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  • Håfa na klasen pålao'an hao?1:Rosaline's Story of Womanhood
  • Kayle Tydingco-Choi (bio)

"I can't believe you drove from L.A. to San Diego by yourself. Why didn't David drive?"

"Because Iwantedto?Grandma, I drove thewhole timewewere in SanDiego."

"You're too independent. I still think the man is supposed to drive."

My first coherent memory of riding in the car with my grandparents was in the late 90s, I was about seven. I had climbed into the backseat of my grandpa's white Camry and sat unbelted in the middle seat. "Click it or ticket" hadn't made its way to Guam yet. I sat at the edge of my seat with my knees pressed against the middle compartment that doubled as an arm rest and perched my hands on the inside corners of the seats in front of me. Grandpa was driving us to dinner, and Grandma was his "co-pilot." At that time, her job entailed changing out the Bette Midler CD for the Shania Twain album.

Whenever I rode with my grandparents, Grandpa always drove. When I was about fifteen, we drove from San Diego to Las Vegas, a roughly four-hour road trip. I guess that I should say, he drove. It's not as if my grandma couldn't drive, though. She has her own car, which my grandpa gases. She drove herself to her graveyard shifts at Immigration for over twenty years before she retired, took me to get Frosty Boy ice cream from the Filipina lady at Hafa Adai Exchange when I was little, and still drives to church, the grocery store, and her part-time job at the flower shop.

The only lasting impression left from these car rides was that women were independent unless men were around. Only then did women let men take the wheel, literally and figuratively. My observation was tested the first time I saw a woman driving with a man in the passenger's seat. I pointed her out to my aunt. "So?" she replied. So? So, you know what I mean! I thought. I didn't have a response ready because I had assumed that she had grown up seeing the same thing that I had.

I began interviewing my Grandma, Rosaline, in 2019. At the time, I was struggling to figure out my place in a lineage of CHamoru women, [End Page 58] so I started by trying to understand her life choices and what helped her make these decisions. Were her choices faith-based, culturally driven, economically motivated, or colonially constructed? Did those same external factors influence my decisions?

At the start of our first interview, I began with three questions, questions that I would use to begin my dialogues with each of my interviewees—What is your name? When were you born? What village did you grow up in? I knew all the answers, but I asked her anyway to keep things official.

Rosaline was born August 18, 1941, and was raised in the village of Chalan Pago. She is the youngest of Maria and Francisco Valenzuela's five children.

I clipped the mic to the strap of her red tank top and set my laptop off to the side. We sat at her vanity and she put on her makeup, not to go anywhere, just because. While she applied her foundation with her finger and dabbed the gray eyeshadow over her lid, I rolled her freshly dyed hair in pink rollers, which she would later take out and style into a loosely curled, auburn bouffant that complemented her fair complexion. The shape always slightly reminded me of broccoli.

"What was it like after you were married?" I asked as she lined her lips with a shimmery copper lipstick.

"Well, when we first got married, my mom was visiting us in the states and one day Gordon said, 'Hey can you make me fried rice?' I said, 'No. Why? You know how to make fried rice yourself.' And my mom heard me, and she immediately came out of the room and said, 'Håfa na klasen asagua hao?2' I mean, we were all kind...