What I Will Take Away When I Leave This Rock

When we first moved to Guam, culture shock hit me hard. I would say to my husband, “the only souvenir we need from here is our son.” (Our son was born on the island.) The Chamorro (local) culture here is just so different from the life I was used to. The high cost of living, the limited everything, and the year round boiling hot weather were all too much for me to take.

Now, after two years on the rock, we are nearing the end of our time here. Much to my surprise, I have discovered that there will be more of Guam coming home with us than just our son and boonie dogs.

These are the life lessons that I had to move to a tiny island to learn and now hope to take with me when we go.

1. Patience

With island life comes island time. I thought the south was slow-paced, but it is New York City compared to Guam. Being a military brat, punctuality has always been important to me. Boy did that go out the window when we moved here. The first time experiencing true island time was when I scheduled a maintenance appointment for our house. The appointment was set for 3, but when 3 o’clock hit, there was no maintenance man to be found. At 3:30, I decided to call the office to see what was going on, and they assured me that the worker was on his way. At 4 o’clock, my doorbell rang, and there stood a maintenance man with a Burger King cup in his hand. When sharing my experience with long-time residents, they didn’t see the issue. Over time, I have learned that no amount of complaining, getting frustrated, or yelling is going to change anything. After 2 years, I just laugh in my head when someone says, “I’ll be there at 3.” Instead of stressing over time, I just assume the person will be late, which has forced me to learn the patience I have always been lacking.

island_time_sticker

2. We can survive without cable

One of the major downsides of being on Guam is the fact that there are only 3 cable providers, all of which have insane rates for service. Cell phones and internet are necessary to keep up with life, but cable is just a luxury. My time on Guam has been the only time in my 21 years when I have not had cable. I didn’t even know what to do with myself at first; you can only binge watch your Netflix shows so many times. We invested in Hulu, Amazon Prime, and took advantage of the apps on our smart TV and Xbox 1. Now, having cable seems like a thing of the past and just another superfluous bill.

3. Chamorro BBQ is amazing

Being a Southern girl, I have always been a dedicated American BBQ lover, particularly Kansas City and Memphis BBQ. International BBQ had never been on my radar because I assumed it was a pathetic attempt at replicating American BBQ. A friend of mine forced me to go try some local foods shortly after we got here, and I was hooked. It is a whole different type of barbecue, nothing like the American kind. It is usually pork and chicken cutlets on a skewer, not usually on the bone or pulled. The flavor is impossible to put into words besides saying that it’s absolutely delicious. My husband and I hope to steal the secret recipe to take with us, and I will take with the experience with me to remind me to not knock a food until I try it.

bbq

4. How to stay busy without power

Over the past year, Guam’s power plants have been slowly falling apart. At least once a week, we can expect the power to be out for an hour at minimum. At one point, we were having “scheduled” outages every day. But of course due to island time, the “schedule” was never followed. Before living on Guam, power outages were rare and short occurrences usually associated with storms. At this point, I don’t even bat an eye at a power outage. We learned to keep charcoal on hand in case we need to grill dinner. We learned to keep all phones charged at all times because they can be your only entertainment for hours. Mobile hotspot functions are life savers when you are in the middle of important work online (aka watching Netflix). The power being out is not the end of civilization like I assumed it was when I first moved here. You just have to learn to adapt (and keep a battery fan ready to go).

5. How to do without

For only being 30 miles long, Guam actually has more shopping compared to some of the other islands I’ve heard about. We have a Kmart, Macy’s, Ross, and the military members have their NEX and BX. While I am grateful for the stores we do have, they almost all carry the same products. So if the NEX doesn’t have the item and Kmart doesn’t have the item, you are not going to find that item on the island at all. Online shopping is usually our last resort, but sometimes the shipping just makes it not worth the money. As a family, we’ve had to figure out what we really need and what we can do without. Back in Florida, I could go from store to store and usually find whatever I needed by the 3rd one. I used to be incredibly frustrated by the lack of basic things – I once visited 6 different shops just trying to find clear school glue (which I never did find). Dealing with this annoying aspect of island living has forced us to be creative and find swaps for things. There’s no better way to wean yourself off Starbucks than literally having no way to get it. I hope that once we move, we will remember that we can live without everything we think we need.

