Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Best and Worst of Palau

Family, friends, and Strangers have frequently emailed and asked me about what I have liked and haven't liked about living in the equatorial Pacific. The answer to those questions has evolved a bit during my time here, but I thought it might be fun and interesting to give you a quick list of the five worst and best aspects about living in Palau for me. All in all, I have to say that Palau is a pretty awesome place to move to, if you're looking for a change. Even though Leotrix and his family live here.

The Five Worst Things About Living in Palau

1. What the Kids are Calling "The Internets":

The Internet in Palau is slower than your grandma. NOT THAT I'M SAYING YOUR GRANDMA IS SLOW. As you know, I do not understand the ways of the computer magic. But my memory of the explanation for why the Internet is so slow has something to do with there being no fiber something or other and using satellites instead. All I know is that it is a HUGE inconvenience on my life in every way possible. It makes Youtube basically inaccessible, and much of the time, Facebook is inaccessible as well. When you send me hysterical videos of cats, I can't watch them. Instead I send them to my sister Krishelle and have her tell me how funny they are. My gchat function rarely works and it usually takes several minutes to load to the html version of my inbox. Putting up Friday's pictures every week is one of my most dreaded tasks.

2. The Lack of Fresh Produce or Other Healthy Options:

I've already spoken on this subject at length here. Let me just add that it is near impossible to prepare a healthy meal in this place. Besides the lack of emphasis on cultivating and consuming fresh fruits and vegetables, deep fried, salty, sugary, high carb foods are plentiful, and served in excessively large proportions. Most restaurants do not even really have healthy options available. We have almost altogether stopped eating out at all because doing so necessarily requires us to have an unhealthy meal. One of the grocery stores recently turned half of its refrigerated produce section into another candy aisle. To add to this, there is not much of a push for exercise and the infrastructure isn't built to promote it either. There are basically no sidewalks anywhere and not really much by way of parks. If anyone wants to get somewhere, they drive. This all has led to a very serious obesity problem in Palau that isn't really being addressed.


Sweating. Always sweating. All the time. Sweating.

4. Inefficient Bureaucracy:

Government bureaucracy is inefficient everywhere, and Palau is no exception. Trying to work through a government agency for something here is maddening. Somewhere around one-third of the adult working population in Palau works for the government. It took six months for the government to process Daniel's paperwork just to get him hired for the job they offered him when he got here. And during that process, they lost his paperwork three separate times and made him fill it out again.

5. Isolation:

The cheapest flight out of Palau is to Guam. And it is $580 for locals and almost twice that for non-locals. This is all through the worst airline known to man, United, which has a monopoly on air travel here and doesn't mind taking advantage of people. The flight to Guam is a 1 hour and 45 minute flight. Leaving Palau is difficult, and with the slow Internet connection, it feels even more isolated from the rest of the world. I can't even imagine how much more it must have felt this way twenty or so years ago.

The Five Best Things About Living in Palau

1. The People:

Palauans have been unbelievably friendly and fun to get to know. One of my favorite aspects of Palauan culture is the emphasis on the importance of remembering names. In the U.S. it seems that most people don't put much of an effort into this. And we get away with that by always saying, "oh, I'm just not good at remembering names," even though we claim to be good at remembering a number of other things. It's as though we have all accepted that there is a different part of our brains for remembering lines from movies or compliments that is separate from the part for remembering the names of people we actually meet. In Palau, once someone hears your name, they remember it FOREVER. This was so disconcerting at first because everywhere I went, people called me by name, even if I could never remember seeing them, and it gave me the sense that the entire nation was stalking me. AND WHO KNOWS WHAT THEY'VE SEEN ME DO THROUGH MY WINDOWS. Being in Palau has finally gotten me to put in the effort to commit names to memory when I receive them. And to be honest, it feels really good to be able to call people by name wherever I go.

2. The Diving:

I got SCUBA certified when I arrived in Palau. I'm not crazy about diving because of all the animals, but I have to admit that it is pretty incredible down here.

3. Being Cut Off:

I know I basically had this same thing on the other list. But it's sort of a great and terrible thing at the same time. We all have dinky little phones from 2003. No data plans. No Internet access besides the slow connections at work and home. Most of the time I don't even take my phone with me when I go anywhere. And you know what? It's amazing to have lunch with a group of people who are all tuned into the group of people because NOBODY is texting or scrolling through Facebook or checking their email or contacting their other social circles in any way. Not being as connected was difficult for me for the first few months, but now I've gotten used to it and honestly, I really don't want to go back.

