Tuesday, September 30, 2008

1 Syawal falls on......

.... Thursday, 2nd October!!

In case you were shut off from the world in the past few hours, the new moon was not sighted at any of the four sites around Brunei. As a result, Muslims in Brunei Darussalam would fast tomorrow, Wednesday 1 October, completing a 30-day month. 

I received a few sms'es asking me if I would be interested to buy second-hand telescopes from the Survey Department. This obviously referred to the unsighting of new moon in Brunei for the past few Ramadhans and Syawals!

Lets take the last opportunity to enjoy the benefits and blessings of Ramadhan.

New moon?

I received this from one of my colleagues. Apparently, Brunei lies in the blue area and the new moon may be visible later in the evening, if conditions are perfect (no clouds or no rains).


Check out the website here.

Monday, September 29, 2008

So bila raya?

Hari Raya Aidilfitri will determined on the evening of Tuesday 30 September. The moonsighting will take place at various places around Brunei Darussalam. According to calculations, it is likely that the new moon will be sighted, provided that it does not raining during the moonsighting. Regardless, I do not mind whatever day Aidilfitri falls on.

One group of people who are busy in the last days of Ramadhan are tailors and dressmakers. I went to pick my Baju Melayu at this tailor place in KB and I was informed that the shop would remain open until the early hours of the morning in order to complete the orders of dresses and baju melayu. The owner was confident that all orders would be completed before Raya comes





In just a matter of hours, this piece of cloth will turn into a complete set of Baju Melayu.



What is that camouflage doing there?

The entrepreneur of the dressmaking shop in KB, with his brother.

Friday, September 26, 2008

50 Years of Masjid Omar Ali Saifuddin

Today marks the Golden Jubilee of Masjid Omar Ali Saifuddin. Opened on 26 September 1958 by the late Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin III, the mosque was on the building under Brunei's First National Development Plan. At that time, it cost almost BND8 million to build, using the best materials from all over the world. The marble was imported from Italy and the stained glass and the chandelier from the United Kingdom. When it was opened, more than 5000 faithful turned up to perform the first prayer to be held there, the Jumaat prayer. My father once told me that because there were too many people and too little place for ablution, many people actually performed the Friday prayer without having taken their ablution! 


In conjunction with the Golden Jubilee, the Postal Services Department issued commerative stamps and first day covers. I managed to get three sets which I gave to my dad. There was this special issue stamp worth BND50; I was considering to buy it, but decided against it as I am not an avid collector of stamps myself and neither is my dad.

There was also an event today that took place before Friday prayer, which His Majesty the Sultan attended. More events are being organised, including the opening of a gallery on the mosque at the Brunei Museum and a photography competition.

Read more about the Golden Jubilee celebration here.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Chinese Products

Barely a month passed since the entire world was mesmerised by China when it successfully organised the 2008 Summer Olympics, the world has been once again rocked by another health scare involving China-made products. The world was once shaken by lead-contaminated paints that had been used in children's toys.

The latest food scandal involved dairy products which are tainted by the industrial chemical, melamine. Melamine is used for the manufacture of plastics and when one thinks of melamine, one would immediately think about plastic cups and plates. Melamine has been added to milk to artificially raise its protein content. As a result, so far four children have been reported to have died by melamine poisoning while many hundred babies were reported to have developed kidney stones. It was quite shocking to learn that many large corporations, including one that sponsored the 2008 Olympics, were involved in the scandal. The scandal was first confined within China, but eventually spread to other parts of the world. Many countries, Brunei included, have banned and removed any Chinese dairy products from their shops. 

I have received many emails, advising me to avoid some products and the list gets longer everyday. Some of the better-known brands have their products made in China and this caused a confusion when the same-brand, but made in other countries, have been 'declared' to be dnagerous. My advice is go check the country where the product was made and do not buy it if it was made in China.

Among one of the items affected by the scandal is the White Rabbit Soft Candy. This used to be one of my vices, but now I think I have to avoid it until the Chinese Government sort this scandal out.

Will we ever get our confidence back with Chinese products? 

