Category Archives: Guåhan

The gift of working your land, however small it is.

The CHamoru word for land is Tåno. We are taotao tåno, people of the land. Most families once had ranches. Some still do. When I was a kid my cousins and I would spend the weekends in Ipan with our grandparents and our mothers at our Granny’s house. We would help clean green onions from the garden and we’d run around snacking on the ranch’s bananas, iba, and even the sweet nectar from Granny’s ixora plants.

We rarely go to Ipan anymore. Granny and Grandma have gone and we’ve all grown up. Some of us have left the island and some of us are renters, taotao tåno, with out tåno. I’m pretty lucky though. We rent an apartment in an area that is very commercial, but we still have a bit space to grow. We are urban gardeners I guess. I spent one of my recent days off trimming the ixora and bougainvillea, pulling down dead pugua branches, and cleaning dead leaves from the bird of paradise.

It rained a few times, just lightly. Enough to remind me to take a break and cool down. My hands and arms ached from reaching, pulling, and clipping, but I didn’t want to stop. It had been a while since I’ve spent that much time working outside. I forgot how much I enjoyed it. I uprooted some bamboo and elephant ears to bring in and put in vases, bringing some tåno in to my home, for days when I can’t get out long enough. I also picked up some fallen mango.

After a refreshing shower and some time relaxing, I decided to peel and cut up the mango. I put the fruit in a couple freezer bags and after dinner I made myself a smoothie.


I put the some of the mango in my smoothie maker along with some ice, a couple dates, and orange juice. I blended that up good and then I added some chia seeds. It was gof mangge, very tasty.


Hopefully I’ll be posting more about my garden adventures and local fruits and veggies. maybe I’ll feature some other urban taotao tåno, apartment lancherus. I’ll even try to sneak some pics of my neighbor’s veggie garden that is growing in our parking lot. I’m not making that up. I’m jealous of her green onions. Say tuned.



Read, Write, Dream, Draw – The book I illustrated has been published!

I missed a pretty awesome opportunity a little while ago. A series of workshops for children’s book authors and illustrators was being offered. If you had an interest in creating children’s books and could commit to all the days of the workshops, the opportunity was available and it was funded through a grant, making it free for participants. I was definitely interested, but sadly could not commit to all the days of the workshops, because like many local artists, I have a day job. – Just a side note, I switched jobs twice last year. It was a year of … transitions.

That was a major bummer until I got a message from a friend, asking me to call her. Victoria Lola Leon Guerrero is the managing editor of University Press, which just created a branch, Taiguini Books, that focuses on publishing cultural books. As it turned out, Taiguini Books decided to choose a few of the stories that were worked on at the workshops to produce in time for FestPac. They picked four stories to publish. At the time of the selection the authors had already chosen illustrators. Lola called me because one of the illustrators had backed out and she needed an illustrator who could turn it out really quickly, like a month. Yeah. Despite the deadline anxiety I enthusiastically agreed. A lot of that enthusiasm was brought on by the story and the fact that I could relate too it.

Guaiyayon Na Trongkon Mansanita is about young siblings and the Mansanita tree that they grow up with. Delores Indalencio Camacho, the author, wrote the first draft of this story over a decade ago. She’s been holding on to it in her mind even longer, since it is in fact the story of her, her sisters, and their mansanita tree. My cousins and I grew up with a siniguelas tree at our grandparents house. It shared a similar life and fate as the Camacho’s mansanita tree. Children played in it’s shade, their laughter carried by the wind through it’s leaves. They climbed it’s branches and were treated to the fruit it lovingly produced. I think a lot of people who grew up in Guåhan, at least my generation and earlier, can relate to this story.

It ended up taking a little over a month to complete the illustrations. It was a fun filled journey. I spent most Mondays in Lola’s office with her and Ms. Camacho going over sketches, the line drawings, and finally the colored and completed illustrations. I’ll explain more of the behind the scenes details in a future post. It was a truly great experience. A lot of that had to do with the support that Taiguini Books provides through Lola’s hard work. I’m honored that Ms. Camacho agreed to have me illustrate a story that was so very special to her.

Guaiyayon Na Trongkon Mansanita was written by Delores Indalencion Camacho and Illustrated by myself, Andrea Nicole Grajek. It is written in CHamoru with english translations in the back of the book. If you’d like to purchase a copy they are available at MARC at UOG, as well as the UOG bookstore. You can also purchase them at Bestseller. They are $17 each. You should also check out the other three children’s books that Taiguini Books published. They would all make a great addition to your children’s book shelf.

