On Tuesday Fletch and I woke up to a tremendous thunder storm. Thunder storms are a rarity in Palau. We get no end of rain, especially this time of year, but tiny islands out in the middle of nowhere such as these experience a saddening dearth of thunder. Something to do with the ocean surface not warming up as much as land does. So low-lying air cannot heat to the capacity that is crucial for thunder storm formation. (That science lesson brought to you by NASA). 

Who doesn’t love a good thunderstorm? We woke up to booming and banging and rolling claps of all hell breaking loose. The wind was knocking all our plants over and blowing heavy sheets of rain in through every open window. (We have a lot of widows, all of which we keep open). Our dining room floor was practically flooded due to the leak in our roof. Too bad I had just scrubbed the floors the day before.

Our roof has been leaking since we moved in. They tried to fix it once but the patch job they did only kept the rain out for one rain storm. Then it was leaking all over again.

This is how repair jobs go around here. We tell the landlady’s granddaughter downstairs that the roof is leaking. They are a very nice family from a wealthy Palauan tribe that allows them to have lots of Filipino workers who all live in little shanty, tin-roofed shacks down the hill. Since telephones are too much of a technological advancement in this country, and the natives are too overweight to waddle down the hill and knock on a door, they opt for option C. Yell at the top of their lungs until someone answers.

“Pablo?! Pablo!!! Pablo??? Pablo PABLOPABLO!!!”

Poor Pablo must really hate the sound of his own name by now.

This time around Alvin and his friend Ahmed came knocking at our door. Alvin is a sweet guy who tried to give us a pigeon once. He has the youthful face and permanent smile of a kid in a candy store. His friend we didn't know.

They were sent up here to replace a pipe, then saw the waterfall coming through our roof and decided to fix that instead. They tore the panel off the ceiling, then realized they couldn’t actually fix the leak while it was raining. So they sat on their phones on our living room floor for a while, waiting for the rain to subside. The rain wasn't showing any signs of dwindling for at least a week, yet there they sat. Fletch and I didn’t want them to get too comfortable just hanging out, so we decided against turning on the tv and instead sat and played games on our iPads. Before too long Alvin was standing over our shoulders with his perma-grin, watching our games and asking every possible question about what we were playing. Not awkward at all.

When the wind died down slightly, Alvin and Ahmed went and sat on our porch and sorted through Fletch’s tool kit. They spent some time rummaging through our belongings and moving the cooler as well. A couple of hours later when the rain stopped, Alvin put our outdoor chair cushions (which are still in the plastic wrap) out in the middle of the rooftop to dry, and then said that they had to go get parts.

Alvin set our cushions, still in the plastic bags, out to sundry. That's nice I guess?

They came back later when it was raining again and sat around some more. It was a very awkward day. They finally finished the job when it stopped raining the following day.

On Thursday we went diving with a boat full of local lawyers. If you are a white person in Palau, you are either a lawyer sent over from the U. S. to work for the government, or you are a dive bum working at Sam’s. As such, no one can quite figure out what Fletch and I are doing here. As rainy season wares on and we are stuck indoors, we are becoming less and less sure ourselves.

Thursday proved to be a sunny day though, and Palau’s Independence day, so the lawyer crowd had the day off and decided to get a boat together of locals and go out diving.

Our dive guide was a jolly native, as wide as he was tall, and asked us if we had any preferences for dive sites. The group asked for Blue Holes and New Drop Off.

Blue Holes is a large, open cavern which we explored for the first part of our dive and found several lionfish lurking about inside. Lionfish are invasive in the Caribbean, so I’m used to spearing their dumb faces. And they really do have dumb faces. They just hover in a spot, lifeless, and let you spear them. And all their lionfish buddies hanging out nearby don’t even realize their friend is dead and try to make a run for it. They just hang there, as mindless as jellyfish.

Lionfish at Blue Holes.

Lionfish are native here so we’re supposed to ooh and ahh over them like all the other pretty fish. It’s a difficult transition to make. Especially when all you can see is a nice, juicy fillet. Oh I must be sounding awful by now.

One of many sharks swimming past Blue Corner. 

After we exited the cavern, the current swept us along straight to Blue Corner, the creme de la creme of dive sites. The reef is stunning, a school of thousands of red-toothed triggerfish flutter about like butterflies, fish of every other shape and color imaginable mix and match. The resident napoleon wrasse bumbles eagerly from diver to diver, and most incredible of all, find a spot to drop your hook on the wall and watch as dozens, sometimes even hundreds of sharks swim by. Grey reef sharks, white tip reef shark, black tip reef sharks, my mind never ceases to be blown. And tuna, some bigger than the sharks are, fly past creating a sight better than any photograph or nature video could ever capture. 

Surrounded by a school of barracuda at Blue Corner. 

For lunch the boat drove us over to Big Drop Off where the water wasn’t as choppy, allowing us to relax and eat our bento boxes. Big Drop Off also happens to be a popular snorkeling sight, so we got to watch with great amusement as boat-loads full of Chinese tourists doggy-paddled along in their life jackets.

Chinese tourists make for the most entertaining people watching, and I hope I don’t sound terribly racist by saying this. First off, they are very fond of waving. We’ve made a game out of waving at them and 99 times out of 100 they have to wave back. (Whereas Americans or most other people would just give you a funny look). Gotta love the friendliness. Secondly, their wardrobes belong in the worst-dressed celebrities section of a fashion magazine. Water activities require spandex prints in as many mismatching patterns as you can wear at once. Couples get extra points for having matching, mismatched outfits. And finding a Chinese person without a life vest is as difficult as finding a sorority girl without heels. (Although I think flats were in a little while back. Or maybe they still are. I don’t know these things I live on a rock).

That’s all old news though. The latest and greatest in the snorkel tour group crowd is the full-face mask with a built in snorkel. I kid you not. These things are so great on so many levels. Great that is if you want to look like an extra terrestrial with a dildo sticking out of your head and a jock strap across the back of it. And I have to imagine that breathing in there would be a lot like breathing under the bed sheets: a lot of exhaled air getting recycled but hardly any ventilation for new air to get in. But surely these ridiculous things everyone is wearing are better designed then that. There has to be some way to vent in plenty of fresh air. So curious, I looked them up online. Sure enough, the Tribord website for ‘Easybreath' snorkeling masks says not to use the product for swimming because your body requires a greater amount of oxygen then it does for snorkeling. And incase you’ve missed the warning labels on plastic bags, you can’t get oxygen by encasing your head in plastic and silicone.

The latest trend in snorkeling. 

It’s going to be a while before I stop laughing at the snorkel masks.

Stock photo of Easybreath snorkeling Mask from Tribord. 

We asked our boat captain what the Chinese word for ‘shark’ was. He knew where we were heading with that and excitedly called over one of the Chinese tour group guides swimming past to ask. Pretty soon we were all yelling ‘Shark!’ at the tourists, only to receive a chorus of laughs and corrections on the proper tones. Apparently it's sha-EEoo not sha-YOO. Tonal languages, ruining jokes every time.

For our second dive we had a relaxing dive at New Drop Off. When we surfaced, our guide commended me on what an excellent diver I was, and then asked how old I was. When I replied, he burst out laughing and said he thought I was 16. I laughed along with him, not wanting to throw in that I was an instructor on top of that. Those awkward moments when you don’t want a compliment to become an insult.

Parrotfish at New Drop Off.