Rediscover Brunei Darussalam through the eyes of the People
Editor's Note: Hi Readers! Allow me to introduce you to guest blogger Kathrina Daud. Kathrina reached out to me via Instagram after I called out for writers. Kathrina is usually a lecturer of English Literature and Creative Writing at UBD, but is currently on a year-long sabbatical. She received an MA in Writing from the Uni of Warwick and completed a PhD in Creative Writing at the Uni of Manchester in 2011. At the moment, Kathrina lives in Oxford, where she spends her time researching the Venn diagram of Islam, Southeast Asian literature and popular fiction, watching plays and being rejected by publishers. She will move to Seattle in December, where she expects to do more of the same, plus snow.
I am a Bird was a shortlisted story selected by a panel of judges appointed by the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival on culture360.org.
I am a Bird
By Kathrina Daud
I migrate with the seasons. I fly away from the monsoons and the heat of Brunei in September, using metal wings to alight into London Heathrow, where I am searched and questioned. I heave a sigh of relief when my bag, which is stuffed secretly with harmless contraband, sugared cuttlefish and tins of corned beef, white rabbit sweets wrapped in edible transparent plastic, makes it docilely through customs and immigration. Years ago, when I first arrived in London, the grey cold of the air outside the airport was a revelation – clear and crisp and burning through my lungs. These days, I make sure I am wrapped up against the chill, and I can make my way from baggage to the coach station with my eyes closed.
In the summer, the Junes and the Julies, when the academic year is over, I fly away from the dry heat of England back to the heavy humidity of Brunei. As soon as I step off the plane into the terminal building, the air compresses and exhales droplets of moisture. The lines here are slower-moving, less anxious. My heartbeat is steady and home. My bag will be heavy, with Marks and Spencers biscuits, Harrods trinkets, requests from Mothercare, all the chains that we do not have. As I step outside, I know my family, my parents, will be waiting for me, waiting to greet me with smiles. I will have chosen light clothing, airy, weightless, a barrier against the press of the air, and of expectation.
In the months and seasons in between, I will use my legs to walk – walk – walk everywhere. It feels sometimes that I have walked the length of England on my way to school, to the bus stop, to the grocery store, to the train station. I marvel at the white-haired men and women who seem to think that walking at their age is natural, a necessity, who have no expectation that their sons and daughters will go to the grocery store for them, will replace their old legs with the service of their own. In the spaces between, the Decembers and the Marches, I fly tentatively to new places – the Spains, the Frances, the Italies and Hollands, and my eyes are dazzled by tulips and paintings which blend into each other, always the same Virgin Mary and baby Jesus, the white-and-pink complexions daubed onto canvas, immortalized into smooth white marble. I don’t see my own brown skin anywhere in these masterworks, or even in the newspapers in England, the Daily Mail and the Guardian. I see black and white and sometimes dark brown – usually Pakistani or Indian – sometimes designated “South Asian” but never Southeast Asian. The missing syllable is a missing me.
So this is why, when you ask me to marry you, when I look at your light brown hair and your brown eyes, and your pink-whiteness and your lovely strong bones and jaw, and my heart breaks with the loving of you, I say, “No.”
You ask, Why? Your face is confused and betrayed and I can hear your heartbeat shock into speed and heat, the way mine does when my visa is scrutinized at the borders of your country.
I could tell you that I have loved you, have loved the loving of you, but that when I dream I dream of a heat that warms the bones instead of the skin. That when I picture you in Brunei, I see you confused and lost and increasingly angry when the queues become slower, the explanations vague, and there is no number to call when your pizza comes more than an hour late and you cannot return your socks for a refund and there is a directive from the ministry which you disagree with.
When I tell you, I could only love you in England, I also mean that you could only love me here, as well, but I cannot say this because you would not understand, you would argue, and tell me that love conquers all. We speak in English, and I cannot tell you that I know this is not true.
I saw the truth while I was in the air, when I looked down past my metal wings and saw the dark heavy solidity of land stopping the movement of the vast ocean, and there was a moment when I could not tell, from up there, whether I was coming or going.
If you are interested in guest blogging, reach me here. I'd love to hear from you!
