Hold On Daddy's Coming!

Stories, rants and reflections by a clueless father of three

Archive for the category “Guam”

Our ‘Classic Guam’ Dolphin-Watching Experience

This week, I decided we needed some dolphins in our lives.  I mean, why not?  Dolphins are super cool and there are no penguins nearby, so this is a no-brainer.  Bonus: the boat launches from the neighboring town of Agat, which will make this an easy voyage.  Yea Dolphins! 

We packed all the essentials – water bottles, sunscreen and Pokemon cards.  Because you never can be too prepared.  

We also brought friends.  Well, I should say Jackie brought her friend Sabrina and the kids brought some of their friends (Sabrina’s kids…).  None of my friends came.  See, if my wife fails to make arrangements for me to hang out with other dudes, it doesn’t happen.  My reliance on her literally stretches this far.  

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Not pictured: Any of Jim’s Dude Friends

We get to the Agat Marina around 10:15 but we cannot head to the boat because Dwayne Johnson is singing our children’s favorite Moana song.  We’re not going anywhere until it’s over, and frankly I have no problem with this.  You’re welcome, kids! 

So we’re in the parking lot and already this adventure has all the makings of a legit Guam experience: no signs, no customer representatives, and no boats preparing to take people out.  There’s also no clarity on what time this thing actually starts – indeed, the brochure says 10:15, but our voucher says 10:30, and some random guy tells us this thing starts at 10:45.  Classic Guam.   

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No information, no problem. 

While we wait, the kids feed fish in the marina with goldfish. I assure you the irony in real-world fish eating Pepperidge Farm Goldfish is not lost on our four year old.  “DADDY!  THE FISH ARE EATING THE FISH!!!”  

Why yes.  Yes they are.  

We set sail as expected, right at 11:00. Before we even get out of the marina, the kids begin identifying all the amazing sea creatures they somehow see.   Brody sees a dolphin and sharks.  Jimmy sees a whale.  Riley sees an octopus…  

I see adorable liars.  

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A few minutes into the trip and the kids see Flying Fish.  But for real this time.  And who knew fish could fly?  Add this to their list of things that apparently exist.  

These fish have a legit superpower, and watching them in action easily occupies our group and about 30 asian tourists for the first 15 minutes of the trip.  Unfortunately, these little suckers are hard to photograph.  

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It’s a fish that flies.  Or is is a bird that swims?   

Right about here is when the boat started serving lunch.  The menu?  Sandwiches and water.  Only, the sandwiches are made of nothing but cake frosting.  Oh yes.  It’s a frosting sandwich.  Inevitably, the kids will ask me if they can have desert because they ate all of their sandwich.   And indeed they should be rewarded with cake.  

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Eat fresh, kids.

So. The boat keeps going out and we get word that there are dolphins in the area.  And sure enough there’s like eight of them swimming together. I’m super excited because we now see dolphins and that was the whole point of this trip.  Mission Accomplished! 

But another part of me is bummed because there’s a money back guarantee if you don’t actually get to see dolphins, and I was kinda hoping this whole thing would be free.  So it’s a mixed range of emotions.  

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Priceless

Anyway, we watched these dolphins for about 15 minutes while they entertained us tourists.  They’re mesmerizing – I could stand and watch them all day.  

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After the dolphin viewing we head out to some other remote area where we would be for the remainder of this excursion.  Upon arrival, the captain tells us we can fish or swim. Our kids don’t get many opportunities to fish cuz I hate touching those slimy suckers.  But there’s a crew here to take care of all that, so naturally we’re taking this opportunity to do some fishing.

Two minutes in, and Brody’s pole is trying to pull him overboard. I seize the rod from him and reel in a sweet-looking blue fish.  A member of the crew informs us that this particular fish has something on its gills that, if touched, will make grown men cry.  A solid reminder of why I despise touching fish… 

The crew member puts the fish into a bucket.  This will become relevant later.  For now, suffice it to say Brody is a proud fisherman. 

