Enjoying our lunch and our lovely decor!
I am beginning the long process of saying goodbye to my island home. I'm leaving Palau in twelve days. Twelve days! It's starting to sink in.... And not just because I'm almost done mailing things home, I'm trying to eat sashimi every day, and I'm slowly weaning myself off of the Palauan "eye salute" (raised eyebrows as a greeting or affirmative response to a question).
Today we had a farewell lunch, which also doubled as a retirement party for Linda, pictured, who has been with the judiciary for 26 years! The Court Counsel received these handmade fresh flower "leis". And we also had a delicious cake that was practically a work of art. Tonight I will say goodbye to my moot court students over dinner, and then on Sunday I'll say goodbye to my Palauan partner in crime for the year, Christine. I hope North Carolina is ready for her!
I have a week of work left, and I'm really excited to work with our successors to make sure they have as much fun as we did.
These are the signs on the fence around the collection of metal drums that serve as a Dumpster for my apartment building. The condition of these signs is, I think, indicative of the general attitude toward waste management in Palau.
Before I left California, I read a few articles about what happens to trash in Micronesia. I remember the shock of learning that sometimes islanders (not in Palau) just dump their trash into the ocean. I can see the temptation to do that: small islands, big ocean. But...then the trash just stays there. Forever. And it hurts the fish and other wildlife. It was striking here, when I went to some beaches on Peleliu and found them covered in bits of plastic and littered with hundreds of flip flop sandals.
Unlike in the U.S., where, for better or for worse, trash seems to magically disappear and we don't need to think too much about our guilt over throwing things away, it's harder to ignore this issue when you live on a small island. I feel guilty about everything I throw out: what if there just isn't enough space, eventually, for everyone's trash!?
I've been told the trash here goes into a landfill on Babeldaob and that the landfill isn't exactly up to U.S. environmental standards. There is no liner or other barrier to contain chemicals that might leach into the ground. I am sure there are other challenges too. Recycling is pretty much nonexistent, and although one local grocery store offers a whopping 10 cent bonus with every bag you reuse, I think more could be done to raise awareness about the perils of plastic. Further, I think there are definitely opportunities for environmental NGOs looking to develop sustainable solutions to growing levels of waste here in Palau!
These thoughts also lead me to one of the themes I think about a lot, as a young person who cares about the world: what can we do to not consume (and therefore not create so much waste)?
The best I can come up with is that we have to make "buying something" a last resort. I come from a family of DIYers (and my dad is our king), but still: sometimes it is just easier to buy something new. But doing that brings its own perils, like packaging, and a feeling that it's not worth repairing goods when you can just buy them.
One of my favorite features in Us Weekly Magazine (which my sister sends to me every few months, bless her), is the "What's in My Bag" feature, where a celebrity explains what kinds of zany and expensive designer things she carries around in her expensive designer purse. I thought it would be fun to have a Palauan version, so I took a picture of what I keep in my cheap cotton tote bag (clockwise):
- Sting Eze stick for insect bites
- Flash drive because the Internet is so slow, we have to transfer things like music, pictures, documents, and TV shows this way.
- Bug repellant and sunscreen.
- Bathing suit because you never know when you need to go to swimming!
- Pen from Las Vegas, which is a great memory from a trip I took with my friend Nancy last year.
- Wallet with map of Phnom Penh, also a reminder of my trip to Cambodia with Nancy this past March.
- Coin purse for my small change that I use to buy the newspaper.
- Paperclip that I found. We have to buy our own office supplies, so things like paperclips are worth their weight in gold!
- Coaster for my coffee cup at work, which I am mailing home, along with my coffee mug.
- Band Aid so that I can be a good Girl Scout and "be prepared."
- Camera cable and camera so I can upload photos for PenPalau!
Getting ready for our class! Approximately 60 people trooped to the national museum to enjoy a fun cultural activity.
