A Balancing Act - Life in Brunei and Great Britain
Greetings again from Brunei Darussalam. I am excited to write this letter as it has been a while, so much has happened which has kept me busy thus minimising the urge to dwell too much on missing family and friends. If you missed reading my previous letter, you could read it here (https://www.maramaalliance.com/post/greetings-from-brunei-darussalam) as it will give you an insight to what I share below. So much to write about so here goes!
From my last letter I mentioned that Paul left for the UK, he departed Brunei on Sunday 25 August 2019. The very next morning at work there was a knock on my office door at 9:25am and a man stood there with a beautiful bouquet of flowers stating he had a delivery for Mrs Riley. The astonishment on my face must have been hilarious as the delivery man started laughing. All I was thinking was how on earth did Paul think of getting the flowers to me so quick!!
I took the flowers and closed the door behind me so that I could savour the moment and read the note attached to the bouquet. As I read it, I could feel my eyes starting to blur as I felt tears trickle down my face. I had managed to hold my emotions together since Paul’s departure and the arrival of the flowers was the trigger needed to just let the emotions pour out of me. The flowers were sent by Paul’s parents who are a huge blessing in my life, they knew I needed to start my week scented with love and filled with gorgeous blooms. The bouquet sure lifted my spirits and set the tone to a great week.
The resident Infantry Battalion is 2nd Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles (2RGR) and they are in Brunei for 3 years before returning to England in July 2020. To become a Gurkha soldier, one must be Nepalese (Nepalese birth certificate) and live in Nepal. The British Army recruits about 300 individuals every year. To become a Gurkha is so competitive, and renowned to be one of the most challenging (physically & mentally) selection processes. The Gurkha Brigade Association website is a good source of information for those eager to learn more about the Gurkhas. (https://www.gurkhabde.com)
Due to 2 RGR’s presence in Brunei, there is a large Nepalese community within the British Military establishment. On Saturday 31 August, the 2RGR Wives Committee hosted the British Forces Brunei (BFB) Annual Women’s Teej 2019 Party. Teej is a festival celebrated by Nepali women for marital happiness and for a long lasting relationship between the couple. The invitation to the Teej Party was extended to all women within the BFB community and I gladly accepted.
I decided that I will attend the party wearing a saree like most of the women present that evening. The saree was beautiful to wear, and I loved the elegant feminine feeling that I was experiencing. I felt like I was entering a Bollywood scene or a place in either Nepal or India where the gathering was filled with gorgeous women adorned with stunning jewellery and exquisite outfits. The room exploded with vibrant colours and it was evident the women present were having a wonderful evening. Friends were luring me into the front of the room and before I knew it, I was twirling around the dance floor realising the hours watching Zee TV with my mother years ago in Fiji came in handy as I felt my hips and hands rhythmically flowed in tandem to the music. Never have I felt so grateful to the hundred safety pins that kept my saree intact!!
Paul and I had decided that we will try and see each other every 2-3 months to make the separation bearable, I was fortunate that I was returning to the UK at the end of September for a holiday to Greece we had booked prior to learning of my posting. It was not meant to be as like thousands of travellers, we had booked our flight with Thomas Cook so instead we chose to enjoy our time together in the UK visiting family and friends. The other main reason of visiting the UK was to surprise our Lauren on her 18th Birthday, I am immensely blessed with Lauren and Oliver as they are the best step children one could have. Like any parent and child relationship, there are always different seasons to navigate and mine has been filled with so much love. It is never easy to be a step parent, Lauren has made this journey for me a blissful experience and it sums up the beautiful and loving young lady who has entered adulthood.
The 2 weeks in the UK was too short as I found myself on another round of goodbyes to return to Brunei. The difficult aspect of returning for me is trying to adjust to the climate, the weather was quite hot and humid considering it is the start of the rainy season. Apparently, the rainy season encourages the animals and more insects to reveal themselves especially reptiles as they like to sun themselves after a heavy rainfall. There are reports of snakes entering homes and gardens hence it is always best to be vigilant. Let’s just say this Girl is keeping her eyes peeled everywhere she goes! I was not sure if I will ever get used to the weather, then I realised I was born in Fiji and I can acclimatise to the environment in Brunei. I will let you know in a year’s time if I have succeeded!
The two main festivals celebrated by the Nepali community are Dashain and Tihar, the latter is also known as Deepawali which I know is also celebrated in Fiji. Similar to Fiji, the Nepali who observe the festival will decorate their homes with lights and there is lots of singing and dancing. I found myself wearing another saree for Dashain which was given to me by my dear friend Arti and it was a dream to wear. I do wonder though how the women that wear saree daily make it look so effortless? Well, I found that it is a skill and I perspired in places I never thought I could!
Living in Brunei has been good, I do experience FOMO (Fear of Missing Out ..I thought I best explain as I will have my Aunts reading this and wondering what it means!) moments and social media is a great tool in heightening my emotions!! There have been 2 significant events that I would have loved to be a part of back in the UK and was craving any update from both events.
The first was the Marama Alliance United Kingdom (MAUK) event in Catterick. I am member of MAUK, and it is a network formed to assist and empower Fijian women in the UK (https://www.maramaalliance.com/). It is quite difficult to fully articulate the network events, though I cannot recommend it enough and if you are a Fijian sister residing in the UK, see if you can attend the next one in Scotland in March 2020. The positive energy that flows through the room at MAUK Networking events is testament to how empowered these beautiful women feel whilst sharing their inspiring stories.
The second is the Celebration Lunch for a much-loved couple Kelera and Viliamu Tiko. They are dear friends who have become family, and are the first Fijian Couple to Commission together into the British Army, Kelera is also the first Fijian female to Commission. I am so proud of their achievement and their journey. As the family and friends gathered, I wished I was there to give them the biggest hug. For such a great achievement, I felt they deserved to be honoured and may many more of my fellow Fijian colleagues emulate their success.
November is a special month for the Armed Forces, as it is the month of Remembrance that commemorates British Service Members who have died in wars and other military conflicts. I find Remembrance is a solemn event where I reflect and grateful to all those that gave their tomorrows for my today. This year’s Remembrance is poignant for the Riley Family as it is Paul’s last Remembrance Day while serving.
Thanksgiving is also celebrated in November and I am thankful for many things, mainly the gift of life as I celebrate my first Birthday here in Brunei. Thankful, that I have found Fijian Sisters here who I have come to love as they have welcomed me with open arms. These ladies are my walking buddies, dancing partners, emotional support and all round fantastic women, it was lovely of them to take me for a Birthday dinner today.
Until next time..
Lots of Love,