

I was so fortunate to have my grandma living with us when I was a young girl. I loved her then, and I have even greater respect and admiration for her now. She was with us for all of our special occasions. She let my beloved cat cuddle near her, even though she wasn’t particularly fond of cats. She was so warm, and genuinely loving, as my relatives from Guam are. She always made sure to snuggle and hug my sister and I when it was the other sister’s birthday. And she could fry Vienna sausage like no one else.

I cannot even imagine the hardships she endured, growing up on Guam in the early twentieth century. Her island was captured by Japan during World War II happened, and her family was forced to march between villages along with the other native islanders. Her young son became separated from her during the march, and wasn’t reunited with the family for a day. Can you even imagine?

She sure made me feel special and loved, and I know she did the same for her other twenty-six grandchildren. She walked us to the park at the top of the hill so we could play on the playground. She wore a lace shawl over her head, reminiscent of how Catholic women had to cover their hair in church in pre-Vatican II times. I still remember the shiny black patent leather Mary Jane’s with the big fat buckle that she gave me one year. (Maybe that’s why I have always loved Mary Janes!)

Sometimes when I find a food truck now I will ask them to prepare a meal that I remember my grandma cooking for us. It is basically eggs and rice, with fried Vienna sausage. Then I douse it with soy sauce. (You know you are an Asian Pacific Islander if you keep a bottle of soy sauce in your desk at work!) The likes and loves start pouring in when I post a picture of my meal on Facebook or Instagram!  Many of my family, friends, and followers remember this comfort meal.

I remember the Tejas that Grandma cooked for us. Tejas is short for Titiyas, the traditional flatbread. I remember watching her making this in our home, when I was growing up. She’d give me a little of the dough and I could make my own tiny tejas. If I concentrate on the memory, I can almost smell her presence — Rose Milk hand lotion and Cheerios. It’s wonderful to now watch my own children make tejas with my mom.

I miss you, Grandma.



Flatbread from Guam

(pronounced tih-TEE-jus or TEE-jus for short.)

My grandmother would make this from memory, without ever measuring. My mom studied her process and came up with these measurements.


1 cube butter

½ cup sugar

4 cups flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 cup milk (or coconut milk, per my mom)


Cream butter and sugar.

In the same bowl, pour in the flower and baking powder.

Stir just the top dry ingredients, before mixing all together with the milk.

Mix until contents form a ball.

Separate into five balls.

Flatten each ball and roll between two sheets of waxed paper with rolling pin.

Cook on griddle one to two minutes each side.

There is no need to use oil/spray on the pan because of the butter.

Makes five large tejas.

Great with cheese and ham. (Even spam.)

I hope you enjoyed reading.  Let me know if you have tried Tiyas!

Biba Guam!







My Guam Journals, The Return

What can I say about our very last day. We manage to sleep in til a reasonable hour, pack and decide to check one suitcase after all- since one of my cousins has given us TEN bags of Chamorro Chip macadamia nut cookies, I kid you not. My parents take the kids to McDonald’s for breakfast as Hubby and I pack everything into our carry-on’s. The sun is shining, and we wish we could stay longer. Some things is didn’t get to doing, but all in all, I really can’t complain. We enjoyed a very special, wonderful time on an island paradise with my dear parents. They will remain on Guam for another few days before heading home.

Our flight home is by way of Japan. We fly west to Tokyo for three hours, have a two hour layover in Narita, before the long 9+ hour flight home. These flights will show movies on a large screen, and serve meals. My gluten-free meals are served first, about ten minutes before the rest of the family’s. They are mostly fish entrees, and they are delicious! (Except the GF “muffin,” that was like a hockey puck.) We watched Theory of Everything on the way to Japan.

In Japan, we had to be processed for security again. Removing shoes and everything. A little annoying, as it took up some time. We consider getting Sushi, but settle for a free taste of something sweet covered in Mochi. I wait at the gate and watch our charging devices and carry-on’s as hubby takes the kids for a walk to the McDonald’s. They pay in US dollars and receive Japanese Yen coins in change. (I ask the boy to share some of the coins with his sister. He relinquishes all of ONE YEN- the flimsy plastic feeling coin.) Hubby says he pointed to pictures and the lady rang him up. He had no idea if his order was right, however. It was! Dear Daughter enjoys her Chicken McNuggets – since she hadn’t enjoyed what was offered on the plane. They also stopped at a gift shop for her to admire some Hello Kitty stationery.

