Saturday, June 29, 2013

Cetti Falls

This is an older post friends... sorry!  It was supposed to be sent 2 weeks ago... but somehow I forgot.  Oh well, you read it anyway. ;)


I see boxes in my sleep!  I've been unpacking, sorting, throwing out, and reinventing uses for various baskets and plastic tubs, almost daily now for 20 days.   Really?  Is that all?  It feels like months of unpacking!  Today Russ took the kids out of the house to the aquarium so I could set up our desk and sort through the craft items without any distractions.  It was pure bliss!  Plus I got to talk to Lori for a little while. :)

With much of our stuff unpacked it feels much more like home.   The one things left to unpack are the school books...  I've decided I'll only keep out the books we need for this year and leave the rest in boxes.  Half of my bookshelves are now my 'pantry' in the garage.  My kitchen is much smaller than the TX house so I've had to seriously downsize but loooove having less stuff!  It is such a freeing feeling.  I can see why people get caught up in being minimalists.

The last of our things arrived on Tuesday afternoon.  I thought we were making progress at clearing out boxes - but after our 2nd load arrived... well, lets just say I was quite overwhelmed.  I couldn't even get into the kitchen to open the fridge or cook that night!  TO - MUCH -  STUFF!!!

BUT - our bicycles had arrived!  Hooray!  First thing Wednesday morning we hopped on our bikes and went around the 3 mile loop here.  I hadn't seen it yet and thought, "Hmph, 3 miles.  That's nothing!"  Well!  When 3 miles consist of steep hills it ends up being a pretty great bike ride.  Levi had a hard time with the hills but slowly made it.  On the last hill Russ and I found a HUGE garden.  It's probably for the restaurants in the Leo Palace hotel.  We stopped and checked it out... found hot peppers, okra, baby tomatoes, purple eggplant, banana trees, cucumbers, and squash.  It's encouraging to know we can grow all that here.  I'll be starting green peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, parsley, and basil soon.  Maybe even onions - many of the fixin's for a greek salad.  Green peppers are nearly $3/pepper here!

After our bike ride our friends, the Ceserani's, called to invite us to do some boonie stompin'.  They choose a hike from The Best Tracks on Guam book.  They have a 3 year old daughter, so Scott - the dad, wanted to be sure it wouldn't be too difficult for her.  He choose Cetti Falls, which is a series of seven falls that drop a total of 350 feet.  We had to hike 500 ft down along the bare ridge, marked by big hills of rock and dirt...

...then through another decent in the jungle using a rope to keep you from slipping down the soft, slippery mud.  I fell and grabbed onto some sword grass to stop myself... OUCH!  Sword grass gives nasty paper cuts.  But my knight in shining armor ran to my aid and poured our precious drinking water on it to clean out the mud. :)

About halfway down we could see the first 4 falls.  Another 250 feet to go... but now getting in more jungle like shrubs.

About an hour after starting out we got to the ravine forest where we followed the river upstream along the bank, walking in the water carefully steeping on mossy rocks and over various branches.

Well, the hike was NOT for a 3 year old walking alone.  It was treacherous at times even for her dad carrying her.  Some places in the descent required sliding down the rock on your 'bobo' (as Lori V. would say) and other times where it's so narrow and steep you sorta run/shuffle without stopping and then use a curve in the trail to slow down.  I wish I'd had a video of Scott and Shane on the descent - I'm sure we could have submitted it to America's Funniest Home Video and won! 

Did you know the mosquitoes in Gaum are 'noseums,' and live in shady river areas?  I happened to grab the bug spray as a last minute thought on our way out the door and packed it in my hiking pouch.  Thank goodness I had it!!!  The kids got to the river 10 minutes before us... and had at least 10-20 bites each!  By the end of the hike, between 2 families, we used up the entire can!  I bought 4 cans of bug spray in TX and brought it here.  Next time I'm on the mainland I will bring a suitcase of bug spray back!  

Levi didn't have any trouble though - he led the pack!  He's like a spring gazelle descending the rocking hills.  Of course the girls did great too.  On the way back up Jessica and I tag teamed getting Shane up the rocky hill.  It ended up being a really good workout!

