Rediscover Brunei Darussalam through the eyes of the People
The last 18 months or so has seen the rise of self-expression. Bruneians have been expressing themselves more. This is a good thing. We are finding out new ways to speak up, both online and offline. Snapchat, Stories on IG, new blogs, creative gatherings, vlogs, Reddit and pop-ups. It has to be said that it was not always like this. There has been a collective awakening of sorts.
When we take a step back, we see that we are a young country. We are discovering our voice. We are speaking our first words. We are thinking about big concepts like the Future, Society, Progress, Tradition, Culture, Faith, Success, and as our minds are thinking about these things, so are we debating these things for the first time. We are speaking in broken sentences. There is grammatical error, but that does not matter. We are speaking our first words. We are speaking up for ourselves and this country that we love, and that is a good thing.
We are going through growing pains . . . a kind of I-can't-quite-put-my-finger-on-it type of pain from rapid growth and stretching of our conscience, and the realisation that, hang on, 2035 is not that far away anymore.
Brunei is dependent on O&G which accounts for . . . pretty much everything. We have a singular economy. For better or for worse, we have not diversified, and this period of low oil prices brings this cold reality into sharp focus. These are unnerving times. Some say that these low prices are the best thing that has happened to Brunei in a while, like a strange blessing in disguise. Like an alarm clock waking a child from slumber. Like caffeine jolting our central nervous system.
I have written this post a thousand times in my mind before. I have never shared it because it feels like a speech with no conclusion. But I share this with you today, because it is important to lift up things that matter to us, and Brunei matters to me.
Today, I remind myself that it is okay and not always necessary to wrap our thoughts up in a neat bow. It is okay not to have a conclusion. What is more important is that we speak up about things that matter to us. That we keep an open mind. That we are prepared to hear different perspectives. That we don't react. That we don't get all defensive. That we take our conversations deeper. That we debate strategically.
Moving forward, let's think critically. Let's pray fervently. Let's act decisively.
We cannot rest on our laurels.
Press Release: Curtin Sarawak Open Day on 8 October could change your life and inspire your future!
Curtin University, Sarawak Malaysia (Curtin Sarawak) will be holding its tenth Open Day on 8 October 2016 and, according to the university, it could very well change your life and inspire your future – particularly if you are a potential student. The Open Day is geared to give visitors a taste of life at Curtin Sarawak, Curtin University’s largest international campus with over 4,000 students from more than 45 countries.
This year’s event will include new features aimed at attracting potential students, who have made up the majority of visitors in recent years. It will be a great opportunity for them to explore the campus, learn more about the world-ranked Curtin courses it offers, and speak with student recruitment staff, lecturers and current students.
Among the new features will be a number of exciting competitions open to students from secondary schools throughout East Malaysia, as well as interesting showcases of the university’s faculties and graduate school at a new-concept ‘Future Students Hub’.
The competitions and showcases are designed for greater engagement with future students and give them a fun, hands-on learning experience in a festival-like atmosphere. They are also aimed at generating interest in the various fields of study at Curtin Sarawak, which are engineering and related sciences, business and humanities.
Foremost among the competitions is the ‘Curtin Ultimate Croc Challenge’, an electronics competition organised by the Faculty of Engineering and Science that is slated to become an annual feature of the Open Day. It will see 17 secondary school teams competing to design the most innovative ‘crocodile sensor’ using programmable microcontroller kits.
Other competitions will be the ‘Business Genius Challenge’, a business knowledge quiz, and the ‘So You Think You Can Spell?” spelling challenge organised by the Faculty of Business and Faculty of Humanities respectively. They are open students in the upper forms and participation is free of charge. Winning teams stand to win attractive prizes and students and teachers from the competing schools are welcome to be spectators.
In addition, there will be the semi-finals and finals of a Curtin Gaming Championship jointly organised by the Faculty of Engineering and Science and the university’s student council and international student association. Sponsored by Stratos PC, the championship will feature up to 32 teams playing DOTA 2 and FIFA.
Yet another highlight will be the ‘Young Innovate Miri’ being held as part of the nationwide ‘Young Innovate’ programme and national embedded system design competition. ‘Young Innovate’ is aimed at inspiring secondary students' passion in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), developing their living skills and exposing them to open-source hardware and software.
‘Young Innovate Miri’ will see the participation of some 30 teams from secondary schools, as well as 10 teams from Curtin Sarawak competing in the open category. The top three schools will represent Sarawak at ‘Young Innovate Malaysia’, the national competition to be held in Kuala Lumpur during the annual KL Engineering Science Fair.
