Monday, May 12, 2014

Boycotting Brunei is the new in thing...

This was probably something that no one saw it coming earlier, but when Brunei went ahead with the implementation of the Syariah law earlier this month, we've been getting a lot of international coverage. And it started off with LBGT supporters calling for the boycotting of the Beverly Hills Hotel in LA. From there onwards, it pretty much snowballed to a bunch of rich and famous people jumping in the boycotting bandwagon of assets owned by the Brunei Investment Agency around the world, particularly hotels under the Dorchester Collection.

Source: Hollywood Reporter

Source: Pink News
Source: Fashion Times

Perhaps the video that surprised me the most was this video of Japanese protesters outside the Ambassador's Residence of Brunei in Tokyo, Japan. 

Having born and raised in Brunei, any form of protests in this country is considered very illegal. Mainly also due to the fact that we are still under a Martial Law since 1962. So to actually see people silent protesting outside an official Brunei premise, albeit it being in a foreign soil, is still pretty mind blowing in a way. 
In a way, all these protests and boycotting about this new law is pretty debatable. I can understand why the western world is outraged about this law because overseas, other countries are working together to give the LGBT community equal rights in society. And here we are, announcing that if you're gay, you'll be subject to punishment if you're caught doing any indecencies in this country. A law that specifically discriminates against the LGBT community just because it is part of their religion. The other point to why people overseas are protesting against this law is also due to the inhumane punishment that awaits if one if caught violating it. Amputations, flogging and the ultimate "jackpot" of being stoned to death awaits them. Hence, the whole subject of violating human rights and what not.
Why I say this is debatable is because, Brunei is neither the first nor the only country that implemented the Syariah law. We're probably the latest country to implement it which is why we're getting all the sudden attention. So, one can easily argue that it is rather biased that Brunei owned assets overseas are currently the only one being boycotted. Why aren't they boycotting assets owned by UAE or other countries that also has the Syariah law? 
Despite all the media attention we're getting internationally, back here in Brunei, people are "uniting" to ward off all the negative attention the country and our ruler is receiving. 
One of the many pro-Syariah posts circulating and shared among Bruneian on Facebook.
While some chose to express their thoughts and feelings through simple statements, others decide to go to the extreme of creating their own Facebook page calling Bruneians to unite and boycott the companies that are boycotting against them, which I think it's slightly amusing considering we're only a population of 400,000+ people. 
The "Boycott Branson's Virgin over his boycott of Sultan of Brunei" page. 
The Pro-Syarah Hudud Law page.
As much as I want to applaud our fellow Bruneians who are trying to show the world they're embracing this new law into their lives, unfortunately it seems like a lot of them have expressed themselves in a manner that contradicts what their peaceful religion teaches them. And it's a shame really. Arguments between the pro-Syariah law and the anti-Syariah law people escalating into personal attacks and threats against others.

Source: Boycott Brunei Page

It's only been 11 days into this new law and things are looking pretty chaotic in the online world while in reality, the talk of this new law among one another seems taboo. People discuss and voice their opinion quietly and discreetly. The latest sermon at the local mosques instructs Bruneians to "remain steadfast and united in the face of criticism" and emphasises that those who are anti-Syariah law are ignorant and not well informed about the law. While that is a rather good emphasis made, I personally think it's a little premature to start preaching on it because just days ago, the Sultan himself had to make a royal speech calling to end confusion on the Syariah law.

And it seems that's what the situation is still like. Confusion. A lot of people are still misinformed or confused about this new law. Some are saying the law is only applicable to Muslims only but in reality, it is actually applicable to non-Muslims too according to the Syariah Penal Code Order 2013.

From the Syariah Penal Code Order 2013. 
Those who have had a browse at this code would agree with me when I say that there is definitely a lot of work that still needs to be done in terms of clarifying the Syariah law. The English level used in this penal code is just wayyyy too deep for an ordinary person to understand. I'm not sure if it's because I'm not a qualified lawyer to understand the lingos/jargons used or my English is terrible or simply because the person who wrote up this penal code has terrible English. Here's an example.