Cetti Falls was tall and narrow!  We had a picnic at the bottom of the 7th fall.  The swimming hole was not nearly as inviting to me as Sigua Falls.  I got in and waded just because it's a pool at the base of a waterfall... and that's what you SHOULD do... right?!  The day was overcast so I didn't feel too hot either - that makes a big difference.  Along the right wall of the fall a rope was attached to ascend up the rocky, vertical cliff.  When the adults finally arrived Jessica and Katlyn were at the top of the falls!  I was not impressed with that judgement call.  One slip and... well, we won't talk about that.  They did make it back down safely.  Of course the dads couldn't be showed up!  So both Russ and Scott went up the rope.  They were gone for about 15 minutes.  Apparently they climbed the next falls too!  Once they made it safely down Russ admitted it was foolish to climb up - and especially scary on the way down.  Russ has a pretty good rope burn on his right arm to remind him of the trip.  He said it looks worse than it feels.

Sorry, I didn't take any pictures at the falls.  I was too worried about my family climbing up the cliff and  thinking of all the terrible things that would happen if they slipped...

Once again, this hike was unlike any of the others we've taken.  Different terrain.  It was quite enjoyable and challenging at times.  There are 44 hikes in the book.  I'm hoping to hike them all before we move back to the mainland.  I'm sure I'll do some more than once... but not this one.  One time was enough.  :)  But Levi did say this was his favorite hike so far...

What was supposed to be a morning hike ended up taking until 3 pm.  We stopped to refill our water jugs on the way home and went straight to the pool 6 houses down to clean off the red dirt.  No point in making our washing machines work harder than necessary!  LOL!   Stella Ceserani brought a blender and made some margaritas to enjoy by the pool.  What was supposed to be a day unpacking ended up being a day of fun.  I must admit though, I was asleep at 8 pm that night.  Margarita's in the hot sun after a day hiking relaxed me more than I thought!  Staying up until 1 and 2 am the nights before probably had something to do with it as well.  Regardless, I needed that break.  I'm learning that life is much more relaxed on this island and you just go with the flow.  So I'll hike when we have the chance - every time!  :)

I'm feeling pretty spoiled living here for 5 weeks and already having made some friends, living close enough to walk to 3 swimming pools any time of day, and having all these great hikes to explore.  Oh, and did I mention having Russ home every day?  That has been really nice too!  He's flown once... last month.  I know it won't always be this way but I'm enjoying every minute of it to remember later when he's working more.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Goodbye Westin Hotel!

32 nights in a hotel.  That's a record I plan to never break!  LOL!

We left on Monday to sleep in our house, but had the hotel 'technically' until Saturday.  We would have cancelled it sooner but we were getting major 'points' that add up to free nights in hotels through a special program they have.  According to the airline and the contract we had the hotel until Saturday.

So... on Saturday we packed up our snorkels and invited our friends to join us for one last frolic in the Westin pool.

When you are a guest at the Westin you can use the pool and facilities, otherwise you're limited to the beach.  They usually give you an arm band to keep the resort 'exclusive.'   But actually, I think if you have white skin they won't question you.  Or that's what I've been told anyway.

High tide was 11 am so we arrived at 10.  The reef in front of the hotel is incredible! I love, love, LOVE snorkeling there!  By the time everyone arrived and we got all the kids sun blocked and fitted with their gear it was closer to 11:30.   5 minutes into the ocean the youngest kids (ages 9 and under) had enough and decided to play on the beach with Mindy and her 2 youngest girls, and Levi too.  By this time the dads and older kids had gone out to the reef.  Hazel, who is Mindy's 5 year old was the only one to go with the big kids.  I think she held Jessica's hand the entire time!  I waited for Stella while she took her 3 year old back to the beach.  (Waiting there reminded me of living in a cold climate where it takes 15 minutes to dress the kids in a snow suit, then you go out for 10 minutes and they're already cold, so you go back in and peel off all the layers.  LOL!)

