P-MAN VI Update #10 Wednesday, January 22, 2004

Hello Everyone!

Lessons Learned:

  1. Semper Gumby, Forever Flexible still rules here.
  2. Postal workers the world over study the same "How to Be a Postal Employee" handbook.
  3. The medic goes where the higher danger is if the group splits up.
  4. Dolphins pee in the water. A lot. And you can see it for a long time.
  5. Even the grumpiest person wears a smile after swimming with The Dolphins.
  6. Soursop fruit (yes, there is one) tastes, feels and smells like it sounds.
  7. No mad cow disease out here. Maybe mad dog, but no mad cow.

We’re airborne again! We’ve already flown to GUM, and now we’re going to NRT to catch our connection to BKK. We got up at 0600 on the 19th, played/worked all day, had dinner, bagged one hour of sleep, headed to the airport at 2315 on the 19th, and took off at 0230 on the 20th. So far, all has gone well and we should end up in BKK at 2300 local time. But, we haven’t gotten to Japan yet and you know what happened the last time we were there.

Lots of time to be awake, but we’re trying to take some cat naps. I’m not sure which is worse: the initial jet lag of crossing all the time zones between the U.S. and here, or interrupting the synchronizing cycle once it’s begun.

Our first full day in ROR did start at about 0615 around the coffee pot in the ready room. It looks like we’ll rally every morning in the PostStar suite since that’s where all the coffee is and so are the photographs. Depending on the time of the day, one is more important than the other.

The plan for the team was to eat a very quick breakfast, grab their jungle gear and leave at 0700 and meet up with the JPAC (Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command). JPAC wants to excavate a site that could possibly hold executed POW remains. Pat wanted to give them the lay of the land. And it would be a good warm up for the BentProppers for the land part of what we do.

The plan for Rebecca and me was to eat breakfast at the food stand next to the hotel, get ourselves over to Neco Marine and see if we could get on a tour of something. There are a number of things for tourists to do here: Jelly Fish Lake, Dolphin Encounter and many more that do not need scuba gear (since I don’t have mine here yet and Rebecca doesn’t scuba dive) or jungle gear (since I don’t have mine here yet). Or we could just explore the town. Since our body clocks were still out of whack, we were not rushing into anything.

We said goodbye to the team and sat down for breakfast. In the middle of our eating, in walks the team. The first of many changes of plans. Remember, a plan is just something to deviate from. Seems JPAC isn’t going to Babelthuap today. Rather than sit around and do nothing, Pat said let’s do a change to water mode, and go investigate some stuff. They were going to look between two coral heads of interest that we identified from bomb run photograph from the war. While they were gathering up equipment, Rebecca and I had some decisions to make.

My gear bag that I sent from home was not in the hotel office. However, I did get a message that it was at the post office and could be picked up at 0830 the next day. That doesn’t help us now, does it? We decide to stick with our plan and be tourists. We hitch a ride with Pat and team to Neco to talk with Josie about an adventure of our own. Josie is the manager and go to woman for all our adventure needs.

Jelly Fish Lake is a unique aquaculture. Millions of non-stinging jelly fish live in a marine lake on one of the islands south of Koror. You can swim with them and see a very interesting environment. That sounded like the thing for us to do. However, no tours to Jelly Fish Lake today. We can sign up for one tomorrow. So we do and also sign up for the 1pm Dolphin Experience for today: swim with the dolphins. Now we have lots of time to kill.

The team heads out to their search and Rebecca and I head out to see what the town has to offer. It is Sunday and lots of stores, museums are closed. But we do hike around in the heat for awhile, buy a few necessary items, have a milkshake and lunch, get caught in a rain storm (good thing as it hasn’t rained in over a week here) and get back to the hotel in time to be picked up by Neco for our 1 o’clock appointment.

At Neco, we meet a couple of the JPAC team who are also going to the Dolphin Experience. We buy a few items that will help us in the water and off we go for a 5 minute boat ride to where the dolphins are.

The Dolphin Experience has 10 adopted dolphins: 2 male and 8 female. All of these animals had been caught in fisherman nets in Japan and had incurred various degrees of mistreatment by humans. They are being trained to work with people with disabilities. Not as service animals (I knew you knew that) but for tourists who have physical or mental disabilities. It appears that most people with disabilities react well to their experiences with dolphins. The owner/benefactor of this institution has disabled children of his own and wants to do something to help.

The compound is between a couple of the islands in Malakal Harbor with enough nets, booms and doors to have lots of enclosures of varying sizes. They treat the dolphins with a lot of respect and even allow them some freedom of the seas. However, it appears that once dolphins become acquainted with humans, and the feeding schedule, that is what they prefer. We’re told that they turn up their noses (snouts?) at the fish swimming around them and would rather be hand fed.

We got a walking tour of the whole place, was given a demonstration of training by the assigned trainers, then we got to stand in the tanks and pet the dolphins and get a hand shake (flipper shake) or a kiss. Okay, so far, this was, ok.

Then we got to suit up and swim with them. In the water we went and the dolphins swam right up to us. We were not allowed to go underwater (big life jacket on) but we could swim as hard as we wanted to so we could swim with the dolphins. This was really cool. Close up eye contact with a dolphin was pretty neat. They would swim quite fast right towards you and then come to a stop right next to you. I had visions of being gored like Flipper did to those bad sharks in the Flipper movies. But these creatures just swam with us.