On the way home, the crew starts the Movie, and it’s the same one! Ugh. Well, no matter, there’s the handy United app for streaming movies. Hubby is borrowing my tablet and his movie freezes up. He doesn’t know what to do. Our 6 year old helps him. She’s so cute. We are all four of us sitting in a row this time, with a good view of the movie screen. We get another meal. This is “dinner.” I’m currently tracking two time zones in order to manage hubby’s medication, as well as dear son’s antibiotics. The crew starts showing the new Annie movie, which is so disappointing, Dear Daughter falls asleep. I wish I had fallen asleep, as well, alas, I found myself watching the train wreck. Only the girl manages to sleep a significant amount of time. Nine hours is a long flight. We seem to be making good time, however, and should arrive home in closer to eight hours. Finally, they are serving breakfast. We awake the girl to see if she wants breakfast. Bad idea. She’s suddenly all Boo-Boo Face Grumpy Cat, and I am digging into my own backpack for the super-secret emergency calming device I’d packed in case we had such a situation. Dear Son sees me go for it and says simply, “I agree.” Fist bump.

And I bring out: a cute little stuffed animal of Grumpy Cat. The girl giggles and smiles, and the world is right again. Grumpy Cat will be her boon companion for the last hour of flight. Thank goodness it was only one more hour!

We arrive in San Francisco at 9:30 am, Saturday, although we had left Guam at Noon on Saturday. Wrap your mind around that one. And yet we had been up for like thirty hours, traveling for 17. Traveling over the international date line, we had skipped a day on the way there, and celebrate Groundhog Day all the way back. Guam is 17 hours Ahead of Pacific Daylight Time: to calculate this I always subtract 7 hours and add a day. After all, Guam is Where America’s Day Begins.

I cannot wait to get home, shower, and take a nap! We will have hours of fun reality television shows to watch on the DVR. I can’t wait to share my experiences with our friends and family. I am bursting with Chamorro Pride.

The rest of the day is kind of a blur. I think after we gave Aunt Betty some Chamorro Chip Cookies, we headed to Starbucks for lunch. Hubby dropped us off at home to get clean, while he went to the grocery store to pick up milk and stuff for dinner. I manage a 2 hour nap before dinner. I have no idea what I cooked for dinner for the family that night. I only remember that my twelve year old son fell asleep sitting up on the couch, something I hadn’t seen him do in forever. So we sent everyone to bed at like 8:00pm, Saturday night. Even after a full Sunday of recovery, it sure was hard to pretend to be normal at work on Monday afternoon. Happily the kids returned to their school schedule and had no problem. I suppose that last time I had made the long trek, I was fourteen years younger and had not birthed two children yet. This whole first week of being back, I’d find myself wide awake at three o’clock in the morning. Because, in Guam it would be 8pm TOMORROW. On Tuesday, my sister mentioned asking our mother to bring home more Chamorro Chip cookies. Alas, on our Tuesday, it would already by Wednesday Guam Time, which meant our parents were already on their plane.

My reflections continue as I process the whole of this journey. It was my intention to visit the island, show her to my children, and spend quality time with my parents. We did all of this and more. Visiting the island was meaningful on so many levels. There was such beauty on this little green island on the other side of the ocean. So much history: communal and personal. Sure, some of the history is tragic, but the Island Spirit remained, was reclaimed, and lives in resurrection. I’m delighted to have had the honor and privilege of sharing this journey with my multigenerational family: my parents, my husband and our children. They are the right ages where they will remember this vacation, as I recall my own vacation to Guam and Japan when I was nine years old.

Please feel free to ask me any questions about our trip by leaving a comment below.

Si Yu’us Ma’ase
(Thank You.)

Puntan Dos Amantes

Puntan Dos Amantes

My Guam Journals, Part 5.2

Day 5, Afternoon

After the beauteous Two Lovers Point, we head to Hagatna/ Agana to pick up my Auntie Nit for lunch. She suggests that we go to the Fiesta for lunch. The Fiesta is a hotel with a buffet. The buffet is closing in thirty minutes when we arrive. So we hurry. (You should know that we often go to the buffet at the Paris hotel in Las Vegas, timing out arrival to be thirty minutes before “lunch time” so that we can enjoy both meal types.). Most of the fare is not to my family’s liking, however. The kids and my father happily find the Mexican station, and, of course, the desserts. My husband and I find the Korean Barbeque station, which is a nice treat. Auntie Nit is a hoot. On the way back to her house, we drive around randomly looking for mangoes. As you do.

