So, after being without internet for two days (the horror!), I posted Day 3 earlier, and now here’s Day 4. I slept through the night last night, and woke up at 7am instead of 4am, so I feel pretty good about that!
The day started early with us hopping on a boat to the island of Peleliu. The boat ride was about an hour long, and was absolutely beautiful. We rode through the electric blue ocean and all of our jaws were dropped. “I think we all died on the plane to Tokyo and this is actually heaven, because no way this is real”, remarked Dustin during the trip. Definitely one of the more accurate ways I’ve heard to describe how amazing it is here. We rode past the Rock Islands, the famously beautiful group of islands in the middle of the Pacific ocean that make Palau such a wonderful destination for divers.
We also got to see where they filmed season 10 of Survivor, which took place in Palau. Once the boat reached Peleliu, we where whisked away in a tour bus. Our tour guides, Botto (I may be spelling that wrong) and Tangie, were absolutely wonderful. As I mentioned, Peleliu is famous for its historic battle sites, as the Americans stormed the beach of Peleliu in an attempt to attack the Japanese, who were dug in there for quite some time at that point. There were old tanks everywhere, and we were able to climb all over them and hop in them an everything (our tour guide even told Marshall to sit INSIDE the tank. Who does that?!). Definitely not something you’d be able to do at any historic site in the states.
We saw all these old Japanese bunkers, many with huge holes blasted through them. It was really incredible. Tangie is the foremost expert on all things Peleliu, so it was so fortunate that we could have him with us. He told us so much about Palauan culture before and after WWII, and shared all sorts of stories with us about the war. We visited Orange Beach, the beach that the Americans came in on. We also saw the 1st Marine Corps Division memorial site, where there were wonderful monuments, ruins of a chapel, and beautiful plants spelling out “USA”.
Thousands and thousands of lives were lost in this engagement, both Japanese and American. It was amazing to see how they respected and were so appreciative of the Americans for coming in during the war. “The Americans are our heroes,” said Botto. It made me feel pretty “slimey”, as Chad would say, that they are so conscious and aware and reverent of America, while the insane majority of Americans have never even heard of Palau or have any idea about the battle of Peleliu.
After visiting countless wonderful battle sites, it was time for swimming. We were going to go snorkeling, but we’re doing that in 11 days and permits are only good for 10, so it wasn’t worth it. Instead, we pulled up to this incredible swimming hole. It looked small and not very promising at first, but when we walked up to it and looked down the 10 foot drop to the cool, blue water, we knew we had struck gold.
Once down inside the whole, there were caves with stalactites and stalagmites that we could explore and goof off in (something this group of people is extremely good at). It was amazing. I was terrified to jump at first, but I was so glad I did. The water was perfect and salty and we had so much fun. Definitely my favorite memory of the trip so far (and it’s only day 4!).
After all of the excitement, we embarked on the boat trip back home, which of course was just as breathtaking as the trip out. We headed back to the hotel for class, where we talked about our assigned readings on globalization and its effects on global and local economies, etc. I learned that Palau’s GDP is about 170 million dollars a year, and their debt is about 12.7% of that. Not great, but certainly not as bad as other countries. With a projected 150,000 people coming into the country each year as tourists (literally over 7 times the country’s population), the Palauan economy is sufficient but not ideal. Minimum wage here is about $2.50 (Palau uses the U.S. dollar for currency). Then, we headed to Rock Island Café for dinner, and Morgan and I stocked up on more water and canned coffee, which we can never have enough of. On deck is more reading for tomorrow’s class.
Tomorrow is going to be another jam packed day; we’ll be up in the morning for class time, followed by more community mapping of our other study location (a neighborhood very close by to the hotel). Then we have a meeting with a wonderful dude about Palauan culture. I’m super excited.
Hopefully we’ll have a little downtime in the afternoon; I’m starting to feel like a Palau robot. It’d be great to have awhile to nap and watch TV (weird Australian versions of TLC and the Style Network, but still).