Either way, I still think the media is definitely over-hyping this law for now considering we've only just recently implemented it. And people both locally and abroad are over-reacting because one side claims to be helping us from a human rights perspective, while the other side is refusing help. And all these dramas are unfolding when there's not even any cases yet. Perhaps the wisest move for all is to educate yourself from both perspectives. See as to why there are people who are against this law and why there are some who are for this law.

Think logically for yourself and decide for yourself.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Today you, tomorrow me.

Read something that I thought was totally worth sharing. Someone posted the question "Have you ever picked up a hitch-hiker?" on Reddit and this guy shared a profound experience he had.

By u/rhoner:
Just about every time I see someone I stop. I kind of got out of the habit in the last couple of years, moved to a big city and all that, my girlfriend wasn't too stoked on the practice. Then some shit happened to me that changed me and I am back to offering rides habitually. If you would indulge me, it is long story and has almost nothing to do with hitch hiking other than happening on a road.

This past year I have had 3 instances of car trouble. A blow out on a freeway, a bunch of blown fuses and an out of gas situation. All of them were while driving other people's cars which, for some reason, makes it worse on an emotional level. It makes it worse on a practical level as well, what with the fact that I carry things like a jack and extra fuses in my car, and know enough not to park, facing downhill, on a steep incline with less than a gallon of fuel.

Anyway, each of these times this shit happened I was DISGUSTED with how people would not bother to help me. I spent hours on the side of the freeway waiting, watching roadside assistance vehicles blow past me, for AAA to show. The 4 gas stations I asked for a gas can at told me that they couldn't loan them out "for my safety" but I could buy a really shitty 1-gallon one with no cap for $15. It was enough, each time, to make you say shit like "this country is going to hell in a handbasket."

But you know who came to my rescue all three times? Immigrants. Mexican immigrants. None of them spoke a lick of the language. But one of those dudes had a profound affect on me.

He was the guy that stopped to help me with a blow out with his whole family of 6 in tow. I was on the side of the road for close to 4 hours. Big jeep, blown rear tire, had a spare but no jack. I had signs in the windows of the car, big signs that said NEED A JACK and offered money. No dice. Right as I am about to give up and just hitch out there a van pulls over and dude bounds out. He sizes the situation up and calls for his youngest daughter who speaks english. He conveys through her that he has a jack but it is too small for the Jeep so we will need to brace it. He produces a saw from the van and cuts a log out of a downed tree on the side of the road. We rolled it over, put his jack on top, and bam, in business. I start taking the wheel off and, if you can believe it, I broke his tire iron. It was one of those collapsible ones and I wasn't careful and I snapped the head I needed clean off. Fuck.

No worries, he runs to the van, gives it to his wife and she is gone in a flash, down the road to buy a tire iron. She is back in 15 minutes, we finish the job with a little sweat and cussing (stupid log was starting to give), and I am a very happy man. We are both filthy and sweaty. The wife produces a large water jug for us to wash our hands in. I tried to put a 20 in the man's hand but he wouldn't take it so I instead gave it to his wife as quietly as I could. I thanked them up one side and down the other. I asked the little girl where they lived, thinking maybe I could send them a gift for being so awesome. She says they live in Mexico. They are here so mommy and daddy can pick peaches for the next few weeks. After that they are going to pick cherries then go back home. She asks if I have had lunch and when I told her no she gave me a tamale from their cooler, the best fucking tamale I have ever had.