Now we head to the statue of the three generations of Chamorritas. This statue stands near the beach off the coast of Hagatna. I was drawn to this statue as I started planning for our trip. I asked my sweet mother if she would pose with my daughter and I in the same way. I was delighted that she even offered to bring her mestiza, a sheer blouse worn over a regular top. The boys helped us get into the exact positions of the three. This was especially meaningful to me, as it has been such a special trip and I’m so proud of my mother and her culture, here was an opportunity for her to show the island to my daughter. And here was an opportunity for us to memorialize the moment. The photo is below. My dear father also entered the photo into the Monochrome Madness weekly challenge here.

Three Chamorritas

Dear Son noticed a storefront sign with the Daok Oil that I was looking for. We maneuvered back and knocked in vain. The store appeared abandoned, and the neighbors didn’t know anything about them. Alas. Sometimes the quest is not about the treasure, but the adventure.

After returning to the hotel to change, we head to Tu Re Cafe to meet Shana one last time. We enjoy some more special time together, and a rainbow appears. I catch both sides of the rainbow, but as I take the panoramic photo, the clouds move over the right side. Typing this today, I just realized it was a double rainbow. Amazing.

Dos Isas

Now we head to Cappriciosa again for dinner with my mother’s childhood friend, Senator Tom Ada. We are meeting early at a different location, in order to beat the tourists. We have a back room which is more like an enclosure, and it’s only semi-private. The Senator and his wife are delightful, as are his sister and her husband. We are enjoying the same entrees we selected on Monday. The restaurant is in a shopping mall, and everybody seems to know Senator Ada.

We make one last stop at the worlds’s largest K-Mart for snacks for the plane ride tomorrow. My parents are going to meet the others at The Outrigger hotel for some music and wine. We get the kids in bed, and my husband and I enjoy a rare date, we enjoy a nice walk to the Outrigger and some last minute souvenir shopping at the ABC stores. I snap a pic of a funny human-sized shark stuffed animal dressed in a floral print sarong at Underwater World. As you do.

The trip is over too soon, and yet it was also perfect. Just perfect.

Please check back for the conclusion of our journey: the Return Home.

Family with Shana

My Guam Journals, Part 5.1

Day 5
We can’t believe this is our last full day on Guam. Dear daughter says she wishes we could stay another week. My friends at home are asking me to move to Guam, so that they can come visit us. I admit I fantasize a little, though I wonder what jobs might be available for us, and how our lifestyle might change. Where would we live? Would I have to get typhoon shutters? Would we rent out our house in California?
Instead of journal time this morning, we change into our suits and head out to the pool. It’s 7 am and the sun has been up for some time. We start in the pool, and for a brief second, this California girl thinks “This isn’t heated!” Then Duh! We are on Guam. We leave the pool and walk twenty feet to the beach. Now this is what I’m talking about! The calm, clear beach water is warmer than the pool. We wade out a bit, and see that none of the activities are open yet, they are just setting out the pedal boats, etc. We go back to the pools and the kids frolic as I check online. At a reasonable time, I text my dear parents to see if they are awake. Mom’s again having leftovers from the prior night’s party for her breakfast, but Dad will join us. He comes to the pool and suggests the hotel’s buffet breakfast. Sounds good! We towel off, pull on cover ups/ tee shirts and head inside. The buffet has a ton of Japanese food, as well as a sandwich bar, omelet stand, and traditional breakfast fare. The tator tots are labeled hash browns. This strikes me as funny.
We pile in the minivan and my mother takes the Auntie Bennett Way to the site. This includes wrong turns and turnarounds. At one point we find ourselves not quite finishing a u-turn at the McDonald’s exit. Naturally, we enter said exit and make our way to the drive thru. But my mother has passed the order stop, and the minivan’s side windows don’t roll down more than 4 inches, so my husband opens the sliding door to speak into the microphone. This is how we do it. On Guam.
Soon we are heading for Two Lovers Point. My husband doesn’t remember this from last time, but I do. It is a wonderful lookout point, and the site of legend. The tale is that the Chamorro Chief’s eldest daughter had been ordered to wed a Spanish soldier. But she had chosen a Chamorro suitor. They did not have the family’s blessing, so they could never marry. They tied their long shining black hair together into one big knot, and the jumped off this cliff to their deaths. They are now together forever, and the waves whisper their undying love.
After the entrance fee and legend signs, we climb the structure. This is a two story deck, and the first level actually jets out over the ocean. My engineer husband observes that the structure might not be sound. But that’s really why it works so well. There is only room for one or two people at the tip of the point, and when I look down, I feel a strange sensation as I sense how deep that drop really is. It’s a beautiful day and clear blue water meets blue sky in all directions. We take photos in every direction, of each other, we help take photos for other tourists and they, in turn, take ours. The staff encourages us to look this way and that, for signs of the lovers. In one direction the beach resembles the profile of the male lover, in the other direction it is said her profile is in the rocks. Even though it is hot and humid, the wind whips about, refreshingly. Dear husband says this is the best lookout point IN THE WORLD and I beam.
As we leave, I purchase postcards from the gift shop, and find my mother has made friends with the street vendors. The coconut slushie guy speaks three languages, and is enticing us with samples. The party music is blaring and another tourist bus pulls up. We cannot refuse. The coconut and mango slushies are the perfect cool & sweet treat.

