Thursday, August 18, 2005


ATTENTION! Due to the difficulty posting to blogger from Palau, I've moved the blog to:

Come on over.

Monday, August 15, 2005


Grrr. See? See what I mean?

Trying again with a link that works and the correct date, I've had to give up on blogger, at least while I'm in Palau, because the pages never load and I can't edit my posts or delete extraneous ones and the pictures now won't post at all now unless I link from somewhere else. I'm sure this has nothing to do with blogger - if anything, it's too good and complicated and has too many features and that's why I can't get it to work here.

The new blog site is here. Same bat name, different bat channel. I'll be working on picture quality on the new site and on a permanent solution. Any suggestions are welcome, believe me.




See? See what I mean? Blogger is maddening. Trying again, the new site is Hon, Interrupted.

Who wears short shorts? We wear short shorts!

Yesterday was my Palauan monthiversary and I can tell you that if I
had a nickel for all of the things I wish I had known about before
coming out here, well, then that huge paycut I took wouldn't be nearly
so bad. Hell, make it a dollar a pop – it'll enable me to live the
lifestyle to which I would like to become accustomed.

Take shoes: I wish that I hadn't spent all that money on closed-toe,
workplace appropriate mules (cool and sophisticated!) and instead been
told that flip flops are completely acceptable EVEN IN COURT. Or that
"suit for court" in fact means "cropped pants and a plain top,
preferably unstained." Or that my access to common office supplies
would be substantially reduced from the veritable warehouse of goodies
I had available in a law firm. Like, for example, that I would have
no stapler. Or pens. I might've executed a last-minute raid of the
copy room on my way out of the firm. ("No, I don't have a three hole
punch and a paper cutter in my briefcase. Those are, uh, personal

Most of all, though, I wish I had been prepared for the fact that
Palauans are a very conservative and modest people. And that the
Palauan concept of "modesty" defies all logic. For instance, it is
completely appropriate to show as much cleavage as you want, even
almost to the nipple and even in the workplace, but it is borderline
obscene to show your bare shoulders. And spaghetti straps might as
well be porn. (Those of you that know me well know that this part
bothers me not at all. I'm fond of taking the girls out for a walk is
what I'm saying.)

And swimsuits. Oh, swimsuits. Common practice here is to wear shorts
over your swimsuit AT ALL TIMES – in the water, out of the water,
tanning, walking, swimming, snorkeling, whenever.

Now, I am not a thin person. But neither am I a huge mound of
gelatinous rolling hills that shake and quiver as I clod upon the
land. I am, in a word, chunky. In another word, curvy. Pick your
poison. There are some women my size who would never even think of
being seen, even by a partner, in a swimsuit without some item
covering said suit and a lady's typical problem areas. I am not one
of those women and my reasoning is this: They don't make a sarong or
pair of shorts that will fool you into thinking that I'm a size 8.
So, I'd just rather dispense with the game-playing. I'm very
Popeye-an: I yam whattayam.

To Palauans, though, the very thought of prancing about in only a
swimsuit is horrifying. To quote some of my more colorful relatives,
it just ain't fittin'.

So, fine. I'm hip to the jive. I can blend in. And off I go to find
board shorts that won't detract from the cuteness of my halter tankini
(Newport News. No really. It's not your grandma's catalog anymore.
Well, maybe it is. But whatever. Real clothes for real women with
real hips.)

Anyway, I head off to check out the clothing stores here (all three of
them) and I immediately discover the Great Paradox Of Palauan Fashion:
Most Palauan women are about my size, if shorter, but all of the
clothing stores have clothes imported from Japan or Thailand or
Taiwan, which clothing is understandably cut to fit Japanese, Thai and
Taiwanese women. In other words, it's tee tiny. They're like doll
clothes. Or, perhaps, human-style clothes meant for Paris Hilton's
tiny Chihuahua (no euphemism intended).