So, to clarify, a family that is undoubtedly poorer than you, me, and just about everyone else on that stretch of road, working on a seasonal basis where time is money, took an hour or two out of their day to help some strange dude on the side of the road when people in tow trucks were just passing me by. Wow... But we aren't done yet. I thank them again and walk back to my car and open the foil on the tamale cause I am starving at this point and what do I find inside? My fucking $20 bill! I whirl around and run up to the van and the guy rolls his window down. He sees the $20 in my hand and just shaking his head no like he won't take it. All I can think to say is "Por Favor, Por Favor, Por Favor" with my hands out. Dude just smiles, shakes his head and, with what looked like great concentration, tried his hardest to speak to me in English:

"Today you.... tomorrow me."

Rolled up his window, drove away, his daughter waving to me in the rear view. I sat in my car eating the best fucking tamale of all time and I just cried. Like a little girl. It has been a rough year and nothing has broke my way. This was so out of left field I just couldn't deal.

In the 5 months since I have changed a couple of tires, given a few rides to gas stations and, once, went 50 miles out of my way to get a girl to an airport. I won't accept money. Every time I tell them the same thing when we are through:

"Today you.... tomorrow me."

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Wrong move, buddy!

It's been officially 4 months and 6 days of unemployment. Now this part of making my big move back to the motherland was definitely unexpected. And for each day that passes by, it is starting to get depressing. And truthfully, I am already running out of optimism and praise for my own country.

"Where did I go wrong?"

That's the burning question that constantly floats through my mind every night before I sleep. My last trip back to Brunei in June 2013, I was actually filled with excitement when I decided it was time to move back here. I've seen friends who once studied and worked in Australia / UK / NZ doing relatively well with their careers locally. People I talked to then, said convinced me that despite loving the lifestyle overseas, it's still easier to save up when you're back here. And that was what I was after. I needed to save money for my wedding. And I needed to do it fast.

"Don't worry, you're yellow IC right? Easy for you to find a job tu..."

This. I hate this quote more than ever. I fooled myself into believing that getting a job would be as easy as finding a bubble tea store in this country. But the whole "yellow-IC-can-get-you-a-job-anywhere-in-Brunei" is a mentality that's definitely stuck in the 90's just like everything else in this country. Yes, there were plenty of opportunities back then as the country was booming. But not anymore. And then ironically, only a few weeks after moving back to Brunei, I found out that I was just a number. I'm one out of the 18,000 unemployed locals. But wait, didn't I just read a few months ago, my country was bombarding runaway scholars about not returning to contribute to the country's development?

Full article:

Well, fuck me. And there I was, thinking to myself that I was doing my country a favour. A self-funded degree scholar returning back to his motherland to "contribute back to the nation's development." If they had publish the report about 18,000 locals being unemployed BEFORE the whole runaway scholars shenanigans, I would've had a different game plan.

In all truthfulness, the earlier part of my move back here was filled with pride - both good pride and bad pride I'd say. We're told to be proud of who we are and where we come from. Overseas, I was telling friends about how good life is back in Brunei. I was proud being a Bruneian especially after being away from home for almost 5 years, you certainly do miss the little things about this country. Plus, I was proud to show off what Brunei has to offer to Calla hence, the excitement for starting another adventure with her here. And then there was a different pride where I put on my "Fuck yeah, I'm a yellow IC kali-ah, welcome me with open arms Brunei and give me a job" hat. 4 months later, that clearly didn't turn out well. Over the course, I've sent out about 20 - 30 CVs (including job fairs) and has been interviewed four times so far with 1 rejection. The results of other four interviews are still pending but presumably unsuccessful. And tomorrow, I've got another interview lined up which makes it my third interview with the same company. Yes, the same Human Resource coordinator will be seeing my face for the third time tomorrow.

"Are there really no jobs available in Brunei?"

Having collected 4 months' worth of Weekend Borneo Bulletin and Brunei Times, there will always be a job listing every weekend. So I wouldn't say that there are no jobs available out there. Except that I wouldn't know what's required of me as a Quality Welding Supervisor or a Total Productive Maintenance Coordinator. In some way, I am being a little picky with what my career choice but only to a certain level. If I think I can handle what's listed on the job description, then I will apply for the role. I've been down that road where I've worked in an industry that I have no knowledge of and it really sucks. It gets really really depressing coming back home after a full day's work and not knowing what exactly you have accomplished. Which is why I absolutely hate it when people tell me;

"Just apply for whatever's out there, who knows you might get the job? If you don't like it, quit lah and look for another one."

