Palau day 8: Kayaking and First Child Birth Ceremony

Today was Audrey’s last day with us (onto her world-wide adventure from here), so since we had the morning free, we had to get a little kayaking in! We had intended to just rent the kayaks for a couple of hours, but when we got to the docks, Loren, one of the guys that works with the tour company, said it was his day off and he didn’t feel like going home, so if we didn’t mind, he’d tag along and give us our own personal tour… well why not?! So Loren took the two of us out and guided us to the sunken Japanese Zero, Jelly Fish Pond (with the stinging kind of jelly fish, I paddled out of there as quick as possible, those were mean looking suckers) and along the coast line of the rock islands. Although it rained intermittently throughout our time kayaking, it was so peaceful and so gorgeous, we barely saw another person the entire time.

We met as a group early afternoon, to hear that earlier that day two of the Otis students, Angela and Harmony, had presented their health campaign projects to the Ministry of health and he liked them so much that he invited them each to do a month’s residency in Palau next summer! Otis students are making quite an impression out here, almost as much of an impression as Palau has made on us.

The highlight of the day was a very special treat, an invitation to the first child birth ceremony for a relative of the Bilung (the Queen of Palau). The first child birth ceremony is sort of like our American version of a baby shower, except for in Palau’s case, it’s after the baby is born, the man’s side of the family gives gifts of money and the women’s side of the family prepares all of the food for the festivities. More than just a party, the first child birth ceremony also serves many other purposes, one of the main ones is that it helps heal the mother after childbirth. For up to 10 days, the new mother will sit in a steam house and be bathed with special herbs to help clean and shrink the womb. After the designated time (the amount of time is relative to the new mother’s status in the clan), she is presented painted in a mixture of turmeric and ginger, adorned with a colorful skirt (that varies from village to village),she walks to her awaiting guests on bamboo matts that rotate to be placed in front of her. When we got our first glimpses of the new mother, a hush fell over the group; she was simply stunning; the contrast of the bright yellow skin against the blue and red skirt was amazing. After she was officially presented it was time to feast, and feast we did. The family sent us on our way with two to-go boxes each, stuffed full with delicious Palauan food, rice, chicken, taro, cakes and tapioca.

That night it was time to give Audrey a sendoff, with a night out on the town, Palaun style. We started at the Flamingo with our new best bud Soline, headed to the Taj, where we met Adora (one of our awesome contacts at PCC) picked up Robert (owner of the Taj) and his hookah, then it was Kramer’s (home of our spaghetti dinner our second night in Palau) to visit Rena and then it was the ELC for a final drink and some dancing. What a blast! We laughed, we danced and we enjoyed our new friendships.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

And by popular demand, more from Jelly Fish Lake

7 Responses to Palau day 8: Kayaking and First Child Birth Ceremony

  1. James monge says:

    Celebrating an new born child is great, but when it comes to a first born it is a beautiful event. It bring properous hope and joy to the family and village. A thanks to the gods for health and a well being to others.

  2. Joan says:

    This life changing experience for all of you might require debriefing with a series of reunions when you re-enter the States. Having experienced summer abroad in England, France, and Italy and junior year abroad in Japan, I remember how re-entering LA was a cultural adjustment.

    Over 30 years later, I still keep in touch with friends from my educational abroad programs, and together we became better informed Americans.

    I hope IL can continue the Palau summer program in the future. I see a poignant online documentary film coming out of it, as I see Sarah Morton in the photos.

    Joan Takayama-Ogawa

    PS Do they have any clay on the island?

    • Richard Shelton says:

      Hi Joan,

      Funny you ask about the clay. I just found out that they have no traditional potters on the Island.
      In fact some of the pots in the museum are made by Taiwanese potters. They are look to restore the traditions in Palau and looking for someone to teach traditional Palauan pottery technique.


  3. Hi from the Island of Palau,

    Speaking of clay, I came across this site looking for an image of a lady doing the hot bath ceremony which I will use as an example to sculpt using Palauan clay. There actually a pottery class going on at the moment over at the National Museum here in Palau. It’s been going on for about a month or so and now they are in their second session. They have been collecting clay all over Palau and learning how to fix and clean them. They did bring a teacher from Taiwan but the thing is the locals are learning the basics of mixing clay and creating their own unique designs…Its pretty neat.


  4. Jan says:

    Great photos! The only thing that bugs me is media keeps saying Bilung and her brother Ibedul are king and queen. Palau has never had nor ever will have kings and queens. Ibedul is not a name, it’s a chief title, that is a high chief only in koror, he has no authority in any other village but only within koror. Bilung is also a female title, not a name. Palau villages have their own chiefs. Reklai is a chief title in the village of Melekeok state in Babeldaob, but he and Ibedul have no authority in other villages. My uncles, aunts, mom and grandmother have titles too and in our culture we do not call them by their names, we call them by their title. For example, Bilung Gloria Salii. Her name is Gloria but her title is Bilung so respectively we call her by her title, not her name. I grew up with a very traditional and respected grandmother. I know what I am talking about. This is a reason why I don’t like books and media about people’s culture. It amazes me that they even refer to themselves as king and queen. It’s embarrassing to hear people laugh and snicker about them holding such titles!

  5. Tamara says:

    If you happen to visit Palau again make sure you go back to the jellyfish lake, and take a swim! They are the non stinging kind and swimming with them is an amazing experience. You can touch them, just be delicate because they are easily hurt. It’s so quiet under the water, with little living bubbles moving all around.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: