Thursday proved emotional before we even got to the first day of the two-day forum at the Guam Legislature. The morning experiences set the stage for what we would hear at the “The 2009 Island Conference on Public Administration, The Military Buildup and Beyond: Hanasson Taotao Guahan (The Guam Perspective).”
We were drinking coffee at Dad’s “Jeff’s Pirates Cove” restaurant when employees started running and shouting about a car accident. Dad shot out of his office, jumped in a cart, pulled me and the flip camera with him and went out to the road for the estimated thirtieth or so incident in a year’s time. Dad has a string of fishing floats along the road in front of his business to prevent such accidents, and has advocated for decades for safety on this stretch. The driver and the passenger were stunned, but fine. The car was tangled in the floats. It was pretty obvious where the car would have ended up. Earlier this year Dad worked to have a phone pole moved so it would not be yet another hazard. (Another pole nearby has been part of some pretty gruesome accidents.) This is an example of the kind of infrastructure gaps Guam grapples with in the face of a population boom that will increase numbers by 27%.
On the way to the forum I dropped off my friend for a short visit with an ailing relative in the village of Yona. Meanwhile, I visited the elementary school I attended in the 1970s: M.U. Lujan School. At the front of the campus, a flood of memories washed over me—lining up for immunizations in the cafeteria, rotating among teachers in our pod-classrooms, a bus with only five kids to-and-from school with a sweet driver, Ben. Ben became my personal bodyguard as the bus became more crowded and I found myself subject to a few bullying incidents. I was one of two white kids who signed up for a bilingual instruction pilot program at M.U. Lujan, so teachers called in their colleagues to witness my speaking Chamorro, Guam’s native language. (Back then, I was blonde enough to be called a tow head; my parents confirm that my public speaking in Chamorro was quite the sight.)
Unfortunately, my village (Ipan) was redistricted after third grade and I became embarrassed to speak the language among my new school friends. On a few occasions I would let on that I knew what was being said, and it helped my survival as I migrated further and further south for my public school education, becoming more and more of a minority along the way. Later in life, as I found new languages fun and somewhat easy, I would learn that’s it’s proven bilingual education wires your brain for new languages. There are a number of immersion programs in Guam now. People talk about how grandparents are able to converse with their grandkids, but there’s a language gap in a lot of families between these generations.
As you leave the south for the capital of Guam (Hagatna) which is central, you can see that Pago Bay is being carved out for a housing development. While there are many empty executive homes on the island, this development is said to be sold by a third. Detractors are concerned that developments like these are not needed and are driving up home prices for the general population. There is also some protest surrounding evidence that the site was an ancient settlement. Just under 100 homes are planned for the community. I take this in while I remember how near to the ocean I lived as a child. By Guam standards, we were lucky to spend our childhood in Ipan, a small village that isn’t noted on most maps. It’s a tiny coastal community with houses mostly across the street from the ocean on hills that offer an enviable view. We lived there because that’s where our family business, Jeff’s Pirates Cove is located (next to Ipan Public Beach).
Clip from Pago Bay:
Thursday was the first day of the “other” conference related to the build up; the first was in Tumon and organized by the University of Guam. Two Guam Senators organized the free two-day event held at the Guam Legislature (I Liheslaturan Guahan). There was another conference the previous week. This one was billed as a forum for “all the voices” to be heard.
U.S. Marine Corp. leadership filled most of two and a half rows of seats at the front of the forum. I give them a lot of credit for committing to the two full days of feedback from government officials, community leaders and some clearly anti-buildup activists. Below are a few clips from the conference featuring Sen. Judith P. Guthertz (my Mom’s classmate from Academy of Our Lady of Guam) who discusses the concept of “One Guam” versus two; one inside the bases and one outside the bases. The third clip is a woman representing the Committee on Natural Resources, Civilian-Military Task Force, who warns against turning Guam into Hawaii. The last clip is an interesting segment from a longtime farmer who now runs the Farmers Co-op in Guam.
Sen. Guthertz wrap up on first day of forum:
From the Natural Resources panel (note reference to Hawaii’s lack of affordable housing):
On Agriculture (Bernard Watson, Vice President, Farmers Co-operative Association of Guam):
This is a repeat of the clip from “The 671 on Guam: Day 2″