Sun, sea and sandĀ 

Ahh, the sun and sea. 

Except it gets so hot in Brunei to fully enjoy it unless you go really early (6-7 am) or late (after 5 pm). We went at a questionable time of 10.30 am. By the time we actually set foot on the sand, it was close to 11 am. 

The kids (ie Zayan) complained of it being hot but soon forgot about it when we reached the waters. 

Closed my eyes and loved hearing the sound of the waves. It calms me yet reminded me of the strength of the sea. Lives swallowed by these ropey waters. I closed my eyes and remind myself to use it as my white noise to go to sleep (insomnia problems). If I had to describe a sound for Brunei, it would be the sound of the waves. I’m sure not everybody would agree but so much good times have been spent on the beach, and also some soul searching times back in my 20s, that it’s a good association for me.

How do waves form? The sea looks so silent and serene but when approaching the land, the waves get bigger. And even angrier. How do different beaches have different sizes of waves? It reminded me of O level Geography. Pretty sure we covered waves but could not remember for the life of me the answers to my qs. Sorry Cikgu Zainal, I should have listened to you more.

The beach was almost empty. There were 2-3 groups of families at the huts/BBQ area but only a lonesome orang puteh (assuming this as the figure was taller than your average Bruneian and was only in some really short shorts. Also no average Bruneian would be fishing at 11 am by oneself, fully exposed to the unforgiving sun at the no-shades beach). It was nice actually that it was almost empty. The kids were running around like crazy. Vast area of land, running barefoot with your feet getting wet. Playing with the waves in the classic ‘run away before the wave gets you’ game. 

I have a love-hate relationship with the beach. Love the concept of it – one with nature and all that. But I dont like sandy wet feet with sandy wet trousers. Today though, seeing the smiles on their faces, it was well worth it. 

Almost empty beach all to ourselves. 


Ahh, to be young and free. 

Love, me

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Athens and the Orange House project

So, in case you didn’t know, I went away to Athens last weekend with my friend and her little girl. It was the first time I went away on holiday sans husband and kids. I realised, as I boarded the plane, that it was the first time I boarded a plane (not Royal Brunei/going back home) without any accompaniment. A few airport officials looked behind me -on several occasions – and asked if there was anyone else with me. Errr, no?

So anyway, how was it you ask? Greece has been absolutely lovely – laidback culture, friendly people, mediterranean food and culture (I like) and the weather was good! Hello sunnies, I can now utilise you! *looks out at the grey skies of England* It was also relatively cheap compared to travelling around other parts of Europe!! 

What I wanted to talk about though is my visit to Orange House project. It is a centre which houses refugee women and children (can accomodate about 20) and also has an ‘open kitchen’ principle everyday — about 60 people will be eating there daily (outside Ramadan month). 

I came across their website before coming over and was intrigued. They called for direct donations (money or items) and so, I asked if I could bring something over from UK. They were more in need of fresh groceries – which is no surprise as they are feeding lots of people on daily basis!

I went over to the house (which is basically a building with multiple levels – two levels I think and also rooftop garden), which is in the middle of the city — a bit further from the touristy areas. Only cost me 5 euros from hotel/central area. 

I learnt more about the Orange House Project from the founder/volunteers. Marina, one of the founders, said she wanted to do something and house the refugees… so she has asked around other organisations who is helping out with the rent and bills. Everything is voluntary based/from donations. 

There is a communal area (see below) and living quarters. The living quarters consist of rooms (with bunk beds) communal bathroom and kitchen. It basically reminds me of uni dorms. There is also a small computer room – think old stlye computers (also donated) yang sebagak basar that we left in the 90s. 


With Marina (French-Greek) and Hasan (Syrian-Greek) – these two cemented my knowledge that Greek people are friendly!


They also do classes for the refugees, either those who lives there or any refugee who is interested. Many are language classes but they also have yoga and guitar classes — which I thought was sweet, mau jua beriadah kan, after all they’ve been through. One of the things they ask of the women who lives there is that they have to do 5 classes a week, be it something sporty or language. They also help with looking for jobs and filling in CVs. And also just simple things like finding volunteers to give haircut to the refugees. I just love the ethos and principles of the project.

