Fact: In March, 1521, Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese explorer sailing for Spain, landed three ships off the coast of Guam. An Italian nobleman also present on the voyage, Antonio de Pigafetta, noted that Magellan called the Marianas the Islands of Lateen Sails, then renamed them the Islands of Thieves after Chamorus in swift proas sailed out to meet the European vessels and helped themselves to some of what they found on board. Not to be outdone by a bunch of glad handlers, Magellan seized the entire island chain in the name of the Spanish crown. Take that, canoe boys.
Also fact: In November, 2022, a gringo explorer from Long Island also traveled to Guam. He crossed the island's southern flank, arriving by air conditioned taxi to Umatac Bay, where he met a couple of sleepy island mutts and took a selfie in front of the bay. He stole nothing, seized no land in the name of some distant government, and eventually went home. Instead of circumnavigating the southern oceans in a state of near starvation, he flew coach class on United Airlines and enjoyed a nice chicken salad, suffering nothing worse than some severe jetlag upon arrival.
Continue reading "On the Heels of Magellan in Umatac Bay"
The Philippine Sea is a golden mirror, but clouds are already starting to billow, like sails along the horizon.
A Brown Tree Snake lassos his way back down a tree trunk after having spent the night munching on birds’ eggs.
A young Korean bride withdraws a flowing, yellow sundress from her suitcase. A local Korean-speaking tour guide has promised her some Instagram-worthy photos from the island’s most breathtaking viewpoints.
A young Chamorro with a backpack blower spreads dry the shiny lenses of rainwater that last night’s showers pooled on the hotel’s breakfast patio.
Continue reading "Morning in the Marianas"
Over thirty years ago, a woman I loved informed me I was crazy, because
while I was sitting on one of the best beaches in the world, all I could
think of was traveling as far away as possible, and trying to send myself to
North Guam (it sounded far away, she said, and she loved the sound of the
word). Needless to say, when I stepped off the airplane at Hagatna Airport
on that far-flung island, my thoughts turned just momentarily back to her as
I beamed proudly.
But Guam was a mystery to me then, and it remains a mystery to me today. I
don't think I've ever been to a place I struggled as much to get a
feel for. To wit:
Continue reading "Guam"