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Rediscover Brunei Darussalam through the eyes of the People

Tuesday, 04 July 2017 12:18

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Tell us about yourselves.
Ying: I like stories, art, and food. Not necessarily in that order all the time haha! Australia and Switzerland were amazing countries to experience living in. I majored in Creative Arts and English, and my last office job was as a business journalist for a now defunct local paper. I love traveling and nature, and I take advocacy for the environment and the oceans very seriously! I skate, surf when there are waves, and love to freedive. Stephen King is the King (ha ha) of horror.

Huwaida: I enjoy listening to and telling stories. I gravitate towards history, human stories, the wild world of physics and quantum physics, and a whole more.  My career has been varied; I’ve hopped industries, roles and countries. I believe everything can be learned, we just have to find the right teacher.

When did your interest in writing began? Who are your role models?
Ying: I'm told I started composing stories while I was still in primary school. I've always loved writing as a form of communication, especially poetry, which I attribute to a very healthy reading habit and an excellent A Levels English Literature class (Thanks Ms. Payne!) Most of my heroes in writing when I was younger were classic English poets and American writers like Wordsworth, Marvel, John Updike; authors I was able to study in depth. These days I'm partial to authors writing from a unique perspective so it's usually stories about unusual experiences (fictional or otherwise).

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Huwaida: I’ve always loved reading. Growing up I held close the typical dream of all bookworms under moon – either work as a librarian or in a book store. In terms of writing, I journal everyday. I’ve used that as a way to make things happen for me – like put dreams into words, clarify what I want or feel, and even personal projects like understanding how to forgive, better my relationship with loved ones, deliberate over my place in the world. I’ve kept my journals over the years. I go through at least six of them annually. I don't have role models per se. There are a lot of great writers out there. I believe that there are many ways to tell a story. It's essence that's the most important, to get the essence of the story out there.

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Tell us about Heartwrite.
We're an independent communications company, with a fledgling publishing arm called Heartwrite Publishing. We write for people, we tell their stories, and help them to convey ideas in the most accurately meaningful way that we can with words.

Tell us about the first publication.
It’s a kid’s book, in appearance. We wanted to come up with a story that is set in Brunei, so that when you open it and see the artwork, you can place it at this part of the world. The story itself is more universal and speaks to the inner child in every person. A young Bruneian girl, Nina, is visiting Tasek Merimbun with her grandfather. She is curious about the world around her, asking what’s big and bigger and biggest. The grandfather, Kong Kong, is kind and patient when answering the kid’s questions. In the end though, she has an idea that just blows his mind – as kids do! This was a really fun project, a labour of love which literally took us nine months from start to finish! You should know it is in French.

What do you think of the writing and reading culture in Brunei?
Ying: It's an interesting time for writers in Brunei. It feels like the creative arts scene has really blossomed in the last couple of years, and for writers it's a really exciting time as it's becoming more recognised as a skill and an art in Brunei. Creative or copywriting still has a way to go. People still aren't willing to value writing as a legitimate profession - yet. Key word at the end there! The culture of reading has always been around but it was always regarded as a 'nerdy' thing to do or something to pass the time. I feel like readers are a little more invested now though in owning their passion for books- we have all kinds of book clubs, independent sellers curating great collections, and discussion groups dedicated to readers and writers, like a feminist book club and regular events organised by B:read which is a local organisation focused on improving the reading culture in Brunei. We do monthly Writer's Jams where anyone can come and learn about new genres of writing, or just get feedback on their work. There's also Spoken Word which we co-run with Bruhaha and it happens every fortnight.

Huwaida: Lots of writers are writing in secret and sporadically. We've met a few good ones through the jams and people who just get in touch with us. It's a time of change, for sure. Writing can be a courageous act, and we've been seeing more people stepping up. It's gorgeous.

What would you like more done locally?
More poetry, please! and more analytical or critical work. It's a overlooked skill in the creative writers eye, I feel.

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Any future plans for Heartwrite you'll like to share?
Recently we launched Bookish Charms, a collaboration with Enya Bijoux. It's a for-charity jewelry line inspired by stories. The first collection was based on Malay Folk tales. Proceeds from the sale goes to two local charities. We aim to continue this project, to bring together writers, artists and crafters to create something that others can enjoy for its own sake, and do good at the same time. A lot of what we do revolves around telling stories. It is one of the first ways that people relate to and connect with each other. Ying is passionate about the ocean and I'm a practicing tree hugger. We're not experts but sustainability, green living, etc, are something that we want to get into more. And we want to share that learning with others.

