Yep, still a New Zealander.

I think New Zealanders tend to have a fairly global outlook and a reasonable understanding of the world. We get media from Australia, the US and the UK (and a little bit from elsewhere), so we know a bit about their respective cultures. We are a country of immigrants, so we understand the accents and vocabulary of many different Englishes (although on the whole our foreign language skills are distinctly lacking). We are a tiny country, miles away from anywhere, and are fully aware of the fact.

But despite our small size, we have a pretty reasonable reputation around the world. People know of our rugby and cricket teams, or Lord of the Rings, or they know pretty much nothing but want to visit anyway. They may not quite know if we’re part of Australia or not, but in my experience people have usually at least heard of New Zealand. And considering there are at least fifty cities in the world with a greater population than the whole of New Zealand, I think that’s pretty good going.

In many ways, this has made it fairly easy to expatriate. We are used to different international brands, we can understand most English speakers pretty well, we are used to online shopping taking practically forever to arrive.

But every so often, expat life throws up a reminder that we are New Zealanders at heart, and always will be.  The most recent example is the discovery that not everyone knows what a kiwi is (it’s a bird, not a fruit), or why New Zealanders are called Kiwis. This is our slightly ridiculous national bird.

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But there have been many other reminders too.

No one understands me when I say my name.
The short e sound in my strong accent is a constant source of confusion. When I introduce myself as Jenn, most people hear Gin (or maybe Jan, Jean, or Jane). When I ask about my check in luggage, the poor airport security staff get very confused, thinking I am transporting poultry.

People don’t know what togs, jandals, or utes are.
And I just can’t get used to swimsuits, flip flops, and pick ups.

Lots of our slang misses the mark.
But it’s sweet as, bro. There are heaps of Kiwis around to get it, so I’m chuffed. And with two NZ parents, the sprog will understand when we’re yacking away.

People don’t know of some of the greatest foods.
I can’t eat dairy at the moment (boohoo), so I’m among those who are missing out on kiwi dip. But I can still understand the joys of New Zealand fish and chips (vastly superior to the British version), kumara, salt and vinegar chips, mince pies, Vogel’s bread, feijoas, and all that great Kiwi tucker.

Some of our normal brands are considered weird.
We are stoked to see Colgate, Anchor, Mainland, Weetbix etc. But to many they’re just the foreign stuff.

Sometimes these realisations come across a little negative, but that’s really not how I see them at all. I love getting reminders of our amazing little country and its crazy culture. I’m proud to be a New Zealander. I’m proud to be showing New Zealand off to the world a little, and I will be proud to return home when we do.

Goodbye May, Hello June!

It’s been a long time since I posted (although really, what’s new?)  In fact, I managed to go the entire month of May without posting.  So today I wanted to do a quick recap of what went down in May, and a bit about what we’re looking forward to in June (and some of what’s already happened, since the start of June was more than a week ago).

But first, a side note: how on EARTH is it June already? I can’t quite comprehend just how quickly time is going at the moment!

In May we…

  • recovered from our colds, and were so glad to get out of the house again.
  • celebrated my first Mother’s Day with our first trip to the Miri Marriott (my Brunei expat friends and readers will appreciate just how weird it is that it was over two years before we stayed there!)
  • went to our first birthday party, and thought about how soon The Engineer’s Baby will be having her own.
  • had an amazing visit from my dad and my step-mum (aka Poppa and Grandma)
  • flew to Kota Kinabalu for an amazing long weekend, including a boat ride out to a beautiful island, orangutans, lots of good food, and family hang out time.
  • watched The Engineer’s Baby take her first steps
  • visited the Oil and Gas Discovery Centre for the first time (and were pleasantly surprised)
  • said goodbye to Poppa and Grandma again
  • visited Danes Cafe, had a nice coffee, saw what the hype was about, and vowed to return for that burger
  • went to the movies (I saw Pitch Perfect 2 with two friends, and had a wonderful time)

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In June we have already…

  • started Junkfree June, which means no takeaways, no fizzy drink, no sweet treats for an entire month
  • celebrated eleven years since our very first date
  • tried two new restaurants (Sushi Tei and Pastamania, both at KB Sentral mall)
  • seen The Engineer’s Baby learn to climb, meaning even more babyproofing
  • tried the indoor playground/soft play at KB Sentral mall, and realised that The Engineer’s Baby should probably be walking well before we return
  • booked flights to Penang in July and Singapore in September

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And this month, we also plan to…

  • celebrate The Engineer’s Baby’s eleven month birthday, and The Engineer’s thirty second birthday
  • see The Engineer’s Baby start walking properly (I guess that one’s not really in our control though, so who knows!)
  • finish booking our July holiday
  • plan something to celebrate The Engineer’s Baby’s first birthday (oh my goodness!)
  • celebrate the start of Ramadan, and get disappointed that we can’t visit the markets (because of that pesky Junkfree June thing)
  • go to another birthday party, and marvel some more at how big all these babies are getting!
  • blog a bit more (I don’t promise a lot though!)

