We’ve mostly just been hanging out and watching HBO and planting trees and tanning our naughty bits in our rooftop kiddie pool so I apologize that there haven’t been a lot of updates as of late. Fletch has been having some work done on our boat and that gets finished today so the adventures should continue shortly! In the meantime, here’s some things you may find interesting about living in the world’s forth smallest country (population: 20,879). 

The Moon - The moon plays a major role in Palauan culture. The light blue flag with a large yellow disk represents the ocean and the moon. Palauans consider the full moon to be the optimum time for human activity; it is also considered a symbol of peace, love, and tranquility. Fishing revolves around moon cycles, and if you talk to local fishermen they all know exactly which species are where during which phases of the moon and during which tides. And speaking of the moon, we got a real treat a couple weeks back when we noticed that one minute the moon was full and the next it was disappearing. No one had told us there was going to be a lunar eclipse but when we realized, we pulled our plastic lawn chairs out and sat and watched in awe.

Cats are Bad Luck - We noticed that while there are a lot of feral dogs running around, there are very few stray cats. We asked our landlady’s granddaughter about this and she explained to us that cats are bad luck in Palauan culture. Yowling sounds are a sign of death and if you see cats having sex in front of your house, it means that someone in your family is going to die.

Feral Dogs - There are feral dogs running around all over the place and they do not like white people. I never knew animals could be racist until I went to Thailand and watched how dogs would be fine with expats and then start growling and barking at the local Thai people. Here it is the opposite. The dogs like the locals and don’t like us. They’re really mean.

Dugongs - So long as we’re talking animals, Palau is home to the dugong, a relative to the manatee that can be distinguished apart from the latter by its forked tail like a dolphin’s. I haven’t seen one yet. I haven’t talked to anyone who has seen one. So they are sounding more and more like unicorns.

(Image found on Google)

Coconut Crabs - Palau is also home to the coconut crab, a terrifying species of land crab that gave me nightmares for a good long while. Imagine a hermit crab out of its shell that is the size of a house cat. It’s the biggest creepy crawly you’ve ever seen. I almost had to think twice about coming here when I heard there were coconut crabs. Apparently they are really good to eat, and taste like crab and coconut. Sadly, due to the fact that everyone wants to eat them, they are now becoming threatened. 

(Image found on Google)
Fruit Bat Soup - Another native species here is the fruit bat. Despite the lack of any real Palauan national dishes, one thing that does keep popping up on menus is fruit bat soup. That might not sound so bad if you’re thinking of small bits of mystery meat floating in a flavorful broth, but the soup comes out with the carcass of the leftover bat lining the bowl, eyes staring straight up at you with a horrible sharp-toothed scowl.

Spam Sushi - Though we are 4,600 miles from Hawaii, the love of spam seems to have crossed the Pacific from one island to the next. And like in Japan, convenience stores here are stocked with freshly made treats comprised of meat and rice wrapped in seaweed. It’s sushi that hasn’t been cut into pieces yet for lack of a better name. What is the result? Spam sushi! You can also find these sushi rolls wrapped with tuna which I actually really like. Every time we go to Blue Bay gas station I get one as a snack.

Betel Nut - The majority of locals all chew betel nut. It is green, the size of a walnut, and comes from what looks like an enormously tall and skinny palm tree. It is chewed with limestone and either cloves or cardamon and gives you a similar high to tobacco. It turns your teeth blood red and after years of chewing and never brushing, your teeth begin to look like they are exploding from the inside out, like rotted wood. It’s fun to be in the car driving behind someone who is chewing. Suddenly their car door opens, they hang out the door and duck behind the open door and spit, blood red. For a moment no one is driving the car.

Clans - The people of Palau are traditionally broken up into clans. The social organization of these is quite complex and political. I’m still learning about them, and won’t pretend to know what I’m talking about just yet, but a few weeks back our friend and realtor who helped us out so much our first few days here told us that if anyone should ask what we are doing in Palau, we should tell them that we are part of her family’s clan. So we are now honorary members of the Woods clan, the biggest clan in the north (there are traditionally a lot of disputes between the north and south. I sense a story coming once I research my history).