Puntan Dos AmantesTwo Lovers Point  panoramicFamily

My Guam Journals, Day 4


Day 4
I can’t believe our vacation is half over by this point. We head over across the street and down a block to McDonald’s, where they have local additions to the typical McDonald’s fare, including rice, Portuguese sausage and Spam. I think my husband and son enjoy 5 breakfast sandwiches between the two of them. We head back to the hotel to get the car. We are going to Cocos Island today!

Cocos Island is a day resort: a tiny island off the southern coast of Guam. In the past, there were overnight bungalows as in Tahiti, but a typhoon destroyed them. So now it’s just a day resort. We are trying to catch the 9:45am Ferry. Thankfully, we receive the local discount to get across. It’s not very far at all, it even feels a little bit silly to be leaving a beautiful island for a teeny tiny dinky one. But even Guamanians like to go. It’s where they go on their birthdays when they want to get “off island.” They go to Cocos Island.

Once we dock, we queue at the cashier to pay our fare, and buy our marine activity coupons. This is a tourist destination, and I suppose it makes it easier to just pay all at once at the window, then go to the counters and kiosks to schedule activities. We sign up for parasailing, jet skiing, and ocean snorkel. Other options include banana boating, Seawalking, snuba and scuba diving. I’m scheduled for parasailing first, but the wind changes and they delay me until after our snorkel, as well as require a second rider with me in tandem. Hubby steps up. Yay! He gets his jetski and takes Dear Son, Dear Daughter, and I out in turns. My parents just watch. After the jetskiing, I take the kids to the beach where dear daughter collects shells. We are careful not to disturb any hermit crabs. We wade in the cool clear pleasant water and it starts to rain on us. Nothing major. We continue. Mom and Hubby go back to the cashier for some food coupons. We buy lunch of hot dogs, fries, and burgers. Then it’s time to snorkel.

