Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Palau and my future

Life here in Palau is steady as always. Beautiful skies all the time and sunshine shining through my office window. Today we started documenting the work we have done. Yixin is doing all the specification work while I am documenting the technical aspect of it.

I felt leet ( CS lingo for awesome ) today when I debugged a minor bug in 5 minutes when it could have taken all day to fix but I found it right away. muhahahahahah

Today I started to have some realizations about next year. It is my last scheduled year at CMU. I have NO idea what waits for me afterwords. Should I apply to PhD programs? Do more work with global technology development? Go into industry? Moderately freaking out. But it will work out in the end...usually does.

This evening we are taking the scuba written test to get our license to dive. Multiple choice exam!!! I haven't taken one of those in a looooong time.

Happy Hump-Day (did you know that's what Wednesday is called?!)


Sunday, June 28, 2009

epic scuba weekend...

Ok, so there were a lot of revelations this weekend, here they are in list form:

-I have moderately gotten over my fear of sharks
-The world is awesome
-Found Nemo! (seriously...)
-Koreans are awesome

Ok now for the explanation on everything:

We started 8:30am at the Dive shop here in Koror. Mr Song, explained all the gear we need and how to get it ready. Fun times. Then the downpour began, it was POURING RAIN (but still sunny out?) We left anyway. Kate and I were the only Caucasians on the boat, but everyone was still very friendly. We communicated in the little Korean we knew, and they tried their best to speak in the little English they knew. Most conversations consisted of: "Hello!, Thanks You!...,....,...,,...,,...Thank you!" And you would smile and walk away. Was all good though. We arrived at our beach where we would have our scuba lessons.

It was still early and the tourists haven't shown up yet, so Mr Song sat us down and gave us the run down on how to assemble our gear and how to use it all. We then assembled it all and did the buddy system check. WORST acronym btw (B.W.A.R.F.) Its barf with a W. LAME.

The tourists then arrived so Mr. Song said we should go snorkeling in the area while we waited. So we did. He said their might be some small sharks so be prepared. Mi and I shrug off the warning and decided to go snorkeling in the deeper areas to go shark spotting. As always there were tons of fish, Zebra, huge parrot fish, ones with long noses. And once and a while we would see some shark suckers (signs of sharks in the area) (They are the ones that hang out underneath a shark). Then Mi said she might have seen one and stopped and fixed her goggles, I went out a bit farther and in a flash, out of the dark blue I saw fins, grey skin, and a tail, and back into the darkness it went.

Now I had NO idea how petrifying it would be see a shark, so I scampered back to Mi and said I think I saw a small one in the distance. Then we looked up over the water and saw a fishing boat near us, and then went back under, and then THEY came.

Now the one I saw for a seconds was a pretty small pup. These were quite large, maybe about 6-7 feet long. They were just circling around the area where the guys were fishing. They were black tip reef sharks, pretty common reef sharks. All the Koren tourists started to flock to the area to watch them come out of the dark blue, circle around and then disappear again. I started to freak out. Its one thing to have a cage, or a plate of glass protecting you, but there was NOTHING. And let me tell you, when you see a shark for real, your mind it yelling at you to get to hell out of there. I decided to go tell Kate and Yixin that we are watching tons of sharks. After a while, my heart rate slowed down and you started to really admire them, but when one decided to come towards you, your heart rate jumps right up again.

It was time for lunch and then time for diving. The first dive was basically skills, like how to clear your mask, how to fix stuff under the water. Then we went a bit deeper for the second dive and did some more intense stuff like talking off your gear under the water and then putting it back on. And then all of a sudden the sharks appeared again. Sometimes one or two, or sometimes a fleet of 3-5 adults. Now its completly different seeing sharks un-warned, and un-protected several meters underwater. There is NO escape. You can't rush to the top, cause your lungs will explode, you can't swim that fast. You just sit still and pray that they are not in the mood to eat your legs. They just passed on by.

End of day one of diving.

