I can’t say I wasn’t warned about this.

When I first got on island, I heard all the stories, though I assumed they were just a silly tactic to try to scare the howlie (haole). I ignored the warnings. Three years into my island life, I still had not experienced it myself, so I carried on under the impression that it was just another island myth.

And then it finally happened.

The meat shipments on Guam come roughly once a month and they stock the stores on Tuesdays. I learned early on that you do not go shopping on government pay day, but you do make sure to go shopping the day after stocking day. The problem comes when these two days collide – an island day to be avoided at all costs.

In an effort to sidestep any fisticuffs during one of these perfect storms, I’ve always made sure to keep a good supply of frozen meats on hand just in case I had to wait it out. Being an island girl turns you into a very effective hoarder. But participating in this particular Pay Day + Stocking Day was unavoidable.

You see, when my husband is off-island (which is frequent), I tend to fall into a pleasantly pathetic state of refusing to adult if I don’t have to. This includes grocery shopping. If I must live off Easy Mac, so be it. But then I ran out of Easy Mac.

And so a shopping list was devised (with back-up plans for what I may not be able to find because, let’s face it, availability of groceries can be a huge disappointment on an island) and off I went with my earth-friendly bags. (Yes, those bags that I generally forget to take out of the back of my Jeep. A for effort, right? I’ll eventually find a use for the 100s of plastic bags I’ve been hoarding in my condo. Surely Pinterest has some wily DIY I can mess up… I digress.)

 

 

Despite our island being littered with live chickens and roosters, the chicken we eat does not come to us fresh or even thawed. Nope, the foreign suckers we get sit like heavy bricks next to entire ducks and turkeys that are completely out of season and yet plentiful on Guam. So there I was, standing in the frozen section, which, today, was lined with carts chock full of poultry for the taking. I knew it was Stocking Day and rather than get in the way of the person stocking the meats (and probably hating her life because the store was packed), I simply let her do her job and decided that rummaging through the yet-to-be-stocked goods in the cart behind her was a far more efficient method for both of us.

Now, in my defense, how was I to know she was a shopper and not an employee with all of those packed carts?

“Um excuse me,” I heard a less-than-amused voice behind me, “that is mine.”

I turned around, surprised. “I’m sorry?” I replied, as I dropped the 4-pack of frozen chicken breasts ignorantly into my cart.

“That,” She pointed to my cart, “is mine.”

Again, I can’t say I wasn’t warned. I’ve been told that people have gotten into fights over less than this on Stocking Day, but I was tired. Work was particularly frustrating that morning day and noting her three – yes, THREE – shopping carts piled high with what looked to be the store’s entire shipment of steaks, ribs, chicken, and soy sauce took the last of my patience. The moment she reached into my space to pluck my chicken out of my cart was my breaking point.

I shrugged, and had she not been so nasty, I might have just walked away. But she made some rude comment and that was the end of the line. The gauntlet was thrown. In a mature moment, I pushed my cart past hers and in a fake-out before I turned down the mac n’ cheese aisle, I plucked an even larger, 12-pack of chicken from her cart. Passive aggressive? Yep. But had I opened my mouth, I might have caused an international incident. I made off with my goods with her shouting at the back of my head and causing a scene, as I dramatically turned my cart down the aisle and prayed I didn’t get knocked upside the head with a frozen rack of ribs.

I half expected store management to say something, but either they didn’t care or were smart enough to stay far away. Eventually, the woman’s complaints died down as I made my way to the vegetable aisle, or as I like to call it ,“The Wilted Sadness Section.” I now needed to figure out what in the world I was going to make with my 12 chicken breasts.

Victory – sweet, petty victory – was mine.

And that’s when I rolled right into my husband’s boss who eyed me, my cart, and the muffled grumblings of a woman scorned still hovering behind me.

