September 7, 2003

guam first impressions


map of guam
Greetings from Guam!

Well, I'm now pretty much settled in to my apartment here on Guam. Since Guam is a US territory I have access to quite a few services and things that I am familiar with from the mainland US. For example, I have a US area code and phone number so I can place and receive calls within the same system as anywhere else in the US. 800 numbers are free from here too, which means that US calling cards can be used for long distance. Another nice service available here is the US mail system, which allows me to send letters within the US using the same stamp as I would use in Maryland. Guam also has several familiar commercial establishments including Taco Bell, Denny's, Payless Shoes, Ross, K-Mart, Ace Hardware and many more. There is even a full-fledged mall complete with a food court and an attached movie theater. As you can see, life on Guam isn't quite the same as life in Cambodia. The one thing that is a bit similar is the humid weather, although so far Guam seems a bit cooler than Cambodia typically was. It also helps that most things here including my office, car and apartment have air-conditioning, although I haven't been using it in my
my car and apartment
apartment so far. My apartment is spacious with a bedroom, an office and a large open living room and kitchen area. The radio station is located just a couple of miles south of my apartment and both the station and my apartment are in the small town of Agat. The station provides me with a car to get around, which is very nice to have since most stores and things are located in the more built up areas about half an hour north of Agat. The car I'm driving right now is an older Mazda, although I think I'll be assigned a different vehicle next month when another worker leaves.

Anyway, let me back up a little bit and write about my trip here. After I wrote last time I spent Sabbath and Sunday with my mom before she dropped me off at the airport Sunday evening. We enjoyed a nice church service and invited some friends over for lunch afterwards. On Sunday we spent a few hours at the boat where we had to first charge up the battery which had gone dead. Once it finally got charged enough to start the engine we moved the boat to a new slip and then headed to the beach for a couple of hours "on the way" to the airport. For supper I got my last dose of PAHIT brand mint chocolate chip ice cream, which is my absolute favorite ice cream that I've ever tried. Apparently the ingredients are imported from Italy, but the ice cream is then made on Cyprus. It's definitely worth trying if you ever visit Cyprus.


the view from my driveway
From Cyprus I flew to Dubai where I slept in a relatively comfortable chair for a couple of hours before boarding another plane bound for Manila. In Manila my layover was over 6 hours long so I decided to explore the city a bit on foot. Since the airport is not too far from downtown Manila I just walked out of the terminal and towards town. I'm not sure exactly how far I walked but along the way I visited a mall, McDonalds and a night fruit market where I was able to find some very good Mangosteins which are one of my favorite tropical fruits. After walking for about three hours I caught a train most of the way back to the airport and used a share taxi followed by a regular taxi for the last few kilometers to the airport departure lounge. I certainly didn't see very much of the Philippines, but it was fun to wander around and at least start to get a feel for Manila instead of just sitting in the airport doing nothing.

I pretty much slept straight through the 3 hour flight from Manila to Guam, but awoke just in time to enjoy the approach and landing from my window seat. I couldn't see a lot since it was dark out, but could still make out the coastline and a rather large harbor area. Brook, who is the Chief Engineer at the AWR
sunset from the beach across the road from my driveway
radio station here on Guam, met me at the airport. He drove me the 30 minutes to my new apartment and told me a little about the island along the way. Once I arrived at my new apartment I took a much needed shower and then got a few more hours of sleep since I landed on Guam at about 4:30 am local time. By the way, if you want to figure out what time it is here on Guam you can now click on the link on the right side of my web page as I have removed the Cambodia time link and added one for Guam instead.

After getting a few hours of sleep Tuesday morning I had a quick tour of the station and then spent the rest of the day touring the island while running errands with Brook. By the time we got back to the station it was nearly 5 pm so I checked email quickly, drove myself home, had a little supper and went to bed very early. I slept well, but did wake up for a few hours during the night due to jet lag.

The rest of the week I have been working at the station, mostly learning how things are being done currently computer-wise. We've also had some discussions about what projects I will be working on and I've gotten to know
the guam coastline on the way to lost pond
most of the other AWR staff as well. On Wednesday after work I drove around the southern coast of the island, which took a couple of hours. The southern part of the island is not very built up with only a few very small towns and almost no hotels. It is very picturesque and I enjoyed a nice sunset along the way. I eventually ended up in the more northerly built up part of the island where I stopped at K-Mart and stocked up on some food and other supplies before heading back to my apartment.

On Friday I visited a couple of government offices and was able to get my new Guam drivers license. On the way back home I stopped for some "necessities" from Taco Bell and a local warehouse-style grocery store called Cost U Less. In the evening I had supper near the local Adventist Academy at the home of a coworker. Several others from the station were also there and I had fun getting to know their wives and kids.

On Sabbath I went to the closest Adventist church to my apartment which is just
lost pond rope swing
a couple of miles up the road. Afterwards I stayed for potluck and then went hiking with a few people. We drove to an area in the northern part of the island and hiked along the rocks and beach for about half an hour before turning inland for the last few minutes of the hike. Our destination was a freshwater pond called Lost Pond. There was a nice rope swing and the water was refreshingly cool, which felt great after hiking in the humid weather. On the way back we spent a few minutes in the ocean and I even tested out my mask and snorkel. The water was cloudy with sand so I didn't expect to see anything, but saw a few colorful reef fish in the couple of minutes I spent in the water. A couple of people in our group needed to get back in time for a meeting so we didn't stay too long, but I'm sure another time I'll be able to do some real snorkeling. On the way back we stopped at a scenic cliff-top overlook point called two lovers leap and enjoyed a good view of the coastline including the main tourist area called Tumon Bay.

Today I have mostly been doing things around the house like laundry and email. I've got a laptop and dialup access here in my apartment which is quite
kitesurfers near my apartment
convenient, especially on the weekend. This afternoon I took a walk along the water just across the street from my apartment and watched some guys kite surfing. In this sport they fly a powerful stunt kite while strapped in to something like a wake board or surfboard. It looks like a lot of fun and they can really move quickly back and forth across the water. I also walked up to the local marina and looked at some of the boats there. The marina is within easy walking distance from my apartment and there are even several sailboats there. Too bad it's so far from Cyprus. It would be nice if my parents could come visit by boat but that trip would probably take at least 4 months one way.

I don't have any big plans for the next few months, other than to explore some more of Guam when I'm not working at the radio station. I'm considering taking a scuba course since they are fairly reasonable here, but we'll see. Anyway, I think that's it from here for now.

Until next time,

Andrew

September 29, 2003

beaches, waterfalls and chamorro culture


traditional chamorro dance show
Greetings,

Well, I'm still having fun here on Guam. During the week I've mostly just been working at the radio station since I last wrote. I've mostly been figuring out and documenting how the computers are networked and how they are set up.

On Wednesday night after I last wrote I went to Chamorro village with some of the student missionaries from Guam Adventist Academy. The "village" is basically a big tourist trap with plenty of shopping and dining options. They also have cultural dance performances including fire dances which we enjoyed watching. Most of the local delicacies available at Chamorro village involve barbeque so aren't very appetizing to us vegetarians.

