Monday, May 4, 2009

Visiting Guam "Where America Meets the Day"

Guam is an island in the Pacific and it is a territory of the United States so the people like to say it is where "America greets the day." Look on the map and you will see that it is near the International Date Line. The International Date Line is an imaginary line where the date changes by 24 hours. If you were standing on the line and it was 10 in the morning on Monday, then stepped over the line to the west it would be 10 in the morning on Tuesday. However, the line goes through the water so that is doesn’t go through any land. Guam is the first American property to the west of the line so it where "America greets the day." Guam looks very American with malls and fast food places.

Our friend Ezequiel and his mother, Cindy, volunteered to take us on a morning tour of the island. Along with their friend, Jackie, we set out to explore the island.

Our first stop was Gef Pago Chamorro Cultural Village, a living museum of thatched huts featuring activities associated with the daily lives of the Chamorro, the native people of the Mariana archipelago. There were demonstrations on cooking, rope making, and basket weaving. Tony, the guide, explained that the coconut tree is the "tree of life" and showed us how easy it is to open a coconut. Various parts of the coconut palm are used for clothing, food, shelter, beauty aids, and as fuel. He went on to explain, "Coconut milk is so pure that it was used to sterilize surgical instruments during WW II." We even got to ride a carabao, the native water buffalo.

Ferdinand Magellan was the leader of the first voyage that sailed around the world. His voyage stopped in Guam. When the voyage landed in Guam in the spring of 1521 they had not seen land for 100 day. The sailors were sick or dying and the food was gone or spoiled. The men helped themselves to food they had never seen before like coconuts, sweet potatoes and bananas (which they thought were some sort of fig). They later sailed on and reached the Philippines where Magellan was killed. Guam became part of the Spanish Empire, like the land in the Southern part of the United States from Florida to California. From the Spanish Fort, Nuestra senora de la Soledad, we had a panoramic view. Forts were always built so they could see if any enemy were coming.

Guam was became part of the United States in 1898. During WWII the Japanese occupied the country. When the war ended Guam was again part of United States. We stopped a WW II site where there is statue of several men from Guam who participated heroic acts during WW II. One of the men preserved in bronze is Jackie’s father, who after killing an enemy soldier, and donning his uniform, was able to gain entry to the enemy camp and blow it up.

One morning we visited Ezequiel’s school, Tamuning Elementary School, do a program on schools around the world. It was multi-cultural week at his school. We did a power point program on the many schools we have visited around the world. The schools buildings may be different and the students may speak different languages, but they all learn to read and write. And, they all like to play with their friends after school and enjoy holidays. After our presentations we were invited to the auditorium to see a nature presentation by Miss Cheryl from the Guam Department of Agriculture. The high point was seeing the flightless Ko’ Ko’ bird. There are only about 100 in captivity. She also showed us the brown tree snake. It is rather harmless to people but has killed nearly all of the native bird population on an island. The snake has no natural predators on the island. Before introduction of the brown tree snake, Guam had 12 species of native forest birds. We hope the students learned something from us because we learned a lot from our visit to Guam.