Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Procrastinating Student's Dream

I’ve had this blog No Rest for the Awake – Minagahet Chamorro since 2004, and one of the coolest obsessive technological gadgets that you can use nowadays, is that you can track (in some way) just about everyone who visits your website. You can see where they are surfing from, see what link or what search brought them to you. Although I am still several thousand light years away from Leo Babauta’s Zen Habit’s web traffic levels, I still get a decent amount of hits, a couple hundred per day. And because of all these cool new programs, I can divide up those hundreds of hits into several different groups.

The largest group per day are people looking for raw scans of Naruto comics or images of Naruto characters such as Hatake Kakashi or Hoshigaki Kisame. The second largest group are people googling “Guam” and “sex” and are directed to an article I reposted on my blog from the PDN titled “Guam: Sex Capital?” The third largest are people who want to know how to say “I Love You in Chamorro.” To meet this shocking demand I once wrote a post which listed two dozen ways to say “I Love You” in Chamorro.

And finally, before it appears like there is no point to this post, the fourth largest group of web travelers who end up on my blog, are those writing papers on Guam or Chamorro related topics for school and are desperate for resources to cite.

In his Guamology piece “In 0s and 1s We Trust” Jayton Okada asked “How often do you rely on WikiPedia or Google, rather than going to the local library or bookstore and finding research the old-fashioned way?” This is the trend nowadays, the internet makes it far easier to do “research” for your work, and it makes it more fun and interesting too, especially for those multi-tasking. You can be looking for articles on Spanish colonialism in Guam while you are also looking for Spanish style backgrounds for your Myspace page (I would make a PFG reference here, but it has been offline for so damn long, I don’t think anyone remembers it anymore).

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with this, the internet and Google can be legitimate places to conduct research activity. But there are limits, and that’s one of the problems with doing internet research. Just because there is an overwhelming sea of information, websites, pages and blogs out there, in no way means that they have anything to do with what you are looking for. The internet is great for generic, general crap, but if you have anything specific in mind, such as good, solid information on Guam, Chamorro or Pacific things, good luck.

Just like with a physical archive or a book, you are limited to what has been placed there, stored there or written there, when scavenging the internet, you are limited in terms of what someone took the time to scan, copy, type up or upload. So the problem with people writing Guam or Chamorro based papers relying solely on the internet is that there frankly isn’t very much out there.

I’ve often lamented the poor presence that Guam and Chamorros in general possess on the internet, and I will do so again right now. Scanning around the net, we see a sprawling graveyard of dead blogs and sites, a dozen or so portal pages each of which claim to be the ultimate website for all things Guam, and haven’t been updated for three to seven years. And don’t get me started on the Guam pages which were started in the 1990’s and are still around. They load like a horror movie, teeming with viruses and bugs which have mutated and become sentient from lack of updating, and even feature –please ask the kids to leave the room – soothing island MIDI files in the background. I swear, the machine apocalypse that is chronicled in the Matrix and Terminator universes will start from one of these pages, which is bitter at humankind for never returning to update or even just erase them!

So, amidst this sea of wrecked, poorly updated or never finished websites, my blog has somehow emerged as a place that people end up getting directed to for their projects. This leads to a lot of comments or emails to me from high school students, college students and even grad students who ask me if I’ve ever written about this, or if I can help them find sources for that. I do my best, but it’s hard. Anyone who has access to MARC (Micronesian Area Research Center) at UOG can write a fantastic well cited and sourced paper or thesis on Guam, since there is so much that you can dive into there. If you don’t have access to MARC though, let’s say you’re one of the close to 100,000 Chamorros who don’t live on Guam but live in the states, then if you don’t have money to buy stuff, or don’t have friendly relatives to photocopy or mail them to you, then you don’t have many options.

This aspect of my life though was made so much easier in April of 2008 when the website Guampedia was officially launched. For those of you who don’t know what Guampedia is, you should. For those of you who already know it and have visited it, you should go back, there’s probably more to see now. Guampedia is Guam’s first online encyclopedia, and features close to 500 articles right now, with plans for hundreds more all of which deal with various aspects of Guam, Chamorro history, culture and current events. Each entry is written by scholars, journalists or writers, and is reviewed by experts in the field, to ensure accuracy and quality. The closed writing format of Guampedia also ensures that there’s no Wikiality fights or that some random person can’t go onto Felix Camacho’s Guampedia page and insert the line “Dongkålu i daggån-ña Si Felix.” (Someone told me that they did this once to Camacho’s Wikipedia page).