We take a small motorized boat to this platform. It is super loud and crazy, this is the site for scuba diving and Seawalking, as well, at this time. Hubby and I did scuba diving fourteen years ago, we thought that the snorkel would be most family-friendly. The dude asks if we have been snorkeling before. Hubby and I say yes, but not the kids. They pretty much give us our equipment and help us off the platform, then we are on our own. The Seawalkers and scuba divers have dedicated guides. Seawalkers are these large weighted helmets that have an air line to a tank on the platform. So you walk along the ocean bottom and feed fish. We are comfortable enough as we are, there’s a ton of multicolored fish in the clear waters, and an enormous reef or whatever. The kids are loving it, but dear daughter is literally hanging on to me. She has one arm across the back of my neck and I am feeling all 50+ lbs of her weighing me down. We switch kids and now I’m with Dear Son, who’s doing fine. We have drifted further away from the platform than I like, the girl is again holding on to me while dear hubby finds her wayward flipper. I note dear son’s vest is floating up over his shoulders and I want to head back to readjust. But I have the girl clinging to me and I can only swim with one arm, so this is taking a long time and I’m frustrated. I give the girl back to dear hubby and bring the boy back to the platform to get readjusted. I also request a line, hello, so we can pull ourselves in next time. He gives me a long line with an inner tube on the end, Hallelujah! Now Dear Daughter can hold on to it, instead of me! We both hold on to the handles on this tube, and I’m suddenly having a much better time. Hubby gets a bottle of fish food, and we take turns feeding the fish below us. They swarm around us and dear daughter delights aloud, we can hear her muffled squeals of delight through her snorkel. It really is super cool. They’re are plenty of Dory’s, but my favorite is the skinny red and blue and silver fish, they are two stripes’ height: one silver and one blue/ red. Our time is over too soon, and the girl loses a flipper again. A staff diver comes, but hubby has retrieved it already. And we’re back on the platform, ready to boat back to the Cocos dock.
Parents and kids now watch as hubby and I get on another little boat with another couple. They are Japanese and do not speak to us. They go up first, together. Their ride is a suitable length of time, and then the captain says the wind has changed and now we have to go up separately. I don’t mind but hubby hadn’t wanted to do it in the first place, he only went with me this time because 1) they said I needed another, and 2) it was free for him. (We’d both gone before, fourteen years ago, but he said he didn’t feel very safe, as a bigger guy, there’s just this little harness.) So I volunteer to go next.
And I love it! The sky is blue and the sun is shining. Talk about a bird’s eye view. Usually I’m looking at a map of Guam on a piece of paper. Right now I can see the coast of my island to one side, and Cocos Island on the other. I am but a dot on the map. On the globe. I offer silent prayers of gratefulness and exclaim my delight aloud. Time is irrelevant as I float in the calm. We are not even moving, the wind keeps me up and stable. I love it. I gaze toward my beloved island, and to my surprise I hear myself exclaim aloud: I’m home.
My time is over and they reel me in. I’m basking in the sun’s love. When they reel in my husband, they dunk him in the water a bit. He smiles. The Japanese couple gives us thumbs-up’s, and we reciprocate. The woman says “Nice.” The boat brings us back to our family. And then it’s time to ferry back to Guam. We are the only ones on this ferry that seats sixty. The captain’s radio plays Morris Day and the Time. (the Bird.)
Now we head back to the village of Talofofo. We are so looking forward to seeing Talofofo Falls. Another beautiful spot in God’s Country, plus this is the site of Yokoi’s cave. We spot a wild pig in the bushes near the parking lot. After the entrance fee, we walk past small county-festival type kiddie rides that are clearly not in use. There are not too many visitors, as we are touring again in the heat of the afternoon! Ai Adai! (Chamorro for Ay Karumba!/ Oy Vey!) We begin with the cable ride over the two waterfalls. The little cars are not air conditioned, and the windows do not open, for safety. So there are plastic fans cabled to the sides. So funny. Fanning ourselves, old school, we marvel at the glory of these double waterfalls. Soon we walk alongside the water, and we are able to get really close in some places. There are many picturesque moments, and two suspension bridges so we can enjoy the beauty from many vantage points. The safety railings are bamboo and half steel. The concrete, where paved, is rough. We are in the jungle, after all. It’s sweltering hot as we trek to Yokoi’s cave. There is railing over one side, and the terrain is slightly treacherous. I don’t feel that any of us are in any danger, but we marvel at the moderate “safety.” We are in Guam. Through the jungle and nearer to another spot on the Talofofo River, is the cave. The cavesite is labeled but there is a barricade. We see only an open bamboo covering to a hole in the ground. There are many photos, paintings (of the underground cave layout/ design), placards in Japanese, even an altar to Buddha and candles. It is amazing to think someone lived here, undetected for 28 years. For the Japanese, it’s a site of national pride. Back nearer the falls, is a welcome, air conditioned mini-museum of continuous murals depicting indigenous Chamorros, Magellan’s “Discovery” of Guam (Don’t get us started!), Spanish colonization, Spanish-American War, becoming an American Territory in 1898, World War II and Japanese occupation, American Liberation. Exhausted, we make our way back to the car.
After freshening up at our hotel, we head to Pacifico’s. This is the party they are having for us on the third floor. We are late arriving, but they don’t mind. Neighbors and friends are also there, and three of my cousins. It’s wonderful and we enjoy more homemade red rice, smoked beef, fried chicken, special potato salad (it’s like egg salad and potato salad combined with sliced olives. Crazy but it tastes so awesome!) titiyas, and more. And for dessert, there is this amazing French toast casserole. Dear daughter falls asleep on my husband, and does not move for an hour. The kind neighbors listen to my tale of my quest for the special oil; they haven’t seen it available, however. My big, strong Chamorro Warrior of a husband carries the sleeping California girl down the five flights of stairs as we leave.


Tomorrow we will go to the amazingly beautiful Two Lovers Point, see my Auntie for lunch, see the Three Generations statue, and enjoy a dinner with my mother’s childhood friend who is now a Guam Senator.

Buenas Noches!

My Guam Journals, Part Three

Day 3

The early-rising kids and I again head down to the hotel lobby and enjoy our new routine. I have a frappucino and they share a guava nectar. We have extra Potu from the party last night, which is a refreshing sweet treat. I call this journal time, and they both write in their journals after we finish eating the sticky Potu. My daughter has written a song called I Love Guam and she sings it to us. The lyrics are preserved in her journal.

Shana picks us up at our hotel and brings us to King’s for breakfast. Dear son enjoys a stack of peanut butter pancakes. I enjoy coconut pancakes. Did I mention there is no sales tax in Guam? We enjoy that.

