Bota


Today was Guam’s preliminary election. Voting here sometimes really depresses me, but I maintain that it’s important to participate in the process. I was happy to cast a vote for a couple candidates I really believe in and to answer questions my kid had about decolonization. I wanted to post an entry because I really love that picture of låhi hu with the sign. 😊 

Professora Fino Ingles

(In my English classroom, we have a CHamoru word of the day list that we contribute to throughout the semester.  Other CHamoru English Professors in my department make use of it, too.  Students have fun with it and like learning new words, but sometimes, introducing a new word is so fun it makes us wish we could spend the whole hour doing it.)

 

Wish I caught glotas like I catch commas,

That I could red pen the shit out of that um-infix

Wish we didn’t have to spend this hour talking latin roots,

That I could wax on about our ROOT(s)…words.

Gupu…gumupu.

I wanna call out reduplication real quick, like I do run-ons.

Malalagu.

I want to look it up from Dungca and tell Webster to peace out.

Because who cares if this is the British or American form when all we really wanna know is how Luta says it?

Why can’t we spend the day debating whether we’re maolek or mauleg?

Why am I teaching a language so bastardized, so weak, that a single sentence needs to borrow from four different countries,

When we have tongues so powerful they change whole words, cutting them apart, interrupting and disturbing them, shaking the hell out of them until they are uniquely OURS.

              SINEXY

We steal vowels and replace them, so our melody stays fierce.

  I Fleres

We dress up our A’s with lonnats, Gave our N’s tildes and g’s, making three

because a simple N could not contain us, and we

tricked out our “C”

because one capital letter wasn’t even enough to announce us.

          CHamoru.

Maila Tatte

I wrote this after talking to a homesick relative, struggling with being away. 

I don’t like the way you “mi familia” i familia mu.

The way you “tortilla” your titiyas.

Maila tatte, mangaffa 

I’m depressed when your southern is more Tennessee than Talofofo. 

When you tag more Kyles than Kikos.

Maila tatte, mangaffa

Our women didn’t fling themselves pregnant over Northern cliffs for you to raise a baby that calls itself Spanish.

Maila tatte, mangaffa

Your aunties didn’t lie still under slant eyed men for you to be exoticized by another flag.

Maila tatte, mangaffa

Your nåna did not go hungry in a concentration camp for you to starve yourself sexy.

Maila tatte, mangaffa

Fu’una did not scatter her brother across our waters for you to live so far away.

Maila tatte, mangaffa

Little Pacific Babies

Today is my son’s first day of public school (kinder).  Needless to say, sending him involved lots of emotions.  I ended up jotting down a quick poem thinking of him (and all the little Chamoru babies that started their first year of school today) during my break.  Wishing all your children a wonderful first day of school.❤

 

Little Pacific babies.
Sons and daughters of blue,
Carrying the weight of stolen languages.. and crayons
In backpacks sent from
Ninas living in the states
Cousins who can get on base

Little Pacific babies.
Sons and daughters of blue,
Waiting for federally approved lunch intended to
Correct your mama’s breakfast fried rice.
Prevent your nanan biha’s cancer.

Little Pacific babies.
Sons and daughters of blue,
Learning about four seasons, but only seeing two.
Chickens clucking outside of classrooms lined with
mold
sakati
and “No Chewing Beetlenut” signs.

Little Pacific babies,
Sons and daughters of blue
Waiting for busses by Korean stores
Sitting on YOUR side of the cafeteria
Filipino Side
Chuukese Side
Chamoru Side

Going to school on the outside. Reading about the inside.

Little Pacific babies,
Sons and daughters of blue
Don’t let them educate the native out of you.

Mini Maga’håga

I welcomed a new child into my home this summer, a baby girl. My heart exploded with the triumph of bearing a female child. I allowed pictures in my delivery room and rushed to announce that I had done it. I made a girl! My father says girls keep the family together. When too many boys made their way into our family, there were worried whispers of how much we “needed” a girl. “Someone” needed to try and give our family a girl. My grandmother says girls are more resilient, less shaken by criticism. “You can be harder on a girl, because she can take it.” My mother says girls can be depended upon. “You have a girl now, Desiree. You will be okay when you get old.” My uncles say girls are smarter, better with managing things. They say girls are hardworking. Friends of the family point out that she will carry on the work of her great grandmother…and her grandmother…and her mother. “You have been blessed,” they tell me. My grandfather used to say they would make sure traditions are kept and money is saved. “The truth is girls are better with finances.” My aunts say our girls will become the women who will fix family cracks; they will keep the men in line, remind them to be honest. My cousins say they are simply…more fun.

 

When I brought her home, relatives and friends stopped by, one by one, filling her closet with clothes and leaving baby supplies in our garage. They tell me she will rule over my boy. “The sisters usually do,” my dad says. They click their tongues and say they can “tell” she will be the boss. My friends tell me to make sure I pass my property to her for distribution when I die. They remind me what happens to families that have left division of land to men. Some of them encourage me to try again. “It’s good to have more than one girl.” Already jealous, friends raise their hands in competition. “Who will be her nina?”

 

My son runs to her crib at each whimper, eager to comfort her. The slightest insult against her enrages him to tears. I watch as he puts toys back on the shelf at stores to make sure she will get something. He is offended when you do not confirm that she is strong…and beautiful. She is loved and celebrated with an intensity I cannot explain to friends that hail from afar. For them, girls are difficult.  Girls are expensive.  They tell me girls are delicate and emotional.  They say a girl will bring stress. Girls need taking care of where they are from.

Some say we have lost our traditions, that our matrilineal ways have been buried by Spain…by Japan…by America. But when I look at her, my mini maga’håga, I don’t know…

 

We are still here.

