Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Decorating an office

I swear I'll be able to get (more) photos up eventually. For now, however, you'll have to envision the design aesthetic I'm attempting to force on this island house--or, at least, the room where the bills get paid, my internet procrastinating happens, and the work is supposed to get done. I was inspired by a place in Los Angeles where I used to get my haircut, and various tattoo shops I've visited over the years.

So far, the paint job is awesome. It's purple. It might be a good sign that the paint store guy took one look and said, "That's kind of the color we painted my kid's room." Then again, it could also mean that I have an office fit for a 7-year-old girl who likes unicorn
s (nothing wrong with that, just not exactly the look I was going for).

But it would take a very special 7-year-old indeed who wants Fred on her walls. Who's Fred?

This is Fred.

The Boyfriend thinks Fred is scary, so he (Fred, not The Boyfriend) is officially banned from the bedroom and his office. Also, this is the picture that I want front and center. It's a lithograph (maybe?) of Magellan getting killed by the natives.

And, yes, by the way, that is the super amazing vintage vinyl floor tile from the eighties that runs throughout the entire house. I've decided to call it faux neo-Spanish colonial.

In the meantime, I'm trying to figure out how to cover the gnarly air conditioner. There's an article here that describes some cover-up techniques. This should at least confirm that I do indeed have dumb yuppie concerns like figuring out how to incorporate the window box into a coherent design vision.

I have decided to go with a custom-painted big screen painted by yours truly, something like six feet tall and about four feet wide, with a giant freehand paint job of the Virgin Mary of Guadalupe. Or the Santa Maria Kamalen, which in this case requires me to paint Santa Maria coming towards Guåhan accompanied by two giant crabs with votive candles on their backs. You can read about that legend here. I better start working on sketches of crustaceans. Life drawing class only covered naked chicks and dudes, inconveniently NOT posed on the backs of crabs. Useless!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Why did the chicken cross the road?

I still can't answer that, despite watching all of the roosters and hens do so every day in our village.

But tonight I almost ran over a crab in the parking lot of the Hågatña pool (I know--why a pool when I'm on an island? I'm working on technique). My mom says that when she was a little kid they used to hang out by the road during full moons--during which time the crabs would go nuts and just crowd the streets, so much so that eventually you would just crush bunches under the car tires. I think this weekend is supposed to bode well for a big full moon, so I better get the boiling water and cocktail sauce ready.

(As for the cocktail sauce, I don't have a mortar and pestle yet, so I guess the cement on our new driveway will have to do.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Liberation Day

Two things:

1. Today Guåhan (maybe) made some headlines in Sanlågu--naturally for something related to the military. You can read about it here and here.

2. And according to the Guam Pacific Daily News, there is a plaque donated to Guåhan that honors one of the (many) days the U.S. military landed here:

"On July 21, 1944, two groups of people came together to liberate Guam from its Japanese oppressors. The United States military came in from the sea, armed with the latest weapons of war while the Chamorros in rags came down from the hills, armed only with the simplest of tools to join in battle. One liberated the island from without while the other liberate the island from within. Together forever they will be known as 'The Liberators of Guam.'"

I have no idea where this plaque is or under what circumstances it was dedicated here, but this is the last time I'm going to write about Liberation Day. One newscaster came up to me and asked me if I thought it was important to celebrate Liberation Day. I told her that is was important to celebrate the liberation of people worldwide, but I should have said that day's not coming.

Mood: not great.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Radon is not a comic book nemesis

...but apparently it does increase the likelihood of one's developing lung cancer. It's the leading cause of lung cancer in nonsmokers. You can read about this fantastic inert gas here.

The gas results from uranium depleting in the soil and is naturally occurring. Especially in central and northen Guåhan. (But not in southern Guåhan thanks to erosion--needless to say, that environmental nightmare is for another post.)

Thanks to the helpful folks at the Guam EPA and the free radon test the department gives out, we now know that our house contains dangerous levels of radon, which can either be mitigated by a) Leaving windows open 24/7 (impossible with the electronic equipment we have) or 2) Installing a $3,000 fan that circulates air from the foundation. In the meantime, I guess we're inhaling the approximate equivalent of 135 cigarettes a day.

The one interesting thing to come out of all this is that it's gotten me to thinking about how lifestyles change over time. Apparently, radon has always existed on Guåhan (and in most parts of the world), but it has not presented a problem in societies where people live in the open air or have adequately ventilated houses (i.e. like huts, or houses with open terraces). It has only been the advent of earthquake and typhoon-proof building, in conjunction with a move towards indoor living on Guåhan, which has necessitated the check on radon.

