December 19, 2003

hiking, tower climbing, tokyo and tennessee

entrance to marbo cave
Merry Christmas from Tennessee!

That's right, I'm not writing from Guam this time since I am visiting my grandparents for the holidays. I'll be spending Christmas with family here and then will travel to Oregon on the 26th of December to spend New Years with more family in the Portland area. I'm really enjoying the cooler weather here. We even got some snow yesterday and today which has started sticking a little bit this afternoon so now it really feels like Christmas.

It's been just over 5 weeks since I last wrote so I'll try to fill you in on what I've been up to during that time. The weekend after I last wrote I went to Marbo Cave with a group of people after church. We brought snorkeling gear and underwater flashlights so we could
snorkeling in marbo cave
swim in the clear cool water of the cave. It was very interesting to look around the cave with flashlights since the water was clear and you could swim through a narrow passage that opened up into a bigger room. In the evening I went to the house of some friends and we played a game of Risk. They have a tradition that whoever wins gets to sign the board with the date and time at the end of the game. Due mostly to luck I wound up signing the board at the end of the night.

During the following week our SCUBA class met several more times and we were all ready for our final dives from the boat by the next weekend. On Sunday we spent pretty much the whole day diving and did a total of three dives. The first one was to practice some more from shore but the second two were mostly just to have fun from the boat. In
this is one of the small fish we caught
between the two boat dives we also got to see a large group of dolphins that came and played around the dive boat. There were probably at least 30 dolphins including some babies that would swim and jump out of the water in sync with their mothers. During one of the dives we saw a couple of octopi which our instructor held and let us play with before we let them swim back into their holes to hide. The boat trip was a lot of fun and at the end of the day we got our official SCUBA certification cards.

In the few days before our boat trip we were all watching the weather closely because a storm was forming several hundred miles from Guam. The storm did in fact develop into a typhoon and for a couple of days we weren't sure if it would hit or miss Guam. On Friday we spent some time getting the station ready just in case but in the end the storm passed well over a hundred miles south of us so all we got from it was lots of rain and some waves.

On Sabbath Matt and I went to a couple of places on the eastern side of the island including one with a large protected area that would be good for
this shark was too far away to get a good picture
swimming. The weather was cloudy and rainy so we didn't swim this time though. On the way back we drove around the south side of the island which Matt hadn't done before.

The following week was Thanksgiving which I spent with a bunch of my AWR friends from the office. Since we had the day off I went to the station manager's house a bit early to help get things ready for lunch. In the afternoon everyone else from the station came over and we all enjoyed a great meal before spending the rest of the day visiting and playing games.

sunset across the street from my apartment
On Sabbath after church we went on another hike to the waterfall near AWR that some of my friends have nicknamed "Andrew Falls". It is quite easy to get to from the radio station now that we have made a trail through the sword grass. On Sunday I woke up before sunrise to go fishing with another friend from work. We probably would have gone diving instead of fishing but the visibility was still poor due to the typhoon that passed by during the week. We spent most of the morning on the boat but only caught two fish. To me the fish seemed pretty big with the larger of the two weighing in at 7
mount lamlam, guam's highest point
pounds. The guy that took me out said that the last time he went they caught one of the same type that was 24 pounds though.

The next Friday I went snorkeling just down the road from my apartment and saw a couple of sharks along the edge of the reef. They were probably about 4-5 feet long and were just minding their own business about 30-40 feet below me. Sabbath afternoon we went on a hike to the highest point on Guam which is Mount Lamlam at 1,334 feet. The first part of the hike is a fairly well traveled route to a peak that is only slightly lower than the real Lamlam. The second part isn't nearly as well traveled but we were still able to find a trail for most of the way and enjoyed a great view of the island at the end of the
working on the wireless network