19th century bridge built by the spanish

The Chamorro people are indigenous here on Guam and the language they speak is similar to Spanish, although it's not the same. There is quite a mix of different ethnic groups on Guam including a large Pilipino population and quite a few Koreans and Japanese. There are also quite a few Americans from the mainland living here, including a lot of people stationed at the various military bases.

On the weekends I have been visiting different churches around the island for Sabbath. I believe there are 6 English speaking churches on the island plus a Korean church and one other English group that isn't an official church yet. The churches I have visited so far have all been nice with friendly people and good potlucks every week so the decision of where to attend more regularly won't be an easy one to make.

adventist world radio station from a distance

I've also been spending some time hiking and going to the beach. The first weekend after I last wrote I hiked down to Sella Bay with a couple of student missionaries. The trailhead is just a mile or two from the radio station and we thought the hike would be pretty easy. It turned out to be a bit more difficult than we expected with a couple of stream crossings and some very slippery red mud. The last bit was through a pretty dense forest and the trail wasn't very good, but we still had fun and made it down to the beach. At the beach we enjoyed some snorkeling and we also saw an old bridge nearby that was built by the Spanish in the 19th century. Just before we started the hike back to the car it rained for a bit so the hike back up the hill was even more slippery. We certainly got more of a hike than we were expecting, but had a good time anyway. In the evening I went to a get together with most of the student missionaries and a few other people.

jumping through segua falls

On Sabbath I was planning to go hiking again, but got rained out so didn't end up doing very much after all. On Sunday I went to Gun Beach, which is on the edge of the touristy area called Tumon Bay. At the beach some of us went snorkeling and saw quite a few fish and some nice coral as well.

The following Friday I went snorkeling again near a place called Fisheye. Fisheye is a tourist attraction which includes an underwater observation area where you can look at the fish and coral without getting wet. I haven't been inside, but looked in the windows a little while I was snorkeling. In the evening I went to another get together with some people from work and some of the student missionaries.


a rare photo of me and my camera taking a picture of segua falls
On Sabbath afternoon I went on a hike to a waterfall called Segua Falls. The hike was a little longer than the ones I went on previously, but was fun with some good views. The last part of the trail to the waterfall was very steep but there were ropes tied to some trees along the path which made it much easier to get up and down the bank. We enjoyed some swimming at the waterfall where there was a rope swing. The best part though was that you could climb part way up the waterfall and stand behind the falling water. From this point you could then jump through the waterfall and land in the swimming hole about 20 feet below. On the way back to the car it rained a bit which made the trail pretty slippery, but we had a good time and playing in the waterfall was definitely worth the hike.

On Sunday one of the Chamorro employees from the school took a group of us to a
latte stones near ritidian point
village fiesta. Fiestas here are big celebrations where each extended family in the village throws a big party with lots of food. We were invited to join some relatives of the school worker and had a good time visiting and eating. The Chamorro people seem to be very hospitable, often yelling out to complete strangers who are walking down the street to come and get some food and drinks. This time of year there are fiestas taking place in different villages around the island on different weekends and some of the military people stationed here (and others) go around visiting the different fiestas, enjoying the Chamorro hospitality.

This last Friday I was planning to go to the north of the island to explore the beach there, but ended up working for most of the afternoon instead. We had some problems with our Internet connection at the station and I had to do some troubleshooting before I
some more latte stones
eventually discovered that a network hub was malfunctioning.

On Sabbath I went to a church which meets at the SDA clinic and met some more nice people there including someone I know from when I lived in Sri Lanka with my family. He was in med school at Loma Linda when I knew him in Sri Lanka, but now he is working here on Guam as a doctor. In the afternoon one of the church members invited us to visit his family beach property in the north of the island so I went along. The land they own is near Ritidian Point, which is the place I was hoping to visit on Friday. The waves were pretty big so the water was too rough for snorkeling, but I enjoyed seeing some latte stones and a couple of caves. Latte stones are ruins which aren't fully understood. Some of the experts estimate that they date back to about the time of Christ,
view down the beach near ritidian point
and people say that even back when the explorers started arriving from Europe the local people had already forgotten what the stones were used for. These stones can be found in many places throughout Guam. In order to get to the larger of the two caves that I visited you either had to get wet (the tide was high) or thrash through the jungle to get over the rocky point. I enjoyed finding my own trail through the thick jungle growth and eventually climbed down a steep rocky bank to the beach near the cave. My feet stayed dry, but I doubt the white shirt I was wearing will ever be the same again thanks to all the grass stains. There were also lots of spiders with some really big webs, but I'm told they don't bite and aren't poisonous. I mostly just used a stick to get rid of the cobwebs that were in my way. When we got back from the beach I got cleaned up and then tried to help some friends with a computer problem. I ended up spending the rest of the evening working on
this waterfall only appears out my office window when it rains
the computer and visiting with them.

On Sunday I spent some time watching the kite surfers again since several of them were out just down the beach from my house. In the evening I went to a fundraising supper hosted by the Junior class from the local Academy. Afterwards a few of us played a round of Settlers, which is the game that I played quite a bit in Cambodia. Last week I introduced it to a couple of people here and they seem to like it pretty well, so it looks like I'll get to keep playing it from time to time here on Guam.

Well, I think that's all the news from here for now so I'll stop and get this update and some new pictures posted.

Until next time,

Andrew

October 19, 2003

rainbows, waterfalls and an eel


girl from church enjoys the view of cocos island
Greetings,

Well, it's hard to believe that it's already been three weeks since I last wrote. I've still been keeping busy here on Guam although during the week I've pretty much just been working at the radio station. I'm still enjoying my work and have been making some good progress on improving the network and other systems.

During the first week after I last wrote I went snorkeling one evening after work at a place within walking distance from my apartment. I saw a few interesting things including fish and some nice coral. On Sabbath it was kind of rainy so we decided to hike to the waterfall near AWR that we can see from the station when it rains. For the first part of the hike we didn't follow a trail at all which made for pretty slow going. For the later part of the hike we did follow a trail, but it was very steep, muddy and slippery. We made it to the top of the "waterfall" but unfortunately there wasn't any rain while we were there so it didn't really have any water falling.
coast near piti power plant
The view was nice at least and the return trip was fun as we slid much of the way down the trail and tried unsuccessfully to avoid getting cut by the sword grass lining the trail. The sword grass is sharp on the edges so that if you brush it at the wrong angle you get something like a bad paper cut. At least the cuts aren't deep so they usually heal up in a day or two, but they do sting in the meantime. Gloves would certainly be a good idea next time that we decide to go off the trail or grab sword grass to slow down while sliding down a slippery trail.

at left you can see a crab leg that the eel dropped temporarily

On Sunday I went snorkeling again, this time near the Piti power plant. The place didn't really have the best snorkeling but afterwards I explored the area a bit on foot. Most of Guam's coast is fringed by a fairly wide reef so right at shore you don't usually get much
if you look closely you can see a second rainbow
wave action. The area near the power plant is sort of a point though which extends to the edge of the reef. The result is that I was able to walk along the rocky shoreline and watch the waves breaking nearby, which was nice.

