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Stranger In The Forest On Foot Across Borneo

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Autor:  anton  05 January 2011
Tags:  Stranger,  Forest,  Across,  Borneo
Words: 2490   |   Pages: 10
Views: 286

Stranger in the Forest

On Foot Across Borneo

By Eric Hansen

The book is basically about the author, Eric, going across Borneo with guides and then when he makes it to the end he turns around and goes back by himself which is real dangerous when the people believe there is a ghost that kills pregnant women and also he doesn’t really know his way.

In Chapter one, differences between our culture and theirs is that they carry a machete, “parang” and it is the universal tool of the people of upriver communities. They have tattoos on their arms and legs. Mr. Das thought he was safe from crocodiles with a hook tattoo he had. Houses are built above the ground for cooling and ventilation and garbage disposal. The people celebrate the people who died in the last six months in August. The hostess of the party was topless. People were hitting each other on the head with a live rooster. Sometimes the people rub pig mess in other people’s faces. One guy cut his hair for the first time since the passing of a relative and another person used soap the first time in four months. At the party a person started going berserk and they tied him up and when he calmed down they let him go.

In chapter two the people wear brass weights in ears for beauty. The Penans don’t like the sun and are shy have little personal contact. People went to church 3 times daily. Priceless family heirlooms such as dream beads, charms and old headhunting swords were thrown in the rivers or burned because of their magical power to cure sickness and control weather or bring good luck on the hunt. Special beads interpret dreams and divine the future. Outward expression of anger or displeasure is considered in Sarawak to be the ultimate in bad manners. It is wrong to hunt crocodiles unless they attack first.

Penans walk in a single file they can’t walk side by side because that’s how they walk in the jungle.

In chapter three, the Penan used the bark off of a kayu bujan panas was placed in the attic of a new long house would ward off evil spirits and a small piece carried as a charm would keep poisonous snakes away. They would make tea from the bark and the tea is giving to Malay women after childbirth. Before Christian burials the dead were placed in wooden coffins and allowed to rot on the longhouse porch. Holes were punched in the bottom of the coffins and bamboo poles were inserted to allow for drainage. It was considered an expression of love and respect to put up with the stench of putrefying flesh. Each day at noon kayu udjung panas would be burned to scare away the spirit, the departed soul, and it was hoped some of the frightful smell. When Eric was getting tired, the tribe repeated the word hati, which means liver; it means emotional center of body as the heart is for Westerners. John and Tingang fixed Eric cuts with sakali-olo a leaf chewed to a paste and smeared on the skin to stanch the flow of blood and prevent infection sometimes moss was used. Deep cuts were treated with a root that

was first roasted on the fire for five minutes then frayed with edge of knife. This preparation was placed on the cut with a leaf and held in place with thin strips of bark. John and Tingang thought Eric was using “obat” magic/medicine to grow his mustache because they couldn’t grow one. You have to watch out for red caterpillars because the hairs on them would go in the septic wound. John told the story of how the Penan came from. There was a hole in the tree and another tree with branches and wind blew and man and woman saw it and imitated the trees because the branches were going in the hole. To tell where a person has been there were messages on a stick that was sticking up from the ground. The Penan had their own jungle talk to avoid scaring the wildlife and to conceal messages from strangers. They use relay whistling. They carried blow darts. They have a solo dance called ngajat. They wear red, white, and blue loincloth at the night party. Then the females got up and danced and then after they finished their regular dance they started to dance dirty.

In chapter four we learned that during World War II paratrooper landed and the Kelabit tribe wanted to know if the white men was human. An Irau is a big party to show unlimited hospitality and what you bring to the party people will remember down the road. Use to last two to three days but since Christian missionary, it now ends before midnight on the first day. Debt from a grandfather is passed on to the grandson. You can ask for something else besides what you owe. During an Irau, the Kelabits have official names for their National Identity cards but change their names frequently. The missionaries were passing songbooks to the Penan, but they can’t read. They would pray out loud different prayers at the same time. Once Eric made it to the border of

Kalimantan, Pedera Ulan said he must obtain a “surat jalan” walking letter show it to the first headman and he will write you a new letter so you won’t travel as a stranger. Guides from headman are responsible for you. People in the center of Borneo have long memories and any local who violates the code of village hospitality can expect his family and their descendents to bear the guilt of his actions. Pedera Ulan told Eric about “Elmu hitam” the practice of black magic and certain people with “sakit hati” sick livers/bad hearts can cause illness be sending a “pisau” knife through the air over any distance. It enters the victim’s body, and he or she gradually weakens over several months and dies. People from the Mahakam River, can send a “djarum” needle, splinter of wood from the ironwood tree, or a “tulang” bone through the air. These objects can also be hidden on the footpaths. They painlessly enter the foot, and a lingering illness and death follow. Only a “parang” machete from the local iron ore can kill a practitioner of “black magic”. Saying goodbye and thank you is not in the Penan behavior.

In chapter five we learned that if Eric was caught with shotgun shells at the border, he could have received a year in jail for each shotgun shell. He had the shotgun shells as money. Indonesian government encourages that all problems on the village level be brought to, “kepala adapt”, the headman; instead of imposing a set of modern laws. People believe that if a decision is not reached quickly, bad feelings will escalate and the situation will get worse. There is a story about “Ular Naga” the dragon at Paye Rungan. No one would take Eric to see the dragon.

