By Gaafar J. Uherbelau —-
So a couple of weeks ago, during lunch hour, we were driving down the main road when we saw like five or six people dancing their tails off on the verandah at the new coffee joint in Koror. I immediately turned to my other half and asked with a frown, “Tirke te cheltelaol?” And she replied, “Ng diak. Te tourist. You don’t have to be drunk to dance.”
Immediately it got me thinking, Wow! I’ve been paying too much attention to the news lately about violence, politics, drug use and economic issues that I had automatically assumed that these people were probably intoxicated and acting very inappropriately. I was thinking this kind of behavior in public is very disrespectful to the Palauan culture. Well…
Not once did I even consider the fact that they were probably just so happy being in Palau and enjoying whatever “sound” was playing at that time. Plus, how many times a week do we see Palauans making “S”s while walking down the road drunk as hell and yet we don’t consider them as being disrespectful? It got me thinking, why is that when a foreigner or tourist is or acts as “kora ngodech” we are so quick to judge and think negatively of them and yet when others of our own behave exactly the same way we treat it as normal?
Maybe we Palauans are just hesitant with things that are kora ngodech and would rather stick to the things we know and love. Like food for example. I know some Palauans who simply cannot eat food (cuisines) from other cultures on a daily basis because eng diak el bol ashi. Ng diak el sebechii rengii. Even Palauans who have lived abroad for years would make the sacrifice and travel long distances just to find a store that offers a little of that beloved taste of home. This is also evident with Palauan kids when encouraged to eat different foods, they refuse without even trying it.
And maybe it’s this fear of the unknown that makes us bad tourists because when we land in foreign places instead of going sightseeing, we’re running around looking for Canned Tuna; Kimchee; Soy Sauce; Cup Noodles; Buuch, Aus, Kebui and maybe even Pokka Milk Coffee.
But what’s really funny is that even though we expect foreigners to act appropriately while they visit our islands, some of us don’t change our habits when we visit other places, which could be disrespectful or even illegal.
I don’t think there will ever be a time that an American in a shopping mall somewhere in the US would see a Palauan spitting in a pot plant and think, “Oh, it’s ok. He’s probably a tourist…”