In The Valley Of The Standing Platforms

How is it that a river valley became known for standing platforms in the first place in the southern part of Guam, when such standing platforms were apparently once a much more common phenomenon? As is often the case in history, the past best survives to the present when the more recent past does not wipe out the traces of the more distant past. There are all kinds of reasons why communities are abandoned, and the river upon which my mother and I traveled by boat (along with some walking) apparently had some reasonable reasons to be abandoned. The river is generally a peaceful and shallow one in between two cliffs, but under the right conditions the river can rise many feet above its banks, flooding the entire lowland area in the entire river valley. This sort of geography, which any sort of people, ancient or modern, should be savvy enough to recognize and responsibly deal with, would tend to encourage the building of temporary sorts of dwellings whose destruction would not be a terrible fate and which could be easily and cheaply rebuilt, and that is precisely what we found here in the huts of various designs whose standing stones gave their name to the river tour.

The trip itself was straightforward enough. After the boat had some engine problems dealt with in the course of delivering a group of children an hour before we were supposed to leave, we embarked on a trip up first one river and then another as far as the rivers would support the draft of the boat. This included some stops to feed the stickfish (which look like miniature marlins) and catfish as well as crabs, and to note the various uses of the plants along the river, most of which can be consumed in some fashion for the benefit of the local Chamorro people as well as others, though in moderation as most of what the island has to provide will serve to cleanse if consumed to excess, aside from the death mangoes which should not be consumed at all by anyone. We also got to see a green monitor lizard sunning himself happily, and this also occasioned for a stop.

After traveling along the river, it was time to disembark and head to land where we started at the ruins of a historical Chamorro village that was settled around 2400 years ago or so. The area itself had been depopulated during the early Spanish period when settlements of the local inhabitants were apparently required to be within hearing distance of the church bells, and the river valley was far too remote for that, allowing its older foundations to survive to the present day. Near the reconstructed hut and the various lotte (the foundation stones) were a lot of local plants, which the ship’s mate, a Yapese [1] man named Ben who was quite adventurous in dealing with sap and plants that he told us not to mess with.

After we looked at the plants it was time for a bit of a hike to a pavilion where we got some water and coconut water as well as some fresh coconut and played paper, rock, scissors for some prizes (I won my game and selected a bowl). After this we had a tasty lunch which had a vinegar-based cole slaw, a somewhat bland seasoned rice, a tasty chicken with a dry BBQ rub, and a sweet cake. After we ate and went to the restroom it was time for another short hike until we got to the animal sanctuary where we saw a tame deer, some goats, sat under the shelter of one of the Micronesian friendship huts (named after each of the main islands of the Federated States of Micronesia until the rain passed) and where my mother and I both rode a water buffalo, adding to the list of animal mounts that have been enjoyable riding experiences. After that it was time to go back to the welcome area, where we relaxed, chatting some with those around us, and waited for the taxi come and take us back to the hotel. It had been a worthwhile experience to see the local land and culture a bit more deeply and gave much food for thought.

[1] The Yapese are the native Micronesian inhabitants of the island of Yap and its surrounding area, one of the main islands of the Federated States of Micronesia, whose community makes up about 7% of Guam’s population at present. This island group is located to the south of Guam.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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