Monday evening AWR had a welcome party for me at a restaurant called Simply Foods. This restaurant is actually part of the local Adventist Book Center so they serve excellent vegetarian food. The welcome party actually took place a little over a month after I arrived on the island, but some people were traveling and this was the first convenient time for everyone to get together. It was a nice evening and I even met a few AWR employees for the first time. I hadn't met them before due to the fact that they only work nights or on the weekends.

On Friday I hiked down to the closest beach to the AWR station with a coworker named Matt. Since the station is up on a hill the hike took around half an hour.
sky, clouds and sea
Once we reached the beach we walked along the coast for a ways before heading back to the station. On the beach I was quite surprised to see a 2-3 foot moray eel catching crabs. There are lots of crabs here and as you walk along the beach you can often see and hear them scurry into the water or into a crack between two rocks to hide. Eels on the other hand are sometimes spotted while snorkeling or diving, but I've never heard of anyone seeing one right on the beach before. When I first saw this one he was out of the water and was just catching a crab in his mouth. I was able to stand on a rock above the eel so that I could watch him without scaring him away. I even managed to get my camera out and take a picture before he wriggled back into the water. The crab sort of got away but not before he lost at least one leg. Even after the eel returned to the water we were still able to watch him swim around in the shallows for a bit before we lost track of him.

Also on the same hike we saw two different rainbows and enjoyed watching a
the remains of a thunderhead
thunderstorm approach and then sort of just evaporate into the sunset. The clouds that looked dark and menacing when we first saw them turned light, fluffy and bright orange by the time we headed back to the station. We were glad that we had decided to take the hike and thoroughly enjoyed the sundown show.

On Sabbath afternoon we went on another hike, this time to a place called Tarzan falls. We took some kids from church with us and we all had fun cooling off in the waterfall. Although there is an easier trail from the base of Tarzan falls to the top, some of us took the more direct route using a climbing rope that was installed there. Although we probably could have made it without the rope, it was nice to have the added security, particularly on some of the more slippery parts.

Sunday afternoon I hopped in the car and decided to explore the eastern side of the island a little bit. I drove along the coast a bit and stopped in an area
tarzan falls
where a Japanese soldier hid out in a cave for 28 years after World War II. Apparently he survived in the jungle by hunting and trapping, mostly at night until he was "captured" in 1972. I also drove through the University of Guam campus past a picturesque area called Pago Bay. I ended up stopping at a small picnic/beach area called Taga Chang which is nicely situated in a very small bay along a rocky portion of the coastline. The tide was low enough that I could walk along the coast in the tide pools with rocky cliffs on one side and the pounding surf on the other. Since the water was pretty rough on the eastern side of the island I decided to stop by Gun Beach, which is on the western side, on the way home. It was much calmer there and I was able to get in a little snorkeling before sunset.

It has been raining pretty much this whole weekend so I haven't really done
tidal pools at taga chang point
anything outside so far. On Friday I got a haircut, and Saturday night I invited some friends over and we played Settlers. Three of the six players were learning the game for the first time and they all enjoyed it and want to play again sometime.

This coming week the main thing I'll be doing outside of work is starting a SCUBA certification course. I'm looking forward to getting certified so that I can do some diving here on Guam during the coming months.


more tidal pools
On a side note, you've probably already noticed by now but I finally got my own domain name and moved my web site off of the CUC server I had been using. The new site should be more reliable and the address (www.andrewsupdates.com) should also be easier to remember.

Well I think that's all the news for now so I'll go ahead and post this.

Until next time,

Andrew

For more pictures see my gallery albums.

November 13, 2003

scuba, beaches, waterfalls and stitches


ritidian beach
Greetings from Guam,

Well, most of what I've been up to since my last update is pretty much just more of the same (hiking and snorkeling), although I've had a couple of more unusual moments as well (stitches and scuba class). I'll start by writing about the first week after I last wrote and get to the more unusual parts after that.

On Friday a friend and I drove up to the northernmost tip of the island for the afternoon. The wind and waves were pretty strong so we didn't get in the water there, but enjoyed watching the powerful waves crash over the reef. It was also fun to explore the beach area a bit and then check out the view from the cliffs above. On the way back we stopped
ritidian point
at Gun Beach where the waves were also quite big. I followed a trail on around the point to the next beach and back and got nice and wet along the way. Getting wet is never really a problem here though since the water temperature is pretty much always in the 80s.

On Sabbath afternoon we took a short hike to Melolo Falls which is located on the eastern side of the island. There is a nice big swimming hole there where you can jump in from the top of the waterfall, which most of us did several times. In the evening the Agat church had a games night which I went to. Several people asked me to bring settlers so I did and ended up teaching a couple more people how to play which was fun. One or two of the new players are thinking of getting the game themselves now which
gun beach with waves
will be handy since there were actually too many players there on Saturday night.

On Sunday I went and helped out at a church car wash in the morning and then tried to go snorkeling with a friend in the afternoon. I say tried because the waves and current ended up being a bit too strong for us to safely swim out past the reef at Gun Beach. We just enjoyed swimming and walking along the beach instead which was still pretty fun. We walked up the beach and then got in the water and rode along in the current parallel to shore which was moving fast enough at one point that we actually passed someone who was walking on the beach. In the evening we played some games before I headed back to my apartment.

jumping off melolo falls

The following Friday I hiked down to the beach near AWR in the afternoon. I got a couple of friends from work to come along and one of them showed us a trail that was a bit more direct then the way I had been previously. Down at the beach we enjoyed some snorkeling and then the other two guys who were with me headed back up the hill to the radio station ahead of me. They wanted to get back for one reason or another but I figured I'd explore the beach a little more before hiking back up the hill.

After checking out some tidal pools in the area I noticed that there was a decent sized stream emptying into the ocean just around the point from where we had been snorkeling. From the beach the stream appeared to be coming from the direction of the radio station
settlers
so I decided to follow it into the jungle to see if I could maybe find another way back to the station. I was surprised to round a corner early in the hike and come to the first in what turned out to be a series of small waterfalls. Since they were all fairly small I kept making my way up the stream, all the time getting closer to the AWR antennas that came into view from time to time. Just when I was thinking it couldn't be much further to the antenna field I came to a proper waterfall that was probably around 30 feet high. I was pretty surprised to see a waterfall of this size since I hadn't heard of any waterfalls this close to the station before.