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Selamat Hari Guru

Here's wishing all teachers out there..............

Happy Teachers' Day!

Thanks for everything....

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Link.....

Just a quick post.....

Pictures from Ollie's wedding, as taken by Papz, can be seen here.

Quite disappointed to see that Papz did not put this other group picture where the girls were not looking at the camera, rather they were distracted by someone's buns in front of them!!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Classic Pictures

A friend on Facebook started this series of pictures, taken in the 1990's. As much as I feel a bit embarrassed to show them, but, as someone said it, we need to embrace at our past. And also, it can be quite therapeutic to be able to look back and have a laugh at ourselves.

The pictures were taken using film cameras and then scanned. So please forgive me for their quality.

So here they are.......


The above two pictures were taken 17 June 1995 at Seasons Restaurant. Apparently it was a farewell dinner for three friends who were supposed to leave and study in Boston. I was wearing that brown/red shirt with that big spectacles.



The two pictures above were taken on 16 August 1995 at the Rimba site of Maktab Sains. They were taken when we had this farewell bbq for everyone who would be leaving to further their studies. The strange thing was this farewell took place in the evening in a school campus and no one else seemed to recall this event at all!

This was taken in Hyde Park London on 28 October 1995. If I am not mistaken, this was our first weekend in London, after being sent to our respective schools. It was actually nice to see everyone and to share all the stories from our schools. I was seated fifth from the left.


Our first ever Majlis Berziarah with the Royal Family at the Intercontinental Hotel London on 22 December 1995. We all got GBP150 and we probably spent them all during the Boxing Day sale 4 days later!

And I am saving the best for last! This picture was taken on 9 October 1991 (I was only 15 years old then!!) during the prize presentation ceremony for an essay writing competition. I won second place and won some books of stamps. In case you don't know it yet, I was wearing a songkok with that spectacles and THAT moustache!! Yeah, I was growing moustache at that age! I think it was Jester who said he would hunt down a picture of me with glasses and moustache, after a joke went too far! So Jest, here you go!!

Many thanks to Nuurol Bahyiah Ahmad for these pictures.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Congratulations!

Many congratulations to Oliver Lim and Letricia Goh on the occasion of their marriage.

Did not manage to take a picture of them together; the best I could have was their portrait outside the banquet hall.

Ollie had a surprise for everyone; he sang! Didn't know that he could carry a tune!

Enjoy your honeymoon. And again, Congratulations!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Money! Money! Money!

With just less than two weeks to go before Hari Raya comes, the above will definitely in everyone's (well, everyone who celebrates Raya, that is) mind.

All I could say is, spend wisely and think about the days before the next pay day! There aren't just that many open houses to go to!


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Monday, September 15, 2008

Mamma Mia!


That was the title of the movie that I watched last weekend.

It was a story about a girl who was getting married, not knowing who her dad was. She had found her mum's diary at the time when she was probably concieved; there were 3 men mentioned in that diary and she promptly invited all three men without telling her mum. The story continued as she tried to figure out who her dad was.

The story was based on a stage play of the same name, which was first opened in 1999. The story was based on songs made popular the Swedish band, Abba.

We watched the movie in the middle of the night, but because it was that entertaining, we never fell asleep during the movie. You could almost be certain that a song would burst out after every line. Many of Abba's more famous songs were featured, among them were Dancing Queen, SOS, Super Trouper, Take A Chance On Me and my favourite, Lay All Your Love On Me. It was nice to see Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Meryl Streep, Julie Walters and many of the other casts flexing their vocal chords in the movie. The location was of the movie was also exotic and I'm sure the island will become more famous.

It was reported that a sing-along version, where lyrics of the songs are highlighted, are being shown in some cinemas around the world. If it is available here in Brunei, I might go again!

I'd give this 4 out of 5 stars! Go watch it while it is still on.