In short, my shopping expedition was fruitless. In one store, as I
perused rack after rack jam-packed with impossibly tiny shorts, the
clerk came up to me and said, "for you? No. No have. You too big."
Naturally, this did wonders for my self esteem, I can assure you. And
before you ask – no, men's board shorts are not an option. Any shorts
that fit the hips of a woman of good Irish, child-rearing heritage
gape horribly at the waist and make my waist resemble that of
an Oompa Loompa. That's let himself go.

And all of this left me wondering: Just how do Palauan women
find clothes here? Does the fact that they are, on average, three to
five inches shorter than me place them within the range of clothes
sized for a Cabbage Patch Doll? Have they bought up all the regular
clothing, leaving behind only these tiny remnants? Do they just not
swim because they can't find the elusive board shorts?

Sadly, I have no answer. For my part, I did what any statuesque expat
would do and I imported some shorts. Until they arrive, well, the
locals will just have to put up with my naughty attire.

Speaking of modesty, witness some Japanese tourists at the local hotel:

Moments later:

Now, I'm told that the Japanese have an aversion to sun that explains
the protective clothing. But I like to think that the man on the left
is staging a water ballet adaptation of Little House On The Prairie
and he's upset that there's a giant green tricycle in his shot. It's
a BONNET for Chrissakes. But I digress...

Another main difference about which I knew but didn't think too much
about is the height differential. Now, I'm only 5'8". This is not
considered tall among the purple mountains majesty and amber waves of
grain just teeming with giant Americans reared on milk from hormonally
treated cows. Here, though, 5'8" is Very Tall Indeed. Stare-worthy.
At first, I didn't understand why everyone stared at me whenever I
stood up until a local clued me in that they were "waiting to see how
high you will go." (On a related note, I'm thinking of importing the
Hotel Heiress, who stands almost 5'11", to do a freak show. I plan on
charging three bucks a peek. Five if she flashes.)

The upshot of such a Lilliputian populace is that the same stores that
sell the Tiny Shorts Of Doom also sell awesome platform heels, to wit:

These heels serve a dual purpose: First, they elongate an otherwise
stumpy body into an acceptable state of voluptuousness. Second, they
elevate the bottoms of your feet to a liveable distance from betel nut
spit. Double score. If you think I draw stares at normal height, you
should see the reaction when I wear platform heels that make me an
even six feet. It's like a low-budget horror movie. Some people run
in fear.

The net result of all of this is that I'm quite the hit among the
local men. I attribute this to the fact that my height and skin color
make me "exotic" and my size makes me normal (direct quote: "You are
not like the other Hallie women; most of them look like they have
cancer."). And, lets face it, I'm prancing around the beach in what,
in Palauan standards, amounts to stripper garb. So, my stock's high.
I have had offers both crude and courtly and have at least one
stalker. As to the latter, I almost accepted a seemingly innocuous
offer of a boat trip to one of the Rock Islands (hitching along with a
funeral procession), until a local friend pointed out that (a) he very
much considered it to be a date, and (b) because the boat would
contain only Palauans, he could very well tell everyone that I had
been purchased or was for sale – or both – and I would be none the
wiser. So, I declined. You just can't be too safe. And if I'm going
to be sold, I want at least to negotiate the price.

Sunday, August 14, 2005


OK, folks. I have given up (temporarily) on blogger. It won't load here and now it's stopped posting pictures for me.

So, until I can get it resolved, please check out the NEW Hon, Interrupted. The picture quality of somewhat suspect, though I think that may have more to do with operator malfunction than with the site. I'll keep you updated if it moves again, folks.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

You can't always get what you want...

So, my mother has commanded that I update more frequently. And you don’t want to disobey 5 foot, three and a half inches of pure mettle. Not unless you want to set yourself up for a guilt trip the likes of which has been unrivaled in modern times. (Think Mary to Jesus: “Oh, so Mr. Big Shot’s got time to part the seas and doesn’t have time to visit his own mother. No, don’t worry about me. Go. Tend to the lepers and whores. I’m only the one that gave birth to you is all.”) BTW, hi Mom.

