“Chumåchalek Hao På’go…”
Michael Lujan Bevacqua
The Marianas Variety
As usual over the weekend I found myself with far too much work to do and not enough time before Monday morning to get it all done. There were stacks of papers to grade, grades to prepare, a column to write for this newspaper, a speech to finish for an upcoming conference in Okinawa, and so much more. I was hunched over my computer trying to focus, all the while distracted by the sounds of my two kids, Sumåhi (4) and Akli’e’ (2) tearing up the house behind me. At regular intervals they would appear at my side, eyes pleading to get some snack or some juice. Sometimes they would appear to crave recognition instead, perhaps for a recently completed drawing of a family of dragons in the case of Sumåhi, or in Akli’e’s case, perhaps the proud admission that his diaper is full of “tå’keeee.”
When the kids have spent too much time in the house they tend to get antsy. Sumåhi, being the more articulate of the two usually leads the charge in getting me to take them somewhere else. “Malago’ yu’ humanao para i fanhugånduyan” is a usual refrain, making clear her desire to visit a playground.
When I have less on my plate I usually reply, “Hunggan, nihi ta fanhanao!” to which my two kids scream and run blissful circles around each other. But this past weekend, I felt I had too much to do, and so I couldn’t take them. “Ahe’ ti siña yu’ på’go.” To which my daughter responded immediately “Sa’ hafa?” wanting to know why I couldn’t take them today.
“Miche’cho’ yu’ på’go. Meggaigaigai i che’cho’-hu på’go, siempre otro biahi.” In more ways than one I told Sumåhi and Akli’e’ that I had far too much work to do, and that I’d take them another time. My son shook his head angrily refusing to accept my claim to being too busy. My daughter did the same, albeit with a more direct strategy. She said to me, “Anai matmos hao gi i tasi, un ågang yu’. Anai tumotohgue hao gi i tano’, un yute’ yu’!”
For those of you who don’t know, this is an old Chamorro saying, and it might come as a pretty big surprise to hear a four year old today saying something that I’ve only heard Chamorro women over the age of 80 use. Since the moment both of my kids were born I’ve spoken Chamorro to them, and it has worked to the point where my daughter is fluent in Chamorro and can speak comfortably about a storybook or a movie in Chamorro with me. Recently I’ve tried to enhance her Chamorro by teaching her some pidasun finayi, or pieces of Chamorro wisdom. These are short sayings meant to convey morals or life lessons. They are becoming less and less heard as Chamorro becomes less and less spoken or understood.
Although Sumåhi understands the literal meaning of the phrase she chose to try to guilt me with (When you are drowning in the ocean you call for me, when you are standing on land, you get rid of me), she still doesn’t quite understand when she’s supposed to use it. The phrase is intended for a fair-weather friend or some ungrateful person who loves you when they are in need, but forgets you exist once they are doing ok. Although Sumåhi looked at me intensely after she said this phrase, and her eyes attempted to burn a hole through me with guilt, all I could do was smile.
While she fumed, knowing that her old Chamorro wisdom assault had not been effective, I tried to think about which old saying might be effective in this case. My mind settled on a saying I’ve seen written often by Guam oral historian Toni Ramirez. I have written about it on my blog and used it in my own life at certain points. It is a long saying, but for those of you who can read and understand Chamorro it is profound and worth reflecting upon.
Fanatguiyan i ha’ani-mu / Chumåchalek hao pa’go / Kumakasao hao agupa’
Desde i mafañågu-mu / Asta i finatai-mu / Fanatguiyan i ha’ani-mu
Gefhasso na tåya’ orå-ña / I minagof yan i piniti gi lina’lå-mu / Chumåchalek hao pa’go / Tumåtanges hao agupa’
The last line translates roughly to: “Remember that there is no set time for the happiness or pain in your life. You are laughing now, you may be crying tomorrow.” With this in mind, and the beautiful faces of my kids waiting for me, I left my work and took them to the playground.