Thursday, 27 June 2013

Alii!!! Palauan Language Lessons

After some miscommunications we finally had our first language lesson last night. Hehe pun intended! It was great to sit down with someone & ask them about the intricacies of the language. 

The Palauan language has only been written down in the last 50 years- since the US came in I guess! It is quite unique from neighbouring Micronesian countries & reportably difficult to master. Honestly if I can have a conversation by the end of our placement time I will be hugely impressed! 

I've never been great with language but I've also never lived in another country so we will see. I would really like to master at least the basics as it seems the locals switch between Palauan & English depending on who they are talking too. So although they speak English there is loads of discussion that happens around you in Palauan & I want to be able to participate in said conversations! 

To set some context the written language is made up of Latin characters but some characters make different sounds & I think you pronounce all the vowels. 

Characters with unique sounds
k= g
d = th
ch = ug (or a gap in the word) 
ng = sound comes from the tongue at the back of the mouth rather than the front 
r = is slightly rolled. 
ii = ee . 

To give you an idea I've written what I think would be a basic sentence.
Alii ungil tutau (Good morning). Keua ngerang (how are you?). Ak mesisiich (I am strong!). Ak kiei era Ngermid (I live at Ngermid). Ak oureor era ospitar (I work at the hospital). Ngak e Nutritionist (I'm a Nutritionist). Mechikung (goodbye). 

That's about all I know & my pronunciation is not great.  

Yoga in Palau

One of my goals whilst in Palau is to deepen my yoga practice. I thought with all this extra time & limited distractions from the outside would that it would be the perfect opportunity to do this. I'd read previously that there was some yoga taught on the island so I knew that there would be a community here- so I went to my first class on Wednesday evening. 

The name of the lady that teaches the class is Ellen. It is every Wednesday 5-6pm in the central area of the Cultural Centre. It's FREE!! So cost is no excuse. I read that the type of yoga she teaches is called Forrest. I've never heard of this variation before but from what I can work out it is a variety of Hatha yoga but less flowy. There were a couple of strong breathing exercises around drawing the naval in & then blowing your stomach out. Again nothing completely unusual but a little different. 

There was a large turn for the class, maybe about 20 people. Mostly expats. I hear the Palauan's like the Zumba. I probably knew about 5 people there already! 

The class was quite strong & as it is quite hot there is little need to warm up. We started in dolphin pose which is strong on the triceps & all poses were held for a little longer than I'm used too! Child's pose was very welcome. One benefit of the heat is that I am much more flexible than usual. This makes me think that Hanuman Splits is achievable with a bit of practice. 

If you do get along to a class bring plenty of water & a towel to wipe your brow with as you will work up a serious sweat! 

This will definitely be a regular thing I do. 

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Our Palauan Home

Nathan & I moved into our apartment on Thursday. We were both keen to move from the hotel to our dwellings so we could have some space, cook our own food & get out of the air conditioned rooms & get used to the environment- seriously my skin & hair had been so dry from moving in & out of so many air conditioned spaces!!

The area we have moved to is called Ngermid. The apartments are called Sechedui (pronounced se-e-dui, the ch is a gap in the word). The locals believe this area to be very far out of town & keep offering to find us closer accommodation.  Quite frankly, I'm happy to be a little out of town, plus I'm only a 15min drive to work. We live a 3 min drive from a beautiful snorkelling sight called Nikko Bay. The water is so warm & calm that we have been snorkelling almost everyday.
Nikko Bay

View from our bedroom balcony

There is also a basketball & volleyball court down there as well. I can see us spending some time down there. The water is so clear & it drops off really fast so I've been reinforcing my confidence in open water swimming. Speaking of which, each year they have an open water swimming competition & I have decided to add this to my goal list. With the confidence I feel now I think I'd be able to easily do the 500 m comp. 

We have had a number of invites to diving & other activities but need to wait for our social security numbers so that we can get the local rate. So that will come eventually. For the meantime snorkelling is pretty good. Yesterday I actually saw a sea turtle & some school of large fish (I need to swot up on their names). That was very cool!