Stella brought her friend Linda, who is also from Indonesia.  The 3 of us finally headed out to the reef.  The rest of the group was no longer in site.  Another 5 minutes into the swim I was a good 10 feet ahead of Stella and Linda.  They were marveling at the little bits of coral and fish so they were moving pretty slow.   Suddenly I heard Stella yell for me, "Chedyl (that's how my name sounds with an Indonesian accent), Chedyl HELP me!"  Somehow I heard her even though my face was in the water and I looked back to see what the problem was.  Linda was splashing around looking pretty panicked... I thought to myself, "Is she OK?  Could she be drowning?  How good can she swim?"  So I swam back as quickly as I could.  Flippers make a HUGE difference in speed when snorkeling and swimming - and fortunately I have really good ones (thanks to my wonderful husband).  The ladies didn't have any.

Yes - Linda was drowning!  Stella pushed away from her because she was being pushed under and starting to cough.

Last week, I had just watched a video on You Tube on what it looks like when someone is drowning.  It's not what you'd think.  They also showed a person being rescued.  I had taken life guard classes back in high school so the video made me think of how I'd handle that situation should it ever happen.  I'm so glad I saw that... coincidence... or fate?    

So when I got to Linda, God gave me just the right words to calm her.  I wrapped my arm under her arms and across her chest to keep her face above the water, and had her lay on her back.  I swam holding her up until we got to shallower water.   It's one of the hardest, most physically exerting things I've ever done.  I remember thinking she shouldn't feel so heavy in the salt water... but I guess it's different when your body and mind are panicked.  My legs burned (even after all those Fit Yummy Mummy squats!) and even as I tried not to breath so hard (so I wouldn't get so tired) my heart felt like it was pounding out of my chest!  I am so thankful for those flippers!

When we were finally chest deep I stopped.  Linda wrapped herself around me and cried, and thanked me over and over.  She told me later that when I reached her and spoke to her I was so calm that she immediately felt calmer and knew she would be OK.  I thank God that I was there - and so was HE - giving me the strength and wisdom that I needed.  

The next morning these were 2 verses from my devotions.

"Only the Lord can ensure that we survive the unthinkable, thrive in the mundane, and soar in the good times.  Let's call upon, let's wait upon, let's depend upon the Lord!"  
Jesus Calling

"He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength."
Isaiah 40:29

The rest of the day went just great!  I did make it out to the reef after all.  Then we enjoyed lunch by the pool and watched the kids jump off the pool waterfall (which is NOT meant for jumping off of so eventually they did get in trouble for it!  But the dad's gave them permission :/ ).  Good think we were checking out that afternoon!  Ha ha ha!

Oh,  and Linda had brought Indonesian soup!  She made me a bowl for lunch.  It's  deeeelish!  She's going to teach me how to make it!  Then I'll make it for y'all!

Monday, June 17, 2013

14 years ago...

June 10, 1999  14 years ago...

Russ and I were greatly anticipating the birth of our first child.  I was quite certain it would be a boy. The maternity ward at the Alaska Regional Hospital was very comfortable and Russ had been wheeling me around in a wheel chair since I was supposed to be resting.  It was 2 weeks before my due date but my amniotic fluid was alarmingly low (which is just typical for me as I've learned), but at the time we were a little concerned.  Following doctors orders I was drinking TONS of water, every 1/2 hour during the day and every 2 hours during the night for the past 2 days!  I was ready to have this baby and get a little more sleep (no more drinking water every 2 hours right?).  HA HA HA!  More sleep... with a new born... who wasn't really ready to be born yet!  The joke was on me!

After 13 hours of labor our sweet baby girl was born!  We had 2 or 3 boys names in mind and only 1 girls name.   I no longer remember the boys names, but I do remember picking Jessica's name in a baby book at Barnes & Nobels.  

Jessica means "Gracious gift from God," and in Hebrew her name means "Rich.  God beholds."

How true those statements are!  Her eyes, smile, and whole attitude shines with joy and peace.  I do consider her a gracious gift from God and am thankful for her everyday!

14 years ago... I never would have dreamed that we'd move 3 times before her 14th birthday and be celebrating it on a tiny island in the Pacific Ocean.  Every place we've lived I look back and can see God's hand in it - see Him molding us, stretching us, working in and through us.  His plans truly are greater than we can imagine!

