Monday, October 31, 2005

In which Cayce describes the weenie dance and other stuff.

At first the Iban women appeared with realistic horror masks. The gorilla mask was kinda cute but the other horror mask was just.. ghastly. It was sub-human, with wicked red-shot eyes, sallow skin, and a wide gash for a mouth, cramped with sharp small teeth. Watching it stumbling towards me, gave me chills down my spine.

The ghastly pair were gyrating to the live traditional Iban music. The sub-human in particular was pumping its hips, sending the other women in the longhouse into shrieks of laughter.

They soon made their way towards the other end of the longhouse and disappeared.

I stopped wondering about their sudden disappearance when I was dragged to the middle of the floor, had a traditional hat decorated with argus pheasant feathers plonked on my rather large head and forced to do the ngajat. [The hat fell off before I could even bend my knees]

I am TERRIBLE at ngajat. It's SO embarrassing.

Twisting your feet and body while trying to keep your sarong on is one mean feat. It is really amazing to watch the Iban people ngajat -- the children are just as talented as the adults, if only cuter!

You'd get this one stocky guy with a significant beer belly, gracefully turning his ankles into a 360 degree turn. Extra weight is no deterrent to inherent gracefulness.

I apparently am very ungraceful.

The Iban women were incredibly reluctant to be brought into the limelight. They would protest like mad and try to escape but when they start dancing..... man, you just feel like two left-feet elephant that is trying to keep her sarong on, in comparison.

Suddenly there were more shrieks of laughter at the other end of the longhouse -- I turned and looked, and dropped my jaw.

The terrible duo were back at it again, this time with fake male genitalia attached!!

There were two very round fruits, and one black banana stuck firmly in the middle.

It strutted past the men, who were gathered on one side, looking terribly embarrassed. It grabbed its fake weenie and made scolding movements to it.

This was repeated over and over again as it sauntered towards the women who were by then, rolling on the floor, weak with laughter.

It was the Weenie Dance!

I laughed till I cried myself. I have heard of tribal women elsewhere in the world who wear masks and mock the men but I've never ever seen the display for myself until that night. It was incredibly cool!

The Weenie Dance soon ended but the night was still growing strong. The female musicians packed their gongs and drums and they rolled out the karaoke machine much to my dismay.

More forced dancing ensued but at least this was with other people and I can do a passable joget compared to a ngajat. It was kinda fun in its own way. I'd drag the Iban women and kids out to dance. They would protest and be so reluctant but in the end they really enjoyed themselves.

Soon it was my turn to sing!! and I ended up choosing 'Take On Me'. There were no lyrics and I only barely remembered the chorus but my audience seemed pretty satisfied. But Iban MTV karaoke won out and it was just endless hours till the wee hours of the morning of the same damn song, just with different lyrics.

And oh yeah, there was Mr Creepy/Mullet-head/Cayce's boyfriend (I liked this term the least). Gawd, he was creepy! At first he would stare at me for the longest time and later the langkau gave him courage to announce to people that I was "beautiful, so beautiful". He kept hovering near me, and grabbing and squeezing my hand whenever he could. There was this one occasion where he wanted me to dance with him and he grabbed my arm so tightly that it actually hurt for hours. I wanted to punch that loser so bad. Mullet-head turned out to be married, which explained the Evil Eye I was getting from this one woman (his wife!) all night.

But other than that, I really had a great time that night. It was a lot of fun -- true Iban hospitality. My favourite as always are the Iban women and children. They're so warm, and graceful and beautiful... The men are ok too -- I tend to favour the elder Iban men who are old enough to be my grandfather because they're so.. grandfatherly to me!

The longhouse was special because I came with someone who had ties with the longhouse (although she's not related to them in any way). It was a modernized longhouse with cement floors and flush toilets but the true Iban spirit was still there. I think the fact that they hardly have any tourists/visitors not related to them made the trip really special because they weren't spoilt by tourism.

I've been to longhouses who have seen a lot of tourists and it's kinda sad because the inhabitants become jaded and you just don't get that special warm welcome.

The best way to visit a longhouse is to go with someone who knows the people quite well because they would be so excited and happy to see that person, and inevitably that hospitality would be extended to you.

Although I've showed up with no announcement to an unfamiliar longhouse before and they just welcomed me. I was the headman's guest, and they fed and gave me shelter for days without even asking for money.

The Ibans in particular have a well-deserved reputation for being the most hospitable and party-loving folks. My boss joked about how the Orang Ulu in comparison are uptight and that the Penans would look at you with wide-opened eyes and wonder when you'd leave them alone.

One of the things I'd like to do in my life-time is to explore more of Sarawak. I think I'd doing a good job so far, thanks to my work. I've seen more of Sarawak than probably most Sarawakians, bred and born in towns and unwilling to venture into rural areas.

In a couple of days, I'm back on my road trip.

Do you know how beautiful the road to Serian-Sri Aman and beyond is? The paddy fields are bursting with young green colours. Little egrets and cattle egrets -- white elegant birds amongst the green.

Your heart could just burst.


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