On a more sour note, why can't people just go out of the cinema if they want to be engaged in a conversation? There were 2 women who sat just a few seats away chatting away throughout the movie. No matter how many hushes or hisses, they rudely ignored other people and continued to babble away with no consideration to other ticket-paying punters. I could only wish that these people are shot to death.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Red Clash

In one of the highly anticipated games of the season, Liverpool will be hosting Manchester United this evening (12.45 GMT, 7.45 Brunei time).

Liverpool is boosted by the news that Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres have passed the fitness test. Berbatov may start against the Scousers, having been named as one of the substitutes in this evening's match.

Owen Hargreaves and Ronaldo are still on the injuy list, but the Manchester United Official Website reported that Sir Alex Ferguson was ready to take the Portugese winger to Anfield and even suggested that he might come off the bench at some point in the match. That is a very good news indeed.

Last season Manchester United won the corresponding match 1-0.

Post edit: Manchester United lost 2-1 to Liverpool in their third match of the season. Manchester United took the lead in the third minute via Tevez's goal, only for Wes Brown to score an own goal and Babel scored in the final 15 minutes of the match. Now, Manchester United has collected four points, from a win, a draw and a loss.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Spare some thoughts.....



Aidilfitri will be once again upon us. It is the time to celebrate the end of Ramadhan. It is the time to celebrate with loved ones. It is the time where people get to dress up in their new clothes.

Well, not everyone will be lucky enough to dress up in their new clothes. There are some unfortunate people who will celebrate Aidilfitri as if it was just another day. I was talking to my sister who is a teacher in one of the schools in KB. In one of her classes, she was talking to some of her students and asking them about their Aidilfitri preparation. Most of her students told her that they have made some new dresses. Then she came to this particular girl who said a simple no, as her family could not afford to do that.

How many of us sulk when our parents 'only' got us two sets of new clothes? How many of us have a bulging wardrobe at home, with clothes from previous years that we would never wear again? How many of us would not think twice to buy the latest gadget? How many of us would actually stop and spare some thoughts for the unfortunates?

Aidilfitri is also the time to give and offer some extra special for the unfortunates. Lets do that.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Old problem....

An old problem has reared its ugly head again.

I was talking to fellow Zoomers about 2 weeks ago on the overall performance of Zoom! Broadband, the mobile broadband service brought by B-Mobile. At that time, we were pretty happy with the service; good download speed, consistent reception and minimal interruptions. We all thought that B-Mobile had finally got it right. I was even thinking of writing a blog post to sing my praises for Zoom!.

Well, perhaps we spoke a bit too soon. Not too long after that conversation, we all noticed a sudden change in its performance. I noticed that I lost the reception a lot and the connection got dropped. Download speed also suffered. Now, to download a 500MB file, it would take me almost 2 days, where previously it would take an overnight effort. My torrent client registered a pitiful download speed average of less than 10kBps (previously it could go higher than 70kBps).

What have happened? Could it be that there are now so many Zoom! subscribers that they are now overcrowding the so-called information superhighway?

I also remembered that following DST's Go! Broadband launch with its 7.2Mbps modem, B-Mobile eventually upgraded its modem from the one that could download at 3.6Mbps to something similar to Go! Broadband modem. The newer modems were offered to new subscribers to the Zoom! Broadband. I inquired during one of the roadshows and was convinced that the earlier subscribers would be upgraded too at no extra cost.

A few months passed by and no news were heard about the free modem upgrade. I eventually gave the Customers Hotline a call. I was quite disappointed to hear that there was never any plan to upgrade the modems to the newer ones, leaving the earlier subscribers, like myself, to remain using the older modem. Hmmm.... So much about customer loyalty. I'd think that since we were the ones who supported them from the beginning would be treated equally to the ones who signed up later.

On top of that, I was quite miffed when I was told that the network download speed has been upgraded to 7.2Mbps! That would mean, if it was really the case, then we would have lost out much more than we expected!

But then again, it is quite a rare occurence to see the download speed to be 1.0Mbps or more. As a friend put it, if they could not even fulfil the earlier obligation of 3.6Mbps, what was the point of being upgraded to a modem and a network with download speed of 7.2Mbps..... Well, that was one fair comment.

