Wednesday, November 16, 2011

First Day Back on Island

November 12 (First of the seventeen days I’ll be on Guam):  

Standing in front of the baggage claim, I diligently searched for my 50 pound black, nondescript suitcase containing 15 pounds of candy and chocolate (for my students), my lecture materials, and essentials.  I immediately realized my mistake.  I should have put something unique on my bag to make it stand out from the myriad other black suitcases.  After 20 hours of traveling, the last thing I wanted to do was lift each and every unmarked heavy, black suitcase searching for clues as to its identity.  Clearly, I wasn't the only one whose black bag was devoid of obvious clues of ownership.  On some bags, I actually had to unzip compartments to determine ownership by the contents!!  The elderly Chamorro man next to me noticed my predicament and immediately began hauling heavy, nondescript, black suitcases off the carousel and we entered into the easy banter I had so missed since leaving Guam.  Ahhhhhhhh.................  I felt myself relax as I once again entered into a culture that has become more comfortable than my own.  Soon the helpful man and his wife were kindly lecturing me on the importance of clearly marking my bag.  I noticed how naturally my speech had slowed and my vowels became more elongated--more in line with the accent of this region of the world.

Wayward bag found, I headed through customs and was greeted by the beautiful brown faces of several Pacific Islands University students and the women's dean.  Off we drove to the apartment I would be sharing with a young PIU English teacher.  In her sparsely furnished place, I was grateful for the futon "bed" (more metal than mattress) where I could lay my head.  Her generous hospitality would free up funds I would have otherwise had to spend on a hotel.  Plus, I would give her some money so she could run her air conditioner while I was at her place.  This was a luxury she rarely allowed herself because of the horribly high cost of electricity on Guam, coupled with her meager budget.  I was glad to bless her in this way, and happy myself that the air conditioning would allow me to sleep in the sweltering heat.  It was 11:00 p.m. Guam time (5:00 a.m. California time) when I finally dropped off to sleep, a prayer of thanksgiving on my lips.

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