A year in Brunei

This weekend marked exactly one year since I arrived in Brunei.  And of course this milestone got me thinking.  As with many things in life, it has both seemed ridiculously fast, and quite slow.  I feel like I haven’t done much or achieved much, but when I look back, I realise just how much has actually happened.

The year has been one of the most interesting and challenging years of my life so far, and I have no real idea of how to sum it up.  I don’t have as much blog fodder to look back on as I would have liked (a quick look in my archives will show how non-prolific my writing has been!).  But in the end, I decided that a month by month summary would do the best job of condensing this crazy year into just one post.  So here goes…

Our year in photos.   (All photos from our personal collection)

Our year in photos.
(All photos from our personal collection)

The first few days of March 2013 were spent impatiently waiting for visas and flights to be booked.  Then, all in a rush, they were, and I arrived!  We had visitors for a few days, and then it was a matter of setting up our house and our life.  I got my first exposure to the bureaucracy of Brunei, and spent a lot of time exploring Kuala Belait and making the most of the free wifi in various cafes around town. We stayed at the Empire hotel to celebrate our anniversary, and started our Weekly Challenge series (which has sadly petered out lately – we need more ideas!)

April 2013 was still settling down.  We joined the Panaga Club, and visited Miri for the first time.  I attended a wonderful yoga course, and really got into my home yoga practice.  I spent time with Jo from Summertime Publishing, and started thinking about writing my novel.

In May 2013, we started our first round of fertility treatment in Brunei at JPMC.  I didn’t write about it, because it was pretty personal and I was scared of the outcome.   But with all the appointments, it took up a lot of my time and most of my mental energy.  We also had a lovely weekend away in Ulu Temburong National Park and I started writing more and more.

June 2013 was mostly spent preparing for upcoming trips.  We had a mini break to Labuan, where we ate wonderful seafood and lots of ice cream.  I wrote more and more, and I shaved my head for the first time.  Then we had a fantastic visit from The Engineer’s parents.  We celebrated his 30th birthday, explored Brunei a bit, and spent some time in Kuching.  We went to the Rainforest World Music Festival, and vowed to return in 2014 (a vow we will be unable to follow through due to the whole pregnancy thing).  I didn’t write much about all these great things, and I don’t really know why!

We got back from our trip and farewelled our visitors in early July 2013. And a couple of weeks later, I was off again.  This time to South India with my little sister.  It was a wonderful and life changing trip.  We did yoga, and travelled as slowly as you can in a two week holiday.  I loved the sights and sounds, and learned just how much I tend to overpack.  We got stared at everywhere we went, and travelled everywhere on bumpy local buses and ferries.  It was amazing.  July was also our first Ramadan in a Muslim country.  We enjoyed learning about the traditions, and we especially enjoyed the wonderful food markets just around the corner from our house!

Two days after I got got back from India (now in August 2013), we headed off to the Philippines.  We had a whirlwind trip around Palawan, and absolutely loved snorkelling in Coron.  It inspired us to do our dive training.  But unfortunately we didn’t manage to book a course in before I got pregnant, so we have had to delay it.  The Engineer hopes he might be able to do it soon (fingers crossed).  After a bit of a break, we were back into fertility treatments that month, and along with trying to settle back into life after all that time away, we were kept pretty busy.

In September 2013, I didn’t blog much at all, and I don’t really remember what the heck we were up to.  I got some exciting mail from home (although it was a bit delayed).  We went to a parade for the Sultan’s Birthday (though we didn’t last long in the rain!)  We finally got our Identification Cards and Drivers Licenses.  We basically just lived our ordinary lives.  I guess six months in you’re starting to form some habits.

October 2013 was more of the same.  It turns out ordinary life is pretty nice.  I had some choir concerts in BSB, and we spent a couple of weekends up there exploring and finding our way around a bit better.  We had yet another round of treatment, and it worked! (Although we didn’t share the news until a bit later).   I started a Bridge course, and life carried on as normal.

Then in November 2013 I found out that I was pregnant, and basically pulled out of life.  I was okay for the first couple of weeks, and then on my 29th birthday, the sickness hit.  I was exhausted and nauseated, and I really couldn’t handle the heat.  I snuck in a yoga course before it was too bad, but basically didn’t do anything for most of the month.  We got robbed, and I lost my whole novel draft, which didn’t help my motivation to write.  We spent a weekend in Kuala Lumpur, but I couldn’t be outside, so we spent most of it in our hotel room or in malls (I did get to go shopping at Uniqlo though, so that was a highlight!)

Early December 2013 was a bit the same.  Sick and tired, day in day out.  We were expecting my parents to visit, but they unfortunately couldn’t make it.  So we found back up plan and visited Thailand for Christmas, which was a lovely chance to spend time with my sister and her boyfriend.  We relaxed and played board games and ate Mexican food, and I absolutely loved the cooler weather (I could walk again!)

January 2014 started with a bang.  Literally.  The fireworks in Thailand were insane.  We did a bit more exploring, and finished off our trip with a cooking course.  Then I finished the trip by getting bitten by a dog.  Not ideal!  The bite basically had me on bed rest for the rest of the month (apart from one hideous morning in the local hospital trying to get my rabies injections sorted).  We did get to announce my pregnancy, though.  It was lovely to see so much excitement about the news, and great to have people aware of why I had been so useless!  We also had a whole lot of rain.  Never ending, giant rain.

The rain ended in February 2014.  I was off bed rest from the dog bite, my sickness was pretty much gone, and life was finally back to normal again.  We started shopping for the baby, and visited a lovely cafe in BSB.  We bought a new (to us) car, and I continued with Bridge playing, piano lessons, and swimming.  I also started a pre-natal yoga class, and met some lovely ladies through that. We took a trip to Miri, and visited the Borneo Tropical Rainforest Resort.  We spent a whole lot of time by the pool.  But mostly the month was very quiet and relaxed.  We have definitely found our feet in Brunei.

The early days of March 2014 have been a bit of an extension of February, but with a few more offshore visits for The Engineer.  This has kept us on our toes, and has meant some very early mornings.  It has been nice to be back in a bit of a rhythm though, and we plan to enjoy that before our lives get turned upside down this July.

And that was our first year in Brunei.  All written out, I can see just how much has happened.  And all this has happened alongside learning a completely new culture and way of life.  It’s been a year of adventures with an amazing dude by my side, and I hope that the next year just brings even more!

 

7 thoughts on “A year in Brunei

  1. Bhargavi says:

    I love reading your blog because it’s a glimpse into life in a place so far flung especially compared to where I live – Canada.

    Brunei has been in the news recently due to the imposition of Sharia Law. How are expats living there reacting to this news?

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    • jenn says:

      Thanks for your comment. I think expats have mixed reactions to Shariah Law. It’s still new, so very hard to know how it will really affect people here! Overall, my view is that while I live here, this is not “my” country, and my views on it really aren’t particularly important – so I tend not to say too much 🙂

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  2. La Cuisine Helene says:

    I just discovered your blog. My husband just started working in Brunei. We are from Canada. He goes there 6 wks and then home 6 wks. We might consider moving. Do you have an email where I can ask you questions? Thanks in advance.

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  3. Jenm ONG says:

    Hi Jenn, I just moved to brunei seria town 3 months ago. The life here is really killing me…I cannot imagine how do you spent your time here for 1 yr. Do you mind to share???

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    • jenn says:

      I did(/do) lots of different things. Yoga, writing, playing Bridge, swimming, meeting friends etc. Are you a member at Panaga? They offer lots of activities. Where have you come from? How did you occupy your time there?

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