The following is a guest post from one of my readers stationed in Guam. She is also one of the military families that receives your expired coupons via the Coupons for Troops program.
The Military Over-Seas Life: An Adventure
We are currently on our second over-seas tour. Our first was in the 1990’s to Yokota Air Base outside of Tokyo, Japan in which we enjoyed enormously and wished it lasted longer than two years. When the possibility of us moving to Guam came up, I was at first hesitant. I didn’t know what to pray for. While my husband was ready for a new job and location, the kids and I were very settled and content with our life in Waldorf, MD. By the time the official word came down that we were indeed moving, God had prepared our hearts and we were ready to live a new adventure.
An adventure was indeed what was in store for us here in Guam. The first part of the adventure was just getting to Guam. It took over 24 hours to get from Washington, DC to Guam – including one 13 hour flight from New York to Tokyo. As you can imagine, keeping three children entertained for that long was an adventure in itself. When we arrived in Guam, it was dark and so we were unable to see the beautiful views, but we rectified that the next day. On our first full day in Guam we were totally blown away with the beauty that is all around. It’s very green here due to Guam’s average of 90 inches of rain a year – double what DC gets. There are probably tens of thousands palm trees. They are literally everywhere.
And then the ocean itself. The views are just breath-taking. We try to make it a point to look and enjoy these views every few days if not every day. We know we are only here for a short three years, and then we’ll be back to shoveling snow in January. We will miss the beauty and the year-around summer weather.
But living in Guam is not all beaches and suntans. We miss family dearly. We cry at the events we miss – the birthdays….the holidays….our oldest niece saying her marriage vows. Blogs, emails, and Facebook all help with the distance. And of course, the trips home. Home for our family is in Mississippi and Louisiana. We have been able to “hop” home for the last two summers for long visits.
“Hopping” is a unique military activity. The best part of hopping is that it’s free. The worst part of hopping is that there is no guarantee that you will end up where you want to go. “Space Available Passengers” are allowed on military cargo planes if the crews agree and it does not interfere with the mission. You have to be prepared to pay for commercial flights is you get stuck somewhere. This past summer when I hopped back to Guam with my three children we ended up spending the night at the terminal at Hickam AFB when our flight was cancelled at ten-thirty at night – way too late to call a friend to come and get me! And there was a chance that the flight or another flight would leave at any time. Sometimes it is just best to stay at the terminal to sleep on top of the suitcases.
Other adventures we have had living in Guam is the ability to travel to places that would be too expensive for us to travel from the States. Since we have been here we have been able to visit Cairns, Australia, the Islands of Palau and Saipan, and to Tokyo to see where our oldest was born. We currently plan to spend Thanksgiving in Singapore and Spring Break at the Great Wall of China. We would have never have done these trips from the mainland.
But day-to-day life in Guam is an adventure as well. There are several pristine beaches, incredible snorkeling and scuba-diving available, and lots of jungle to do a “boonie stomp” (aka hiking). It’s incredible to be on the beach within minutes of leaving your house any time of the year.
Shopping is also an adventure….but not necessarily a positive one on some days. One day it took me going to seven different stores to find a small battery for my car remote-control. Then I paid four times what I would have at Wal-Mart. I have learned to go to Ross and Macy’s when they open before all the Asian tourist arrive to shop. But I do get to use expired coupons six months past the date at the stores on base. At most overseas bases you get an APO box for your address, but since Guam is a US territory, we do not. Our address and phone number are just like any other US address or phone number, but many stores refuse to ship here and charge extra to call here.
But, it is all worth it. The sense of community and camaraderie I have found at our base in Guam is so much stronger than the bases we have lived at on the mainland. Also, the sheer adventure of learning about a new culture is a gift I feel very fortunate to give my children.
What about you? Have you been stationed overseas? Did you love it or want to leave it?