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Any advice for young writers out there?
Trust, and don't be afraid to reach out - to other writers, for critiques, advice, exchanging ideas, challenges. And know that the first draft is like a friend - open to conversation, great at listening, and won't judge you if you need to make a few improvements here and there.  

Keep a notebook and pen handy always! You never know when inspiration will strike so make sure you have somewhere to keep all those ideas / thoughts, and develop on them later.

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everyone

Sunday, 25 June 2017 15:31
Saturday, 17 June 2017 15:38

What's up, Readers! In this post, I would like to highlight music from the artist known as Qwamii. I have been following Qwamii's music for years now, and good music should be shared! Check out some of his remixes below, and more of his clips on his YouTube channel here.

Big love!

Friday, 09 June 2017 11:43

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Editor's Note: In this feature, we get to know Eazy. If he looks familiar, chances are that you have seen his picture or read a sports article in the local newspapers about him. In this candid interview, Eazy shares about the fine art and craft of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), highlights from his journey so far, his thoughts about the BJJ scene in Brunei, and some advice for those considering trying BJJ for themselves.

For more information about the Busiido MMA Fitness and Martial Arts Gym, check out their FB page here.

Tell us about yourself.
My given name is Ahmed Faez Anuar, and people know me by 'Eazy' (named by my father). I'm 31 years old and I'm a Leo! My wife and I share one of god's best gifts, our two year old son Zacky (evidently means the world to us). I'm going to drop a cliché line here, but I do love to travel and explore. My wife and I have been traveling together to numerous places, learning the people, culture, architecture, culinary spread and we don't plan to slow down.

I've always enjoyed outdoor activities and an active lifestyle. From being in the rugby national squad (had the honor to captain for several years), to boxing, to wreck diving (I'm a certified PADI rescue diver), to mountain biking to trail running to mention a fraction. I basically like to occupy my time with fun activities. You really do only live once. Go for it while you still have health and the budget.

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I also like to advocate healthy living. I'm a big fan of it and I know first hand the benefits of it. I am my own success story. I was once 121kgs (heaviest), smoked and barely did any exercise. I remember climbing up the first flight of stairs up Tasek Lama and sat out of breath for 2 hours, I had to be escorted down. nowadays, I run up and down Tasek Lama for two hours. I made a life changing decision in 2005 after a medical check up. I was obese followed by all the worrying results, sugar level, cholesterol, blood pressure...the whole works. Almost instantly, overnight I swore to myself I would change my way of living.

Now I don't eat any fast food, junk food, and i don't drink any carbonated drinks. I avoid anything processed and any cooking with MSG. I'm a vegetarian. I haven't eaten any meat nor chicken since 2014. However I do succumb to salmon and some fishes sometimes. I guess I'm a pescetarian then. People always ask me "so what do you eat / apatah ko makna tu?". Well there are a gazillion delicious dishes you can whip up. My wife and I love to explore with different (vegetarian) recipes in our kitchen. She is an amazing cook and if I may add by keeping me sane and happy by virtue of my tummy. But I do enjoy preparing food with her as this is one of the ways we spend time.

I now manage Busiido MMA fitness and martial arts gym. I also co-coach the Brazilian jiu jitsu / BJJ program, boxing and also the MMA program. I feel like it is a good platform for me to advocate a healthy lifestyle, a healthier living, clean eating and the disciplines through the gym. I'd like to inspire people and take them out of the notion that it is never too late to take the plunge and it isn't hard to do the transition when you do it the right way.

Share with us what is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
From Wikipedia: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a martial art, combat sport system that focuses on grappling and especially ground fighting. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was formed from Kodokan judo ground fighting (newaza) fundamentals that were taught by a number of individuals including Takeo Yano, Mitsuyo Maeda and Soshihiro Satake. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu eventually came to be its own art through the experiments, practices, and adaptation of judo through Carlos and Helio Gracie (who passed their knowledge on to their extended family) as well as other instructors who were students of Maeda, such as Luiz Franca.

BJJ promotes the concept that a smaller, weaker person can successfully defend against a bigger, stronger, heavier assailant by using proper technique, leverage, and most notably, taking the fight to the ground, and then applying joint-locks and choke holds to defeat the opponent. BJJ training can be used for sport grappling tournaments and in self-defense situations. Sparring (commonly referred to as rolling) and live drilling play a major role in training, and a premium is placed on performance, especially in competition, in relation to progress and ascension through its ranking system.

Since its inception in 1882, its parent art of judo was separated from older systems of Japanese jujutsu by an important difference that was passed on to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu: it is not solely a martial art, but it is also a sport; a method for promoting physical fitness and building character in young people; and, ultimately, a way (Do) of life.

