Guam: Island Paradise But Not Quite The Cultural Experience I was Expecting
Stunned, I stared at the concierge, wondering if she was being serious.
I tried to maintain a mask of polite acceptance and understanding of what she was saying.
But confused, well, that’s an understatement as to how I felt. I kept trying to process the information I was getting, and wondering if I was miscommunicating.
She continued, “There’s an Applebee’s. It’s on the road toward the airport. And there’s a Denny’s just up the road on the corner. If you’re looking for a more fancy dinner, there’s a Lone Star Steakhouse, too.“
I couldn’t blame my confusion on jet lag, as the flight was only 3 hours, and only a 1 hour time difference. And it was late afternoon.
“Well,” I clarified, “what I am really looking for is the ‘authentic’ experience of the island.
What the local people eat, where they go. Things like that.”
“Yeah. That’s it. Unless you’re more interested in McDonald’s. We’ve got lots of those, too.”
“O.k. Thanks. Well. Is there anywhere we can go to have real Chamorro food?”
“Ooooh… that’s what you meant. Yeah, there’s a Wednesday night market with food stands and stuff. It’s down at Chamorro Village.”
After doing my research about Guam, I was excited to see the authentic Chamorro culture, to eat the delicious Red Rice. The chicken kelaguen. The kadon pika. And of course, the BBQ, purported to rival the best Southern BBQ on the mainland (and it certainly DID!)
I read of a thriving resurgence of authentic Chamorro culture. How there was a lively movement to reassert the art, the culture, the language and the food in the forefront of the island’s psyche. And in the minds of the throngs of tourists.
Sad to say, it was clear the movement hasn’t made it that far. Not even into the minds of the locals, it seems.
After a few moments, I kind of started to grasp that a rift existed between my mental construct of what I was going to experience in Guam, and what I really was going to experience.
I should have started to get the picture on the way from the airport to our hotel.
The buildings, shops, strip malls… all looked familiar. The cars, the driving, the traffic signals and signs all screamed “Mainland Anytown, U.S.A.”
For a few more hours, I kept thinking I was going to be in another Bail. Another Lombok.
But it was more like another Lubbock.
At least, infrastructure-wise.
It finally hit me, “Hey!! Dummy!! You’re back in America!” when we were on our way to supper that night.
That’s when I chatted up Manuel, the driver of our shuttle to the restaurant. He was a second generation Filipino immigrant. (Guam is directly east of the Philippines.) Though him I learned that the island was a big melting pot of many cultures of recent immigrants – Filipino, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, and of course mainlanders from the U.S. – not only from the historic colonization that Guam has been … “host of” … “victim to” … “benefactor of” … depending on your particular perspective and experience, I suppose.
Manuel told me that the real Chamorro food is just that, real. The locals won’t go to a restaurant to have it. For one, why would they when home cooked is better? And two, it’s a lot cheaper to do it at home.
By the time our supper was finished, I fully grasped that this was a highly developed, modern island with tons to offer for our family vacation. And I was able to reconcile the fact that my experience here would be quite a bit different that I had originally imagined, but spectacular nonetheless.
And was I ever right!
Look forward to more on why Guam could just be the perfect family vacation for you…
And why any SCUBA diver worth their salt should check out the “Main Entrance” to Micronesia.