Japan and Guam

As all (both) of my readers know, I go to Japan twice a year for project meetings, once around April and once around October. You may or may not know I usually fly into and often out of Narita airport outside Tokyo.

My older brother recently moved his family to Guam for a three year assignment.

There are basically two ways to get to Guam from the USA: Through Honolulu, and through Narita. Since I was going to be in Narita anyway, I decided to casually drop in to visit my brother in Guam for the weekend after my fall Japan trip last week.

Japan was basically normal — not a lot to say. But, I took pictures of every dish put in front of me for two meals (9 dishes for one, 8 for the other) just to give people a better idea of what my business dinners in Japan typically look like. I also took a picture of the polite little note the hotel put up saying, “We’re sorry, but if it looks like North Korea is actually firing missiles at us, a bunch of alarms are going to go off, even if it wakes you up” (This is paraphrased). The one adventure I had was looking for fresh wasabi root for my brother and KrisDi (and also picking up a variety of other things and getting one of my Japanese friends to order a traditional sharkskin grater from Amazon Japan).

I left the US on Sunday, arrived Monday, had dinner with my boss Monday night (I asked him to take me to a delicious yakitori place we have often visited, but I didn’t take any pictures). Meetings Tuesday through Thursday. I went to the airport and flew to Guam on Friday. It’s a ~4.5 hour flight, and I got bumped up to business class, which is pretty sweet.

No real sight-seeing on Friday (unless you count a trip to Home Depot as sight-seeing). My brother’s neighbor (we’ll call him the Chamorro) has taken a real shine to Eldest, and apparently his whole extended family felt the need to put on a roughly 8 course buffet (including ghost-peppered beef feet). The locals appear to be totally, delightfully warm and welcoming (I’m sure this drops away when tourists are rude or stupid). The neighbors were super, super nice. The Chamorro himself might be a little crazy (he claims to have beaten a man to death with his bare hands), but he’s funny and outgoing and incredibly eager to please.

Guam is jungly. Everything is green and damp and teeming with life. ‘Seething’ might be a good alternate verb, as it implies a little more conflict. I saw geckos, monitor lizards (the one I saw was ~4′, Eldest claims a ~6′ lives near his house), multiple wild pigs, hundreds of wild chickens, tons of bugs, tons of fish, tons of birds, hundreds of ‘wild’ dogs (apparently called “boonies” or “boony dogs” — strays), cows, carabao (they look like oxen to me), goats, and probably more that I’m forgetting (not including the incredible quantity and variety of plant matter).

Saturday, we did drive-by tourism. Eldest and J literally drove me around the entire island. We even stopped at both of the island’s breweries (Lunch at Mermaid Tavern / Great Deep Brewing, just beer at Ishii). We stopped at a number of places that were right off the road — beaches mostly, viewpoints, etc. In terms of visiting things, it was kind of like reading the table of contents for Guam. We had dinner that night at a place called Papa’s, which is a fancy-ish restaurant at a location that has a great view of Tumon bay. The food was inconsistent (mine was fine, Eldest’s was bad), beer was tainted (we ordered Steinlager bottles, and both had garbage under the cap) service was good, and the view was obscured by the thick coating of condensation on the outside of the windows, since Papa’s air conditioning was cranked and Guam is a humid, warm, tropical island.

Sunday, we had a plan to visit three locations in greater detail.

(1) Tarague Beach from Andersen AFB. Basically, your classic beautiful tropical beach. When we visited, it was a beautiful sunny day, and there weren’t very many people there. There were lots of crabs and fish and hermit crabs and snails and sand and whatnot. This is where I learned that while Guam weather is fine for lounging in the shade, it takes me less than an hour hour to sunburn, and about one minute in direct sunlight with leisurely activity to start sweating like a cold beer in hell. On our way out, we scavenged four relatively fresh coconuts and saw a dead coconut crab.

Then we went to lunch at Jamaican Grill, which was very good, and an awful lot of food.

