Rediscover Brunei Darussalam through the eyes of the People
Greetings folks. I have just come back from a few days in Kuala Lumpur; first time spending CNY with the in-laws. We had a great time. Over the weekend, my timelines have looked like this: fireworks, yee sang, lion dancing, ang pows and a whooole lot of red. Love this time of the year!
In KL, we spent the first two days visiting a number of older loved ones, including an aunty in a nursing home. It was rather sombre, but timely.
As my wise father-in-law put it, it is important to remind ourselves about the brevity of life, to stay humble and to remain compassionate.
Happy Chinese New Year folks!
I attended the Curtin Sarawak Australia Day celebration in Miri on Saturday 25 January 2014. Staff of the university and their families, students and members of the community gathered over a sausage sizzle barbecue event held on campus. The event kicked off with speeches from Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Dr George Chan, Chairman of the Curtin Sarawak Council, Karen Welsh from the Australian High Commission in Kuala Lumpur and Curtin Sarawak’s Pro Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jim Mienczakowksi. They shared what Australia Day meant to them, highlighted the dynamic relationship between Malaysia and Australia, and alluded to the importance of the Australian "give it a good go" outlook on life. Following the speeches, Australian eucalyptus and gum tree seedlings were planted to mark the occasion.
The food was great, a good old fashioned lucky draw and also an extensive playlist by Australian artists playing in the background - the likes of John Farham, INXS, Met at Work, Peter Allen, and I believe even a few tunes by Slim Dusty.
Australia Day, often a day for official community events and citizenship ceremonies to welcome new immigrants, is celebrated in many ways. These come to mind as quintessential things to do: backyard cricket, a barbeque with mates, a day out at the beach, having a meat pie, and fishing off the jetty. Hope you had a great one! I know I did. Thank you Curtin Sarawak for the hospitality!
Here are some photographs from the event.
Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Dr George Chan
Professor Jim Mienczakowksi
Hi folks! The Education UK exhibition is coming soon. Pre-register here for a chance to win an Ipad2, Pizza Hut vouchers and cinema tickets from The Mall Cineplex.
When and Where? 12 February 2014 from 2.00pm to 7.00pm at The Empire Hotel & Country Club - Save the Date!
Jacqueline Liew, 29, became the 10th recipient of the prestigious Fulbright scholarship in 2013, winning a place on the MA programme in Educational Theatre at the New York University Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development. Jackie, who is currently an education officer at Sekolah Menengah Rimba, is no stranger to either overseas education or prestigious scholarships, having previously won the Brunei Government Special Scheme Scholarship in 2001 to pursue her A-Levels and a degree in English Literature in the United Kingdom. I talked to Jackie about her time in England, her time in America (to date) and what it means to go abroad.
You were a Special Scheme Scholar from 2001-2006. Can you tell me a little bit about what that was like?
It was the best time of my life! Just the opportunity to study in UK is every Bruneian teenager’s dream. I was really naïve though at that time, despite having visited UK several times before on holiday. I was certainly unprepared for life in a boarding house and being away from family for such a long period of time. Going to boarding school was stuff that I’d only read about in Enid Blyton’s “Naughtiest girl in School” series. I suffered culture shock, it certainly took some time to adjust to life in a boarding house full of girls: sharing a room with someone from another country and waking up super early so I don’t have to queue for the bathroom and getting used to listening to other people’s “business” (hahaha!).
In the months that led up to it, I was just so excited and couldn’t wait to leave. I started packing like months before, just throwing clothes into my suitcase and telling the other scholars about it and getting laughed at. But I didn’t care; I was going to study in UK! One thing I remember most clearly was filling in the form. I can still remember the three boxes we had to fill in for our choices. Initially, I had put Medicine as my first choice but after much discussion with the family and deep thought, I put Physics as my first choice, Maths as my second and English as my last one. It was after a talk with you that I changed my choice. I think I changed it quite a few times and the boxes had so many layers of Tippex on it that you could crack the paper in half if you folded it. I finally decided on English as my first choice because I believed that it would give me a better chance of getting the scholarship.
