Kampung Ayer

  Sometimes the world is changing so fast that I wish it would slow down. And though Brunei is not changing that fast, every time I come back (once or twice a year btw), there’s a new building or a new road. Which ultimately changes the landscape of the place. And changes the Brunei I know from when I first left, at 17 years old.

It makes me nostalgic sometimes. I mean, Tiong Hin was the go to place back then! Ok it was the only shop within a 5 km radius back then for my neighbourhood but it had everything! Supermarket on the ground level (bakery, doughnuts stall as well) and the first floor selling everything else from stationery to clothes to toys. I bought my dad a pen in those shiny galleries up there one year! And those sticker photobooths – my hommies and I used to frequent Tiong Hin just for that! 

Anyway I wish my kids knew about the Brunei back then too. Because Brunei may be boring and dead but there were memories made. Of playing in wide barren soft sand and no worries regarding cars and someone kidnapping you. And of swimming at Kampung Ayer, the Water Village. Ok so I almost drowned in my first (and only attempt) of swimming but memories were made!

To be honest, I was pretty miserable half the time whenever we stayed over at Kg Ayer. Mostly because there were A LOT of cats and cat poos. But that aside, it was fun! 

My extended family used to live in a house which extends lengthways. You could say it was like a bungalow on stilts in the water and it is a loooong one at that. When you enter through the double doors, just imagine a big space in the front which is the living room/tv room and then a long corridor all the way to the back, which is where the kitchen and toilets are. The rooms branch out from the corridors and I think the whole house housed around 10 people — not sure how many rooms there are — maybe 6 rooms? Oh also at the back, there is a room that has fashioned into the local neighbourhood’s corner shop. I just remember buying the lined exercise books so I can write random things in (call it my early start to blogging). 

Whenever we (the cousins) have sleepovers, we would lie out in the front hallway in a row, a sea of mattress and blankets. In the morning, you may have breakfast with a packet of rice & chicken sold by a guy who rings his bell around and sell nasi ayam from house to house. I dont remember if its nasi lemak but I remember his ayam goreng to be finger lickin good.

Sometimes it might be a different man who goes around selling ice cream. Ice cream back then was so simple but so good. It either comes in like a lolly stick (white carboard cover with polka dots that you push the stick up to get ice cream — it almost always is chocolate flavour) or those lil plastic bags that looks like a mini rectangular sandwich bag (yam flavour is my fave). My aunty used to buy in bulk even after my family moved out of Kg Ayer & we get a taste of the silky goodness once again. The cream is soft and silky and you gotta lick fast because there was no air conditioning back then (except in the masters bedroom) and things melt pretty quickly in the 32 degree weather.

Not all, as I said, were good memories. The toilets used to be non-tiled but still cemented. The rest of the housebwas mostly wooden I think. The front hallway is anyway! So anyway the toilet — when its wet (which inevitably always is), its a bit yucky to walk through. The worst is that I go in there, decide not to pee (maybe mental blockade?) and then go out again. A couple of minutes later, I realise I really do gotta pee and the whole process starts again. I think if Zayan was in my place, he would be similarly cringing and I would say 

Man up, child! JUST PEE! Stop being a city kid! 

 I may or may not have said this when we were in Jordan. 

What was the best though that the doors aren’t closed (except when we go to bed). The front door, the back door and the windows are almost always open. Mostly I guess to keep air flowing and not stuffy inside – remember no AC, just fans. Zayan was astounded to see fans back home. FANS. When he was younger, he would keep staring at it and now he’s older, I’ve thought him the fan/robot voice. You know when you stand close to the fan and your voice oscillates and sounds like a robot. Cheap thrills.

So the open windows and doors… a lot of the houses were like that in Kg Ayer. And that meant anyone can pop by. And anyone can join you and sit on the porch. Of course this is made easier because each and everyhouse is connected by wooden bridges. So your neighbours are practically connected to you. Sometimes its hard to tell when one house ‘compound’ ends and the other begin. 

I wish my kids knew how living there is like. It’s one thing to visit and another to actually be there, like how it was back in the days. 

Zayan Age 2.5 years

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Night shifts

So I was on nights this week and it was the first time Ayman (at 2 years and 4 months of age) reacted to it. Usually he would just ‘let me go’ without much of a tear or complaint. It was Zayan as a baby who would be crying and clingy and I remember giving the umpteenth goodbyes and hug before I could leave.

Anyway Ayman has been clingy with me the last couple of weeks. A few nights ago, he kept wanting a hug and I basically couldnt leave. I gave him a last hug, pushed him (because he wanted to follow me) and shut the door quickly. As I drove away, his little chubby face was at the windows, expressionless and he just stood there as I waved him off. 

Then the next day, he didnt even want me to hug or hold him. I was like the plague! Screaming and pushing me away when I held him. Wouldnt look at me. Oh Ayman!!!

It’s ok. I won him back… with  chocolate (at 7 pm!). Bad mama! But uhhh desperate times ok.

