Sunday, March 29, 2009

stay tuned

And I am trying to figure out the best way to show pictures from the trip. My photos are limited, but I am starting to sort through footage (stay tuned). But others have photos that are being uploaded to photobucket and flikr. So I'll see what I can do...

I should be cleaning my room, so I'll post an entry instead.

When is the best time to make decisions- either good, bad, or indifferent decisions? I know the best time for me to make bad decisions is when I am intoxicated. That is NOT the time to make life-changing choices. But I am not sure about my "good" decisions. What is a good decision and how long do you have to wait until you know it was a good choice?

I made the decisions to go to graduate school pretty much on a whim. I was talking with a professor at NMSU my last year before I graduated and he suggested graduate school. I had just several life-changing events happen in the few shorts months leading up to that moment (in which I had no control over) and had no idea where my life was going. He mentioned something about how I would do well at graduate school. I said, "OK." He asked where I had thought about applying (I hadn't yet), and I looked up at his wall saw an MTSU poster (as he was a guest speaker/professor the summer before and spoke highly of the program at MTSU), and I pointed at the poster and said, "there." And that was that. I applied. I didn't really have a back up plan if I wasn't accepted into this program; I considered teaching in Japan for a few years if I didn't get accepted, otherwise, I had no idea. You can imagine why I was so ecstatic when I received my acceptance letter.

As for my summer before grad school, I needed a job and intended to work in Atlanta as my parents were living there at the time. The jobs weren't as readily available as I had hoped and one night over bar-b-que chicken and mashed potatoes, I decided I wanted to work at Disney World as that was a dream of mine. That was Wednesday night and on Friday morning my sister and I drove to Orlando and secured a place to stay over the summer as well as jobs at Frontierland in the Magic Kingdom. That summer was fantastic. It was hard as the living expenses were high and I had to secure a second job (and working 70 hours a week to have nothing to show for it at the end of three months is a little ridiculous), but that has been one of the best summers of my life.

The decision to go to the Pacific was also made in a short period of time. I saw the poster and told myself I would go. I heard from Bethany about the trip the next afternoon, emailed Dr. Frisby, and clicked the "accept" button for my student loan to fund the trip in a matter of three hours. I made up my mind that I would go see those WWII sites and that was that.

I would argue that those were good decisions and I would not change anything if I had a choice. I make my decision and I run with it, that's just how I roll. I have to start making some decisions about my future and that has thrown me for a loop. Jet-lag hasn't really helped my thought process, either. But it is my feeling that we don't have much time on this earth (what, like 100 years at most? I've already used like a quarter of that time, too) and we have to make the most of the time we are given. I've got nine months left of graduate school (I hope!). I have decided that I want to see more of overseas while I am young and unattached. I am guessing Europe with a GS job. I can't say exactly what I will do, but when the opportunity presents itself, I'll know it and will run with it. Regardless, I'm flexible. And spontaneous. Maybe a posting from next month will read "My life in India." Who knows?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

I am what they call in the training business a "peak-to-sooner"

Now that I am home, I just want to go back. Did I not say that I would forget the oppressive heat and annoying bugs of the Pacific? I don't know if it was the travel or the break from school or the meeting of new people or what, but I am ready to move along. I've always had a sort of itch to keep going and seeing new places (I think that comes from being an Army brat) but that itch remained mostly neutral since I've been in Tennessee. Now I want to leave Tennessee. Stupid school.

I'm not sure if I will continue blogging. I like it and I've had some people ask if I will continue. I think so? Maybe not? I will take it day by day. I will feel weird if I am not writing with a purpose (like keeping family and friends posted about adventures on a trip). I suppose I could document my progress in school as I approach the end (if all goes well, I will graduate in December). Or I could blog about how I quit school and joined the circus (don't laugh, I'd do it... except that clowns scare me).*

I feel that I may have been a "peak-to-sooner." I worked so hard as an undergrad and have pushed myself as a graduate student. I positioned myself, too, to succeed in the masters program so I could be accepted in a PhD program (and theoretically succeed there to theoretically get a job). Now I lack the motivation to finish my masters program [don't freak out, Mom and Dad- I'll finish]. I just have to keep telling myself I have nine more months and then I am free to do whatever I want. I haven't decided if I want to be a park ranger or work overseas. Park Ranger for the National Park Service is, by far, the best job ever. Unfortunately, it is mostly limited to the US. I was looking at federal jobs overseas today and found a number that I would be content doing in Europe or Asia, but the jobs themselves would not be as cool as being a park ranger.

I suppose I could just chill out and enjoy my time here. The weather is warming up and I love summertime. And I have an outstanding group of friends here. Last night I woke up in the middle of the night (as my body was telling me it was the middle of the day and I should not sleep regardless of how tired I was) and decided to read for a bit. Ecclesiates is becoming one of my new favorite books.

"Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God's work from beginning to end. So I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can. And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God... So I saw that there is nothing better for people than to be happy in their work. That is why we are here! No one will bring us back from death to enjoy life after we die." (Ecc. 3:11-13, 22)

It's just hard to remember that when day-to-day stress rears its ugly head and makes me want to quit school and live in a van by the river.

*(I would like to take this time to admit to my over-use of parenthesis. I don't know why I like them so much, I just do.)

Clockzi

This is how I feel like. And how I will probably feel like for the next several days.

Stupid jet lag.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Yap

For those who were wondering, Yap is located in the Caroline Islands...

I'm Home!

I am at my house on Brandywine, yay! I made it alive (with some severely swollen ankles that my roommate keeps making fun of). And the best part: my luggage made all the way through. It was a little beat up, but everything was there.

Whew!

In Houston

I tried to connect to the internet here in the Houston Airport, but it is not letting me. While I was sitting here, minding my own business some random guy decided to sit by me and start a conversation about his dying father in Little Rock and how he is laying over in Houston. I am pretty sure he is drunk. He has told me about his dad three times already and I just smile and nod. But he still keeps talking. Maybe I should tell him that my mom said I shouldn’t talk to strangers.

I leave for Nashville in less than an hour. I am debating if I need to create a reason to escape or just let him keep talking to me. Now he is telling me about his drug addict girlfriend. Everything happens for a reason.

People watching is fun here. It would be a lot more fun if dude wasn’t talking my ear off. I think I need to go walk around and pretend to stretch my legs. I’ll post all this when I get back to the Boro.

I think there is a theory about days like these

Isn’t there a law that if something can go wrong it will? That has been my day and unfortunately the day is not close to being over. I am currently flying on the plane from Honolulu to Houston back in time. Once we arrive in Nashville, we will have traveled a solid 26 hours, yet it will only be four hours later in the day. Thank you, International Dateline.

