My Journey Continues

Buenas yan håfa adai!

As I have said in “Pot Guåhu”, I am on a journey… We all are. I don’t know exactly where I’m going, but I know that I am moving forward. My destination in this chapter of my life is learning, loving, and living my culture. This blog is definitely a part of it, as is hiking to spiritual, ancestral, and beautiful places here on Guåhan to find peace and meaning. My journey for knowledge, understanding, wisdom, and experience continues, not in the jungle… but in the classroom.

I have enrolled full time at the University of Guam, and plan to major in International Tourism and Hospitality and Pacific Island Studies. I am furthering my knowledge of my language, history, and island through academia. At the same time, I hope to continue my spiritual healing in Guåhan’s natural beauty, grow, learn new trades and skills, nurture and develop the skills I already have, stay healthy and active, and spend time with loved ones and i familiå-ku (my family). Sounds like a lot on my plate right?? Well I have to try!

Since this is my first semester in college, I’m taking general education courses, and one of them happens to be Elementary Chamoru I. Si Siñot Ed Benavente iyo-ku ma’estro (Siñot Ed Benavente is my teacher). He is one of the pillars of i Sagan Kottura which is located in Tumon (left turn before Hilton going northbound) and is accomplished and wise. I hope to learn much more than the language in this class. If you are going to school or plan on doing so, I encourage you to take a Chamoru language class! I’ll let you know how it goes.

I hope that I get more than a degree from college. I want to build life-long friendships and connections, broaden my horizons, become a better citizen of my island and this world, and grow!

No matter where you want to go in life, don’t be discouraged by time, or other limitations of this world, just keep moving forward.

My journey continues. Where does yours begin and where does it take you?

Dångkulu’ na si Yu’us ma’åse for reading.

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Hita i Tåsa 

Håfa Adai!

I have found a love in the art of photography over the past year and am striving to nurture and develop it. I feel that it’s about perspective, focus, depth, and emotion, all portrayed in a litråto (picture). This photo means a lot to me and was taken by my prima, who is a blogger herself (kadadiha.wordpress.com check her out fan).

The meaning behind this photo is…

The Åcho Latte were the bases of the Ancient Chamoru guma siha (houses/huts). The bottom part is called the haligi and looks like this:


And the top part or cap stone is called the tåsa and it looks like this:


Family and the home are so important to our culture, and the åcho lattes are what support them. This is our foundation, our rock. It’s a symbol of who we are.

I know this is a lengthy explanation, but please bear with me because I’m almost there!

The latte in my picture was taken at one of the beautiful beaches at Urunao. This latte possibly belonged to a high status Chamoru woman. It is old, but very much alive and standing. They have been standing since our ancestors put them up (if I’m not mistaken).

We have our haligi, our base. It is our elders, our traditions, our values, and our land. Our haligi still stands. Hågu, guåhu, hita, (you, me, us) i manelu, must be the tåsa. We must use our kannai siha (hands) to build up and hold up our guma again, our culture, ourselves.

We can do it. The lattes weren’t carved and placed overnight. It will take time and love, but using our hands, our brains, our hearts, and our connection to keep our culture and language alive is definitely possible.

Now please, tell me about your perspective on this photo…

 
Si Yu’us Ma’åse for reading!

Belau Is the Place to Be

Håfa Adai and Alii!

I have stayed in the Republic of Palau or Belau with my family for a week and am so excited to share my experiences with you. My parents have been visiting Palau for 15 years. I have been to Palau once before in 2011 for the 15U Micronesia Basketball Tournament Western Division and my cousin’s wedding, which was a week later. My family (aside from my sister who is killing it in summer classes at UOG) had the opportunity to come to Palau again when my dad’s close friend decided to get married here. To me, this trip has been a beautiful celebration, a tremendous learning experience, our first family vacation in over 15 years, and a much needed getaway from the hustle and bustle of Westernized life.