On Thursday of last week a couple of us climbed one of the towers at the radio station to check on some of our wireless network equipment. In order to go up the tower safely we wear harnesses and stay connected to the tower with an ascender or a safety line. At the top the view was great and we took some pictures. We forgot to call and verify that things were still working after we installed some lightening arrestors and re-closed the weather proof box. Unfortunately one of us must have bumped a switch on the power strip which turned off the power to our wireless devices so I got to climb the tower again Friday afternoon. I didn't know the cause of the problem until I got up there so I brought along a laptop and some tools just in case the problem was more serious. In the end it was just a matter of flipping a switch but by the time I got ready, climbed up, climbed back down and put everything away I had spent over an hour and a half to turn on a power strip. I still enjoyed the view again thoughÂ…

enjoying the view
On Sabbath for church the elementary school put on a Christmas program with music and costumes. In the afternoon we hiked down to the beach below the radio station and went snorkeling a bit before following the river back up to "Andrew Falls". The route we took is a nice loop hike with a great variety of scenery along the way and I'm sure I'll do it again some time. In the evening I went to a get together to see a family friend who was visiting Guam from Maryland before spending the rest of the evening playing settlers with a couple of friends. On Sunday I went to a big retirement party for the mission president.
this is one of the coves below awr
They had a program complete with a presentation from some government officials, a large potluck meal, numerous speeches and several musical numbers.

On Monday we had our office Christmas party in the afternoon which was lots of fun. We played several games of volleyball, enjoyed home made ice cream and other good food and finished off the evening by watching a movie. I helped by organizing a scavenger hunt for the kids in the group which was fun.

On Tuesday after work I packed my bags and got ready to head to the airport before
imperial gardens in tokyo
going to bed for a few hours of sleep. I had to get up at 2 am to start my 36+ hour trip to Tennessee. The flight to Japan went smoothly and I arrived just after sunrise to begin my 11 hour layover. Since I had a fair amount of time in Japan I decided to catch a train into Tokyo. The express train took just over an hour and cost nearly $30 for the one way trip. In Tokyo I first wandered around the grounds surrounding the imperial palace. The palace itself is off limits to visitors, but some of the gardens are open to the public and you can walk along the moat as well. The weather was cool in the 40s so I was glad to have a jacket. From the gardens I walked to a subway station and caught a train to another part of town where I visited the Sony building. They have walk through exhibits covering about 7 floors where you can check out all of the latest Sony gadgets including TVs, DVD players, laptops and of course video games. They also had a new BMW on display on one of the lower floors. After leaving the Sony building I walked around for a while. At one point I passed a kite museum and stuck my head in briefly and then I found a large department store which I wandered through.
this lovely platter is sold for the low price of $90 US
The department store was huge with about 8 floors of stuff and the most interesting section was in the basement where they sold all sorts of food. They had some things that were ready to eat like you would find at a food court but they also had other food for sale ranging from fresh seafood to fruit to bread. It was interesting to just walk around looking at all of the colorful things on sale. The prices seemed extremely high but I guess that is to be expected in Japan. It was also interesting that things were all decorated for Christmas in the stores and on the streets while western style Christmas music was playing in most of the shops I visited. By the time I finished exploring the department store it was time to catch a train back to the airport. This time I took a slower train so it took about an extra 30 minutes but the fare was "only" $12.

snow at grandma's house
The rest of my trip was fairly uneventful with no major delays. After flying over the Pacific I had connections in San Jose and Dallas before eventually landing in Nashville where I was met at the airport by my parents and sister. From the airport we drove to my grandparents house where I pretty much just went to sleep and didn't get up again until over 11 hours later. Yesterday evening we went to a Christmas concert and today we got together with some friends for lunch. Apart from that I've just been enjoying the good food and spending time with family for the holidays. Over the next few days more family will be arriving so by the time Christmas arrives we'll have a very full house which will of course be lots of fun.

Well that's about all the news for now so I'll go ahead and get this posted. I hope you all have a merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

Until next time,


Posted by andrew on December 19, 2003

Thanks for the update, Andrew! I really enjoyed the pictures--especially the snowy one of Grandma's house in Tennessee!! Lucky you. Somehow it just doesn't feel quite like Christmas here in the Philippines! Have a merry one!

Posted by: Gina Wahlen on December 20, 2003

Hey Drew - awesome pics from the radio tower! Very impressive! So is the top of the radio tower higher than the mountain (the tallest point on the island)?

Looking forward to seeing you out this way - keep me posted.


Posted by: Lauren Smith on December 23, 2003