Day 7: Sad Goodbyes and New Beginnings

We soaked up our last little bit of Ollei at the Ebiil Society camp this morning with what had quickly become a routine of coffee, chats, and laughter in the kitchen area with some much needed snuggles and scratches with Dice, the dog that everyone has become so fond of. Before splitting into our groups to do camp clean-up chores, some students took a walk over towards the dock for breakfast and a milkshake. When everyone was all finished, we convened in the classroom one last time for a group reflection. It quickly became apparent how much of an impact this experience had on each of us. Some teary eyes, hugs, and thank-yous were made to Anne, Cindy, Omar, and the rest of the wonderful staff as we geared up to head to the traditional fish weir in Ngekkeklau. The high emotions were an indicator that our souls were fulfilled and inspired by what an incredibly special place the Ebiil Society is. It was hard for us to leave such a warm and welcoming place in which we all felt that we had become part of a big family. We all succeeded in rediscovering our inner child at Ebiil Society.

Students and Ebiil Society staff

After taking a group photo we all hopped on the bus (with air conditioning!!) to head to our next destination; the traditional fish weir. Before arriving, we were all expecting that we would be wading in the water at most up to our knees, well, we were wrong! Not one of us was prepared to go for an unplanned swim, but being flexible and having the ability to find laughter in uncomfortable moments meant most of us just went for it.

Students standing around fish wier

The fish weir is constructed of stones from the area and was recently rebuilt so that it can be used again to harvest fish this August. The original structure dates back about 1000 years. The fish can swim into the weir at high tide, but the design is such that the fish aren’t able to swim back out because they can’t turn around such a sharp corner. The fish can then be harvested with a spear for a fresh meal. This method is very passive, requiring no refrigeration, no fuel costs, and any unwanted species can be tossed back over to the other side to continue living freely making it more sustainable overall. There are plans being made around Palau to restore and use more ancient fish weirs for these reasons.

Drone photo of fish wier

Our next destination was to visit a reconstructed Bai, the traditional meeting house used in ancient Palau for making many governmental decisions. To get to the Bai we had to hike an ancient stone path that wound up the steep forest hillside. The hike was a brisk 10-15 minutes up the mossy and lush forest. When everyone reached the Bai, our tour guide Thema began to explain the purpose and significance of the Bai. He told us that the Bai was the center of the executive part of the government in the ancient Palauan state.

Ancient stone path to Bai

The Bai is covered in stories. Our guide talked about how each image on the outside of the Bai is significant to what happens inside. One of the most interesting details of the stories and the structure is the entrance. There is no door, just a low opening at each end to allow people to step inside. The short height of the opening is purposeful, it forces someone to bow their head as they enter and show respect as they enter. The front entrance to the Bai also has a large black bat painted on the underside of the beam that supports the front wall. The bat represents the action of bowing; bats hang upside down when at rest, this is considered a show of respect. Thus, the bat in the low doorway requires all who enter to follow suit and show respect.

Reconstruction of traditional Bai

After our hike we continued our journey back to PCC to get settled bac in the dorms. We all gathered and had a chat about what everyone was doing the next day and what the plans for the week are. That concluded our day.

Blog by Anna Tollfeldt and Alexander Van Brocklin

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