Up until this point I had really been enjoying the hike just taking in the surroundings. I'd seen two grey eels in the stream as well as a bunch of crayfish along the way and the
this creature seems to be related to the lobster family
hiking had actually been easier than it was on the trail we used to get down to the beach. As I hiked I offered up the occasional prayer of thanksgiving for such a great afternoon and also asked for God's continued protection as I hiked. Just before I reached the waterfall I had been thinking that I should be careful since I was off the regular trail and by myself too. Well, as it turned out I wasn't careful enough and I started to climb the bigger waterfall. From the ground I thought I could see an easy route that would let me avoid leaving the stream to thrash through the sword grass. The first part of the route proved to be pretty easy but part way up it got too tricky to try on my own and I decided it wasn't worth the risk to continue. Just after I started to come back down, the rock I was standing on started to move and my heart leapt into my throat as I felt myself start to fall. I
there are tons of rock climbing crabs near the beaches
remember sliding while grabbing for handholds for a few feet, then landing on my feet on a ledge for a split second before falling backwards into space…

When I landed I was obviously stunned but was relieved to find that I was still OK. I was wearing a backpack at the time and I think I landed mostly on my back although I'm not entirely sure. I did get a cut on my forehead which bled some but stopped after I applied some pressure. Apart from that I got several scrapes and a couple of big bruises, most of which I didn't really notice until later. After stopping the bleeding I said another prayer and took a few deep breaths before planning my next move. After considering the options I decided to try and climb up the steep bank next to the waterfall which was covered in sword grass. This proved to be rather difficult but not impossible and once I
i was about half way up this waterfall when i fell
reached the top of the ridge the vegetation thinned out considerably so the rest of the walk to the AWR property was easy. I still ended up taking a couple of wrong turns though once I got inside the AWR fence and had to back track before eventually making it to the station. The vegetation is very thick in some areas and I hadn't been in that part of the property before so didn't know the best route through it.

When I got to the station I took a shower using the garden hose and then one of my friends who lives at the radio station called a doctor from the SDA clinic. My friend drove me up to the clinic where we met the doctor who cleaned me up and put in 6 stitches plus 2 deeper ones, all on my forehead. He said that the cut went clear to the
we followed the stream down to the ocean
bone but that I would be just fine with some time to heal. I'm just so thankful that it wasn't any worse. It's been almost 2 weeks since I fell now and I've already had the stitches out for a week. I'm almost all healed up with just a small scar and a couple of lingering bruises remaining. I have been very fortunate to not have any broken bones in my life. The last time I even had stitches was when I was about 6 years old so visiting the doctor for "repairs" is not something I'm familiar with. God is good!!

Well, the Sabbath morning after my fall I went to church and had to explain my bandages to everyone. In the afternoon I just took a long nap and then in the evening a couple of people came over to play settlers. On Sunday I originally had other plans but ended up
my first experience breathing from a scuba tank
staying home to rest instead. For the rest of the week I was fine at work but certainly had some sore spots and couldn't sit in certain positions. :)

This last weekend I took a couple of friends back to the waterfall where I fell. So far I haven't found anyone at the station that had been there before. This time we took a machete and started to make a little trail through the areas where the sword grass is thick. Using the way that we went this time it's pretty easy to get down to the stream at a point downstream from the waterfall. We followed the stream all the way down to the beach and enjoyed a swim in the ocean before following it back up to the waterfall. We then found our way through the sword grass to the top of the falls from which you could see
looking into the fisheye observatory from outside
out over the ocean. On the way back we decided to continue following the stream for a while but as it was getting late we stopped eventually and took a more direct route back to the station.

On Sunday I worked so that I could take Tuesday off for scuba class. Since most of the others in the class are teachers they had a holiday for Veterans Day. We finally got to do our first real dive on Tuesday which was a lot of fun. After practicing some skills we spent about 30 minutes at a depth of around 30 feet. We did the diving near the underwater observatory called fisheye and at one point we could swim up to the windows and wave at the tourists who were looking out at us. It was really fun and I'm looking forward to more diving on Sunday. I was also able to finish up the book portion of the course this week by taking (and passing) the final test, so I should be done with the certification before too much longer.

Well, I think that's all the news from here for this time. I've had a little too much excitement this month, but I'm still enjoying myself here on Guam.

Talk to you later,

Andrew

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
hike.

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 though…


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,

Andrew

January 31, 2004

oregon, waterfalls, caves and manta rays


the beach in oregon
Greetings from Guam,

It's been well over a month since I last wrote and it's hard to believe that January is nearly over already. After I last wrote I enjoyed a great Christmas with family in Tennessee. I especially enjoyed the cool weather and had fun playing ping-pong and croquet outside.

After Christmas I traveled to Oregon to spend time with more family there. We had another Christmas celebration and also spent some time enjoying the Oregon coast. It was quite cold and we even had some snow but it was still nice to bundle up and walk on the beach. Shortly after we returned from the coast the Portland area got hit with a snow
ice in oregon
and ice storm which pretty much shut down everything including the airport. My flight back to Guam was cancelled 3 days in a row but I enjoyed the extra time with family and even shoveled some snow and went sledding before finally traveling back to Guam.

The way it worked out I only missed a half day of work due to the snow delay, but arrived on Guam early Monday morning, slept a few hours and then went to work. It took a few days to adjust to the time but it wasn't too difficult this time.

On the first weekend after I got back we went for a hike to Segua Falls, which I visited and wrote about a few months ago. This time we went there via a different trail which
arch at talofofo caves
passes by some rusty army tanks left over from the war. We also had several kids along this time so a few of us took turns carrying them on our shoulders. We enjoyed jumping through the waterfall again before hiking back to our cars.

On the following Sunday (January 18) I went snorkeling at Gun Beach with a friend. The weather was rainy and overcast but we decided to go anyway. We were both quite surprised to spot a couple of 8+ foot manta rays which we enjoyed watching for quite a while. One of them kept swimming laps back and forth in front of us with his mouth wide open. I guess they were feeding on plankton or something and they were swimming right on the surface so we could spot them from a longer distance from above the water. It was very impressive to watch such large, graceful creatures up close. One of them got within a foot or two of us at one point but I had left my camera in the car on account of the bad weather so didn't get any pictures.


view and flower at talofofo caves
Last Friday another volunteer and I decided to visit Talofofo Caves in the afternoon. The hike to the caves was pretty short but goes through some lush jungle growth. The main trail ends on top of a cliff with a natural arch and a view of the coastline but we also explored several side trails and caves. One of the caves that we went in to started out as just a crawl space with a strong wind rushing out of it, but then opened up into a bigger room. From the room we climbed up an incline and eventually came out of the cave at an overlook in the side of the cliff. From the overlook we had another good view of the coastline below. We had heard that there was a place like this in the area,
now those are big leaves!
but didn't know where it was so it was fun to explore and sort of "discover" it for ourselves.

On Sabbath after church we went on another hike to the Melolo Falls area which I wrote about previously. We jumped off of the waterfall a couple of times (into the deep pool below) and then followed the river upstream for a while. We had heard there might be another waterfall up that way but didn't end up finding one this time. It was still a fun hike as we didn't have much of a trail to follow and just had fun exploring. At one point we heard some jungle pigs making noise but didn't get close enough to see them. Saturday night I played settlers with some friends.

Sunday I was invited to go out SCUBA diving on a friend's boat which was fun. We each got two tanks of air and did two dives. We saw lots of fish and coral but the most unusual creature I saw this time was an eel who was just sticking his head out of his hole. On the second dive we had fun weaving our way in
sunset at talofofo bay
between some of the tall coral heads which were around 30-40 feet from top to bottom.

