Today, we officially hit the 6-month mark, which means we are halfway through our time in Palau. “But…but…,” I’ve been thinking, “it seems like just yesterday we were unpacking our wetsuits and fins! Taking our driver’s test and running to five different government agencies to make it official! Getting our picture taken for our laminated Surangel’s grocery saver’s club card!
But then I started reflecting on the events of the past week, and our recent behaviors, and thought, “Yep. Six months sounds about right.”
I give you a quick Top Ten from last seven days. We must be adjusting to island life when in the last week we have…
10. Gone Cast Away-style on a stubborn coconut.
9. Bought a machete.* (Yes, those two events are related.)
8. Contemplated the best way to hang a hammock.
7. Said “yes” to one another by raising our eyebrows instead of using words. (This is one of those cultural body language things. In the U.S., we nod our heads up and down. In India, it’s a side-to-side head bobble. Palauans, though, have designed the most efficient, minimal-effort response by far: the otherwise-motionless-face eyebrow raise.)
6. Read the following headlines and were unfazed: “Two Men Shot by an Air Gun.”** “12th Annual Shark Week Set.” “Presentation on Betelnut Chewing.” “Have You Seen Any Bombs? On land or in ocean. Please call to report 778-BOMB.”***
5. Had a conversation about what, precisely, is the best way to cook sea turtle. According to my source, you preserve some of the blood, chop the turtle meat into small pieces, mix it with some onion and extras of choice, and throw the blood in stir-fry style at the end.
4. Used five different methods of internet connection in one day, and still couldn’t load WordPress for a blog post.
3. Consoled a friend whose teammate was attacked with a machete—which, of course, the whole island heard about before the newspaper report went to print.
2a. Gone scuba diving, and found the coral more interesting than the sharks.
2b. Said, “We should probably try betelnut, once.” To which the other replied, “Yeah.”
1. Eaten Spam (Brian) and tapioca (Anna) and toasted our 6-month mark with a thoroughly rewarding glass of fresh coconut milk.
All in all, a productive week! And a wild six months. Looking forward to whatever surprising lessons the next six will bring. We’ll let you know how it goes with the machete.
*So I’m checking out at Surangel’s, and I ask the dudes bagging my groceries, “Do you know where I can buy a machete?” I’m expecting them to look surprised (because where I come from, I.e. Not the jungle, a machete is a strange request) or to laugh (American chick wants to buy a machete!).
Instead, he says, “Let me check and see if we have any in stock!”
They are fresh out of machetes at Surangel’s. They recommend I check the hardware store, where I am delighted to discover an entire Machete Aisle, and where I spend twenty minutes pantomiming bushwhacking with an employee and discussing the weight distribution and handle strength of various blades. A machete, it turns out, will set you back somewhere between $12 and $20—a small price to pay, I figure, for six months of coconut enjoyment. Now we just have to figure out someplace to put it…
**Guns are illegal in Palau. Air guns are legal and used to hunt birds. Violence, when it happens, is usually the good old-fashioned YOU KNOW YOU’RE LIVING ON AN ISLAND WHEN…fist brawl variety. Or stabbing (not ideal, naturally, but often not lethal). Or, at least once since we’ve been here, bludgeoning by storyboard, a traditional Palauan wood carving.
***Leftovers from the WWII Pacific Theater—some still active 70 years later. In recent years, 30,000 unexploded ordinances have been uncovered. Torpedoes propping up Palauan homes. Bombs under yard burn piles, or schoolyards.