It’s raining sideways as we exit, so we decide to delay our tour of the southern part of the island, and instead visit the other War Museum. This is the one I visited 14 years ago, but it was since relocated and expanded. This collection is donation only, and the exhibits are organized in two wings, the American side and the Japanese side, with actual military vehicles in the middle that we can stand around and touch. We sign in and start on the Japanese side. The placards are homemade and contain many typos, which my son enjoys identifying. The placards are in English and Japanese.

One of the first stories is that of Yokoi. I find this story utterly fascinating: as the Americans liberated Guam, some Japanese Soldiers retreated to the jungle and one of them hid for 28 years. He was discovered in 1972. He was a tailor and well-suited for his jungle-living, even stitched himself an army uniform with buttons made out of I don’t know what. He survived in a ten foot by 3 foot underground cave, coming out at night only, eating berries and rats. He was hailed by Japan as a hero (because he didn’t surrender). The next day we would visit the site of his cave.

This is also an excellent museum, with a totally different feel from the Naval station visitor center. The relics are personal donation and you really “get” that. There are weapons and canteens and blood-stained handkerchiefs, flags, and beautiful watercolor artwork painted on linens by Japanese soldiers when they were interred. The American side again shows the hardship of Chamorros during occupation. Many letters from the government on actual letterhead. There are painted cut-outs where you can stand behind a sign and look like you are wearing army uniform.

The rain eased up so we continued our way south, they call this God’s Country. The land is lush and green. Shana brings us to a lookout point where people have carved their names into cactus leaves. My children do the same. Maybe someday they will bring their children and they can show them their leaves. Shana brings us to several historical sites during this day, including the Spanish Fort and canons in Inarajan, the oldest village. The kids and i delight in the “sleeping” plants, a ground covering that withdraws to the touch. We spend some time finding these plants and “turning it off” with a swipe of our shoe. We would go to Asan Beach, and of course Nimitz Hill, which boasts a memorial honoring Chamorros who suffered personal injury during occupation. I show my children their great-grandmother’s name. Brings me tears even as I write this.

I never knew how brave she was, for I was very young when she died. I wish I could have told her how sorry I am that she had to suffer in that way, raising her seven+ children during the occupation (one of her daughters died at age two, two were still-born), and how proud I am, and how grateful I am for her. (My mother has not visited this memorial. I think it’s too difficult for her, emotionally.) But I know Grandma’s spirit is with me. It was at Grandma’s Novena (rosary after her death) when Shana’s mother spotted me at age 7 and invited me to become penpals with her daughter. And Shana would bring my family to this memorial today, over 35 years later.

A wonderful stop is Jeff’s Pirate Cove, a unique only-on-Guam place with a pirate theme, some Greek offerings on the menu, and burgers and fries aged with petite local bananas. The restaurant is inside/outside, with the breeze blowing through open sides, as 80s rock music plays. Pirate Jeff has a fascination with Sgt. Yokoi, there is a photo displayed of the two of them together. Alongside another photo of Pirate Jeff with Carlos Santana. A short walk away is a World War II bunker. It’s wild.

Shana does not seem to have interest in visiting Talofofo Falls, so we mark that for tomorrow. We spend all day together, and as always, I’m sad as we part. But we want to get to Chamorro Village for dinner, before the crowds. She brings us home, we collect Nana & Papa and head back to Hagatna for Chamorro Village.

Chamorro Village is a collection of buildings: eateries, a dining hall, and gift shops. But on Wednesday night, street vendors, barbecues and food trucks set up shop, and the islanders congregate. Music plays, people line dance, and and tourist busses deposit Japanese tourists near the mobile ATM machine. We seek and find Shana’s cousin Eloi, whom we met the night prior. He has a barbecue booth right in front and we buy dinner for most of us for like $17. I’m enjoying barbecue shrimp on a skewer, and sweet corn so delicious, my daughter exuberantly shares with me, even though she’s lacking her two front teeth! Hubby finds BBQ meatballs on a skewer nearby and dear daughter enjoys those so much she has meatball sauce all over her face 🙂 Nana buys a fresh young coconut and we drink from straws direct from the coconut before they hack it and we scoop out the insides. We continue journeying through this delightful colorful musical maze of vendors, and I find that the Coconut Villa no longer supplies the Daok Oil I seek, they offer coconut oil at $14 a bottle, but I find it for $6 at another vendor a few stops down. Hubby finds a cold coconut bubble shake, which he is in love with. I am looking for Banana lumpia, but I find banana doughnuts instead, and now I am in love. Two large fried banana doughnut nuggets on a skewer for just $1! I get two skewers and share with the family. It’s super hot in the dense crowd but exhilarating. We come to the dining hall, where people are line dancing. We watch a couple, then my daughter and I join in on “To The Left…” Here two of my cousins find my mother, we hug and kiss hello as one says to my father, Joe is on the other side of the dancing, wearing a red shirt. He makes his way over there and says hello to a fellow in a red shirt, saying I’m Uncle Jerry! They chat for five minutes before realizing it’s the wrong Joe. My cousin’s husband Joe is nearby in his red shirt. We crack up over this story for days.

