Monthly Archives: May 2014

‘GALLIVANTING ON GUAM’ BY DAVE SLAGLE

‘Gallivanting on Guam’ is a memoir written by Dave Slagle. It recounts the time he spent on the island working as a gym manager.

GALLIVANTING ON GUAM

Summary

After suddenly losing his job in Hawaii, Dave needs to find another source of income. While pondering his future, he is approached by a wealthy businessman from Guam who makes him an offer that simply cannot be refused. Mr Saru’s promises sound too good to be true and Dave has his doubts. Nevertheless, he decides to take the risk. Shortly afterwards, he is appointed the general manager of Tropics Gym.

After landing on the tiny island, Dave finds himself in an unfamiliar world. Everything seems to be surreal: people, places, customs and traditions. Dave quickly realizes that the only way to go is to adapt to the new surroundings. And this is exactly what he does. Along with his friends, he explores various ‘buy-me-drinky bars’, flirts with local women, and devotes himself to the pleasures of life. Unfortunately, this blissful state comes to an end when Dave is drawn into a bitter dispute with his corrupt boss.

Review

Enjoyable? Yes. Amusing? Absolutely. Insightful? More than you would think. Actually, it is a cleverly constructed page-turner; something you won’t be able to put down.

The story of Dave’s two-year-long sojourn is extremely compelling. His adventures in a foreign land, which range from happy to tragic, will give you a rare and fascinating glimpse into the life on Guam. Of course, everything the author describes is shown from his point of view, and it can be felt that some of the opinions he shares are heavily influenced by values and standards of his own culture. Is that wrong? It certainly isn’t. But you should keep it in mind while reading this memoir. If you don’t, you may get the impression that his portrayal of both Chamorro people and the island itself is grossly inaccurate at times.

Speaking of which, the abundance of cultural and historical information is just outstanding. Despite what you might think, Dave Slagle doesn’t focus entirely on karaoke bars, although this is a prominent subject, I admit. The pages of his book are filled with immensely interesting facts concerning local customs, traditions, beliefs, and widely accepted social norms. He also makes some observations about people’s habits and daily routines, which may be quite surprising, not to say shocking.

The account is written with a great sense of humour. Even the ‘darker parts’ are pretty jocular, so there’s little chance you will not have a laugh or two during your reading sessions. But – there is always a ‘but’ in this imperfect world – it contains a tremendous number of swear words. I can only assume that the author chose to use such strong language in order to sound authentic. However, I do not think it was really needed.

On a related note, I also have to mention editorial errors. The book is infested with grammatical mistakes, which are genuinely disturbing. Taking into account that this is a published work, such carelessness is unjustifiable. Some proofreading would be a true blessing here.

All in all, I would recommend this memoir to anyone who’d like to read a funny, provocative, interesting story. Dave Slagle is, without a doubt, a very talented writer and this is why you should give ‘Gallivanting on Guam’ a try.

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COOK ISLANDS BY KATHY GIUFFRE

Cook Islands. Where to go? What to see? What to do? Kathy Giuffre, the author of ‘An Afternoon in Summer’, gives her recommendations.

Visit The Beachcomber Gallery

This is a terrific art gallery right in town in Avarua. There is black pearl jewelry and lots of crafts form local craftspeople. It is also a great place to see some of the best of the local artists’ work, including paintings, sculpture and tivaevae. Some artists have studios at the beachcomber, so sometimes they can come chat with you about their work or you can go out to the studios and watch some of the pearl carvers at work.

Do the Cross Island Trek with Pa

Hiking across the whole island and going into the very steep, rugged interior with a guide who knows so much of the lore and history of the island.Along with being a true expert on all facets of traditional life in the Cooks, Pa is a warm and friendly guide who is happy to help interested people find out more about the island and to explore the nature and the culture of the island. A lot of the activities for tourists center around the beaches, so this is a great chance to get to see another aspect of Rarotonga.

Visit one of the outer islands, like Aitutaki

This really gives you a chance to get away from it all and get the feel for what the Cooks were like fifty years ago. There are flights pretty much every day from Rarotonga to Aitutaki (book in the office at the airport) and you can go for the day, leaving on the early morning flight and coming back in the evening. Or you can stay for a while – there are hotels for every price range on the island and the lagoon at Aitutaki is often mentioned by those who know as being one of the most beautiful places in the world. Amazing snorkeling!

A CHAT WITH… KATHY GIUFFRE

Kathy Giuffre is a professor of sociology at Colorado College and an author of a compelling memoir, ‘An Afternoon in Summer’. Here’s what this lovely lady had to say not only about her book but also about the place she once called home.

KATHY GIUFFRE

Pasifika Truthfully: You and your sons spent one year in the Cook Islands. How exactly did you end up there?