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Nearly an hour of fishing would yield zero additional fish. I’ll add that I definitely underestimated how much physical labor goes into assisting a bunch of young children with bait, rogue hooks, and intertwined fishing lines.  Which is conducive to this…

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Got er! 

Before the trip was over I went snorkeling. Despite Guam’s status as a mecca of underwater creature observation, I don’t do this often because (a) it’s too quiet, (b) sharks eat people, and (c), fish can apparently fly so who knows what else they’re capable of doing.  But with dozens of tourists in the water I figure I have math on my side.  

I will say, what’s amazing about these beautiful fish is that you can actually watch them poop.  It’s so cool! But thats about it.  

Eventually the captain tells us it is time to head back. Right about here is when the kids begin begging to keep the fish that Brody caught.  Our neighbor Vivian reminds me that she has a tank at her house the fish can live in.  That would be a beta fish…

We brief the kids on two potential courses of action.  Option One: we let the fish go overboard so it can be with its family.  Option Two: we keep the fish and it dies immediately.  

So which option did they choose?  I’ll let the suspense build for a second…

The kids unanimously vote for Option Two, despite the well-known fatal consequences.  Fortunately, the votes counted for nothing and there never really was an option, per se.  We let the crew keep the fish and I am quite certain he was fried that night.  But the kids don’t need to know all the details…

Before we reach land, I strike a perfectly creepy Titanic pose.  

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Feeling on top of the world!

In all, we went swimming, fishing, and saw some really cool sea creatures. We filled up on some frosting sandwiches, and I watched fish poop.  How could one ask for a better day?  

This is the kind of family time I need more of in my life.  It was a small reminder of why we agreed to come to an island in the middle of nowhere…  

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It was classic Guam.

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Hiking Mount Lamlam: A Survivor’s Story

Like many of you stateside, it’s been getting colder here in Guam.  Temps have dipped from the low-90s to a frigid 83 with a slight breeze.  So we certainly feel your pain.  

Anyway.  Yesterday, despite the elements, our family decided to do this hiking thing once again.  And this time we brought friends.  Having done this twice already, I knew that hiking with kids is a recipe for endless whining, exaggeration, and drama.  

Foreshadow alert: this particular hike was no exception.  

We decided to hike Mount Lamlam. It’s supposed to be a family-friendly hike with beautiful views.  We didn’t know this at the time, but it’s the highest mountain peak in Guam.  We came prepared: sunscreen, matching Nike hats, and copious amount of sour cream and onion chips.  Everything you would ever need.  

Like all other hikes in Guam, Mount Lamlam is marked by pretty much nothing.  If you look hard enough, you’ll find a sign that looks like it was made with a piece of  construction paper and written by a 3rd grader.  It says “Mt. Lamlam ->.”  It’s best to not think about the tax dollars that likely went into the making of this sign…  

Our destination was the summit of this really big hill.  And we were ready.  

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We got this.

So off we went.  Nobody needed to go potty,  nobody was thirsty, and nobody was injured.  It was all good…  

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Sun’s out, guns out!

And then it started.  Think: “I want to be the leader!” Think: “Nathaniel always get to be the leader!” Think “DAD BRODY JUST PUSHED ME!!!” 

So within minutes of hiking my heart rate is climbing, and it has nothing to do with this mountain.  

Onward and upward we go.  There are a bunch of random crosses lined throughout this hike, which prompts Riley to ask: “is this where Jesus died?”  Not quite.  “Then who died here?”  I don’t know sweetheart.  “Whoever it was must have been really special.”  Indeed.  

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Historical Note: Jesus Christ was not, in fact, crucified in Guam…

About 5 minutes later, the kids begin a chorus of “how much farther is it?”  Oh, and we have our first casualty.  Ms. Sabrina suffers a leg injury and cannot carry on.  We weigh the options and ultimately did what Dwight Schrute  would have told us to do: leave her behind.  Before doing so, we offered her an orange.  Pathetically, she replies: “Just roll it down the hill to me.”  