At the ‘Future Students Hub’, future students will get to gather first-hand knowledge about what courses and how to enrol. There will also be guided tours of facilities to give them a feel of the campus. They can also visit the showcases of the university’s three faculties and graduate school, each with interesting themes like ‘Engineer’s Land’, “Entrepreneur Hub’, ‘The Humanist’ and ‘Scholar’s Corner’. Visitors stand to receive interesting giveaways if they visit all the booths.
While there will be many new attractions, regular visitors to the Open Day will find comfort in perennial attractions like the live stage entertainment, lucky draws and wide variety of food, retail and activity stalls run by student clubs and local businesses.
Editor's Note: Introducing indie music duo, TheElleWan. In this feature, we learn about Michelle and Erwan's music origins, ambitions, creative music making processes, and some of the challenges they have faced. We have posted some of their videos below (including their RB Jingle), but to find out more about them, check out their YouTube channel. They are on Instagram too.
Have you known each other for a while? Any hobbies?
We’ve been schoolmates since high-school. We did A-levels together at Maktab Duli and then Universiti Brunei Darussalam for our degrees. Michelle did Linguistics and Erwan did Professional Communications.
One hobby we both share is that we like to make music, play music, and listen to music! But personally, I (Michelle) like reading and watching YouTube videos - real regular stuff. I actually like watching documentaries a lot. The odder the better, like sci-fi or weird creatures from the sea.
When did your interest for music begin?
Our interest in music started way before we met each other. We both come from very talented, musically inclined families. It was natural for us to drift towards music on our own. Erwan and I both can play the guitar and a little bit of the piano, and we do dabble in other instruments like drums and pan flute. Odd I know!
When did you decide to pursue music and how did you come up with the name 'TheEllewan'?
We were jamming in Maktab Duli during our A-levels in 2011 and just thought, why not try our luck and start a band and a YouTube channel together!? We didn’t think it would get this far actually, to the point where we would get gigs an actually produce our own songs! It’s been a crazy ride so far!
The name ‘TheEllewan’ came about by accident, well, by default actually. We originally wanted to go by our own names ‘Erwan and Michelle’ but when we signed up for YouTube, that name was already taken. ‘TheEllewan’ was one of the suggested names. It has stuck with us since! By the way! It’s pronounced 'the-elle-one' not 'the-ellie-one'!
A trademark of TheEllewan is our mash-up of covers. We do write our own songs, but we got inspired by Youtubers before us for mash-ups to give different dimensions to the songs. On top of that, we are writing originals and boy, is that a process in and of itself.
Tell us about one of your earlier performances.
Our first ever performance was for a Telbru event and actually Aziz Harun’s manager Bahzi Damit got it for us; great guy by the way! This was all before Aziz’s rise to the music scene. And we remember it quite well because we were so nervous to be on the JP Amphitheater stage, hands shaking and boy did we fake our coolness!
There were about 20-30 people in the audience and when we got on stage we just sang our heart out, with feedback deafening us, it was actually an awesome first performance!
Tell us about the process you go through when writing music.
When it comes to covers, we kinda just go with what song really stuck with us that week or if we hear a cool song that we like. We’ll just text one another and say, ‘Hey, let’s cover this!’ But of course it isn’t always organized. There are many hours of just trying out songs and it failing horribly with me (Michelle) being irritated with the process and Erwan being cool and collected. You can tell who the more emotional one is! When it comes to writing originals, we both have different styles of writing and inspiration.
I think between the two of us, we have written hundreds of songs but because they were written at a particular time in our life, we may not pursue completing the songs. Actually, the best songs we’ve written so far stem from really tough seasons in our lives. I guess it helps, to write down what you’re feeling, get it out of your system and make it beautiful.
What are some of the challenges faced trying to get in the music industry?
One of the challenges we faced was finding out how we were going to do it. We knew about YouTube but you don’t get paid for videos in Brunei. Then there is the question of what sort of songs to do. It really made us think about who we are and more importantly, who we wanted to be. And honestly, to this day, we’re still figuring out. Someone once told us that this industry is an industry of rejection and we’re no stranger to that. But we think that if you have a dream and it means something to you, you just have to do something about it.
Any future plans for TheEllewan?
