Born in the spring with the Forget-me-nots

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Palau – awesome dinner and trying to get home

We left off on the way back from the field. After an exhausting day in the field, we went out to dinner with one of our local contacts. He took us to a more locals nice restaurant. He ordered everything for us beforehand. I was starving but managed to take some photos to remember the amazing meal by. First off we had sashimi.
You know it is fresh when it is looking at you! I don’t remember what type of fish this was, but it was damn good!
This dish was rice and egg. The rice was cooked with some sort of spice and was amazing!
More fish! This time cooked!
Giant Clam on this plate!
Palauan water melon and bananas to wrap up an amazing meal. There were a few other dishes I didn’t manage to get photos of. Mostly veggies.
Back over by the hotel. Friday was a sort of free day. I worked on the report and ran some errands before packing to head back. Our flight was scheduled for 2:30am, so I had some time in the evening to get ready. You can see in the distance of this photo a ship wreck.
Here is my example of a mini rock island!
That night my boss went on a paddle board adventure! He wrote something about that adventure and says he will put it online soon. I will be sure to link to it when it is up. Last night dinner was at The Taj! It is an amazing Indian food place! Photo10 This is a photo of me with the owner of the Taj My long trip home began after dinner on Friday. I came back to the hotel, checked the room one last time and went with my book to the lobby to wait for transport to the airport. I did end up falling sleep around 11pm in the lobby. Around midnight we all met up and loaded onto a bus to go to the airport. Once we got there and checked in we still had 2 hrs to wait. I was sitting by myself, and as the waiting room filled up I found myself in the midst of a group of very friendly Canadian divers. We talked shop and they shared photos and stories while we waited for the flight. Around 2:30am (departure time….) the plane was showed up. I think we ended up getting on the plane around 3am. Once we were all settled (I ended up sitting by some of the Canadians) the captain came on over the announcement system and said something to the effect of "uuuuhhhhh we had a light come on when we landed that we need to get checked out folks so uuuhhhhhh if we can't get that cleared its a no go so uuuuhhhhhh just relax and we'll try to get this fixed." I think I slept a little bit. At this point remember it is between 3 and 4am. I have trouble staying awake past 1:30am in a normal situation. I remember that around 4am we were told that it might not get fixed. Around 5am we were taken off the plane, and as we exited we could HEAR the beeping in the cockpit. We were lined up, refunded our exit tax, given our bags, and told that we would be contacted about our flight. While in Palau we purchased a local cell phone so we were able to call the hotel and get our rooms back. They took down our names (by hand) and hotel and we called a cab. Now, this cab was unmarked and was someone’s car. We squished into the cab and piled our stuff on top of his stuff in the back. Back at the hotel at 6am I tried to sleep. However, we were not even given an ETA for our flight so I was worried. Around 8am I was back up, and downstairs trying to get info. I couldn’t access my flight info online and they said they would call at 9am so I ate some food and tried to do something. Lets get this straight, I DO NOT function without sleep. I think I swam a bit. I went for a walk and eventually around lunch we had news of our flights. Originally I was rebooked to a 1am flight that went through Yap. I took one look at the connection time in Guam and said HELL NO put me on the rescheduled flight at 6pm! So around 4 we headed back to the airport. This flight was also late. By this time I had been hanging out with the Canadians all day. We looked through more photos and talked the whole flight. In Guam we were taken to a hotel. This was the same hotel I stayed at for a few hours on the way TO Palau. They were not ready for a plane full of people. Having worked in a hotel for years with a large guest flow, I could point out several ways that the process could have been expedited. However, while waiting in line one of the bell boys came hopping along and took one look at me and said “What are YOU doing here again!?” we chatted with him and got him to tell the restaurant to stay open later for us. Next morning, at like 4am we were picked up and taken back to the airport for an uneventful trip the rest of the way home.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Palau - field work

We are finally to that part of the trip I loved, the field work. I love field work! There is nothing about working outside until you feel like you are going to fall over from exhaustion. Our station is located on the largest island in Palau, it is named Babelthaup. I have heard it pronounced "bobble-dop" and yes, it made be giggle every time. Welcome to our site! The first element we went to is home to a Japanese fox hole. According to my boss, when the site was first installed it was swept for unexploded ordnance. I was still cautious when taking the following photos.
It may be a little hard to tell in this photo, but there are two entrances to the fox hole. The fox hole is in a "U" shape.

This is the closest entrance to the path...
and this is the entrance farthest from the path.
This is a photo of one of the sites. What you can see here is the "rosette" wind filter design. There are four of these rosettes for each element, and the signal is summed from all four, before it is recorded. This is the same set-up at our Indian Ocean site, but we have a different set up at the Hawaii station.
This is a carnivorous plant. I found this one growing near the solar panels. I have never, ever, EVER seen one of these growing in the wild. My travel mates were not phased by these cuties, but I was VERY excited!
I had to take a photo of the foliage. I remember when I was young, sitting in the Zoo-day-camp, I remember the unit on the tropical rain-forest. I remember thinking "Wow I will never go somewhere that cool!", here I am! It still gets me.
I call this one: getting shit done with what you have. This is the "post" for the GPS for one of the sites. Nothing like fixing the site with what you have.
Here is one last shot of a rosette.