What also astounds me is that the volunteers/founders have full time jobs too!! 

I went to the wholesale supermarket and we bought loooaaadsss of stuff, hopefully that will last for a week or two? Hasan, one of the volunteers, said Ramadan is covered at least. Part of me was sad because there was a lot of thought on what to buy and how much it would cost. He asked if I was ok to buy some food stuff for the kids (ie biscuits). Of course!! What a contrast to our weekly family grocery shopping – alhamdulillah, since graduating from medical school, I have never had to think hard whether to buy something or not from the supermarkets because it’s expensive and not a necessity. I would buy the kids snacks unthinkingly and would only refuse if we had too many sweet/chocolatey stuff already. It just brings things to perspective really. 

Playing tetris with the groceries – how to fit it all in a small hatchback!


I met some of the women there but didnt have much time to talk for long. I did play with the kids there, who are so sweet – though I must say, they play a mean game of Uno! I lost twice to 7-8 year old girls šŸ˜„šŸ˜„ 

InshaAllah, I can come back again to Athens and hopefully pay a visit to Orange House project as well. 

My sharing this is hopefully not to be riya (show off) but to inspire others to find ways to spread our kindness and wealth. I came across this crowdfunding website awhile ago of a 10 yr old boy  from UK, who wanted to give something to refugees. He felt so sad seeing and hearing about the refugee crisis. He raised some money and bought a whole load of heavy blankets and winter stuff to be distributed at refugee camps. His parents actually flew with him and they drove to Turkey’s borders to distribute the stuff. He also bought some toys/balls because he wanted something to cheer up the kids. I thought if this ten year old kid had the guts and energy to do this and is proactively doing something, why can’t I?


The mural in the courtyard – writing means ‘Hope’.

Lotsa love,

me

PS Thanks to those who donated for the groceries as well! 

PPS Another post on Athens itself to come! 

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Severe case of FOMO

Soooo I’ve been on social media detox for the last one week. I was just finding myself going on IG/FB alllll the time. Sometimes I would click on it even though I’ve looked at it an hour ago! And I could spend an hour just looking at random people’s IG. What made me think I was an addict was that it was the first thing I wake up to and last thing I see before I go to sleep.

The first few days of IG/FB-fasting was difficult, I must say. I kept thinking of what people would post or maybe someone liked/commented my photo or post (perasan) – it was a severe case of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). 

What I realised after a few days was this….

1. My head felt clearer.

I read somewhere that these days we take so much information from TV, Internet, radio. We get info overload and a lot of times, the info is not that meaningful or useful to us anyway. It’s just random information, useless ‘entertainment’.

I liked going on FB/IG as a way of defrying my brain. Like watching TV and just letting my brain go numb.

After not going on FB/IG, my head feels clearer. I can’t explain it but that’s how it felt. The last 2 dayd, I started opening FB again and could feel my brain clogging up sgain. So that made me not really wanna go on it except for a few minutes.

2. I was using it to ‘socialise’ but actually felt lonelier in it. And realise I dont have many close friends at hand anyway! 

3. I liked the likes. I had to stop myself from taking photos just because I want those likes. I learnt to embrace moments more. I dont need to show it to the world. 

The other day, I made some chicken pie and it was the best I’ve made (angkat bakul sendiri). I mean, of all the chicken pies I’ve made before, this tasted the best and looked neat. Usually my pastry is all wonky and broken. I resisted all urges to take a photo just to ….. show off. So I guess I’ll just show it off via words. Ha!

4. I think I’ve used my time more wisely. Reading a book halfway now. Sleeping earlier (and feeling better in the morning). Thinking of more beneficial things. Actually replying messages on time. 

