Tuesday, August 7, 2007

The Ghostly Characteristic

Looking out from our balcony, just past Wedding Cake Mountain, we can see the Island of Guam. By day, it looks like a small hill lurching from the sea; but by night, it resembles the lights of a mainland city as viewed from the far outskirts of town. It may as well be a million miles away if you are on Rota, a million and one, to be exact.

Rota is nestled between Guam and Saipan: two islands that, while in various stages of economic decay, still have a ‘bustling’ nature not seen anywhere on Rota Island. Sadly, my observation thus far has led me to believe that the proximity of either island to Rota Island has absolutely no positive impact on Rota’s economic condition. Rather, I suspect that the economics of this island seem ripe for the picking by opportunists who would easily evolve into kingpins depending their access to a dock and a barge.

At this point, I am confident in saying that Rota is absolutely nothing like Saipan. Outside of its wonderful diversity of people, it shares no characteristic with its closest neighbor (Guam) either. Further, Rota contributes to both island’s economies on a daily basis. Just count the coolers being unloaded from the plane on any given day. They are packed with goods that simply aren’t available here, barge or no barge.

Walking around Rota at times is surreal. Everywhere you look, you see the early decay of various abandoned products of grand ambition, once vibrant, but now defunct. Romanesque and Venetian stairwells spiral toward the sea in Metaphysical School fashion, and just like De Chirco’s work, hold a surreal and sad emptiness surrounding them: a beauty for which there is no one present to enjoy it.

The best way to describe it is that one feels like an apparition in some ghostly alter world. An eerie wind bellows through the thin air that a physical being would occupy. If you have ever lived in a resort area like Ocean City, N.J. on the mainland, it feels like the day after all of the tourists leave (‘after the boys of summer have gone’) and you are among the sparse population of ‘locals.’ The only difference is that there are even less locals here than in your typical tourist town. Thus, the wind seems much, much louder.

Lastly, the most common thing I hear from people in Guam and Saipan is that “[I] haven’t been to Rota in ‘X’ years.” which is generally followed by a poetic expose on how beautiful the island and its people are. When I experience this, I get a sense that the person is speaking fondly of a brother who had passed away, but whose ghost still lurks in the dark corners of the mind's eye. This is one of the things I thought I could be helpful with, but sadly, the waning remnants of the tourist industry here have become somewhat of an institution rather than a problem- its meshing into the culture from my perspective has long surpassed a complexity that could be unraveled by an outsider such as myself. Further, without delving in so deep as to ensnarl myself in a local battle, the way government works around here is a dastardly hindrance to any sort of ‘economic upturn.’

In a way, it feels forgotten here. Perhaps that is why the families are so close knit on Rota. Perhaps the fruit of what an outsider like me finds incredibly difficult is the general loveliness of the people of Rota. That will give me something to ponder this evening as I stare out at the Guam lights.



The Saipan Blogger アンジェロ・ビラゴメズ said...

I had no idea you were a poet.

The Saipan Blogger アンジェロ・ビラゴメズ said...

..and I haven't been to Rota in 12 years.

Michael said...

Fascinating read. I just realized I can comment here:) You're a very good writer, Andrew, and I'm going to keep up with the blog to see how you guys are doin. Best of luck, and happy belated birthday as well!

~Mike Reali

violetlady said...

Wow. So interesting and, as the saipan blogger says, poetic.