Now that you have had a tour of the site, I have a story. I am going to have to back way up. Back when I started at the lab, before I had even been working a month, the senior engineer came to Palau to hook up our new generator. While he was there (in the rain I am sure he would like me to add), he was swarmed by bees who blew up one of the electrical components at one of the sites. Our poor Palau site then suffered through a power outage. Apparently according to word of mouth, the generator for the island (and country) caught fire because someone was out fishing. Palauans LOVE to go fishing. So, the generator caught fire and suddenly there is no power to the country or our station. I think that was in November. Our station was down for at least 3 months. Finally in February, the proper transformer was delivered to the community college, power came back on and so did the station. Our fearless engineer was there to turn the station back on. He said at that time, the bees had totally taken over that one element. There was honey in the vault. Now we come to my trip. One of our meetings was with our subcontractor who visits the site on a regular basis. We had asked them to "Take care of the bees" which they said they had done. Well, turns out the bees did not want to be evicted from their lovely home in our vault. They were STILL THERE! We attacked them with bleach water, but they still came back! We ended up having to pull all the electronics from that vault and just leave the element to the bees, for now...
EVIL bees!

Now due to the power outage, the AC in our data center had been off for months. Not only was it hot in there, but moist, and everything was starting to mold. While we were there (and out in the field at that) the new AC showed up! I was so happy to open the door to cool air, that I took a photo of the working AC unit.
Field work done, (check list I made gone through), we headed back south to town. On the way back the previous day, I had spotted a large pyramid. This time, I had the guys pull over so I could check it out. It turned out to be a WWII memorial (that was in need of some TLC).
There was a bench in front, with steps, and you can't see it (because it is over grown) but lines coming away towards me. It could be very nice if someone kept the grass down.
The inscription was in English and Japanese and says,
"Rest in peace!
For the souls of US and Japanese soldiers who lost their lives during the World War II in the southern islands in the West Pacific Ocean and also for the souls of Palau peoples involved in the war we say our prayers from the bottom of our heart

With out strong tenacity for the calm period of fifty years after the war and eternal peace we devote ourselves to repose of the souls
1995 Tokufukai " That is all for this post on the field work. Next time, our awesome dinner, and trying to get home!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Palau - work part 1: meetings

Field work in Palau. That may not conjure up images of meetings... but that is what we did. Re-connecting, networking, and just sitting down across the table from people. Palau is a small island nation, and face time, is how things get done. So, off we went all over the city to meet with various people, and get some balls that had been very stuck (and been starting to grow moss...) rolling again. We did take some time to stop and snap some photos though.
We stopped at this place and wandered around. I think it is the old Japanese headquarters from WWII.
you know me... I love abandoned buildings!
I took a lot of photos!
Here are just a few!
We took a short trip up to the site. This is a view of the repeater station from where the antennas are located at the data center! (It is that little white dot on the hill) That made sense right? We don't have line of sight to all of our elements so the data is shot to the repeater site and back to the data center. "Data Center" if fancy for "the computer". The computer then sends the data out through our satellite dish.
The community college where our computer is located, was gifted the containers the original equipment came in. They turned one into a nice out building!
There was an entomological collection next door! I took a bunch of photos for you know who! ;)
eewwww. Back to town!
A note on the geology of Palau. Those hills covered in trees, those are limestone. Palau is an old volcanic island, it sunk below the waves and corals took over, depositing large amounts of limestone. Millions of years passed and the whole complex was uplifted. The current terrain is the result of water eroding the limestone (karst) and the erosion of the exposed volcanic rocks.
I went for a walk over to the super fancy hotel, and this guy and the next were our front. I loved them!
Even though this hotel was super fancy, I like I liked the one we stayed at more!
This beautiful sitting area was out front by the lobby.
This turtle was in the little pond.
From the hotel I could see a cave across the way in the limestone hill. (Caves are common in karst topography)
There was no time for diving on this trip... :( So I found this aquarium tank and took a few photos. They will just have to hold me until next time!
There are giant clams in Palau!
there are also tons of soft corals!
I really can't wait to get in the water next time! Ok so this next fish, he is not alive.
TUNA! This was in the sushi restaurant in the hotel when we got back from our walk. I think he was going to make a lot of yummy sushi! Ok I think I am going to end this one too after the next set. First I wanted to show you the difference between high and low tide at the hotel. We have come to the conclusion that the enture area is slowly subsiding.
observe where the water level is
and that this ramp is underwater.

same area at low tide
see the difference? 

Ok now a bunch of photos from around the hotel.
The corner deck? That was my room the first day!
That is all for now!