So for Jessica's birthday she wanted to sleep in our new home rather than the Westin hotel like we had been for previous 32 nights.  Better give the birthday girls what she wants right?  So we moved out of the Westin.  

Earlier that morning she and I woke up before everyone else and took a nice walk on the beach.  Then, after jumping on the bed to wake up Russ, we enjoyed the incredible breakfast buffet in the hotel... pancakes, waffles, cereals, oatmeal, yogurt, fresh fruits, scrambled and/or fried eggs, omelet station, bacon, sausage, fried rice, hash browns, various cheeses, crackers, miso soup, gyozas and other japanese food, several freshly squeezed juices, carrot juice, and a salad station.  Whew!  I don't think I missed anything... oh wait!  I did!  An ice cream station!  (And for those of you who are thinking it - No.  I did NOT have a salad for breakfast!  I had waffles and japanese food instead.  :)  I've actually "fallen off the wagon" so to speak as far as eating veggies at every meal.  You ladies back home would be proud!)

The first thing I cooked in my new kitchen was an angel food cake for Strawberry Shortcake.  I asked Jessica what kind of cake she wanted and her reply was, "Surprise me."  Strawberries were on sale!  Only $4.99 for a small box!  LOL!

We celebrated by swimming at the hotel pool that has a water slide with the Cesearani's, Wilson's, and 2 of the Schomer's kids from next door.  It was a really nice way to spend her birthday!

Our new friends & neighbors (left - right starting the in the back row):
Jessica, Mindy & David Wilson, Russell the muscle, Scott Cesserani, Hayden W.(4 yrs), Hazel W.(5 1/2 yrs), Riley C. (9 yrs) holding Ivy W. (22 months), Delaney C. (14 yrs), Katlyn, Shane C.(3 yrs), Levi, and Hope S.(8 yrs).  Nick S. (12 yrs) is missing from the picture.

All the men fly for United!  LOL!  I've never lived in a place where so many ladies can relate to my schedule.  It's really a neat thing!  Makes us like a little family.  :)

I'm quite certain everyone enjoyed the cake.  You can always tell when it gets really quiet.  :)

Hadyn is soooo cute!  Her little voice could melt butter!

I wonder where we'll be 14 years from now?

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

It's been 3 weeks...

The past 3 weeks have gone by quickly.   The fact that Guam is our new home is starting to feel a little more like reality - as much as it can living in a hotel.  We've been spending more time out at Leo Palace at our house meeting people.  Each time we're out there I'm more excited to be there permanently!  The neighbors we share the drive way with had us over for burgers on Friday night and another family invited us over for dinner after playing frisbee last Wednesday night.  There was a larger group with more people to meet that night and we had a great time.  They are Scott and Stella.  Scott is from Montana and flies for United and Stella is from Indonesia.  They have 3 beautiful daughters, Delaney (14), Riley (9), and Shane (3).  The girls seem very sweet and love to play games.  I look forward to getting to know them better.

We had a nice lunch with a family we met at a huge Baptist church who have 9 children and have home schooled them all! They were a joy to be with.  In both the parents and the kids you could see Christ's light shine bright.  What a nice family to spend the afternoon with.  They all left the island last week to go back to the mainland for the summer.  It seems many families do that here.  That will be a blessing for us!  It's much easier to get school done when we have less socializing to do.  LOL!

Last Monday we hiked to Pagot Cave with a group of about 6 families.  They all had children, mostly Levi's age and under.  Pagot Cave is a cool hike!  Most of the trail is shaded and you desend about 400 feet walking down a rocky step path where some places had a rope railing. Once we reached the cave entrance Russ and Matt went in ahead with the kids and lit tea light candles all over the place.  It was magical!  Once you descend into the cave you walk through water up to your knees and then move through a narrow tunnel for about 10 feet, which opens to a huge pool that has rock to get up on and sit on, or you can swim in the cool refreshing water.  A water camera is a definite plus here - along with cheap lite tennis shoes that can get wet and be washed several times!