The rental places here come mostly furnished but we have had to provide linen, kitchen stuff, tv & stereo, so we kind of feel like really poor uni students at the moment. Nathan & I have assessed everything we need & are currently living on what we consider the bare minimum. As a nutritionist who works around food security space this has been an interesting exercise. So far we have 4 plastic dinner plates, cutlery set, 1 mug, 2x glasses, 4 bowls, wok, med pot, 2 chopping boards plus a couple of different cooking utensils. So we have to be creative with how we cook.  The can opener broke first use, so it was lucky I packed my pocket knife. 

Food here is hit & miss. With the US & Japanese influence you can get plenty of package & jarred foods- at a cost. Fresh fruit is pretty much non-existent & the tinned stuff is expensive. Veggies are ok & I've been opting for the local varieties as they are more reliable. We did go to the fish market today & bought a whole red snapper for $6.75- caught fresh today! So we will have an entree of sashimi & then fish & veggies for dinner. 

We don't have the Internet, tv or a stereo so I think Nathan is feeling a little sensory deprivation. I've been trying to fill my time with different things & am thinking about teaching myself the guitar (tips anyone??). But I've discovered that I'm a potterer! Who knew?!? I think living here it's essential that one has a hammock as well. It's so warm & chilled out that read & napping the afternoon away whilst laying in a hammock is the only sensible thing to do! 

So in Palau there seems to be loads of chickens, dogs & roosters all living in harmony. The roosters generally start calling from 4am, although last night one started at 12.30! After a very rough first night in our new place I have taken to wearing earplugs. I think I am getting a little used to them now. The locals tie the roosters to trees in their yards & we had one situated under our window on the first night. Apparently it's got something to do with cock fighting. Roosters are territorial & will fight each other. I've seen a few size each other up but nothing more than you would see on a wildlife special on them. 

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Palau- First Impressions

We landed in Palau late last Monday and have been in Palau for just over a week. If you could fly direct Brisbane to Palau the flight would be under about 6 hours but as it's not a popular route and the trip ended up being a collection of short flights, taking 29 hours door to door. Brisbane to Cairns, Cairns to Guam, Guam to Palau. All in all it wasn't so bad. Nathan did organise a day stay in a hotel in Guam for us to shower, sleep and leave all our stuff; which I would high advice if you ever have to do this trip.

The week was taken up by AVI orientation and settling in. We have had a number of social engagements, a trip to visit my new workplace and house hunting.
 We have had our ups and downs but nothing insurmountable, especially with all the wonderful support from the expat community here and a few beers. We had some super high days when we meet everyone and visited my workplace, Ministry of Health (MoH). I will sit at the hospital and work with the Non-Communicable Disease team (NCD team). There seems to be loads of great programs and work being done already that I can easily tie in with and I’ve been told that I will be advising the Health Minister on nutrition related issues; so hopefully we can work on both upstream and downstream strategies.

On Thursday we plummeted with a dark day. We were unsuccessful in our apartment hunting. In Palau housing is scarce and price does not necessarily indicate quality. We looked at a number of places that were not suitable and just when we had enough we were baled up by two large dogs leaving one of the places. But we now have an apartment and a car so things seem less challenging. Yay us!!!
My first impressions of Palau has been positive and I think we will enjoy it here. It is bigger than I thought and not nearly as hot. It feels much like a Brisbane summer but not at its height. Everyone is really friendly and happy to help, whether it be driving us around to show us cars and apartments or providing us with advice or information. You really do need to know people in Palau and my introduction has become quite long. “Hello my name is Amanda. When have just moved to Palau and I am volunteering at the MoH. I was told to call you as you may have accommodation”. Once they work out who you are connected with things are much easier.

The weather is not nearly as hot as I thought it would be. Think Brisbane summer but not at its peak. Although my skin is so dry from moving in and out of all the air conditioning.

