Before I got to Palau I bought a pretty inexpensive yet supposedly durable vehicle from a person who was leaving the island. It seemed risky at the time to make a big purchase over the Internet from someone I had never met for a vehicle I had never seen in a country I had never visited. But so did moving to that country without even being able to point it out on the map, so "risk" evidently wasn't much of a deterrent during those times.
The vehicle I purchased, lovingly known as "The Stormtrooper," is a 1997 Suzuki that I'm pretty sure somehow fought in World War II. Note, I did not say it was used in WWII. I mean, it actually fought in the war. This thing is tough. And each of its coconut-inflicted battle wounds looks like it has a story to tell.
I know it doesn't make sense that a 1997 vehicle could fight in a war from the 1940s, but since when do you come here to read about things that make sense?
The Stormtrooper was initially really terrifying to drive. This is mostly because the steering wheel is on the wrong side of the car. You guys! The WRONG side of the car! Unless you're from England, or some such place, in which case the steering wheel is totally on the correct side. Also, Americans are the worst and think they're right about everything. (Wink wink to the Americans. I just said that so the British people would feel welcome. British people are actually the worst. (Unless you're British and still reading. I just said that in case the Americans were still reading. (Unless you're--oh my gosh look the Queen of Colors!))).
I'm actually pretty cool with the steering wheel being on any old side, but the problem with driving The Stormtrooper in Palau is that we still drive on the right side of the road just like in America. I'm all like, "what am I? A mailman?!" And by the way, if I was, I would totally open people's mail and read it before delivering.
Anyway, what this means is that since I am driving on the side of the car that is closest to the edge of the road, and since there are often not painted lines on said edge, it is surprisingly difficult to keep the car from going over the center line. The true terror of this problem is only obvious when you're in the passenger's seat and can see first-hand how often the car narrowly escapes head-on collisions.
The other terrifying aspect of driving the Stormtrooper is its turn radius, or lack thereof. We quickly discovered on our first day in Palau that what should be a simple U-turn is actually more like a 14-point turn. This is a lesson one should only have to learn once. But you would be surprised how deeply ingrained in your mind the standard turning radius in a vehicle is. As a result, we make this 14-point turn almost every single time we drive the car and it's always on the busiest road during the busiest time of day.
To drive this car I had to get a Palaun driver's licence by taking the Palaun driver's test. The test consisted of 50 questions that delved deep into my knowledge of Palaun driving laws such as, "It is not permitted for anyone to have a driver's licence who has been previously adjudged to be an idiot" and "It is not permitted for more than three people to ride in the front seat of a vehicle at a time, unless one of those people is a child under the age of 7." These are real rules. And I knew them like a champ for my driver's test.
Combine the steering wheel on the wrong other side of the car situation with the child in the front seat rule and you can imagine how many times a day I gasp in horror at the sight of a 4-year-old kid sitting in what I still automatically see as the driver's seat screeching down the streets of Palau.
While the Stormtrooper generally seems to drive just fine, besides a loud screaming-cat-like noise it makes every time I go downhill, there are a number of problems with it. For one, there is no air. I'm not simply complaining about the lack of AC. I mean, no air travels through the vents at all. This would be fine if it wasn't for the fact that 2 of the 4 windows wouldn't roll down when I got to Palau and now the driver's window has also stopped working. We are one not-working window away from total suffocation.
Daniel took the Stormtrooper to a mechanic on Friday who told him that nothing could be done about the window situation. Daniel is considering going back in this week dressed in a tux and snobishly saying to the mechanic, "You work on commission, right? Big mistake. Huge."
I've never actually seen "Pretty Woman" but I feel relatively familiar with it as Daniel considers imitating the famous scene every time he is dissatisfied with the level of service he has received anywhere. He also considered doing this at the post office just this morning. The problem that he doesn't seem to consider when making these plans is that none of the people he's hoping to pull this on actually work on commission. Also, the reason he got bad service in the first place usually isn't because he's dressed like a 1980s prostitute. No, he has much more recently updated his wardrobe than that.
So, unless I can get a mechanic with the special training and skill to fix malfunctioning windows, I am one broken window away from dying in that car.
Thank heavens I was trained as a child to withstand thousand degree temperatures inside a shut vehicle while Cathie was in the fabric store. And before you start judging Bob and Cathie for being neglectful parents, let me remind you that this was in the 1980s when it was standard practice to leave kids in the car. As a result, mine is the final generation that is tough enough to survive hardship. In fact, I don't think it was even just standard practice. I remember PSAs and after-school specials encouraging this.
"Your child needs time away from his mother. And you need time away from your child. Leave him in the car the next time you go into the fabric store on a hot summer day and threaten him with his life if he even thinks about opening a car door, or, so help me, honking the horn to get you to hurry up. The more you know."
I'm pretty sure Cathie saw that one, anyway. It came on right after the one about "this is your brain on drugs."
As a side note, My dream job when I was 8 was to be the person in those "brain on drugs" commercials. I used to practice this in the bathroom in front of the mirror by holding up a piece of paper and saying, "this is your brain." And then while tearing it and walking away with a tone of seriousness and attitude, "this is your brain on drugs!" This continued for the better part of a year until my older sister, Krisanda, overheard me one day and teased me so much that the mention of any illicit drugs today still makes me crumble in fear.
Come to think of it, maybe they should have had her do those commercials.
Any other great PSA or after-school special memories out there?
~It Just Gets Stranger
P.S. Here are a few new pictures from Palau for your viewing pleasure and to prove that I really am there.
|Me heading out to scuba dive.
|Our view every evening while reading on the beach.
|Great friends on the boat with us heading out to explore the rock islands.
|Swimming between rock islands at the end of a long, long day. Also, I have boobs in this picture.
|The courthouse in Palau. My home away from home. Away from home.