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Life has definitely slowed down a little since The Engineer’s Baby arrived (not that it was very fast paced to begin with.  Kuala Belait doesn’t really lend itself to fast paced.) But we quite like that.  We miss all the travel, but it just doesn’t work so well for her, and we wouldn’t change her for anything.  So we’ll just keep plodding along in this little Brunei life, enjoying watching her grow and change, and getting ridiculously excited when new restaurants open (Kaizen Kuala Belait, you’re next on the list!)

An old favourite

Yesterday, my plans for my afternoon off were thwarted by a busted battery in our car. So instead of heading to a movie, I walked into town to buy hot cross bun-making supplies. I was surprised to find nothing at the German Shop (which has lots of imported European food), but also surprised to find everything I needed at the Department Store (which is more locally focussed). I also found some Coke and chips, and on my way home I stopped by the river to have a snack.

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I used to come to the river often. But it’s pretty warm, so since The Engineer’s Baby came along, our visits have become less frequent.

Sitting there reminded my why I used to come so often. It’s close to our house. And I love the view.

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But perhaps my favourite part is behind me: the food stalls. The food is cheap. The stall owners are friendly. The view is great. It’s pretty much perfect.

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So last night, instead of getting some takeaways, The Engineer and baby met me at the river for dinner.

We drank Ice Lemon Tea, and ate squid and rice and popia. The Engineer’s Baby sat in her pushchair and watched the fans and chewed on squid and veges.

It was a little warm. But it was lovely. And it was a great way to get outside a little bit. I definitely needed to get outside a little bit!

“Weekly” Challenge 22: BK Taro Turnover

When I travel, I love to try the local cuisine. But I have to admit that I also have a soft spot for trying global fast food chains in different countries. I liked having fritessaus with my fries in the Netherlands, I tried a bulgogi burger in South Korea, we visited Subway and Domino’s in Japan. So when Burger King came to town, I was always going to give it a go. A Sunday evening after a disappointing afternoon of cricket viewing was the perfect time to pick up some burgers and the dessert menu gave us the opportunity for a challenge: the Taro Turnover.

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After an underwhelming Whopper, and some really good fries, we broke into the turnover. The filling was not hot, as promised on the box, but was purple, as expected (although it doesn’t look it in the picture).

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There was nothing left but to try it.  The Engineer went first, and pronounced it too sweet. He has much more of a sweet tooth than me, so my hopes weren’t high.

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So when I tried it, I was pleasantly surprised. It was sweet, but the pastry was like a classic fast food pie (i.e. fatty and delicious), and the filling was vanilla-y or pandan-y or something that made it quite appealing. It wasn’t strongly flavoured, and I liked it.

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In fact, I made this the only challenge so far in which the challenge item was finished. No food wastage today!
Except for the very small piece that we offered to The Engineer’s Baby. She seemed to side with her Papa, and was not too impressed.

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It was her first “Weekly” Challenge, and I for one think she did a stellar job with her facials. Which is, after all, pretty much the point.
I might be on my own here, but I’m giving the Taro Turnover a big thumbs up. And best of all, next time I won’t have to share it (if there is a next time that is – the burgers weren’t really nice enough to go back for…)

My Greatest Adventure

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Five years ago today, my greatest adventure started (who am I kidding, it just got made official; it started well before that).  It started with a grand occasion, family and friends, fancy clothes, the works.

Each year since, we have celebrated.  The first four we went all out: a weekend away, a little luxury, a proper occasion.

This year, it’s simpler.  Hanging out at home with our newest team member. A small gift. Then a dinner out, just the two of us.

This is probably not quite what we imagined five years ago.  But it’s perfect.

 

Two years

This month marks two years since I arrived in Brunei (it also marks eight months with The Engineer’s Baby and our five year wedding anniversary).  Milestones like this always make me a little pensive.  And today I am thinking about the things that have changed since we arrived.

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There is one particularly great change: the arrival of The Engineer’s Baby.  She continues to amaze me every day, and is absolutely the best thing that has happened to me here.

There are some other good changes:

  • I have learned about yoga, and discovered how much it helps me to balance and reconnect with myself.
  • I have understood the importance of creativity for me, particularly through writing, and have found ways to include that in my life.
  • I have met some wonderful people.
  • I have travelled to new countries, and have been exposed to new cultures, leading me to question some of my own cultural assumptions.
  • The Engineer’s beard has grown way more ridiculous and awesome.