I was so excited yesterday to take part in one of the few artistic opportunities here in Palau: an ikebana class! Ikebana is the Japanese art of flower arranging, and it favors simplicity and clean designs. A teacher (sensei) who is also an avid SCUBA diver came from Japan to teach us. Her grandfather is a "living treasure" in Japan due to his skill and artistic talent. Our sensei (pictured) wore her kimono and also a strap of fabric to tie up her sleeves. (I had never seen that before). It was also incredibly hot, but she merely dabbed at her face with a towel and stayed very composed. I regretted the fact that I left my fan, which usually gets me through hot situations in Palau, at home.
I stayed to design one arrangement, a bonsai garden. I wasn't too keen on what we were supposed to use as the "island" (rocks we collected from the museum grounds) or the "sand" (sand we scooped up from the museum grounds). I think there's still lots of work to be done in terms of Palauan and Japanese attitudes toward conservation and preserving nice things. Like the grounds of your national museum. But, I did appreciate that some announcements were made to conserve the flowers (which, thankfully, we did not pluck from the museum landscaping). My friend Mark received special recognition for his arrangement ("You have captured a very Japanese feeling. You are so cute," Sensei said).
The best part, of course, was seeing a lot of friends in the community. I saw one of my friends who is a doctor and who had worked all night in the ER the night before; I saw my friend who is a reporter; and I saw another friend who is a teacher. It was nice to connect over art! And I had a great chat with my friend Carol, one of the best local artists here. It's nice to be able to slowly say goodbye before I leave in two weeks!
This is my favorite mural in Palau. The mural is located right downtown, so I see it all the time, and it's a really sweet image of a mother and daughter in the taro field. The mom also has cool tattoos. I really like the style, as it looks like something from the 1960s or 1970s, which in turn reminds me of growing up in the Central Valley (where everything was already decades old because there's no money for anything new. I like it that way). I like the concept, too. My parents really subscribed to this motto, and the closeness of parent and child makes me miss them and my idyllic country childhood. Even now, I love learning new things! I think also about all the cool things I've learned this year from a lot of great teachers: how to crack eggs with one hand, how to open a coconut, how to cross a river without getting swept away by the current, the proper way to wear a flower behind one's year, the correct height for a woman's bun, and how to do a flip-turn, among others. The other side of the mural has the same message, but in Palauan. Let's just hope the little girl also has a chance for some book-learning as well!
Court Counsel 2011-2012 with CJ, sporting a cool aloha shirt. CJ told us a lot of funny stories and listened to all of our jokes. We all had a lot of fun!
A few cool things happened tonight. First, after a very arduous work week, Christine and I headed to PPR for some much-needed R&R. We had some popcorn, chatted with a few Delta Airlines flight attendants, and talked to Maria, one of the nicest bartenders at PPR.
At one point, I heard someone say my name a few times. I turned around, and the couple sitting behind me said, "Are you Megan? Because you're famous...we read about you on your blog!" They were visiting from California (and Boston, but the boyfriend was moving to California soon--a wise choice, if you ask me!) and, like me, really enjoyed their time in Palau. It was fun to be identified and feel like the blog is helping people get excited about this little island I have so enjoyed.
Christine and I then headed to the PPR lobby, where we enjoyed a wonderful buffet dinner. There are several benefits to being a PPR member, including discounts, unlimited gym and beach access, two one-night stays, and invitations to the quarterly members' dinner. The dinners are always really delicious and usually have a mix of Western and Palauan foods. I filled up on sashimi, sushi, fish, salad, and fruit. Oh, and some delicious wine, too! Wine is very expensive in Palau, so it was nice for someone else to pay. And by "someone else," I mean, I paid for it when I joined PPR a year ago.
At this, our last dinner, CJ joined us and shared a few funny stories about Palau. At the end of the night, there was a raffle and, per the usual, we did not win anyt Afterward Scott, Christine, and I went to the beach and talked about our year and reminisced about what we were doing this time last year (getting excited about Palau) and what we are doing this year (still excited about Palau, but also excited for the next steps).