Last night I attempted to take a nap before we had to leave at 11pm for the Korror Airport. I accidentally had my alarm set to Guam time so I shorted myself an hour from that nap but realized that too late. I got to chat online with a friend so that made me feel better. We loaded our bags on the bus then headed for the airport. The Palau Airport stinks and I don’t mean that literally. I needed to mail postcards from Palau, but they had no postbox from the airport. Ok, cool, I’ll do it from Guam. The check-in crew demonstrated how stoked they were to work at the airport with their smiles, friendly service, and happy attitudes. Oh, wait. There was none of that. The only positive that came out of the fact that the attendants so clearly did not care about service, that they didn’t care that our bags were a little overweight. I’ll take the crankypants check-in clerks in return for NOT having to pay an extra $50 for overweight luggage. So that worked in our favor. I got caught in the security because my ziplock bag filled with my 3.5 oz bottles of liquids was not good enough for the Palau Airport so I had to walk to the restaurant next door to purchase a 50 cent “authorized” ziplock bag. If that doesn’t have “scam” written all over it, I don’t know what does.

We finally take off, authorized ziplock bags and all, only to land an hour later on the island of Yap. The attendant came on over the loudspeakers, “Please, everybody in rows 5 through 28, seats A, B, and C get off the plane and wait in the terminal.” I was in 17C. What!? Why? I want to nap, lady! It is 2 in the morning! How come the other half of the plane gets to stay in their seats? I’m not going and you can’t make me!

So I got off the plane and waited in the Yap Airport. Where is Yap? At this moment, I still have no idea. I had flashbacks to the Iwo trip in which we were escorted off the plane only to wait in the hangar (too bad they weren’t playing Flags of Our Fathers like at Iwo. At least then we’d have something to do). I will look it up when I get home. So now I can say that I have been to Yap. It’ll be a good story to tell when awkward silences arise at group events. “I’ve been to Yap before.” That’ll impress people.

We loaded the plane (again), got settled in and I napped my way to Guam. In Guam we had to unload the plane, go through Immigration and back through security (trip #2) with just enough time to spare to get on the plane to Honolulu. Again, I looked for a postbox and was informed that there was not one in the airport. I want to know why not? Seriously? Does nobody mail postcards anymore? Have the blue post office boxes fallen to the wayside as people blog their life away? Why send a postcard when I can send a link from the airport? Oh, well, I’ll just carry them to Hawai’i.

I got on the plane, nestled in for the seven hour flight, napped for a bit, watched a funny movie, did some yoga moves outside the bathrooms, attempted to nap again, played some hangman, all while trying to remain patient. Home, home, home! was all that ran through my head. We landed in Honolulu, had to go through Customs, and eventually back through security (trip #3). To go through security we have to get our bags from baggage claim then re-check them through. The bags from our flight kept coming and I twiddled my thumbs. La la la. Where is my second bag? Ho hum, this is fun, but why have the conveyor belts stopped? Where is my bag?! Somewhere between Palau and Honolulu, that’s where. Probably stuck on the stupid island of Yap.

So I will have to file a baggage claim at Nashville. I am rather upset. I was stomping around the duty free store in Honolulu, but nobody cared in there. Stupid chocolate-covered macadamia nuts. It’s their fault. Ok, maybe it is nobody’s fault, but I was still irked. And those macadamia nuts are a good size for throwing. I thought about getting them to either throw at people or eat my feelings. I did neither. I did finally find a post office box outside the duty-free store, so any postcards sent (regardless of where they are from) have Honolulu postmarks. Oh, well.

I should sleep now. I just have visions of my box being washed up on an island in the Pacific somewhere with Tom Hanks and Wilson. Maybe he can use my camera, bag-full of Iwo Jima sand, clothes, journal, books, and running shoes.

Wilson! Wil-hil-sa-hon!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

When in Palau, do as that Palauvians?

Alan Jackson sings a song called, "Gone Country." I think I need a song called "Gone Native." No, I am not running around in a loin cloth, we haven't gone THAT far, yet. But I am wearing linen, plaid burmuda shorts that I haven't washed since the last time I wore them on Guam (don't get me started on the laundry issue) and my chaco sandals, haven't shaved my legs in over a week, haven't worn a stitch of makeup in over 10 days, have remnants of a sunburn that I got yesterday on the boat back from Peleliu (so it almost looks like I have a tan), only used hand sanitizer twice in the last three days (after crawling around caves, so it was a little necessary), and eat raw crab that I catch with a makeshift spear I've created with native wood and coral. Just kidding about that last part. Seriously, though. I won't recognize me when I arrive in Nashville. Neither will my friends. I may have to hold up a sign at the airport with my name on it like limo drivers do...

In Korror

I am sitting in the lobby of the hotel we are staying at, the Green Bay Hotel (no relation to the Packers...), listening to rainfall in the jungle, typing away on my computer. A mosquito keeps buzzing around my head, reminding me that I did not reapply my bug spray after my shower. I'll end up with malaria on my last day in the Pacific, just watch. 

I am going to post the entries that I have been saving in word document form in just a bit. I thought I would attempt some form of reflection about the last few days. Peleliu was amazing for many reasons. The island is beautiful, the people are friendly, and there is WWII stuff EVERYWHERE. Many of the caves still have yet to be explored. I am sitting here, trying to digest everything I have seen and done in these last few days (not to mention last few weeks!). 

I am ready to go back home, if only just to sleep in my own bed. I am looking forward to a shower in my own shower, the ability to drink from the faucet if I so desire, sleeping in my own bed, and even cuddling with my annoying, stinky kitties. While I am anxious to get off of this island, I think the distance from this trip, both in time and in location, will only magnify the trip in my memories. I will tell of the awesome treks through the jungle to see the tanks and live ammunition and neglect to tell of the killer mosquitoes and fear of cave crickets. I will regale friends and family stories of the magnificence that is the Pacific, ignoring the fact that I would never chose to live here for any length of time. This is definitely a place I would love to visit again, but I don't believe island life is for me. (That's because I live a pirate's life...). 

We rode back on a boat today from Peleliu to Palau. I used to think "azul" was the prettiest word for the color blue. It is no match for the blue of the ocean here around the islands. The words breathless, gorgeous, beautiful, fantastic, magnificent, stunning, inspiring, and amazing could be thrown into a verbal blender and whatever cool word concoction they made all together would not describe the beauty of these islands. I think I want to learn how to scuba dive and will make my way back here one day to see the beauty that exists under the water. 

But that is the future. So for now, I will enjoy my surroundings, look forward to the time I will get to spend in my own bed, and fold the memories of this trip up to stick in my mental pocket and carry with me forever.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Speaking of personal things...

We visited the 81st “Wildcats” Division Memorial and Cemetery (the bodies originally buried there have since been re-interred stateside). My great-great uncle Charlie fought with the 81st. I was honored to be able to visit the memorial and walk along beaches where he probably fought and was injured. It made me wonder, though, how much of that island has impacted my life? This is me being deep on very little sleep, but how much of his experiences impacted my great-grand mother and my grandmother who in turn impacted my mother and eventually my immediate family and I? Not just his wartime experiences, but all of the brothers’ experiences (and the sisters’ homefront experiences). I wonder how much of the island I carry with me without even knowing it?

