Hawaii and Guam

Oahu, Hawaii and Guam are both small islands in the Pacific. They are both part of the United States. But the similarities end there.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe most touristy part of Oahu is the ritzy quarter of Waikiki. Being a tourist in Waikiki is not unlike being a tourist in New York City — high-rises, expensive food, designer stores and crowds. Just add surfboards!

Phone and internet connectivity in Oahu is not a problem. In fact, it is a lot better than many rural parts of mainland U.S. If you treat your travels as a way to stretch your psychological boundaries, Hawaii is not the place to start.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHowever, there are plenty of physical boundaries to be stretched, if you are a surfer. I got to watch, in person, the kind of surfing I have seen before only in movies. The experience was much like watching Cirque du Soleil – an exquisite combination of danger and grace where the performer could pay the ultimate price for the slightest mistake. Pushing the limits of human ability. Just watching is a pulse-quickening experience.
There appear to be as many Japanese as American tourists in Oahu. Which makes sense, given that Hawaii roughly equidistant from Japan and North America. But I wonder if anyone 50 or 60 years ago would have imagined American and Japanese tourists ogling the Pearl Harbor memorial together.
IMG_0563 copyGuam is not a place for tourists of any nationality. It is rough around the edges, with poorly maintained roads, too many cars (all battered and worn), and the forbidding exteriors of the military bases. Most people visiting are relatives of the military personnel stationed there.
We were skimping on hotel costs, and consequently, my first impression was far from positive. We arrived late at night to a hotel on a dark street, with worn and stained carpeting, and a kind of musty odor that made me wonder where the corpse was hidden.But Guam is a place that grows on you. It is an odd mixture of World War II remnants, and tropical island. We did some lovely snorkeling here, but also spent an eye-opening afternoon at the Pacific war museum. We followed overgrown jungle trails, surrounded by clouds of butterflies, to ruined bunkers and rusted guns, and sipped beachside cocktails at broken down bars.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Guam serves as America’s biggest military base in the Pacific. The United States, however, does not do fairly by Guam (or its other territories). The people of Guam cannot vote in presidential elections. They do have a representative in Congress who does not have a vote (very representative!). So, they are American citizens paying taxes without a vote… isn’t that what USA was founded to fight?
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