5. And this is probably the most important bit. I always liked to click on certain personalities IG and admire their lifestyle and clothes. But along the way, it carries with me some envy and sometimes resentment. Sometimes it made me hate my job because here I am slaving away when I could be doing something more fun and carefree. Sometimes I envied that they seemingly always having fun. And the clothes, the pretty clothed. And that the kids look so angelic and well behaved all the time. I know it’s Instagram and what you see is not an entirely true potrayal of one’s life… but dammit, why cant they show ugly photos too.

Anyway, I thought that I couldnt last more than a week. Though I’ve looked at IG/FB today, it turns out that I didnt miss anything. And so maybe I can last the whole month with only just a few minutes of social media a day! 


I went to Manchester for a two day course. It was SOOOO sunny and the hotel had nice views of Salford Quays. Sadly I was too tired and had to do reading on the night …. else I could have milked the night away and pretended I was on holiday!

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A school year in England

Zayan is at the last quarter of his first school year, Reception. The school year starts in August and ends in July the next year. To those who don’t know how the school system works here, it’s like this: You either go to a state school (funded by govt) or a public school (which is a private school, I know so confusing right?). 

If you decide to send to a state school, you have to apply towards the end of the year to make it for the next year. Only kids who are 4 at the start of August can be enrolled, so for example if your kid is 4 on 20th August of that school year, he can only go to school the NEXT year. Kinda annoying esp if you want to just send them to school, heheh. 

I wasnt aware when to apply and ended up applying a week before the deadline. I only knew about it because a friend reminded me, phew!! You can apply to three schools in order of your preference. Most of the time, you will be given the school based on location, ie the school that is in your ‘catchment area’. Sometimes you can apply to a school away from your house if it’s undersubscribed (so I’m told). I did choose Oadby to live partly because I heard the schools here are good.

Anyway, it was pretty exciting on the first day of school and I was half worried that Zayan will get bullied. Cos yknow, kids can be mean sometimes. So far, Zayan has been pretty happy and made some good friends. 

The parents were also invited to attend this talk a few weeks before school starts. Mostly about the curriculum, uniforms, what kids have to bring etc. I felt like a phony adult then and had to look serious/very interested in what the teachers are saying. I felt like just a kid, pretending to be a parent. MY kid is going to school, say what?

What keeps surprising me is the lack of homework he has to do! He does one sheet of homework to do IN A WEEK and two books to read. The books were boring to begin with and I wasnt surprised when Zayan found it a chore to read. (you know, it was like CHIP HAS A HAT. HIS HAT IS RED.) Now there’s an interesting storyline at least to the books. Anyway, this homework business… only ONE page. When I’m not working in the weekend, I turn into bapa and ‘make’ homework for him. Yup, thats what my dad used to do. Extra work after homework. This week he didnt have any homework at all!! Dont think I didnt notice Zayan….

And when it was half term/holidays (1-2 weeks off), there was no homework at all! Like couldnt we have at least assignments to do for/with the kids? *Tiger mum disappointed*

The best thing though is that Zayan’s reading skills went from ‘zero’ to ‘much improved’. He started school not even recognising the whole letters of alphabet. Whenever I tried to teach him, he would be bored and not pay attention. It was like trying to teach a wall. And then I had to teach him how to read when he started school (oh yeah, the parents even had a phonics session). Those were weeks of tears from both Zayan and I. 

Me: C-A-T … what is that?

Zayan: Dog?

AGHHHHHHHHH. 

Me: C … C … C!

Zayan: C …. C …. C

*five minutes later* Me: ok what is this again?

Zayan: Mmmmm, I forgot.

Oh man, I dont know how teachers do it without losing it! 

Anyway, after awhile, he just got the hang of it and blended his letters together and started reading. His teacher was right. “He’ll get there one day…” 

Nowadays his childminder reads the books with him and because I’m a Tiger mum, I either make him read it again with me or makes him spell some of the words from the book. 