A snapshot of my downloads..... and the downloads have been taking place for the past 2 days!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Apanya biskita 1

There are many blog sites, local and non-local alike, that are dedicated to highlight the English grammatical or spelling mistakes. I was thinking why no one have came up with one for Malay. So for a start, here's a poster found somewhere in Bandar. Well, in this poster both Malay and English have been slaughtered!

There are just so many mistakes here, that I do not know where to start! Spelling mistakes: a lot! Grammatical mistakes: a lot too!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Weekend Exodus

Last weekend was the first weekend in the fasting month. With it being just a mere month away from the Aidilfitri Celebration, the preparation for Aidilfitri has gone a few notches up everywhere in Brunei. This include make new dresses, updating old things and buying new things.

Talking about buying new things, one of the apparently must-go places for Bruneians was the border city of Miri. It was just less than an hour away from Kuala Belait; one hour if there was no traffic jam at all. Yesterday, it seemed like almost everyone in Brunei decided to hop over the border to Miri and admittedly I was one of them. The queue at the border post was long; when I reached the end of the queue just after noon, I had only just passed the '3km from Sungai Tujuh' mark, meaning that the queue was more than 2km long.

In Miri, almost every other car that you might see was a Brunei-registered car. And almost every other face you might see was a Bruneian face. How to spot a Bruneian face? If it was part of a big group walking together, most probably they were Bruneians. You could also go near to them and listen to them talking. And if it was a lady, just look at the way she hung the hand bag. If the strap went diagonally across her body or if she clutched her bag tightly against her body, most probably she was a Bruneian.

So what was so special about Miri or any other Malaysian towns? One of the reasons was that these towns had almost everything (everything except the higher end designer names, such as LV, Gucci, Prada, etc). The currency difference which favoured us Bruneians was another. Yesterday, I could get RM2.385 for every BND1 that I exchanged. Some of the items were a lot cheaper. A 5-kg bottle of cooking oil would cost BND12 here, whereas in the Malaysian towns, they would cost RM15. The cheapers items ranged from normal household goods to clothing, cds, furnitures and fast food.

So what good will it do to our economy and the Malaysian economy with this almost weekly exodus of Bruneians to the Malaysian towns? Imagine there were 2000 people hopped across the border yesterday and everyone spent a modest BND100, so that would mean BND200,000 were spent! And in a four weekend-month, that would be almost BND1million! It's little wonder you see these Malaysian towns grew a lot in the past 10 years and shophouses in Brunei remained empty.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Unpredictable weather.....


I can't remember the last time that August and September were this wet. For the past month, the weather in Brunei has been quite unpredictable. It could be sunny and hot one minute, and raining the next.

Is this a result of global warming? Or is this another El Nino-like weather phenomenon?

Whatever it is, please do drive safely and with care in this wet weather.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Not feeling well.....

I called in sick today, as I had not felt good this morning. I woke up felling dizzy and my temperature was a bit on the high side. If it was not puasa, I would have taken some paracetamols. It was perhaps brought about by the lack of sleep.

It would be quite difficult during puasa month. I would have irregular sleeping pattern as I would have to wake up in the middle of the night for sahur. I am so used to having 6+ hours of ininterrupted sleep. With sahur, I would be sleeping for 4 hours before having to wake up for sahur and another 2 hours after sahur. And it is also quite uncomfortable trying to sleep after a meal.

It is only the third day of puasa and another 27 days to go. I guess I just have to get used to it then.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Tired.....

It was such a tiring day at work, both physically and mentally.

Today was the first working day during the fasting month. The absence of coffee was evident; when some times after noon, I had to take a quick nap just to rest a bit. The first few days will definitely be difficult, but I am sure I will get used to it. Compared to the time when I spent away in Bintulu, working during puasa in Brunei is so much easier. In Brunei, we get to get off work at half one, but in Bintulu, normal office hours were observed. We would only leave work at half four.