We launched our first original song ‘Maybe’ a couple of months ago and wow, it is surreal to hear it played on the radio! We’re planning on writing and producing more original music in the near future. We will also do more gigs and concerts, whether here or overseas. Overall, we just want to inspire people through what we do. Hopefully to encourage them to do something about that dream of theirs. We’re just a couple of ordinary people who have a passion and it’s great that we get to do what we love.
Any final words for your fans or future fans?
Yes! For those who know us and those who don’t, we believe that you are capable of so much. Your dreams and passions aren’t small or insignificant. If something matters to you, pursue it. Work hard for it. Don’t let the fear of failure or rejection hold you back. We’re so thankful for the many friends we have who have been supporting us from day one and now as we’re moving towards a new chapter, we’re exciting to see what’s going to happen next! We love you Brunei, dream big!
Editor's Note: Rachael Lee is an international certified Personal Trainer from Fitness Institute Australia and a certified Les Mills group exercise instructor. She graduated from the University of Western Australia, Perth in 2013 with a Bachelor of Science (Major in Sports, Exercise and Health Science). In this feature, we ask Rachael about her passions for people and for fitness.
Tell us about yourself.
Hello! I am Rachael Lee (26 years old) from a small town called Kuala Belait. I now live in Bandar Seri Begawan. I give back my passion and strength for sports and fitness to the community - the world's most priceless and fulfilling job. I am also a part-time volunteer basketball and fitness coach for athletes with intellectual disabilities and special needs in Brunei.
I have always been a sports athlete (basketball, netball, track and field, futsal) since young with basketball as my main sport - of which I hold close to my heart until today as a player for the Brunei Women's Team since I was 18 years old.
How did you get into fitness?
I was a sports athlete from young, but a late bloomer in fitness. Fitness made its way into my life as my daily fix from my early 20s. Since my university years, I realised it helped me become a better sports player and athlete. By improving my fitness knowledge, it also helped children and individuals with motor dysfunction and special needs in improving their quality of life to their best ability. With the results shown through the conducted fitness programs for individuals with special needs, I fell in love with the thought of it.
It was during my months closing up to my final semester at university that I knew - one day, I needed to take my passion and enthusiasm for basketball and fitness one step ahead for the community back home in Brunei - be it as an athlete, a fitness trainer, a basketball coach or basketball and fitness event planner.
Share with us about the Special Olympics Brunei Darussalam.
Coming back to Brunei after graduation and after securing a fulltime job at a health club, I was not content. I needed to be involved somehow with a special needs organisation in order to still do what ignites the fire within me. This was when I was introduced to Special Olympics Brunei Darussalam (SOBD) committee members in mid-2014, Ms Tsara Nawwarah and Ms Dawn Lee.
SOBD is a non-profit, non-government organisation, which works closely with several government ministries as well as other Brunei-based non-government organisations. The mission of SOBD is to provide individuals with intellectual disabilities with opportunities to participate in Olympic-type sports such as Bocce, Football and Bowling, while promoting a healthy lifestyle through healthy bodies, healthy minds and healthy attitudes. Special Olympics fosters the competitive spirit, and allows the individuals with intellectual disabilities to be exposed to a world and cultures beyond their own.
What are some of the challenges you face? How rewarding is it?
Challenges I face include the inability to safety accomodate all athletes in one session. I try to ensure that each attending athlete benefits as much as they can. I would like to be able to conduct a session for 25 athletes - however, sometimes with the lack of volunteers and with the different conditions of athletes present at session - a big number can be a chaotic.
Another challenge is that currently there are only two of us volunteering as fitness coaches. We would like to hopefully scout for new volunteer fitness coaches to do the same so that we will be able to open more sessions to accomodate other athletes who are unable to make it to our current weekly schedule.
The rewarding part of it that keeps me looking forward to every SOBD coaching session? Despite all the different levels of intellectual disabilities and special needs, it is the many warm happy high-fives and welcomes of 'Hi Coach Rachael!' that gives me a positive boost of energy. The visible excitement of the athletes, and their fitness improvements drives me forward. And of course not to forget, all the satisfied happy parents shaking my hands and constant gratitude from them after every session conducted. =)
Tell us about the Adaptive Fitness Programme.
After being involved with SOBD for over six months as a volunteer basketball coach - I wanted the athletes to improve more as a sportsperson and better their general well-being as an individual. Hence, I properly planned, launched and introduced Adaptive Fitness Programme - a similar programme that I was conducting in university. The programme is a weekly health and fitness session which focuses on introducing fitness and physical movements which are suitable to their motor capabilities. In turn, improving not only their fitness, daily motor movements - but also their social skills, mindset, moods, appetite and their overall well-being.