In the coming weeks I’ll be posting about the illustration process, the importance of literature for Pacific children, as well as my experience working with the author and publisher. So look out for that.

WOW! an art exhibit for children and their families – throughout November

an art exhibit for children and their

This past Friday we opened an exhibit for children and their families, at the CAHA gallery. The exhibit will be up throughout November, so even if you missed the opening, there is still time to visit the exhibit.

WOW! is something that has been brewing in my head for a while now. So earlier this year when Mark, from CAHA, called to see if I wanted to exhibit, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I got a hold of some local artists, with work that would be fun and appropriate, and asked if they’d like to contribute to a show for children.

There were a few moments, during the weeks before the exhibit, that I thought I was going to go completely crazy. I would get overwhelmed and doubt my ability to pull it all together. Then one day, I was going through some pictures on my computer, trying to find a decent one for my bio, and I came across the folders that had pictures from events I had done with children. “Oh yeah! That’s why I’m doing this. And they are sooooo worth it!” So a very special thank you goes out to all the kids I have had the privilege of working with.

Many thanks also to the contributing artists of WOW!  They are Allan Arriola, Andrew Gulac, Baltazar Bell, Carol Rockets, Clarissa Torres, Colleen Weller, Dean Blas, Evan Cabrera, John Bermudes, Lucas Storts, and Myracle Mugol.

And thank you to our exhibit supporters Pika’s Cafe, Jamaican Grill, Mariana’s Variety – Guam Edition, Payless Supermarkets, Mary Therese Edgerle, the board and staff of the Guam Council on the Arts and Humanities, and the Grajek family.

Here is a collage my cousin, Marie, made featuring some of her favorite pieces.


And, here is a screen shot of the Sunday Variety article on WOW!

sunday variety


I’ll be posting more about WOW!, the opening, and the artists in the coming weeks. So stay tuned for that.


Updated and added the editorial cartoons

Nezumi for MV Guam on

Summer art program for Guam’s teens


Check out the awesome work that the students in my DIY class did. We made pop up cards for our 3rd class. Previously we made 2 different kinds of book marks and wall decals. This last week we are working on photo booth props. So far it has been a lot of fun getting to know my students and building on their interests and abilities. I hope that they’ve had as much fun and learned as much as I have.

Today is our last DIY class, but next week a new session begins and I’ll be teaching illustration. I’m really looking forward to it! I have so many activities planned!

There is still time to sign up your teens up for the program. You can pick an up an application at Guma TASA in Mangilao or you can contact them on Facebook for more information.

Eat Local, Gift Local


This picture is actually from a couple weeks ago. It’s a healthy mid day office snack made up of local mango, local mountain apple, and not local coconut water. How awesome would it have been if I had a local coconut with a straw on it on my desk? I think my bosses would be a little concerned if I walked in to the office with a machete though. Hmmmm….

You know what is really cool? I got the mountain apple as an opening night gift. One of my best friend’s mom picked them for me from the tree in her yard. I imagine that in other places, you’d get a bouquet of flowers for your opening night. I got a bouquet of mountain apples. I love it! And that wasn’t the only yard based congratulatory gift. I also got two Tropical Art arrangements from Simeon Palomo, who has a book out about how his passion, making beautiful arrangements from locally grown plants.

One of our own, Pia Mia

I had a very interesting opportunity recently. I went to a dinner show featuring Pia Mia, the Guam born singer/song writer. Honestly, I don’t know too much about Pia Mia and I really wasn’t expecting to enjoy the show. I felt a bit guilty being there and taking a spot that a young fan could have had.

The show was at the Westin Resort. I always enjoy the food and service at the Westin, but seriously they out did themselves for this event. Everyone was so pleasant and seemed genuinely happy. After picking up our tickets at the reception table we were directed into a room where fans were eagerly awaiting a chance to meet Pia Mia and have their pictures taken with her.