Since I got back to Guam I've enjoyed having my kites here now and have been able to fly them quite a bit, including on this last Friday afternoon. Today (Sabbath) it has been raining pretty much all day. Several of the usual hikers were also busy so I didn't end up hiking after church. Tonight we're having a game night though so I'm planning to go back to the church for that.

Well, that's it for now so I'll add some pictures and get this posted.

Until next time,

Andrew

March 13, 2004

work, snorkeling, hiking and kiteboarding


I saw this fish while snorkeling
Greetings,

Well yet again it has been a long time since my last update. I've been keeping busy with work at the radio station. The new server and new firewall are both in place and working now and those were two of my bigger projects so that is good. Now that those projects are done I will start spending about half of my work time at the Guam SDA Clinic where I will also be working on computers. I expect to start going up there in the afternoons this coming week so that should add some more variety to my typical work day here. On the downside it will also add a 1 hour roundtrip commute on the days that I go up there, but I suppose I'll survive.

Outside of work I've kept fairly active also since I last wrote. During the first couple of weeks I went snorkeling at a new spot just a few miles from my house which had a pretty good variety of different corals. I also hiked to the top of Mt. Lamlam, Guam's highest point, via another route which was considerably steeper than the usual trail. The route I took didn't really follow a trail for the last part either which made it a bit more challenging, but I had fun.
sunset in agat
Later the same weekend I went on a hike along the breakwater which protects Guam's harbor. We got started a bit late so didn't quite make it to the end, but still had a nice walk and enjoyed watching some Navy hovercraft maneuvering in the distance.

Two weeks ago we went on a Sabbath afternoon hike to lost pond, although this time we took snorkeling gear and spent some time looking at the fish and coral instead of visiting the actual pond. The water was clear, the sun was shining and we saw a lot of nice fish and coral, probably more than I have seen anywhere else on Guam so far. Last weekend I went on another hike to a small dam. From the dam we followed the stream for a while and some of the group enjoyed playing in the water.


old dam
Well, I suppose the biggest news since my last update is that I am learning kiteboarding. I had spent time watching and getting to know some of the local kiteboarders previously, but finally started taking lessons about 3 weeks ago. Kiteboarding is a sport where you fly a big, powerful kite that you can control like a stunt kite while riding a board that is similar to a wakeboard or snowboard. The sport has been around for a while but I guess it has really been taking off over the last couple of years. I'd heard about it quite a long time ago and always thought it sounded fun so was excited to see people doing it here on Guam. The kite part of it hasn't been too hard for me to pick up since I've been flying stunt kites for a long time already. The controls are basically the same, but there is a lot more pull so I had to get used to that. The board part is quite similar to wakeboarding which I have also done in the past. The tricky part is to do it all at once, but I finally got my first longer ride just this Friday. I'm looking forward to getting some more practice in the coming weeks. For the first couple of lessons I used some equipment from the instructor but I now have some gear of my own
kiteboarding (it's not me in the picture though)
which I got used from people here on the island. One nice thing about kiteboarding is that once you have the gear you don't have to pay anything extra each time you go out like you do with wakeboarding (gas for the boat) or snow skiing (lift tickets). You can also go by yourself and the gear is portable enough to take as checked luggage on the plane without an extra charge. Once you get good enough it is possible to make headway upwind by tacking back and forth like you do when sailing. While learning I've spent plenty of time walking back upwind, so I'm looking forward to when I can stay upwind on the board. Anyway, I've been having a lot of fun in the water learning this new sport. I have read that some people also go kite snow skiing, which sounds fun too although I doubt I'll get a chance to try that on Guam!

I'm still enjoying my time here and my only upcoming travel plans are for a quick trip back to Boston for a wedding at the end of May. Well, I think that's pretty much all the news for now so I'll go ahead and post this.

Until next time,

Andrew

April 21, 2004

hiking, kiteboarding, historical sites and more fun in the water


Gerald at Fintasa Waterfall
Greetings from Guam,

The last several weeks have gone by pretty quickly for me here in Guam. I have been working part time at the clinic while still working part time at the radio station and things are going well with both jobs.

On four out of the last five Sabbath afternoons I went hiking. The first week I went to two waterfalls called Laolao Falls and Fintasa Falls where I spent some time cooling off in Laolao Falls and also climbed around on some rocks there (don't worry, we were careful). After taking a break for a week my next hike was to a place called Tarzan Swimming Hole. This turned out to be a really nice area with a very deep pool. There were also some small round pools which were fun to sit in. The small pools were similar in size and depth to a hot tub and had small cascades of water flowing into them like whirlpool jets. Last week we got a late start but went on a longer, more difficult hike to a rugged part of the coastline called Anao. This hike took us through the jungle to the top of a cliff overlooking the ocean and then down a steep trail to the rocky shore.
I stopped by Mars on the way back from Fintasa waterfall :)
Several of us also followed the coastline a ways and saw a small canyon as well as a natural arch before hurrying back up the steep trail. We had some flashlights along but made it back to the car just as it got dark enough to need them. This weekend we went on a very short hike to a place called Priest's Pools. Since this was an easier hike some of the younger kids were able to come and enjoyed splashing in several pools in a river overlooking the ocean.


Umatac Bay
Since I last wrote I have also been kiteboarding several more times and am still enjoying that new sport. I'm getting better although I haven't been able to go as often as I'd like since the wind hasn't been as strong lately. The consistently windy season is winding
Fort Soledad
down but there are still some windy days. The forecast looks good for this coming weekend so hopefully I'll be able to do some more kiteboarding then.

On one of the Fridays that I had some spare time and kiteboarding wasn't possible I visited a couple of historic sites in the southern part of the island including an old fort. The fort was built to protect Spanish galleons on their way between Mexico and the Philippines. They sailed this route from about 1565 until 1815. The remains of the fort are perched on top of a hill overlooking the picturesque Umatac town
Tarzan Swimming Hole
and bay. The other historic site that I visited was a Vietnam War memorial constructed to honor the Chamorro soldiers who died while fighting in the US Military.

On Sunday a couple of weeks ago I enjoyed a visit to a local water park. I went with some friends and we had fun on the various slides, the lazy river, the log roll and a body boarding ride. We also enjoyed playing some water volleyball and basketball while there.

Last weekend some friends invited me to ride their wave runners (sitting-style jet skis) so I got to play in Guam's tropical waters in yet another new way, which was lots of fun.

This last Sunday I went SCUBA diving in the morning and then went to a meeting at the clinic in the afternoon. I also went diving one other time since I last wrote and enjoyed seeing lots of fish and coral both times.

A couple of weeks ago we had a Typhoon develop and then pass by Guam. It
Priest's Pools
was far enough away that we weren't really affected although the island of Yap was hit pretty hard. The Adventist school there sustained serious damage to several buildings so they have cancelled school for the remaining 5 weeks of the academic year. Most of the volunteer teachers have headed home and work is underway to repair and in some cases completely rebuild the school buildings. The people of Yap can certainly use your prayers during this difficult time.

Well, I think that's pretty much all news from here for now. I'm still planning to travel to Boston over Memorial Day weekend for a wedding but don't have any other major plans right now.

