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SPOTLIGHT:
ADVENTURES ABROAD
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WHAT THE HECK DOES A DANCER DO IN THE JUNGLE!!

by Jodi Waldron
May 12, 2005

WHAT THE HECK DOES A DANCER DO IN THE JUNGLE!!


Jodi Waldron
May 12, 2005

I've recently returned from my third 3-month visit to the jungles of Malaysian Borneo and, as in previous years, everyone I know in the dance community (tango & ballroom) wants to know what I do over there & why! I've decided to answer all questions in one shot. If you find any of this interesting, and/or want to join me on the upcoming tour to Borneo (7/31-8/13/05) I have organized for this summer, check out my website for details. http://www.junglejaunts.com.

Where is Borneo? It is exactly on the other side of the world…an island in Southeast Asia between Australia and the Philippines, inhabited by 3 countries: Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei. Malaysia is divided into 2 parts: East Malaysia on the Island of Borneo, and West Malaysia on the Asian peninsula between Thailand & Singapore. Borneo was not affected by the tsunami, as many people have asked, as it is surrounded by other bodies of land, and so is protected from tidal waves and tsunamis. It is geologically sound, not on a fault line, so also not earthquake prone. I was safe in my tropical haven.

Now back to "what the heck do I do over there!! As the true Gemini that I am, I alternate my time between living in a 5 star hotel and jungle trekking. Once or twice a week, depending on my energy level, I leave the comforts of my 1 bedroom suite: (living room, dining area, 1.5 baths, full kitchen @ $25. per night) and go out with a group of crazy locals (actually all professional business people in tourism, government, and education.) These trekking outings are the local equivalent of the various milongas and ballroom socials over here. Every day there are different groups that go out on treks in different areas … I have friends in several of the groups, so by alternating days I get to see everyone. It is quite similar to the NY tango scene in that some people go to certain Milongas on Tuesdays, others go to certain ones on Wednesdays, etc but on some days there are events that most people attend and everyone converges in one place.

These outings all follow the same pattern: trekking in primary rainforest for anywhere from 1-3 hours depending on your stamina and skill (then gathering together to poke good-natured fun & dole out "punishments") i.e. sitting on a block of ice and downing a glass of beer to the slower trekkers (me) or the blondes (me) or the newcomers (me!) & whoever else they decide to single out! Next you have to wash off the mud & sweat. The only way to do this parked on the outskirts of the rainforest, is with buckets of water & scoops, removing your clothes with varying degrees of modesty, while standing behind a parked car, and rinsing off and donning clean clothes! Quite a feat when you are just as sweaty after rinsing off as you were before, and try pulling clothes onto a sweaty body with one hand while trying to keep your sarong around you with the other!!

Then we all go out to eat, drink, and DANCE!! These dancing venues were sporadic until my arrival…and mostly consisted of jumping up and down in very unschooled versions of 70's disco, to music that we listened to here in the 60's!! I have been slowly inculcating the joys of ballroom dance to my jungle buddies and slowly but surely more and more of them are getting interested in learning. More of the "after jungle dinners" include music and dancing, and they are trying out their new skills. Some of my girlfriends have been taking ballroom lessons, but due to lack of men in the classes, they have learned a routine in a line formation and don't know how to follow. I have given some informal swing, cha-cha & salsa lessons at some of these get-togethers and have been taken to ballroom studios by several friends. While demonstrating basic salsa to one person, I realized that everyone in the entire studio (about 20) had lined up behind me and were following along. Watch out…some day, I may develop a combo dance-workshop /jungle tour over there!

When not participating in these jungle runs, relaxing by the pool, or attending numerous open-houses given by my friends in this multi-cultural population: Hari Raya for Muslim friends, Deepavali for Indian friends, Chinese New Year, Christmas, etc. I am browsing through the open-air markets for fresh fruit and veggies… This is an enjoyable experience itself. The fruits are delicious and I have discovered that the uglier they are, the better they taste. They are all freshly picked from the neighboring rainforests just 30 minutes away from the 5 star hotel area. I had my favorite venders for bananas, papaya, longsats and ground cinnamon! On occasions, I have hired native guides for overnight trekking trips…which run the gamut from the most rustic: pitching tent in the jungle, cooking over a fire, no plumbing and a river for the bath, to relatively comfortable lodges with western plumbing and cold water showers. (See photos.)

Over the years, I have sent numerous e-mails back here to friends… some excerpts follow:

CHRISTMAS ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORLD
."… It had rained heavily; so that particular stretch of jungle was extremely muddy… we spent the next 2.5 hrs. slipping and sliding and once sinking knee-high into mud! After a momentary panic thinking I was in quicksand, some friends extricated me, and we continued to follow the 'trail', sometimes thru waist-high water, taking a break to swim and wash off in a natural pool made by a cascading waterfall, before continuing on with our muddy trek! A couple of the guys were swimming under the waterfall, while yours truly and another girl were nursing identical bruises on our left knees. We are the same height and both bumped into the same log. We used her little bottle of almond oil…There are so many "traditional" treatments for injuries here that seem to work better than western medicine. I have learned to trust them: herbs, spices and oils, and I have found their skin lotions effective and cheap! No wonder everyone here looks 20 years younger!


I often wonder if the locals take all this natural beauty for granted; that waterfall break looked like something out of a movie. After the waterfall, the trail continued up a steep mountain, so my group, (the slow pokes) decided to cheat and use a shortcut, as one of the guys knew the way!! Of course we had to pay for it later with a "down-down"… chugging a mixture of beer and sprite…in the center of the "circle" while sitting on a block of ice!!
1/15/05 "… most of the above -river crossings were on picturesque log bridges that to my relief had flimsy hand-holds…which only helped psychologically, as I know they wouldn't have held me if I slipped. I was doing fine until we to came the l-o-n-g-e-s-t expanse to cross, and also VERY high over the river, with nothing to hold on to. Everyone ahead of me made it across lickety-split. Although my jungle brain knew it was wide enough for me to have maintained my balance, my city brain made me freeze. It was a long way to the other side and an even longer drop down, and I didn't trust myself.

While standing there holding up the line, trying to decide if I would survive the fall, chivalrous William came up behind me and took my hand, giving me the courage to go across. There wasn't room for him to pass me and take the lead, so I walked across in front, following his advice "don't look down"! We both knew darn well that if I slipped, he wouldn't have been able to hold me back, and we both would have taken a dive. A year ago, I probably would have turned back at that point!

If anyone is interested in joining me this summer, please see tour details in the link below and do not hesitate to contact me with questions.

http://www.junglejaunts.com


Jodi and Chow
Photo courtesy of Dr. Hatta Ramlee, vet at Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre



Low Tide
Photo courtesy of Jodi Waldron



Jodi Dancing Turkish Tango (taken in Istanbul on Jak's Baila Tango Trip 8/04)
Photo courtesy of Ella from Miami



The Kitchen in My Suite
Photo courtesy of Jodi Waldron



A Foot Bridge
Photo courtesy of Chia Kent Hong

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