 

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Goner

We keep going.  All our kids want Gatorade but alas we only have water.  The kids also want lunch because, you know, they’re starving.  They each had lunch before we left, and we gently remind them of this.  Aaaaaand we are tyrants.  

Making matters worse, we only have two bottles of water and they are both pretty much filled with ice.  Lacking this vital life-source, I take solace in the notion that our matching Nike hats still looked great.

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We carry on and discover lots of boonie-bees.  One child reminds the others that “bees will sting you and they are poisonous and you can die.” This is a scientific fact he learned on the internet.  Naturally, panic ensues.   For the first time, the kids are happy to let me be the leader.  

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We reach something that resembles the top of the hill.  The kids are all exhausted and assure me they “can’t walk.”  We are also out of water.  Surely it’s time to turn around.  We stop so the kids can eat some chips, thus avoiding sure-death.  

It turns out that we were like 100 feet away from the ACTUAL top of the hill.  This is cause for celebration.  

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If you didn’t believe me about running out of water, you’ll notice Riley is clearly sucking on ice.   But no time for that, as a bigger storm is brewing…

See, Jimmy gets to hold the can of Pringles, which is no fair because he “always gets to hold the can.”  See, any five year old knows that holding the can of Pringles that you’re supposed to be sharing is the definition of having power.  Indeed, Jimmy has all the power.  

Anyway, fits are thrown.  

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Eventually, we make Jimmy put down the Pringles and Brody reluctantly joins the family for yet another epic picture.  

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Hint: Brody is NOT pleased

So we made it to the top of Mount Lam Lam.  Total distance on this torturous death-march is exactly 1.1 miles.  Like, just over four laps around a track.  

Time to head back.  The kids want to ensure we haven’t forgotten that they are so, so tired.  And then Brody slips down a rock.  I have mercy and carry him on my shoulders.  

Riley doesn’t like the fact that she’s walking while Brody is having the time of his life, and begins begging for me to carry her instead.  So eventually she gets her way.  And when I find Brody is struggling to get down again, I hoist him up on my shoulders.  Again.  And again, Riley is on the prowl.  “How come Brody gets two turns on your shoulder and I only get one turn.”  

This, in a nutshell, is hiking with needy kids.  

We find a steep death-drop and decide to take a look.  Andrew (11) notes that the view is “beautiful” but insists that we keep heading down because the cliff is “giving him anxiety.”  Of course…

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Heading down we wonder how our fallen hiker is doing.  Her daughter Vivian (5) asks me if I am going to give her mommy a “jelly-hug” when I see her.  Naturally, I’m curious.  Vivian informs me that a “jelly-hug” is when you “rub jelly on your belly and someone else rubs jelly on their belly and then you give each other a big hug.”  

Hmm.  Based on this information, I inform Vivian that I will not be giving her mommy a “jelly-hug.”  Ever.  

A whopping 2.2 miles after we set foot on this adventure, we reach the car.  #survivors

Within minutes, we were here: 

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My overall take is that the climb was actually kinda challenging, and the views ere amazing.  I didn’t get much love from my Apple Watch for this workout, but that thing never gives me the credit I feel I deserve.  And most importantly, kids say the funniest things on hikes, which is likely what will keep us coming back.  

In the meantime, we will do our best to survive the winter chill…  

Jelly-hug, anyone?  

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A Step by Step Guide on How to Move Your Family to Guam Without Any Drama Whatsoever

We’re baaaaacck! And in case you’ve been out of the loop since my last post (over two years ago), here’s a recap: I spent 8 months living by myself in Norfolk, VA prepping for a deployment, then I deployed for 7 months, then I came back. And then, we PCS’d (military slang for moved) to Guam.  So basically, we’ve followed the standard progression of any normal family of five from Northern Virginia…   

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Perfectly normal family here.

