Recently I had a family get together for my cousins High School graduation. On the Chamorro side of my family we regularly have family dinners with all of my Aunties, Uncles, and cousins. I talked about how imperative it is to have a close group of people where you feel belonged. Family time is crucial.
When I’m out in New York, it’s obvious that I’m not around for these consistent gatherings (and the delicious Chamorro food). I’m yet to visit the island back home, but here’s what I’ve picked up on years of these Guamanian family gatherings.
When you go to a Guamanian/Chamorro food gathering, take special note of the invitation time. Party Starts at 3:00 PM does not mean that the party starts at 3:00 PM. 3:00 PM means that the food is still being cooked. 3:00 PM means that the family members back home have started to change and get ready for the party. Island time is real and it comes with a laid back vibe. There is nothing wrong with it but be aware of island time! Show up at the invitation time and you are guaranteed to be one of the first persons there. Show up an hour later of the invitation time and you are guaranteed to be one of the first persons there. Kick back and listen to the J Boog tunes; hug all of your aunties and uncles. Salivate at the Chamorro Food in front of your eyes.
You Will Take A Lot of Pictures
If you’re like my brother then you’re very impatient. Unfortunately like my brother you’ll have to learn how to be very patient at a Chamorro/Guamanian gathering. As more relatives and friends start to show up to the get together, the more your Auntie will tell you to introduce yourself to everyone (and to grab another plate of Chamorro Food).”Oh wow the last time I saw you, YOU WERE SO TINY!” When these words are said, the photo shoot begins. You’ll have a photo with all Grandkids, then Grandmas, and finish off with Uncles. When someone has to leave, there’ll need to be a final picture with them before they jet. It doesn’t matter if you’re running late to work, your family wants to capture these memories!
After all the pictures, everyone will move their way toward the backyard. Don’t get too excited you have another half an hour before you get to eat! It’s time to bless the Chamorro food, but prior to that the celebrated graduate speaks first. He thanks everyone coming, acknowledges how it’s a blessing to have close family…but then he is intercepted by his Auntie who adds in more loving words! She becomes emotional because she is proud of her nephew, as we all are. Another family member steps in and leads the prayer. He prays for the safety of those out in military and couldn’t make it to the occasion. Words are said for guidance and direction for the new graduate.
“Blessings on blessings on blessings”
Just as the prayer comes to a close, another relative says, “Wait, I have a few more words to say.”
More prayers are said, everyone is thankful for one another. The prayer never comes to an end, this process repeats itself until thirty minutes have elapsed. Don’t be surprised when this happens (and keep the flies off of the Chamorro Food!)
You Will Eat A Lot
No surprise here. Staple Chamorro food includes red fried rice and chicken kelaguen. Mix in some shrimp patties, lumpia, fruit, and you’re set. Let the older relatives and hands that prepared the food go first. Go get your first plate out of seven and then grab an extra plate of leftovers to bring home. Chamorro food is insanely good.
Good Luck Trying to Leave!
Everyone at the gathering loves you and you’re all literally related.