But there have also been some not-so-good changes:

  • Being in a country where I cannot vote or have a say in the direction it takes has made me less politically active/interested.
  • The heat means we have not spent anywhere near as much time outside as we used to, and I miss it desperately.
  • It is difficult to get some of the healthy foods we are used to, and we have been lazy, meaning we eat far less consciously than we used to (and eat far more takeaways and junk).
  • Being pregnant with no job and no responsibilities allowed me to get into some not-so-good habits, particularly around using the internet.

Overall, it feels a little like I have been taking a break from our “real life”.  And I don’t think I’m alone in that.  The expat experience is different to immigrating to a new country.  The temporary nature of expat life is one of its defining features.  In some ways, the fixed term is freeing – we do less home maintenance, we have more opportunity to travel, friendships often develop more quickly.  But at the same time, it’s frustrating – people keep leaving, we miss some of that maintenance stuff, there are some things we would like but don’t want to buy for such a short time.

And at this two year marker, I’m torn.  Undecided whether we want to extend this life break in Brunei, or extend it somewhere else, or head back home to get back to real life.  What makes it even more complicated is that the decision ultimately hinges on The Engineer’s work.  We need to make the decision, but at the same time, it will be dictated by where he can get a job.  And for at least a couple of years, we’d like it to be a job that allows me to stay home with The Engineer’s Baby.

For now, I’m trying not to stress too much about the decision.  We know we want to stay another year here, and I want to enjoy that time.  I don’t want to waste this year worrying about what’s next.  I want to enjoy our quiet little life, travel a bit, and let the future unfold.  So I’m going to move on from this pensiveness, and get back into the present!

(I’m talking about living in the present moment over at The Engineer’s Baby too.  Apparently it’s a bit of a theme of my life!)

 

“Weekly” Challenge 21: Drinks (again!)

The Engineer and I have decided not to buy any toys for The Engineer’s Baby (well, at least not many…)  She has quite a few already, and for Christmas she received some homemade toys from her Grandma, which she absolutely loved.  That inspired us to look for things in our cupboards, reuse random things, and make toys, rather than buying more.

(This is pretty easy while we live in Brunei and don’t really have easy access to good toy shops.  It would be a lot harder to achieve other places – there are so many amazing toys out there!)

Our most recent toy making was some sensory bottles.  But in order to make sensory bottles, we had to buy some bottles. And to buy bottles, we had to buy some drinks.  So, rather than just buying water bottles, as was my initial plan, we decided to have a bit of fun and make a challenge of it. We’ve tried drinks before, but the variety in the drinks aisle left plenty more to choose from.

We went to the supermarket, and picked a selection out.  Our choices were partly based on bottle size, and partly on what looked interesting.  (If we were to choose again, we would also have chosen based on ease of label removal, but hey, you live and learn…)  In the end, we had two fruitamin drinks, two aloe vera drinks, and some cooling water.

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We ran along the line, starting with the pink fruitamin thing.  The flavour was tropical punch or something, and I wasn’t expecting much (I’m not usually a fan of tropical…)

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The Engineer tried first, and his first comment was “it has chunks…” Which, indeed it did.  As do many drinks in Asia.  Before we came here, I hated chunks in my drinks. But I have to say, I’ve become rather used to them, and sometimes even enjoy them.  But despite the chunks and the tropical flavour, we agreed this one was pretty good.

Next up was the grape aloe vera.  Grape is a flavour I dig, so I was excited about this one.  But as soon as I took the lid off, I knew my excitement was misplaced.  This was not just grape, it was extreme fake-grape.  My first comment on tasting it was not “it has chunks…” (though it did), but “you are going to HATE this!”  (Because while I am a fan of grape flavour, The Engineer cannot get behind it in even its mildest forms.  And this was far from mild)

My face in this photo kinda sums up the drink (shockingly sweet, overpoweringly fake, only good for tipping down the sink…)

1-DSC_0316Next up was the cooling water.  To be fair, we knew this would pretty much just taste like water (which it did).  But the bottle was a PERFECT size, and it was worth buying just to read the label, which claims that it should be used to “quench thirst and give a cooling effect in body heatiness”.  I know that this comes from Traditional Chinese Medicine, and probably doesn’t sound crazy in Chinese, but we found the English translation a little comical.  The Engineer thinks he is rather comical, and put on some silly moves for the camera.  (Because really, this tasting was pretty boring!)1-DSC_0322

After that, it was just more of the same, but in different flavours.  We were not surprised to discover that the pomegranate aloe vera was infinitely nicer than the grape version.

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But we were quite surprised to find that the lemon fruitamin was significantly less nice than the tropical punch version (we are usually fans of lemon drinks, but this was too intense, and way too sweet.  Plus the chunks just didn’t go as well!)

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So at the end of it all, we had confirmed that Asia loves chunky drinks, and that we should never ever buy grape aloe vera again.  But more importantly, we had some empty bottles (okay, okay, some tipping down the sink was involved) with which to make some toys for The Engineer’s Baby.  I think she approved of our first two (glitter and sequins in one, red sago in the other).

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