Until next time,

Andrew

June 7, 2004

more of the same and a wedding


talofofo caves
Greeting from Guam!

Well, it's been quite a while since my last update and I've been keeping busy.

For the first few weeks after I last wrote I went kiteboarding on most of the Friday afternoons and Sundays and went hiking on the Sabbath afternoons. The first hike was to Talofofo Caves where we explored a new (to me) cave as well as the ones I had seen the last time I went there. The next hike was at low tide along the reef to a black sand beach in Paicpuoc Cove. This beach is the only one on Guam with completely black sand (it's not mud).

Graham & Amber

During the next couple of weeks I had a friend visiting so kept busy snorkeling and seeing the sights around Guam. We also went on a hike back to the waterfall where I fell several months ago and then went to Pagat Cave the following week. The cave is fun because there are lots of candles to light inside the large cavern. There is also a big pool of water which is comfortably cool to swim in after the long, steep hike to the cave.

After my friend's visit I had an excellent trip to Boston to take part in the wedding between Graham (one of my college room mates) and my cousin Amber. I was away from Guam for a total of 7 days and spent nearly half of that time traveling. It was a long trip for a short visit but I was able to cram a lot into the short time. I got to see many friends and family members and also got to spend a few hours exploring downtown Boston. The weather was in the 50s and 60s which I enjoyed thoroughly.
me and my family
On the way to and from Boston I had stopovers in Japan but didn't leave the airport to see anything this time.

Since I got back from Boston I have been trying to catch up on my sleep. On Friday I went SCUBA diving with a couple of friends and we saw quite a few fish and some coral. On Sabbath afternoon the tide was very low so we did a hike along the reef at Hospital Point. There were tons of sea urchins and other marine creatures in the tide pools. We
sea urchins
also hopped in the water to snorkel along the way and saw plenty of fish and coral. Saturday night we played some games and Sunday I tried to go kiteboarding in the morning but there wasn't quite enough wind. Unfortunately the windy season is over here so windy days are few and far between for the next several months. In the afternoon I went to Underwater World which is an aquarium with an underwater tunnel you can walk through. They have lots of sharks, rays, and fish in their tanks and you can get very good views of them all from the transparent tunnel.

Well, that's the news from here for now.

Until next time,

Andrew

July 5, 2004

dolphins, fireworks and lots more hiking


no, this picture does not need to be rotated
Happy 4th of July from Guam!

Yet again I have been quite busy since my last update. The main difference from usual however is that I have spent much of the time with my new girlfriend named Melissa. Unfortunately for me she flew back to the US mainland a week and a half ago. She was here in Guam for a few weeks to visit her sister and was only able to extend her stay by a little over a week.

I first got acquainted with Melissa during the SCUBA diving and underwater world activities that I wrote about in my last update. After that we spent more time together and
exposed coral at low tide
really hit it off. During the week after my last update we went snorkeling and visited Chamorro Village. On the weekend we went to church, had a picnic at Talofofo Bay and visited Melolo Falls for a refreshing swim.

The following "weekend" got started on Thursday evening when we went on a hike starting at the radio station when I got off work. We hiked down to the beach and were going to follow the coastline and hike back up the river to "Andrew Falls". When we got down to the beach though we realized that the waves were very big due to a typhoon in the region. Most of the beach area was passable but one point which usually just involves walking in knee deep water was too rough and dangerous to traverse. We
enjoying the dolphins
wound up walking the other direction all the way to Facpi point instead. We turned back at the point itself, again due to the rough water, and retraced our steps to the station. The hike wasn't exactly what we had planned on but we still had plenty of fun.

Friday I got off work at noon and we decided to visit Talofofo Caves. This was my third visit to the caves but we managed to find an extensive cave which I hadn't been in before. It turns out that this cave is actually the biggest one in the area but the entrance is very narrow so I had missed it completely on my previous two visits. We had lots of fun squeezing through the various passages and exploring the tunnels as far as we could. We also exited the cave via another route which involved a very tight belly crawl right at the
underwater view of the dolphins
end.

Sabbath after church we went on yet another hike, this time along the reef at low tide. We hiked from Pago Bay to Taga Chang which is a rugged stretch of the eastern coastline. We saw lots of creatures in the tide pools and enjoyed some very porous parts of the reef where the incoming waves would force air and sometimes water through small fissures and holes. This would produce a hissing sound and sometimes miniature blowholes would also spout. Another highlight was the live coral that we could see along the reef's edge.

Sunday morning we were up bright and early to rent some SCUBA gear. Once we got
we had some extra water for this dive
our gear together we then drove to a boat launch area called Ylig Bay. A friend of mine from work had invited us out on his boat for some fishing and diving on the eastern side of the island which is only divable a few weeks out of the year since it is usually very rough. We trolled for fish the first part of the trip but didn't end up catching anything. As we got close to the dive site we spotted some dolphins. As it turned out there were a whole bunch of dolphins in the area all around the boat. One my friends counted 50 fins at one time so we figure there must have been at least 80 dolphins. One smaller group of them decided to play in our bow wave for quite a long time so we got some good pictures and even managed to touch a few of the dolphins while leaning out over the bow. After watching them play in front of the boat for quite a while we put on our snorkel gear and hopped
about to jump
into the water with the dolphins. They were of course more scared of us then but it was fun to watch the whole group of dolphins swimming as they passed directly below us. We also spotted a stingray on the bottom in about 75 feet of water so the visibility was obviously excellent. Eventually the dolphins decided to swim away so we hopped back in the boat and got ready to SCUBA dive. It had been raining off and on most of the day but just as we were ready to start diving it really started pouring. While we were on the bottom we could see some flashes of lightning but it had calmed down considerably by the time our dive was over. The diving was great with lots of coral and fish. After diving we went to a place with three natural arches and a deep sea cave hollowed out of the high coastal cliffs. Since the tide was low we could walk on the reef to get to the sea cave which was connected to the ocean via an underwater tunnel. It's pretty hard to describe this place because it was so amazing and unique. The cave was sort of like a deep pit with a little bit of light streaming into the bottom of it from the underwater tunnel. It was pretty scary,
andrew falls is normally just a small stream
but from the top of the pit there were a couple of ledges that were perfect to jump off of. We all eventually got up the courage to jump and were glad we did. After jumping we could just climb back up the walls of the pit to jump again. When we finished playing and exploring we headed back to the boat and then back to the launch area.

Monday after work it was pouring rain but we decided to go on a short hike to "Andrew Falls" anyway. It was very slippery and we were soaked to the bone within about a
upper segua falls
minute of leaving the station, but we had a lot of fun and were rewarded with a totally new view of the falls. Since there had been so much rainfall that afternoon the river had tons of water in it. What is normally a small stream had been transformed into a thundering whitewater torrent. There was so much water that we couldn't even get down into the river bed like usual because it was completely full. It was very impressive to see so much water gushing over the falls. I took some pictures but I only took the camera out of the waterproof bag for one of them when the rain briefly let up and I was out of range of the spray from the falls.