Culture Vulture

Culture Vulture.
Circling high above the sick body of my history.
Waiting to nibble my flesh.
Food to fatten a
Graduate thesis.
Law school project.
Conference presentation.
Dissertation.
Narrowly read article.
Already said type of shit my people already know and are tired of explaining over and over again for your….
Super important research.
groundbreaking article.
One of a kind work that has been done only twenty times before.
You come every few months
when the smell of our ailment is thickest
when it’s stinking up the air
hungry, and wanting to feed off someone already thin.
Culture. Vulture.
The tastiest parts of me:
my stolen land.
my grandmother’s oppression.
my father’s colonization.
You smack your lips when I,
wipe away tears
search for my native words
When I mourn my own death.
I have no time to feed you.
I am dying, sick…
You already know this.
You can tell because you have picked up my scent.
You’ve flown miles to swoop over my remains.
I cannot feed you.
I am busy dying.
My children must learn their language,
know where åmot grows
trace their family names
Learn to respond when told they’re not here.
My family must grow their food.
My elders must protect their stories.
We have no time to help you,
Get cited.
Be Reviewed.
Share your article.
Promote your film.
Fact check your story.
Write your study guide.
Ask our library to order your shit.
Culture. Vulture.
You cannot “pick my brain”
“help me tell my story”
“have a heart to heart”
I have work to do.
My children are waiting.

Bahåki Day

March is Mes Chamoru; it’s a month I have always enjoyed. When I think of Mes Chamoru at my village high school, I think of the kids building huts, amazing food, fun performances, and in Yigo… boys bringing their roosters to the quad. The truth is that every month on Guam should be Mes Chamoru, but like most minorities navigating their way through a Westernized society, we have formally been given a month by the government to look at our history, stories, and culture as equally legitimate to the White narrative. One month, then please move on and get back in line.

Anyway, since my child has begun school, I’ve found myself thinking about ways Mes Chamoru or Simanan Chamoru are recognized within certain schools. Yesterday, I got the schedule of activities and was a little confused to see children were being told to wear “Hawaiian print” for two days out of the week. I read it and asked a mom near me if it was Simanan Hawaiian or Simanan Chamoru. Another day was designated as “lei” day (another Hawaiian word of origin and custom). Then, I looked lower on the schedule and was grossed out to see that there was bahåki day. For those of you reading this who are not from Guam, bahåki means “house or ranch clothes.”

Bahåki is the shitty outfit you put on while cleaning the house, working outside, or not going anywhere special. People from all over the world wear it. Shitty looking clothes for the house are truly universal. Some people associate wearing bahåki outside of the house with being poor, struggling, or from a family that doesn’t take pride in their appearance. House clothes are not necessarily “Chamoru culture.” What, white people don’t dress down when at home doing chores? From what I saw attending school in the states, the stateside kids often wore bahåki to class, rolling in with messy hair and pajamas. That was something kids from the Marianas simply didn’t do (and often talked about in the dorms at night).

Like most people in other places, Chamorus change out of their house clothes before going somewhere. My parents always warned me about changing before leaving, so as not to look “patgon ma’yute.” Bahåki day didn’t sit well with me and to be honest, I’m still searching for the words to clearly articulate why. I’m not sure I understand the message it sends. When I brought it up to other mom friends, they jokingly said “maybe your son’s school thinks looking poor and untaken care of is part of Chamoru culture.”  Another mother told me that her son was sent home last Chamoru week for wearing a new t-shirt with a picture of a Chamoru hut and chief on it. She allowed her son to wear it because she felt the image on the shirt her son liked was more authentic to Chamoru culture than a “Hawaiian shirt.” Her boy was pulled aside and made to call his parents. Apparently, at his school, you had to look more Hawaiian to participate in Chamoru week. Another mom admitted that she was confused about all the military marching and US military presence at her child’s Mes Chamoru activities. Another niece of mine was instructed to bring lumpia to her class Chamoru spread instead of gollai åpan lemmai (because the teacher felt people would prefer the lumpia, which is truly not Chamoru). Her mom was ticked off, but went out and bought the Filipino dish so her daughter wouldn’t feel embarrassed or looked down on by the teacher. When she brought it up to the teacher, the teacher later agreed that it was strange, but that she had never thought about WHY we are including these things. The teacher admitted that in the future, gollai åpan lemmai would be a better choice than lumpia for Chamoru week’s table.

Maybe we should start looking and asking why more often. When I brought up bahåki day to my father, asking his thoughts, he also found himself reaching for a plausible explanation, but each possible answer came out kind of ugly, alluding to ugly stereotypes about Chamorus or traumatic war memories. I’m not saying my kid does not wear bahåki. One look at my instagram, and you will see that he wears it often (mostly because he’s outside playing with his cousins in red dirt so much); but he puts on those clothes AFTER school. I’m not seeing how looking like you don’t take pride in your appearance is part of our culture. I’m not excited about hula performances, leis, and shirts with Hawaiian imagery being used to recognize our people. We have so many cool things to showcase during Mes Chamoru. We have our own unique items of clothing, weaving, our language, amazing food (that doesn’t include lumpia), and many examples of successful (well kept) Chamorus to present to our children.  Also, don’t get me wrong; I think lumpia is fucking delicious.

I can’t control the messages the rest of the world sends my children about their culture. I know that. The unfortunate part about being a child of indigenous ancestry is that throughout their lives, they will hear many ugly, hurtful, and inaccurate things. They will grow up being told what they are and what they are supposed to be like by outsiders. I guess my responsibility is to make sure that at home, and within our family, they are provided with the tools and discussions to know better, to think critically about the things others tell them, and remain proud of their ancestry and things that are associated with it. Biba Mes Chamoru, Guahan Mommies! I hope you and your children enjoy this month of celebrating all things authentically “us.”