In the meantime, I guess I'll have to put off asking the landlords for new cabinets and a bathroom sink. Stay tuned for more info on exactly what other mini Superfund sites the inhabitants of Guåhan live. There are lots.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

How do you say "ibuprofen" in Chamoru?

Sage' i tåttalo'-ku yan i apåga-ku. Santa Maria, I'm not going paddling for a while. Beginner's and novice group, i doggon-mu!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Håfa na ga'ga?

We found this thing sitting on the inside of our screen door and weren't sure what it was (still aren't). At first I thought it might be a big piece of mold, but we realized that despite our less-than-perfect housekeeping skills, we would have certainly picked up on this thing growing on the door. It's about as long as my index finger.

We took the thing outside to inspect and photograph it a little more.

It didn't move and we threw it out into the side yard. When we came back a few hours later it was gone. Maybe the chickens got it or maybe it moved of its own volition, but if you happen to know what it is, then let us know, put fabot!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Geckos, roaches, and ants (and something else)

Thankfully it wasn't in the house.
And I'm very happy that if we had to see one, it was in the road, as opposed to wrapped around my grandfather.

This is the gem from family folklore:

My grandma awoke one time to find the 8-foot long colubrid wrapped around Grandpa. Being the tough lady that she is, she promptly went out back to get the machete and chopped it into a few pieces. The kicker is that she did it without waking up Grandpa.

I guess I could tell The Boyfriend that I would also kill the snake, but that I couldn't guarantee that 1) He wouldn't wake up, and 2) I wouldn't miss any vital extremities.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

He who tells you owning a home is awesome is LYING

We don't own a home, but after doing this house thing, we sure aren't going to. Two die-hard apartment dwellers are we, and we have yet to see the advantages of living the American dream. House maintenance nightmare is more like it.

Some of things are particular to living in a tropical climate, but we've so far learned that living in this house (and this is a 1200 sq. ft. two bedroom, one bath, one story house) requires the following:

1. Waterblasting twice a year to prevent mildew on the outside of the house,

2. Gutter cleaning (don't know how many times a year), especially important during the rainy season,

3. Cutting the grass every two weeks (but you can't do it when the grass is wet, and since it's rainy reasons, that's all the time),

4. Cutting out this thorny vine thing called Chains of Love, which is an invasive plant species that chokes off the banana trees and pretty much anything else that is native to Guåhan,

5. Planting/maintaining a bunch of greenery around the driveway to prevent the driveway from washing away during the rainy season,

6. Caulking all holes to prevent ants,

7. Weatherproofing the areas directly around the air conditioners and windows to lessen the geckos and bugs getting in,

8. Replacing or repairing a few busted window screens (also, the termites have no compunction whatsoever about trying to get through the screens even though they lose their wings in the process--as we were horrified to find out),

9. Running the air conditioners in every room at least an hour every day to prevent mildew,

10. Cleaning out the air conditioner filters,

11. Going through the house at least once a week to brush/dust away gecko droppings on the windowsills,

12. Sweeping/mopping every two weeks (and we're being pretty chill here, considering that it's muddy out and we don't wear shoes inside),

13. And my personal favorite, waiting around the few times a year for when the sinks or toilet back up a little... because we're not connected to the sewer, and apparently septic tanks don't come with a little dial that says "75% full, you better make an appointment with Todu Maolek Plumbing for next Monday or you're in trouble, pal." (Todu Maolek = All Good in Chamoru.)

All of this, of course, is not that bad in the grand scheme of things and we're glad to be learning how to do it. (I don't want to bitch: it's not physically hard to put on the air conditioner--it's just something I have to remember now). But I really don't see how--given that suburban populations are aging--these kinds of lifestyles are possible.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

This was probably unnecessary, but...

I really hate cockroaches, and I really hate the crunchy sounds they make when you stomp on them. To make your own roach bat, take the end of a broom and cover it in newspaper. Bash away (recommended only for vinyl and tile floors).

Friday, July 4, 2008

Things to do in Guåhan when the power goes out

Drive to K-Mart. Get drenched in the rain because there are no close spots in the parking lot. Obsess about the number of flashlights available (I now know that Mag-Lites are to flashlights what Nalgeen bottles are to water bottles) and play with the wind-up ones. Get a Slurpee. Go back home and sleep.

This is my first, and probably not last, power outage since we got here. When I was a kid visiting the water and power would go out pretty consistently, but given that we've been here three weeks, and last year I was here for one month, I'm optimistic!