Today was quite a difficult day for me. I had to do a job that Donald Trump would love to do. I had to break the news to one of my trainees that he would not be offered a full-time employment, whereas another two were. When we made the decision not to offer him employment, I was quite upset initially. I was upset, not because I really wanted him to stay, but I felt that I was dealing with someone's future. I kept reminding myself that we had a very good and valid reason on why we took that particular decision. I could not let my emotion took over me. Though it was such a difficult thing to do, but I believe we had to do what we had to do. After all, it was for the best interest of the department. Anyway, I hope I do not have to do this again; it's not such a nice thing to do.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Friends.....

I was doing some housekeeping on my home PC when I came across this folder, containing my emails with a group of friends. These are the friends that I have known since I first started my A-levels in the United Kingdom, way back in 1995.


As I went through the emails, which dated as far back as 1999, I could not help thinking that we had gone through a lot. We all went to schools in different parts of UK and we would meet up in London at least once a month. We were together towards the end of the upper sixth form and we were back in London for 'clearing', which was a process for students who had not gotten a place in the universities of their choices to finally get hold of a place in any university. During that time, we played a lot of card games and we would play until the early hours of the morning. I remember while playing this card game, we had the radio playing in the background and we heard that Princess Diana had been killed in a road accident. As with many circles of friends, it was inevitable that we would go through some ups and downs and sometimes we did not speak for weeks before we all patched things up. The thing about close circle of friends is that no matter how hurt you were, there would always be this feeling that all should be forgiven and forgotten.


The more emails I read, the more I was reminded that these friends provided me support and encouragement whenever I needed them. When I decided to switch my course from medicine to chemistry, they never told me that it was stupid decision; they supported me as I went through the embarrassment in having to tell people that I was not good enough to be a doctor. When my scholarship with the government was prematurely ended and I had to return to Brunei, these friends would send me emails to tell me that they missed me. When they found out that I was depressed as I had to start all over again in Brunei, they sent me emails encouraging me to get back to my feet. These are the same people who were there to lend me a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on as I went through my first breakup.


As I went through more emails, I realised that these friends are second only to my loved ones. They are now scattered all over the world; one is in the USA, one is in Ireland, one is in Singapore and they rest are in Brunei. Three of them are now happily married and two of them are mothers.


To you out there, thanks for being such great friends. I miss you all!




And last, but certainly not the least (no pun intended!).....

Monday, September 1, 2008

Basketball and Delifrance

On Saturday, together with the same people that I went to Vietnam with, I went to watch the final game of the 2008 Brunei Cup, a basketball tournament participated by six teams from Australia, Singapore, Republic of Korea, the Kingdom of Jordan and the Republic of Philippines. The third place play-off match was held just before the final match. In this match, the Darwin Airport Resort All-Stars easily beat the Jordan All-Stars with a 88-45 scoreline. In the final match, the defending champions, LG Sakers from the Republic of Korea played against the Singapore Slingers. LG Sakers came in into the final game with an unbeaten record; the one team with such distinction. Singapore Slingers lost once and that was to the Korean team. I expected the final game to be finely balanced between the two teams, but in the first two quarters, the Singapore Slingers dominated the game. They scored at every scoring opportunity and even their three-pointers worked. By the half-way point, the Singapore Slingers lead by as much as the points that the LG Sakers scored at that point. In the third quarter, the Koreans came back much stronger and in the forth quarter, they were rallying to close the gap on the Singaporeans. Alas, the time was up and Singapore Slingers won the Championship game 86-75.

The Republic of Philippines sent two teams this year, but none of them qualified to the knock-out stages. It was pretty strange to see the stadium half-empty on the final day as most, if not all, of the Filipinos stayed away from the stadium.

On Sunday morning, a friend and I went to Delifrance at the Brunei International Airport for breakfast. Delifrance made a comeback after pulling the plug three years ago. It came back looking better and much closer to its Singaporean cousins. There were much more choices to choose from and the pastries looked fresher than what it used to be before. Perhaps it was new and training had to be done, but I was really impressed by the way one of the girls (she did not look local) was teaching the other staff on serving customers. My friend reckoned she worked in Swensen before, but I could not remember. Go and try the newer edition of Delifrance; you may want to come back again and I know I would!