The Iowa Hawaii man

I’ll never be the same.

This year my routine was bound and crumpled into a little ball so that it could be tossed around the world in a forever long game of “don’t touch the floor.”  I love my life that way, but I now know a new level of exhaustion and a new level of lost-ness that I can’t un-know.

Or at least I hope I can’t un-know it, because it’s given me perspective that I don’t want to lose.  Returning to a place of familiarity is powerful I know, and can sometimes erase a great number of forward-motions, or at least water them down a bit.  Who hasn’t reverted to their old ways, even just a bit, when they return to old places.

Guam is not “an old place.”  I’ve never been here before and frankly, know very little about it.  But, it’s the most American feeling place I’ve been in six months.  Walking out of the airport into a highway-scribbled landscape with all the businesses, chain-restaurants, and logos of America tossed around the otherwise beautiful scenery gave me a strange sense of familiarity.  I had to admit, that part of me was glad to see something that my brain brands as “normal.”  There were no funny-eyed cartoons and the McDonalds where we snagged internet had a dollar menu instead of a hundred-twenty Yen menu.  Of course, another part of me paniced a bit to think that the most exotic parts of our travel are behind us.  Am I ready for this?  Am I ready for all the wonderful oddities to be over?  I am a fickle-minded person, so of course each feeling comes as a double.  Gladness for familiarity and Sadness to see something coming to an end.

Drew and I must have looked pretty wiped out, collapsed in trash-like heaps on the sticky, diner-styled chairs of the McDonalds, because a man with a very American sounding voice came around the corner saying, “So what’s up?”  His curiosity however seemed to say, “Are you guys lost?”

We put our internet-searching to a rest, and gave this man our attention.  We chatted for a bit.  He was a Iowa-native, now living in Hawaii and visiting Guam for business.  The conversation was brief and not entirely smooth or natural.  Awkward pauses.  Our obvious exhaustion, having just finished a stretch of airport nights.  But when the conversation seemed finished, the man suggested that we let him take us to a strip of budget hotels he knew of on the way to his hotel: the Hilton.  It seemed as thought he man was trying to play down his kind offer.  “Well, I’m leaving now.  So…if you want a ride.  Just sayin’.”  Perhaps he didn’t want us to feel like we were putting him out.  Once in his car, he gave us a stack of coupons, also in this intentionally casual way.  It turns out he sells coupon packets to schools for their fundraisers.  He gave us the coupon packet with no mention of its actual price, pointing out the deals we may find useful.  The little packet looked exactly like the coupon booklets my school used to sell to raise money for choir trips and baseball uniforms.

When the man dropped us off at the beginning of the budget hotels, we thanked him.  “This is really really nice of you,” Drew said.

“Na.  Not really,” the man said.

As it turns out, we had hit Guam during Japan’s Golden Week, a Japanese holiday that brings loads of Japanese tourists to Guam and fills up the hotels.  Unfortunately, the budget hotels were full, and our little hopeful encounter with this kind stranger was followed by a few more hours of walking and bargain-hunting.

Still, I was really impressed by that Iowa-Hawaii man’s attitude.

“Na.” he said, as though kindness is something we owe one another.


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