Tag Archives: Guam

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.

Storm Damage and Storm Gifts

I kept putting off harvesting the mangos on the branches that hung over on our side of the fence. I kept thinking, I’ll do it tomorrow.

Yesterday, as Dolphin was heading away from us, I went to check the damage. My family was lucky. We were only inconvenienced with boredom, from the lack of electricity and of course, messy yards. And even the messy yards were scattered with gifts. My sister in law was giving friends and neighbors avacados. She had a wagon full. My father gave away bags of mangos to neighbors. Some young boys knocked on his open window to ask if they could pick some of the left over fallen mango. They only took a polite amount and thanked us before leaving with their treats.

reconstructing wonderland - mango

My life recently has felt like one storm after another. So this actual typhoon was a bit nice for me. I was born and raised here. Some of my favorite, clearest childhood memories are of the super typhoons that our island endured quite regularly. In fact, a favorite old family photo is one of my brother and I outside during the eye of a storm, Yuri or Omar, I think. Dealing with typhoons can suck, but it’s something I know for sure I can survive and even make the most of. Dealing with life’s “storms” is a bit different. Typhoon Dolphin kind of reminded me that a storm is a storm. And a survivor is a survivor.

Also – Power outages suck, but Allan can usually turn crappy circumstances in to a party, like this …

reconstructing wonderland - power outage party


Merry Christmas!


WOW! – exhibit extended

WOW!, an art exhibit for children and their families, will be up at the CAHA gallery throughout the month of December. If you have the time, please visit the exhibit. You can bring your children during Christmas break.

WOW! an art exhibit for children and their families

You can get directions and learn more about the gallery on their website.

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.


Nezumi in color and on the cover!

illusDREted as Nezumi on the cover of the Sunday Variety




Updated illusdreted.com and added the editorial cartoons

Nezumi for MV Guam on illusDREted.com

Fuji Ichiban, home of awesome food and incredible art

Fuji Ichiban, Guam, ramen, art

Isn’t that art work awesome?! I’ve been meaning to post about this artwork and the restaurant it is in for so long.

about the artwork: I can’t decide what is my favorite element of this piece. I love the scales on the koi and the way the artist managed to get all the different ingredients into the yakisoba. Maybe my favorite element is the steam coming from the pot. I love that it flows through the bamboo. Under the plate of  gyoza, it is signed Joanne F. Almajose. I asked one of the waitresses about the artist and they said that she works at the restaurant and is really young.

about the food: Fuji Ichiban is awesome when you want affordable Japanese fast food. I suggest the chahan, the amazu karaage, and the mayo karaage. That is our favorite go to meal at Fuji. The gyoza is really good too.

An illustrated scenario

reconstructing wonderland: an illustrated scenario


Merlot + captured + skull

This was a fun activity. And I was really excited that everyone was able to finish.