I had those thoughts briefly on Iwo Jima, but the nature of the trip did not allow for time to process those thoughts about that island. Living and breathing Peleliu jungle for several days has cultivated these thoughts into more than just mere ponderings.

Our Last Afternoon

I figured I would describe a scene from one of our hikes. It was much like of any of our other hikes. The jungle was slick from a light rain that happened earlier in the day and we were covered in sweat, mud, and bat guano after hiking up to Bloody Nose Ridge and into the caves there. We probably saw the coolest cave while there that morning. It was high up on the ridge and not easy to reach but inside the cave rested the normal gas masks and mess kits, AND some ammunition boxes, mortar rounds, and live land mines that were crystallizing from their leaking ‘juices.’ (No worries, loved ones! Lucille, our guide and trip nurse accompanied us safely through, limbs intact). The leather items were mostly intact, as well, which is rare. After the trip into that cave, I honestly did not expect to see anything that would top it for the rest of the day. We unloaded the bus and ventured into the jungle to a spot called “Temple of Doom.” Evidently, little is known about the concrete structure and it was only discovered a few years ago. I was tired, but followed along with a camera, anyway. I was tired and the exhaustion that had been creeping in all day began to full set in. “This had better be good,” echoed in my head.

We approached a scene straight out of Indiana Jones. Green and black mossy growth covered most of the building. There were rusty remnants of 55 gallon drums and Quonset huts surrounding the building that had some severe structural damage. A banyon tree had pushed its way through the bottom of the building and was growing out through the roof. Other smaller trees and vines were creeping their way into and around the building. It appeared the place was a repair shop of sorts. The evidence pointed to a direct hit slamming into one side of the building, stopping any activity happening at that moment.

Most of the sites we saw resembled each other. A battle fought, the land abandoned after the War, and the natural environment growing over the scene. Some weaponry or at least munitions scattered on the ground and lots of rusted pieces of metal surrounded by years of growth designated these spots. This site contained a different feel and I can’t explain why. Maybe because the site was largely untouched for the last several decades, as nobody knew about it. I think it had to do with it being the most obvious place that showed human activity before the attack (and that may because looters had not previously known about the site so the remains actually remained).

I don’t believe in ghosts in the traditional sense that there are the invisible souls of the human dead floating around. But I do believe in invisible spiritual happenings (I just can’t explain what they are). Belief systems aside, the place had a weird vibe. I walked over to Lucille and she pointed to a cave and said that there was some bones and mess kits in it, but that it would be a tight squeeze. Most of the group had left to explore another cave so I decided to go in. I had to shimmy down flat on my rear. Camera and flashlight in hand, I began to work my way down. Lucille called down and said that there would be a room to my right and if I looked I would see a skull. I don’t know what I expected when I looked into that room, but the skull startled me. The dark pockets of eye sockets pierced into me. I heard someone trying to come in after me and I asked them to wait so I could get out and I shimmied out of that cave faster than a bat out of… that cave.

I wasn’t scared so much as I was put off. I was already emotionally dealing with the idea that people lived and worked at this site before probably being killed by the direct hit. I think I was bothered by the idea of disrupting the burial site. Soldiers lived in that cave, attempted to survive in those caves, and were killed in that cave. I’m not sure why I ventured into the cave knowing dead people were in there. I almost felt disrespectful. I am not saying others who venture into the caves to see these sites are disrespectful; I’m not judging at all. I am just saying that I did not feel comfortable with it.

I am going to carry the eeriness of that site with me. Both sides lost a lot of men on that island. And while I am learning and growing from this visit, I am still working through some of my own personal issues while here.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Things Gilligan Never Told Us

So today we traveled on a little skiff to the little island across the little channel: Ngegebus. If you have read E. B. Sledge's book, With the Old Breed, you know what I am talking about. We went, in fact, to see Sledge's bunker. The trip was exhausting and remarkable all at the same time. 

We had to be accompanied by Lorraine, a native whose family basically owns the island. She agreed to take us over then escort us around. For 97 lbs, she certainly was a ball of energy. She had us marching all over that island chewing her beetlenut chaw (not a pleasant habit...). She also held no punches. At one point we stopped to wait for the rest of the group to catch up. She turned to some of our guys and said "you guys too fat." What? What did she just say? We looked at her quizzically and she repeated, "You guys too fat. Breathe heavy. Not healthy. Go on diet." I near about died laughing, though the guys didn't really appreciate it. Later, she pointed off the trail and said, "Couple Japanese bunkers over there. We not stop. Old guy too slow." (The "old guy" was our tour leader, John Edwards...). 

We continued to march over rotting coconuts and marshy, low-tide land (NOT a good smell), fighting off the bugs. She pointed out the areas where crocodiles supposedly lived. Evidently there is debate about the real location of the E. B. Sledge bunker, so we visited both sites. Either way, it was cool to see those sites. We also saw wreckage and guns and a few caves. And a marijuana farm. What? What did I just read? Did she say marijuana farm? Yes, that is correct. Lorraine needed to check up on her plants, so she marched us along a path that would take us to her plants (as long as we didn't touch or take pictures) so she could water them. Kill two birds with one stone, right? 

We boated back over to Peleliu mid-afternoon (I still am not wearing my watch).  We saw more caves and guns and wreckage. It is a little overwhelming at times. 

Peleliu: Day 1

I am sitting in my “hotel” room, waiting for breakfast. My body hurts, I am exhausted, but am having an awesome time here on Peleliu. I had been told countless times that Peleliu would be practically untouched and would contain lots of “stuff” to see. It is unbelievable how much is here.

We arrived on the island somewhere around 9ish (although I didn’t have my watch- we function on island time here, anyway). We dropped off our bags to our various “hotels” and homes where we were staying, lathered up in sunscreen and bugspray, loaded the bus, then started off on our first day’s adventure. Man! Each stop only got better. We had to (and will have to continue to) trek carefully through the jungle to avoid stepping on the land crabs and live ammunition that are scattered around. We saw tanks, LVTs, bunkers, a crashed airplane, the power plant for the island, and the administration building. We had time to digest what we were seeing, unlike our trip to Iwo, and absorb what all of these artifacts meant. We also stopped at the 81st Army monument; that was the unit that one of my great-great uncles fought with. That plunged me deep into thought and I wondered what he saw when he fought his way into the island. All I know is he was shot in the knee here.

We stopped at a small cave with some mess kits, canteens, a few rounds, and the remains of a Japanese soldier. That was a little intense. Today we are supposed to head up to the ridge with a lot of caves to explore like that. There is no telling what we will find in each of these caves. I am a little nervous about that, actually. I don’t know how well I handle caves. It’s all mental, it’s all mental, it’s all mental. On top of the caves being small, dark spaces, there are cave crickets. Unless you are my family, you won’t understand why that is a big deal, but I did have an internal freak-out session when I saw those. I am getting the heeby-jeebies now just thinking about those.