Anyway I’m sorry kids… I know you miss me when I’m away. And you know Mama miss you too! In fact, I told this patient’s mum how you didnt want me to hold you Ayman and she gave her baby for me to hold as compensation (very cuddly and has similar chubby cheeks. But it just wasnt the same… also he started whimpering when I took him)

But kids, as Mama says, Mama will always come back. 

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Hard Questions from a 5 year old 

Post nights. 

SO sleepy still.

I was awoken yesterday at 6 pm (after pretty much sleeping all day post nights), still groggy and with Zayan in my face. 

“Mama, why do babies cry when they’re born?” Ugh. Do I really want to go through the whole ‘the first cry causes baby to take in oxygen and causes pressure to open up in lungs…’? 

So I settled for ‘all babies cry Zayan’. (Lame answer) 

‘Why?? Is it because their face is red?’

Wait what? 

I remain silent and pretend to be asleep again.

‘Why is baby’s face red when born?’ 

Seriously kid… do you wanna talk about polycythaemia right now? I couldnt not give him the right answer though. 

‘Because their red cell count is high, which is normal in newborns’

‘Ohhhh ok…’ That seemed to shut him up.

He then asked ‘how do people learn to talk?’ 

‘What do you mean how?? They learn it from listening to people and things surrounding them.’ 

‘No but how?’ 

Wait does he want the actual scientific explanation of the parts of the brain that learns languages?? I was tempted to answer on Broca and Wernicke but my memory was sketchy on this.

Anyway its ok because he then asked  his fave qs ‘WHY’. ‘Why do people have to learn to speak?’ Ok that’s easier to answer.

And on and on he asks. It’s hard enough on a normal day but post nights grogginess…! 

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Bucket list 2017

I have written a bucket list… for a few reasons.

1. I like making a list.

2. And then I like crossing them off. I also like putting a tick next to it. So much so that I think I should print this off so I can have the satisfaction of physically crossing and ticking things.

3. It’s fun to keep track of what I wanted to do and see whether it will materialize.

4. Maybe it will push me to actually do things.

Some of the things seems pretty unlikely but one must set the bar high! Like the martial arts bit – have always been interested and also feel like a bad-ass but I find myself categorising MYSELF as ‘non martial arts’. I mean I gotta unblock the mental wall first, I know. Also there’s the bit about writing a book. That feels too overwhelming but maybe I’ll get my act together… maybe I’ll write a short story first. 

Anyway, here goes – Bucket List for 2017:

1. Travel alone (only writing it here so I have something to cross off already) 

Yup, a double bed allll to myself. And wake up to the sound of nothing. I may have laid in that bed all afternoon. This was me on an impromptu hotel stay after realising I went on a course one day early (face palm). 

2. Go to Harry Potter studio (start local)

3. Learn how to make sushi – as in go to sushi-making class.

4. Publish something (for once)!

5. Go to pottery shop and make my own pottery (only cos I’m curious on how to make it… pretty sure my attempts would be at best hideous)

6. Go for Crystal Maze experience

7. Watch a musical

8. Learn martial arts

9. Run a race

10. Volunteer at soup kitchen

11. Write a book

12. Go on a hot air balloon ride — ok, not sure about this because someone had an accident in the UK last year on a hot air balloon ride! But hot air ballooning over Cappadocia seems like #travelgoals for me. 

13. Volunteer at refugee camp (anyone wanna join me in Greece?)

14. Girls trip away! (ok thanks sayang, loveyoubye)

15. Afternoon tea in London (cant decide which)

16. Take a cooking lesson

17. Create kids recipe book

18. Yoga whilst watching sunrise (not that m a yogaist but seems very serene)

19. Reconnect with old friends – this sounds vague but I have few in mind already that I am hoping to meet up and have long conversations with! And actually… connect more with new (social media) friends. 

20. Grow herbs

21. Go camping… or maybe glamping?

22. Make home made ice cream

23. Collect stories from bapa & mama of their childhood

24. Bake homemade buns

25.  Volunteer at a community organization

26. Go for Islamic classes

27. Learn (more) Arabic

28. Plant flowers in our garden

29. Go hiking

30. Save up for a house (maybe this year will be the year!) 

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Racism: why don’t we talk about it?

Interesting conversation with the Russian taxi driver in Kent:
Him: You’re muslim, right?

Me (oh here we go again): Yah

Him: So you’re not allowed to talk to me right?

Me: Hmm why?

Him: Because I’m kuffar… you’re not allowed to talk to me.

Me: *laughed (maybe out of nervousness)* Nahh.. that’s not true.

Him: No, I’m just kidding…. I’m learning the Quran yknow. 