On adjusting to a different academic system.
It was a bit difficult getting used to school there, the girls were very outspoken and confident, they were brought up to be vocal and that is something I am still struggling with today. Students were encouraged to speak up in class and voice their opinions and to argue their points. Something I was completely unused to…here I was coming from a non-English literature background and I couldn’t tell my metaphors from my similes. I was quite an avid reader but read mostly for fun and would have never thought about analyzing or reading in between the lines. Or learning about the context in which a text was written or appreciate how and why it was written. I didn’t know how to ‘read’.
My forte had always been Maths and the sciences and I was suddenly plunged into the world of English literature, I was drowning in a sea of terminology. I remember breaking down in tears one time over a poem by Ivor Gurney. We had to spend 15 minutes analyzing it and nothing came to my mind. I burst into tears and ran into the toilet. My teacher had to run in after me to talk me out of the stall. What followed was extra classes with her and “Why didn’t you say you needed help?” A stupid mentality I took with me from Brunei of not asking for help from the teacher because I had too much pride. I learnt how to use a library, how to write and reference properly and to just have the confidence to ask my teachers questions after that. But I still really struggled with voicing my opinions in class or saying anything. My heart would beat fast and I would feel the words on the tip of my tongue but my lips would never move and I would always second-guess myself and then when another girl said what I was thinking, I would regret that I didn’t say it. It was so much inner turmoil sitting in class.
On the other hand, math and physics lessons were a cinch for me.
It got a bit better in university but again I would have moments where words would escape me or I would just lose all confidence because I was scared to hear my own voice. Really silly.
Boarding School Days
Picture with members from SEEDS
Receiving the Fulbright scholarship in 2013
Orientation in New York
After you graduated, you came back to Brunei to teach – and you were thrown into Sekolah Menengah Berakas. What was it like coming back to Brunei after all those years away?
It was another culture shock. It made me realize what a bubble we lived in while studying in Maktab Sains (Jackie was a student in Maktab Sains from 1996-2001). It is so detached and far away from the reality that is Brunei. We had such grand views of ourselves and then of going on to study in the UK - I never truly knew Brunei until I came back. My views or what I thought I knew about home all changed.
Looking back now, I am so glad that I was put into a school like Berakas. It made me see home so differently, the glossy picture of Brunei that I once held in mind had suddenly taken on very disturbing features. It’s also the naivety of someone who has had no experience of being a government servant, I didn’t have many relatives who worked for the government at that time, so I sort of entered the government school teaching world with zero expectations. I can still remember the conversation I had with the principal on my first day. I was unaware of the ‘reputation’ of Berakas and thought that the principal was very peculiar when he asked me “So, you have never heard anything about this school?” I guess it is very easy to become detached from the reality of home when you spend five years overseas especially when you don’t have anyone to talk to, someone to sort of give you a heads-up, who already had the experience of teaching.
Even now, I am learning a lot of things about the government school system at home. I only found out this year from my year 8 students that I was the first non-Malay, non-Muslim teacher they have ever had and up to the point when they met me, they were unaware that there were non-Malay Bruneians. At one point, I actually took out my IC to show the kids that I was a local. Now, I understand why it was so hard for them to get used to me and also helped me in understanding my peers a bit better as well.
My first year at school was very stressful to say the least, I didn’t know how to control a class, I was a young and new teacher and the students could smell that from a mile away. I sounded different from them so that didn’t help with the alienation I felt. I didn’t know how to write a lesson plan and was unaware of the many rules that come with being a government teacher like asking for permission to leave the country, not being able to leave the country during certain days etc.
Just the transition from being a student to a teacher, going into a school like Berakas without any prior pedagogical knowledge. I was expecting to teach English literature, Shakespeare, how to read a play and there I was trying to remember the rules of grammar and cope with all the responsibilities of a teacher. There is a stereotype of Bruneians who have studied overseas: kambang, macam kacang lupakan kulit etc…I can see why but it was something that I had to disprove in my school.
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