When I got back to my room, the visions of the sharks coming out of the darkness and then going back in just kept racing through my head. It was petrifying. I was still afraid of them. *Kate was also startled by the sharks, which is saying something because it takes a lot to scare her*

Day 2:

It started off just like before except the family of the owners of the dive shop came along on our boat. They were talking to Mi and smiled at us. They dropped us off again and we got right to work. The first dive we went a bit deeper and did some more drills. In the distance we were again visited by our friends, the Black tips. They never came that close but they were there. After we finished our first dive, we found out we finished almost all of the skills needed. The next two dives would be exploration dives.

Lunch break and time for another dive.

We got in and descended into the water. Its such a thrill to scuba dive. The colors of the fish and all the strange creatures you can see. I picked up a sea cucumber at one point and it squirted its poison defense sperm things to me. It was nasty. Then we reached shark city. They were EVERYHWERE. All sizes. Big ones, pups. Instead of freaking out I kept my cool. I think I finally got over my fear. We then saw some giant clams and fish mating and lots of neat stuff. We ran low on air and turned back. Our last dive we turned the other way and went over the coral garden. This was our test of neutral buoyancy (not sinking or going up). It was awesome, tons of coral everywhere, then Mr. Song took us to a sea anemone where there was adult clown fish and a baby clown fish. It was adorable, It took me years, but I found Nemo! We then ventured off into the coral again and saw all the corals, fish, and the occasional shark. I had barely any air left and we came up just in time.

We packed up and the boat with the Korean family picked us up. We then went to Milky Way. (The place with the limestone mud and sulfur) We got our mud baths and jumped off of the boat. The Korean family and us played in the water. They were so friendly and offered us snacks and drinks. Much more open to conversation than our last trip with the Japanese to the Milky way. After some back flips off the bow, it was time to head home.

We cleaned up our gear and decided on the day for our final examination to get our scuba license. It was a truly eye opening weekend seeing a side of the world few people get to see. I can't wait to do some more scuba here in Palau. Mr Song took some pictures with his underwater camera so I will post them as soon as we get them.

Maybe I should finally start working today at work?

Have a good week!


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Climbing Malakal Hill and Mr. Song

So in honor of the sun being out yesterday I decided to go on a run. I ran past Long Island (the swimming park) all the way down to this park called Ice Box Park.

However I saw this road going up this hill so I decided to stop running and walk up it. At the top I saw an awesome view of some of the rock islands in the distance and took some pictures. Afterwords I went to icebox park to walk around. I saw that the corals and fish there were quiet large, maybe a good place to go swimming (being that we are growing sick of long island).

That night we met with our scuba diving instructor: Mr Song. He is a very timid and small Korean man who speaks minimal English. He is giving us a large discount because he wants to practice his English by teaching us scuba diving. Mi will help obviously in case the language barrier is too much. I am so excited to go scuba diving. I have been reading the book and watching the (painfully awful) instructional videos so I am ready to do it. In case you didn't know, Palau has international acclaim among divers because the main diving magazine recently called Palau the number one spot in the world for scuba diving. Mr Song then explained that some sharks might stop by at some points so not to be worried, and be privileged that Palau is one of the only places that you can see sharks while getting scuba certified.

My only fear is that once I go scuba diving here in Palau, everything else will be a bore...haha.

We are starting to test our software with one of the worker here, and they seemed pleased with our design.

oh! and yesterday for lunch I ate in the office because they made this awesome fish (one I've never heard of) cooked in this butter sauce. It was incredible, best fish I've ever eaten. Then on the side there was some sting ray...that was a bit more...slimy. I am really expanding my taste pallet here in Palau...First Turtle Soup, Giant Clam, and now Sting Ray.

However the big climax of my eating experience is on its way. It is also very common here in Palau to eat Fruit Bat Soup...served with a fruit bat in it...If it wasn't 35 dollars a bowl I would have tried it already, but I think we are going to wait a bit more to order that at the restaurant.

Happy Thursday!


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Sun is out...temporarily

So I'm looking out my window at work and enjoying the sunlight...well as much as someone working in front of a computer can. I've spent all morning cleaning up code and documenting the code so my boss can easily figure out what I've coded.

This afternoon I am sitting down with one of the workers at the MOE and explaining how to use my new software and how it works with their current scanned exams.

Ugh I hope they like it. I've tried really hard to make it very user friendly to fix database errors.

Getting mentally ready to get scuba diving lessons!!! I need to read the book and watch the dvds...zzzz...

Nothing else very exciting. Today for lunch we are eating a fish (like an entire fish).

Happy Wednesday!


Monday, June 22, 2009

Rain rain rain.

Its raining here...a lot...Staying in most days watching old sci-fi shows and resting from the weekend.

This weekend its scuba diving time!!!!!!

read about my awesome trip to the waterfalls below this...

almost done coding software, testing starts next week. (WAAAAY ahead of schedule!!! :-D)



Sunday, June 21, 2009

2 waterfalls and about 255 pictures

Another great weekend here in Palau.

Starting on Friday we got out of work at 1pm, and since it was so sunny and clear out I decided to take out a kayak by myself and go out for a row. It was very creepy being out in the still bay water all alone with nothing but a small kayak keeping you away from all the fish and corals beneath you. It helped me get over my fear of the unknown for sure, because going through those areas where you can not see the bottom was moderately unsettling, but you just take a big breath and go. I reached my destination and found an awesome clam farm and still water to relax on. It was an awesome bay surrounded by limestone islands. After a few splashes in the distance my anxiety told me it was time to leave. The row was along a limestone island with lots of green flora and corals to see. Good times. When I got back I took a much needed shower and then it was time for HAPPY HOUR!!!


After happy hour I ate a burger in about 1 minute and then ate a lot of fries, and folded my laundry then passed out..

Saturday was waterfall day!!!

However, the day started off at 5am with the Palau Olympic day run. Kate and I were the only CMU'ers to dare run the 8k that morning. We woke up to the lovely sound of rain pouring on the streets, but knowing Palau, it would clear up shortly. We jogged down to the national gymnasium to sign up. The warm up was probably the most ridiculous thing I have seen/done. This small Palauan woman went up and started leading us in an aerobic workout filled with sidesteps, clapping, and dancing. And of course in the background was: "It's raining men". Did I mention it was on repeat? For 10 minutes!!?!?! The old Palaun men loved it despite being off beat the entire time. After the warmup the race began. Was a nice jog, was able to keep pace with the navy cadets stationed in Palau so huzzah. The weather cleared up and we were treated with a nice sunrise along the run. Kate won the woman's division and I probably got 12th in the Mens. But lets get to what was important about the run...FREE TEE SHIRT!!!!!!!!!! We ate, and then left.

Now onto what made Saturday EXTRA special..

So Palau, in addition to having their famous rock islands peppered throughout the Pacific, there is a large Island, Baedelbob (Ba-bel-bob) filled with tropical rain forest and rivers and such. There are two waterfalls that are moderately popular, so we decided to take a day trip to visit these.

We met Joel, a lawyer on contract here in Palau. He offered to give us the tour very generously. Thank you Joel!!!

We followed the road (the only road in Palau) to the first destination, Ngatpang Waterfall

We got off the main road onto the dirt road and then started following the trail to the river. This was my first time ever in a jungle (as opposed to a forest) So I was in awe of all the lush fauna around me. The steps were steep, but after a 5 minute hike, we got to the top of the water fall. It was an alright view, but Joel explained the good view was at the bottom. We stared across the top and realized the path led through the waterfall, and we had to cross the river, 5 meters away from the edge! There was NO room for error, but luckily the water never went past your calf at the deepest parts.

