[This is a re-post of my best known article… I’m re-posting it under the current date because I feel the need for a little humor. And also because I still feel like it best sums up my new life in Palau.]
As a child, my father told me about a Palauan farm animal that was something between a cow and a horse called a â€œKer-uos.â€ Looking back, Papa was probably describing some sort of buffalo– but my dad’s an artist and a practical joker, so telling me about the ker-uos probably held a great deal of entertainment value for the man.
Who knew I’d show up here in Palau 20-something years later and actually attempt to find a ker-uos? As it turns out, there’s a lot of little things that I just did not know and could not have possibly imagined.[[MORE]]
My first week in Palau, I required air conditioning to sleep. REQUIRED IT. (I am happy to report that I have acclimated well enough to only use a fan, and sometimes I can even sleep without a cooling aid!) One of my first nights here, I kept hearing a strange noise coming from the direction of the A/C unit– and I was alarmed. It sounded as though a bird were chirping from inside the relatively monstrous contraption.
My all-too-American mind raced at the thought of bird being stuck inside. I worked myself into a mild panic envisioning a Mama Bird with her little chicks, stuck inside the A/C unit, with their lives in peril and no way out. I immediately shut off the air conditioning and even unplugged the unit, just in case.
I reported the night’s events to my cousin the following morning. She proceeded to stifle a laugh and tell me that it was a gecko sitting on the A/C unit.
â€œGECKOS MAKE NOISE?!?!?!â€
A couple of weeks later, my relatives and I went on a day trip to a nearby rock island. My older cousin walked over with something that looked like an orange on steroids. I didn’t know what it was, but my American naivety allowed me to believe it was about to be the greatest fruit discovery of my life.
I peeled it. And peeled it. And peeled it some more.
After fifteen minutes of undignified, city-kid-style peeling I finally reached something that appeared edible. It was smaller than my fist, but I still held onto the hope that I was about to taste heaven in citrus form.
I took a bite and came to realize that I had just spent fifteen minutes struggling to peel a giant grapefruit.
I had fallen victim to one of Mother Nature’s best tricks: my first siabong.
So here I am, the Native Ex-Pat come home: it’s the beginning of my third month in Palau and every day continues to be a sort of learning adventure. I am constantly amazed by some of the simplest, most trivial sights. I am fascinated by all those little things that I’m certain many people haven’t noticed since before elementary school.
I’m reliving my childhood, but in an entirely new environment.
How I carry myself and how I look continue to make me stand out, often like a sore thumb. But I’ve taken heed of all your little lessons here and there about living in Palau.
My mind is broadening, my vocabulary is growing and my accent is softening…
My skin is darkening, my teeth are reddening, my mosquito bite scars are fading…
Slowly, but surely, I will catch up and I am grateful to all of you for the help.