In the early hours of the morning I was having this nightmare that I was going to give myself a haircut (something I actually have done many a time before). I washed and shampooed my hair and then the water ran out (it sometimes does that here) before I could rinse all the shampoo out. So I decided that wasn’t a big deal and had wet sudsy hair and went to cut my hair, only to realize that my scissors were dull. I kept trying and trying to cut it, only the scissors were only folding my hair in half over the blade instead of actually cutting it. Meanwhile my hair was drying into a sticky clumpy mess because of all the shampoo. Drying actually helped the scissors out and every cut I managed to get was zig-zagged from the last until I looked like a five-year old playing with scissors for the first time. Oh yeah and the haircut was an interlude from the race I was in the middle of running so I was in a hurry and getting more and more frustrated by the second.

I finally woke up from that mess and without saying a word about the dream, Fletch asked if I wanted to go get a haircut with him. Apparently the universe was telling me I needed a haircut, because the universe totally cares about my split ends. Ok maybe not, but at that point I was fully convinced that I shouldn’t pass up the chance to go have someone professional cut my hair for me.

For five dollars a little Filipino lady trimmed all my dead ends, layered my hair, and even straightened it using nothing but a hair dryer and a round brush. It was so nice to have straight hair again! When you travel and have to condense all your belongings down to two bags there really isn’t room to pack hair straighteners and hair products. You learn to stop caring what your hair looks like after a while so long as it’s bushed. Having it prettied up was a treat. (You know you’ve been living in the islands for too long when getting your hair straightened with a blow dryer feels like getting prettied up).

As I was floating out the salon door feeling like a princess, I rounded a large minivan in the parking lot at the same moment that a Palauan man rounded towards me in the opposite direction. At the moment when we both rounded the corner, the guy spat a massive stream of red betel nut juice directly in front of me, missing me by an inch. I don’t know what I would have done had that nasty blood red spit landed on me. Betel nut has to be the nastiest habit I’ve come across, and I’m usually open-minded enough about different cultures to not call their customs nasty. In fact I think this is a first for me. It’s not like gum where it takes up a small fraction of the space in your mouth. They cram their mouths full of the stuff until they can’t even close their lips anymore. And everyone does it constantly so no one realizes how bad it looks to someone unfamiliar with the practice. I feel bad even bashing another country’s customs, I’m usually one to observe differences without judging, but almost getting spit on should not be acceptable anywhere.

In other news, Fletch and I got our resident cards today! We’ve been trying to figure out how to do this for quite some time. We figured out the social security card and driver’s license almost immediately, but those aren’t enough to exempt you from having to buy a rock island pass to go diving every ten days. People with work permits are exempt, but not people with only social security cards. So a while back we went to the immigration office to ask what we had to do to apply for residency. They gave us a big long list of items including having a medical clearance from outside the country, and having proof of income. Neither Fletch nor I got medical clearance prior to coming here. And my bank account is nearly empty. So that wasn’t going to work. We let the issue slide for a while and just kept buying new rock island passes every few weeks when we wanted to dive.

Then today we went over to the park ranger’s office to see if we needed these passes just to go out on the boat. Any activity in the rock islands requires the pass. So then we brought up our dilemma with living here but still having to buy cards every ten days. The ranger sent us to the Koror state office, to apply as residents through just the state. All they needed was a passport and social security card. Problem solved. And the cool part is that had we figured this out sooner, it wouldn’t have done us any good because you have to have been in Palau for at least 90 days before getting a resident card. We’ve only been here 80, but the lady was nice and gave us the cards.

So I present to you the many cards you have to have to live here in Palau:

A - Social Security Card - Mine clearly says Not For Employment, since I didn’t have a work permit to show her, but if I was working they would take money out of my paycheck and put it into a medical savings account that would give me benefits.

B - Palau Driver’s Licence - As Americans we only had to take the written test, and half the questions were about whether or not the president could suspend our licenses for various reasons... Isn’t it pretty though?

C - Debusch Card - This can be used for HomeNet, the internet service that gets installed in your home, or to make phone calls on the land line. It costs $10 and the amount of internet time it gives you varies depending on what time of day it is. During business hours internet costs $2.50 per hour, and during evenings/nights and weekends internet costs $1.50 per hour.

D - PTHotspot Card - If you don’t have HomeNet installed, you can pick up a signal from various PTHotspots around the island. We can pick up the signal for PTHotspot2 if we walk out onto the roof. As it says, $10 gets you 7 hours of internet access.

E - Palau Wifi Card - There are also various Palau Wifi hotspots scattered around the island. Most businesses will have either a PTHotspot or a Palau Wifi hotspot to connect to. For $20 you get 10 hours of access, and it expires after 10 days.

F - Rock Islands Permit - To do any activity in the Rock Islands as a tourist, including diving, you need a Rock Islands Permit. It costs $50, expires after ten days, and does not include Jellyfish Lake. The permit that includes Jellyfish Lake is $100. To add Jellyfish Lake onto your already existing Rock Islands Permit costs an additional $75.

G - Resident ID Card - Available to people residing the state of Koror after a period of 90 days. This only cost $5 and now trumps having a Rock Island Permit.

H - Peleliu Permit - To go over to the island of Peleliu and dive you need a completely different permit. This one costs $30 and also expires after ten days.

I - Non-Commercial Fishing Permit - I said before that any activity in the Rock Islands requires the Rock Islands Permit. That is any activity besides fishing. To fish you need an additional permit. This one costs $20 and lasts 30 days.

W - Mobile Prepaid Card - It would make sense if the same card could be used for land lines and cell phones since they are the same company, but no, to add minutes onto your cell phone you have to buy another $10 card. Whoever prints all these cards is making bank!