On top of the waterfall:

Right when you crossed the top:

We trudged through the top of the river and then down the other side and was greeted with a disgustingly beautiful scene of a waterfall. We then slowly walked toward the falls themselves, watching out for all the rock holes. There was this old broken down hut there too, which was pretty neat. Enough talking, here are pictures:

The old hut thing:

This is one of my favorite pictures I took from the day:

We then moved onto stop number two: Ngardmau Waterfall.

This waterfall required a bit more of a hike, but was a much more popular destination spot in Palau. We arrived at lot and started trekking through the woods. The first obstacle was a set of two railroad tracks dating back to WWII times when the Japanese used to mine the island for bauxite (aluminum ore). The coolest part about the tracks was all the roots from trees that just consumed the tracks. Made for some cool pictures.

Starting the hike:


You would follow the tracks till you reached another clay path. This clay path took you to the top of a hill where there were some WWII old houses (I'm assuming for the Japanese workers) and an awesome distance view of our waterfall destination. Everywhere you looked all you could see was green jungle canopy, but peeking its head out in the distance was rapid water following off the edge of a cliff.

You then descent from the hill into the jungle where there was a river. The part we were walking down was unlike any I've seen. It was like waling on a giant boulder, but there were holes where the water would flow into creating swimming holes, and then lots of rushing rapids. We stayed on the calm side which was practically dry rock, and followed it down into the more typical river portion.

You then had to climb into the river and follow it till the end. The scenery was breathtaking. You looked up and there was a roof of green canopy only letting in streams of sunlight which lit up the river beautifully. There were also vines and lots of trunks of old trees just hanging over you as you walked down. About 10 minutes in, the water level started to rise and at one point was about waist high.

But right afterwords we got to the path out of the river and was greeted with the most gorgeous waterfall I think I will ever see. The water was clear, the sun was out, you could go down and stick your head in the water, go behind it, look up at the cascading water. I think I spent about an hour just soaking in the wonder of it all.

We then sat for a while and munched out on snacks we brought and then proceeded to travel back. We stopped at one of the swimming holes for another dip and then headed back home to Koror. We then all took a much needed nap and slept well for the night.

Sunday was rainy and cloudy all day, so we stayed in and watched movies, played games, and prepared ourselves for ANOTHER work week here in Palau.

Now I am back in the office coding away on the test software. Hopefully I can get it functional by the end of the week. It actually just got me thinking, yes the waterfalls were beautiful, but beauty in the world is more than waterfalls, and sunshine. Hopefully this software can get this country more funding for their underfunded schools. No picture can match that. (corny ain't I?)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Nothing exciting...answers to questions:

Ed and James,

keep em coming, its nice to hear back from other people! haha


Culture here revolves around food, its all they do. When you are surrounded by fresh food all the time, its hard not to be excited about it (especially when it is sooooooooo cheap).

At work, nothing exciting happened yesterday....0101010100100101011111010101010001010110


Happy "one-day-till-Indian-buffet-food" Thursday.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Muddy Frisbee Game

So yesterday was an awesome day here in Palau.

For lunch we went to the deli right by the MOE. I never saw that on their menu they had 5 dollar bento meals. So for 5 dollars you got a salad, sushi, fish, and some veggies. Incredible! Won't be my last time there. Work is starting to get a bit more intense because we are developing an online spreadsheet catered to fixing database problems when uploading scanned responses to exams. Oy gevalt! But once we get through this hard part, the rest will be easy.

After work we got invited to play ultimate frisbee with some of the Army Cadets and Peace Corps peps. It just poured that afternoon so it was very very muddy, but that made it all the better. There a lot of Palauns walking around the track while we played intense ultimate in the mud. They would cheer whenever someone would make a big dive to catch the frisbee. We played till sunset. After a much needed shower, we went out to a dinner at a resort. Yixin met the owner at the beach and they bonded because they are both Chinese and when we arrived she generously gave us half of this HUGE crab for an appetizer. It was so delicious. Then after some desert we played some cards and hit the hay for another day of work.

I am at work now and this form is very difficult, but hopefully I can get it done by the end of the day.

