Palau 1 October: Rock Islands - Koror Township

Palau Independence Day

We arrived early in the morning at the Drop Off zone to be met by Minster Temingel to go on the President’s boat out to Rock Islands.

The Palau history is an oral history and it was fascinating to hear these three women share the history of Palau with us today.

Rock Islands are a collection of about 300 limestone or coral islands that rise from the ocean like ancient rock formations standing tall and strong through all that Mother Nature throws at them. They are covered in lush green forest and many are protected. The whole area is a World Heritage Site, including many very significant archaeological sites. Starting at about 8:00am we didn't have much time before we needed to be at the Capitol. Our first port of call was 'The Cemetery' named because of the shapes of the coral reef below. But wow the fishes that swim there are amazing!

Minister Temengil offered us all the natural sunscreen that one of the teenagers of Palau makes that is safe for the reefs. She belongs to "Heirs To Our Ocean" – they have school chapters and are advocating for no plastic zone in the ocean, and no plastic zone in Palau.

The President has also declared every government function and any activities promoted by the government to be a no plastic zone. They encouraged people to bring their own water bottles and reusable containers. Minster Temingel told us that at all the meetings at the Capitol everyone arrives with their reuseable coffee cups and containers. She even said if you follow the President’s car, be ready stop often – if he sees trash he has to stop to pick it up!

Lisa also joined us today along with Olympia Morei – Director of Belau National Museum.

Taking off again, we made out way to 'the milky way' – hmm how to explain this? – the breakdown of the white limestone in that area has created a sulphur sediment that is covering the bottom of the sea floor. This in turn lightens the sea water, with the white mud under it giving it this turquoise glow.

Stopping at a local beach on one of the islands for a light picnic ...

... the team was then back in the boat to return to Koror and to the Capitol.

Arriving soon after the program began, we dropped our gear off at Minister’s Office and went to participate in the festivities ...

... inviting more people to hold the Torch and make their wishes for peace.

At 2.30pm the Peace Run was invited to the stage to present the Plaques for Peace that the children of Kyoto had created to give to the children of Palau to connect these two counties and the children in a heartfelt meaningful way.

48 students came to the stage, representing students from all of the schools that were present today. Each student receive a ceramic plate or a summer fan that the younger children of Kyoto had decorated with either origami or the Palau flag with Japanese writing on the back saying words like oneness, running, Palau or Peace.

Australian Ambassador Fraser was there with his wife. Ambassador Fraser has been posted in a number of countries in the Pacific the Peace Run has previously visited, and a number that we hope to visit in 2019. He kindly took time in his busy schedule today to meet with us and learn about the Peace Run.

The Peace Run team was fortunate to be given the opportunity to the Judicial Building at the Capitol, near the President's office.

Lusia Kumangai is the Acting Administrative Director.

The President then kindly received us in his office, where we discussed our time in Palau and the Peace Run.

We were all struck by how progressive this country is, both in how they are leading the way in respecting their environment, but also in the way they blend together the beautiful traditions of Palau with the modern world and Government; accepting that we all need to progress with the times but the essence of the history and traditions of the country need to be kept and treasured at the same time.

Today – Palau's Independence Day – was the day we formally handed over the Peace Torch. This Peace Torch has travelled to Japan and Palau and the hopes and dreams of thousands of people have been infused into the Peace Torch and we hope in the symbolic handing over of this Peace Torch to the President, the Peace Torch will in some small way inspire more people to strive to treasure Peace inside their hearts and help create a oneness-world for all of us to live in.

Minister Temengil then led us to our seats at the side of the stage. As the sun set, the formal part of the program began, with a prayer and blessings, followed by a beautiful rendition of the Palau National Anthem.

The final speech of the night was that of The President. After starting the speech he called for the Peace Torch and spoke of how Peace is something very important to the people of Palau and commented on how many people in Palau had held this Torch. He also expressed how important the message of the Peace Run – 'peace begins with me' – is to Palau.

At the conclusion of the speeches we were then treated to a half hour fireworks display. Oh MY, it was spectacular!

I have never seen fireworks like this in real life and so close! The noise was not only deafening but it also powered through us so much you felt each vibration.

To the people of Palau we humbly offer our heartfelt gratitude to you for embracing the Peace Run, for opening up your hearts and sharing with us the goodness, kindness, oneness and peace that you carry within you. If we have shone a light on all that is good, inspiring and encouraging in this treasure of a country that you call home then we are honoured to have played a small role in allowing more of our world family to open their hearts to you as you have to us.