Here are some facts about Palau. Palau is an archipelago of more than 500 islands, part of the Micronesia region in the western Pacific Ocean, well known for its scuba-diving and snorkeling sites. The population is just over 20,000. Palau has a constitutional government in free association with the United States. The Compact of Free Association was entered into with the United States on October 1, 1994, also marking Palau’s independence. Palau has three branches of government. The President is directly-elected and serves a four year term. The President and Vice-President run on separate tickets. The Council of Chiefs, comprised of the highest traditional chiefs from each state, acts in an advisory capacity to the President on traditional laws and customs (http://palaugov.org/about-palau/). You can easily research Palau on the internet, but there are some things that you have to experience for yourself. What I have seen, learned, and experienced in Palau, which I will share with you in this post, have me convinced that Palau is the place to be.

Firstly, the Palauan culture is very much alive and well, evident in everything from its people, food, art and architecture, and government. Although introduced to various cultures over the course of hundreds of years, Palauan traditions, values, and ideals are still a part of everyday life. For example, almost all Palauans are fluent in their native language, which they teach at school and at home, they eat mostly locally grown/caught foods including fish, taro, tapioca, bananas, pineapples, papayas, and fish to name a few, and some homes are shaped like the traditional bai. The keepers of the beautiful Palauan culture (which I don’t know very much about), the Palauan people are so nice, generous, and hospitable. If you think that Chamoru hospitality is all that, Palauan hospitality is peerless. I was so happy to meet everyone that I did, especially Rimuu, and hope to see them again some day! 

Secondly, the people of Palau, whether local or not, all live in harmony with the life around them. This is an observation that I made myself, which could probably be proven through a survey or something. The first thing I noticed was how much life was in Palau. It wasn’t just the people, but there were so many birds, insects, trees, plants, animals, and aquatic animals/plants, and they were all HEALTHY! Even the stray dogs were healthy and beautiful. It was so amazing and new, and I felt as if all their energy was energizing and revitalizing me (which is probably why my appetite was relatively small). The trees in Palau are huge, however they weren’t obstructing anyone’s view or taking up yard space. It seemed like the people were coexisting with the life that was there. Rarely would anyone cut down a tree or cut into the landscape to shape it how they wanted to. They make use of all the natural materials around them for decorations, furniture, and jewelry to name a few. Palau is also very eco-friendly! I was so excited to see recycle bins, solar panels, and smaller, fuel-efficient cars. Underneath it all, I think that the Palauan people care about their homeland and its entire ecosystem, which is why they are on top of everything. It’s extremely admirable, especially from a colonized-islander’s perspective. We all should care about our sacred lands and fragile ecosystems like our brothers and sisters in Palau, which is another reason why it’s the place to be.

Thirdly, Palau is self-organized. They petitioned to be their own, sovereign country in free-association with the United States in 1994 because they didn’t want to be an unincorporated territory. What is even more impressive is that they incorporated their culture into the government by making Chiefs their own branch, counseling and guiding the executive branch based on their traditional customs and values. Their museums and aquariums were awesome too! The museum was organized, well-managed, and beautiful, and had extensive information on everything in the history of Palau, even information about Guåhan and the Marianas islands! There were beautifully preserved artifacts, vivid pictures, and even an outdoor portion (which I couldn’t see because it was raining). The aquarium was also impressive and very well-put together. There was a government agency for everything from conservation, culture preservation, resource management, tourism, and more! Even though Palau is a small country, it is organized and self-sustainable, which makes it the place to be.

Lastly, Palau is beautiful. The word beautiful doesn’t even begin to describe it. Palau is actually a renowned diving destination, and even described as “the eighth wonder of the world”. Billionaires from around the globe would sail to Palau on their yachts to dive and just see its wondrous beauty. If you ever have a chance to, you should really visit our sister Palau. Personally, it meant a lot to go to Palau because our ancestors frequently traveled there and to the other islands in Micronesia. They are our brothers and sisters because we all came from the same place.

I’ve constantly said that Palau is the place to be, and it is, however, that’s not where I want to be. Palau is our sister, but not our mother. Guåhan is my home, my mother. I’m partially writing this post to show what we can do and what we can be! Palau is amazing, and they have worked hard for what they have. They actually CARE!!! My brothers and sisters of Guåhan, i che’luhu, we have to start caring! We need to organize ourselves and become our own sovereign country. We need to get off all the perks of being an unincorporated territory, which are very limited and not even worth it. Those perks are just blinding us from the heinous injustice that have been done unto our guellas and guellus (great grandmothers and great grandfathers), ourselves, and eventually our future generations if we don’t act soon! It is up to us.

