Mark and Dorie Oja of Redwood Falls, had a unique opportunity in 2015 to vacation on the island of Guam. Their daughter-in-law Katie, who is married to the Ojas’ son, Matthew, was stationed on the island at the Andersen Air Force base in July 2013.

Guam is 16 hours ahead of Minnesota in time. So as an example, 11:39 p.m. Monday, in Minnesota is 3:39 p.m. Tuesday, in Guam. The Ojas departed Minneapolis Jan. 31, 2015 for a three hour flight to Houston. From Houston, they flew another eight hours to Honolulu with an additional seven hour flight to Guam.

“We left Minneapolis early early on a Saturday morning”, said Dorie, “and after 18 hours in the air and little wait times at airports, we arrived in Guam on Sunday evening due to the time change.”

Guam is located in the northwestern Pacific Ocean about 900 miles north of the Equator and roughly 7,000 miles from the U.S. mainland. The island enjoys a tropical marine climate with generally warm and humid weather with little seasonal temperature variation.

Mark Oja commented that, “the average temperature in Guam the entire year is 85 degrees. Average lows are 76 degrees with the average high being 86. The annual rainfall totals 80 inches or more.”

Dorie added, “the water temperature is 85 degrees, which makes Guam a great tourist spot. The dry season is December thru June, while the rainy season is July thru November. We chose to go in the dry season.”

How big is Guam ?

It is approximately 30 miles long and nine miles wide, narrowing to four miles at the center. It covers an area of 209 square miles. In comparison, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, Redwood County has a total area of 882 square miles.

As Dorie said, “you could take the island of Guam and place it in Redwood County and it would fit right in the middle.”

The Oja’s, who were also accompanied on vacation by their son Jon, and girlfriend Amber, were able to golf, go diving, hike, sightsee, take in a Vegas style show, enjoy the sun and eat local cuisine among other things. Mark especially fell in love with a local sauce – so much so, that in their week-long vacation, they dined at a restaurant twice where he ordered the same meal. 

“It’s called finadene sauce. It’s soy sauce based and generally has green onions with a hot spice. You can add the hot spice to your liking. The meal itself was great, but the finadene sauce just sealed the deal for me,” he said with a smile.

Although most Minnesotans would agree that 85 and tropical would be a delightful getaway, Dorie noted, “I felt bad for some of the people that came to vacation that week. The winds and waves were terrible. According to the local people, it was cold out. Jellyfish were being brought in to the beaches by the waves, so people weren’t able to swim. We didn’t care much about the swimming, because our son had a busy agenda for us that week.”

The Ojas shared some interesting things about Guam at the Redwood Falls library’s travel series recently. Guam is a U.S. territory. It has three branches of government.

In 1950, President Truman declared Guam to be an “unincorporated” U.S. territory. Guamanians get American citizenship by birth, but they are just not given the full range of opportunities that many native-born Americans are given.

The territory is a favorite holiday destination. The major chunk of tourists come from Japan. Tumon is the basic holiday attraction. Indoor aquariums, Las Vegas-styled shows, shopping centers, museums, jungles and entertainment parks attract millions of people.

The largest ethnic group on the island are the native Chamorro, forming more than 37 percent of the total population, and 85 percent of the population in Guam is Roman Catholic.

The economy of the country is mostly supported by tourism and the United States Armed Forces.

Although the Ojas enjoyed their trip to Guam and visiting their son, they are thankful that Matt and Katie moved back to Rapid City, S.D. in December 2016. One of those reasons was that Katie became pregnant with twins, so in February, Mark and Dorie became the proud grandparents of Theodore and Penelope Oja.

“It would definitely not have been on our list of places to go on vacation if our son hadn’t been living in Guam”, said Mark after their presentation, “but it was a wonderful experience and a unique opportunity that I’m glad we had.”