Thursday, June 18, 2009

A Long Time

I've not blogged for a long time because I'm beginning to find this mode very tedious. Makes me wonder how some people can faithfully update their blogs. Perhaps, they have a much more colourful, eventful life than mine.

We were back in Singapore for some time. Business for Larry, leisure for me. Mistake: I was in Orchard Road on Day 1 of the GSS. My niece wisely reminded me that GSS was the Monster created to come after people like me. Ok, Monster, you win. Oh, I wasn't the only defeat. Larry lost to Food. He gained 4 kg during his 2 weeks in Singapore. Now, he is trying to shake it off, diligently. He played golf every other day and when there's no golf, he thrashed the treadmill and splashed the pool with menacing diligence.

We attended the Philippines National Day reception held by the ambassador here in Brunei. It was a welcome difference from the many functions we had attended thus far. The performances put up were impressive. The Philippines people are indeed very talented. But what surprised me was the dress code of some guests. I was shocked when I saw some came in bare-back or spaghetti-strap outfits. In Brunei? I thought this is disrespectful to a country where most women dress modestly. Nonetheless, this is only my perception.

However, the stated dress code on the card was 'National dress'. Of course, I was obedient. I wore my new Nonya Kebaya. Yes, I was another convert of the recently telecast 'Little Nonya'. I toyed with the idea of wearing my cheongsam, then I remembered I wanted to blend with the locals.

Since coming back to Brunei, we have been busy with dinners, both official and private. Oh yes, we are heading back to Singapore for another week soon. I hope this time both of us will not be defeated agian.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Culture Induction

Yesterday was my first culture induction here and a hilarious one, too. I attended an almost authentic Malay wedding. 'Almost' because I was told an authentic one is one conducted at home with kampong folks. This wedding was at a huge convention hall, like the Singapore Expo halls, with more than 2,000 guests.

Just in case I tread beyond the OB markers, I shall not reveal the host of this function. Suffice to say, he is someone important here. Naturally all his 'horses and men' were at the reception and this is enough to make the numbers. Not to mention relatives and foreign diplomats like ourselves. I think all 26 missions were invited.

As a rule, we make it a point to arrive 10 minutes before the stated time. The invite stated 'from 11 am to 12 noon'. So we were at the convention hall at 10.50am. We were surprised that we were among the first ten guests. Of course, the hall did not look empty because the receiving party is almost hundreds. They all dressed in purple color traditional outfits. Actually it was very beautiful. (I was so inspired that the very night, I bought purple silk to make a purple kebaya. Crazy, I know.)

We were showed our respective seats as the hall was divided into 2 halves: men on the left and women on the right. This, I was told, is MIB (Melayu Islam Beraja). Only at about 11.30 am did the guests start streaming in. Some even arrived at 12 noon. But the card stated clearly, 'wedding reception from 11 am to 12 noon'!

When all the guests were properly seated, the groom arrived and only the groom. There was no bride throughout the reception. A Datin, sitting next to me, told me that the bride is having a similar reception at her side at the same time.

Now the interesting part: the groom followed by his father, grandfather, uncles, brothers, etc (basically a long line) went around to shake hands with the male guests, ONE by ONE, and at the same time collected gifts (ang pow, actually). And his mother, followed by grandmother, aunties, sisters, etc (another long line) did the same with the female guests. Wow! I saw her assistant walking with a huge bag of 'ang pows'. By the time this was done, it was 1 pm.

As usual, a long discourse in Malay, which I did not understand, followed by prayer and it was time for lunch, i.e. eat. Boy, was I hungry by now!

Ha, the hilarious part is this eating. Everyone jumped at the food as soon as the prayer was over. We were seated at 'table-served' tables, which meant there were waiters to dish food for us but everyone at my table was so hungry, nobody gave the waitress a chance to do her work. I remembered clearly, lunch started at 1.15pm. Everyone ate as though they have not eaten for days. Propriety has no place here. It was FAST and by 1.30pm, I saw people heading for the exit. Being slow, I did not even have enough time to eat my rice and most at the table were almost gone. Feeling embarrassed, I stopped eating. I waited for 2 hours, did not even get my 'reward'. I had instant noodles when I was home.

Lesson learned: never be punctual at weddings, Malay or Chinese. Never mind what the card says.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

New Hobby

Ok, I'm getting tired of this "all meals, dishes, laundry, cleaning done for me' lifestyle. So, I found a new hobby. Started on it today and it took me half a day to complete one piece. I must say it was satisfying.

Besides, I do not want to mislead anyone (who may not have a sense of humour similar to mine) into thinking I am, indeed, living a derogatory lifestyle. Nonetheless, it is very relaxing and refreshing for us in this new place.

Brunei is quiet, slow and 'non-eventful', which we are grateful. I figured Bruneians should be enjoying quality family life because there is nothing much to do at night, except meeting friends and families. Of course, there are amenities for leisure e.g. movies, dining-out, shopping, etc but certainly nothing close to Singapore. We, too, dine-out quite a bit with new friends we have made here.

