Sunday, October 30, 2011

Guam Travelogue

When I mentioned that we were planning a trip to Guam for fall break, I was a little taken aback when multiple people seemed surprised and asked, "What is in Guam?"  It's a tropical island!  What more does it need to recommend it?  As I did some research on tripadvisor, I found mixed reviews, but it's a popular destination from Japan and everyone we talked to here that has been there had good things to say.  We embarked on our trip on Wednesday, and for my first tropical vacation, it did not disappoint! 

Just off the ferry from Kobe to Kansai Airport

We have become accustomed to Bear waking up in the wee hours of the morning because he is excited about something.  This time it was Beaver, too.  At 4:30 Wednesday morning, I awoke to Beaver calling me from his room.  "Mommy!  Mommy!"  When I went in to check on him, he announced, sleepily, that he was not tired.  As I tried to settle him back into bed, Bear popped his head in the door.  "I'm awake, too." he said.  "I've been awake since 3:48.  I'm trying to go back to sleep, but my head keeps filling up with things about Guam!"  I tried going back to my bed, but I was planning to get up at 5:30 anyway, and by then both kids were in our bed, whispering, so I didn't have too much trouble rousing myself.  Once we were settled on the airplane, Beaver's early morning caught up with him, and he slept for an hour or so.

Wednesday night we went to the Chamarro Village Night Market to see the sights and have some local street food.  A few guys were there displaying their local pets.

 They had these coconuts sitting out at one booth, and you could buy one for $3.  The vendor would then take a big old knife, whack off the top of the coconut, and hand it to you with a couple of straws.  It tasted like slightly coconut flavored water, but I am crazy about coconut, so I enjoyed it.

Bear and I sampling coconut juice.

So, a quick recap:  We had a great time.  We stayed at a resort with a water park, tennis, badminton, putter golf, snorkeling and scuba lessons, a swim-through aquarium, sea kayaks, wind sailing, and more, in addition to being only a few steps from the beach.  Bear took a snorkeling lesson in the swim-through aquarium, and then went out to the ocean and explored all around the coral reef with his snorkel.  Mr. Mike went on a dive tour in the ocean and loved it, and even I took the scuba lesson at the resort.  I think I would have liked it more if I had been able to equalize my ears better, but I couldn't seem to, and they hurt.  Snorkeling was awesome, though.  I had never done it before.  I experience a moment of panic in both snorkeling and scuba diving when I first submerge and gasp for breath to reassure myself that I really can still breathe.  It was pretty amazing to swim over the coral reef.  The best part was being out there with Bear the first time he snorkeled in the ocean and hearing him yelling his excitement through his snorkel.  I couldn't understand what he was saying, but his delight was certainly contagious.  Beaver was afraid to go down the water slides in the park, but Mike finally just took him anyway - screaming all the way - and he ended up loving it.  I asked him tonight what his favorite part was, and he said the big slide and the little slide at the water park.  Bear's favorite part was snorkeling in the ocean, Mr. Mike's was his dive tour, and mine was Ritidian Beach.

Mike's dive site

The view from our hotel room

Kid's pool at the water park

Ready for his snorkeling session

Off through the swim-through aquarium

Tumon Bay

Our islander friend

That is a flower in my hair.  It looks like a butterfly landed on my head.

Sea kayaks!  I love paddling.
By Friday, we had pretty much done all there was to do at the resort.  We kept waffling about whether we wanted to rent a car to see more of the island.  Saturday morning we finally decided to go for it.  We wanted to visit a beach on the northern shore of the island that I had read about on  After getting rather lost for awhile and driving through some very run-down areas of Guam (honestly, I was rather afraid!), we found our way there.  Ritidian Beach is part of a wildlife sanctuary, so it is completely undeveloped and absolutely gorgeous. 

Mike is always making friends wherever we go, and Guam was no exception.  He got talking to a couple of fishermen out with a group of kids, and we spent a good hour or so watching them fish.  The kids were more than happy to show off their various catches.  We got to watch them reel in the biggest one.  My boys thought it was awesome.

We ended our trip with a (shockingly expensive!) shopping spree at Kmart, where we stocked up on Cheerios, Pantene mousse, and Adam's peanut butter, among other things.  We also bought the boys some Guam t-shirts.  Beaver's barely fits and will probably shrink when I wash it, so he will possibly never wear it again.  Of course I should have tried it on him, but I didn't.  Someday, perhaps I will realize that he is always bigger than I think he is.  

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Must blog....must blog....must blog....

I think that I love autumn in Japan.  I love autumn anyway, and I have always thought it unfortunate that spring and autumn are the short seasons.  In Illinois, you have your hot, humid summer, maybe 3 or 4 weeks of gorgeous, autumn weather, and then you are right into cold, cold winter.  We've had a good month or so of lovely autumn weather now, and from what I hear, we should get another month before winter takes hold.  Bliss!

One thing I like about Japan is that they eat seasonally.  When we arrived at the beginning of May,  the produce shops were filled with strawberries.  I couldn't get strawberries if I wanted them now.  In the fall,  it is persimmons and chestnuts.  A week ago, I had no idea what to do with either of them.  I still don't know what to do with a persimmon, but I learned about chestnuts.  There is a chestnut tree next door to us that hangs over our yard, so we have been gathering chestnuts (kuri).  It is magical.  They drop from the tree in these green, spiky balls, and after a time, the balls dry up, split open, and out pops a beautiful, mahogany colored chestnut (or, um, chestnut colored chestnut, I guess you could say....).  The kids like to help gather them, and Beaver pretends he is a pirate and the chestnuts are treasure.  It really feels that way.  Gathering chestnuts makes me want to sing praises to Heaven.  It is delightful enough when something I have cultivated produces fruit, but there is something even more wonderful about it when I can gather food to eat from wild vegetation.  It fills me with wonder.  At least, that is how I felt about it up until yesterday.

Yesterday, I attempted to make kurigohan - chestnuts in rice.  From what I understand, it is a popular and very traditional autumn dish.  First the chestnuts must be peeled.  So, to soften the shells, I boiled them in water, and then left them to soak for about an hour.  That is what fujimama said to do.  The next step was simply to peel them, sprinkle them with sugar to help them retain their color, and then toss them in with your rice to cook.  Sounds so simple!  It was almost bedtime for the kids, but I had about 20 minutes that I could use to get the chestnuts peeled, so I went to work.  An hour later, I had burned fingers (because they are easier to peel when hot), major carpal tunnel, and maybe eight of the thirty or so chestnuts peeled.  Add to that a fussing three-year-old, and I had gone from singing praises to muttering curses.  Fujimama recommended putting the chestnuts in the freezer for a few hours before cooking them, so I shoved my eight little chestnuts into a freezer bag, threw them in the freezer, and there they still sit.  I threw the remaining cooked chestnuts over the wall in the backyard, and took the rest of the uncooked ones to my Japanese neighbor.  

In other news:

Beaver's Preschool Sports Day

Parent-Pulling-Kid-in-a-Basket Race

Obstacle Race - this was Beaver's favorite


Ball gathering game


Number One!
(after the kids beat the teachers at tug-of-war)

Receiving his medal

Another Beaver tidbit:  Lately when his big brother is doing something that he doesn't like, he comes to me and says, "Bear doesn't trust me.  He's not trusting me."