Friday, October 25, 2013

River bathing, me being native _ Gawai 2006

This is quite an old picture of me bathing by the riverside of a small tributary of the Skrang river somewhere between Sibu and Kuching, Sarawak. I do not remember the name of the Iban longhouse, but my Iban student said the longhouse is one of the oldest Iban longhouses left in Sarawak. It still preserves a lot of its traditions, competing obviously with emerging "modern" style of living that has become quite common among indigenous communities across the state.

While I had occasionally visited Iban longhouses before during my time with MLNG late 80's, this was the first time I had actually spent the whole week in the longhouse during Gawai. It was one of those experiences that, while it might come with a little bit of discomfort due to the distance and the mode of travel, the experience was one of those  that would remain in your memories for a long time.

I remember how authentic the longhouse people were. How simple they live their life, yet so proud of who they are and their being. There was no pretensions. No need for wants of the world; their needs basic yet complete.

Everybody sleeps in the same bilik (room), there's only one bilik afterall.  It doesn't matter who you are or your position in life because when you are in the longhouse, everyone is the same. Human being. Group of people co-existing like its the most natural thing in the world. You become family. So there's no inhibition, one becomes "native".

So that was why the bathing in the river experience remains until this day. Something which is not unlike my experience growing up in the Baram. Those many years ago. A lifetime away.

Lunch half way to the longhouse

Ngirup meh wei...

My Iban family (Singalang, Michael and the mum)
Singalang, who was my student end up being a trainer at the training center which I was managing, as was his brother before him. I guess I had it good then, managing people's skills. But then, that was a different life, a different world. My past. But which is very much an integral part of who I am and why I am who I am.

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