Raphael Chavez and my colleague, Nick Manley, in HDR’s Guam office.

Hafa Adai from Guam!

Blogger: Raphael Chavez, Architectural Project Coordinator | Guam
March 17, 2017

Hafa Adai (Hello) and Buenas (Greetings) from the beautiful Pacific island of Guam. The following is a story of how chance and timing were at first divided, but then came together for a rare opportunity that has been beyond advantageous for my career development at HDR.

I started working at HDR in 2014 in Denver’s architecture studio right out of graduate school. My wife and I had just married in Guam within my first month at HDR, and I had heard of some work that the company was doing on the island. I made it known in the Denver office that I was interested in possibly re-locating to Guam, and I remained in contact with the Guam group for the next two years.

Then in 2016, two months after my wife and I bought a house in Denver, HDR approached me about an opportunity in Guam (the chance). My wife and two kids had just moved to Denver from Guam the year before and were adjusting to the city life (the timing). The decision was difficult, but after numerous conversations with my wife, family, peers and mentors, it became clear that the opportunities out-weighed the uncertainties. With the support of my wife, I decided to move to Guam while my family stayed in Denver. Everything has worked out well this past year, and new doors have opened to bridge my job with my family life.

Our Guam office is physically a two-man operation, however, it has company-wide influence, interest and support. My main assignment is to manage our federal projects and be the “boots on the ground” member of HDR’s federal market sector. This is my first time managing design teams for various military design-build projects, and I have been involved with a variety of assignments situated on both Naval Base Guam and Andersen Air Force Base.

So, what is it actually like to live in Guam? Here is some need-to-know information about the culture, atmosphere and, most importantly, the food in Guam.

Basic terms:

  • Chamorros [chuh-mawr-oh] – the indigenous people and the indigenous language of Guam
  • Guamanians [gwah-mey-nee-uh n] – long-term residents of Guam, but not necessarily Chamorros
  • Hafa Adai [hah-fuh-day] – “Hello” in Chamorro; the term is also used to describe and represent the island culture of Guam
  • Si Yu'os Ma'åse' [C-zu-oohs-Muh-ah-sea] – “Thank you” in Chamorro

The weather and the view:

It’s currently sunny with clear skies, and it’s 85 degrees with 100 percent humidity. The view from our office is of the historic downtown capital city of Hagatna, Guam. From our fourth-floor office, you can see the Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral Basilica (a beautifully restored Catholic cathedral), the recently renovated and expanded Guam Legislature Building, the brand-new Guam Museum and, of course, the beautiful, crisp-clean, aqua blue ocean.

What to do in Guam:

For being an island, Guam can keep you quite busy…and possibly want to stay. This includes and is not limited to the beaches, snorkeling, diving, jet skiing, banana boating (a six-person, inflatable, banana-looking water sled that is typically pulled by a jet ski or small boat), fishing, rowing, hiking, zip-lining, off-roading, sky diving, cliff-diving, waterfalls, touring historic WWII sites, (deep breath), 5Ks, 10Ks, marathons, cycling, sports leagues, golfing, night markets, day markets, fiestas, barbecues, nightlife, live music, music festivals, duty-free shopping, water parks, and finally, the sunsets—they will definitely make you fall in love with Guam.   

The culture:

Everyone in Guam is treated like family. Whether you’re from somewhere other than the island, a tourist, serving in the military or just a local, the “Hafa Adai” welcome can be sensed throughout the island. Nevertheless, Guam is my home away from home so I’m never really leaving. I’ll just be back later.

The food:

It’s all about the barbecue, Keleguen, red rice and Finadene. Keleguen is a local dish that is a mixture of finely shredded chicken, carrots, onions, red pepper, coconut and fresh-squeezed lemon juice. Finadene is a soy sauce-based condiment that is mixed with vinegar, lemon and lime juice, onions and peppers. One word: Delicious.

Why I would recommend working in Guam to a co-worker:

Whether you’re an architect or engineer, a seasoned HDR employee or are new to the company, this experience is like no other. It’s hard to put into words why … I’d rather show you.


Reader Comments (23)

Raphael, thanks for sharing a little slice of life from Guam! I wouldn't be surprised if you have a lot of coworkers take you up on your recommendation...

Nice read and endorsement not only for Guam but for the opportunities and lifestyle that HDR affords its employees.

Thank you so much for sharing with us! I truly enjoyed reading this and hope to visit Guam one day!!!

Hafa Adai! 

Thanks for sharing this Raphael! I started working for HDR on Guam back in 2010. I have since transferred stateside, but would come back in a heart beat!! Enjoy the island for me and eat some shrimp keleguen for me too, miss that stuff!


​Jenn Brown 

hafa adai, bro - missing the chicken kelaguen right about now....

Lived in Guam working for the US Government for 3 years and loved it! Hope to return one day!

Very neat story! I've always been curious about Guam, so it's nice to finally learn a little more. It's also great to see the types of opportunities that can pop up at HDR. Enjoy the beach for me :)

Thanks, for sharing. While in the NAVY we pulled into Guam a few times, good memories and Great people!



Nice Post.   My wife and I lived on Guam 2005 through 2010.  As travelers we also enjoyed Guam as a great jumping off point to visit numerous locations in Asia and Australia.

Awesome photos!  Never been but love the Finadene! My understanding is that Guam has fabulous surf, so one day, maybe.  Thanks for sharing...

Thanks! Looks like the word spread quick :D

Thank you to everyone for sharing their memories from Guam! It's exciting to see the interest that's out there for the island...keep sharing and feel free to reach out to me on a personal note...I may reach out to some of you!

Si Yu’os Ma’ase

HDR federal team is actively looking for architect or engineer like Raphael to have long or short term assignments in Guam. please let me,  Erik B. Johnson or Raphael know if you are interested in discussing the opportunity.

Raphael, what a blog.

Thanks for posting this!

Great blog!  I was born and raised in Hawaii, so this was a treat to be reminded of home.  Thank you for sharing!

HDR Water team is looking for CM engineers and inspectors for assignments in Guam.  Please let Nick Manley, Matt Chapman or myself (Allyn Tabata) know if you are interested and available.  We want to talk to YOU!

What an awesome opportunity, Raphael! Best of luck in your endeavors in Guam - looking forward to working together and one day potentially visiting! Thanks for sharing!

Very inspiring post, great stories, amazing pictures! Thanks for Sharing Raphael.

WOW! This could not be more spot on as a perfect example of HDR's strategic vision of "Living as a Company that Matters".  Truly amazing work Raphael!!

Hafa Adai sounds a little like Aloha, and it spoke through your lovely description Raphael. Sounds like paradise, and we all want to visit and go banana boating! Miss your presence here in Denver, but congratulations, what a great HDR opportunity!!

I was there 8 years ago...great city, beautiful sea, perfect in the summer. Have you visited 2loverspoint yet, very nice cliff overseeing entire city, nice view....enjoy your time there.

Raphael Chavez,

Thanks for sharing. I would love to travel and see your office someday. i wouldn't mind seeing many of the HDR offices That would be an awesome Public Relations Gig.  Awesome opportunity keep up the good work.


Thanks for the blog. Now I have a better understanding of why you made the choice to transfer there. We miss you in Denver. Jay was right, what other firm would be able to offer opportunities such as this. Enjoy.


This is so neat, thank you for sharing!! I had no idea we had a Guam office!

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