Having spent almost three years working in an irrelevant industry has taught me that yes, you can bullshit your way every month to getting your pay check. But I believe people with work ethics and conscience would know themselves whether or not that monthly pay check is really their reward for their month long of hard work. I've tried hard for the first two years to learn what I could but by the third year, I admit defeat. So I resigned. I can't stand being depressed each time I wake up to go to work. I feel guilty getting my pay check every month knowing I didn't perform to my capabilities. I knew I could do better but I didn't know how - which made me extremely frustrated because there was clearly a lack of progress both in my personal and career life. I felt I had ultimately betrayed my employer who has looked after me. But if it is for a legitimate reason, your employer will be more than happy to let you go - especially if it's for a brighter future. Which is why I decided to leave in 2009 to pursue a degree. I left my part time job at Rockport in 2011 to pursue a full time career. And I left Madant and New Zealand in 2012 because I thought moving back to Brunei was the right move for a brighter future.

Wrong move, buddy. 

Friday, January 03, 2014

Hello 2014!

Managed to slip in a last minute trip to the border for a quiet celebration with Calla and a few friends to welcome the new year.

As I reflect back on 2013, I feel it's been a rather quiet year for me. My highlight of the year would definitely be my proposal to Calla back in June. And then taking a trip to Bali as a best man for my friend's wedding. Besides those two events, I feel like the first 3/4 of my 2013 are filled with memories of  me being busy with work. And then the remaining 1/4 of my 2013 is of me being a major bum.

I sure hope 2014 will be a more exciting year.  

Thursday, November 21, 2013

10+ years of CD/DVD collection down the drain!

As far as I can remember, I started collecting CDs at a very young age. I remember one of my first CD purchase was Michael Jackson's HIStory. I also remember dragging my mom over to a CD store in KK and pleading with her to buy that CD like it was a matter of life and death. She would always bring that story up whenever she sees all the CDs I have collected since.

As I grew older, it has become a habit of mine to shop for CDs whenever I travel overseas. If I feel like I've got nothing to buy, I can walk into a nearby HMV or Tower Records (RIP) store and walk out with a few CDs. And that would give me a great sense of satisfaction. That would be my shopping fix. Things eventually got worst when I caught the K-Pop fever. For those who are familiar with the Korean music culture, it's all about collecting and supporting your favourite artist's work. The more items you have, the more "hardcore" of a fan you are. And of course, when you have "hardcore" fans like that, you get artists who release different type of album 'editions'. Most of the time, there would be added tracks on a later edition, otherwise it would be an album with the exact same tracks BUT with a different album cover. And guess who's a big sucker to fall for these collection?


1/4 of my K-Pop collection taken last year. 

My H.O.T. collection.  

My Kangta album collection. 
These are only 1/5 of my CD collections. Besides Korean music, I also ended up purchasing a lot of Christian music from different churches and also mainstream music. All in all, I think I've spent a few thousand dollars on my collection. Mind you, there were a few 'rare' collection as well which I spent a little extra money retrieving them. Plus, I also have this pet peeve of making sure that I have ALL the albums of an artist. For example, I discovered a song by Guy Sebastian. I like that song. I go out and buy the album which has that song. The next time I travel overseas, I go and buy other Guy Sebastian albums until I've got all the albums. I know, fuck me right?

It's only when I moved to New Zealand, I decided to stop that habit of mine. Mainly cause I was no longer working so I shouldn't be spending my money un-necessarily but at the same time, I knew it would be a hassle for me to bring them back home. But I still occasionally buy an album or two when it's from one of my favourite artist. Then a few months ago, I got a Whatsapp text from my sister saying the storage room back home is leaking. And then she sent me a series of pictures of my biggest fear.