guam beach

6. How to appreciate the winter

I still remember one of my professors in college telling me that all he ever wanted in life was to move to Tahiti so he never had to shovel snow. When you’re staring outside at two feet of snow, it is easy to wish that it was summer all year long. Let me tell you, that wish will come back to bite you in the ass, my friend. Living where it is 90+ degrees all year is fun for the first year or so, but you will miss the snow. Growing up in Florida, we didn’t see a lot of snow, but we had cold winters with nights dipping into the lower 30s. I used to curse scrapping my window off at 6am to go to work, but I am anxiously awaiting this seasonal change again. For those who do well in the heat and love it, this point may seem moot to you, but it’s more the feelings that come with winter that I’ve missed. It is hard to enjoy a hot chocolate and watch Christmas movies when it is 105 degrees outside.

–   –   –

We don’t know where our next adventure will be, but I will be leaving Guam a different person. Island life has a way of teaching us things even when we don’t want to learn them, and for that I will always be grateful.

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Kellie Morgan

About Kellie Morgan

As a military brat, Kellie has moved from place to place, including the tiny islands of the Azores. After moving away to Kansas for college, Kellie finally thought she had escaped the risk of island life again. She was in for a big surprise when her husband enlisted in the Air Force and was sent to - you guessed it - an island. Kellie moved to Guam in 2014 with just her husband and crazy cat. They now have, in Guam tradition, two boonie dogs and three chickens. About a month after moving to Guam, Kellie found out she was pregnant. She had her wonderful son thousands of miles away from family, but her son follows in her family tradition of having an overseas birth certificate.

Originally from the south, moving to an island against her will was a very tall mountain to conquer. With no country music and Chik-Fil-A, Kellie thought she was surely going to lose her mind. Luckily, she met some amazing friends who helped her cope with the culture shock and adjust to life on a rock.

Kellie is currently finishing her associate degree in journalism with hopes of one day finishing her bachelors degree in entrepreneurship. Before she moved to Guam, she was pursuing her business degree but put it on hold once she had her son. With jobs being difficult to come by, she turned her passion of writing into a way to earn extra income. It turned out that she has a knack for writing, so she now works as a freelance writer for a variety of companies. Once she finishes her journalism degree, she hopes to write for a newspaper. Her ultimate goal in life is to open a petting zoo/rabbit sanctuary.

Although their time here is only temporary, it is an experience she and her family will never forget.

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6 thoughts on “What I Will Take Away When I Leave This Rock

  1. I love the reminder that island time develops our patience. It is the same in Central America (Honduras) where I spend a few weeks each summer volunteering at an orphanage. You just have to leave the watch home!
    Thanks for a great read. I will think of what you are going to take home when I return to our rock in the Bahamas.

  2. Planning to live in a rock within the next few years. Have enjoyed reading your posts. Good luck and Godspeed to your family. A military brat myself, I understand (and miss) the moving around!

  3. Nicely done, Kellie! Fellow NEX customer here. Island life does make you slow down and appreciate some things. Battery fans are a lifesaver!

  4. Thanks Kellie, you’ll have to visit my little island called Little Gasparilla Island on the West coast of Florida. Here we take a 5 min boat ride from mainland Marina to dock…we have sandy paths, golf carts only and no stores. It’s truly a unique place and I’ll be raising our 11 year old daughter here, with 3 in college we are looking forward to the challenges of summer and cool gorgeous winters!
    Heather

  5. Great post! SO true about the patience learned during island time! We have had people show up to do jobs Days after they were supposed to! Totally without chagrin.. and I charge everything, all the sockets full of every device I own when the generator is on! You just never know.. 🙂

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