I think this is the night we get the kids in bed and I use coin-op laundry in the hotel. This is efficient but it’s not the same as doing laundry at home. It reminds me of the dorms in college. It’s $2 per load and everything’s HOT. Some of our clothes may have shrunk. Of course we ate so much, we may have also increased!

Tomorrow we will go to Cocos Island, and visit Talafofo Falls, and go back to Pacifico’s.

My Guam Journals, Part Two

Day 2
This day we would spend with my parents. After they got up. Dear daughter awoke at 5:30 AM singing a song she wrote about loving Guam. I hurry the kids into their day clothes and we explore the lobby as hubby and my parents sleep in. At the hotel cafe, they proudly serve Starbucks. It’s funny how with so many other American chains represented, There are no Starbucks places within 300 Miles of Guam.

The Familian awakens and we walk to breakfast at Eggs & Things, a Hawaiian chain. We line up outside, place our orders and pay, all before being seated. Clever crowd control for limited seating. The cashier totaled our orders and confirmed: so that will be 22 pancakes on the table, you are okay with that? So we took away one of the orders of 5 coconut pancakes. (Turns out they had miscounted, we’d originally ordered 25 and after removing 5 we still had 20 pancakes on the table for 6 people.) Guava syrup. Mmm. And shaved coconut on top. Pineapple syrup, okay but not as good.

My mother insisted she know exactly where the War Museum was. Turns out there are two and she knew where the other one was! The one I had been to 14 years ago had moved locations and expanded, adding to the confusion. Nevertheless, we enjoyed the visitor center outside the Naval Base, which featured an enormous 2 man sub outside. This museum was filled with many clever interactive exhibits, and videos. In fact, we were warmly welcomed and invited to the theater, where she cued up the video especially for our party of six. This was a brief but quality movie, mostly black and white, depicting World War II on Guam. It was very well documented and narrated, and the video was oft times difficult to watch. I asked my six year old daughter to sit in my lap and give me hugs, rather than watch the screen.

For those of you who don’t know, Guam was captured and occupied by Japan during the war, actually hours before the Pearl Harbor attack. The Chamorro people were quite brutally mistreated, and this is the part that breaks my heart. My dear mother was JUST BORN when her family was force-marched along with other Chamorros to a concentration camp. Her oldest sister, who was NINE at the time, was in charge of carrying my newborn mother. (Auntie is no longer with us, but she told my sister her memories of the march before she died.) My uncle, the only boy, became separated from the family during the March and they didn’t see him for like a day. Can you even imagine the horror? I cannot, really. I imagine, and my heart breaks and my tears well. But my family LIVED it. I’m grateful my mother doesn’t remember it.

So my daughter is not watching, my tears are welling and my mother is crying. But it is important that we acknowledge this history. After many many months of occupation, Americans liberated Guam and reclaimed the island. Guamanians were granted U.S. Citizenship in 1950. After the movie, we entered the main hall of exhibits, the feature exhibit being a triple screen video and giant topographical map of the island. We huddle around the map like the Rebels in Star Wars with Princess Leia. And as the video narrates, lasers light up showing the Japanese arrival and capture in red lights. Then green lights arrive and we are mesmerized. The battle for Guam is happening right before us. We watch the Green lasers and lights reclaim the island and the red lights retreat up to the high ground and jungles. And we are Thrilled.

The rest of the exhibits include weaponry and graphics of children in distress, so I bring my daughter to the gift shop, where she happily reads an entire book while sitting in a child-sized chair. My son and husband puruse all exhibits. My parents strike a conversation with the lovely visitor center coordinator who had setup the movie for us. She’s Hawaiian, and has even been to our hometown in the East Bay Area. Small world.

After the museum, my mother wants to just quickly visit her niece, as we are near their village. She doesn’t have their phone number, but it will be rude not to visit, in this culture. So we head over there, not really knowing exactly where that is, only that it is a 3 story building off some main street. She makes one wrong turn, and introduces us to the Guamanian concept of directions, being “See that street? That’s not it.” Part of the landmarks direction giving system includes the courtesy of telling you when you will have gone too far.