On Tuesday night we went out to eat at an Indian restaurant and then on Wednesday the weather was good so we decided to go for a walk. We wound up walking a lot further than we planned. We started near the Marina which is near my apartment and followed the coastline south to Facpi point, which we were able to round this time as the waves were not as rough and the tide was down. From there we kept on going to the next point which we were also able to round this time. We
tropical storm tingting=wind=big waves=sand on the main road
then hiked up the river to Andrew Falls which had returned to a more normal water level since our previous visit. Along the way we saw a couple of river eels including the biggest one I've seen so far. We got back up to the radio station just after sunset and caught a ride with a coworker back down to where we had left my car. After getting cleaned up and cooled off we played a game of settlers with Melissa's sister and her husband. I then got a couple hours of sleep before driving Melissa to the airport at about 3:30 am to catch her flight back to the US mainland.

On the Sabbath after Melissa left I went on a hike to Segua Falls which I have been to a couple of times before. This time it was a bit rainy and actually
snorkeling near my apartment
rained some while we were there, which of course swelled the falls a good deal. On the way back we hiked to another waterfall on the same river called Upper Segua Falls which I hadn't been to before. After exploring the falls a bit we hiked back to the car via a trail which was new to all of us. It was a long, slippery hike but we had fun.

At the beginning of this last week we had a pretty major tropical storm come through. It was later upgraded to a Typhoon but not until after it had passed Guam. We had some strong winds gusting to around 60 mph and tons of rain. I believe we were getting over 2
low tide
inches of rain an hour some of the time so there was a lot of flooding around the island. My apartment was without power for about 30 hours and they closed the clinic for a half day but other than that I wasn't affected by the storm too much. It was interesting to see and hear the strong winds though I can only imagine how much worse an actual Typhoon would be.

Also last week I got a little sick so I skipped out on the hike this Sabbath. I was feeling better on Sunday though so decided to take advantage of the low tide to explore a couple of islands near my apartment. I hiked out across the reef and was very surprised to see a small shark in the shallows. It was probably around 2 feet long and no doubt got startled when I walked up. It swam a half circle around me and then headed off into the distance moving at a pretty good speed. After exploring the island I snorkeled for a bit and then walked back to my apartment. In the evening a friend and I drove out to a place called Polaris Point which is part of the area controlled by the Navy. They opened it up just this one night for everyone to come and enjoy the
4th of july fireworks at polaris point
games, food, music and fireworks to celebrate the 4th of July. We got there with enough time to look around a bit before finding a great spot to watch the fireworks. The display was very good with lots of variety and lasted about 30 minutes.

Well, that's all the latest news from me for now.

Until next time,

Andrew

PS The Epson photo service I was using previously finally decided to limit my storage space so I have removed nearly all of my albums from their site. For now I have a new gallery with new pictures online here although I'm still not sure if/when I will be able to get the older pictures back online. The new gallery is running on the same server as the rest of my website which has a limit on the amount of storage space I can use.

August 31, 2004

leaving guam


lost pond wasn't quite as clean this time
Greetings from Guam!

It's hard to believe, but my year here in Guam is now drawing to a close. As of today I have been here exactly 1 year and my contract with AWR is over. Tonight I'm flying to Palau where I'll be diving for a few days before flying back to the US mainland (Los Angeles to be exact). In California I will visit some friends and family and then drive to Tennessee with stops along the way in Yosemite & Colorado.


two lovers point and a blue starfish
When I wrote my last update my plans were still mostly up in the air but a lot has happened since then. I'm now planning to move to the Chattanooga, Tennessee area although I haven't yet finalized what I will be doing there.

As usual I've been keeping busy here in Guam over the last several weeks. The weekend after my last update I went hiking to the end of the breakwater in the harbor. Along the way we went snorkeling three times and also spotted a sea turtle.

During the next week the Liberation Day celebrations here on Guam came to a culmination with a fireworks display that I enjoyed watching. Liberation Day commemorates the day when the US Army returned to Guam to expel the Japanese during World War II and is the most widely celebrated holiday on Guam.


climbing down part of lower melolo falls
The following weekend we hiked to Lost Pond and Shark's Pit. This time the area lived up to it's name and we saw some sharks while snorkeling. We also enjoyed the rope swing at the pond. On Sunday we caught a ferry to Cocos Island which is at the southern tip of Guam. About half of the island is built up with a resort complex featuring all kinds of attractions ranging from go carts to parasailing, wakeboarding and snorkeling. It was a very warm day when we visited Cocos but we had fun swimming, playing volleyball, snorkeling and celebrating a friend's birthday.

After keeping busy with work during the week I went hiking again the next Sabbath below Two Lovers Point. The tide was very low so we were able to explore the reef area below the towering cliffs. These cliffs are probably the most famous landmark here on Guam. Legend has it that a young couple fell in love but they were forbidden
lower melolo falls
to see each other again so they braided their hair together (both men and women traditionally had long hair) and jumped off the high cliff together.

During the next week some of the new teachers who are working at Guam Adventist Academy arrived so on the weekend we took them to Melolo Falls. This hike is usually quite short and easy but the route we took was a bit different this time. We first explored the lower part of the falls where there are actually 4 or 5 seperate waterfalls within a short distance. Climbing down to the bottom of a couple of them
posing for the camera
was a bit tricky but we all made it. At one of the waterfalls we enjoyed swimming in a deep pool. It was even possible to swim under the waterfall and into a small cave where there were a few chrystal formations. For the next leg of our hike we decided to follow the river to Upper Melolo Falls. This turned out to be far from easy, but it was fun and again everyone made it and seemed to enjoy the route. At some points we were walking in chest deep muddy water and in other areas we scrambled over fallen trees and other debris. The most unusual thing we saw was a wind surfing board that was floating in the river. It must have been washed downstream during a storm or something but it was odd to see something so out of place in the middle of a jungle stream. Once we reached Upper Melolo Falls several of us climbed to the top and jumped into the pool below before we headed back to the vehicles. On Sunday I attended a farewell party for a coworker and then got to go kiteboarding a little bit.
gun beach fireside vespers
Unfortunately the wind wasn't very strong but at least I got to ride!

The next Friday we did an afternoon hike to Talofofo Caves and then went to Gun Beach for a campfire vespers. We enjoyed hot dogs and other campfire food before singing some songs. On Sabbath we hiked to a place called one thousand steps. I think there are really only about 250 steps but it's a fun hike in the eastern part of the island that ends up on a rugged part of the coast. Since we had quite a few kids along who wanted to swim, we stopped by Marbo
group shot near AWR
Cave to cool off after the hike. On Sunday I spent some time getting ready for a Typhoon that was headed our way. The storm did end up affecting Guam quite a bit but the strongest winds were recorded on a couple of islands to the north. Guam had some gusts up to 79 mph but the sustained winds were considerably slower and everyone who has been through a "real" Typhoon said this storm was pretty tame. The main inconvenience for me was that we were without water pressure for several days.

This last weekend was my last one here on Guam so I had the sad time of saying goodbye to a lot of friends. We did however go on one last Sabbath
awr radio station
afternoon hike to "Andrew Falls" which was fun. On Sunday I played tennis with some friends and then went kiteboarding for a bit.