When did your interest for BJJ began and how did you develop your interest?
I love rugby, hands-down. It will be in my blood forever. Being an extreme contact sport, the physicality aspect was part and parcel. So I was accustomed to the grappling, wrestling, tugging and pulling with another human being. In 2009, a friend took me to RBA complex to try out BJJ as part of our rugby off season training. We also boxed for pre-season training, but BJJ bit me and I was poisoned instantly. I guess you can say I have never remedied from it. At the time, there was a CFBT teacher from NZ who was a blue belt conducting classes at RBA complex. It was an intimate group, maybe 3-4 attendees at a time. Oh! did I mention? My wife was one of the attendees/students at the time. YES! she started BJJ before me. I never turned my back from BJJ ever since, hence why I'm here today, living the way I am with my accolades.

#bjj4life #jiujitsusavedmylife #bjjmelayu

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Is there a mentor you look up to?
There is no particular mentor that I look up to. Every person shares a different technique. I appreciate every single person that I have shared the mat with and trained with. Everybody teaches you something new and everybody contributes to the evolution of you game (BJJskills). From the elusive red belts to the white belt warm up partner, everybody plays a part. My success is all due to them, I'm just the delivery man.

I've trained all the way to Brazil (the motherland) to a small and young gym in Pekan Tutong, everybody contributes to 'your' BJJ and shares something new. One thing in common though, everyone gives out positive vibes, it's just the jiujitsu lifestyle. #oss

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Share about some of the competitions you've joined. Which was your fondest memory?
I started competing since 2011 (coming from rugby nationals, I've always loved the competition spirit). Frankly I don't remember the number of tournaments that I have joined, when and where, sorry. There are just too many.

My fondest would have to be my most recent one, Copa De Bangkok 2017, held in Bangkok Thailand just last week (21/4/2017) in which I won double gold. In the BJJ scene, double gold is a sought-after title, which means you won both the individual weight class and the open weight class, a.k.a the absolute division (the most difficult division). It wasn't my first time winning double gold but this time round, I had a lot of trials and tribulations in my personal life, some serious issues where it's better left unsaid. On top of that, my dad had to undergo neuro surgery 2 days before tournament day after battling complications. It was an emotional roller coaster for me, and you know what kept me sane and what kept my family together? It was jiujitsu and faith in God.

So when my hand was raised after winning the absolute division finals, I could help but break down. I don't know how to describe it, but it was as if I came full circle. I am pretty sure this fond memory will stay on for a while.

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Tell us about Busiido BJJ.
We started busiido BJJ in 2011, when David (the Kiwi blubelt) decided that he couldn't make time to teach anymore. I couldn't bare the thought of not training, so I stepped up to the occasion and initiated to lead the training group. I was still a white belt at the time. I met Alwee who had also just started his muaythai / karate dojo at BT complex, next to times square Berakas. I offered to conduct sessions there. Almost 10 years down the line, after two gym relocations, we've transformed from four students a class to 20 plus students per class. Two classes a week to six classes a week excluding open mat sessions. We also have kid's programs now. We have also got affiliate gyms in both Tutong and Seria. Our international success in competitions abroad also continue to soar. Why are we headed on the right path to success (with God's will), again because everybody plays a role in the club's success and growth. Not only in the sport / martial art, but it's welfare, marketing, image, merchandise. All that are taken care of by the very people who train. So I there is passion and love that has been invested in it.

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What's the current BJJ scene in Brunei?
Growing and continuing to grow. We just haven't penetrated Temburong yet. We just need more recognition and more exposure. Not many people understand what BJJ is about and the lay person probably won't understand the whole concept of it. Now our athletes are growing and our investment in the kid's program would surely see a brighter future in the sport. They will also be really good by the time they hit 16 to 18 years of age.

BJJ is slowly being indicted into various contingent based games in Asia. Such as the Asian beach games. This is something we MAY look into in the future as it involves being part of the Brunei contingent. We'll see, let time and beneficial opportunity tell its tale.

Any advice for those who are keen on trying out BJJ?
Get rid of the mindset of 'let me get fit first before I try', 'let me lose weight first before I join', 'I don't want to burn out my cardio in warm ups' and so forth. Fact of the matter is, you will only lose that weight, get fitter ONLY once u join. What are you waiting for? Gassing out in class and in warm ups is inevitable. I can tell u now, even the blue and purple belts still 'gas-out' in class.

Be open to learning the grappling art, be advised that it is a contact sport. If you're not comfortable with other training partners, bring a friend or family member and you both can benefit from it. Allow jiu jitsu to touch you and change your life.

