Thursday, August 10, 2017

A Bit About Guam

by Pa Rock
World Traveler

Guam is an official "territory" of the United States that was acquired as a result of the Spanish American War more than a century ago.  Both Guam and its sister territory of Puerto Rico are occasionally discussed in terms of becoming future American states.

And both are beautiful almost beyond description.

I have been to Guam three times, and would hop on a plane and head there again tomorrow if the opportunity presented itself.  My first trip there was in 1973 as we were leaving Okinawa.  Our plane landed on Guam late at night for a quick refill of fuel, but I was helping to care for an upset infant and did not have the energy to even step off of the plane to look around.  Today Guam still functions as a gas station for international flights.  Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had been hopping around Asia when his boss made the controversial "fire and fury" statement.  Coincidentally, when Tillerson was finally able to stand before the press and address Trump's absurd remark, he did so on an airstrip in Guam where his plane had stopped to refuel.

My next two visits to the small island of Guam occurred nearly forty years after that initial pit stop of 1973.  While I was working on Okinawa in 2011, one of the airlines began a direct flight to Guam, and my co-worker, Valerie, and I decided to check it out.  We spent three or four days at a hotel on the beach in the capital of Agana, and rented a car to tour the island.  Guam is barely a speck in the big Pacific Ocean.   It totals a mere 210 square miles and has a population of less than 200,000.  Many of the island's residents are descendants of the Chamorro people who first settled the island thousands of years ago.

Touring Guam in a rental car was not a difficult process.  The island is so small that it is easy to drive the circumference in about two hours.  Valerie and I took the better part of a day on our drive about, stopping to shop and swim and view the old Spanish fortifications along the way.  Guam is one of those places where postcard views abound.

Guam also has many stores from the mainland United States that draw American visitors.  The island has a K-Mart, a Ross's, and even a Macy's - as well as a nice American Cineplex that shows current U.S. movies.

The following year, 2012, Valerie and I visited Guam once more.  During that trip we again circumvented the island and met and visited with many of the locals.  We rode a water buffalo, and hiked out to a spot in the jungle where two Japanese soldiers had been discovered in 1972 still hiding from the allied forces who had captured the island twenty-seven years earlier.  I especially enjoyed fresh mangoes that I picked myself.  We also visited the PX at Andersen Air Force Base and drove across the U.S. Naval Base on Guam.  More that 6,000 American troops are stationed on the island.

Today North Korea seems to be backing off of its threat to annihilate Guam and is now talking about simply lobbing four missiles into the ocean close to Guam.  And Donald Trump, never one to be out-talked by anyone, is now lamenting that his off-the-cuff threat to unleash "fire and fury" on North Korea may have not been tough enough.

Perhaps if both sides were to involve some adults in their discussions, we could move beyond this dangerous name-calling phase of statesmanship.  The world deserves the leadership of cooler (and smarter) heads than those of Kim Jong Un and Donald J. Trump.

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