Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Rarest Gem of All: Fresh Produce

Your work on the TMZ Britney Spears article has been amazing. Even Trixy, June Snapple, and Jane have all commented. Shea pointed out today another article about this whole mess that asserts that the "mystery guy" is allegedly a lawyer. I like to think that our efforts with TMZ had something to do with this latest rumor.

But today's topic: You know I don't like to complain about anything. But now that you've gotten me on the subject of complaining, I guess I'll let you know about another one of the top five most terrible things about my current situation. You twisted my arm. I HATE HOW YOU GUYS ALWAYS GET ME TO TALK ABOUT STUFF I DON'T WANT TO TALK ABOUT.

Guys. It is basically impossible to find fresh fruits and vegetables in Palau. This is the most nonsensical aspect of my largely nonsensical life right now.

You know I love Palau. Despite all of my complaints, I really do love it. Palau is like an annoying little brother. Sometimes frustrating. Always in my face at the worst possible times. Has questionable drinking water. And yet, I would be totally sad if it got blown away in a typhoon. My analogy may have fallen apart a bit. I don't know, because I've never had a little brother.

The reason this is so nonsensical is because this is a freaking tropical country with 365 days of sun and it is the exact same temperature here EVERY SECOND OF EVERY DAY FOR ALL ETERNITY. That temperature is 197 degrees. OPTIMAL GROWING TEMPERATURE. And it rains here every single day. And it is sunny here every single day. Produce should spontaneously be growing through the side-walks. They should have to spray poison everywhere to stop the produce from taking over the country. Not having fresh produce absolutely should not be a problem of Palau.

It's so hot that nobody gets any work done? Fine.

It takes 45 minutes to check out at the grocery store? Seems excessive, but sure.

Sea snakes? Not acceptable. But at least not nonsensical.

But NO FRESH PRODUCE??? You have GOT to be kidding me! They grow more fresh produce in Siberia! That sounds like an exaggeration because when you compare anything to Siberia it always sounds like hyperbole. And you totally read that in an emphatic exaggeration voice. But it is literally true that they grow more fresh produce in every Siberian town than they do in Palau. I am certain of this. I just checked the Internet to confirm.

And I know what you're thinking. Come on Eli. It's not that big of a deal. So the stores don't have as big of a selection as they did in Salt Lake City. You knew this was going to happen when you decided to move to a tiny tropical island in the middle of nowhere. Also, your haircut looks SO good.

First of all, thanks for noticing. But I got it cut on Saturday so I'm a little bugged that it took you five days to say something.

But second, NO. GUYS. NO. I am not exaggerating here when I say there is NO fresh produce.

Ok. That actually is an exaggeration now that I think about it. But it's not as big of an exaggeration as you think! Yes, sometimes we can find a couple of fresh onions. Maybe a carrot, here and there. Usually a couple of coconuts. And before Typhoon Bopha came through in December and destroyed all of the banana trees, we could usually get bananas. But that's about it.

I have asked every single Palauan in the entire nation why this is so and I have received a range of answers. But none of them make much sense. And not just because they were in Palauan. I was basically like the census lady going door-to-door to ask the locals about this disturbing problem. Except I'm a man. I guess I could have just said that I was like the census man. I wish I knew how to go back and delete stuff.

One person told me that Palau doesn't want to grow its own produce because it doesn't want to destroy the natural beauty of the land. BY GROWING FOOD ON IT TO FEED ITS PEOPLE. So instead they have everything shipped and flown in, THOUSANDS OF MILES. SO THEY DON'T HURT THE ENVIRONMENT.

All jokes aside, the food situation causes some serious problems here. While fresh produce is not available, deep-fried preservative-injected lard foods are plentiful. As is the obesity and diabetes problems in the nation. If you ever want to feel like the world is coming to an end, sit down with Daniel and ask him about his experiences working with the health and nutrition programs in Palau.

But there is definitely still a strong need for fresh stuff here. So what happens is about once a week a shipment of week-old produce from the Queen of Colors knows where plops into Palau. The shipment never comes on the same day as it did the week before. It's never announced. And it never contains a consistent selection of items. But it tends to happen about once a week.

The produce then makes it to one of about four stores. Somebody notices it and starts the text chain to let everyone else know. The four stores are overrun with desperate expats who grab the half-rotted items out of the boxes before they can even be put out on display. And those who missed out, because they didn't have enough money charged to their phone to receive the text, sit at home with their calendar, playing the guessing game about when the next shipment might arrive.

Today happened to be surprise produce day of the week.

My friend Hillary got the text while I was eating lunch. I forwarded the message to Daniel, who showed up in the Stormtrooper 45 seconds later, threw the door open, and without coming to a complete stop screamed "I'M NOT WAITING FOREVER!"

I jumped in, as did another friend of ours who happened to be walking by and who understood the desperate tone of Daniel's voice to be a call for an emergency produce run.

We screeched into our store and HOLY BLACK FRIDAY! All 19 people who live in Palau were there at once! You would have thought it was 1999 and Tickle-Me-Elmos were on display.

The three of us instinctively ran to different areas of the produce section, grabbing for anything we could see, including stuff that was unfamiliar to us. Things were said. Dreams were crushed. But ultimately, produce was obtained.

On the way out of the store I asked Daniel if he wanted to run any other errands before I went back to the office.

He responded, "No. I should head home. I was taking a shower when I heard your text and I still have soap all over my body. It's making my clothes sticky."

That, my dear strangers, is dedication.

