Sunday, June 29, 2008


There's a publication I found here called OOG, which stands for "Only on Guam." This mag purports to get military personnel used to Guåhan by providing some cultural and historical info, a business directory, maps, and other miscellaneous information for the deployed personnel here.

Here's my OOG experience for today.

We bought this shelf that was pretty big, but given that we've been so far able to stuff lots of crap into our Toyota Matrix, we were optimistic that at least we'd be able to put the shelf into the back with the seats down, tie it in, and just roll back home with the back trunk open. Well, naturally the stupid shelf didn't fit, and in the process we ripped one 40-pound bag of rock salt we had previously bought for my auntie's water softening system... all over the floor of the car.


We're standing there with a bunch of salt pellets at our feet, filthy from the dust on the shelf which we had carried laboriously throughout the Micronesia Mall, and pretty pissed at each other after a long day hashing out this grant proposal due on Tuesday. But some random guy comes up to us, offers his truck (as in, "We got a truck. Let us help you" as opposed to, "Do you need help?"), and drives the shelf to our house--and also helps us get it in the house. We're taking him and his wife (who was also in their truck with their four kids) to dinner. No word yet as to if the kids are with the babysitter, but even if we end up springing for four kids' meals, we'd be overjoyed to pay back the favor.

And so while some might bitch about OOG in the context of, "The power don't work" and "The government can't do anything right"--I want to emphasize the Chamoru concept of generosity, which has pretty much saved our butts for the past three weeks.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Actually, here's one

At the risk of dwelling too much on that dominant narrative of "look at the natives!", I still thought it was charming to see cows at the bus stop. Look closely for the calf actually in the bus stop.

Åhe, you can't see

I still need to get a digital camera, because looking at walls of text is undoubtedly boring. There are certainly lots of opportunities here in Guåhan, despite the fact that rainy season just started and every day entails a decent amount of foreboding skies.

Two awesome developments on the project front:

1. My project partner and I are nearly at the end of completing the first round of our project. Basically, our kids were able to interview an elderly person about her time during World War II with a minimum of boredom-showing (they are ranging in age from 4-10 years, after all, and a certain amount of fidgety-ness should be expected) for nearly 40 minutes, and they loved every minute of it. Most of all, I am really proud that I took the interview--done entirely in Chamoru--to my mother, and she listened to the whole thing in a wholehearted way. I don't think I've ever seen her be so interested in a strictly auditory thing, including my old radio show.

2. My project partner and I are trying to write another grant due July 1. I think this brings the total number of grants I've ever written up to three. I am seriously questioning, however, at what rate it is prudent to grow. Specifically, we're considering expanding our project's budget by nearly threefold, and only after about two months of in-depth planning and two weeks of actual implementation. My great fear is to devolve the way of other rapidly grown businesses and nonprofits, their capacities having been exhausted far too fast.

But then again, I'm not a huge business/financial/educational risk-taker. I do want to iterate, however, that I don't think conservatism (regarding risk) and innovation are mutually exclusive.

Bleh. Well, that was another stupendously interesting post. I gotta get some pictures.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

First day on the project and I wasn't totally traumatized!

I got up at 5:30 this morning to take a few breaths before reporting for duty at 7am.

Keep in mind that the youngest person I've ever taught was 16 years old, and a fairly mature 16 at that. I approached this day with a fair amount of trepidation--both because I just don't have that much experience with kids and I'm deathly afraid of getting sick (from what I understand, schools are hothouses of disease--and this probably only slightly an overstatement).

However, I did learn today that kids are actually not that different than adults. Teaching them requires a slightly simpler vocabulary and attention to how long individual activities take. But kids have essentially the same sorts of issues that adults have--needing a teacher who smiles a lot, projects lots of energy and enthusiasm, and is constantly monitoring for feedback. In many ways, I think kids have a greater potential to pay attention because they don't have cell phones or Blackberries to distract them.

So, in short, it was a real pleasure to work with 9-year-olds and above!

And on the project development front itself, learning to work with someone new is always challenging, but I'm really optimistic that my project partner and I are going to come to agreement about how to develop curricula.

I wish I had a funny little story about teaching today, as this post is more "technical" than I would like, but as it were, no kid threw up, cried (during our lesson, anyway), or got punished... so I'll take that.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Beginning Chamoru

I need to start incorporating more Chamoru words into my everyday usage, even if most of my day language is English. It's pretty amazing--I started this blog not too long ago, and it is now reflexive for me to refer to the continental 48 as Sanlågu. I'm going to start using that term more frequently around my family and friends to see if it catches on. It's weird how normalizing a term like Sanlågu has so shifted my sense of how I perceive (and become aware of other peoples' perceptions of) that beast called here in Guåhan the United States, the States, Stateside, and the Mainland (that's used more frequently in Hawaii, but I've heard it here, too).