When my name was called, mom and I went to the room where the greeting and picture taking was taking place. As we were walking in you could hear the young girls talking about how nice she was. I wasn’t really expecting that. The pictures I had seen of her don’t really portray a sweet friendly girl. The pictures I saw didn’t do her personality justice. She smiles a lot! As soon as we walked up to her she exclaimed that she loved my kitty ears. Yes, I had on  my kitty ears, long story. And then I introduced myself and my mom. And she told my mom that she liked her necklace, the spondylus my mom always wears. We took a few pictures, hugged her, and thanked her.

pia mia, guam

The ballroom they set up for the dinner show was a lot more intimate than I had expected. The 10 or so tables were mostly filled with Pia’s family and lucky young fans. The table we were seated at included a father, his teenage daughter, and her boyfriend, a Russian couple visiting Guam, and a mother with her two daughters, who were obviously big Pia Mia fans. Both mom and I had busy day so we had both skipped lunch. Thankfully, the dinner was amazing.

dessert, westin

Soon after our dessert plates were gone the short interview began. We learned about her excitement and disbelief about being recognized by Billboard as a new artist to watch in 2014. She talked about how she loves telling people about Guam and how she’s hoping to gain at least 10 pounds off all the local food she’ll be eating while she’s home. The Westin explained their wellness program and gifted Pia Mia with some work out shoes and clothes, knowing that she is a fitness buff. She was excited and showed genuine appreciation. It was cute seeing her give the Westin GM a big grateful hug.

Then the show began. We weren’t expecting to stay for the whole show since both mom and I had to wake up early the next morning. I had quickly watched a couple of her music videos that afternoon, and they were good, just not my thing. But the show, the show was fun, packed a lot of energy in that small room, and kept me pretty entertained. The two young fans at our table sat themselves on the floor by the stage. And Pia Mia took the time to acknowledge them while they recorded her performance on their phones.

pia mia

We stayed. And when it was over I had so much pride in this girl that I still didn’t know too much about. What I did know was that she is one of ours. And I hope for the absolute best for her. I hope she stays on course making her family, her island, and most especially herself, proud. I hope for her wellness and that she gets good guidance in her career and in life. She is an example of what our youth need to see, more success stories.

Good luck Pia Mia Perez and please continue to come home.

BTW, part of the proceeds from the dinner show ticket sales benefit UNICEF.

Creative Spirits


This Friday you have the wonderful opportunity to view and bid on artwork to support a really great cause. This is something that is very close to my heart. My mother is the director of Guma Mami, so I see first hand what the staff and volunteers do. I see how hard they work towards their mission and how that mission is at the mercy of funding availability.

What is that mission exactly? Well, Guma Mami provides support to individual with disabilities. They have two group homes, not institutions, that help create a comfortable living atmosphere for individuals with disabilities. They really are homes, too. They are part of the community and even host a fiesta every year.

They also provide services for individuals with disabilities who are living on their own. They help with trainings and certifications. They provide day activities and awareness campaigns. Of course my favorite thing that Guma Mami does is the Creative Spirits workshops.

The annual workshop is something that I think the clients and the community looks forward too. For the clients it is art therapy and because they keep the money made from their artwork, it is also a source of income for individuals who are on a fixed income. For the community the Creative Spirits auction is an awareness campaign and a chance for us to get together and enjoy art, music, wine and each other’s company for a night of friendly competitive bidding.

This is also a great opportunity for art collectors to purchase artwork at really great prices, while also supporting the great cause. Many Local artists donate artwork to the auction every year. The money made from the donated work helps supplement Guma Mami’s funding. It is a great way to discover emerging artists, too.

Please join us on Friday. You won’t regret it!

Last night for the Artisan Collective Series at Guma’ TASA

watercolor, guam

Come create with me tonight, Saturday, May 31. I’ll be at Guma Tasa from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. for the Artisan Collective Series. Admission is $10. We’re raising money for The New Artisan Summer Workshops and various non-profit organizations.

guam, music, art

Turning a wildlife refuge into a firing range SDZ.

This is my first post in what will be a series of my thoughts on the military build up on Guam and what I’m learning from reading the SEIS and doing my own research, as well as discussions with fellow Chamorros and people who call Guam home.

Litekyan / Ritidian

Made up of over 1,200 acres of coral reef and land, Ritidian is a wildlife preserve unit. It is natural habitat to all kinds of life, from the tiny tree snail to the Marianas fruit bat. It is even nesting grounds for sea turtles. Who doesn’t love sea turtles? Before it was a refuge it was ancestral land, and really, it still is. Throughout the refuge our inheritance as Chamorros are scattered and hidden in the limestone jungle and caves. Latte sets, water wells, and lusong remind us that this place is sacred. As an artist, I can’t help but marvel at the existence of Guahan’s first creators’ cave drawings and pottery. I can only hope that my art will survive and inspire for a fraction of the time that my ancestors’ pieces have.

ritidian, guam, militarization, firing range, wild life refuge

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