Those who know me will applaud my lack of OCD on this trip. I didn’t wash my hands almost all day and kept leaving my hand sanitizer on the bus. I was a big, brave girl, covered in dirt, sweat, and sand, and kept pushing through the jungle. I think I will take 14 showers upon my arrival to Murfreesboro.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Shark!

As a toddler, strapped into my carseat in the backseat, I evidently used to point at the windshield and yell, “shark! SHARK!” whenever it rained. It took my parents a while, but eventually they figured out I was pointing to the space on the windshield between the two blades that looked like a shark’s fin.

On our boat ride over, I saw what I thought was a shark’s fin and did the same thing. I started pointing and yelling “shark! SHARK!” Unfortunately, the boat was going to fast and we passed the shark before anyone could hear me in time to confirm. I was convinced I saw a shark. After we docked at Peleliu, I was trying to convince everyone that I, indeed, saw that shark. Dan, another member of the group who is not part of the class, walked up and asked if any of us saw the manta ray. Oh, man! It wasn’t a shark’s fin, after all. He attempted to console me by saying it was way more rare to see a manta ray than a shark, but I was still a little disappointed. I guess I shouldn’t be. I saw a manta ray swimming in the Pacific Ocean, right?

As we boated through the Rock Islands to get to Peleliu, I don’t know if any of us could fully wrap our minds around the raw beauty that surrounded us. The water sparkled unbelievable shades of blue. The islands were huge rocks that jetted out of the ocean, covered with the greenest jungle. We will all bring back photos and footage, but nothing will portray those islands with any justice.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Interdisciplinary Studies

I think I strained or sprained my wrist the other day. I was running to catch a bus as I had left something on it and I slipped, only to cushion my fall with my wrist. It works out that I have Carpel Tunnels, so I had my wrist guards with me. It still makes things like writing and filming a little annoying. I can't tell if it is swollen. I mean, it is swollen, but it had been for a few days, as I got a bug bite that made my wrist swell the day we climbed Mt. Lamlam, then several more mosquito bites two days after that. Between the insurance required by the school and the insurance provided by the tour company, I believe I am more covered medically over here than back at home (where I have none). The only question is: if I needed medical care, what would the facilities be like?

Of the group of students on this trip, there is not one single full-on, traditional history major. And that has been one of the coolest things about this trip, as everyone contributes different studies to help demonstrate a more complete story. Right now, Bethany is getting her gear ready. She will be physically mapping out the island and caves of Peleliu with GIS and GPS stuff. She can take a picture with her camera, then link that to the coordinates of where we are on earth. When we get back home she said she would try to link that to Google Earth so everyone can wee where we've been. Yesterday we visited the southern beaches on our own as a class. It is unbelieveable to stand where waves peacefully break around your ankles, imagining what it would have looked like 64 years ago, will the chaos of war. While we were there, Chad did some non-destructive testing of some Japanese concrete fortifications. He can find out so much with all of his gear. I don't even think about concrete, but I imagine the soldiers wondered their durability when they were being bombarded during the war.

We are leaving in about two hours. We have to load up a boat to go to Peleliu. Evidently, we are just dropping our bags on shore then exploring. I think our entirely class is more than ready for this trip and what we will find.

People

I thought I would briefly mention some of the outstanding characters that we have encountered so far (and we still have a whole week left to meet more!). Meeting new people is easily one of my favorite parts of traveling and probably why I like being a park ranger so much. I won't be able to remember everybody, but I'll give it a shot so I don't forget them after I get back home.

We have met several WWII veterans on this trip, both Japanese and American. Hearing their stories absolutely amaze me. I think I will write a separate post about the individual vets that I talked to. I've mentioned Tanji, our local guide. He is very colorful and cheerful. I imagine I will have more stories about him before the week is out. Dan is a Japanese translator that went with us to Iwo Jima; it turns out he went to the same high school as my mom, only graduating two years later. He is a very cool guy with lots of stories about the Japanese experiences in the Pacific. Tara works for the Stars and Stripes; we met her on Guam. She is very classy and approachable. She was neat; she dressed insanely feminine, had two of the cutest and most well-behaved kids ever, and is getting her masters in military history. I love it. James was our tour guide around the southern battlefields on Guam on our last day. He's not officially a native of Guam, but has lived there for something like 20 years and was very knowledgeable about Guam. He probably knows the Code of the Ocean by heart. Jeff the Pirate owns Jeff's Pirate Cove. He was cool; just a guy from Massachusetts who wanted to be a pirate, so he opened a bar/restaraunt on a cove. Rosa was an elderly Chamorro lady who showed us how to make salt; I can't remember the last time I've seen such dry sarcasm, especially out of someone who doesn't have all of their teeth. She made me smile. There are lots of others to write about for different reasons, but I should probably go. I think we are encouraged to meet some of our locals by eating and drinking with them in the restaurant next door. Plus I need to get to bed early so I can rise early for that boat ride through paradise.

Palau Arrival

We have arrived in Korror on Palau. We landed, made it through customs, then were greeted by Tanji, our local contact/guide. I had two teenage boys take my bags as Tanji greeted each of us while envisioning never seeing those bags again (knowing the clothes I currently have on stink!). We loaded a bus and headed for our hotel while Tanji gave us a brief talk about our itinerary in the morning. Our bags were waiting for us at the hotel upon our arrival. We checked in and were issued bottles of water (replenishable as needed by the front desk... we are encouraged to stay hydrated as it is easily 85 degrees now, humid, and it is 8pm at night). Evidently, the local water will encourage certain bodily functions...

The Peleliu leg of the trip sounds like it will be the best part. Guam is an Unincorporated Territory of the USA and with the large presence of Americans, I didn't miss anything from back home. Now I am at a nice hotel according to Palau standards that would be ranked "economy" within the US. Tomorrow we will take a boat into Peleliu; we get to pass the Rock Islands and see where some of the "Survivor" show was filmed. This has been the craziest trip and time keeps flying by like it is nobody's business. I won't want to go home.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

It may be a while

I don't know if I will be able to post for about a week. We are headed to Peleliu this afternoon and I have the feeling that we won't have internet access. So I plan on saving my entries on the computer and posting them accordingly whenever we do come back to civilization.

We had an awesome day yesterday. Our tour guide was extremely knowledgeable and I enjoyed the excursion immensely. I'll write about our day on the plane and post soon.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Please Stand By

Stinkin' technology. And copyright issues. I am attempting to post the short Iwo Jima video but it is taking FOREVER to process. I attempted to load the other films onto YouTube, as sometimes the videos on here don't play well, but YouTube wouldn't let my soundtracks play because of legality issues (play that funky music, copyright...). Then I received a notice from Facebook notifying me that they removed my hiking film from there because of copyright issues. So I am trying to find a way to share with everyone these adventures but am having a few technical difficulties. 

An idea to ponder

"The present is the point at which time touches eternity." 
~C. S. Lewis

As historian, I am always considering time: what happened in the past, how does it affect the future. But I often neglect to remember the present. I thought of this quote a lot yesterday and will again today as I am physically on the location where battles were fought, but connected to the spot by a different time.