Put fabot, get involved, educate yourselves, and care! Our island is being taken from us more and more every day. If Palau can do it, we can do it too.

FANOHGE CHAMORU!!!

Si Yu’us Ma’åse for reading!

When Hiking

Håfa Adai!

Hiking, in my opinion is one of Guåhan’s best pastimes. There are so many beautiful places to hike to, each of them holding an adventure waiting to happen. I love going with friends and family, but I like to keep the group under 10 people just so nobody gets left behind.

I could tell you all the things you need on a hike, how to prepare for it, etc., but it’s pretty easy and different depending on where you go. However, there are a few things that you should know and practice when hiking here on Guåhan.

Primet (firstly), before beginning your trek, ask permission. Our ancestors still dwell on our lands and we must respect that. Asking in English is okay because they can feel your vibes. What I always say is “Saina-hu, kao siña hu mammokat i chalan-miyu?” which means, “my elders, may I walk on your path?” It was part of a chant I learned in Chamoru class in elementary school and I thought it fit. We ask permission to be acknowledged by our ancestors in hopes of not disturbing them. These are our lands, este i tano-ta.

Secondly, leave nothing but footprints and bubbles. On almost every hike I’ve done, I’ve collected at least one kitchen-sized bag of trash. It really disgusts me and breaks my heart to see how people have no regard or love for our island. It’s so ironic! They hike to see Guåhan’s natural beauty yet soil it with their trash. After being frustrated and upset for a little bit, I just do my part. Every time I spend time in the outdoors whether it be at the beach or on a hike, I take a bag with me and pick up trash. I really encourage this practice, however, it can get pretty difficult carrying that up a steep hill or be a hindrance when you need your second hand. I do my best because I care.

Lastly, appreciate. Appreciate the world of life around you; the trees that have taken decades to grow, the animals, big and small that live together and give life to each other, and how all of them make a beautiful song. When I feel all of nature’s energy surging through my body, I feel so empowered, yet I feel so small. Being in nature reminds me that I am small but I am a part of this big world and its circle of life. Always take pictures, but don’t be rapt in your phone/camera.

Wherever you go, do your part as a loving, appreciative, responsible resident of Guåhan and keep our island clean! Enjoy her beauty and keep her beautiful. Go outdoors, explore your island, have an adventure! And while doing all that, have respect.

Si Yu’us Ma’åse for reading, pås yan guinaiya! (peace and love)

Quote

“I feel like the chain of the Marianas is like a broken spine. We can’t stand up for ourselves until it’s reconnected. I haven’t been to an island in the north since I was two, and until I do I’m going to feel like the world is keeping something from me. When I meditate, I hear them calling.”

-Franceska DeOro, fellow Hagan Guåhan, hipster yogi, and beautiful Chamorrita

“I Will Be a Hummingbird”

Buenas todos hamyu!

My somewhat presence on social media such as facebook and instagram has given me insight on other people’s journeys through our culture by studying or travelling, etc. It’s so empowering knowing that people are not necessarily along side me, but going in the same direction as I am in loving, understanding, practicing, and living our culture and language. All around me, I see apprentices of Chamoru crafts and skills, young Chamoru dancers, activists, historians, linguists, teachers, farmers and fishers, and people who just want to be involved. It’s amazing! Seeing such interest and passion ensures me that we Chamorus are still here and not going anywhere.

Seeing what everyone is doing makes me so happy, but also makes me question what I’m doing… Then I kind of feel inadequate. What am I doing to preserve my culture? What am I doing to protect our people from complete Westernization and colonization? If anyone ever feels the same way, please watch this video right here. It was showed to me by the most inspirational teacher I’ve ever known, Linda Tatreau.

If you’re ever feeling overwhelmed and feel like you’re not doing enough, whether it be saving our culture or saving the world from ourselves, remember: be a hummingbird and do the best that you can. I may be small and insignificant, but I am doing what I can.

Si Yu’us Ma’åse for reading.