Bottom line: our kids are older, my hair is thinner, and my wife is *loving* the Navy more than ever. Which happens to be where this whole blog picks back up…

So. If you’ve ever wondered how a legit professional takes his family and moves them to Guam without ANY drama/tears/tantrums/ iterations of ”oh-my-gosh-why-are-you-doing-this-to-me”, then listen up. Because I’m about to educate you.

STEP ONE: BE DEPLOYED WHEN YOU GET YOUR ORDERS TO MOVE FROM THE EAST COAST TO GUAM.

This is huge. You see, when faced with orders to move to a small island kinda near Japan (but really not near anything), your spouse may want to talk to you about all these questions she has, like “where are we going to live?” and “when is all of this going to happen?” and most importantly, “where the heck is Guam?” Fortunately for you, you will be on the other side of the world, incapable of answering any questions whatsoever. It makes the news that much easier to digest.

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Me being too busy to discuss moving to Guam…

STEP TWO: GIVE YOUR WIFE A LAUNDRY LIST OF THINGS THAT MUST HAPPEN IMMEDIATELY BUT THAT CANNOT BE ACCOMPLISHED WITHOUT WRITTEN ORDERS, WHICH ARE COMING.  WE THINK. 

Medical screening needs to be completed. Are we sure Brody had his tetanus shot? Movers need to be arranged. Car needs to be shipped. We need to get on the base housing list. We need to enroll the kids in school. We need to do it now!

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Stop wasting time, this medical screening is due ASAP!!!

Problem is, nothing happens until written orders are in hand. And getting written orders from the military can be as enjoyable as a 16 week seminar in “Commercial Paper.”   Or (foreshadow alert!) a 36-hour flight to Guam. Super fun.

STEP THREE: COME HOME FROM DEPLOYMENT AND COMMENT ON ALL THE THINGS YOUR “WOULD HAVE DONE DIFFERENTLY” TO PREPARE FOR THE BIG MOVE.

My wife just *loves* comments like these:

“You scheduled the pack out for a Tuesday, huh? I would have gone with later in the week.”

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Should have done this Friday…

“I see we let the kids color and paint all over the floor and walls in the dining room while I was gone.” Or…

“Did you forget about the lawnmower I left in the garage while I was deployed?”

Stuff like that goes over real well in our house.  

STEP FOUR: RENT OUT THE HOUSE OF YOUR WIFE’S DREAMS TO A FAMILY OF COMPLETE STRANGERS.

You love this neighborhood, huh?  Well this is no time to get all sentimental on me. Paint the walls. Clean the carpets. Replace the carpets. Fix the grout. Stain the deck. AND FOR HEAVEN’S SAKE DON’T LET THE KIDS WALK ALL OVER THE DECK I JUST STAINED!!!

Fun like that…

STEP FIVE: MOVE IN WITH YOUR MOTHER IN LAW FOR A FEW WEEKS WHILE YOU ARE HOMELESS AND EVERYTHING YOUR FAMILY OWNS IS ON ITS WAY TO GUAM.

Yep. I’m just gonna leave this one right here without further comment. Moving on…

STEP SIX: HAVE THE NAVY BOOK YOU SUPER CONVENIENT FLIGHT TO GUAM.

Sometimes Always the Navy likes to spend as little as humanely possible, without any consideration for your well-being or the well-being of your family. So a direct flight might make a whole lot more sense and cut out five hours of flight time, but if it’s costs an extra $10 in the system, you’re not getting that direct flight.

Nope, instead you wind up with a downright hellacious itinerary that starts in D.C. and goes to Detroit and then to Tokyo and then some random Japanese Island I’ve never heard of before called “Kansai”…and then to Guam. Leave Tuesday morning, arrive Wednesday at midnight. More on this in a bit…

STEP SEVEN: WATCH TIME SLIP AWAY AS YOUR BEST LAID PLANS TO “SEE EVERYONE BEFORE THE BIG MOVE” FALL APART DISASTROUSLY. 

