Zone Development Officer Jon Hoyle's Palau Diary -

Zone Development Officer Jon Hoyle's Palau Diary - Four
Palau (or Belau as its official name is spelled and pronounced) markets itself as the "Bountiful Isles" and the people of Palau have certainly been bountiful in their hospitality and generosity to the numerous number of visitors to Koror over the past two weeks. No task is too hard when help is needed and the request is completed efficiently and with a friendly face and a beaming smile. Palauan's are so courteous that seats are given up at tables for the visitors to their island and even the drivers in their cars stop and interrupt the traffic flow on the busy main road to allow pedestrians to cross. If someone seems a little lost, help comes immediately to hand.

At the basketball the crowds are certainly bountiful as a packed house of cheering fans entertained by the spectacle is guaranteed every evening. The venue for the basketball tournament, the Palau National Gym, is an excellent facility that is perfect both in size and function, for the needs of the community. An open plan building that can accommodate if necessary three full-size basketball courts, the sides have concreted walls up to ten feet high and have from the roof a series of roller doors that allow for open ventilation yet can be immediately closed once rain commences. Unfortunately, during this event that is almost all the time.

Topps Sungino tells a lovely story about the impetus for building the gym that also explains why he is so well respected by the leaders of the community. In the mid-eighties as a teenage gymrat without a gym, he would referee the games on the outdoor court for the masters league that included the current President of Palau who was then a Senator in the Legislature. During rain delays they would stand under the coconut tree and dream and talk of having a covered indoor court. Rather than wait for aid donors, a covered but open sided court was built at the Palau High School and when Palau was awarded the Micronesian Games in 1998 the current building was constructed to host the basketball tournament. Capable of holding 1500 spectators seated comfortably, the building capacity expands to 2000 when standing room is included during the Palau National men's team's games.

Like all pacific nations, English is the second language. The local language in Palau is quite different for western ears. Many words sound nothing like the way they are written. Unusual letter combinations create different sounds that for foreigners are hard to pronounce eg. Ngirchobechad and Ngirngemelas. But the hardest thing to come to grips with is when Palauans speak in English they speak in abbreviations. Never to waste words when letters will do, the Palau National Gym is PNG, the Palau National Olympic Committee is the PNOC, the PNCC is Palau National Communications Association.So prevalent is this habit is that if you use the full name for a location you will not be understood. Even asking a taxi driver to go to the Rock Island Cafè (a well known restaurant with a huge sign out front) is greeted with a quizzical look and an emphatic "eh!" if "RIC" is not used to signify the destination.

It is all part and parcel which makes Palau (Belau) unique.


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