Tuai ewu' aku' means 'Come follow me' in the language of the indigenous Penan peoples of Sarawak, Borneo. This blog is an invitation to you to follow me on my big adventure to learn about this tribe and experience the natural beauty of Borneo. Tuai ewu' aku' ! x

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Christmas: Penan do it better!

Dear friends,

A belated Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of you!.  I hope that wherever you were over the holiday period and whatever you were doing, you were happy!  As for me, I chose to experience Christmas in the Penan villages and it was certainly a different kind of celebration.

Before I tell you about it though, let me tell you about the little adventure I had just getting there.  Well as I've mentioned to you before, to get to these villages, you have to take a flight, a 4 x 4 drive and then a boat ride.  When I got to the airport though, there was someone waiting with a message for me - the 4x4 that was due to pick me up had broken down, which meant that I would have to find my own transport to the boat.  Well, I decided to go ahead anyway, and when I got off the flight, I befriended some government project workers who told me that that would take me to Long Siut, where I could catch the boat.  But guess what? They took me to another village called Long Silat, where people of the Kenyah tribe live.  I was worried because I knew that people in Long Siut would be waiting for me, but I had no choice but to stay the night in Long Silat.  Actually, the Kenyah family that I stayed with were very generous and kind to me and they fed me a sumptuous meal. :)

I really liked the Kenyah interior decoration

Long Silat

Traditional Hats

The Kenyah family were very generous to me - after all, I was unexpected!
 After a night at Long Silat, I followed the government people to two more villages, Long Jekitan and Long Makabar.  We travelled by boat up the Silat river.  I was disappointed to see that the river had been muddied by logging and that people were in dire need of dental care in this area.  The residents of Long Silat are also Penan people, but they are different to the Penan that I have been staying with and have a different language.

After all this traveling up and down the river, my new friends were trying to convince me to stay with them and forget about visiting Long Kerong and Long Spigen, but I insisted that I wanted to leave, so they helped me to get another driver.  Finally I was on my way to Long Siut. :)

And on the car ride, I saw some pretty amazing scenery

 Ok, Christmas in Long Spigen:

Well, on Christmas eve in a Penan village, there is only one place to be...church!
The girls have prepared a special song and dance - here they re waiting outside the church

This girl insisted that I take her photo, so I thought I'd give her fifteen minutes of fame on my blog.

Different groups take turns to sing hymns; men, women, teenagers, and little kids (I went up with the women)

Christmas Day

Well no, Santa doesn't come to Penan villages.  There are no presents exchanged.  There is just plenty of fun, laughter and community spirit!!
On Christmas morning, people get together and start cooking rice and wild boar for the big christmas party.

Then, you guessed it....church!! People give handicrafts or food to the church and there is a special service. The church is decorated with plaited palm leaves and carved wooden poles.

Then the big party begins - a meal of wild boar and rice for everyone. 
This kid is pretty excited about the party :)

Rice being served to everyone
Here comes the wild boar soup
Small problem this time.  After killing the boar, they had waited overnight before cooking it..so the food really smelt bad!  Everyone ate it though (except me - too risky ;)).

Once the food was over, my favourite part...Penan games!!
I participated in the ladies boat race, and may I say.....BEST FUN EVER!!!!!!!  I think the Penan were surprised that I really got into it and gave it my all! We came a supreme second.:)
Blowpipe contest

Net throwing contest

Men's boat race - unfortunately no pics of my performance in the ladies race :(

After all that, Christmas isn't over yet!!....Its church time again!!!!
( I politely abstained from church this time).

Then, another party in the headman's house! These people know how to have fun. :)
Ladies making kuey for the party (like a donut)
At the party, everyone had to get up and dance, while the rest watched.  They started off with traditional tribal (not Penan) style dancing, which looks a little something like this......

John dancing from Angela Dennis on Vimeo.

Yes, they did make me get up, and yes everyone found it utterly hilarious to watch me trying to copy the delicate dance.  Later on, they made me get up again and dance to some modern music - you should have heard their laughter at my dance floor moves!!!

Boxing Day

Well even though Christmas was over, the celebrations weren't.  The next day we had a community picnic by the river.  I helped collect the Pako Paya vegetable and we all ate fish and played in the river.

The next day it was time for goodbyes as I left to go to Long Kerong.  This is the family that I stayed with. :)

So that was my Christmas!  I found it really nice to participate in community activities and basically to be welcomed as a part of the village.  When I compare it to the stress that inevitably comes with a Western christmas...presents, cooking, traffic, shopping sales....etc etc, I think this is infinitely more preferable!  Perhaps I could have done with a little less church though.... ;)

Best of luck for 2011!!!!!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Angela,

    It looks like you had the best time ever! Of course I love all the colourful woven handicrafts, so very beautiful. I totally agree about the stress and rushing around at Christmas, although of course it's lovely to give and I am grateful to receive, it can be unnecessarily stressful. It is great to remember that it's really about spending time with the people you care about most.