After playing in the cave for a while we retraced out steps out and hiked to the top of the hill to a well known cliff jumping spot.  The views were once again breathtaking!  The water is so blue looking down at it.  But the waves crashing against the rock scare me.  There was a spot that was calmer where you jump into but nearby the water swished around like a washing machine and to get out you have to climb up the side of a cliff which was starting to get pounded by waves.  One of the ladies was going to jump... but decided to do it another time.  WHEW!  I was thankful because the girls wanted to jump if she did.  I'm just not that comfortable here with the water yet to cliff jump there.

 Our friend Matt joined us.  Russ and Matt used to fly together in Alaska and now both live here!  What a small world!  Matt took us tubing behind his jet ski about a week ago.

Jessica and Katlyn really enjoyed meeting these girls... 
but they move in a week back to the mainland for good.  

Just about back at the car!  Good thing... we are hungry, sweaty, and out of water.

Other than school (which seems to go from 9:30-1 pm) the days have passed by with us getting phones that work, buying some groceries for easy quick meals in the hotel, learning where places are like the post office, and finding out where to buy water.  Everyone seems to have the 5 gallon bottles of water that you flip onto a water cooler.  We've been told not only to drink that water, but also to cook with it.  The first week we bought water bottles for drinking in the hotel and hiking - but now we have a 5 gallon jug in our hotel room and at our house.

The girls and I attended a free class at the hospital this past Saturday.  It was to learn "Hands Only Adult CPR."  I know I've learned CPR and First Aid many, many years ago but couldn't remember the details.  The class was 1 hour long and very informative.  They started it out with this crazy You Tube video which promotes giving CPR at the same speed as the "Staying Alive" song!  That little piece of crazy information will stay in my head forever!  LOL!  We hope to take the actual certification class soon for both CPR and first aid.  With all the small children in our new neighbourhood, we've already had a couple families express interest in having the girls babysit.  I think it will be very helpful to have that knowledge tucked away in the girls heads.

We visited Island Hope Church today.  It's a four-square church, which I don't know much about other than my niece attended one for 10 months in Los Angeles when she went to the Movement there.  I visited it with Piri and my sister Maggie when we visited Megan in L.A. 2 years ago, and really liked it.  The way they work withing their body of believers and reach out to the community around them is just how I'd pictured the church described in the book of Acts.  This church met on the 2nd floor of a strip mall and was the size of a small community center.  It was full with folks standing in the back today but I heard there are usually about 70 people there.  One thing that impressed me was the praise group - it was made up of mix of high school age boys and girls... and apparently the Jr. high kids led worship the week before.  It was really good!  They had a piano, drums, an electric and a regular guitar.  It felt a little like life group (with a much larger group).  The kids all liked this church the most out of the 3 we've visited... and they haven't even spoken to another child their age there.  The last 4 years in Texas and our wonderful life group has definitely changed us and grown us closer to the Lord than we had been before.

There are 4 more churches I'd like to visit but that'll have to wait an extra week now.  We were invited to snorkel at Gab Gab Beach with one of the families next week after church so we'll go back once more at least.  Gab Gab Beach is on Anderson Airforce Base so we can't go without an invitation and being signed in.  I've heard it's one of the most beautiful beaches on the island and the snorkeling is supposed to be amazing.  This family said they swim out past the reef and 'catch the fin' of a nurse shark and take a ride!  So maybe we'll swim with sharks next week!  LOL!  I'd better look up nurse sharks before then... just make sure they don't prefer human flesh for snacks!

Here are a couple more hiking pictures from the past couple weeks.  These were taken at Sigua Falls just 45 minutes from out house... practically in our 'backyard.' :D

We did this hike on a Thursday after buying hats with wide brims for everyone to protect our faces and necks from the sun.  Well... as we hiked... and stopped and swam... and searched for fresh water shrimp... and followed a gurgling stream winding through the jungle above the waterfall... and swam some more... and finally headed back after 2 hours of playing in the jungle... we realized Levi did NOT have his hat on anymore!
Soooo, 2 days later we did the same hike with some friends and retraced our steps.  I kept telling Levi that we were not going to find it and we should turn back but he insisted "It's just around this bend Mom... I remember where I put it."  

Lo and behold!  IT WAS THERE!!!  Exactly where he left it!  Which was on the rock of the middle picture above.  That boy amazes me every time with his memory!  I'm so glad he found it. :)