(2) A short hike to a cave + a scenic view of some rough, coral-y shoreline. The hike was very short. Apparently, it’s a fairly common practice to make sure you remove valuables from your car, leave it unlocked, and leave a note on the dash saying something like, “Unlocked — no cash” — so thieves will only rifle through your car, instead of break your window and rifle through your car.

The hike was easy and short, the cave was really cool (the water actually might be a more beautiful shade of blue than shown in the pictures); there was a local family having a party outside the cave. They offered us food and drinks. We accepted some iced tea and went on to the cliffs overlooking the water and stared down at awesome tidal / surfy effects and big bright blue parrotfish.

(3) Ritidian point, on the north end of the island, is supposedly a beautiful beach area. To get there, you drive past Andersen AFB‘s front gate. As soon as you pass the gate, the roads become unkempt. I think it was only a two mile drive or so, but it took like 20 minutes with all the dodging and weaving and planning around potholes. At a certain point, I was laughing out loud while we were jostled violently and cars coming the other way were weaving crazily to try to avoid the unavoidable. When we got to the gate, it was closed. We went to a scenic overlook on the way out, and then braved the shitty road again.

(4) Failing Ritidian, we went to Two Lovers Point. This is, I believe, the highest point on the island (368 feet), and it’s directly on top of an amazing, sheer, vertical cliff overlooking the ocean. It’s a terrific view. There’s also an impressive “bottomless pit”. We wandered around, took pictures, paid to get up on the platform and take more pictures from a little bit higher, and then started throwing things off into the water to see if we could see a splash, but we couldn’t find anything big enough we could actually track it all the way to the water or see a splash.

Afterward, Eldest grilled steaks at his house for dinner, and we drank beer and sake and sarsaparilla whiskey; the Chamorro demonstrated the removal of a coconut husk; Eldest torched the removed husk and used it to smoke the steaks a little; we released and tormented Mr. Coco.

The flight home was pretty grueling. For whatever reason, I couldn’t sleep well that night, and I ended up getting up at 2:30AM after ~3 hours of crappy, broken sleep. Eldest took me to the airport sometime before four (only a little earlier than I planned anyway), and I paid $10 for a half-assed americano (I think it was literally watered down drip coffee — it even had a ton of grounds in the bottom) and a ham and cheese croissant with brown lettuce for breakfast (have I mentioned I hate airports?). Six hour flight with no food to Honolulu; three hour layover where I tried making a meal of snacks at the United club; maybe another 5.5 hour flight from Honolulu to San Francisco where I had a very rushed breakfast at the United club, then about 2.5 hours to Seattle, where Les and Chilkoot picked me up.

Souvenirs from this trip:

  • Trainer chopsticks from Japan for little J (she loved them, disassembled them, and then lost the primary part while I was there)
  • Weird Japanese candies / cookies / treats for lots of people
  • Stuffed Anpanman for Chilkat
  • Stuffed Shokupanman AKA “Super Breadhead” for Chilkoot
  • Combo-color ballpoint pens for Chilkat and Chilkoot
  • Japanese whiskey (I can’t read the brand, it’s in Japanese)
  • Green Tea Match Kahlua from Japan (I’m going to make the weirdest White Russians ever
  • Wasabi roots (one for Eldest, one for KrisDi)
  • Wasabi paste from real wasabi (one for Eldest, one for KrisDi)
  • Wasabi powder (fake)
  • Pickled wasabi stems and leaves
  • Traditional sharkskin wasabi grater for Eldest to go with his wasabi root
  • Chamorro treats for my work (cookies and whatnot)
  • Guam’s Own (only distillery) Whiskey, Rum, and Mango Vodka (all gifts — the mango is terrible, the rum is reputed to be good, and the whiskey is reputed to be terrible)
  • Guamanian shochu (for me)
  • A number of Modern Times beers I can’t get in Washington

WAY more than I usually take.

Posted by snaotheus

1 comment

Wow! Sounds as if it was a fairly frantic, but good, time. Some of the chow stuff sounds interesting. Nothin’ fer yer ol’ ma, hey? 😉 Sorry the flight home was so awful.

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