~It Just Gets Stranger

30 comments:

  1. He should have just rinsed off at the beach with the sea snake/loch ness monster. If he gave him an extra fruit they'd be good friends.

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  2. I can't claim to understand the pain of no fresh produce, but I do understand the pain of paying $2 for an apple on a good day and $1.50 for 24 (individual count) green beans. I live in Japan and in the 10th most expensive city in the world.

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  3. Can you not grow your own produce? Do you not have a patch of land, or a sunny patio on which to place some pots? If the problem is that you just don't know how, then let me couch surf for awhile (yes I am intentionally leaving this open ended. you'll need to know how to plant, as well as harvest. and during the in between time I can hang around the store for you so as to grab as much as possible as soon as it is wheeled through the door.) I can teach you how to grow your own.

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    1. We have actually tried to grow stuff in pots on our balcony. But it is taking FOREVER. And the only thing that seems to be doing well is our pineapple plant.

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    2. Too bad growing a pineapple to maturity can take well upwards of eighteen months. Better use the Stormtrooper to get some time travel in.

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  4. 1. how is it you make borscht? I made it once the ingredient list was a mile long, most of that was fresh produce. 2. there are some trees that are dwarf fruit trees, and you can do tomatoes and strawberries in pots they sell the kits online, also you could get fresh herbs like that. 3. I would love to take Daniel shopping with me Black Friday is my favorite holiday!!!! I love it and we could do some real damage :)

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    1. Borsch is only possible on really good produce days.

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  5. I love your story telling abilities. My family always ME to be the story teller, so it's nice to have someone else tell stories for a change... and GOOD stories at that. (I read them your "Tellin It Like It Is Award" for the Dell Guy - we all pissed our pants btw)
    Anyway, I think fruits (I don't know about veggies) need a winter to grow - don't oranges grow in the winter time? And I think strawberries need a good ol' frost before they can grow? So, if it's 197 degrees all the time, they probably can't grow that kind of stuff.

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  6. Oh man, people in other countries like this are sometimes cray cray. Like how Vietnam and Thailand grow everything and feed their populations and people in cambodia are like RICE that is all we grow, so we chop down the forest to do it. You should start a gardening project and teach them they can grow things in their own backyard. You live in the pacific and have no bananas? That's nuts, my backyard in Cambodia was a field of banana trees. Darn tropical storms!

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  7. Sorry to burst your bubble, but the only reason I know who you are is because you linked back to what I wrote about Britney Spears. :)

    -- girl who wrote the ATL post which in no way asserts that Brit-Brit's new beau is a lawyer.

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    1. Honey, you clearly have no idea what's going on here. :)

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    2. Staci--first of all, how do you not know who Eli is? Do you live in that bubble that you think you burst? And second, why would you take the time to come to Stranger, misunderstand the point of all of this, and comment? Third, nobody cares if you were saying Britney was dating a lawyer. And fourth, don't you know Stacie is supposed to have an "e" at the end?! :)

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    3. Staci, please take your ignorance somewhere else. Don't be so toxic. I mean, if you're taking the time to come to this blog and hate on Eli, your loneliness must be killin' you. What do you think this is, a circus?

      From the bottom of my broken heart,


      Flo. ;-)

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    4. Staci, Staci, Staci. Bless your confused little heart.

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    5. Dear Staci,

      Just FYI, this blog has amassed in one year on Facebook nearly as many likes as yours has in seven years. At each of your current respective rates of growth, "Stranger" will have more likes than ATL within the next 3 months.

      So, more people will probably read this post than your article. But you're awfully adorable!

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    6. Strangers! Come, now! Is this any way to treat a guest?

      Staci--hope that we haven't scared you away. We'd love to have you join our ever growing ranks. :P

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    7. I get way worse in the comments on ATL, I can take it. And FYI, spelling Staci with an I is the posh way of directing your child to the pole at an early age.

      What would I be joining here? In my old age, I've grown tired of obnoxiously commenting at Dlisted.

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    8. HeHE oh that Staci. She is confused just a bit. Can we wrap her in a snuggie and give her tea?

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    9. Whew... I almost spelled my little girls name of Sydnie with just an I.. Sydni... Thank goodness I didn't. I definitely don't want to direct her to the pole. :)

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  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  9. Okay, so is anyone here a Wikipedia super-user? We need such a person in order to have high enough clearance to edit the Wikipedia page for Britney Spears... ;)

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  10. I solemnly swear that I will never let my apples go bad again.

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  11. Maybe you should plant a container garden.

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  12. It was the same way in Samoa. I thought my internship there would be full of fresh, tropical fruit but instead I ate a ton of fruit roll-ups, you guessed it ... shipped in from thousands of miles away. The most aggravating food item, though, was the seafood. Fisherman would sell beautiful fresh tuna they caught at 3 a.m. that morning to tourists in the marketplace so that they go home and buy their family CANNED TUNA. Sometimes the islands make no sense.

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  13. If I were to have to guess, it's because of economics/politics. Why doesn't Utah produce more of its own gas which is enough to fuel the US for 50 years? (Made up stat, but still.) Government has effectively banned it. Why doesn't Palau produce fresh produce? 1/3 of the adults work for the government, most likely bureaucracy. This isn't economically productive. Part of it could have to do with the culture, how it's very relaxed and lazy.

    Read Basic Economics by Thomas Sowell. Or anything by Milton Friedman. 80+ year old economics are my favorite!

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    1. Meant to say economists, not economics.

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