Sunday, February 13, 2011

I had a great day today - I went to Sekolah Menengah Muda Hashim. (Muda Hashim Secondary School). The school is in Tutong which is Brunei's third largest town. It is a boys school with about a thousand boys. Most of the boys live in Kampongs (villages) or on a nearby army base. The boys I meet were in year 7.

Here are some of my friends hard at work in class. Their teacher is a friend of mine Mr Peters who comes from Thames in New Zealand. At the beginning of the year the boys choose and buy material to make covers for their desks. They also buy a broom, a mop and other cleaning gear. It is the boys responsibility to decorate their classroom and keep the room clean. There are no cleaners - the boys have to do it themselves. They are very proud of their classroom and take pride in keeping it clean, tidy and well decorated.

Here are some of my new friends. Can you see me in the pictures?

I am having trouble learning their names. Two of my friends names are Ahmad Imanuddin bin Hj Ahmad Mahyuddin and Awangku Mohammad Adi Putar bin Pg Saiful Rizam. If there is Pg in the name it means they are related to the Royal family.

Here is another classroom I visited.

School is Monday to Thursday and Saturday. Each day classes begin at 7.30am and finish at 12.30pm with a half hour break 10.00 - 10.30. Then there are religious studies each day from 2.00pm to 4.30pm. Friday is like our Sunday - a mosque (church) and prayer day. The boys buy their lunch at school for about $1 - if they took their own lunch it would spoil in the heat.

All the classes are meant to be taught using the English language, but I did notice some teachers sometimes using the Bruneian language. All the boys can speak at least two languages.

This is a teacher friend of mine. Her name is Cikgu Rosmawati bte Pg Hj Metali.

Here is another teacher, Cikgu Zairina bte Hj Oman.

It was a fun day meeting new friends. The boys are very nice and gentle by nature. They were very kind to me and made me feel very welcome in their school which they are very proud of.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Today I went shopping. This is the money they use. Do you know who the guy is on the Brunei money?
In Bruneian they are called Ringgit's but in english they are referred to as dollars and cents.
One Ringgit is equal to one NZ dollar.

When out shopping, you can go to a Mall, shops or Markets.

This market is only open at night. They have all sorts of local food such as sticky rice wrapped in banana leaves and satays. Because of their religion there are no pork products i.e. bacon or ham in Brunei - and no alcohol. On Saturday's the market area becomes a flower market.

I am tired after all that shopping. I am now going to relax by the pool. This is me at the Royal Brunei Polo Club where Royalty from around the world - including Prince Charles - comes and plays polo. The Sultan keeps about 200 polo ponies here. It is a lovely place - can you see the marble columns on the side of the pool? Any one can have a swim here for $3.

I am really excited because I am going to school on Saturday - yes they have school here on Saturday. I will tell you more about that next week.
 Today I went cruzin around. This is where I am staying which is in a 3 bedroom apartment on the second floor. Every room has air conditioning as it is so hot.

These are typical Bruneian houses. The streets are called Simpang's or Spg for short. Most Simpangs have a number rather than a name. This Simpang is 542 meters from the nearest round-a-bout and the houses here are 133 meters from the beginning of Simpang 542. Very confusing...  The Sultan builds a lot of the houses to give to Bruneian families for free.

Last week was Chinese New Year. A lot of Bruneian's are from Chinese/Indian/Malay descent. So Chinese New Year is very important to some of them. This year is the year of the rabbit. The round discs with square holes are chinese money. (I will send some to Mrs Smallbone). Most displays celebrating the Chinese New Year have money in them to signify prosperity. Can you see me in the photo?

Here I am at the Empire Hotel. This hotel is really flash! It is said to be one of the 10 best hotels in the world. Most of what you see in the picture is either marble or gold - except me, but I'm pretty flash too!! These marble columns are 5 stories high. The marble came all the way from Italy. The grounds outside are AMAZING too!

I went to the supermarket and in the car park there are lots of monkeys. They are so funny. But there is a  trick getting the groceries to the car without the monkeys trying to steal your food. If you have bags in both hands they will quickly snatch a bag from you. But if you have one hand free they will leave you alone as they know you can give them a swipe with your free hand. Clever little things. Don't have to worry about that in Rotorua....

Here are the monkeys trying to work out how to get into a can of peaches.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

 This is Kampong Ayer. It means water village. There are over 50,000 people live in the village that is built over the water. It has its own police force, library's, schools, fire department etc.
 Here are two school children waiting to be picked up for school at a 'bus stop'.... or should I say boat stop. The boat is one of the many water taxi's that pick people up to take them where they want to go, usually across the water to the city nearby.

The 'School Bus'.

And this is the main entrance to one of the schools. The classrooms are to the right of the front steps to the school.
On the way back to Bandar Seri Begawan I passed the Sultan of Brunei's Palace. The Sultan has reigned since 1967. His palace is the biggest palace in the world. You can see the gold dome - yes pure gold! It has over 1700 rooms, 5 swimming pools, and has it own fire department.
This is the Sultans' Mosque. It is called Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque. The yellow is again pure gold!! Not paint.
I went up the river into the Borneo jungle and saw crocodiles, monkeys and some other weird animals. Below is picture of Monitor Lizard. It is about a meter long. The Proboscis monkey is only found in Borneo. It has a long nose. I didn't get a photo of one as they move really fast through the trees.
Today I got onto this boat and went exploring.....

Here are some animals that live in Borneo - that is the Island that Brunei is on. borneo is the third largest Island in the world. I saw these animals in a private zoo. There are lots of crocodiles here. The snake is a python - they can eat pigs and other animals - true! The orangutan is native to Indonesia and Malaysia. In Malay orang means man and utang means forrest - so this monkey is man of the forrest. This little monkey spat at me when I stopped talking to him.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Brunei is 4 degrees north of the equator and it is usually 31 degrees every day. But today it has been raining. This is me at the Royal Brunei Yacht Club.
I am now in Gadong which is a main shopping area in Brunei. My lunch costs way less than a Big Mac. It is yummy prawns with a ginger and onion sauce.
Now I am on my way. It is going to take 9 hours to fly to Bandar Seri Begawan which is the capital city of Brunei. I am sitting in my seat about to have lunch. salmon - one of my favourites.
Here I am in the Business Class lounge at Auckland airport waiting for my flight to Brunei