Si Dikike'

I met someone recently who asked me if I had read the story Thumbelina, and I was certain I had but a long long time ago. I could remember faint details, but not much. She told me that she had read it when she was young and reread it throughout the years. Eventually as she got out of an abusive and toxic long-term relationship she began to see more and more of her life through the imagery and metaphors of the story. I decided this week to reread it (and maybe read it with my kids). Revisiting the story, I can see why she felt it resonated so much with her. I am mulling over whether I should translate the story into Chamoru. I think it might work rather well. I remember my grandmother telling me a story of her mother's, about a boy who fell asleep and woke up a butterfly living in a flower. I'd probably call it "Si Dikike'." Ta li'e' buente. 
Thumbelina by Hans Christian Andersen (1835)
THERE was once a woman who wished very …

I Ora-ta gi Painge

Duru manhasso yu’ Put i orå-ta på’go na puengi 
Anai umapacha hit put kånnai, lassas, labios
I patten hågu ti manmaleffåyon
Gi asson-hu guini anai esta ma’pos hao
Gagaige ha’ hao gi fi’on-hu
Hu nginge’ hao, hu siente hao  Ti siña maleffa yu’ i minaipe-mu gi hinagong-mu gi matå-hu
Este todu muna’mongmongmong i korason-hu Ya muna’kakai ha’ i minaigo’-hu

Setbisio Para I Publiko #39: An Mo'na Hao

For my intermediate Chamoru coffeeshop classes, which during the current lockdown, have been moved online, we translate a Chamoru song into English each week. We listen to the song twice, go over the lyrics, sometimes talk about the cultural dimensions of the song or the metaphors and history that it invokes. It is one of my favorite ways to teach the language, since it involves not only teaching the language itself, but also making connections across generations and sometimes using the nostalgia that people have to encourage further learning.

My lyrics are often from just listening since few Chamoru albums include lyrics. This means that sometimes my lyrics are slightly to noticeably off. But even years after doing this regular assignment, I still learn new things from this exercise, even for myself. Sometimes I hear lyrics in a new way and realize I was singing them wrong for years.

Last week, at the request of one of my students, we translated the song "An Mo'na Hao" …

I Pilan Anggen Mandagi

I once had the experience of being in a short, intense and confusing relationship with someone for a single month. Desde gualafon asta gualafon. From full moon to full moon, we fell in love and then I watched as she, following the phases of the moon, disappeared into the darkness of the sky and rapidly fell out of love. It was a strange experience because it felt deep and felt real, but then disappeared, out of my grasp like trying to catch the moon or its light between finger-lengths. 
At the end of that bewildering experience, I wrote this poem, trying to take stock of what had happened, but also somehow hoping that with the changing of the moon again, she might come back, and the light that lit up her face and the sky might return. It did not. 
Kada puengi  Anai hu atan hulo’ gi langhet Ya hu li’e’ i pilan Bai hu hahasso hao
Ya bai hu na’hasson mamaisa yu’
Na hunggan i pilan yanggen tumaigue Guaha triniste gi tinaigue-ña
Lao hunggan lokkue’, i pilan yan…

A Little Bit Closer

When relationships end, people may fight over pets, fight over furniture, collections, kids. One thing that has always struck me, for certain, but not all relationship apocalypses is songs. Music where affection and attachment were forged and welded together with tunes and lyrics from particular artists. It provides the rhythm to togetherness, to grooves of the “us.”
When a relationship ends, the rhythm of togetherness sometimes sours, turns grimly bitter. What once caused joy, now feels like it creates bone cancer. Songs or artists that I shared with someone and used to make me smile, now make me retch, make the skies insidiously darken in the space between beats. The muscles remember, even what the mind or heart wishes it could forget.
For one particularly tough relationship, the music of Tegan and Sara was part of the soundtrack of us. For years I enjoyed it alongside her. For my girlfriend at the time, she was a twin and adored the duo, and introduced me to their music.
But as our ha…

What Independence Means to Me

I left the University of Guam in January, after teaching there for more than 10 years and probably teaching more than a 1000 students during my time there. Some students I can definitely say I had an impact on because they have told me as much and I've seen them blossom into professional careers.

A few of my former students have become elected officials in Guam and some have PhDs of their own now. For some, maybe the impact was less obvious or pronounced, but there may have been something. Something said. An assignment required. Something gleaned. Who knows what, but somewhere in my scattered approach to how I would hold a class, something stuck with them.

Sometimes I find students, who years later refer to something I said, or a space I created and how it really changed their view of certain things. One thing that former students from UOG would regularly tell me is that they liked that I seemed to care about the island. This, according to them, was a contrast with most of their …

IG GA April 2020

As Pandemic Lockdown Continues on Island, Independent Guåhan will focus its April ONLINE General Assembly on the Importance of Sovereignty and honor Chamoru health care pioneer Amanda Guzman Shelton
For Immediate Release, April 26, 2020 - Independent Guåhan (IG) invites the public to attend its April General Assembly (GA), which will take place ONLINE through the group’s Facebook page on Thursday, April 30th from 4:00 – 5:30 pm. 
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread across the world, with to date, more than 2 million sick. From Guam, we have seen a variety of responses to this crisis, from countries that have both effectively combated and contained the virus, and others where the virus has spread and resulted in a significant loss of life. In a crisis such as this, we on Guam are reminded of the importance of sovereignty, or the basic ability to self-govern and seek to dictate our place in the world and relationships to others. 
As the world waits to see if things will soon return t…

Pandemics Without Borders

Despite the social distancing lockdown and remote work for my office over the past month, it has been difficult to find the mental brain space needed to write regularly. I mean this in terms of creative writing, but also political writing. So much of my brain space has been taken up by worrying about so many different things, I've found it hard at times to focus or give myself the space to take on the many other writing projects I have waiting for me.

Thankfully I have been able to work through some of the thoughts I have on the COVID-19 pandemic and Guam's political status in my weekly column for the Pacific Daily News. This hasn't gotten me many new fans, in fact the columns that I published for three weeks at the start of the lockdown phase have been some of my most hated since I started writing for the newspaper a few years ago. I won't get into way people seem to take particularly gleeful hate in my columns lately, but I felt compelled to share them here. After a…