Happy Wednesday?


Monday, June 15, 2009

Hi Mom...I'm still alive

Mom: Read the title.

Yesterday was a typical day here in Palau. Woke up, went to work. Got two applications of the software completed and interacting with databases. Then I went for a run after work and after wards I went to the park and just stared out into the water for about an hour. Then for dinner I had sashimi...om num num num. They gave me some Giant Clam Sashimi. Which was very interesting. (crunchy than you would expect)...I also think its an endangered species....hmmmm....not in Palau though, they are EVERYWHERE.

work work work.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Just keep swimming...

Once again an amazing weekend here in Palau (no where near as great as the rock islands trip, but still very eventful)

Friday night we were so full of our Taj Buffet we decided to stay in and play some cards and what not. We had to wake up at 6am the next day to go to the Palau Open water swim!


So we woke up at a lovely 6am to start walking over to the Palau Pacific Resort (PPR for short). On the way there we were able to get picked up by Mike and Liz (two Americans working here as lawyers and a professor in the community college). We got there to see that the waves on the beach were much rougher than usual..going to be a fun open swim. We each signed up for our event. Yixin, Mi, and Brandon decided to take it easy and do the 250m novice swim. Kate felt adventurous and did the 500m swim. For some reason I felt super adventurous (and motivated to get into better shape) so I signed up for the 1000m swim...gulp...They then marked our arms with our respective numbers...I was 8...

It started to beacon on me that Palau was very small because I realized that I recognized most of the people at the swim either through work or meeting them at the swim meet. A lot of Palauns came up to me and asked if I was the myspace Tom or said hello to me and asked how I was feeling after the swim meet. They are probably the friendliest people ever.

The view from the beach at PPR was breath taking even though it was quite a cloudy day. The organizer explained the course we needed to take and said if we ever needed to stop to go to the kayaks. I was so excited to do my first open water swim race. We stood on the beach on the edge of the Pacific Ocean waiting to start and then before I knew it I was surrounding by tons of people swimming in the ocean. I started with front crawl but the waves just got rougher and rougher. It got to the point were I just decided to save my energy and do breast stroke. I tried to take into account the beauty of the fish and corals beneath me, but I was just so focused on beating that damn 12 year old in front of me....she got away...at the 500m meter mark I was quiet tired so I did some back stroke to recover some energy to only find waves crashing on top of me left and right. I took a 5s break to see how I was doing. I saw about 5 people in front of me and 7 people behind me so I was doing alright. I saw the Kayaks waved to the people on board and then continued on the course. Finally at the 750m mark we were no longer swimming against the current and count ride the waves back to the shore. I looked up and saw I was heading straight to the rocks! I quickly turned and avoided that catastrophe. I was so tired, and ocean water was splashing in my mouth on every breath.. oy...Finally I was 10 ft from the shore and Kate was yelling at me to go the other way! haha. I got back on my course and saw that everyone was cheering when I got back and I ran through the finish line to find there were a bunch of young Palaun girls screaming "Congratulations" Whenever someone finished their race. It was very cute.

Finish Line on the Beach:

The Course:

I then proceeded to drink lots and lots of water to get the salty taste out of my mouth. Nothing quite worked. After a delicious brunch of chicken nuggets, other races, and raffles (I never won...) It was time for the award ceremony. They first gave out ribbons for the swim meet on Thursday and Laura, Yixin and I got tons of ribbons for being the only competitors in our events. haha. Free souvenirs!!! yay! Then it was time for the results of the open swim. Kate kicked butt in the 500m and won 1st (beating the first place guy). Mi got 2nd in the 250m. Yixin sorta won the 250m but they forgot him...sadness. and Brandon then got 3rd. I somehow got 3rd place for the mens division in 1000m swim. Yay! We each got some sort of free thing at the PPR. Kate won free dinner buffet. I won free stay for the day to use their pool and beach. Mi won breakfast buffet. We will probably plan a fantastic day at PPR with our prizes.