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everyone

Friday, 02 June 2017 10:30

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Editor's Note: In this feature, we chat with Eileen Lee from Butter 'N' Eggs (BnE). She shares about the origins of BnE, pastry chefs who inspire her, popular BnE desserts, but perhaps most important, the importance of a strong work ethic. To follow the BnE journey, check out their IG page here.

Tell us about yourself.
I have always loved art and design since I was young, which is why I initially pursued Graphic Designing and Motion Graphics at University. After 4 years in the field as a Graphic and Motion Graphics designer, I decided to leave my job to further my passion in baking by enrolling in a Diplôme de Pâtisserie course at Le cordon Bleu in London.

I am quite an active person in general and enjoy being outdoors and playing sports, especially basketball. Nowadays if I'm not out with friends, I'm either working out or baking up a storm in the kitchen. Baking has always been my passion since I was a little girl and I'm grateful that it has become a dream job that I love waking up to every day.

When did you pick up the interest for baking?
I started baking around the age of 10. I remember watching one of my cousins bake for the family and I loved lending her a hand in any way possible. I tried to learn a few things here and there but never got to bake from start to finish by myself until later on.

What was the first thing you baked?
I can't exactly remember what the first thing I baked was, but I do remember one of the first cakes I baked was the Japanese cotton cheesecake. As a stubborn perfectionist, I felt like I needed to get it spot on. Back then, I had no technical baking knowledge, so I didn't know why my cakes turned out too soggy, too soft, too dry, etc. Getting the right texture and flavour for one cake took me months! Trial after trial, tweaking the same recipe multiple times, I think my family got sick of eating the same cake almost every day. It was super fun though and I remember enjoying the whole process of it. That was when I found baking quite therapeutic and baked whenever I could when I didn't have any homework from school.

How did you develop your skills after that?
A lot of it was self-taught at first. Reading books, online articles and lots of recipes. Sometimes it was just learning from trial and error. It was only after two years of starting Butter 'N' Eggs that I felt the need to expand my knowledge and skills to be properly certified as a pastry chef. I guess being in the design field helped as well and influenced the way in which I decorate and design my cakes and desserts. I believe not only do cakes and desserts need to taste good, they also need to be appealing to the eye. That is what captures a customer's attention at first glance.

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Who are the pastry chefs you look up to, and why?
There are too many to name! Many pastry chefs and bakers all around the world inspire me in many ways. There's no specific one because each one of them have their own special skill sets that I admire. For example, you have world class famous chefs like Frank Haasnoot, Cedric Grolet, Antonio Bachour, Polly Kosheleva, François Brunet who are really great at making different kinds of chocolates and pastries on a professional level.

Then you have popular online home bakers like Katherine Sabbath, Linda Lomelino, Izzy Hossack who bakes beautiful home desserts that caters to other fellow home bakers who are trying their hand at something delicious yet simple and homey. Thanks to social media, especially Instagram, I have been able to conveniently browse through all their creations for constant inspiration. Looking at the quality of their creations pushes me to be better and makes me work even harder to achieve the same level of perfection.

One chef that I particularly looked up to during my time in London was Chef Masayuki Hara. I had the privilege of working closely with him when I interned at his patisserie in London called Lanka. It is a dainty little patisserie with Japanese-French fusion pastries and aromatic hand-picked Sri Lankan tea by the chef himself. I look up to him because of how passionate he is with everything he creates. He pays particular attention to details and he's taught me a lot in the short months that I have helped out in his kitchen. A very humble and skillful chef, strict but friendly and a great mentor. There was something he said one day that has stuck to me till this day and it was, "You have to love people to love what you do. When you start loving people, you will love the things you make because you want to make them happy and feed them with delicious food." It all makes sense, and I agree. The biggest sense of satisfaction in this line of job for me, is seeing how my desserts make people happy. The smile and positive reaction when they take their first bite makes it all worth it.

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Tell us about Butter 'N' Eggs.
Butter 'N' Eggs started in the late 2012, when I still had my day job as a Motion Graphics Designer and baking was just a side hobby. How it started was when one of my closest friend came up with the idea of teaming up with me baking and her doing a lot of the PR for Butter 'n' Eggs. At that time, I was really worried because I never thought my cakes were good enough for sale and at the same time I had to put more focus on my day job. She eventually won me over with her idea and so we decided to start the business through Instagram. I was not confident and worried about the response we would receive but after some thought, I asked myself why not? We've got nothing to lose, and if all fails, we will just close our account and that will be that. Who knew Butter 'N' Eggs would continue to  grow till this day.

