Saturday, 6 July 2013

A more personal update

As promised after a rather functional post the other day here is a more personal.

Amanda tried to start work last week and had planned to do 3 days. This ended up being less than 2 days worth because they didn't want her to officially start until her contract was signed. She's been at work 5 days this week but the contract still isn't signed. God knows what they are doing with it, they had at least 3 months to get it ready from when we were confirmed. We've also heard that another nutritionist was due here in October last year but pulled the plug sometime before leaving. The latest we heard yesterday was that the president of the country now has to sign it off. It's a bit of a joke because they aren't paying Amanda, the volunteer organisation is. All the Ministry of Health is doing here is contributing to our accommodation costs. The lack of a work contract seems to be holding everything up; our work visa (which we applied for yesterday anyway), our social security number, Palaun drivers license and our 'local' cards which gives us cheap rates for things like dive tours etc.

Koror State Gym
After dropping Amanda off at work for her first day I headed to the Koror State Gym for a badly overdue weights session. With our wedding and moving to Palau my fitness has kind of fallen off in the first half of this year. Anyway the cost to visit KSG is either $1 per session or $45 for 6 months. One thing to note for anyone coming here is that KSG is not open on weekends. As expected it's a bit of a run down, non air-conditioned, old school weights gym. Don't expect any zumba or spin classes here. All of the equipment is old, a few machines are broken and some of the gear has some rust on it. While this sounds a bit dodgy it's also kind of cool. They have the largest range of dumbbells i've seen anywhere too (no jumping from 30 to 40 kilos here) although they aren't labelled well and i can't seem to work out if some are in kilos or pounds. The manager is a nice guy and very friendly, he even let me pinch a few chillies from the large bush out the front. Although I had to laugh when he had the same 80's rock song on repeat, after the third time I had to have a quiet word with him :o  Unfortunately about 2 days after my first visit the Belau Games (Palau's national olympic style games) have started, this means that KSG will be closed for about 14 days straight. I believe it re-opens later this week.

National Gymnasium
Prior to my gym visit last week I dropped into the National Gymnasium (large hall for indoor sports like basketball & volleyball) and had a chat to a bloke in the olympic office about playing baseball. Unfortunately i've just missed the season with the final series between Airai and Meyuens starting that very evening (Airai won the series 3-0). He did mention that the Belau Games baseball would start later that week and I should come watch some. After asking lots of questions I managed to get myself invited to training the following afternoon. I showed up a little earlier than the start time of 4pm and watched what looked like a mix of late teenage players sort of training and sort of mucking around. At some point someone asked me if i played and relayed this information back to a guy coaching from the comfort of his car. I had a quick chat to him about how I was new to Palau, wanted to play & the guy who organised baseball had invited me to join senior training. By 4:30pm I hadn't really seen any group of senior players arrive so was starting to wonder exactly what the go was. Soon enough I was invited down for batting pratice by one of the older kids. Instantly I had about 20 people around the batting cage watching, it must have been a bit of a sight, some whitey who talks funny suddenly showing up for baseball and smashing some balls around in the cage. After batting pratice there was some infield and outfield fielding practice. I noticed that the age group had slowly changed a little but mostly guys still seemed late teens or early 20's. I had a good chat to one bloke who told me they were the farm team for the state of Peleliu, most of the guys would be hoping for a call up to to play in the big team for the Belau Games. The whole training session was very casual, lacking organisation & intensity, the funny part was a couple of boys trained in thongs and at least three guys shared one glove. The skill level was rather mixed and I think on this example I should have a problem playing in the big league.

Belau Games Baseball @ Asahi Field
Turns out that Peleliu was due to play on the opening day of the Belau games against Ngerdmau. Amanda & I with our new Aussie friend Renee headed down to check it out. I straight away noticed that at least a few of the guys i trained with were in the team for that day. The game did not go well for Peleliu, errors and past balls cost them dearly with the score jumping away to 11-0 after three innings. The game was moving slow and the girls (and i) had had enough so we headed off for some sunset drinks with other ex-pats. The score ended up 15-3 but laughably Peleliu won by default as Ngerdmau fielded a player not on their team list. Since that game I've watched another 2-3 full games and another 2-3 half games. The quality has definitely gotten better, the Koror team has some very good players and there are at least a few good pitchers going around too. If the games I've seen are anything to go by i should be able to fit in fairly well in this league. I will definitely not be in the top group of players but i wont be in the bottom group either.

