Kate Galbraith

Kate Galbraith

A weeklong electronic journal.
March 17 1999 9:30 PM

Kate Galbraith

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Wake-up time is 7 this morning. My alarm clock has long since broken, but I am jolted out of bed by the usual assortment of crowing roosters, hollering children, and brilliant sunshine streaming through overhanging banana trees. Priority No. 1 is finding an Internet connection to e-mail the Slate "Diary" that I wrote last night. It's easier than you'd think. The Yapese may prance around in loincloths at home in their villages, but on weekdays the townies hunker down at the office and check their e-mail just like the Western world (though not quite as obsessively). Practically every business on Yap except the suspicious Sea Transportation office has volunteered an e-mail address for me to list in Lonely Planet. (Our current policy is to list e-mail addresses along with phone and fax numbers, though we don't list many Web sites because those change constantly and can be derived off the e-mail address anyway.)

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My hotel--the Ocean View Hotel, the least expensive and blandest of Yap's hotels--actually has Windows 98 and Internet Explorer on a spanking new PC. This is amazing to me: Even when I worked at Slate, my computer had only Windows 95 as I was too lazy to download 98, and little did I suspect that my inaugural Windows 98 experience would come on Yap Island. So I ask the reception desk to let me briefly use their Net connection (as I had yesterday). This instigates a slight commotion, because the manager who knows the password must be awakened. But he is a good sport--he stuffs a wad of betel nut into his cheek to fortify himself against the early hour and pecks in the password to activate the dial-up modem.

After sending off my Diary, I spend my third and final morning in Yap researching anything I have missed. I drop by the immigration office and ask for its opening and closing hours; I ask the local Continental office if it accepts credit cards (yes); I check out the Yap Artists Gallery and its handicrafts prices; I visit the village market, which is so pathetic that the counter girl offers me oranges for free because "they've been sitting here so long."

The rest of the day I'm free to spend exploring. I'm usually much busier than this, but Yap is so small and easy to research that I actually have time for real tourism. At 10 o'clock, I join up with a Canadian backpacker I met yesterday, and together we rent a car and drive around the island. I need to visit the remaining two hotels in Yap that are outside Colonia, the main town; he wants to visit World War II Japanese zero bombers that are rusting wrecks on the old Yap airstrip (Micronesia, by the way, is an incredible tourism site for World War II buffs, as most of the islands were bases for either the Japanese or the United States during heavy fighting).

Our car trip is every bit as random as a tropical excursion on Yap Island should be. For one thing, we get completely lost because none of the roads in Yap, not even the one to the airport, is marked, and the maps--Lonely Planet, Moon, Yap Visitors Bureau--are not helpful on unmarked roads. (Lonely Planet's map of course will see amazing improvements under my professional dirt-road cartography.) For another thing, it starts to pour after we get out to walk--one of those quick, heavy tropical deluges. My companion, Dan, has the bright idea of twisting off a couple of banana leaves (which are about the size of a tennis racket). We shelter beneath them and manage to stay semi-dry. The rain knocks off a bunch of bananas from the trees above, so we collect them and eat them.

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And I haven't even got to Paradise--that's the island of Palau, tomorrow.