2/21/12

Moving Mondays: Navy Wife's Tips On Guam

Hello everyone!

Have you ever wondered what it’s like living in Guam, a U.S. territory and island located about 3,300 miles west of Hawaii and 1,500 miles east of the Philippines? If your answer is yes, then you're in luck. Pam, a Navy wife and mom, normally chronicles her family’s life in Guam on her blog Living in So-Called Paradise. But she has kindly agreed to share with My Traveling Troop's readers some insight and tips about life on the small, tropical island in the question and answer section below. 

Enjoy!
Kristina

Pam, her son and husband at Gab Gab Beach in Guam.


























Q: Describe you and your family.

A: My husband is an anesthesia provider working at Naval Hospital Guam. I'm a stay at home mom to our 13-month-old son.

Q: When did you start the blog and what inspired you to launch it?

A: I started the blog back in 2009 when we found out we were PCSing to Guam. I couldn't find much information from military families who had been stationed here, so I decided to start blogging to try to help others who would be moving to Guam in the future. It's since turned into more of a journal of our day-to-day life to keep our family and friends up to speed, but I still try to include helpful information for future "Guammies" and answer their questions via email.

Q: How long have you been living in Guam? And what part of the island do you live?

A: We moved to Guam in June of 2010. We live in base housing in Santa Rita, near Naval Base Guam (locally known as Big Navy).

Q: What is housing like there: on base and off? Was it easy to find housing?

A: On verses off base housing is definitely a matter of preference here as there is an abundance of both. When we arrived on Guam our sponsor took us to the housing office immediately and within a few days we had been shown three houses from which we could choose. We actually opted to go on the waiting list for Apra View, which is the newest military housing here that is located about five minutes from the main navy base. We were in a temporary apartment for two months before moving into our current home. There is plenty of housing on all of the bases if you prefer to live on base, and plenty of houses and apartments for rent off base if you prefer that. The child free couples we know tend to choose beach front condos or homes, while most of the families we know who live off base reside in a community called Leo Palace.

Q: What are your favorite things to do in Guam with your kid?

A: There's a decent amount of things to do with kids here considering the size of the island! On base there are an abundance of playgrounds, as well as a new splash pad and baby pool at the Charles King Fitness Center. The gym also offers Stroller Strides, mom and tot gym classes and swim lessons. There are also a number of playgroups. Your best bet is asking around when you get here to find one that fits you. Off base there's Underwater World, Play Port and a number of water parks.

Enjoy the outdoors by hiking to a lagoon at the bottom of the Spanish Steps in Guam.
The lagoon is a great place to snorkel too, according to Pam.

























Q: What are your favorite things to do in Guam on date night?

A: Hah! I'm probably not the best person to ask. Between my husband's schedule and the baby's schedule, we don't get out much. I can tell you that there are several movie theaters, bowling alleys on and off base, restaurants and a great place called Chamorro Village, which shows off some of the local culture. There are also plenty of outdoor activities to take part in, including snorkeling, scuba diving, boating and hiking. MWR offers rentals to facilitate most of these activities.

Q: Where do you like to shop?

A: Honestly, shopping is pretty lacking here. I wrote a post on it before Christmas, but we do most of our shopping online. Between the base exchanges, Macy's, Kmart and the local stores, you can usually find what you need here. But if you're looking for something specific, often times turning to the Internet is your best option.

Pam's husband explores Guam's clear blue waters, reefs and wrecks under water.


























Q: I hear scuba diving and snorkeling are popular activities in Guam? Do you like to do either of those? If so, where are your favorite spots?

A: Yes! The snorkeling and diving here is great. I don't dive, but the snorkeling does not disappoint. We go to Gab Gab beach on Big Navy at least a few times a month to relax and snorkel. We recently did the Spanish Steps hike on base, which had a beautiful, clear lagoon for snorkeling. My husband got dive certified last year and loves it. We recently went to Australia and he said that the diving on Guam was better than diving on the Great Barrier Reef. Also, there are several nearby islands, namely Palau, that have some of the best diving in the world. I've been told that getting certified here is cheaper than anywhere else, and you can get certified easily through MDA, which has several shops, including two on Big Navy. They also organize boat dives and trips to the surrounding islands.

Q: Do you ever get island fever? If so, what do you do to fix that?

A: Most definitely! We've tried to take a trip off island every six months or so. Some of the spouses here go home for the summer when the kids are out of school.

The view from a lookout point at the southern end of the island.
























Q: What do you love about Guam?

A: Guam is beautiful and the culture is very laid back. The locals are very friendly and we've made great friends here. We've had travel opportunities I never could have imagined. While we always planned to go to Australia, it was definitely a "someday" trip. And I never would have thought we'd visit China, but it was a great, once in a lifetime experience. A lot of people we know literally take a trip every month since it's more affordable to travel to Asia, Australia and the Pacific Islands from here.

Q: What don’t you like about living there?

A: Guam is very remote. As a military family, we're used to moving and living away from family and friends, but with the 14 hour time difference from the East Coast (in the U.S.) and 17 hour time difference from the West Coast, you sometimes feel like you live in another world. Also, I love to cook and while the groceries available here are quite adequate, it's not the same as grocery shopping in the states. The commissaries do seem to try very hard to accommodate specific requests and offer seasonal products (canned pumpkin during the winter holidays, for example). Lastly, I'm not a huge fan of my husband's schedule here! The commands here are smaller which, of course, results in longer work hours for a lot of the military men and women out here. I've come to terms with the fact that that's not Guam's fault, though.

Q: Are there any other tips you think is important for military families to know before moving there?

A: Before we moved here our sponsor told us that Guam is the hardest military move you will make. We found, though, that the more preparation you do ahead of time, the easier the move is (duh!). If you're planning on bringing pets, start the quarantine process as soon as possible since it takes six months. Make sure you pack your express shipment very wisely, as your household-goods shipment can take a couple months to get here. Keep a positive attitude and an open mind while you prepare to move, and get out, explore, make friends and get involved as soon as you get here. I was pregnant when we arrived and had a hard time adjusting. Looking back I really regret not getting more involved in different groups early on. Oh! And rainy season-it's long and aptly named.

Q: Thanks, Pam!

* Do you want to know what it’s like living at a particular duty station? Need tips on how to prepare for a move? Or advice on how to handle a deployment? Tune in each Monday for tips and stories aimed at helping your next move or deployment go more smoothly. If you have questions, tips or stories you would like to share, send a brief email to mytravelingtroop@gmail.com for consideration. 

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