A Bright, Palauan Christmas Day

Ungil Kurismas! All week long, Palauans have been sporting their best red t-shirts, decorating the heck out of everything, and doling out nightly gifts to kids in Bethlehem park, which is glowy with angels, ornaments in the palm trees, and an artificial Ponderosa Pine planted in a hole in the dirt for the occasion. Brian and I have been learning traditional Palauan dances for the Supreme Court’s annual holiday party this Friday, which will include grass skirts and a lot of shouting and booty shaking before the entire judiciary and House of Delegates. In case you’re wondering what traditional Palauan booty shaking looks like, consider this from one of Brian’s coworkers, offered as a tip to improve our sub-par moves: “Pretend you’re wiping your butt on the wall. That’s what they told us when we learned in elementary school.” I have a feeling it will be a memorable performance.

Xmas Bethlehem Park

Brian photo bombs an angel in Bethlehem Park

Brian photo bombs an angel in Bethlehem Park

Christmas wasn’t quite the same without snow and sub-zero temps, but we made do with what we had: sunshine, beach, and Spam, which made for a shiny topper on our last-minute makeshift Christmas tree, constructed with leftovers from the move.

Island Xmas Tree

We spent the day at the beach, reveling in the company of good friends and visiting relatives, and wishing we could import all of our family and friends for the occasion.

Wishing you all merry holidays. Be good, ok?

Tree Decor-Be Good Ok

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Blond Vs. Lawyer

Palau–or at least one of its two biweekly newspapers–has a thing for blond jokes. Twice in two weeks, the “Jokes of the Week” section of Tia Belau has featured a crack at the expense of the fair-haired. The fairer sex–and wives, especially–are also common fodder for the joke mill around here. I should note that Palau prides itself on being a matrilineal society, and that although the Pacific Islands are notorious for gender inequality in politics and a whole lot else, Palauan women exercise some authority over clan land, money and chief titles. (In Making Sense of Micronesia, published in 2013, Francis Hezel notes that women make up 4% of the total congressional representatives in Micronesia–in Palau, the Marshall Islands, and the Federated States of Micronesia, only three out of seventy-six legislative members are women.)

Accustomed to my regular rants in response to the derogatory and unsubstantiated attacks against blonds, Mr. Brian Quirk, Esquire, was particularly pleased to present me with the following joke recently. I have to admit, it’s a pretty good one. Click for a larger view and to find out who gets the last laugh:

Blonde vs Lawyer 2

A Walking Tour of Koror

It’s Vodicka family tradition to take a long walk after the Thanksgiving meal–get some fresh air and let the sweet potatoes and stuffing settle so you can make room for pumpkin pie. I thought it appropriate this week, then, to lead you on a walk through downtown Koror, the commercial center of Palau and our home for the year (technically speaking, we live in the state of Koror, but our neighborhood is on Ngerekebesang Island–pronounced “Arakabasang”–outside of downtown Koror and physically set apart by a causeway, which Brian drives on his way into town every day).

The tour won’t take long: suffice it to say that folks don’t visit Palau for its urban offerings, shopping or otherwise. But I find a few spots quite photogenic, and hope this gives you a sense of “metropolitan” Palau, where we do our grocery shopping and mail your letters, go for Thai and Indian food and sit twice a day in some mind-boggling two-lane traffic–if it’s Pay Day Friday, forget it!