Readers of this blog will know about the saga of my laptop, which is fixed and currently in Adelaide with one of our new friends, Lis. She has very kindly agreed to bring it back over to Palau when she returns soon. However just to add insult to injury last week i had the SD card in my phone die (it's ok i have backups). Then my main hard drive with my photos and music died as well. The drive will power up and spin, windows detects it but can't see any data. (Again i have backups but they are at home in Australia). So I've managed to download a freeware disk recover application called 'Recuva' as i expected all/most of the data is still there and i can restore it to another drive. Despite one place in town having reasonable enough local prices for portable hard drives i've bought one much cheaper on Amazon. Hopefully it arrives this week so i can get my data back. It seems life is trying to teach me to live without technology.

Ok what else has been happening? There is a really good group of Aussies and some Septic Tanks that hang out regularly, often having drinks, dinner or even going swimming together. (Unfortunately we are missing out on a diving trip with a group of friends right this very minute as we don't have our local cards yet). There are many more ex-pats here than I expected. We keep meeting Aussies and there are tonnes of Yanks, Taiwanese and various other randoms like Slovaks & even a Croat/Slovenian. We've met some awesome people here who we will no doubt spend a fair bit of time with. Unfortunately a couple of them are due to leave the island in coming months. I guess that's the issue these kind of placements. From talking to various ex-pats it's seems that while Palaun's are generally very friendly and happy to have you here you don't really get too involved in their social circles. From time to time you'll get invited to various special events but not many ex-pats end up regularly in a typical Palaun social group. I can somewhat understand this as we ex-pats swan in and out constantly, staying various lengths from 3 months to many years. Also while the volunteer wages seems very low to me, it is roughly double the average local wage (i seriously don't know how they do it). So by default a class system is in effect. Later today we are due at a belated American 4th of July party held under the large bridge that runs between Koror and Babeldoab. I believe the Yanks crashed the Australia Day party back in July so it's time to return the favour, AUSTRALIAN'S UNITE! ;)

Earlier this week I had one of my better experiences on island when I spent a few hours one afternoon back down in our local swimming hole, the very large Nikko Bay. (Have i mentioned this is a UNESCO world heritage site?). Anyway, our swimming in Nikko Bay has been very much in a smallish section following the corral wall from the boat ramp and jetty down to the south for a few hundred meters. I decided it was time to swim out to the middle of the bay to check out the action around a pontoon and a few rock islands. As soon as i reached the pontoon hundreds of small silver fish with yellow tails swam out to me. I had been told they are very inquisitive will swim around with you. They were very cute, hanging around with me for quite a while before I started venturing around to the far side of the first island. There are all sort of great corral and various small to medium reef fish all over the place. But it wasn't until i got about 3/4 of the way around that i saw one of my best sights so far. I was in about 2 meters of water, bright sunshine & good visibility, when about two meters ahead of me I saw a largish brown thing move. I had a brief 'what the fudge is that?!' moment before realising it was a sea turtle. After spotting me it dropped what it was doing and swam away a few meters, i slowly stayed with it for a few seconds before it got spooked and swam away. Unlike their land cousins they can seriously move fast. I spend about another hour frolicking around the shaded side of the rock island checking out barracuda, parrot fish, sweet lips etc etc. At some point I noticed something that didn't look quite right, i was looking at a squid camouflaged against the corral it was hovering over. The squid was by far the largest i've seen in the wild, about 3/4 the size of a rugby ball. I spent about 30 minutes following it around and diving down next to it. I was and am still astounded by how it could pulsate and change colour at a ridiculous speed. It's whole body could change from completely black to a creamy corral colour in a split second. It frequently changed to having stripes or dots just to blend in with whatever corral it was over. I hope this is not a one in a lifetime experience as I'm very much looking forward to following one around again. We seriously have to pony up and buy an underwater camera too! On my way back to the jetty I saw a couple of the little tiny sting-less jellyfish that are found in Jellyfish lake her. While packing my gear into the car thinking I'd seen plenty of awesome stuff today, i suddenly noticed this massive fish (at least one metre long) lauch itself around 2 meters horizontally out of the water. Not sure what type of fish it was nor why it was suddenly trying to fly, but it was truly an awesome sight. 

In lieu of the sea turtle from Nikko bay, here is one from the aquarium
Ok so one last thing to mention: A bunch of ex-pats have mentioned a crossfit/boot camp group that is run for free 4 times a week. With the gym closed i thought i'd give this a go on Thursday. It was basically circuit training with no equipment (push ups, squats, lunges, bear crawl, burpees etc). It's now saturday morning and i'm groaning every time i move, DOMS have hit big time. It was a painful reminder of how unfit i've become this year. I'll aim to head back for more early this week in the hope i get up to speed quickly.


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  2. All the working out sounds tiring man :) - dAN H