If you end up with text messages like this, then you’re doing it right:

Friend:  Can you get together tonight? 

Me: Actually, I’m boarding a flight and won’t be available for three years.

STEP EIGHT: FLY TO GUAM.

It’s easy! I mean, it’s not like a 14 hour time difference will impact your children in any way.

But here is the REALLY important part: overlook where everyone is sitting until minutes before boarding. Then realize your seat is nowhere near your family’s. Then make your useless attempt at convincing the very nice Japanese couple that can’t speak a word of English to trade seats with you.

Then, sit alone in silence and pretend not to hear the screams from the back of the plane. 

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Me looking fabulous.  And not hearing the drama in the back…

STEP NINE: LIVE IN A HOTEL ROOM WITH YOUR WIFE, KIDS AND 15 BAGS OF LUGGAGE FOR 10 DAYS.

To soften the blow of a move to Guam the Navy sends you and your family to a hotel. It’s downright cruelty. From here, you will discover there is an “unanticipated shortage” of base housing and that we might be living there for a while. Welcome to paradise.

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Loving this hotel…

STEP TEN: GET YOUR CAR BACK.  

Here’s the process: (1) go to office that has your car and fill out forms, (2) go to the DMV to fill out forms, (3) go back to the office that has your car to…you guessed it…fill out forms. But wait! Brand new policy involving…you guessed it again…more forms. (4) Take the forms to customs, and then (5) bring them back for processing. And if you think your work is done? Start back at one.

Even Brian McNight couldn’t make this romantic…

STEP ELEVEN: GO PRETTY MUCH BANKRUPT.

A box of strawberries? $9. On sale. Dinner for five? $75. Kid’s meals aren’t what they used to be. Breakfast muffins? $5 each. The blows keep coming: Phone plans, sun screen, internet, moving costs, therapy. It all adds up SUPER fast, and your ability to make ends meet is ENTIRELY dependent upon the skill and capability of some Personnel Specialist Seaman Apprentice with about five months of experience in the Navy. So good luck with all that.

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DONT DROP THAT $9 BOX OF STRAWBERRIES!!!!

STEP TWELVE: BE AT WORK WHEN BAD THINGS HAPPEN.  

See:  “The kids didn’t pass the swim test? So sorry. Gotta run!”

See also: “The air conditioner isn’t working at our rental? Bummer. Let’s talk about this later!”

Hate it when that happens…

STEP THIRTEEN: BE READY TO BRIBE YOUR KIDS WHEN THEY START ASKING ALL THE TOUGH QUESTIONS.  

Daughter: Daddy why did we have to move to Guam?

Me: Chocolate, or vanilla?

Oh, and for the older crowd…

Spouse:  Didn’t you say we would be making MORE money out here than back at home? 

Me:  White wine, or red?  

And if that fails…

STEP FOURTEEN: MISLEAD (OR, LIE) TO YOUR MILITARY SPOUSE AND TELL HER EVERYTHING WILL FALL INTO PLACE VERY SOON.

My personal go-tos are “I’m sure a house will open up any day now” and “we’re gonna do some amazing traveling real soon.” If you’re really desperate, you may try offering to acquire a new wardrobe. Or diamonds.  Or plastic surgery. Or something crazy like that. Regardless, you gotta go big here, because the usual flowers or night out on the town just aren’t gonna cut it. And besides, after all this, a night on the town with you is gonna be the last thing she needs.

 

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We’re going to Australia soon?  

STEP FIFTEEN: ENJOY EVERY SECOND.  AFTER ALL, YOU ONLY GET 36 MONTHS OUT HERE…

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DISCLAIMER: In all actuality, we are having a great time, and making lots of new friends. Most of the time. And I’m told by the local Navy divorce attorney that my wife hasn’t made an appointment yet. So that’s always a good sign.

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