Raw Footage

I gave Paul my little point and click camera while on Iwo because his camera battery died and he thought it necessary to include me in videos and photos since I was usually behind the camera. So here I am; there are also some shots of the class gathering some sand. You can see Mt. Suribachi in the background, too. I will make a better movie of Iwo Jima soon, but here is some raw footage of the invasion beaches so you can get a better feel of what it was like.



video

Sleep IS a crutch!

Thanks, Dad! I've been saying lack is sleep is mental and being tired is all in your head forever and people usually just roll their eyes. So it may only be part true, but I did get a full 8 hours of sleep last night (so if you divide it over the last 48 hours, I still got 4.5 hours each night... that's my average on this island so far). So I am ready for my day! (And I will be fair to all roommates, both present and past- I am like this in the morning WITHOUT coffee).

Today we are to explore the southern battlefields of Guam. And I get to get a stamp for my National Park Service passport. As park ranger, I have been indoctrinated with all things NPS, to include collecting cancellation stamps at various sites. We are supposed to visit the War in the Pacific National Historic Park today. That is if they let us off the bus...

A Day of Mixed Feelings

I would like to start out this entry by stating that everything that I said yesterday was true and I still absolutely agree with it. Today's trip helped reinforce my ideas about patriotism even though the day turned out nothing like I expected. I currently have a gallon-sized ziplock bag full of the black sand from Iwo Jima resting on my bed in my hotel room. I think the sand still contains some of the heat from the sun and I collected it about seven hours ago. I also have some pictures and footage from the trip. 

Unfortunately, the pictures and footage is limited because of the limitations set out by the Japanese government. In fact, the government had changed a number of things this year than from years past, much to the disappointment of just about everybody who went on this trip. In the past, the island was only opened one day a year. While the number of visitors was limited, of those visitors were allowed to venture off into the island to explore. This year we were told we would have escorts; that seemed reasonable, even if just for liability's sake. They split the everybody into groups of about fifteen; we were group G (Golf) with a wannabe drill sergeant who will also be our fearless leader in Peleliu. I can't wait.

Either way, we left the hotel about 3:30 this morning. You've never seen so many dark circles and puffy eyes. While everyone clearly showed signs of sleepiness, there remained an excited anticipation in the air. Today is the day. We finally get to visit. The flight took about two hours and we arrived on Iwo Jima, recently renamed Iwo To, about 7:30am. We were then handed a detailed schedule. We were to be bused around the island before we made it to the Reunion of Honor and would leave the island by 1:30pm. What!? We didn't sing up for this! We signed up to crawl through caves, and visit sights of know MTSU veterans' casualties, and see untouched artifacts from the war! You can't do any of that from the bus!

Our group was not scheduled to leave until 9:20am, so we were escorted to an airplane hangar of which we found out rapidly that photography of any kind was forbidden (the stationed Japanese Navy would run towards you with arms crossed in an "x" quietly yelling "oh oh oh"... very Japanese). We basically became prisoners within this hangar, as we couldn't leave except to step directly outside the hangar. We finally left around 9:15ish to board a mini-bus that would take us directly to Mt. Suribachi. Our minder told us that we would visit a Sherman tank, but unfortunately did not have enough time to get out of the bus, so we would have to take pictures from the bus windows. In the meantime, our quasi-militant group leader continued to explain where cool stuff to see was on the island, "oh, right down that path would lead to bunkers," but we were at the whim of our minder and bus driver so we could not go see for ourselves.

We finally made it to Mt. Suribachi. As we filed out of the bus our minder told us we had 20 minutes to take pictures if we wanted before we were required to board the bus. What! 20 minutes? That wasn't enough time to do everything, but we had no choice. So the group mingled and shifted, trying to take pictures of the monument and the landing beaches while not trying to include the others in there pictures. It was crazy, but we took some good photos of the group on top. We didn't have time to contemplate, but we stood where the American flag was raised in 1945. We walked were those Marines raised the flag that are in the most popular picture of World War II. The weather was nice, just a little breezy but it didn't get above 80 degrees. 

After our 20 minutes were up, we headed to the ceremony. Evidently, we got there early (probably because we only go 20 minutes on the beach) so we were allowed to go to the invasion beaches. It was almost like exploring except for the Japanese Navy guys spaced out around our "perimeter" of what we could explore.

I think the group (and not just us 10 from MTSU) was beginning to get very frustrated at the fact that we couldn't get to do anything on our own to explore or see the island. But walking along the beaches helped alleviate some of those frustrations. We were walking where Marines fought. We were walking where Marines were wounded. We were walking where Marines died. The sand's consistency made walking extremely difficult; I can't imagine fighting through it. The waves along the beach crashed onto the beach continuously; try imagining swimming through that. If we stopped to consider the sacrifices made on the beach, the fact that we could do what we wanted didn't seem as important. I tried to break away from the group as much as possible for my own contemplations about what the beach meant. I found the fulfillment, even if it was brief. 

We had limited time, so we filled up our containers of sand, Dr. Frisby read aloud a (very) brief service for the MTSU students that fought on Iwo Jima, and took the necessary pictures before we had to go to the Reunion of Honor ceremony. The ceremony itself was nice, but that could be because I like band music and patriotic songs (especially when mixed together!). A few of us were able to break away again back to the beaches for a few minutes before we had to leave for the plane. Walking (and trying to run) up and down the invasion beaches proved a very difficult task. And that was without a 50lbs rucksack, soaking wet, possibly injured, fearing for my life as my fellow Marines fall beside me, and trying to dodge any of the explosions surrounding me. 

We made our way back to the hangar only to wait another 45 minutes as prisoners inside the hangar before we load the plane. The flight and bus ride pack were relatively quiet. The majority of those on the trip were severely disappointed like me. Frustration also played a huge role in the working of this as we didn't know who to blame (if anybody). Everything was out of our control and the only thing that could be done was to try to be a delightfully strong-waitress. 

So we made our way back to the plane, back to the buses, then back to our hotel with our sands from Iwo Jima. While we walked away with disappointment, I think we also walked away with no regrets. I know that the unfortunate circumstances forced me into a position in which I had to not only identify why visiting this island was important, but those certain sites. I needed to be able to grasp that maybe this trip was the beginning of the end of these types of tours to this island and in a way, I partook of history by seeing that transition. 

Regardless of how I feel tonight (tired!), I know I have visited an island in the middle of the Pacific that serves as a monument like no other. I may not have been able to see all of it, or what I wanted to, but I did what I initially set out to do: visit the site in order to pay some form of homage and respect to the men who fought and died there and I am glad that I did.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

pilgrimage

pil-gri-mage (noun): any long journey, esp. one undertaken as a quest or for a votive purpose, as to pay homage

This trip started as, what seemed like at the time, a whim. I saw a poster on the wall of Peck Hall last August and thought the Guam-Iwo Jima-Peleliu MTAbroad trip sounded like an amazing trip. That next afternoon I met Bethany in the VC at the battlefield and found out that not only was she in the same program that I was, but that she was going on the WWII study abroad trip. She said I should, too, so I did. That afternoon I emailed Dr. Frisby, then promptly applied for my subsidized loan. I am not sure what exactly compelled me to say “yes,” but I did.

