Tuesday, June 20, 2006

In a Bidayuh longhouse - the culture and the men

When in Kuching, we paid a visit to the Bidayuh longhouse to meet Rengga's family. Rengga is Jin’s BF and the family is staying about 80 km from Kuching, off the Kuching-Sri Aman trunk road.

Along the main road at about the 55 km point, we took a side road for 25 km before reaching the place – accessible only by 4WDs and motorbikes - very near the Sarawak-Indonesian border. It is not a big longhouse, only about 22-doors (or 22 families still living there). Many of the other families have moved from the main building into small houses on adjacent plots of community land.

Even using a 4WD was a bit rough on the butt :-) and the bumping gave one a sore butt – at least I got a sore butt :-)

The longhouse is still pretty traditional but once inside, one realised that the modern world have crept into even this remote corner of Sarawak. The traditional loin-cloth for the men is no more to be seen – more the pity as some of the young men there are really sexy and cute. The people in the longhouse are very friendly and made efforts to welcome us to their place.

Obviously having Rengga with us helped but I believe that things would have been exactly the same even if he was not there!

All of us slept on the verandah of the longhouse - in fact, all the young unmarried guys in the longhouse do that as all the rooms are only for the married couples! Most of the young men slept in just their loose t-shirts and shorts. For those of us more self-conscious, we used the sarong.

For those who do not know what a sarong is - well, the sarong is a piece of tubular clothing 2.5-3 feet wide by 4-5 feet long and one wears it around you at the waist. This is a wonderful piece of clothing that can be used for just about everything :-)

There was a joke that two persons in two sarongs can end up sharing one sarong :-) meaning that a couple can have sex in the privacy of a sarong :-) Looking around me, I certainly would not mind sharing my sarong with some of the young men there!

In their culture, men touching each other and holding hands or each other have NO sexual connotations whatsoever. In fact, that was the norm is most Asian societies until the advent and introduction of Christian moral mores into our societies,

So do not make the mistake that if one of the guys is sensuously massaging the back of you neck, that he is interested in sex with you. He may be but mostly like he is not - so just relax and enjoy it as a friendly gesture!

If you want a good read on the Gawai Dayak Festival, take a look at Mike Reed's article.