Everyone then got towels (I was very excited more about these!) Another free souvenir!!!

We then hung out on the hammocks and hot tub until PPR kicked us out. It started to rain anyway.

On the way back we saw this awesome view of Koror (where I live):

I napped the rest of the day and then we went to Joe's later that night to watch ESPN and meet some Peace Corps people and other people we met at the open swim.

We then watched the strangest ESPN sports because thats all they get here in Palau. Woman's ping pong anyone?

After some drinks we decided to hit the hay.


Sunday was very lazy (due to the rain and thunder) and mostly did some grocery shopping and took care of the scuba diving certification.

We met the instructor who speaks SOME English but Mi can translate all of his Korean. haha but he is giving us an excellent deal for scuba diving certification. 250 dollars! (in the states its usually about 600 dollars!!!)

He gave us the DVDs and Books so we can study and then in two weekends we will have a diving filled trip where we learn all the skills needed. Huzzah!

That night we were invited to Joel's (Another young lawyer here in Palau) along with Christie and Rick (Peace Corps peps). We had pasta and Garlic bread...delicious! After tons of Catch Phrase with the white people clique here in Palau it was time for sleep.

I woke up this Monday to find it sunny and beautiful.. Thank you mother nature, just in time for the work week.

Tonight we are going to the local bootleg video shop! I'm so excited. I haven't seen a movie in a while.

Have a good week everyone!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

"Consider yourself very warned at very white"

That's what the swim official told me when I false started :-P

Swimming was fun, I am not in the same swimming shape I was in when I was in high school, but s'all good. I was on a relay team with the Palauan girl who swam at the Olympics though! That was cool.

Since its Friday we went to our amazing Indian food buffet. We met a girl from new zealand there who also works at the MOH. She was very friendly and will probably do the scuba diving certification with us. Yay!

To answer James' Questions. My apartment is on the main city island of Koror about a 5 min walk from two bridges to other islands. There are no beaches here, it all goes from mangrove->water. All the beaches I mention are man-made or on the main (big) island a long drive away. So yes, I am in a city, but a city with 13,000 people in it, with the tallest building being 4 stories tall (Except the hotels, but they don't count). The nightlife here consists of bars filled with locals and tourists sharing stories from their days. Its not quite the dance on the bar top scene, but its very relaxed like many things in the Palaun Society. We heard of a local dance club, which I think we plan on going to eventually which will be an interesting story once we go there.

Four, I have killed 4 people in bar fights.

Tomorrow we are going to the Palauan Pacific resort because there is an open water swim they are sponsoring. Then we are free to hang around all day on their beach and pool. Huzzah.

Sunday we might start our scuba lessons. Huzzah again!

Happy Friday Everyone!

Next post will be on Monday.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

yum sashimi and dogs everywhere!

So living here in Palau I have developed a new love for Sashimi. It's really incredible here. The fish just melts in your mouth. Last night we went to a bar and got Pokke style Sashimi (it was mixed with spices, oil, and soy sauce). Om num num num num.

Today its part one of the national swim meet. I'm excited to be swimming amongst the Palauans, should be fun.

So in Palau dogs here just walk around the streets aimlessly. They are not violent, they actually go up to you and beg you to be petted. I usually pass because they also look very dirty. But they also howl together at *3AM* when an ambulance drives past. So I love being woken up by dogs howling and then occasional roster joining along at 3am. But it's all good, just part of the culture here.

Laura, I can see you from here, jeez how I can I miss something I can see from the other side of the globe?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

3 Rs: running, raining, and writing

So Kate and I went running the other day at 6am. I did not enjoy it while doing it, but I felt better for the rest of day (ate tons).

It has been raining every day this week, which in my mind is a good thing. First it did not rain at all during the weekend and I am sure the crops here need the rain. Second I don't feel as bad spending my day inside coding. haha.