I think it’s hard to talk about life in Palau because I can assure you that it is nothing like what I expected. Which is not to say that Palau is a horrible place or that my decision was wrong. It’s just that Palau is so unlike anything I’ve ever experienced that I simply lacked the frame of reference and imagination to even conceive of what it would be like. My best guess about what I would find when I got here was necessarily painted with an American brush.

The only way I can do it justice is to say that Palau is, in virtually all respects, a developing nation. And anyone who’s ever visited a developing nation now automatically knows exactly what I mean. It’s the little things you notice. Nothing refrigerated is cold enough. The roads aren’t well paved. There are stray dogs everywhere because there are no vets to neuter them. But the overarching thing I’ve noticed is that there is not the same "want:have" attitude of instant gratification you find in the U.S. or among Americans (myself included). There’s just no room and no resources for such a luxury here. If you want something, you wait for it. You may have to go to five stores to find it. And even then, you may not be able to find what you’re looking for, in which case you either settle for something that’s not exactly what you wanted or you try and order what you want and you wait even longer for it. I’m learning patience at an alarming rate (paradoxically so).

What strikes me most, having been here almost a month now, is the total isolation. I mean, there’s no escaping that Palau is one of the most remote places in the world. That means that all of your contact with places outside of Palau is solely dependent on a technological infrastructure that, at best, is temperamental and, at worst, exists for the sole purpose of taunting and teasing me with an unreliable tether to family and friends. This is, for instance, why there are four of the same posts on this blog. Technological hiccup owing to the fact that the page that tells me these things post never actually loads on any computer in Palau. Not on a work computer, not on the home computer, not even at the internet café, which boasts the “fastest” internet connection on the island (if it is an any time appropriate to refer to 24K dial up as “fastest”). You just have to guess whether the page loaded long enough before it crashed to load your page. Likewise, I can’t load that portion of the blogger site that would enable me to delete the three superfluous entries. I find such limitations maddening. But in a good way.

The isolation also means that virtually everything (excluding fish, wood and illegal tortoise shell jewelry) is imported. And imported, really, at the whim of somebody or something else, be it weather or corporate magnate. Sometimes we get things because there is enough demand, like Diet Coke or Budweiser. But then there’s too much demand and a boat gets sidelined in Saipan and you find yourself in the middle of a two-month drought of diet soda of any kind. (The other ex-pats refer to this tragedy as the Great Diet Coke Shortage of 2004. Thank God I missed it. One upshot of the shortage was the establishment of an underground Diet Coke black market, which ensures that anyone with enough money will never have to be without Diet Coke ever again. I’ve already got an emergency Diet Coke fund stashed under my mattress just in case.)

And for other items that lack that level of name recognition, well, we just get what we get. And it really appears to be quite random. It almost feels sometimes like we are the subject of some great experiment or sick game. As though some greater authority is out there saying, “look at this funny little group of islands. How cute. Lets send them Tabasco Prawn Chips and see if they eat them.” (NB: We will.) And part of this experiment/sick game seems to be toying with the subjects through inconsistency. For instance, among the random items left on the West Coast Trading Company boats that actually make it to Palau there might be some glorious item of real food. Like cheese (or, to be honest, milk). You know, honest to God, made-from-real-milk-from-real-cows cheese that hasn’t been frozen, thawed, re-frozen and re-thawed out of recognition. And The Powers That Be will continue sending this glorious cheese with regularity to these funny little islands until the natives just about get used to it. And then, suddenly, the cheese will be gone, leaving in its place nothing but a vacant, dusty shelf in the rattling refrigerator in the grocery store. And The Powers That Be will keep the cheese away for a long time, never sending it to the funny little islands, even though the islanders beg and plead and offer money and beads for it. And then, just when the funny little islanders forget even what cheese is or what they were begging for in the first place and finally stop pleading, the cheese will come back, uninvited, to taunt them some more. Sadistic bastards, those Powers That Be. I bet they’re Republicans.