Me: Oh really? (still not sure where this is heading)

Him: Yeah I’m trying to find peace. The world is a crazy place. 
We talked some more about how he was sick of Russian girls just wanting expensive things and his ex abandoning him for a rich guy and (weirdly) that is why he ‘likes muslims’. ‘You muslims stick with someone even when they’re poor and have nothing…’ — I didnt get started on how even muslims abandon people for their nafs and its more of the islamic principles that he meant. Or maybe that’s what he meant?
Anyway, I was close to getting him to move to Leicester because he lamented so many times on how racism is prevalent (“They dont like us yknow… immigrants and muslims… they hate us..”). I’m sure there is a (small) group of people who is like that, even more so in a less diverse area like Kent but most people I meet in UK are friendly at best and mostly civil/tolerant. Maybe he gets more of the racist stick due to his job (? irate or drunk passengers) and I dont because of mine. 
I can’t decide whether he’s being a pessimist or realist or I’m the one wearing rose tinted glasses. Either way, I feel bit sad for him. Enough of the racist stick thrown at you will colour your perspectives on the world.


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Bucket list: Travel alone

I have yet to write ‘My Bucket List for 2017’ – yup, I’m foregoing resolutions and instead having a bucket list! Except I haven’t constructed one yet.

It seems that God has better plans for me and knew what I wanted without actually me saying it out loud. A ‘holiday’ on my own!

Ok hold your horses, I’m only going to Kent!

Ashford, Kent, to be exact. For a neonatal course… that got confirmed only the day before.

So woke up at 5.30 am, hopped onto the 6 am train the next day and arrived in good time, half an hour early before the course was due to start!

….. Except I was 25 and a half hours early.


I really really really think the start of my new year is starting on a down low (parking ticket on the first day of 2017!)  – that’s what the pessimist in me would say.

It’s a good thing I still am an optimist — which means this can only go up from now on right??

Anyway, after feeling really really stupid and securing myself a hearty warm breakfast, I got myself a plan of action and decided to stay the night so I can actually make it to the course! (and not have the course fee and train tix go to absolute waste!!)

To my nice surprise, the train station is minutes away from a designer outlet. Well what do you know!

Plus it was actually a sunny day with blue skies (tapi sajuk masih). If I wasnt so sleep deprived and feeling so stupid still, I might have enjoyed it a little bit more.

It turns out my shopping nature is not so ‘active’ anymore. There wasnt anything I really wanted to buy. I bought some clothes to last me another 24 hours and a Superdry jacket (to replace the one I lost) and a pair of trouser for le husband. As I walked around, I realise I have not bought a bag since February 2015! Ok I bought a cath kidston travel bag (for the family) in Sept 2016 but that doesnt count! The last bag before that was Feb 2015! And the last pair of shoes I bought was more than nine months ago! I think my bag and shoes  fetish have truly gone dormant. (Tapi tudung and baju shopping still on…. ) 

Anyway, I have always imagined – in my mummy ‘dream world’ – when I am so tired and so sanak, that I just want to go to a hotel and go to sleep. There’s something about hotel beds and pillows that are so relaxing. Plus I don’t have a million and one worries inside my head. If I was at home, I would be anxious to get back at doing something – house chores or tidying the house or work stuff or time to collect kids. In my angan-angan, I wish I could just go to a hotel and sleep (wah of all things to wish huh… so adventurous…).

And so perhaps this has been a blessing. I dont have the laptop so I can stop working on Babble and work logs (ugh I hate you Kaizen). I only have my phone and theres only so much IG/FB stalking one can do! 

So I spent the rest of afternoon in bed, lying down and just reading. And when I got tired of that, I went  for dinner at Frankie & Bennys and went to watch a movie. It might be my first time watching a movie solo. I thought it would be weird but the ‘Fantastic Beast and where to find them’ was a whirlwind of magic and fantasy that I kinda forgot I was alone. It might also be the rare times now that I didn’t fall asleep in a movie (must be the well rested afternoon).

So yes… an impromptu trip away. It reminded me of my solo trip to Brighton years ago masa zaman bujang. I wanted to see how it was like travelling alone (liberating but also lonely). I’ve always thought Ahhh, to do a solo trip again but I wouldn’t have done it I think — would feel too guilty to leave kids behind. 

Don’t think the kids miss me at all though!! HMPH.

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Today felt like just another day at work (read: busy). I was doing my oncall shift and towards the last 1.5 hr, I spent it in resus (aka where all the sick patients go in A&E). I went to review a patient there and introduced myself. The parents were understandably anxious but was lovely and I went on to assess patient. As I was finishing, the dad (who is a Muslim) commented on my name ‘Hafizah’. And then he said something along the lines of ‘then it is right that you’re here…. your name is Hafizah. It means protector right?’ 

I think that’s one of the sweetest thing someone has said. 

InshaAllah, Dad, I’ll do my best to look after her. 

He commented that being a doctor is the best job ever. I said, its a lot of hard work but it canbe satisfying. 

“Yes, its hard work but also all the good deeds you get when you go to work…”

You know, it’s always nice when someone puts things in perspective for you once in awhile.


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