We find the house. It’s an apartment building which they manage and live in, and they built a 3rd floor outdoor party room atop. It has a flat roof (all Guam houses do- typhoon proof) and railings that are strikingly painted, and fluorescent lights and a kitchen & bathroom. This is the place to be. With views of the ocean and open sides, we catch the breeze. They say you can see dolphins from there. I love Guam.

My cousin Marie is not at home, but her husband Pacifico is. He is a wonderful jolly fellow and he welcomes us upstairs. In the giving spirit of the island, he offers my mother food galore and a bottle of Tuba. (Tuba is local coconut alcohol, well-loved by Guamanians, feared by Haole’s.) He spills the beans that they are arranging a surprise party for us later that week. We beam.

Now we head to the Lina’Li Chamorro park. I’d been so looking forward to this recreated ancient Chamorro village (prior to Magellan’s arrival and colonization by Spain). It was dripping hot by this afternoon hour, and thankfully we received the local rate. We enter the amazing space via a tropical garden and jungle, and then an air conditioned theater. Here we see a short video on the Creation myth of the Chamorros, it’s delightful and new to me. It is beautiful and indigenous and I think how the young actress resembles my younger self, bright eyes and smiling but not beautiful, quirky odd facial features, some too big. I’m reveling in this story when we step outside and my dear sweet mother says to us: “I think that’s all made up.”

Insert needle scratching vinyl here.

My mouth gaped and my husband smiled as he watched us. Mom saw me and knew. I walked away, confused and a little hurt, until I remember. My mother idealizes Post-War Americanized Ultra-Catholic Guam. This is what she wants to share with us. She has little interest in her indigenous Chamorro ancestors (pre-Spanish colonization). It’s the younger generation (mine) celebrating a resurgence of awareness of our ancient Chammoro heritage.

We walk through the ancient recreated village and a guide appears. He is a young teenager, dressed in an orange loincloth, barefoot. He shows us how to open a coconut, we drink from the shell, then he uses ancient tools to scrape and shred the coconut meat for us, and we eat it fresh with our fingers. OMG it’s delicious! He shows us the bamboo huts and woven baskets, and latte stones. He tells us of ancient Chamorro life, and shows us how to feed the animals. We complete the tour and find ourselves on The Beach, an outdoor beachside bar. Hubby buys my fathera Mai Tai and dear daughter dances her dance on the stage with the ocean behind her. The breeze blows away menus and coasters and I wonder how the volleyball players fare in the wind. It’s a beautiful time.

We make our way back to the hotel and freshen up. I suppose we must have had snacks at some point, but I can’t remember other than cheese sticks from the hotel convenience store.

I text my dear friend Shana, asking for her mother’s address for the party that night. She texts back:

HAHAHAHA. That doesn’t work here. I’ll bring you a map.

Sure enough the map (computer generated) documents intersections and markets and landmarks. It’s delightful.

We reach my friend’s mother’s house for the party, which I am told is “just a barbeque!” but there will be nearly 50 people there before the end of the night. I should say that my friend is likely a second cousin, our mothers are cousins. (I have to check this, actually. If our grandmothers are cousins, then we are third cousins. Fact check. Will get back to you.) Of course, everybody on the island is related. We are all family.

So all these wonderful people are welcoming us to the house to the party, I mean BBQ, and the island. Shana’s sister spends quite a bit of time with us, it’s so fun getting to know each other. My parents have found their peers and they have created the Table of Respected Elders. This is a fabulous home and the party area is outside. There is a full kitchen outside. This is dedication. The guys ask my hubby, Blue or Red? He says, I don’t know what that means. Turns out, that’s code for beer. Red is Bud. Blue is Bud Light. There is also Green and Yellow, meaning Heineken and Corona, respectively.

We can’t believe this is such a big occasion for us, while they act like it’s nothing. And it’s a Tuesday! So many people whom I have never met greet us with kisses, and they say Welcome Home! My heart just melts.

We gather to bless the table of food. Shana’s oldest children say a blessing in the native Chamoru language, and it’s beauteous. I only recognize a few words, Si Yu’us Ma’ase which means “Thank You.” The food includes our beloved Red Rice (which is actually orange), smoked beef, shrimp patties, titiyas (tortillas), Potu (steamed rice flour cakes made with the aforementioned Tuba), and latiyas (custard over pound cake dusted with cinnamon). So much more but these are my favorites.

We stay past 9pm and dear daughter sleeps in the car.

More on my Guam Journey to come!

Also, if you have questions, please ask!

Si Yu’us Ma’ase.