Initially, this trip was just that- a trip. I understood the magnitude of this trip in that it would be a once in a lifetime opportunity, but at the time it was still just a trip. As a junior in college, I had a military history professor show my naval history class the joys of Google Earth. We “visited” the wreckage of ships along the shores of Cuba, the U.S.S. Arizona at Pearl Harbor, and the island of Iwo Jima all from our classroom. The island of Iwo Jima struck a chord with me and I am not sure why. I think it was because of what the professor said: Iwo Jima was only open one day a year to the American public and the Japanese government was likely to close the island to civilians in the next few years. I told myself that I would see that island for myself then tucked that thought away.

It is remarkable how much I surround myself with military history, yet I think it is one of my least favorite topics within the overall field of history. I work at a national battlefield and am continually reading something relating to the Civil War. I love World War I and World War II home front history. Band of Brothers still reigns as one of my favorite movies EVER. I paid a chunk of money to go on a trip to the Pacific to see battlefields that initially didn’t have specific or individual meaning to me. Usually the things that interest me are all the other aspects of life during war except for the war itself. Yet, I am still drawn to the stories of the service members at these various places.

One of the first questions people asked me when they found out I was going on this trip was, “why?” It seemed so obvious to me: why not? But that was just the vague answer that does not answer the question accurately. I didn’t know why exactly, I just knew I had to. Even though military history sometimes seems like the most boring type of history to me, I connect to it because of my background. I grew up as an Army Brat, through and through. Except for my dad’s three-year assignment to Camp Zama, Japan, I have never lived in any one spot consecutively for more than two years. Uniforms, government housing, and moving boxes contain levels of comfort to me, as they were major parts of my life. Home is where the Army sends you, right?

A few weeks ago I had a layover in Dallas. Waiting for my plane to arrive, I looked up to see my dad walking in his Army uniform through the airport. The incident was entirely coincidental; we did not know each other’s travel plans, it just happened. But for whatever reason, when I saw my dad walking I could hardly contain myself. I threw everything in my lap and almost started running towards him. The event surprised both of us. While I was talking to him, a twenty-something girl walked up to him, put out her hand, smiled, and said “thanks, sir.” He smiled back, shook her hand, and she walked away. I asked if that happened a lot and he modestly acknowledged that it did. I had to fight back the tears that began to well in my eyes. The American flag badge worn on the shoulder of his uniform seemed exceedingly bright in comparison to the drab of his uniform. The moment was surreal and words don’t capture nor express what I felt.

I believe it is that feeling that struck my chord when I mentally tucked away my plan to one day visit Iwo Jima. It sparked again when I saw the poster on the wall for this trip. And it almost moved me to tears when I realized what my dad does. I never honestly stopped to consider that he is paid to be ready to go to war and put his life on the line if his country tells him to. I was so accustomed to dad-in-uniform and I never contemplated what that actually meant. He is an American soldier and I am very proud of him. My brother also serves in the Air Force, as did my grandfather. I am proud of both of them. Six out of my grandmother’s seven brothers served in WWII; one injured on Peleliu and one on Iwo Jima. I am proud of every single one of them and what they stand for.

I don’t want this to sound cheesy or cliché. Patriotism is an abstract idea that has often been used and abused in order for someone to make a few extra dollars. But I believe it is my patriotism that drives me to this place. This “trip” to the Pacific is more than a trip: it is a pilgrimage. I have trekked thousands of miles in order to trek a few hundred more tomorrow to walk where men fought and died on the beaches of Iwo Jima. In addition to seeing this place for myself, I want to honor the men who fought on the beaches for something they believed in so much that they put their lives on the line. I believe that by honoring the thousands of men who served on Iwo Jima, I will also honor all men and women in uniform who serve (and have served) their country over the course of American history. It is not nearly enough, especially considering all of the men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice, but for now it is the least I can do.

I apologize if this seems ramble-y. I have had these thoughts tumbling around in my head for weeks and I don’t know if this makes sense. But it’s from my heart and I guess that is all that matters. We leave for Iwo Jima in four hours. We will arrive in about 6 hours. I’ll write about my experiences there tomorrow evening after we get back.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Bring It On

video

Day One: Part 3

I crashed last night around 9pm (and I mean crashed... my roommate came in and attempted to have a conversation with me about 9:45 and the words coming out of my mouth made no sense at all). So now it is 3:30am and I am ready for my day. I think I may just give up on this attempting to conquer jet-lag. I am only here for a little but of time, we have to be on a flight at 3:00am tomorrow, and I have lots to do. I'll have time to sleep after I'm dead, right?

Day One: Part Three
(In which we play tourist and don’t see our destination but find an awesome Chinese food place)


So we made it to the top of the highest mountain. But what goes up has to come down, even if it means butt-scootching (sometimes unintentionally). We made it to the bottom with a few falls and a twisted knee, but we still made it. It was time to move forward to the next destination. I think the group that made it to the top of the mountain just wanted to lie down and not move for three days, but Ben assured us that the tank was only like a 2 minute hike, and once we started hiking towards that tank we would be able to see it almost immediately. 

The sun was beginning to set as we pulled off to the side of the road where we were to start trekking into the woods. We pushed through a piece of jungle to meet a road with some of the reddest (and stickiest) mud I have ever seen. The road wasn't too bad. It was flat and the killer grass we had at the last hike appeared nonexistent. Our first obstacle was a little, red pond that expanded across the road. Clinging to trees, we balanced along the foot-wide ledge taking very small steps in order NOT to fall in. Regardless, we still accomplished to get mud all over us. 

We continued down the road, wondering how long of a two minute hike would it take before we started to see the tank. Ben decided to run ahead to see if he could find it (as dark was approaching and the clouds seemed ominous), only to run back to tell us that he mistook the distance of the tank and we would not get to see it. So we turned around to trek back across the muddy pond. In that process we got a new layer of mud upon the first layer that had begun to cake a little. 

Dark had settled in as we approached the cars. Then the rain came. I ran to our rental car to throw in the camera (no worries, it's safe), then stand in the rain with the rest of the crew removing our shoes and socks, rolling up our pants, and taking off our outer-most layers before we got in the car in order to save the car from an enormous cleaning fee.

It was fun to walk through our resort hotel barefoot, caked with red mud, while juggling all of our wet (and now red) clothes and shoes.

We decided food in our bellies would make us all happier, showered, then met for dinner. Down the road we found a Chinese food place. We sat around a large table with a large lazy susan in the middle of it and began to contemplate the series of delectable choices. Expecting serving sizes like the servings from a Chinese place on the Mainland, each of us ordered at least 2 items from the menu. I thought maybe the eyebrow raises we got from our waitress had to do with the fact that we were a rag-tag group of kids that just came back from an exhaustifying hike. Nope. The serving sizes were ginormous! Each item got a dinner-plate-full of food. That was what our waitress's eyebrow raises and the lazy susan were for! I am sure the waitress just thought we were typical Americans who eat like there will be no tomorrow. We had so much food that we had ate until we almost popped, then filled 5 take-home boxes.