Speaking of crops I guess I'll mention what is a typical Palauan meal. The staples of the country are Taro (that potatoy vegetable that's different colors), Tapioca (So gross as a vegetable, but they love it, fresh tapioca => the bubble tea here is epic), and Limes (OMFG, best limes of my life, you can eat them like oranges and they are so tasty. Its what makes the iced tea here incredible). And then fish, lots and lots and lots of fish, and pretty much anything else they eat from the ocean. One day they brought in Turtle for us to try. Tastes like very very very very dark turkey meat, except its not turkey....its Turtle.

There is a national swim meat coming up soon, I think we are planning on entering it and having fun swimming with the Palauns! This week we are also looking for cheap places to get scuba certified.

Things I miss: youtube, SYTYCD, and Chipotle.

Monday, June 8, 2009


Yea at work, working on their test management software, coding my butt off.

Read about my rock island trip! \/ :-D

Yes Ed, it was bomb.

Here's what the signs explained about jelly fish lake.

The lake used to be connected to the ocean through an underground cave network, then one day it mysteriously got cut off from the ocean. The jelly fish in the lake evolved to no longer need their stinging cells because there were no predators in the lake. However they do in fact sting you if one touches a very sensitive part of your body (I got stung on my sunburn and Mi got stung on her lip). It was nothing more than a mild pinch and went away after a second...That's Darwinism for you.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Palau is beautiful!!!!...but burns

Ok so lets get something clear:

If anyone reading this blog gets a ton of money to spend on a vacation, you MUST MUST MUST come to Palau. I just had the most amazing nature filled weekend of my life. So lets start with Friday.

First of all...the Indian Buffet was EPIC. All you can eat delicious Indian food?...yes please. That night we were trying to figure out the plan for the weekend because we really wanted to go out and explore the famous Rock Islands of Palau, but at the cheapest price of course. We decided as a group renting kayaks for 10 dollars would be the cheapest option. After the debate on plans, Laura, a fellow employee of the Ministry of Health invited us to go see a film at the international Film festival that was going on at the local College. We arrived at the half full cafeteria to watch "shooting dogs." A very harsh look at the Rwanda Genocide. After a powerful film and some discussions we just decided to go the sleep and start the next day anew.


So Saturday we woke up at 10am to go get our Kayaks. We got the kayaks from this tour company that targets Japanese Tourists. We took them to the shore and set off. We went into one of the ocean inlets to find a gorgeous lagoon filled with corals and lined by trees. Off of one of the trees was a rope swing to jump into the water. The one problem was that it was low tide, so the rope was too high for us to climb up out of the water. Kate and I daringly climbed ontop of the tree where it was tied to fetch it. This was the scariest thing I've ever done. (well at least for me) One slip and it a bed of sharp corals and limestone waiting for me. Thank goodness nothing bad happened and we got the rope and I took that awesome plunge into the lagoon. After about another THREE (ouch) hours of kayaking we went back, took a much needed shower, and ate some much needed food.

We have picked out our favorite restaurant here in Palau, Its that cheap place with the fried rice? remember? It's called Emamelie (ee-ma-ma-lay). We went there to pig out on the rice and mixed vegetables. om num num num.

We went to the movie festival again and watched this weird Italian film called "Respiro" It was weird but interesting. I recommend it for the more patient film goer.

After the movie we figured we had another day off and then a FULL WEEK of work, so its time we get out to the REAL rock Islands of Palau. We decided that since the people at IMPAC (the Japanese tour group) liked us and considered us locals (gives us the local price.....50% off!!!!!!) we would take there 7 hour Rock Island tour on Sunday.

Time to sleep off the Sun Burn...


Brandon, Yixin, Mi and Myself woke up to go on the tour. (Kate had other plans to go biking around the main Island) We arrived and paid our 45 dollar tour fee and then 35 dollar jelly fish lake pass.


if you do not know about jelly fish lake in Palau. read this:


After our purchases the entire country of Japan arrived to go on the tour as well. Chaos ensued as the the Japanese owner was trying to help the many families and honeymoon couples get their snorkeling gear.