We named ourselves Butter 'N' Eggs because my friend loves her butter and I love my eggs, why not put two really important baking ingredients together right? Business was slow at first as Instagram users were not as active as they are with the app now. However we were at an advantage as there was not a lot of Instagram shops/ home bakers around when we first started. So slowly, the two of us built BnE and business started picking up after a few months. I had to juggle between being a full-time designer by day and part time baker by night. Something like batman except I'm no billionaire and I was constantly exhausted. I'm really thankful for my awesome ex bosses who were so kind and lenient with me at that time. And also to my partner for helping out with the orders while I was away at my day job.

After, I think, half a year? My partner decided that it was time for her to move on from Butter 'N' Eggs. It was a really sad moment but we both knew and came to a mutual agreement that she should do what was best for herself. I however, decided to continue with the business because I thought it was a shame to just throw all our hard work away as business was slowly picking up. It was also because I enjoyed it so much that I couldn't give it up.

So it has been a one lady show for almost 4 years now. There have been many days where I hardly get any sleep and am on my feet in the kitchen for more than 24 hours to fulfill orders, but this came with the job description so I've well prepared for that.

I can say I've been blessed with very supportive family and friends who've stuck around and helped me through difficult times. I'm very thankful for each and every one of them, especially my friend and ex-partner, who has pushed me to start something from a side hobby to a full-time job. If it wasn't for her, BnE wouldn't have existed and I would probably still be a full-time designer.

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What's the most popular dessert that is sought after by people?
So far, the most popular dessert has been the Salted Egg Eclair that I've created. There was a salted egg craze at one point, so I went into a little 'research & development' mode and started experimenting with flavours. I am extremely happy with the positive response that came with it.

As for cakes, I would say the hype now is the watermelon cake. The original recipe was from Black Star Pastry in Sydney and my version is slightly different from it. The hype for the cake caught on soon after I posted that it was for sale and I guess it's a crowd winner because of how light and refreshing the cake is. The combination of flavours, with the rose cream, watermelon and strawberries work wonderfully together. I'm sure mine is nowhere near as light as the original cake, but hopefully my version of it will suffice.

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Any future plans you'd like to share?
Mm..nothing much for now. I've just sent out job applications overseas to work in hotels as a pastry chef. Not sure where I'll end up going yet, but hopefully somewhere I can create wonderful desserts and learn from the best chefs around the world. Maybe I will open a little patisserie of my own one day.

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Any advise for aspiring pastry chefs like yourself for those who are starting out?
Love what you do and do it well. You've got to have passion and the right mentality to work in a kitchen as it's so fast paced with long hours.
Never give up no matter how tiring, how grueling the hours are in the kitchen. Always be humble, always strive to be better and never stop learning. At the end of a long day, when you step back and look at all the beautiful desserts you've created, there's no words to describe the immense sense of satisfaction and happiness you get from it.

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everyone

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About the Editor

new about me profI am a born and bred Bruneian who lived and worked in Australia for over 10 years. I am now based in Brunei. Having spent time away from Brunei, I have learnt that, to know a country is to know the people. To truly appreciate a new place is to see it through their eyes, to listen to their stories, to taste, smell, do and feel as they do.

Everyone has a Story, and this blog - Projek Brunei, features the stories, music, photography and art of locals and of people who have lived or worked in Brunei before. Join me on this project, a project to discover and rediscover this country they call the Abode of Peace, the Heart of Borneo, this place they call the Kingdom of Unexpected Treasures...through the stories of the People.

You may know me by my online moniker, @BruneiTweet. I created BruneiTweet in 2009, and currently (October 2016), I have over 30,000 followers. I am passionate about community, and use social media to connect with people - both on and offline.

I have an MBA, a keen interest in business-development and marketing, and I am a three-time TEDx speaker. I believe in the power of social media and collaboration. I have worked alongside corporate organisations on various community projects. Some highlights from my journey to date: In 2011, I co-organised Twestival Brunei to raise awareness and funds for Brunei’s Child Development Centre. That year I also organised Convergence, Brunei’s first youth led leadership forum. In 2012, I co-organised Movember to raise awareness on men's health issues. In 2013, I participated at various forums including Brunei's National Environment Conference and the ASEAN Social Media Exchange in Thailand. In 2014, I was selected to represent Brunei at the Australia-ASEAN Emerging Leaders Programme. In 2015, I was involved as a panel moderator in an International Women's Day event, and was invited to speak at the Green Leaders Eco-Camp in Brunei about using social media with purpose.
 
But enough about me.

If you have something interesting to share with the rest of the world about Brunei or are interested in being featured on ProjekBrunei, reach me here or email me at bruneitweet@gmail.com.

I would love to hear your side of the story.

You, You and You

Something interesting to share with the rest of the world about Brunei? Interested in being featured on ProjekBrunei.com? Reach me here.