Anyway, I'm trying to get my project partner to start incorporating some Chamoru, too. He's half Iranian, so we'll probably end up with some weird private language between us that's a mishmash of Farsi and Chamoru--Farsimoru or Chamarsi, if you will.

He's learning:
Manana si Yu'os = Good morning, as in, "Manana si Yu'os, you're stinking up the bed, so please get up now."
Hunggan = Yes, as in, "Hunggan, whatever you say is right."
Åhe = No, as in, well, I haven't really taught him this one yet.
Doggon = Butt. I haven't used it in context yet but it's still probably a useful word for him to know.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Ñalang has landed

It's official. I live in Guåhan. And there is enough gecko sh*t on the windowsills to prove it.

My project partner and I will also be going into hyper planning mode this weekend, in addition to finishing painting the living room, looking at some furniture, going to the flea market (for food), going to a Chamoru comedy show, drinking beers/playing trivial pursuit/listening to bluegrass (?!) at the mermaid tavern, Sunday breakfast with i familia, and getting the house ready for my mom, who is coming in three days--not to stay with us, but help out with family stuff.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

En route foodstuffs

I'm in Hawai'i now marrying off my best che'lu (friend). The wedding is done (thankfully without me throwing up during the ceremony, as I was officiating it) and tonight I got to eat at Ono Hawaiian Food on Kapahulu.

When I go back to somewhere I've loved or had people whom I've loved, I always have a list of food that I have to eat. For Hawai'i, it's going to Zippy's and eating ox-tail soup (my popo's standard lunch order), poi, pipikaula, lau lau, and lomi salmon. The only things I'm going to write are that 1) Proust, with his dry-ass butter cookies, ain't got nothing on lomi salmon, and 2) tonight was the closest I've ever actually come to weeping while shoveling mouthfuls of rice, taro, and lomi salmon into my craw. It's perfect transition food... I ate my last piece of New York pizza almost three and a half weeks ago.

If any of you have recipes for the following, please let me know: lau lau, poi, haupia that's not too sweet, and something interesting to do with taro bread.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Another hiccup

The great thing about going to Guåhan is, naturally, that as I pursue this project (about which eventually I'll elaborate its specific purposes and methods), I get to learn Chamoru.

Unfortunately/fortunately, in the meantime I'll make lots of mistakes.

Our first one has to do with our name, which is a pain because we already bought the domain name for our future website. Basically, there are lots of different kinds of pronouns in Chamoru, and while I didn't use the wrong one, it's not quite a smooth translation. It's the difference, apparently, between saying "Hi! Our name is..." and "Hi! Us name is..." You'd get the idea from the second one, but a native speaker probably wouldn't use it.

Obviously, this raises the first issue if you're going to name your project/business in a language you're learning: be sure you've thoroughly vetted your linguistic stuff. We knew we should have, but seeing as everything hit at the same time (major deadlines for school, moving, thesis due, general nervous breakdowns), I guess a protracted conversation with native speakers didn't quite make the priority list.

In the meantime, I'm soliciting some ideas for a new project name for any Chamoru speakers who might read this thing (at this point, one of you). The next post will give you an idea of what I'm looking for.

Monday, June 2, 2008

A slight hiccup

Last week I spent approximately two full days actually using the Internet for work--namely, trying to figure out activities to engage the teenagers our project targets. Specifically, our project targets younger teenagers (like 13+) and develops communication skills, like listening, asking questions, and engaging in deep inquiry about complex concepts like history and truth.

My partner and I might be in for a slight curriculum adjustment, however, because we just got word that we're working with 8 to 12-year-olds. There are no words with which I can express the bone-crushing, nerve-rending trepidation now pulsing through my body.

1. We're working with expensive audio equipment. And we're checking it out to individual kids or groups of kids. Or at least we were. But I guess being a teacher is all about adjusting, eh?

2. I have never, ever, ever worked with children, except for the few months where I babysat a 9-year-old and his mouthy 11-year-old brother. But that gig didn't entail teaching and working with kids. It required me to have McDonald's on speed dial for delivery (yes, you can get McDonald's delivered in Manhattan) and say repeatedly, "No, not until your homework is done."

Oh. My. God.