Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Drinking - The Iban Way

During this short visit to my in-laws, I saw what I have seen so many other places. The serving of drinks (liquor) to guest. Its interesting to me, as when I observe, I see a similar pattern nearly everywhere among the Iban (well, the ones I have seen). See the video and see if you can get what I mean.

My father in law would take a bottle at a time and tell what is it, how much alcohol, and where it is from. How sweet or strong it is. I gave him a bottle of Mead last year and he couldn't describe it, and I helped to explain. The consensus, too sweet and not strong (17%) enough. The vodka on the other hand was strong (40%).
He would then pour a small portion for himself first, taste the drink, and declare its virtues to his guest. Then he would pour a portion to each guest, one by one, and serve them the drink. They in turn would, like the first gentleman, say "Oh, I had too much" and only hold on to the glass and talk or drink /eat something else, but eventually drink the whole drink down. The second guy, a young guy, had no qualms of decorum. He just took the drink and swallowed it. Oh, by the way, this was the 5th serving of local alcohol (langkau) and vodka. Nevertheless, the protest and exclamations were even there for the first drink. I could only video them now. The third gentleman's reaction is classic. "Wow, you poured so much for me, this is to much." Then he drinks it all down. The other two follow in a similar manner.
As I observe this I find it interesting that there is this mannerism and drinking style among the Iban. There are always praises for the host (even though the tuak (rice wine) taste like kerosene) and there is always the protestations, indicating that the host has overdone himself. At the same time, the words also indicate that the guest are placing themselves a little lower than the host. As an outsider, this is interesting to note. I have seen similar drinking styles among the Fijians, drinking Kawa but that's so formal and less friendly as the Iban style.

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