As soon as the boat left downtown Koror the true beauty of Palau finally revealed itself to us. Islands peppered throughout the ocean that we could never see came into sight. We were just in awe of the site of clear blue waters amidst rock islands painting with lush green trees on top. BEAUTIFUL.

Stop 1: Coral Garden.

the Coral Garden was off of Fantasy Island (I think its called this because the Island is surrounded by sharp coral making it impossible to get to)

Coral garden was home to finger-like corals with thousands of fish. I saw so many brightly colored fish swimming around me as I dived into coral gardens 1ft - 20feet deep. For my first real snorkel experience, it was incredible. My favorite part was just coming up out of the water and being greeted with beautiful scenery of untouched beaches and rock islands.

This is where we went Snorkling:

Stop 2: The Milky Way

The milky way was a lagoon with no corals or fish, it was a pool of muddy water with the calmest water in the ocean. The English speaking tour guide explained that since there is no current all of the limestone sediment stays in the water and sinks down. We dove down 8 feet and found that the bottom was this muddy white substance. It was a combination of mud and limestone sediment. Everyone smeared it all over there bodies because its supposed to be one of the best skin rubs out there. It was so cool...and an original Palau Experience.

Stop 3: lunch on a beach.

We ate lunch on a beach that was used for filming Survivor: Palau. It was awesome and we had fun taking jumping pictures and collected shells to bring home.


Ok, first of all, they say that Jellyfish lake is the 8th wonder of the world. They are correct. It was the most unreal experience of my life. When we arrived at the dock we were told to be as fragile as possible with the jelly fish. We then hiked into the woods up a large limestone stairwell and then down the other side. Jelly fish lake looked just like any other lake in the world. But after putting on our snorkel gear and peaking underneath the water I flipped out. I did not expect it to be as spectacular as it was. There were so many jelly fish just aimlessly swimming through the water. Some were as big as your hand, while some where as small as your thumb. We started to venture off into the lake and the number of jellyfish surrounding us started to grow immensely. Before I knew it, I had to push them away by the top of their cones just to move some more. At one point I stood still in the water and Just looked down and around. The colors were fantastic. The water was this greenish-blue and the jelly fish were this pale-orange-tan-ish. You could literately touch the jellyfish and watch them scamper away. Despite its sometimes claustrophobic feeling, it was remarkable. It was a site you could find no where else in the world. I will never forget that moment for the rest of my life.

This is not my picture but there's only one lake so here's a picture of someone snorkeling in it:

Stop 5: Cemetery Coral Reef

Our last stop was a deep coral reef by one of the islands where there were many holes filled with large fish feasting on the coral. The colors of the coral was incredible and the fish were beautiful as well. I saw some huge Parrot fish and Mi and I joked when we "found nemo"...hahaha (trust me I hate myself as much as you do for that joke). We only spent 30 minutes snorkeling here because we spent so much time at the jellyfish lake.

On the ride back to Koror we stopped to see some interesting rock islands and old WWII cannons. Funny that us, a group of Americans joined the Japanese tour group to see old relics from WWII...hmmm. It did give an eerie tone to the end of the trip because we realized that amidst all of the beauty of Palau thousands of people battled and died for their country. We got back to Koror and bid farewell to the Rock Islands, but we knew that wouldn't be our last trip out there.

Back at home we all took much needed showers and got dinner at a local Korean Restaurant. I joked with Mi to talk to the owner in Korean so we can get a free meal. She talked to the owner for a bit about the program we are doing here in Palau. Then another customer of the restaurant talks to Mi in Korean about where in Korea she is from and then offers to pay for our meal...we were all in shock and greatly thanked them. It was awesome.

We then went to the internet cafe to share pictures and check e-mail and then finally go to sleep. What an amazing day.

Week 3 in Palau, here we go!


...pictures will be uploaded through the day at work :-P