(Last Day of November 2010)
I had a dream that I was standing at the edge of a swampy lake. I saw three Mississippi alligators swan towards to where I stood. I tried to run away, but I could not lift up my legs. When all the three alligators surrounded me, the next thing I knew, they opened their mouths. I closed my eyes and waited for them to attack me. After 10 minutes waiting, they did not attack me. One of the alligators stood up.
“Dency, where are the turkeys? We are hungry now. Faster gets the turkeys for us.” The alligator told me to get the turkeys for them.
“Ah, I thought you are going to eat me, because I ate your friends.” I said to the alligator.
“Nah, we know people will eat us. Hence, we just enjoy our life as much as I can. This is America, no body care about taboo. They just eat us. We are hungry now; please get ready the turkeys for us.” I told to them, I did not bring the turkeys for them.
They suddenly pissed off with me, and started to harass me. I screamed helplessly, and suddenly I heard a screeching beeping sound of my Blackberry phone. I woke up from my sleep. I realized that I only had a dream. I recalled the day I ate the alligator meat for the first time.
The first taste
It was the day, we received a visit from a prospective student. Her name is Vivian, and she is from Ipoh, Perak Malaysia, and staying in Las Vegas City. She came to my University as she wanted to see Fred and other graduate students in museum department. It was almost lunchtime, when I met her. She is a petite girl with a dark, long hair. There was a lanky, tall American girl stood next to her. I guessed she must be Vivian’s best friend.
“Apa khabar? So you are Vivian. Nice to meet you.” I greeted her in Bahasa Malaysia and English.
“Ya khabar baik. And you must be Dency from Sarawak. Gembira jumpa kamu.” She greeted me back. I could not believe that she still can speak in perfect Bahasa Malaysia.
“Wow, your still know how to speak in Bahasa Malaysia very well.” I complemented her.
“Yes, I’m still a Malaysian, and I must know how to speak Bahasa Malaysia very well even though I already stayed here since five years ago.” She smiled at me. Then, she introduced her friend, Patricia to me.
While Vivian, Patricia and I talked about my life in my University, Fred interrupted our conversation, and told us that he wanted to bring all of us to have a lunch at the Chime Varsity Restaurant. The restaurant is only eight-minute walk from the museum. Along the way to the restaurant, Vivian and I exchanged opinions about Ph.D programs, the Biological Department, and graduate students in my department. Vivian did mention to me that LSU was her first choice and Kansas University would be the second choice.
Both of us talked until we did not realize that we already reached the restaurant. Inside the restaurant, we have to wait for waiters to bring us to our table. It is a common practice in America, different from what we have in Malaysia, where we just straight sit down and wait for the waiters to come to us. A young waiter showed us our table and took our order. We continued our conversation that was mostly about my life in LSU and Baton Rouge, as well as other attractions in Louisiana. It is usual for any prospective students to ask many questions from their prospective Professor and graduate students. Within 20 minutes, the waiter served all ordered food on the table. Fred explained each Louisianan food to three of us. I did not concentrate on what he said as my eyes focused on the black pepper meat.
“Dency, do you ever try this black pepper alligator meat before?” I directed my focus from the meat to Fred and answered him.
"No, I never try this meat when I'm in Borneo." I shook my head side to side while answering him.
He asked me to try the alligator meat. I took my fork to pierce a small piece of the meat, and directly put it in my mouth. I chewed the meat, and I could say that the alligator meat taste and texture are similar to the chicken meat. I told to Fred that the meat was so delicious and tender. Fred smiled, and he as well as the other girls took a piece of the meat each. My experience of eating the alligator meat did not stop there. A week after that, my colleagues in the museum and I went for the last discussion group at the Chimes Restaurant. I ordered the same black pepper alligator meat. I finished all the six pieces of the meat within 25 minutes, once the waiter put my order on my table.
Dayung felt guilty
The great feeling of devouring my sweet time eating the alligator meat promoted me to take a picture of the meat. I uploaded and shared the picture with my Facebook friends. To my surprise, I received so many comments. Few of my friends were not interested looking at the picture, some were wondering how was the taste and others did mention their experiences eating alligator eggs in Borneo. However, from all the comments, I found out that Dayak Ibans could not eat the alligator meat. It is a taboo for them. My Iban friend mentioned that they already made an agreement with the King of Bornean Alligator that they were not going to eat and kill its members. The same wentto the King Alligator. A deal is a deal , and even until now, the Dayak Ibans restrain themselves for not killing and eating the Bornean alligators. If they did, the alligators could smell those who ate their family members. Blood must pay with blood.
Thinking about that had made me enquire my friends from my own tribe, the Dayak Bidayuh, whether we can eat the alligator. Few said yes, and few said no. It was quite surprising that, few Bidayuh groups from Sadong River or Serian District do eat alligators. As for my mother’s people, the Biatahs that live in Siburan area, they have the same taboo as Ibans. I was not sure why the Biatah could not eat alligators. Perhaps, they also made the same agreement with the King Alligator. I did not satisfy with their comments. Hence, I asked from the oldies in the Bijagoi Facebook group, whether they know anything about the pact or any old story that has a connection with the Dayak Bidayuh and the King Alligator.
I just put up a post ‘Should we kill and eat Alligators?’ The post attracted many Bidayuh oldies to give their comments. Most of them said that Dayak Bidayuh from wherever they are from should not kill and eat alligators. I gasped for a while, and suddenly a panic surged into me. I already ate the alligator meat. What I was supposed to do? Would the alligators of Louisiana put a curse on me? Would they and the Bornean alligators hunt me down? I did not mean to eat their brothers or sisters, because I did not know about the old taboo. I wrote a comment to confess that I did eat the alligator meat. One of the elder wrote a comment after reading my guilt-ridden comment.
“Don’t worry about that. You do not know the old taboo. You all are not exposed knowing this old taboo. We could not blame you for the mistake that you did. It’s our duty to let the young generation to know about this taboo. The King Alligator may forgive you, but please do not eat his people again in the future.”
The elder gave an assurance to me. I was a bit relief after reading his comment. From that on, I stop eating the alligator meat. Every time, my friends invite me to eat the alligator meat in the Chimes Restaurant, I will nicely say no and tell to them why.
“It’s my tribe taboo that we cannot kill and eat alligators. They can smell the alligator killers, and take revenge by chasing and killing them. It’s blood revenge.”
They are speechless after listening to my explanation.