Most of it destroyed. Not only the room was flooded but there were termites infestation. And it was only that day I learned that termites enjoy CD/DVDs as well. Initially, I thought it was just a few CDs that needed a bit of blowing and wiping off so I just brushed it off until I moved back. And then after going through the boxes containing all my collection, my heart just sank seeing all the CDS with empty sleeves / cases.

Current state of my collection. :(

Some with sleeves, some with no cases,  some with missing CDS. I can't even. No...

However, not all were completely destroyed...
So here I've got about three boxes of CD / DVDs looking at me and knowing that they are no longer complete just makes me so irritated and annoyed. I once had this dream of having a designated room filled with CDs and DVDs. Sort of like my media / chillout room. There's just something about holding a piece of CD in your hand, opening it up and carefully putting the disc into a player and then going through the sleeve while the song is playing. Which is why I feel weird whenever I pay for online downloads and not getting anything physical to hold on to in return.

I have yet to decide what I want to do with them but I am most probably planning to start selling them. Yes, all of them. My K-Pop collection, Christian music collection, Chinese music collection and everything else.

Then again, I'm not too sure if there are any value for albums like Paris Hilton or Hilary Duff's Metamorphosis.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Sharia law in Brunei - good news or bad?

Brunei is making headlines around the world again. And no, this time it's not about another grand royal wedding. Yesterday, the Sultan of Brunei officially approves the introduction of Sharia law in the country. This is definitely creating a buzz within the people country and also for the foreign media around the world. Not surprisingly, coverage from the overseas media is focusing its report more on the angle about us being possibly stoned to death or amputated.

Personally, I think the introduction of Sharia law into the country is unavoidable. Firstly, Brunei thrives itself on being known as an Islamic country. Plus, the Sultan himself is a devout Muslim so it is not a huge surprise that the Sharia law will eventually be introduced and passed in the Sultanate. And having read the recent inaugural lecture transcript by the State Mufti also gave a logical explanation why such law has to be implemented in the country. One of the point, which is also the main theme of the lecture, was that the Sharia law ensures justice and security for everyone. With the introduction of the Sharia law, it aims to put fear in those who plan to commit crimes by reminding them that the consequences of it is painful death. Many would agree that such method is barbaric and inhumane. And it is. But because it is that barbaric and inhumane, it forces a person to think twice before they commit the crime.

An illustration on 'death by stoning' as practiced in Iran. Credits to:Amnesty UK
Public caning is also one of the Hudud punishment under the Sharia law. 
The media over the years have portrayed the Sharia law and the Islam religion in a negative form especially since post-9/11. And of course when people outside of Brunei hear that the country is introducing Sharia laws, they start stereotyping us as one of those "terrorist country". And thus, it makes the country looks like it's going backwards. But what's the point of being an Islamic country if there are no Islamic laws? Brunei has been a peaceful Islamic country since the 16th century so I don't think there will be much changes once the Sharia law takes place. If any, we may possibly see a decline in crimes and rape/theft cases? There is still six months to go before the Sharia penal code and justice system goes live, I hope that the country's citizens and residents will be properly informed on what the law consists of and the severity of the crimes committed - especially for those who are not familiar with the teachings of Islam. From a non-biased point of view, I am hoping that out of this whole spotlight we're in at the moment, Brunei can show the world the beauty of Islam and hopefully be an ambassador among other Islamic countries.

So with the Sharia law now six months away, is it good news or bad? I say it's neither. Brunei has been an Islamic country and will still be one for centuries to come, so either way the Sharia law will still be implemented eventually as that is part of the religion's teaching. Does that mean it's not safe to visit the country because the Sharia law makes it so much "stricter"? I'd say it's probably safer for you to come visit us than for us to visit your country. The State Mufti also highlighted a good point saying only those who have plans to commit a crime will fear the law. So why dwell so much on figuring out what's going to happen once the Sharia law takes effect when instead, I think we should all focus more on how to improve the country's infrastructure. For starter, the terrible internet connection! E-speed still sucks big time and we're living in 2013!