Matriarchal Society - Palau is a matriarchal society. While men are the chiefs of the villages, women are the ones who elect them to be there. Also, one of the major ceremonies celebrated in Palau culture is the First Birth Ceremony, a seven-day long event in which a woman expecting her first child is bathed and pampered in a traditional bath house and then emerges with a ceremony presenting the new mother and child to the community.

Religion - I looked up the exact stats at one point, and there are more religions here than just these two, but for the most part Palau seems to be about half Catholic and half Seventh Day Adventist. That means that half of businesses are closed on Saturdays, and half of them are closed on Sundays. It all works out rather nicely. Surangels, one of the main shopping centers here, is SDA and actually opens back up on Saturdays at sunset precisely. Last week that was 6:12 PM.

Really Bad Pop Music - I’ve mentioned before that the songs the radio stations play are rather sporadic, but after being here for this long I have noticed a trend. Every really annoying pop song that was ever popular in the US for too long a period of time, and then died out as it needed too, has been brought back here. Wrecking Ball, What Does the Fox Say, Bubble Butt… I was so happy when those songs faded away but here they have all been revived. They really like Bubble Butt in particular because they can sing it as Babeldaob (the name of the big island).

American TV Stations - I mentioned when we first arrived that we passed on the package of American tv channels because they were all tapes on a two week delay. What’s the point of news if it’s two weeks old? Well as of this week ABC, CBS, PBS, NBC, and Fox all stream live from the US! We are stepping up in the world.

Internet - You’ve heard me explain how bad the internet is here. There are several different companies, all of which have wifi hotspots set up all over the country, and all of which you have to buy cards to log into these hotspots. The best deal seems to be PT Hotspots which offer cards for $10 that give you 7 hours of access. All of these hotspots are depressingly slow. I managed to stream a two minute movie trailer today after letting it load for 10 minutes. Forget downloading anything. The reason the internet here is so medieval is because Palau didn’t want to pay the one million dollars to get in on that transpacific cable that now supplies many of the other Pacific islands with fast internet. Now they’re realizing their mistake and are hoping to get a cable run by the end of the year. That project will now cost 30 million dollars.

No American Express Cards - Palau is very prideful of the fact that they are the first country to ban American Express cards. Pull out a credit card at the grocery store, and they ask a little too eagerly if it is Amex. Tell them no and they still excitedly explain that they don’t accept it.

Electricity - Instead of paying an electricity bill every month, our house has this little box that you prepay. Like with everything else here, you go and buy a card, which has a unique number on it, and then we come home and type the number into the little box and presto! We have power!

Camp Katuu - Up in Babeldaob there is a camp set up for the US military. They rotate, so the army is there now. Previously it was the marines. They have a gym there that is free to the community, so we have been going a couple times a week to work out.

Beer - The national beer here is Red Rooster, which has a logo of a rooster spitting a lightning bolt. The light version is drinkable (to someone who doesn’t drink a lot of beer). Purchasing beer here is funny because there is no discount for buying bulk, whether a six pack or an entire case. The price is per can, and that price is the same for one can or for twenty-four.

KB Bridge is Falling Down - Here's a funny story. The Japan Palau Friendship Bridge which connects Koror to Babeldaob (hence KB) is actually the second bridge to be there. The first bridge collapsed and is still there below in the water. Apparently it is a cool dive. Anyway, recently, for some very bizarre reason, they decided to run a water pipe over the bridge. When you drive over it you can see the pipe there running along what used to be the sidewalk. It is pinned in place by sand bags. When we first arrived here there were periods where our water would be turned off because work was being done on this water pipe. That was the work. Now the bridge is overweighted, due to the water line and the number of cars that are driving across at any point in time. The bridge is once again collapsing. 

Pablo - Our landlady who lives downstairs with her family and owns our entire apartment complex has several filipino workers who live in tin-roofed shanty shacks down the hill. The main worker's name is Pablo. You may remember that he is the one who gave us our kitten. Anyway, since texting here is expensive and internet is more effort than it's worth, whenever any of the family needs to get a hold of Pablo, they just walk outside and start screaming his name at the top of their lungs, over and over and over again. All day long we hear Pablo! Pablo? Pablooooo!!!!