From Palau 3: Politics and living on a small island

This summer, Inger is working with the Health Policy and Research Department at the Ministry of Health on the island of Palau. She will blog about her experience here at OHSU StudentSpeak. Learn more about Palau here.

EPISODE 3: Politics and Living on a Small Island

Alii and greetings from Palau!

The most exciting things that I experience in Palau happen because I know the Devers’. And believe me, I know how to name-drop!

Sunday morning, after my last blog post, I was walking back to the apartment and ran into Dr. Dever.  There is one main road in Koror (presumably ‘Main Street’ however, in Palau, the streets have no names), so it is quite easy to run into people. It’s like shopping at Fred Meyer. So Dr. Dever rolls down his window and informs me that we’ve been invited to dinner at the Minister’s house—The Minister of Health, that is.

The Minister himself cooked, served, and waited on us while dining on his roof-top patio. Not a bad view, don’t you think? It was a memorable experience to say the least. They taught me how to crack open the fish skull with your teeth and suck out the brains—just like a local!!

The Minster, as if turns out, is also running for Vice President this comining November. In this election, there are two presidential candidates and 4 VP-candidates. In Palau, the Prez and VP run on separate tickets.

“Sandra, why do you think you are the best candidate for President.”

“Why not!”

You can imagine, that politics are particularly interesting in a country with only 20,000 residents. Everyone knows everyone in Palau!

Tuesday, Dr. Dever invited us (Ivan and myself) to join him for a July 4th celebration hosted by the US Ambassador to Palau. Why not!

Along with the Ambassador, the co-host for the evening was the Commander of the USS Benfold–a US Naval ship passing through Palau en route to the Persian Gulf.

Once onboard, Dr. Dever introduced us to the Ambassador.

Pictured: Dr. Dever, Martha Dever, Me, US Ambassador Helen Reed-Rowe, and Ivan (as you can see, Palauans, like Martha, are quite short)

Both of the Devers have been incredibly helpful “cultural liaisons”. In the late 1960’s, before he was “Dr”, Greg Dever was a Peace Corp volunteer in the northern part of Palau. At some point, he got quite sick and was admitted to the hospital. This is when he met Martha, who was working as a nurse. He jokes that he got admitted to the hospital but never got discharged.

The nights festivities included speeches by the Ambassador, a video presentation from Palau’s President Johnson Toribiong, and a written statement from President Obama. Then they sung the Palauan national anthem (Martha leans over and says “My uncle wrote this song”) and the American national anthem (Martha leans over and says “My cousin is singing this song”). This was followed by a champagne toast and lots of food.

…and rain…

We departed the vessel around 8pm. On the water-taxi back, I chatted with Minister of State—Dr. Yano—about Portland.  Every time I identify myself as an Oregonian, people tell me that there are a lot of Palauans in Oregon. I never knew! Apparently they blend in. Probably because they are so short.

People have been harassing me about getting dive-certified since before I left the states. Last night after work, Dr. Dever brought it up once again. He says “Let me call my friend.”…he gets on the phone… “Ok, we’ll be right down.” So then I find myself sitting down with the owners of Fish ‘n Fins, Tova and Navot Bornavski, enjoying a glass of red wine and setting up my dive instruction at the “local rate.”

Dr. Dever is The Man!

This is a 3-day weekend in Palau—Monday is Constitution Day. I will be celebrating by getting SCUBA certified :)
I leave you with a few snorkel-pics from my trip last weekend to Palau Pacific Resort. And for my faithful readers, I want to let you know that I tried the taro wine and Do Not Recommend it!
Ak morolung,
Inger
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Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing your wonderful story. I do believe that Palau is such a nice place — The scenery ranges from white sandy beaches with an abundance of marine life to dense jungle.

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