Friday, July 21, 2006

How My Grandfather Almost Joined the Navy...

I am back on Guam, and this should be obvious since the painful lack of posting. I'm pretty sure I've lost whatever regular readership I had, and am now at the mercy of search engines and the links I place at the bottoms of all my emails.

Part of the reason for the lack of attention to my poor, taiga'chong na blog, is because of all the preparations that my family on island is going through for my grandparent's 56th Wedding Anniversary Party coming up this weekend.

Its nearly 1 am right now and I'm at the University of Guam struggling to finish a draft for the program to show i prima-hu siha, tiha-hu siha, yan si nana-hu lokkue. The computer I'm making it on is actually really really slow, so while I'm waiting for it to load up, I'm writing this post.

The party looks to be alot of fun, meggai na parientes-hu pau fanmatto, meggai na atungo'-hu yan noskunatos na ga'chong-hu. (Guaguan este na gipot nai, sa' in pega gui' gi un hotet. Ya esta un tungo' siempre i pinadesin este. Guaguan mampos sa' un apapasi siha para kada na platu.) Because of the expense I can't invite all the people I would want to dance with me, sing with me, or see embarassing photos of my family with.

But still, I'm sure it'll be a great time, but the moments leading up to it, are naturally stressful.

I'm responsible for the program and so that's some major stress since I'm not one of the key planners for the event and often have no idea what is supposed to happen. I'm also supposed to be singing Nobia Kahulo' for the party, and also training my nieces and nephews and siblings to sing Hagu I Flores.

The day before yesterday was almost surreal for me.

For those of you who don't know me, I never really considered myself a typical Chamorro, especially when I was growing up.

When other families were setting up canopies on Marine Drive for Liberation Day, mine wasn't. In fact grandma and grandpa didn't really seem to care much for the event anyways. Ti ya-niha mumama'on gi i familian-mami lokkue. Also, with the exception of my Artero cousins, no one in my family was in the military, so I rarely saw the inside of military bases except to go on hikes or visit the beaches. My existence might be radically different if my grandfather had joined the military, and in fact as a young man after the war, he actually intended to. But according to family lore, grandpa has never had a very good relationship to the taotaomo'na on island, and so right before his medical exam to join the service he got pinched, causing a huge swelling on the side of his face, which made him fail the exam. I shiver at the thought of this counterfactual. If grandpa hadn't been hassled by the taotaomo'na, then I might be typing here right now, some bland, ridiculous commentary on the need for us to really remember the real importance of Liberation Day.

Put ayu na inetaluyi i taotaomo'na, bai hu agradesi siha todu tiempo.

One other thing which seemed to seperate my family from other Chamorro families was the lack of a gathering house, or a gathering place, where much of the family business would be done, or where hanging out and family functions would take place. I would often see it in other families, the house of the patriarch, the matriarch, the grandparents or the oldest sibling, would function as the Central Command or the HQ, and throughout the day, the week or the month, there would be a constant varied flow of people, information, needs and issues passing through there. I remember loving living in grandma and grandpa's house, but I also remember thinking about how empty it always was, or how our relatives would never come over there, but we would always go and visit them.

The moment of blissful surrealism came when I saw my grandparent's house literally packed for the first time in my life. Ti mandadagi yu', kalang manmasohmok ham guihi gi ayu na guma'.

Lhiz was there with Dan and their kids. So was Tony and Nonni visiting from San Diego. Audie's wife Jennifer was there with Lisa who is putting together the slide show for the party. Auntie Viv and Uncle Joey, my mom's siblings were there, since they are staying with their parents while they are here for the party. My entire family was there, my mom, my stepdad Charles and all of my siblings, Kuri, Jack, Cyrus, Cate, Alina and Aaron.

With this many people there is no center, no focus, just diffuse conversations and business taking place. People chatting at the dinner table, others watching TV, others playing video games, others working on the program for the party. Gof presisu este na rinatu para Guahu, sa' desde hu tutuhon umagrededesi i kotturan i Chamoru, yan taimanu dipotsi manhihot hit todu put familia, hu gof tangga este na klasin rinatu.

The obverse side of this is of course that it can be as stressful as organizing an anti-base movement on Guam. But as my friend Jamela told me today, its good stress. Hunggan, hu gof konfotme este na sinangan. Maolekna este na klasin stress kinu i chinatsaga gi lagu. Ga'na'ku kada diha i stress put i familia yan i isla-ku, kinu i stress put traffic, mata'pang (taisabot) na che'cho' pat i kustumbren i manapa'ka yan i mampo'asu na Chamorro gi lagu.

Interesting enough though, my brothers from the states tell me that Guam is the most laid back place on earth. Although obviously, I too believe this, and pine for it when I'm stateside, I know that its not at all why I love this island so much. I love this island because it is not laid back at all, it is stressful as hell. But the crucial difference is that this is stress I love, stress for those that I love. Sitting in traffic in San Diego for an hour to get to school, seems to shred my soul into loathing little pieces. Running errands for hours back and forth across the island, waiting in line to pay bills, to pick up packages, to check in for doctor's appointments, these are the things that build my soul.

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