Well, that pretty much covers what I've been up to for the last few weeks here. Over the last few days I've been tying up all the loose ends at work, packing and saying goodbye to people. Now I'm all ready to fly to Palau in a couple hours to enjoy some diving. I've thoroughly enjoyed my year here in Guam and will miss all the friends I've made here. I'll also miss the hikes, kiteboarding and underwater life but I'm sure I'll be able to get outside in Tennessee some too. I doubt I'll be snorkeling in the middle of January there though...

Until next time,

Andrew

October 14, 2004

Palau


an island beach in palau
Greetings from Tennessee!

I've been quite busy with plenty of travel since my last update. Below are some excerpts from emails I wrote while I was in Palau at the beginning of last month. Palau is a world class SCUBA diving destination and since I was so close to Palau in Guam I decided to schedule some diving before returning to the US mainland. The underwater scenery was absolutely phenomenal while the boat rides on the surface took us winding through thousands of jungle covered rock islands while skimming over the stunningly bright aqua blue waters. Pictures never do a place like Palau justice but hopefully they can give you some idea of what it's like there.

I'll go ahead and post this Palau update now and then write more later about my trip from Palau to Tennessee with stops in Guam, Hawaii, California, and Colorado.

Until next time,

Andrew


speedboat heading out to the dive sites
Day One

This morning I went to the Koror SDA School for staff worship and then came back to the house and got picked up by the fish n fins driver to go diving. The boat I went out on today only had 5 customers; 1 discover scuba person with her own dive master, and then 3 Japanese tourists and me with a Japanese dive master. We first went to Ngedbus Coral Garden which is near Carp Island where I had two major distractions during the dive. The first and most annoying was that I didn't spit in my mask enough before diving so had to keep letting in water to defog my mask. The second was that I didn't get quite enough weights but I fixed that by filling my pockets with rocks...I also started carrying around a larger rock for the second half of the dive. In spite of the distractions I still had a good dive and saw plenty of coral and fish. For our surface interval we stopped at an excellent snorkeling spot where we saw some napoleon wrasse and other fish along a steep underwater wall. Our next dive started at Blue
snorkeling with the fish
Holes which was fun because the surface was kind of rough, but under the water it was very calm and peaceful. We first explored some huge underwater caverns and then we swam along a steep wall. Towards the end of the dive we reached Blue Corner which is the most famous dive site in Palau. They said there weren't many sharks today because the current wasn't strong but I still counted 6 whitetip sharks in one group plus a few grey reef sharks. We also saw at least one blacktip shark, a couple of turtles (one up close) and 10 napoleon wrasse in one grouping plus others along the way. I also enjoyed seeing lots of the fan type corals which I hadn't really seen before in person and at the very end of the dive we spotted a manta ray. Our next stop was at an island with picnic tables where we had lunch and relaxed a little bit before heading back to Koror.

Tonight I went to prayer meeting where we sang some songs and I met a few of the volunteer teachers who work at the Koror SDA School. After prayer meeting I headed to bed for a good night's sleep.


WW2 airplane
Day Two

On our way out to go diving we stopped by a WW2 plane that was in fairly shallow water. A couple of people snorkeled a bit but I didn't get in since you could see it very well from the boat.

For our first dive today we went to Big Dropoff which as the name implies is a wall dive. Along the wall we saw a few sharks, a turtle, more napoleon wrasse and lots of beautiful coral. Today there were 11 divers and two dive leaders although we only had four in the English speaking group. My buddy for the day was a guy from Denmark who works on big oil tanker ships. I think his contract is 4 months at sea, then 3 months home with full pay the whole time so he can travel and dive in the "home" time. The other two divers were from Italy.

During our surface interval we stopped near blue corner and snorkeled a bit. Just snorkeling I saw several sharks and a turtle. One of the guys on our boat was fishing a little using raw fish so that attracted 3 sharks that were circling around. For our second dive we went to Blue Corner again but it was quite different this time. We spent most of the time right at the edge of a steep drop
see, they really don't sting
off watching sharks, napoleon wrasse, and schools of fish with thousands of members swimming in sync. Towards the end we saw another turtle.

For lunch we stopped at another island and then visited Jellyfish Lake. The lake is saltwater but is only connected to the ocean by small underground cracks in the rock. This means that predators can't get to the lake and as a result the jellyfish have lost their ability to sting. It was fun to swim with the jellyfish without getting stung but my dive buddy and I also snorkeled around the edge of the lake and saw quite a few colorful soft corals. Some of them were growing on the mangrove roots which made for an interesting contrast.


fan coral
Day Three

Well, today was another great day. I guess the weather was bad a few weeks ago due to the typhoons in the region and they weren't able to dive some of the best spots like Blue Corner during that time. Luckily for me the weather has been fabulous for my visit though. Today and yesterday the water has been pretty much flat with just a slight swell outside the lagoon. This morning we got started a little late but that wasn't a problem really. We were supposed to go to German Channel where the manta rays are often seen but when we got there the tide had switched so we changed plans and went to Turtle Cove instead. I had some issues with a leaking hose on my rented scuba gear, but it ended up working alright in the end. To start this dive we swam over the reef for a bit and then dropped down through a relatively small hole which opened up below into a cavern. The cavern then opened out into the open channel and the rest of the dive was along a steep wall. We had 3 Russians on our boat instead of the
picnic lunch on an island
Japanese this time and it was their first day so they were really excited when we spotted some sharks (blacktip, white tip, grey reef). We also saw another turtle at the end of the dive and enjoyed watching some big schools of fish along the way.

After a lunch stop we went to New Dropoff which was also mostly a wall dive. We stopped for a little while at a couple of corners to watch the millions of fish and saw a moray eel and another turtle near the end of the dive. There were plenty of Napoleon Wrasse and sharks around as well. When we got back to Fish n Fins my dive buddy and I decided to do another short dive right there at the dock to see if we could spot any sea horses or mandarin fish. Unfortunately we didn't see either one although we did see a crocodile fish. The tide and visibility weren't that great but it was still interesting to see how much sea life there is even right at the dive shop docks.

Well, I guess that's the end of my diving in Palau for this trip. It really was amazing and I had tons of fun seeing all the marine life.


napoleon wrasse
Day Four

At 9:00 am I went over to the SDA church where the attendance was relatively sparse due to the teachers being gone. They had an acapella song service and then a short sermon. After the sermon we had almost 2 hours to study the lesson which was about loving your enemies. The English group was pretty small but it was a reasonably good discussion.

After church I went to potluck where there was some pretty good food. I think there were 6 different taro/sweet potato dishes and I tried most of them. After potluck I decided to take a walk. I just walked out of town and up the hill on the main road until I passed the top of the hill and could see part of the new Japanese-built bridge which connects two of the main islands in Palau. After my walk I started a nap at around 5 pm. I set an alarm for 10 pm "just in case" and it's a good thing I did because that's when I woke up, packed and went to the airport just in time to catch my overnight flight to Guam.

(as usual, more pictures in the gallery)