4. 12 Dollar Massages:

Every week.

And finally,

5. This:

~It Just Gets Stranger


  1. So there I was reading the list and I saw the picture! Now I have a butterlfies-in-my-stomachy feeling. That was so stunning!

    I understand your frustration with the internets. Though, we do have very, very fast connections here, the connection I have is fast only up to a certain limit. Beyond the 5GB limit I have to wait for 5 mins for a 0.37 min clip of Daniel diving to load!

    Sometimes I always dream of living in these Pacific islands like, especially Nauru, just for the isolation.

  2. I think having no texting sounds great! I hate the way people are ALWAYS texting around me. I must be really boring. That picture reminded me of Hawaii. That is so beautiful.

  3. I am definitely with you on the no texting thing. It is one of my biggest pet peeves when people are checking their phones at dinner. My dad is constantly checking his email at meals. We've even tried the whole stacking of phones and first to check their phone pays the bill, but I think his longest record was like 3 minutes, so he will forever be picking up the tab.

  4. Thank you for enduring the incredibly annoying upload speed to share that sunset with us. Gorgeous!

  5. That picture says it all. I'm with the others on no texting/cell phones. I hates them...I HATES THEM!!

    Yeah, I'm an IT guy...satellite sucks almost anywhere in the world unfortunately.

    I'm also someone who likes to garden and I'm surprised that Palau isn't more oriented on having garden's or fruit trees galore around a lush island. I mean, that's almost the ideal place to have garden's to grow fruits and veggies.

    Good post.

  6. AMEN to your good things list!

  7. Did Daniel make you write the second paragraph about eating healthy and all that crap?

  8. Just found my new screensaver. thanks for the pic

  9. I love scuba diving! Getting certified is one of the best things I have done in my life.

  10. Did you know that your "Worst" list is exactly the same for us in Niger right now?? Small world...

  11. Atleast the sell ice cream. We all know you wouldve left a long time ago without that "necessity"

  12. $12. massages. That's pretty awesome I must admit. But that sunset. Wow. You saved the best for last. Thanks.

  13. I totally agree with the phone thing. I swear, in a 'social networking' world, we don't connect socially at all. Cheers to no cell phones!

  14. Now I feel horribly guilty for being so bad at remembering names. I think it's because I don't think I'll ever see that person ever again and why should I put the effort in? But then I see them all the time... everywhere. And I can never remember their name. Gah! Time to become a caring and thoughtful person I guess...

  15. Man, that horizon is breathtaking... What I wouldn't give to see that every day. You're blessed, man. Seriously blessed.

  16. Who knows what they see through your windows? LEOTRIX, THAT'S WHAT.
    Hide yo kids, hide yo wives, Mutant-disease-ridden-monster-rat is out to getcha!

  17. How are you able to skype then?

    1. It's very very frustrating and doesn't always work. But sometimes I can get a decent chat if I do it early in the morning or late at night when the rest of the country isn't liking stuff on Facebook.

  18. Eli, Thanks for sharing the good, the bad and the sunsets! Congrats on winning the 10K!
    Lisa and George
    We Said Go Travel

  19. Palau sounds really not awful. I am pretty sure I could hang out there for a year. Although I really don't know how I could live without funny cat videos.

  20. Hi Eli thanks for the husband are now working there I hope he find the best thing youve mentioned about Palau..the connection grrrrr...but its absolutely been paid off by the beauty of the nature in there...

  21. I'm Palauan. I grew up in the northern part of Babeldoub in the state of Ngerard and never had to depend on grocery stores to provide healthy produce, and there are fresh produce brought in almost everyday from the villagers that is going to be as fresh as it gets anywhere in the world. I have been living in the US for over 18 years and I know for a fact that is nothing good about what we buy from any grocery stores. Palauan food is healthy. you might just need to be introduced to real Palauan food. Sorry about your experience.

  22. Thank you for sharing.

  23. Is the internet speed still an issue? Has that been upgraded at all?

  24. Do you have an idea about the cost of one small room or studio? I got a job offer there in Palau but they will not provide food, transport and accommodation, so I need to know how much the average cost of living so I can decide if I will accept or decline the offer. Please any inputs will be much appreciated.

  25. A brilliantly written post. Thank you. X

  26. I live on Guam. I'm going to have to spend a few days on palau at some point.