In Palau (an archipelago of islands in Micronesia), the artisans make remarkable relief-carved wooden boards – appropriately called “storyboards”.
This idea of creating a loose/non-linear narrative to visually accompany an oral story was the spark that ignites did my whole public speaking/story making style.
When I wander far, I rarely take a camera beyond a disposable unit but instead, chronicle my journey through assembling ephemeral artifacts which then become scrapbooks and/or storyboards of a kind.
In this example from Palau, you’ll see a mix of disposable camera snapshots printed on distressed hemp paper along with various tickets, shells, lighters, maps, newsclippings, stickers, stamps etc. plus… I wrote a brief narrative structure on Japanese rice paper envelopes, and then assembled the whole collection on green hemp canvas attached to a wooden cradle — then added paint, straw, bits of dead coral and so on.
I went there with little knowledge, no plans, and few expectations but managed to hop between islands on various intermittent ferries hauling drums of diesel, small plane, random boats and goodwill of others.
Caught in a tent in a rainstorm on Anguar, made a driftwood fire for fish, tromped to the top of bloody nose Ridge on Pelilu, saw tanks resting in the jungle and sealed up a escape tunnels, drinks at Jeff’s pirate cove in Koror… Met a friend and helped deliver mail to a live aboard dive boat then surfed a dangerous coral break, scuba dove solo at blue corner (saw sharks turtles and the very middle of the earth), free dove for a giant clams and cooked the giant clam meat on a little fire on a perfect tiny island.
Saw the Southern Cross, bought a handmade wooden spear gun, plus a hand fishing reel with thick line for trolling off a boat or casting from shore and traded dive masks for kayak rides and packets of zigzags for local herbs (which were exceptional) and used comically large shells as ashtrays.
The old folks on the islands spoke Japanese so I was able to hear stories of the occupation, traditions and life during wartime without filter of go-betweens. I am Magent the tens of thousands of lives lost in meeting last battles as I rumble down potholed airstrips made pre-World War II while the plane literally drops off the edge of a cliff before catching itself while waves crash below.
This was just before the bridge collapsed between the island with the small airport which connects to the capital “city.”
I went deep down their historical rabbit hole and learned of their tussles with foreign fishing fleets, nuclear submarines, handoffs between colonial powers > United Nations > and finally (re)independence, plus their pushback against encroaching tourist hotels and the deep respect for their natural environment.
The hundreds of islands look like heads of broccoli and the people have a remarkable combination of a sense of the outside world while maintaining their traditions and culture without giving into the shiny temptations of material trappings.
This is all. I planned to return for too many years now and, hesitated to tell anyone about this because I want to vanish here perhaps.
An old friend who is now living in Zambia (look it up) was bound for Guam for a brother’s wedding and dropped me a note asking for tourist tips. My time in Guam is worthy of a novella or two but much time has passed and development and typhoons have changed the island – an island which is always in change anyhow – a stange tension of military, tourism and local cultures make for a curious fishbowl.
While i will (really) one day write more on this, here are a few quick notes for others bound for Guam.
Guam … it’s been a while so most restaurants and stuff are probably changed but you should rent/borrow a car and drive to Talafofo and visit the little sandy beach there and go to Jeff’s Pirate Cove – it is close to where Yokoi-san (i think that was his name – the soldier who hid in the jungle for years) was discovered and it is a cool beach restaurant and bar and tourist stop. I used to sell my juggling sticks there. Here’s Jeff’s (there is another Jeff’s Pirate Cove in Palau coincidentally) http://www.jeffspiratescove.com and here’s about Yokoi: http://www.jeffspiratescove.com/yokoi.htm
If you have time and money, visiting Cocos island (a resort at the south end of the island) is rad cause you can swim with dolphins sometimes and explore some great reefs. I worked at Star Sand Private beach club which was a beautiful location through the Air Force base but not sure if it is still in business or whatever (nothing on the internet).
There used to be a great beach restaurant called Tahiti Rama right on Tumon bay but i think it is gone. Apparently they took over the old island dance show which performed at Tahiti Rama’s including fire stick/staff dance by “King” Tana, (my buddy from Tahiti if you happen to see his show, tell him “Haole Dave” said high – his brother from the reggae band too) and moved it to the Fisheye park.
“The observatory is located in the largest of the Piti Bomb Holes, pockets of deep water within the reef offshore of the village of Piti. Local legend attributes their creation to bombs dropped in World War II, but the bomb holes are actually the remains of collapsed caves, similar to Shark’s Hole north of Tanguisson Beach. The observatory, which looks like a flying saucer hovering above the water, is reached by a long causeway above the reef flat. Once inside, a spiral staircase descends twenty feet below the waves to the observation deck. Large porthole windows located around the circumference allow for viewing the fish, shrimp, sponges and anemones in their natural habitat.
After convening at the observatory and watching the sunset, our group migrated back to the the main building on shore. This building houses a gift shop, several large aquariums, the buffet dinner and the Polynesian dancing show. The food was onolicious, a tantalizing seafood buffet, complete with sushi and sashimi. Once we ate our fill, the show began. The dancing was great, and it was like visiting an old friend. The show, the musicians, the performers, the entire act was lifted from the venerable Tahiti Rama beach bar in Tumon. Tahiti Rama was the quintessential beach bar in Guam, a favorite watering hole and destination for many years. They had a great island dance show on Friday nights for a couple years, highlighted by Tana’s fire dance and the owner’s guitar playing and running commentary. Several years ago Tahiti Rama was leveled by hotel expansion in Tumon and I always wondered what happened to the owner and his great Polynesian show. Well he relocated to Fish Eye. And the show is better than ever.”
Anyhow the southern end is totally worth checking out – entirely different from all the busy tourist area and groovy villages and sites along the way plus nice hikes if you are so inclined – i liked being away from the duty free stores and tour buses for sure!
For surfing (boogie boarding is more common due to the shallow breaks with mere centimeters covering harsh coral, Talafofo is the forgiving sandy break, Boat Basin is closest to Tumon beach but the water is nasty and the break intense, Magundas (pictured) has nice waves and beautiful scenery out to the open ocean but takes a level of competence to understand the currents as well as the routine of getting in and out of the water after trekking down a rock cliff. If not careful, you could end up in the Phillipines!
There is also a lot of seedy areas with “massage” parlors and all-night bars for drunken sailors so stay away from there ;-).