June 1st is Gawai, a major holiday in East Malaysia where the Ibans return to the long houses in their home village to celebrate the harvest festival. It's like Thanksgiving and New Year's mixed into one big celebration. The cities empty out and the villages fill up with lots of people. There is a lot of music, dancing, rituals of thanksgiving and invoking good luck for the year to come, visiting of family and friends, and lots of eating and drinking homemade rice wine. Since the missionaries do not drink alcohol, they stay in the city and visit the people who are left behind (Chinese and other not of the Iban heritage).
Thomas sent home some pictures of the pre-Gawai party at the church where he helped decorate a banana tree with balloons and soda bottles before the party. Some members dressed in traditional costume and performed local dances. Thomas was given a traditional hat and vest to try on. Looks like loads of fun.
Thomas also sent home a couple of pictures of his new found skill: cooking potstickers he found in the local market. Looks yummy.
Thomas also sent us a picture of him being interviewed at a festival in Mukah (where he and 9 other elders were playing on a giant swing) by a student from Wisconsin who is studying in Australia and was doing some program in East Malaysia.