I say stone the country's internet!

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Back in the motherland!

Calla and I have officially been back in Brunei for a little over two weeks now. Being away for almost five years have definitely made me forgot how hot and humid living on the equator is. I sure do miss the cool fresh breeze of New Zealand!

For the past two weeks, we've mostly been doing a lot of eating and catching up with friends. I on the other hand have been looking around for job opportunities which is proving to be a bit more difficult than I expect despite being told that it will be easy cause I'm a local. So far, I've only found two Communication-related positions while the rest are more of a engineering / skill specific role but like everyone here has been telling me..."Apply saja!" (Just apply!)

It's been quite an adventure so far moving back to this little kingdom of unexpected treasures. We did get a few raised eyebrows from friends when we told them we've moved back here while other responses have been welcoming. Both Calla & I have had our fun living in New Zealand for the last few years so we both felt it's time to start another chapter. A chapter for her to get to know my culture and family a little more better I'd say. For now, it's more job hunting for me and re-figuring out how to get the best out of Brunei's working system.

So here's to a (hopefully) more updated blog once again!

Trying out our first Crossfit class. 

Friday, May 31, 2013

I'm officially off the market!

After 3 years and 10 months, I finally 'popped the question' to the girl of my dreams.

And everything was perfect. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

One year later

Today officially marks my one year of working at Madant Productions. And boy, oh boy, has it been a whirlwind of endless work. It has been a challenging one year experience for me especially coming fresh out of uni and having only so much knowledge of what this industry is like. And within this one year, I did learn a lot on what the media and event industry is like here in New Zealand.

Truthfully though, I've been feeling exhausted. Like really exhausted. I'm not sure if it's due to the nature of this industry that I'm in or if it's because I feel like the company I'm working in is extremely  under resourced. While it was fun for me to try out different roles within this company, it does get overwhelming when some days, I feel like I have to juggle a million things at once. And me being me, I'm the type that needs to finish a task given to me before the day ends otherwise, my mind will continue to work on it even while I try to sleep. It's nights like these I'm glad that I have my bottle of precious melatonin to force me to sleep.

I'm not gonna lie that work is also starting to affect my personal life. On weekends, I get a little anxious whenever my email notification goes off. And on weeks when we have projects due, I get work related phone calls. On average, I leave work between 6pm or 7pm which doesn't sound like much but if you compile those hours in a week, I'd say I'm clocking in an additional of 10 - 15 extra hours each week? And no, I don't get overtime pay or time in lieu unless it's on a non working day. Sure, I might get the 'valuable' experience being exposed to various aspect of work but in reality, it's not really paying off my bills. I'm still getting the same pay check every fortnightly. I find myself coming home after work each day mentally drained and feeling pretty depressed. I even spent more hours being at work than celebrating my 26th birthday.

Calla say I might be having a burnout. Maybe I am. I mean it has been a full year for me without any breaks (besides Christmas). I wake up each day thinking about my finances, wondering if my family back home are doing okay, worrying about what my future holds, unsure of what my career path is. I question myself daily if it was worth spending a chunk of my family finances getting this degree only to get this far, though I keep reminding myself that it has just only been a year so far too.

I definitely feel like I've lost that spark for life that I once had. Is this what it's like to be a working man? Or do I need to 'man up' as some would say? Is this all part of growing up?

Or maybe, I need a new change. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013


I get delighted whenever my friends make comments about still reading my blog. Especially friends whom I've grown up with and haven't seen for a long long time. It's days like today that makes me feel slightly overwhelmed with how far we've gone through life. Friends whom I grew up with, went to school with are now either engaged, married and some being first time parents. I wish you well, my friends!