In chapter six Bo’Hok and Weng were foreign to rape, mugging, suicide, and murder. A serious crime in the Penan was “see-hun” not sharing or being stingy; it caused arguments and bad feelings. For adultery, you would pay a fine: never less than one cooking pot, blowpipe, and a parang. In special circumstances an additional payment of on good hunting dog and a spear might be required. Bo’Hok and Weng were semi-nomadic; they lived three months in village and the rest of the time in jungle. Bo’Hok and Weng would not talk about guns, dogs, or spears before hunting because they were afraid of the forest spirits would hide the game and food. They talk dirty and disgusting to disgust the forest spirits to keep them away. They would hunt while they were walking to the next village. Bo’Hok and Weng would describe a long journey would be four hour walk in sunlight through flat land; and a short journey would be a five day walk through difficult terrain to a friendly village to buy tobacco. Bo’Hok and Weng didn’t care about days, minutes, and seconds. They have never seen the ocean. They knew which way to go by the rivers. They know their sense of directions and are observant. The Penan migrates to find hill sago, which is like flour. Look for hill sago in mountains, and when the hill sago is gone they won’t come back to the same spot for about twenty years so the hill sago can regenerate. The Penan has base camp for the old and young. Forty is old to the Penan. They don’t know their age because they don’t know year of births. Few Penans live to be fifty. Another camp makes sago flour and takes it to the base camp. The Penan built special platforms for use of only women in labor. The husband massages the wife’s stomach. The Penan has songs during childbirth. When the Penan goes number two they are by each other.

In chapter seven the people go on a journey called “peselai” where they acquire wealth and social status. It is also a spiritual journey where the young men enhance their sense of self. To begin the journey you have to wait for certain animals. You worked to buy stuff. One guy has been gone for two years.

In chapter eight we learned a root called “lung” is used to prevent ghost from making babies cry. The guides knew it was around 6:00 p.m. by the black cicadas singing. It is good for a pig to have a lot of fat since they use it for oil.

In chapter nine, the Kenyahs believed in “bali saleng” the black ghost. Kenyahs made blood offerings before starting a new longhouse. Blood of a rooster or pig poured into a posthole before the first post was placed. With this offering the power of “bali tanah” spirit of the earth would have been invoked to bless the project and protect the men during construction. They have different spirits. If they don’t have a “dayung” ceremony things will go wrong like equipment failures, unseasonably bad weather, and wide spread illness. They have a season of fear, “musim takoot” during October and November. People are isolated in their fields, weeding the rice fields and constructing small farm huts in preparation for harvest. This period of the year used to be one of the traditional headhunting seasons because it was relatively easy to ambush individuals who were working far from the villages. Headhunting no longer occurs, but the seasonal fear has been sustained by the belief in “bali saleng” black ghost. Bali saleng likes pregnant women because they have the blood of two people. He also cannot be killed by man. The Kenyah have a jeemat, amulets, charms, and spell breakers, made seedpods, bones, cowire shells, odd shapes black pebbles known as hook stones. A jeemat can be made by man or found, but the most powerful one, the hook stones, are given by a spirit or ghost. Directions for their use are revealed during a dream. It is very bad luck to loose a give away a charm that has come from the spirits. Jeemats are usually worn around the neck or wrist and are on important part of one’s faith in the power of the spirit world.

In chapter ten, the Kenyah people usually have sex when it storms to muffle out the noise or have sex in a farm hut. There was no privacy. Pregnant women thought eating a yellow-crowned bulbul; their children would have beautiful voices and be clever with words. Pregnant women would eat frogs so their child would have strong legs, and snakes to make the baby’s skin smooth. They believed that an eagle is eaten; the child will be aggressive and will use its fingernails like claws when fighting. Pregnant women avoided eating tortoise because it will cause a difficult delivery. Like the tortoise’s head, the baby’s head will go in and out, in and out during birth. Pregnant women also avoid eating owl because their eyes would be large then. Eric traveling alone made the people think he killed his guides.

In chapter eleven, the people give rice, salt, money, cooking oil, pigs, chicken, and clothing at funerals. They have cry towels. They played a cassette tape of people weeping when the people were tired of weeping, to show respect for the dead. The people told a story of Asang Jalong who traveled by himself. The people thought Eric was a short name so they called him Asang Jalong. The people thought gold was made by when Noah built his arc, the people and animals not on the arc died and the bones had flakes of gold. There is a person called a dayung, he is like a dream interpreter. In the dayung’s room they had a sword with an egg balanced on it and when the egg fell no more contact in the dream world. People awake from a dream and have a brown stone in their hand. The stone gives the person magical power, strength or used to tell the future. The person takes the stone to dayung to interpret the dream. These men offered Eric their daughters for marriage and they were like twelve to thirteen years old. Eric thinks that the men wanted to marry their daughters to him because of his mechanic skills of fixing the typewriter. The men put a cross piece in the penis. Women wanted one or the man wasn’t marriage material. They put leaches in oil and let it dissolve and put it on the penis to make it bigger. They cut an eyelash from a goat and put it around the penis also trying to make it bigger. They people would have long boat races to see which church is better, the Roman Catholic or the Protestants.

In chapter twelve we learned that they can read palms, thumbs, and toes.

Men were called Pa, which was father and women were called Ibu, which was mother.

In the last chapter Eric is making his way back to Sarawak so he can go home.



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