What amuses me are the gold and red face. So if you’re REALLY good that day, you get to be in gold face. And this either means doing really well in reading/writing/numbers or good behaviour (helping others, sharing, etc). Which I thought was nice. If you’ve been ahem naughty, you go to red face. Red face is NOT good apparently. If you are only a little bit naughty, you go to orange face. Zayan has admitted to being in orange and red face but he rarely ‘remembers’ why he was on it in the first place. He did remember going to orange face because he was talking too much… it was like school all over again for me. I remember being pinched on my belly button area (SAKIT PADAS TUUU) because I talked too much in class. I was about 7 then. Of course, I didn’t dare tell my parents this because then I’ll be told off at home too! (Why did you talk too much? Why did you get in trouble? bla bla) I also had a teacher throw the board wiper in my general direction (I hope he wasnt aiming at me directly) because….. I was talking in class! In my defence, the others around me were talking too!!! Anyway, I was 16 then. Lol! Nothing changed.

His childminder is the one who drops him off and picks up most of the time, unless one of us is off. I dont mind this to be honest – Going through throngs of adults and kids in the morning — not my idea of fun! 

Going to school also means an almost monthly birthday invitation by yet another schoolmate. How did my 5 year old have more of a social life than me? What saddens me though is that we never get to eat the cake at the party. It’s usually cut and packed into party bags. Birthday parties are fun for eating cakes together! And also theres only one slice packed. I once ate the slice (the icing looked super inviting) and then I ate so much of the cake that I thought Zayan would just get upset if he knew …. so I ate it all. I am saving you from tooth decay, you can thank me later Zayan!

Two more months to summer holidays! And then Year 1!! I wonder if that means more homework… 

 Morning school run – scooter/walk when it’s sunny!

Yet another party.. Zayan’s the shortest in class (good things comes in small packages, I tell him).1

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16 years and still missing home like a student

It occured to me the other day that I have been in this country for 16 years this September. That is so freaking long. How did my parents ever let me go at 17 years of age to live in a place thousands of miles away , to a place that they havent even seen before??? 

Anyway, the thing is despite all these years I still have homesickness bug from time to time. I used to get really depressed whenever homesick. Lying in bed and not wanting to do anything. Thinking why did I ever decide to do this (come to UK and doing medicine). Nowadays its not so bad because its hard to mope around with 2 kids being rambunctious and work being a good distraction. 

It’s always worse whenever I come back from holiday in Brunei. Other times, the feeling creeps up on me suddenly. Like the rare time that the sun is shining on my face so bright and looking at the blue skies reminds me of home. Or coming across a picture of the beach. Or the other day when there was a picture of a (heavenly looking) slice of durian cake. 

Sometimes it’s the time when I listened to urang cakap brunei. Macam urang melatah kah apa. Rindu jua sebenarnya. 

I’ve also come to realise that the things I miss are those that has to do with my senses. 

Listening to raindrops on zinc rooftop.

Driving and looking at the vast blue sky. 

Eating. (Enough said)

Heck, sometimes I think I miss the feeling of humidity that Brunei brings (whenever I go back, I actually dont).

Sometimes seeing people who reminds me of my family gets me. The other day I saw this old lady, her wrinkled hands and her slow walk. It reminded me of my grandma and how much I miss her. She passed away and I wasnt there, as did my three other grandparents whilst I was here. That fact always strikes me you know. That time does not stop for anyone. 

Sigh. Only two more months to holiday time.

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Confessions of a Junior Doctor

      Have just watched Confessions of a Junior doctor documentary, which is probably not a good idea after finishing a set of night shifts. The show left me emotional and perpetuates my question of ‘why am I doing this?’. 

      No, really why are we doing this, guys??

      I don’t want to come out of this as if this is greys anatomy and everything’s so horrible and dramatic and we all came to save the day. 

      The truth is …. there are ok days and horrible ‘I just want to cry’ days. The only time it’s a GOOD day is probably when I’m in clinic (nothing dramatic ever happens in clinic… or at least the clinics I go to). And since I havent been doing clinics since January, it’s either just an ok day or a horrible day.