The first platform of the Adaptive Fitness Programme was opened for special athletes 12 years old and above at Fitness Zone Health Club. Now, we have our second platform at Hybrid Movement Gym for special athletes 8-12 years old.
The response has been great from the supportive parents with maximum numbers capped every session. There are now special centres requesting for the programme to be conducted at their venue. We are looking forward to be able to open more platforms of opportunities for other individuals with intellectual disabilities and special needs to join our fitness programme.
You recently held a workshop at Crossfit Manila on "Adaptive Fitness". Share your experience with us.
I am a CrossFit athlete and I believe in the power of sharing and educating my fitness innovatives and programme ideas for special athletes across the country - so why not, across the border? The workshop was a success - it opened the minds of not only the crossfit coaches at CrossFit Manila Mall of Asia, but also the Special Olympics Philippines coaches of the special athletes who attended the workshop. All parties now further understand that adaptive fitness training is crucial and needs to be included in their regime in order for the special athletes to better themselves for their respective sports selection in Special Olympics.
I do hope to do more cross-border educative workshop for fitness professionals of the general population and special education teachers: to educate and create awareness about the possibilities and wonders of fitness training for athletes with special needs and also share the concept of SOBD Adaptive Fitness Programme.
Any words of encourage to those considering getting involved?
Athletes with intellectual disabilities and special needs may have their differences and limitations - but they too just want to live a normal life like all of us. They want to be given a chance to excel in what they can - in the case of the Special Olympics world: to excel and fly high in their chosen sports. They do too, represent our country, Brunei Darussalam in international competitive sporting competitions to make our nation proud. The athletes goes through weekly fitness trainings and sports trainings to make sure they are fit to compete in their sports.
SOBD welcomes all individuals with and without intellectual disabilities and special needs to be part of our family. We are an inclusive, welcoming and supportive community which ensure that everyone and anyone who gets involved the first time with our athletes - will bring home with them a very memorable and unforgettable experience.
Get involved with us today - as a volunteer or as our athlete's training buddy. If you are already a sports coach and would like to volunteer to coach our athletes in any type of sports - you are more than welcomes to speak to any of our SOBD committee members.
Editor's Note: In this feature, we highlight the NQB group. To find out more about them, and to follow their journey, connect with them on Facebook.
Tell us about NQB?
NQB stands for "Never Quit Bboy" We met each other during our highschool days and some of us are cousins. We started to dance during break time in school but most of the time we practiced at our house. From there we decided to create our own dance team and Ehsan Issa a.k.a Bboy Chaos as our leader.
We are like a big family, we treat each other equally, gain knowledge of dance through the dance scenes around us locally and also foreign and that is one of the great experiences about dancing. We also do other dance genre such as Street Dance, Hip-Hop, Pop & Locking but Breakdance (Bboy) will still be our foundation of dancing. We get inspiration from other dancers, movies such as "You Got Served", "Stomp The Yard","Step Up","Battle Of The Years" and also from Youtube. From there we learn, teach and practice together. Our dream is to be one of the most successful bboy crews around the world.
The difference between NQB and other dance team in Brunei is our style of performance, we add creative movement with comedy to make our performances more interesting. NQB Crew is also a part of Community of Dance, Bruhooders and Morning Fresh Crew.
How do you balance work life and dance?
Some members of NQB come from all different backgrounds. Some of us are used to practicing 2-4 days a week and others practice whenever they have the time. We agree to discipline ourselves by getting our work done first before dance and so far everything is great for us. Some of us are still studying in college and university.
Share some of the highlights from your journey to date.
NQB were involved with Relentless Entertainment Dancers back in 2009-2014 and this year, a first time collaboration with The Creative Core BN to organize DANCERSMEET ‘16 Dance Competition and Showcase in Brunei Darussalam, support By Fitness Zone and D'Music Motion Studio.
In 2011, we performed for Prince Azim at Pusat Belia, BSB. Some of our other performances include Brufit Expo Event 2015, School Carnivals, private events such as Chinese Wedding, DST Anniversary, Bank Baiduri Gala night, etc. In 2015, NQB was awarded the best perfomer at Malam Pentas Belia Kelolaan JBS Tutong in conjunction of His Majesty’s 69th Birthday Celebration 2015 for Tutong District.
We have been invited by local singers for a music video production such as Jazz Hassan, Udi Luqman featuring Remmy and for the Youtube short film "HisStory" by The Nostrils Production.
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