Maybe it’s because I’ve had a rough go at it this week trying to find places on my rock, or maybe it’s because living here for over a year and constantly failing at finding places has finally caught up with me, but I need to talk about directions on my island. I’m wondering if it’s a similar situation on yours…
Source: Kristin Noel Starkey’s contribution to the Meanwhile on Guam Facebook page.
A few months after arriving on island, I was finishing up my practicum for grad school and needed a list of all pediatric doctors on Guam. That is a story in and of itself, but one resource I used was a catalog of pediatricians who paid dues to the Island Association for Medical Professionals. I called to get directions and instead of an address, the point of contact said, “Do you know where Cost-U-Less in Tamuning is? Well, pass that store and keep going down that road and turn left on the 3rd street on the left. It doesn’t have a sign, so I don’t know what the name of the road is called. On the right is a parking lot across from a bar and you‘ll park there. We’re on the bottom floor to the left.” Sure enough, I followed her directions to the sign-less road and got there with no problems.
Earlier that summer, I was able to tour the dispatch room for all 911 calls at Guam Homeland Security. Their biggest complaint, other than being short-staffed, was the directions people gave to their homes. In an emergency, people would call for help and tell them, “I’m located in Barrigada. Go down the road to Harvest. Pass Mr. Camacho’s house, turn right by the old broken down car, and make a left by the bus stop. I’m in the house with the yellow door and two dogs in the front yard.” Directions on an island are given by landmarks – not physical addresses.
I don’t know about your island, but Google Maps on Guam works about 50% of the time. My first experience with a map mishap was shortly after I arrived & was trying to drop off some donations. My phone declared “You’ve arrived!” in the middle of a giant field on a rarely-traveled road. Having too much faith in my map app, I rationalized I had to be close by, so I called them (and they actually answered!!) and asked, “Are you near the big field next to the airport?” Their response: “Umm, no. Next village over.” Joke was on me.
My home address doesn’t even show up on Google Maps. When I first arrived here and needed help finding my way back to the general location of my house, I had to use Harley Davidson as my end point since it’s in close proximity. When people come over, I sound like a true local: “Yeah, we’re off the main road next to the restaurant with a band playing on the ocean side. Go up the stairs on the left and you’ll see my green kayak on the porch.” Totally normal now. And this is actually the only way I give directions to my house.
Just yesterday, I was searching for a well-known statue that was on my “must see” list. I read on a website it was located at a church in the heart of one of our touristy villages, so I set out to find it. “You’ve arrived!” bellowed from my phone in the middle of an intersection with tourists flocking all around. Obviously, I hadn’t arrived. A half a mile later, I came to a church with a similar name, so I circled around thinking this must be it. Very funny thinking, Tristi. No statue.
Come to find out, this statue was not at a church but hidden between a café and hotel down a side road with a gate surrounding it. I found this out after Googling multiple websites and reading full paragraphs about its location to find ONE website that told me where it was. Maybe I shouldn’t admit I hopped the gate and had people questioning what I was doing while I was taking pictures, or that I had a security guard – with my license plate jotted down in his notes – follow me from the café to make sure I was only parking there for a few minutes, but I sure as heck wasn’t leaving without a quality photo after all of those shenanigans!
About: Padre Diego Luis de San Vitores baptized Chief Matå’pang’s daughter without his permission (pictured). Infuriated, Chief Matå’pang killed him. (17th century)
I love this island and all of its quirks, though frustrating at times. Island directions are just one of those things you come to laugh at, accept, and surprisingly – or not – adopt yourself.
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How do you give and receive directions on your rock?
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