He raised his eyebrows. I smiled sweetly. I’d like to say he fist bumped me and we shared a telepathic moment of mutual understanding that the island struggle is real. I’d like to think it was that cool of a moment. Unfortunately, he was oblivious and his socially awkward tendencies bring out my socially awkward tendencies. He asked me, “How are things going with your husband away? Do you need anything?”

A bodyguard, I thought, but answered with a slightly stuttered, “Thanks, I’m all set.”

“Good. It looks like you’re having a BBQ with all that chicken?”

“Oh no, I, um, yeah, just you know, having some friends over. You should come, bring the wife!”

I cringed inwardly as he accepted my offer (Seriously, what is wrong with you, Stephanie?) before making a dad joke about mac n’ cheese and turning away. I all but groaned as I texted my friends and informed them that we were now having a BBQ on Friday.

And that is the story of how I turned a fight over frozen chicken into hosting dinner for my husband’s boss. Sans husband.

On the bright side, if there is one thing we know how to do on Guam, it’s BBQ… clearly I was overdue for some human interaction anyway.

Though let’s just say that the next time Pay Day + Stocking Day collides, I’m sticking with my avoid-the-store-at-all-costs tradition and ordering pizza instead.

Written By:

Stephanie Byrne

Current Rock of Residence:

Guam

Island Girl Since:

2015

Originally Hails From:

Virginia

Stephanie wasn’t born on her island, nor did she really have a calling to it. Actually, she had no intention of living on a rock until she could afford to retire to one. And then Guam found her. Stephanie came to Guam in 2015 to help open a new hospital as the Executive Director of Operations. Now, she is the VP of a group that subcontracts for said hospital with the beauty of working from home. She likes to call herself a "scrappy girl from Virginia" (where she grew up until her father got her a passport and she found her desire to see the world).

Stephanie's been a bit of a nomad, feeling claustrophobic after being in one place too long. She has been known to pack up and move to England, get back and have a taste for the sea and move to the coast. During the Polar Vortex (Is that still a thing? Or have we moved on to bomb storms? She can’t keep up!), she decided that negative temperatures and her did not get along well. So she moved to Southern California. When it was time to plan her wedding, she and her now-husband decided to meet on the island of Maui for the simple purpose of being able to say, “We got Maui’d.” And she thinks that’s what started her island fever.

A month later, she moved to Guam where she awaited her next anxious itch to go somewhere uncharted. It never happened. In all her wanderlust, Guam has somehow anchored her. Maybe it’s the culture. Maybe it’s the depths of the sea, the pristine beaches, and the magnificent sunsets. Or maybe it's the short flights to exotic places, the ability to spend Halloween in Taipei, Thanksgiving in Bali, and snowboard the New Year in Japan. Or the fact that she lives in the future from her tribe back home, which basically makes her almost a psychic. Or maybe it’s because her husband’s in the Navy and they’re keeping them here.

Obviously that’s 90% of why they are here now, but she is not saddened at the prospect of spending upwards of another 5 years on Guam. Because somehow this rock has become her tiny island in the sun and she will forever be an island girl. With her career now based out of her home, and reporting to many islands, many hospitals, and many people globally, she will always have a presence on this island, even when she no longer resides here permanently.

When she's not managing doctors (which takes a certain amount of coffee, insanity, good humor, and then wine), she is hiking with her Golden Retriever, paddle-boarding with her Shih Tzu, taking in the sunset, and exploring the world with her husband and travel partner in crime. And when the sun has set and the mosquitoes chase them inside, she takes to her travel blog between working on the novel every writer should say they’re writing.

Living on an island has taught her to give up a lot to gain even more. She gave up Starbucks, Target, malls, consumerism, and empty material things to gain culture, sunsets, adventure, and memories. She's gotten pretty lost along the way, but managed to find out new things about herself and the colorful world we live in. Island life will drive you a little nuts, she thinks we all end up with a little too much sand in our brains after a while, but with enough humor, you can kick back in your hammock and remember to enjoy the strange, wonderful dynamic of island life.

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