Greetings from London folks! In case you are wondering what I am doing here, I am here for work...and a bit of play. I was invited by the British Foreign & Commonweath Office for Olympic and Paralympic Legacy visits and meetings. The focus has been on the Olympic Park in transformation and I have had meetings with businesses involved in the London Olymic Legacy. This including ES Global, the London Legacy Development Corporation and UK Trade and Investment. Along with me, there are representatives from Al Jazeera, Gazeta, the Today Newspaper, The Voice, etc.
Official meetings ended yesterday and I will be here for a couple more days soaking in the UK. Here are snippets from my time here so far. To keep up to date, you can follow my journey through my Instagram and Twitter accounts.
I have pre-ordered the Memoto, an "automatic lifelogging camera" that was kickstarted on...well, Kickstarter. What is it? In short, "a tiny, automatic camera...that gives you a searchable and shareable photographic memory." The idea is that you clip on a small not-so-obvious (Google Glass anyone?) looking camera and it periodically snaps photographs so that you don't have to worry about missing any special photo-worthy moments.
If you have been around me long enough, you might know that I have a love-hate relationship with technology. This little device however, makes sense to me (in theory). According to their blog, it is expected to ship by the end of September. Will keep you folks in the loop.
Six Travel Misconceptions You Need to Forget About
By John Gower
With traveling, as with many other things, the conventional wisdom is not always so wise. Before you book your next trip, be sure that you are not laboring under any of these six delusions about traveling.
1. "Booking in advance will save me money"
If you need to be in a particular place on a particular date for business, or you are looking at a trip during a holiday weekend, go ahead and book your trip well in advance. But if your schedule is open and you are flexible about destinations, you can save a great deal by biding your time and keeping an observant eye on changing airfares. When spots open up at the last minute on flights or at hotels because of cancellations or over-bookings, you can snag a fantastic deal and go on a dream vacation for a killer price. This approach takes patience, flexibility, and no small measure of luck, but can pay huge dividends.
2. “Traveling isn’t safe”
Thanks to films like Taken and Hostel, many have an overly negative idea of the safety of traveling in general. While there is no doubt that some countries are more dangerous than others (I do not recommend a trip to Somalia or Syria any time soon), visiting most foreign countries is not the game of Russian roulette that many fear it to be. Two rules of thumb to be safe in foreign countries: when traveling, do not make it obvious to everyone that you are a tourist as doing so can make you a target for pickpockets. Second, in the fun and commotion, exercise the same amount of caution, awareness, and common sense that you would on the streets of your hometown. Keep these suggestions in mind, and you are likely to have a safe and enjoyable trip to a foreign country.
3. “I can get better currency rates at home”
Many travelers make this false assumption and hope to be proactive and save money by getting foreign currency before they leave. In reality, domestic currency changers will charge you a heavy commission and will usually offer poor exchange rates. You can get traveler’s checks or foreign currency from your bank, but this opens up the danger of physically carrying around all of your cash with you in a foreign country, which is rarely a good idea. Instead, use the currency vendors at the hotel you’re staying at to get small amounts at a time—or, in the best case scenario, get foreign currency through a credit card with your bank to avoid high tourist rates and get a better exchange rate while staying safer.
4. “Duty-free zones offer great deals”
For the shopping-inclined, “duty-free” zones are one of the biggest perks of traveling. No one likes taxes, and a big sign proclaiming goods without them is automatically enticing. The reality, however, is not quite as simple. Several magazines and news outlets have done side-by-side comparisons of duty-free prices versus normal prices and have found that the former are often actually more expensive. While a handful of products (like cigarettes and alcohol) may be cheaper, most of the goods you will be browsing (especially traveler-type items like souvenirs, toiletries, and cosmetics) will be more expensive than they would be at a “normal” store.
I came across this while browsing the other day. Apparently made by a YouTube user (Mik2048) from Google Earth and "a lot of pictures taken by lucky visitors". He adds that "the scale is 1:1 (1m = 1 block)" and confesses "I never had the opportunity to go in Brunei and to visit the palace so it's not perfect!"
What do you folks think?
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