On the downside the cost of living, especially food is much more expensive than we anticipated. I will do a food security post once I've settled in, so more on that later.

There is heaps going on at the moment and I will probably need to write short individual posts for each. I am attending a local Taro cooking class, we move into our apartment on Thursday, I will attend the local FREE yoga class on Wednesday and we just had lunch with the Australian Ambassador. I never considered living on a small island would lead to so many cool things!
I think I may be suited to this island life! 

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Fare Thee Well!!

So the day has finally arrived. I'm sitting on a plane, listening to the soothing voice of Phillip Adams of Late Night Live &  heading for Cairns. We have said our final goodbyes to our families & friends. It was hard to hold back the tears but I knew that if I started crying then it would be like a day out at Wet'n Wild. So everyone remained stoic! 

Saying goodbye is hard. I'm met with mix emotions. I'm glad this day is finally here. All our preparation paid off & we can start this new & exciting part of our life. But I'm also sad & emotional. I feel an overwhelming sense of loss & guilt. I am going to miss out on so much back in Brisbane & life will progress without me. I am leaving this perfectly happy life behind in search of this great unknown & right now I have no idea what that is! I have moments when I think "what the fudge am I doing! I'm really leaving all this behind!". 

I guess that's what happens when you leave. You start looking more fondly at things. Work doesn't seem so bad- not that I've had to work for the past few months. I should note before anyone takes offense- I do have a wonderful life & amazing family & friends. I truly am very lucky. I guess this is just the storm before the change.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Never Wanna Say Goodbye!

......No literally I can't!

So it appears that in our finally week, when all the catch ups and dinners are in full swing, I have completely lost my voice; barely managing a whisper. If the universe could not provide me with a clearer message to shut up and just listen this one I'm not sure what it could be! So listen I will! I once heard a Buddhist monk say we have 2 eyes for seeing, 2 ears for listening & 1 mouth for speaking and we should use them in that proportion! So listen & see more, whilst speaking less (or was that my yoga teacher- they were very wise anyway).

I'm not particularly good at saying goodbye. Moving away seems surreal. I feel this disconnect with reality and it is only when I get to the part where I actually have to say goodbye to someone that I have a moment of clarity. Then my usual awkwardness kicks in, I crack an inappropriate joke and the moment is diminished. I've never been one for fuss but as the days tick down I realise that Nathan & I aren't the only ones experiencing this transition. Our friends & family are going through their own goodbyes as well. I've noticed this as I'm getting more visits, more hugs and my dad is being super helpful!

With all the goodbyes and packing I have been reflecting. Previous experience tells me that a lot of my life back in Brisbane will remain the same but there are components that will continue to move; grow with or without us.

The most significant thing that I will miss here is watching my friends and sisters as they go through motherhood. Over the past few years there has been a baby explosion around me. No longer are our nights filled with boozy nights and gratification replaced with crying babies and nappies. We have replaced these indulgences with healthier habits, such as walks in the park and coffee. It's been lovely to witness their metamorphosis into their own beautifully unique manifestation of motherhood. I'm blessed to be a part of it, spending time with them all. I am glad that I am grounded enough to appreciate it and hopefully I have grown with them too! And let's face it- my liver and bank balance thanks them too!

I must mention the other man in my life, Jackson. He is my four year old nephew, an inquisitive little thing. All the other babies will still be young when we return but Jackson has already clued up with what is going on. My nephew has become a little person who can hold a conversation and experience emotions. He is at the WHY? stage. I want to teach all my kids about adventure and living out your dreams. I am concerned that the connection we have will be broken- I've only just got him talking to me on the phone. So we have been practicing Skyping (is that even a verb?), talking about going away and different countries and he always receives postcards when we travel. So although I won't be in Australia I am hoping time goes quickly and he doesn't forget us.

So this is a quick note to say goodbye! There are sooo many things I will miss about Brisbane but I know that some of these will be substituted for small pleasures and a simpler life in Palau.
 “Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson