I’m finally back in Kuching (Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo), and boy is it good to be back! Kalbar, the Sanggau Regency to be exact, was a back breaker. And although this particular trip was very successful, I won’t deny I am totally enjoying the comforts of Kuching. One of the many little things I made sure to enjoy was real, brewed, coffee. A rare commodity in my travels.
But this post is not about Kuching; I wanted to share with you one of the most bizarre experiences I’ve ever had in my travels…
After Mr. Manolo and I were done with our discussions and going over all the upgrades that need to be implemented, he urged me to go see a traditional Dayak house. I happily agreed, I’ll have some nice photos for the website, I thought to myself.
So we headed over to a small Dayak village of the Bidayuh tribe. There I met the aboriginal tribal chief, a man of short stature but high status. And a very sweet smile. He was over ninety years old.
The traditional house actually turned out to be a ceremonial house, where big events take place, and where people gather when the drums are struck for announcements. Things of that nature.. you get the idea.
It was a tree house, standing on an iron-tree trunk over a century old. I was told that the additional criss-crossing wooden beams were added for support recently. A government enforcement I suppose, maybe they viewed it as a safety hazard.
First the chief had me tightly hug the tree trunk upholding the house, and one of the guys took some measurements using a leaf. I couldn’t really make sense of it, but okay, whatever.
The chief then asked my name, and where I was from. After that he brought a plate of yellow colored rice, and started to chant something while he fumbled with the rice grains.
“Something-something… Taha… something-something… Canada… something-something… Aaaaaaah-EEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!”
Then he started picking up some rice grains from the plate and flinging them at me… caught me by surprise, to say the least!
He repeated this process another two or three times, and then asked me to come up with him into the tree house.
I can confidently say that the staircase was not built for non-SE and far-east Asian folks. I am not scared of heights (having lived on the 45th floor of a condo back in Canada has made me very comfortable with heights), but the creaking made me nervous. And as more and more of the village-folk started joining us inside, I could feel the treehouse sway.
Now what I saw here really freaked me out, and made me extremely uncomfortable. There were human skulls (which turned out to be of the chief’s ancestors), as well as the skulls of different types of Borneo deers, and what looked like the skull of an orangutan (they believe it was the skull of a ‘mountain ghost’).
Here, the chief chanted some more, and the ceremony ended with him drinking some rice wine followed by a morsel of Nasi Lemak. He urged me to have some as well, but I politely declined. The other village-folk joined in, and while they merrily ate and drank I requested to go back downstairs.
I was trying to make sense of exactly what was going on. I had come to take some photos, and I could tell that what just happened wasn’t exactly their way of saying hello.
Soon the chief came downstairs as well, and after some more chanting he asked me to hug the tree again. They took some more measurements. Apparently, my arms have grown….? I can’t say I feel any different, but if I have a shin itch and don’t need to bend down to scratch, then I suppose my arms have indeed grown.
The chief then gave me some grains of rice. Athangyou-very-much sir, but not sure what I should do with this……?
After we were done, Mr. Manolo then explained what had just happened. Apparently I’ve been initiated into the Dayak tribe! Well, of course I’m not real Dayak, but for all intensive purposes, I am now to be treated by them as one of them. I can now show my rice grains to any Bidayuh Dayak tribesmen in Brunei, Indonesia or Malaysia, and I will be like a brother to them. A “we got your back” relationship, I suppose.
Well, I’ll be! It had been an extra hot and humid day. And the whole thing had made quite uncomfortable while it was going on. But hey, if this helps me get great agarwood…..
After all, now all I have to do when I meet Dayak gaharu hunters is just flash my golden badg.. err, rice, right?
(obviously not, but it sure was heart-warming to be embraced by these friendly aborigines!)
That’s all for now folks. Sorry, (almost) no agarwood talk in this post. Just thought I’d share this unusual anecdote with you.