Rediscover Brunei Darussalam through the eyes of the People
At 6:15 on a Sunday morning, I am at school. I take a few moments to shake the lethargy from my sleep-heavy limbs, climb out of the car, and head past five or six huge 22-seater buses, their drivers and teachers holding clipboards, consulting important looking documents.
I smile and wave at some of my friends, who look as bemused as I am sure I must. We summon the energy to grumble at how early it is, but it is mostly token grumbling, as insubstantial and brief as the coolness of the morning. We enjoy the novelty of the situation in our secret hearts. We are assigned little jobs – “Distribute these flags”, “Check for loiterers in the toilets” – and sent on errands – “Panggilkan prefek atu”, “Can you make an announcement to gather the students in the waiting area? Thanks”.
By 6:30, more people have arrived and my fellow early risers and I melt away into the crowd, remaining as inconspicuous as we can until it is time to get on the bus. Climb in, headcount, and we're off!
A few selfies later, I am watching the roads fill up as we approach Bandar. Daring Indian bus drivers make new lanes, squeezing into seemingly impossible gaps to get us ahead in the traffic. Old Haji bus drivers in their white caps “tsk” at the impudence and impatience of young drivers today. Impudent and impatient young Malay bus drivers behind their indifferent sunglasses look for opportunities to switch lanes, Kristal FM blaring from the radio. We all watch other faces in other buses and try to guess what schools they are from. I turn to glare at a squeal further down the bus that turns heads and the squealer, embarrassed, stops her frantic waving at a familiar face passing by, reaching instead for her mobile phone.
Near the Royal Regalia building in town, we are dropped off. Teachers and students swarm around the big buses like the small dinosaurs did around the mammoths in Pixar's “Ice Age”. Policemen halt us and wave us forward. We head out, not knowing our final destination, but watching for a familiar uniform in front of us, the faces of teachers we know. I keep an eye on those around me whilst chattering away with my friends. I am careful not to be a trailblazer. Our school move out and take up our positions – in front of the old Post Office building jostling for space, then in front of the old Bolkiah Cinema under fading posters, and are finally moved to in front of Standard Chartered Bank. We stand, squat, lean against convenient surfaces and eye the Dairy Queen. A serious debate arises concerning the merits of a cold DQ over a hot egg burger from one of the many street stalls.
A Maths teacher walking past overhears and calls out in passing, “Get both lah! You can afford it, what.” The girls and I exchange good-natured mutters about how men never seem to understand about diets.
Gossip ensues. Once in a while, sirens sound and students rush to their feet, eager to show their patriotism and do the job that we have gathered here to do. Hopes rise, and fall, dashed. Gossip resumes. Repeat.
At 9:30, THE cavalcade arrives, flags wave madly, we are marched in the SOAS field and out the other side, near the Yayasan complex. Everyone is issued one bottle of water and one packet of mostly rice and one piece chicken. We eat, rest, gossip and gripe our way through an hour. Then I rouse the troops and we and march them back to the buses and school.
When we alight at the end of the journey, I remind the students not to leave any personal belongings in the bus. They check, patting pockets to reassure themselves that they have their phones and wallets.
“Cher, can we go home now?” a few ask as they climb off. I nod my head and answer in the affirmative and mobile phones are whipped out, dexterous thumbs move fluidly over touchscreens and they disperse.
I climb into my car, happy at an easy day of work well done, content to enjoy the rest of my Sunday.
Editor's Note: Mason Cooley once said, "Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are." You have just read a story by Joyce, a sneak peek into her world and some of her experiences. Who is Joyce? I asked her to share a little about herself.
She is a dedicated teacher at a Sixth Form centre in Brunei where she daily entreats, begs, threatens, cajoles and teases her students in an attempt to develop their skills in the English Language. She is a self-confessed bibliophile and excessive book addict who enjoys doodling, diving once every school holiday, messing about with bits of paper and string, and dancing in her car at traffic lights. In her free time, she annoys her fighting fish and long-suffering hamster who oversee her day to day adventures. She plagiarises from the Pixar cartoon “Up” to remind everyone that, “Adventure is out there!” and from Tae Joon in “A Beautiful You” to say, “Miracle is just another word for effort.”
The sharia penal code announcement has thrust Brunei into the global news spin cycle. Reports and comments have been polarized. I will be watching the next cycle closely. Have an opinion about it? Share it in the comments section below.
Brunei plans to introduce stoning, flogging & severing limbs into its justice system | http://t.co/MPCxX3pu6Q— TIME.com (@TIME) October 22, 2013
Brunei announces strict Sharia law including death by stoning for adultery http://t.co/eOfQcMTe8D— HuffPost Religion (@HuffPostRelig) October 22, 2013
Death by stoning and severing of limbs to be used as Islamic punishments in Brunei, Sultan announces http://t.co/hSrKqD4k9W— Agence France-Presse (@AFP) October 22, 2013
Hi from Australia folks! Will be here for the next two weeks with the family. Here are some pictures from the trip so far; we are currently in Brisbane. I gotta admit - it is nice to be back here in Oz! Feel free to follow the journey on Instagram and Twitter - look me up @BruneiTweet.
In September, I was in London for the Olympic and Paralympic Legacy Sponsored Media Visit hosted by the Sporting Opportunities Unit at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. I was selected by the British High Commission in Brunei to represent Brunei and was involved in meetings across the 2nd to the 4th of September with key organisations involved in the building, planning, marketing and Legacy of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The trip included a tour around the Olympic Park and focused on the legacy of the Games across all angles. There were also other media representatives; from Singapore, Qatar, Russia, Argentina, Uruguay, Beijing, Shanghai, Taiwan and St Lucia.
We were coached to Stoke Mandeville Stadium where we met with Martin McElhatton, Chief Executive of Wheelpower and Ian Barham, Buckinghamshire Legacy Manager. The state-of-the-art Stadium is the national centre for disability sport and has become known as the ‘home of wheelchair sport’ and the ‘birthplace of the Paralympic Games’.
Close by was Stoke Mandeville Hospital where we met with Sally Hills, CEO of Specialist Services. We were brought to the rehabilitation unit and saw first-hand physiotherapists and exercise specialists working with patients and athletes. Sally then elaborated about the vision of Dr Ludwig Guttmann, a neurologist at Stoke Mandeville Hospital whose work laid the foundations to disability sports.
Martin McElhatton, Chief Executive of Wheelpower
Ian Barham and Sally Hills (left and second left respectively)
Photograph from Ian Barham's Twitter @IanBarham1
Following this, we met with representatives from the Global Infusion Group (GIG), a global catering, logistics and brand support company. They are a live event support specialist company and here we learned about the importance of dynamic logistics support.
We then visited Dorney Lake, the site which hosted the rowing and kayak events during the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2012. Constructed and privately-owned by Eton College, Dorney Lake is managed and operated by the registered charity Dorney Lake Trust. Ivor Llyod, Chief Executive of the Dorney Lake Trust shared the Lake’s history and about how the venue was still thriving 12 months post Games.
This was probably when the penny dropped in my mind regarding the notion of “Legacy”. Until then it had been a seemingly abstract word on the front of my program guide. “Olympic and Paralympic Legacy Media Visit” Up until that point, the preceding meetings had been niceties, showing the origins of the disability sports, the importance of holistic rehabilitation, and the need for nimble operations. Those elements were part of the bigger picture, but I now started processing the trip through different lenses. I started looking for what had happened since the London 2012 Games. In other words, what legacy did the Games leave behind? Was the economic groundswell in 2012 a temporary inflammation? Or was it more akin to something more long-lasting? I would spend the rest of the trip seeking to find out.
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