25 minutes of swim call is what we got. We watched a little more training and then had our boat ride home. Over to Sam’s Tours for sunset and out to dinner. Once again, an early evening, and now we’re starting the day at oh dark thirty.

This day was supposed to be us going to Jelly Fish Lake as tourists and Pat and gang going to Babelthuap with JPAC. JPAC calls and makes it at noon. Pat comes racing back to our breakfast table and says let’s get the plane and survey the area. To make a long story short, Rebecca and I ditched our tourist plans and put on our jungle gear and went with Pat for the plane ride and up to the Japanese Military Police Headquarters where there might be the graves of executed POWs.

Jungle gear? How did you manage that since your stuff was still missing? Since we changed the itinerary, I could be at the post office as it opened at 0830. Back in the package room, there was my bag. It was either there in 2 days as advertised, or 5 days. Hard to tell from the paperwork. But I’ve got it and now that I’m leaving, I can rest a little easier.

We piled into the van and ran out to the airport. Matt, our Australian pilot from last year already had the rear door off and ready for us for our photo recce mission. We pile into the plane and off we go. We crisscross the islands, circle points of interest and run linear patterns along the reef. Pete Galli, a master with Photoshop has morphed WWII photos and modern photos and has given us a new tool for interpreting what we have on film from yesteryear. In one day, Pete made himself indispensable.

This may might not have been Jelly Fish Lake, but Rebecca got a much better view of the Palaus than if we had gone by boat. She’s pretty jazzed about the scenery.

Back to the airport, with a little hearing loss due to the open door, pile in the van, go to where JPAC stays and off we go to the big island. We find the cutoff road to the MP HQ, walk in and show JPAC what the lay of the land is for their first mission. We part company and while they head to a village with a State Government official, we head to THE WATERFALL to soak our feet. This particular waterfall is mentioned frequently in Japanese reports from the war. Seems that this was quite a central place for them. It’s a State Park now and is quite nice for cooling down. But still, don’t drink the water.

Back to town to grab some smoothies and milk shakes, check email at the Internet Cafe and go home to clean up.

Pete shows off the photos of the day, we head to dinner and find that the place by the water that we really wanted to have sashimi at is all out. But they carve something up and serve us two portions of some really great tuna, one portion of calamari and then we break down and buy burgers.

Back to the ranch for a catnap before our 0230 flight. Goodbyes to all, especially Rebecca as she is not returning with me in February. She’ll be in Michigan. Where it’s cold and snowy. Please send your commiserations!

We get to the airport too early, but we’re first in line for everything. I fall asleep as the wheels break ground and wake up at 1000 feet above Guam.

We’re now in a lounge in Tokyo, waiting a really long time for our flight. But, we’re taking care of ourselves nutritionally, I found a shower facility (probably the best priced deal in Japan: 3 dollars for 30 minutes in the shower room. I’m a new man.) There were no hassles with the tickets and they’ve given us the comfy seats hours early. How nice! They’ve even given 2 more of our skydiving team members the wide seats. She’s a pilot for us and her husband is with me in the middle of this big formation we’re about to build. She’s junior to me and when I looked at the load it was iffy about them getting on. Now they’re taken care of.

That’s the news today. More later when I have something to report. I wonder what those guys are doing in Palau today?

Blue Skies, Flip

This still hasn’t gotten out by our 2nd day in BKK so here is what we’ve been doing.

Arrived at the airport very late on the 20th. Got through Thai immigration and customs with no problem. Mass of humanity trying to get out of the airport. Found taxi/van company and got a ride for 9 of us that appeared to arrive at the same time. Got to the hotel, checked in and found that we all wanted to go out and start to explore. It was 0150.

The country has changed. Everything closes at 2am. We walked a little and found we could buy water and such at the 7/11, but no night clubs open, no restaurants with pubs etc etc. It used to be everything closed at 5am. Not anymore. Rebecca and I broke off from the group and went back to our hotel and finally went to sleep, close to 3am. And promptly woke up at 0700.

Down for breakfast, check the lay of the land and then went sightseeing/shopping. All day and all over. We went by foot, van and skytrain. We got to see a lot of Bangkok, eat wonderful Thai food from all sorts of vendors and take in all the sights, sounds and smells of this big city.

Bangkok is every bit of an international city as you would think of New York. Every language is spoken, every food style is available, every chain company has a branch here and lots of business is taking place.

Back to the hotel, quick change and out for a wonderful foot massage. Rebecca and I seated in reclining chairs, side by side, having the days efforts removed from our bodies. What a pleasure.

Down to the Seafood Palace, picked our dinner from the tanks (fresh as fresh can be) and wouldn’t you know, not only did the restaurant have entertainment inside, but a Chinese New Year acrobat/dance troupe was putting on a show right out the window we were sitting at. Dragons dancing, actors acting, kids laughing, it was grand.

Walked around some more, and called it an early evening at 2230. And of course ran into old friends all day long as the entire World Team starts assembling at the hotel. After all, that is why we came to Thailand: to build a new skydiving world record.

Finally got a great nights sleep by duration standards and it’s now 0730 on the 22nd. Time to start a new day. If I can get this out of my laptop and into electron land, then maybe you’ll be able to read this before too much time has transpired.

Okay, back at ya.

Blue Skies, Flip