We laughed so hard around the table. The camaraderie on this trip has been outstanding and our trek to the top of the mountain, to the invisible tank, and to the Chinese food place-of-overeating created memories of good times that will last for my lifetime.

And a Partridge in a Pear Tree

At this moment, I have:

  • 7 mosquito bites
  • 83 scratches
  • 4 bruises
  • 3 strawberry-burns
  • a tender rear-end after falling on it (twice)
  • dirt under my fingernails
  • had an awesome time so far and it is only day two

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Day One: Parts 1 & 2

As I write this, my body is screaming at me so loud that I can hardly hear my music. And have no doubt, I have turned up my iPod in an attempt to drown out that noise. My roommate is still sleeping.

Lucky.

The jet lag fairy visited me again this morning, although not as early as yesterday. It’s a perfect time to catch up on my posting. Yesterday was so jamb-packed with activities that we were on the run from about 7:30 until about 11:30pm. Now the question stands: can I remember everything we did?

Day One: Part One
(Playing tourists with little to no physical excursion)

Breakfast was served from 6am to 8am; it was quite a spread, too. I met the trip’s nurse, Ellie Bertrand, on the elevator to breakfast and she invited me to join her for breakfast. I saw a few of my classmates at breakfast, but sat at a different table. I used the time to meet new people, to include Charlie, a WWII veteran from California. Part of my joy of traveling comes from the meeting of new people. I think there are a lot of folks on the trip who want to talk to the students from MTSU as we are clearly the youngest travelers on this trip. Almost every person I have talked to so far tell me how wonderful it is that we have taken this opportunity to visit these places of history.

Breakfast doubled as a briefing time; we were oriented to the touring company and the structure of the trip. We finished by watching a film that is usually shown at the War the in Pacific National Historical Park about Guam in World War II. We will be visiting the park later in the week, but won’t have enough time to watch the film when we actually go.

We then broke into two groups. One group composed of veterans and families of veterans went to meet the admiral while the other group went on an outing that would include a visit to Gef Pa’go, a cultural village. While I am technically a family-member of two Pacific veterans, there was a misunderstanding within the lists so I went to the cultural village instead of the admiral’s house. That worked out, though, as I got to go with more of the class to see more of the island. Three members of our group to the admiral’s house, so we made plans to meet later in the day to go on a hike during our free time in the afternoon.

Six of my classmates, several others from the trip, and I loaded a bus to set off sightseeing. On our way to the cultural village, we stopped at the remnants from Fort Nuestra Senora de la Soledad at a cliff overhang. It proved to be a fantastic photo op, as landscapes of ocean and island could be seen from almost every angle. We then continued on to our next destination.

We arrived at Gef Pa’go. I am not sure what any of us expected to find when we got there. The “village” had several reconstructed huts along a beach and a large pavilion where we were served a traditional Chamorro meal. I didn’t get to eat a lot, as I sat with another group of people who wanted talk; I love talking to new people but the moving of my mouth to engage in conversation also has a tendency to prevent me from eating. But I enjoyed (most) of the food. We then went on our tour around the village; we learned traditional Chamorro methods of coconut shucking and use, salt production, basket weaving, and rope making. As I walked around, what felt like a bruise on my foot started to throb and thought make something was stuck on my sandal. I sat down to examine my foot only to discover a piece of coral embedded itself into the arch of my foot. Evidently that is what I get for running into the ocean the night before. In all my excitement of wanted to experience the Pacific Ocean, I neglected to wear any footwear as I ran into the waves. Nurse Ellie helped me and I got the piece out in time to finish the tour and breeze through the gift shop. I will upload video of some of the tour later today.

Day One: Part Two
(Playing tourists with an insane amount of physical excursion)

We left the village to go back to the hotel. There we met up with the other members of our group and Ben Hayes. Ben is a graduate student from MTSU who works as Park Ranger at the War in the Pacific NHP. He helped orient the class with our trip to Guam prior to our departure. Ben knows more about the island than we did so he offered to take us on a hike; we were going to visit Mount Lamlam, a Sherman tank, and maybe some waterfalls. We got off to a later start time than anticipated, but that did not stop nor slow us down.

Mount Lamlam is the tallest point on the island of Guam and you can see just about every part of the island from its peak. We got to the base of the mountain (really just a tall hill), loaded up our packs, reapplied sunscreen, and then started for out assent. We had to go down a muddy mini-valley before we could start going up and on the way down, we had our first “casualty.” Lindsey slipped on the way down, and although she was not seriously injured, the fall shook her up and she realized she did not have proper footwear. As we reached the first of many hills leading to the top, she decided to turn around and go back and Chad decided he would go back and wait with her at the base of the mountain. Two down, eight more to go. We started climbed with a fairly quick pace. Two ROTC classmates, being the most physically fit of the group, started leading as the rest of the group started spacing out according to our fitness levels.

I am not going to lie: that climb was rough. I have been training for a 10 mile run while spending time on the stairmaster in preparation for this trip. There was no preparation for that climb. Or I possibly felt over-confident in my fitness levels. Or I was just sleep-deprived, food-deprived, and crazy.

The first hill was a little muddy and just about every person hiking up learned NOT to grab the sword grass for support the hard way. My hands are still covered with scratches and cuts from the razor-like leaves. The grasses were very tall; at times, I was in over my head (literally). The growth was so thick that I didn’t have to look for the trail, as it served more like a track to follow. If I veered off to one side or the other I wouldn’t be able to move because of the grass density. I didn’t have a choice because if I looked up, the grass would likely scratch my face. I rolled down my sleeves to prevent scratches on my arm but the grass still caught me. I also wore shorts which proved to be an idea about as smart as running into the ocean barefoot the night before. The grasses clearly were put there as a booby trap to prevent Indiana Jones from finding the golden monkey at the top of the hill. While that may be an outlandish figure of my imagination, I had to think of something to distract myself from the fact that my muscles were burning, my lungs were on fire, and the plants were mauling me alive.

The 25-minute hike lasted closer to an hour, but we made it to the top. As each of us made it to the top, we were able to breathlessly take in the fantastic view. I am sure the view would have taken my breath away if the hike hadn’t first. At the top of the mountain, Ben told us that it is technically the highest mountain in the world if measured from the bottom of the Mariana Trench. That made the victory of conquering that mound of earth taste so much sweeter. I may die a death of a thousand cuts, but I can at least say I have climbed the highest mountain in the world.

I am going to take a short break so that I may sojourn to breakfast, but I will continue with Day One: Part Three after breakfast. I am also going to try to load some videos up later today, as well.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

jet lag is fun

What do you do between 4am and 6 am, when you can't sleep and it is too early for breakfast?


