Well, I didn’t have sufficient time, utensils, or ingredients (namely: beer brats) to prepare a usual Vodicka family Independence Day fare, but we made do with what we had: fresh pineapple, garlic-lemon shrimp, and the big winner, homemade ginger beer for an island-appropriate Dark & Stormy. After an afternoon at the Japan-Palau Friendship bridge, where we watched the Independence Day boat races–an annual event that supports the long and healthy rivalry of two of Palau’s most prominent families, who own competing grocery stores located directly across the street from one another, in addition to other business ventures–we had an apartment full of people, sang Happy 19th Birthday to Palau, blew out some candles, and waved mini Palaun flags with newfound pride.
But it was the final event of evening, when our friends Jelga and Nikkita took us out on the town for live music and dancing, Palaun-style, that really cemented my belief that Palau is the stuff of dreams, a place where any dude with a drum machine constitutes a live band, where old men ask you to dance but only so they can sway slowly, at a respectful distance a few feet away from you, and where everyone—and I mean everyone—can sing, and you’ll hear it in the streets or in the aisles of the competing grocery stores, as folks are stocking shelves or doing their daily shopping, but you can’t truly understand it until you witness the ubiquitous and sincere appreciation Palauans have for the fine art of karaoke.
Yep. It’s gonna be a good year.