Kathy Giuffre: I have always had an interest in Polynesian culture, especially in the arts, and had travelled some in the South Pacific – although never to the Cooks. I’m a college professor and I had a sabbatical year coming up during which I had the opportunity to be paid for a year to go somewhere and do research. I specifically chose the Cook Islands because I had heard and read about the vibrant art world that exists there. I was interested in trying to understand why this community had such an exceptional outpouring of creativity. So I was really on the island as a researcher, but when you live on an island with fewer than 10,000 people for a whole year (especially if you have kids with you and you are living in a house with a local resident) it is impossible not to become part of the community.

PT: What is your biggest memory of that place?

KG: There are so many – but one thing I remember very vividly is sitting in a chair in the workroom of our house one night, talking on the telephone long distance to my friend in Switzerland and holding the receiver of the phone out so that he could hear the incredible sound of the enormous tropical storm that was pounding down on our roof. I loved the wildness of the storms – especially when everyone was snug and safe inside the house.

PT: . Your life changed quite a bit during that ‘Pasifika year’. How do you recall that time?

KG: I think I really came into my own during that year – even though I was 39 years old when I arrived. I still try to treat the world in the ‘Polynesian Way’ even though I am now back in the United States. I try not to lose sight of how to live a life that is concerned with generosity, kindness, and human relationships rather than thinking about ‘getting ahead’ or getting material objects.

PT: What did you like most about the islands?

KG: The people I met are people whom I love and whose friendship I treasure. I really feel that I was taken in and taken care of at a time that was pretty difficult for me as a single mother with two small children and when I was really not at my best emotionally.

PT: And what did you like least?

KG: Spiders! Enormous hairy spiders!

PT: What were your sons’ impressions of that ‘tropical paradise’?

KG: It was an enormously happy year for my children, which is interesting because we lived all together in one small room of the house and they had basically not a single toy. No TV, no computer or computer games, none of the stuff that we think kids need to be happy and entertained. They spent their time climbing trees, playing in the garden or on the beach, using their imaginations – it was great for them. When we came back to the US we got rid of our TV and have never regretted it – life is better without all the possessions that I once would have thought we needed to be happy.

PT: Did you learn anything from the Islanders?

KG: Absolutely – I learned, most importantly, how to embrace the ‘Pacific Way’ of life. I still try every day to be a little more Polynesian, to take things at a slower pace, for instance, and to think about being generous as a really important value.

PT: What, or who, inspired you to pen down your memories and write a book?

KG: Every now and then, I would send a group email to my friends back in the United States. And a couple of my friends thought the emails were really funny and could be turned into a book. Those and my journal were the basis for the finished book. But really the reason that I wrote it was that my children were so young when we went that I was worried that they might forget what this year in paradise had been like, how wonderful our life was then. So I wrote the book for them, as truthfully as I could, so that they would always have something to help them remember.

PT: Have you had a chance to come back to the Cook Islands? If not, would you like to? Maybe you could write a sequel.

KG: Yes, we all went back about five years ago to see Emily again and so I could show my husband all the places that he had heard so much about and to have him meet all the people I had loved so much. We were only there for a couple of weeks, though – not enough time to do more than basically say hello to everyone – not enough time for a sequel, for sure!

PT: If someone offered you a chance to move to Pasifika, would you agree? Do you think you could actually live there? Or was it only a one-time adventure?

KG: I talk with my husband all the time about moving back – especially when it is bitterly cold and snowing here in Colorado. But if we do go back, I think we would not go back to Rarotonga – we would head elsewhere, probably. Not because Rarotonga is not wonderful, but because the year that I spent there was so magical to me, so perfect, so much exactly what I needed that nothing could ever live up to its memory. Better to keep that memory intact and head out for new adventures someplace we have never been.

‘AN AFTERNOON IN SUMMER’ BY KATHY GIUFFRE

‘An Afternoon in Summer: My Year on a South Sea Island, Doing Nothing, Gaining Everything & Finally Falling in Love’ is Kathy Giuffre’s memoir that recounts her twelve-month-long sojourn in the Cook Islands.

AN AFTERNOON IN SUMMER

Summary

Kathy, a single mother of two young boys, decides to spend her sabbatical year researching indigenous art of Rarotonga. As her new boyfriend agrees to join her, she happily books a trip for four, hoping to spend a wonderful time with her loved ones. However, things start to get complicated when Gregg suddenly announces he isn’t coming.

Left alone with her sons, Kathy arrives in the Cooks only to find out that her landlord has vanished and she has no place to stay. Despite her miserable situation, she chooses not to come back to the US. She meets Emily, an 82-year-old Maori woman with a house by the ocean, who offers her a room.

