Penan

Why I fell in love with the Penan tribe….

So, my wander lust continued in 2018 and I took myself off to Borneo to explore the rain forests, experience the culture and meet new people.
I had read up extensively on Borneo before I embarked, and the trip exceeded all my expectations, especially the people I met. I knew I was in for a real experience, but nothing had prepared me for the following….

While travelling I was fortunate enough to have as my local guide, a Penan tribesman. I had some knowledge of the Penan people having avidly watched Bruce Parry’s documentary some years ago but what I found, much to my delight, was someone who was not frightened to talk about how he felt, his fears, his hopes and his ancestry. Over three days we got to know each other and talked about many things including the devastating impact on the Penan people of deforestation, spirituality, geographical formations, fauna, wildlife, food and waterways.

One afternoon, I was asked if I would like to travel to his village the following morning to meet his family and friends and see for myself the way the Penan people lived. I readily accepted, appreciating just how lucky I was to get an insight into how these nomadic people lived.

I received a warm welcome, and I was struck by just how softly spoken everyone was, how important the Christian faith is, the highly egalitarian society and evidence of little gender division. The strong communal bond was unquestionable, and the process of sharing was inspiring. As a community they appeared to have very little but what I felt was an overwhelming love and respect for everyone in the community. Material possessions bore no impact, and the acceptance of life, and appreciation of what they had was incredibly moving.

I came away from the village feeling truly humbled. Up to the point of embarking on my trip I had felt stressed; I was dealing with the probate on my late mother’s estate, selling and buying a house, working full time while trying to establish myself in my own business. I returned, much calmer and grateful for everything I have and a renewed sense of purpose to help others using the skills that I have.