      From watching the show, one of the doctors encapsulated things well – “It’s just relentless”. And that’s how I felt with most of my shifts these days, especially when oncall. 

      The other day, I saw the night team enter the handover room with exhausted, beaten down faces and I know far too well how they feel, how they must have felt during the shift. There was a very sick baby that night and even if there is just one sick baby in the unit, that can take most of your time (whilst trying to keep on top of the rest of your patients). 

      “You ok?” I asked the registrar.

      She gave a half nod, half shake of the head. 

      “I’m too old for this shit…” 

      And I know what she means. This shit of a mess that we so want to try to make better and it doesnt seem to be happening. On top of that, when we’re full in capacity (when care is just ‘good enough’ and deeply we want it to be more than that), it feels like we’re drowning and just trying to keep ourselves afloat. 

      It’s just draining. Physically and emotionally draining. I once wrote of how I didn’t expect working in an intensive care unit to be mentally taxing. Not because of the extremes of patients’ conditions (I have detached myself successfully in order to able to plod on) but how tiring it is mentally to try to ‘fix’ someone. Seriously, salute to all intensivists. I dont know how you guys do it … the only thing keeping me sane is the thought that I’m only doing this for six months and I’ll be off to a different rotation!

      Anyway, Confessions of a Junior Doctor echoes many things that junior doctors go through.

      The relentless shifts.

      The sinking ship feeling.

      The guilt.

      The ‘could I have done more?’ questions you have with yourselves.

      The doubts.

      What I have realised over the years is that we need to be there for each other more. Your colleagues are your comrades. Shifts are so much better when people get along well and when there’s food (read: snacks) to keep you going! 

      Ok rants over.

      Time to sleep xx

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      Seven Stories and Newcastle

      We went to an awesome place called Steven Stories in Newcastle (we also went to an awesome wedding, which was the main reason why we were there in the first place). 

      Seven Stories is a museum of children’s storybooks. I dont know if museum is the right word because it doesn’t entirely depict the place. When you hear the word museum, it’s associated with boring rows or galleries of items. It can be interactive like many science museums and certainly some museums in London (love the V&A). This place has – you guessed it – seven stories and each storey has different themes/activities to do. 

      One level was based on ‘Alien love underpants’ book and basically they turned the whole room into Alien love Underpants theme. Had big pants *snicker like a kid* with a laundry hanging line and alien hats and an area to read – amongst other things.

      Another level was a Bear theme. There are TONS of books with a bear theme it turns out. I love ‘Going on a bear hunt’ and have discovered ‘The Bear Under the Stairs’ (I was reading out loud to the boys there and got really into it. Not sure if the boys stuck through with it to the end)

      It was just a lovely layout and made you feel like a kid again (in a magical place without it being too tacky or corny).


      Who doesn’t love Paddington Bear? It’s so huggable!

      Then it was time for some storytelling! It lasted about half an hour – highly interactive and funny. It mostly made the kids sit down nicely, except Ayman got bored towards the end but nothing snacks can’t distract him with (we’re such good parents…).

      There was also another level with toys. I think this was their favourite – inda mau balik! It had a huge space with all windows looking out as walls. There was an area to just lie down with bean bags all around and yo can just chill and read. If I was mega rich, I would love to have a room like that.


      Macam … uhhh, we have trains like these at home too? 

      There was also a book shop (yay!) and a level called Work Lab. We didn’t have time to go to Work Lab but I saw kids holding their creative hats… so I guess there’s a arts and craft area. 

      Alien in underpants! 

      Zayan: Is he a real alien?

      We went for lunch at this place called Dabbawal. It has a different, creative twist to Indian food and presentations. More hipster like with good food! And its halal! 


      Anddddd then there was the wedding! I dont have pics of the bride and groom cos it was mostly taken from our camera. So you’ll just have to enjoy these pics….
      Us: If you guys give a good pic, you can have ice cream.

      Kids: *quickly poses*


      Comot!

      Ok over and out… maybe I’ll post pics of our holidays soon!

      Love,

      me

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