As time goes by, Kathy and her sons discover the wonders of the islands. They make friends with local people and start slowly feeling at home. What is more, Kathy reconnects with her old love.

Review

A travelogue-cum-memoir written by a woman? That’s a rare thing to find. Even today, travel writing is still considered a male domain. It’s a real pity actually, because ladies do know how to turn an interesting journey into a gripping narrative. You don’t believe me? Just read Kathy Giuffre’s book.

Of course, this title won’t take you on an exciting adventure to the tropics. No. It is something more subtle, more feminine. It’s a beautifully drafted tale of love, spiked with innermost feelings and emotions. The author doesn’t simply describe her experiences – she reveals how the sojourn changed her and what it brought into her life. Reviving fond memories and reminiscing about the past, she recounts finding her true soulmate and meeting people who became not just her friends, but her little family. And she does it in a candid, straightforward way that is very appealing. With this book Kathy Giuffre invites you to her world. Let me assure you that you won’t regret accepting the invitation.

The story itself is highly entertaining. Wonderful depictions capture imagination, evoking images of a tropical paradise – a blissful land of tranquil delights, where good vibrations fill the air, sorrows sink beneath the waves, and everyone beams with sheer happiness. The serene ambience of the book definitely reflects the unique atmosphere of the South Seas. From the very first page you are ‘surrounded’ by a magical aura that doesn’t disappear with the last word; it lingers on for a very long time.

‘An Afternoon in Summer’ is less a travelogue and more a memoir, which means that the Pacific country is not its prime focus. Nonetheless, the author made sure to include a few interesting facts about Rarotonga, its inhabitants, and their fascinating culture, so that readers could taste Polynesia and experience the real life in the Cooks.

This extremely honest account of a woman’s voyage of self-discovery was written to give others hope and encourage them to change their own lives. It’s inspirational, thought-provoking, thoroughly riveting – simply brilliant. If you want to immerse yourself in the beauty of the Blue Continent, this is the right choice for you. It’s a book definitely worth reading.

‘THE SEX LIVES OF CANNIBALS: ADRIFT IN THE EQUATORIAL PACIFIC’ BY J. MAARTEN TROOST

‘The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific’ is a travelogue written by J. Maarten Troost. It recounts the time he and his girlfriend spent living and working on the Tarawa atoll in the Republic of Kiribati.

THE SEX LIVES OF CANNIBALS

Summary

At the age of 26, Maarten is a proud holder of a useless graduate degree who excels at hopping from one temporary job to another. His life is becoming dangerously stagnant, so when his girlfriend, Sylvia, is offered a position of country director for the Foundation for the Peoples of the South Pacific in Kiribati, he is more than happy to pack his bags and move to this romantic, tropical paradise at the end of the world.

Soon upon their arrival, Maarten and Sylvia discover that Kiribati is not exactly what they thought it would be. Tropical, yes! At the end of the world, absolutely! But paradise, no way! The beaches are polluted, freshwater supply is deficient, gourmet food is non-existent, and recreational options are limited. What’s worse, the only music that can be heard on the island are the not-so-sweet sounds of ‘La Macarena’.

Yet, after two years of assimilation, Maarten and Sylvia are reluctant to go home. It turns out that life in Kiribati is just easier, simpler, and a little bit happier than anywhere else on the globe.

Review

When it comes to travel writing, J. Maarten Troost is a natural. His travelogue is one of the finest examples of the genre; it’s a book so engaging, you simply don’t want it to end.

What is most striking about this memoir is the author’s sense of humour: sharp, witty, sometimes a little warped. You can sense, almost from the very first page, that all the stories were written to amuse readers and give them a bit of enjoyment. And it seems that everything – sanitation, waste management, or the futile attempts to get a subscription to ‘The New Yorker’ – can be described with a certain dose of jocularity. Troost himself defined his writings as ‘not too serious, not too stupid’. This short line is indeed a very accurate summary of this title.

Not too serious, you already know why. But not too stupid? Well, somewhere in between the humour, Troost managed to bring up a few important subjects, such as Kiribati’s economic and political situation, ongoing problems, and biggest threats. Several chapters focus on local history, providing interesting insights into the islands’ forgotten past. What’s impressive and especially worth noting here is that all the weighty issues are tackled with surprising lightness – you learn about them without even realizing it.

The narrative is coherent and well-organized, which makes the book a pleasure to read. And despite the fact that the pace is rather slow (Kiribati time, eh?), it’s quite impossible to get bored with this story. It’s captivating and revealing; it’s as fascinating as only life in Pasifika can be.

The title is misleading – the memoir is neither about sex, nor about cannibals. But still…it’s a fantastic piece of travel literature. If you need a ray of light in your life, give it a try. You won’t be disappointed.