To allay the concerns of our caring churchmates, we do have a church life here but you will notice we don't blog about it. This being a public platform, we don't want to touch on religion.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Golf and Dinners

It's another busy week for Larry. If you're familiar with our entries, you'll know that a busy week for Larry means golf games and dinners. And if you read the newspapers, you'll know the reason, too.

Our helper has arrived and, so far, processing her work permit has been smooth. This may sound derogatory, but since her arrival, I have been getting up late. All meals done for me and all dishes, laundry and cleaning taken care of. As Larry often exclaimed: What a life! Alright, before you passed judgement on me, note that I've done my share. Perhaps, it's time to enjoy the fruit of my labour, rather the fruit of my better-half's labour.

I've rented a car because I cannot decide on which car, what car to buy. In this indecisive state, rental is my best option. However, driving in Brunei can be nerve-wrecking. There are only 2 types of drivers: very fast and very slow. Most roads are 2-lanes, you can imagine the frustration. And there are so many roundabouts, you can be giddy if you've to drive all day.

Sequel to my 'disappeared dress': I saw the same design/size/color dress at Rauol in Paragon. If you know me, you will know the outcome.

Monday, February 23, 2009

A 'fine' week

2 days in a row, I had 2 fines! This coupon system needs upgrading urgently. Like my friend said, it's my contribution to the Singapore economy.

Went to Mann Hong, intending to get some medication for the frozen shoulder, ended spending the night at SGH. What a week!

Besides the necessary physiotherapy for the frozen shoulder, I also delighted myself with retail therapy. Good for the soul!

What a contrast to my experience when I came back just before the CNY. There are so many great discounts all over Singapore. How could I resist! I better get back to Brunei soon, someone may be panicking already.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Embarrassment vs Pride

A friend was at the HSBC CNY open house last Sunday. The 2 emcees for the event were Fiona Xie and Michelle Chong from Media Corp. Predictably, I should feel a sense of pride to hear that my fellowmen (women) were popular to be invited. But as I listened to my friend's recount of the event, I was embarrassed. I guessed you know what I mean.

I was actually quite surprised by this friend's criticisms because she is often a very polite and gentle lady. She works for the French embassy here and knows her diplomacy. She was very apologetic but stressed that she was very disappointed with the 2 ladies' performance. She is a great fan of Singapore, especially MM Lee.

By the way, MM Lee is coming to Brunei as a guest-spearker of the University. Now, this one I'm proud of as I overheard this lady-friend advising our Kenyan friend not to miss the talk. I quote her "You MUST listen to Lee Kuan Yew, he's worth listening to. I've great respect for this man." I may not be related to MM Lee, but I felt that sense of pride when a foreigner praised a fellow citizen. We're Singaporeans.

Aiyah! I got an invite to MM Lee's talk but I'll be in Singapore. So sad!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Laugh it off

Ha, ha more funny encounters.

Experience 1:
I sent a dress to the laundry for dry-cleaning last week. when I went to collect yesterday, I was told it was lost! How many of us have our clothes 'lost' while in the hands of the laundry? Even my driver laughed in disbelief when I told him.

This is the laundry's explanation:
It could have been given by mistake to another customer, who decided to keep it. How convenient an explanation! Always blame someone for your mistakes: the essential skill Adam passed on to us.

But the counter staff told me the dress was missing even before the dress was ready for collection, because when she tried to collate all my items, she discovered it was gone. Did someone like my dress so much?

The owner of the laundry called me personally to apologise and offered a full compensation for my dress. I went shopping after that and bought myself 3 new outfits. Thanks to the 'kind soul' who kept my dress. Enjoy wearing it.

Experience 2:
My sister-in-law visited us and I brought her to an 'upmarket' home decor boutique, wanting to show her some real expensive stuff in Brunei. I visited this shop 4 times, but have yet to buy something, and on all 4 occasions I was the only shopper. Guessed what? While we were busy checking and commenting on the exquisite displays, HRH Princess Sarah walked in with her ladies-in-waiting and we did not even know! We crossed path but she was so casual in her attire I did not even take a second look. On the contrary I noticed the ladies-in-waiting and thought something was unusual. We only knew she was shopping in our midst when our driver told us. How I wished I had taken a look at her instead of the displays because this Princess is very pretty. Her casual attire misled me! She is a real beauty and can easily robbed the tiara off any beauty queen!

Now, our driver is not a nosy person. He told us only because we saw the convoy of HRH Crown Prince Billah (husband of the Princess) on our way back to the embassy. Really chu meng yu gui ren for my sister-in-law. Her first visit to Brunei and both the Prince and Princess were out to 'receive' her.

And yes, dear friend, thank you for reminding me that I hold a pink not red IC. You see, I only need to use my red passport here.