From Guam to the PNW

In order to ease the difficulties of change, one should seek out the old in the new. For example, when I moved to Seattle, I tried to find comfort in the aspects of Washington that were similar to my life in Guam. After a few months, however, I would like to amend that belief; in order to ease the hardships of transitioning, one should find comfort in the improvements brought on by change.

When I tell people that I am from Guam, their immediate reaction is that I am lucky to come from a paradise surrounded by beautiful beaches and 365 days of sunshine. Sure, white sandy beaches and a year of vitamin D are amazing, but after 18 years of it, the sands become gray and coarse and the sun becomes glaring. Guam’s 70-80 percent humidity can drain the life out of someone and the tiny 212 square miles of land will soon feel like prison. Therefore, moving to Washington became a necessary change of scenery.

Although the first few months in Washington were difficult to adjust to, I soon began to enjoy how beautiful this state really is, from the still environment of the outdoors to the bustling development of city life. My appreciation of Washington started gradually. First, I was enamored with the four seasons. The array of browns, reds and yellows in the fall, the brisk rain of winter, the daylight savings time of spring and the gorgeous 70-degree summers really define the passing of time, something that 365 days of sunshine just can’t do.

Then, I fell in love with the transit system. Guam’s public transportation is designed specifically for tourists. The locals all had cars, which caused terrible congestion of roadways. Washington’s public transportation is an effective way to commute around King County. In fact, public transportation is not only beneficial to the environment, but it also made me more active and conservative of my time. If I had to travel far, I planned the day before which busses to take and when I should leave to catch the first bus. When I began driving, my experience in riding busses helped me identify roads and travel without the need for assisted navigation.

However, I try to avoid driving in downtown Seattle mainly because I enjoy touring the city. The city always has different sights and experiences. For example, during my first visit to downtown Seattle, I saw a woman having a seizure at Westlake Park. Other times, I was able to see protests or parades. There’s always something happening in the city, which can be vastly different from Guam. In addition, downtown Seattle is the perfect size. It’s a large city that is fairly simple to commute to and from. I’ve been to New York City and unlike the Big Apple, which often felt daunting and frantic, downtown Seattle is not clustered into a small location with skyscrapers. When I find that there’s nothing to do in Bellevue, I go into the city to try a new restaurant, relax at Seattle Center or to just experience the craziness.

On the other hand, Washington isn’t perfect. The rain can become dreary. The traffic is intolerable, especially when there is construction. The city can get too hectic and unsafe. The selection of Korean restaurants is appalling in King County. However, I can tolerate those flaws. One thing that made my first year in Washington terrible was the difficulty in making friends. The commuter environment at Bellevue College doesn’t exactly nurture budding relationships. In addition, I tried Meetup groups, but I realized that a lot of the groups have very specific interests such as “Singles Hiking Group,” “Couples Adventure Group” or “Backgammon Lovers.” Also, most of those groups invite people who are way older. After a year, there have been small improvements to my social life, but it’s still an area that I am working on.

Still, I miss Guam. I miss mango picking or the quick 10-minute drives to the beach. I miss the warm sun burning into my skin, the deadly hikes in the jungle and the Chamorro fiestas with red rice and barbeque that can last for days. I haven’t been back since the move, but I’ll take whatever chance I get to return. Washington is a paradise in its own way, but Guam will always be my home.