Anyway, my point is: There is no want:have here. You learn to make do or do without. And that kind of makes it sound bleak on this funny little island, but it’s actually quite the opposite. Life’s amazingly less stressful when you’re not able to get what you want right when you want it all the time. Time has a way of making you think about whether you really wanted it in the first place.

Monday, August 01, 2005

I got a new sensation, in perfect moments, impossible to refuse....

I keep coming back to blogger, wanting to post but unsure where to begin. I had every intention of chronicling my twenty-four hour journey across the globe because, before I left, it seemed like such a big deal. 24 hours! 4 separate legs! 15,0000 miles! But I didn’t chronicle it, for a number of reasons. First, I had delusions that the coach seating on an international flight would be larger than the coach seating on a domestic flight. I was wrong. I couldn’t even open the laptop enough to type on either of the 8 hour flights. And I had a creeper who insisted on sleeping ON me and thought me rude for waking him so I could vacate my seat in an effort to remove the drool stain from my shoulder. My rules of air travel remain unchanged: If you are a sleeper, take the freaking window seat, you loser. Am I sorry I didn’t upgrade to first class? A little, maybe. It sure would have been nice to have the warm towels and all. I still don’t think it was worth the money, though. And, what the hell, it was only 24 hours of my life. I lived.

Second, and more importantly, I guess I didn’t chronicle the flight, even after the fact, because what seemed like such a big deal back in Baltimore kind of pales in comparison to what you find when you get here. After seeing Palau and being in Palau, the hilarity of a 24-hour flight just seems irrelevant somehow.

The worst thing about the twenty-four hour flight is the level of fatigue you have when you get here. I try to remember what my first impressions were of Palau and they’re just fragments. I remember that the airport was tiny. Not much more than a building. I remember it was raining (this would become a common theme in the days to come). I remember it being really, really dark. I first noticed this while we were pulling in for a landing over the water off the coast of Airai. Dark like I’d never really seen before, even when I was outside the city in East Texas or the desert. Just nothingness. Abyss. (I can also insert here that my fear of flying and, in particular, water landings is all but cured after three take-offs and landings over the Pacific. Now, I find it sort of calming. I will say, though, that I was mildly alarmed by the part where you have to circle in order the make your descent because the piece of land you’re landing on is not big enough. That’s creepy.)

I also remember thinking that we were driving through some suburban neighborhood on the way back to Koror. The road was two laned and scattered with potholes, there were trees everywhere, with tiny houses dotting the road in irregular intervals. Little did I know that this was “town.” Heh. Now, it’s becoming harder and harder to separate what I expected from what I got or mistaken first impressions from current realizations. I guess that’s to be expected.

And now, some pictures:

I guess this would be the "before" picture. Me, prior to cross-the-world travel:

Deserted BWI airport at 4:24 a.m.: (note that this was prior to the arrival of a musical band of missionaries on their way to Honduras. They had pink t-shirts that said, "Jesus te amas". Good to know. They were unphased by notification that Honduras is already largely Christian, Catholic in fact. Their response is that Catholicism is not "the true Lord's Word". Ambiguity in their modifier placement left me to wonder whether they believe Catholics worship a false God or whether they simply take issue with transubstantiation. Fear of being brainwashed, force-fed Kool-Aid and clad in a pink t-shirt prevented me from inquiring further. Now, I'll never know.)

Here's the airport in Hawaii (whatever. I can show as many airport photos as I want!). It's pretty beautiful, as far as airports go:

Apparently, when you're on a plane carrying U.S. Military personnel, it's customary for the Guam fire department to come spray down your plane. Who knew? Here's that:

I'll spare you the inside of the Guam airport. Just this once. Now, I don't have any pictures of my true first impressions of Palau, it having been dark and my having been exhausted. But here is a photo one of my first real views of the islands the following morning:

And finally, here is the sunset that evening. Note that this photo is completely unedited. That's actually what it looks like (if you get too jealous, though, just think of the Betel nut and the TB):

Other highlights include learning how to pronounce the following:


Impressive, huh?

More updates more frequently. I promise!