This makes my life easier and students’ papers much better. Nowadays, for most things I can just direct people to an entry on Guampedia, and they’ll be able to cite a for reals encyclopedia for their paper and not just cite “Crazy Activist Person with Bad Hair. Email Communication, February 13, 2009” Plus, all of this is easily available the night before any paper is due. MARC and libraries tend to close early, people who might have the knowledge in their heads go to sleep, but if you procrastinated on that research paper until just twelve hours before its due, Guampedia is here to help you!

But even for those who are just looking to increase their knowledge of Guam, Guampedia is still a great place to spend a few hours, reading through random entries. They don’t have the random entry button yet, but I wish they would get it. The entries range in size and depth depending on who the writer is and what the topic is. For some entries there simply isn’t much to say or write, but for others there is far too much. A lot of it all depends on who is doing the writing and how much time they put into the entry or how extensive their own knowledge of Guam’s archives is.

For me through the true gift of Guampedia is that there are so many things contained there in its entries, that I never would have imagined would be available online, that would be so easily accessible. It goes far beyond any other Guam or Chamorro based website in terms of providing good, critical information. For instance most websites gloss over the colonial side of Guam’s history, in particular over the past 110 years. Guampedia however supports those sorts of writings and ideas, because while they may make us uncomfortable by revealing the less pleasant side of our relationship with the United States, it is the truth, and it should be communicated to us in all its unpleasantness.

Another exciting aspect of the site that they are just starting to really capitalize on, is the making available of archival video and audio to the public. You can watch the late Tun Jesus Crisostomo play the belembaotuyan. You can watch segments of that old show Guam Paradise Island from 1984. Or how about checking out this video of Johnny Sablan from 1992 singing “Si Sirena.”
There’s even a Shiro’s Head mention, and so hopefully someday they’ll upload the trailer for it.
Guampedia is truly a wealth of information, which goes far beyond anything else on the internet in terms of providing historical and contemporary information on Guam and Chamorros.

Just to give you a taste, here are 10 random things that you’d learn by wandering around Guampedia:

1. That the Lujan House in Hagåtña was once a school that prominent figures such as Judge Joaquin Perez, Governor Ricky Bordallo and Archbishop Felixberto Flores all attended prior to the war.

2. Maga’låhi Kephua got a velvet hat and some iron hoops when he welcomed the Spanish to the island in 1668. He is also reported to have said, “You please us, Fathers and you bring us good news which will cause joy to our entire nation for we have wanted you here for a long time.”

3. You can listen to what the chachaguak sounds like. The brown tree snake destroyed the Guam populations of at least 10 native bird species. One that has survived but can only be found in a few caves at Naval Station is the chachaguak.

4. On the origin of the village name for Dededo: “Dedidu in Chamorro, may come from the practice of measuring using fingers. The Spanish word for finger is dedo. It can be theorized that someone measured out the original village this way. Another possibility is that the word “dededo” is a version of the word “dedeggo,” which means “heel of the foot,” or that it comes from the word “deggo” which means to “walk on tiptoes.”

5. A 1936 law guaranteed that Chamorro pattera or midwives had the right to be paid at least $10 for their services. Most however accepted produce or livestock in lieu of cash.

6. The six types of canoes that Chamorros made at the arrival of the Spanish were from biggest to smallest: sakman, leklek, duding, duduli, panga and galaide.

7. According to one Chamorro in 1602, there were “nearly 400 villages” and “more than 60,000 people” on the island of Guam. Rota, he reported had 12,000 people living in fifty villages.

8. In the interrum period, during the change of the colonial guard from Spanish to American hands from 1898-1899, Chamorros established their own legislature and selected a Chamorro to be Guam’s first governor. All of these advances were later revoked when the American colonial military regime was officially established.

9. Henry Metzker and Bob Beckett were the two American servicemen who helped bring the Seventh Day Adventist religion to Guam following World War II. While searching the island for a church to worship in on Saturday, they came across the Ulloa family, which soon opened their homes to the soldiers to have their services.

10. Ancient Chamorros believed that how you died dictated what would happen to your spirit in the afterlife.

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