This weekend marks the end of my first month in Brunei. This is an interesting time in my expat journey. I’ve been here long enough that I know my way around, and am definitely getting used to the place. But I haven’t been here long enough for it to feel like home, or to feel settled. I still feel like a visitor. I still don’t believe it will be warm all year round, and I’ll never have to say goodbye to watermelon season.
And this seems like a perfect time to write a little summary of what I’ve found so far.
- The sunsets are amazing. Almost every night they’re amazing. And they come at a perfect pre-dinner-walk time, so we often get to see them.
- We are so close to other countries. This weekend we are heading to Malaysia. It will take about an hour to get where we’re going. And we didn’t organise it until yesterday. This is a total revelation for someone used to being a 3 hour flight away from anywhere.
- The people I’ve met so far have been lovely. Everyone has been really friendly and keen to help. I have had tips of where to go, where to find things, what to try, and how to get things done.
- The food is cheap. We can always get lunch for the two of us for under $10, usually including drinks. Sometimes it’s under $5. Even at the expensive restaurants, a couple of courses plus drinks is usually around $50.
- It’s warm. All the time. Even at night, I don’t ever have to think about taking a jacket (except occasionally a rain jacket).
- I haven’t met many people so far. It’s hard in a small town where you’re obviously foreign. And not being the kind of person who walks up to people with no reason and starts chatting, it’s a challenge. But it’s still early days, and I am hopeful that membership at the Panaga Club will help matters!
- My people at home are in a different time zone. I know this is obvious. But sometimes I just want to pop onto Facebook at 8:30pm and see what’s happening, maybe chat to someone. Problem is, at 8:30pm my time most people are in bed, and nothing’s really happening!
- There is rubbish all over the place. The river is polluted, the streets are littered, the parks hold unpleasant surprises. Sometimes this tarnishes the absolute beauty of the place.
- It’s humid. The warmth is nice, but the humidity makes it challenging at times. It takes me about 7 minutes to walk to town, with no hills or anything. But by the end of the walk I’m usually pretty sweaty, and ready for some aircon-action.
- There are stray dogs, and lots of them. And even the non-stray dogs bark way more than dogs at home. Our neighbours dogs sometimes escape onto our property, and there have been a few dog fights. The other day I got followed for a couple of minutes on my way home by a barking dog, and had to be pretty careful to keep my eyes ahead and not make it worse.
- It’s hard to know where to buy things. The hardware store sells ice cream. The book store doesn’t sell maps. The department store sells anything, but not everything. By looking and asking around, we have found everything we need. But shopping is certainly not what I’m used to.
I guess you could count the rubbish in this category, but really there is nothing ugly about life here so far. It’s fascinating. And of course it’s very different. But even the bad things are not really all bad. They’re just different to what I am used to.
The ugliest thing I’ve taken a picture of so far is my face when I realised that we had burnt a whole tray of cashews that we were supposed to be roasting!