 Make a movie, of course.

video

Preemptive Strike Schpreemptive Strike

Last night as we were checking into our rooms the folks who run the program reminded us it would be a few days before we adjusted to Guam time and that breakfast was at 6am. When someone piped up that 6am was too early someone said, "don't worry, you'll be awake at 4."

They were correct.

A long day with a good ending

I made it! Not that I had any doubts, but 26 hours of travel time has a tendency to wear on me (just a touch). The whole class made it, in fact, without any major incidents. I got to the airport in Nashville around 4:10am only to discover that Continental does not open its counter until 4:30am. But my being an early bird worked in my favor as I was the second person in line and within ten minutes of the counter opening, there were twenty people waiting. I met Courtney and Lindsey, two fellow classmates, in line and we chaotically trekked through security. From Nashville we flew in a sauna plane to Houston. You may not believe this, but they do make sauna planes: they tend to be the little hopper planes that someone engineered to pump warm, sticky air into. That made the Houston airport seem like heaven; we could breathe!

We only had a few minutes in the Houston airport once we made it to our gate. I think the highlight of the whole day was the iPod vending machine. No joke! Just swipe you card, type in your choice, and you could get any color iPod nano, maybe some earbuds, or just iPod cases and other accessories. Regardless of your choice, you freakin’ get an iPod from a machine! I think I am still tripping about that. From Houston we boarded our plane to Honolulu. That was only an eight-hour flight. We had a few minutes in Honolulu before we boarded our final plane to Guam. That flight was also only eight hours.

It is fun traveling with a group of people who have no idea about my dislike of germs. I am holding out, though. Let’s see how long it takes them to figure out that I am actually neurotic about a series of things (Bethany has already learned that I prefer to eat my m&ms two at a time, preferably two of the same color and Chad has learned that I love to airplane dance in my seat).

I forgot what 80 degrees with humidity feels like at nighttime. On the planes, I had been breathing so much recycled air that all I wanted to do was take a deep breath of outside air. Since we landed around sunset, I’ve only got to see limited island and beach-ness. Guam at night looks like a combination of LA, what I remember of Hawaii, and Japan: lots of neon lights and American stores to draw Japanese tourists.

When we got to the hotel we had a “Chamorro Welcome.” In fact, we had kids singing to us, folks adorning us with shell necklaces while offering us juices to our hearts content. Juggling a camera, my windbreaker, two carry-ons while trying to be gracious as I am assaulted with welcomes was a little overwhelming. But the kids put on a good show (see the video).

Plane dancing only helps so much with 18 hours of in-flight time. So we went out to the ocean that is within several yards of your hotel and swam in the moonlight. It may have been a long day, but it has been a good one.

Greetings from Guam

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

I bet Ken Burns never had to do this


My dad and Barbie would be proud. My dad for the creative (and extensive) use of duct tape and Barbie for the lovely shade of Malibu Pink. 

I am planning on doing some extensive filming during my travels in order to create a number of film projects with the footage. But my camera bag is ginormous and bulky and no good for jungle trekking. So I improvised. Mom always said little duct tape, some packing mailers, a back pack, and some ingenuity will get you far in life. Ok, ok, she didn't actually say that, but it sounded good.


Initially, I was going to just pack the camera with the bubble mailers, but after I lost two bubble packets during the extensive travel distance of 8 feet across my room, I decided I had to get serious.  I lined the mailers inside my backpack to form a car seat-looking shape, then wrapped that in the duct tape. My efforts results ended up looking like this:




Come what may, my camera is safe and snug and ready to go.

I leave for the airport in three and a half hours and will be on a flight in less than 6 hours. I still have a few minor things to take care of, but am beyond stoked. My friend who currently lives in Guam called me to take care of a few last minute details and that only fanned the flames of my excitement that I have been attempting to keep under control for the last few weeks. I am ready to go.

Preemptive Strike Against Jet-Lag

I am about to take a nap with a purpose. I love naps but usually feel a little guilty when I take them (I should be doing something, right?). But today's nap is a preemptive strike against jet-lag. I am not sleeping tonight in order to force my body 17 hours ahead to Guam time. Then I will sleep on the plane tomorrow and mentally tell my body to get over it; I don't want to waste any time once I hit the ground. Who knows when the next time will be that I get the chance to visit the Pacific?

I still have minor packing things to do (I am 4lbs under my 50lbs luggage-limit and have yet to pack my makeup...). But most of my loose ends are tied up. My room looks like a tornado breezed through here, but that is relatively normal. I am having a few classmates who are going on the trip coming over this evening to kick off the trip (with breakfast at 5pm... which is 8am in Guam). Even with these little things that need to be done, my pillow beckons me.

Will my preemptive strike work? Maybe not. But at least it will be guilt-free.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

As Per Angela's Suggestion

As per Angela’s suggestion, I will keep a blog for the next two weeks of my travels. It may have been a smart idea to blog my last two weeks' worth of travels, but you can't change the past. 

 

For those of you who don't know, I am headed to the Central Pacific, specifically Guam, Iwo Jima, and Peleliu. I am going on a faculty-led study abroad trip to a series of World War II battle sites. As it turns out, I had relatives fight (and receive injuries) on both Iwo Jima and Peleliu. I am also going with the intention of documenting this trip via video. One video project will document Middle Tennessee State University during WWII in a more didactic manner, hopefully to air on the University’s television channel at some point. The other film will document this class as it travels to and explores these sites. That is the film that I am most looking forward to.

 

I could list a variety of reasons of why I decided to go on this trip (to explore, for the adventure, because this literally is a chance of a lifetime, I'm young) and the reason would be all those things, but more. The trip technically has nothing to do with my thesis. I could argue that as a student studying cultural resource management, this trip benefits me by allowing me to see a variety of historically and culturally significant sites and learn about how they are managed, but that's not why I am going. I could also say that the trip allows me to work with film in a manner (and topic!) that I am interested in. My reason for going exceeds the adventure. More people summit Mt. Everest than Mt. Suribachi on Iwo Jima, as the island is only open to civilians one day a year. The likelihood that my children’s generation will have this opportunity is very slim. I want to see these sites for myself. Additionally, I lack the ability to say “no” when offered chances to see new places (much to the chagrin of my wallet). I live without regrets, even if it means incorporating ramen into my diet.

 

It is my intention to load videos and pictures here to share. One of my classmates will also be doing some GIS work and uploading things to Google Earth, so hopefully I will be able to connect to that as well. I should have no problem accessing internet while on Guam, but Peleliu may be another story (we shall see).

 

Excitement is hard to portray via text. I have been looking forward to this trip since last August. It is hard to believe that I will be on a plane headed for Guam in less than 48 hours. I leave Nashville at 6:00am (Tennessee time) on Friday, March 13th and arrive in Guam at 6:10pm (Guam time) on Saturday, March 14th. I should probably go pack and by “pack,” I mean figure out what is important enough to be included in my airline-allotted 50lbs of checked luggage.