Feb 6, 2009


SEATTLE-LA-HONOLULU-GUAM-KOROR: Amy ran to the pharmacy. Maria washed the dishes. Jenny, I think, took out the trash. And somehow, with a lot of help from my friends, I scrambled into the airport shuttle.

People often assume travel writers are the road's elite: honed by countless witty anecdotes from Bosnia to Botswana. And that's partly true: I'll pit my security-X-ray speed against the weariest frequent flier's. But in other areas, we can grow too jaded, too battle weary. "Packing for a month-long trip, while hosting a dinner party?" ostentatious yawn. "Why yes, I suppose I should start around 10pm if the shuttle arrives at 3.30am."

Of course, that's also a great way to Tom-Sawyer folks into pearl-diving that week's worth of coffee cups...

But it's also how I wind up carting random debris 7,000 miles to Micronesia – and shopping for overlooked essentials on my first day in Palau.

Under the Japanese occupation (1914–44), Koror boasted tailors, masseurs and public baths. "There were 41 ice dealers, 77 geisha girls, one fortune teller and 55 restaurants, 13 of them considered first class," E.J. Kahn reported about this heydey.

Sixty years later, the country's largest town doesn't even have a pharmacy. I duck into each convenience store – grateful to escape the 85-degree humidity – and ask about contact lens solution.

"Like, for your eyes?" one lady asks, corkscrewing her face. "Oh, I'm not sure we have that in Palau."

Seriously? A whole nation of 21,000 people who either wear specs or smuggle in saline from Manila, the closest major city, 820 miles east?

Not so. After much dogged inquiry, I find a decently stocked toiletries section in Surangel's department store. And with clearer eyes, I finally pause and take in my surroundings.


The view looks just fine. Yes, indeed.


  1. Is this the view before or after your eyes have recovered from the drought? Lovely just the same.

  2. The view looks fine to me, also. Looking (heh) forward to hearing more.

  3. @ Lost in Thought: that was, in fact, the early morning view from my patio at Cliffside Hotel: absurdly beautiful, no?

    @DB: I am working on catching up the blog. SWEAR!

  4. My husband's family owns Surangel's. Surangel Sr. (Sam) has an unbelievable life story if you are ever in Palau again. You can see a video the family made by searching YouTube for Surangel (it has 3 parts).