Star Date: June 2005
Hello Dear Family & Friends!
"Salaam Halekum. "
The response: "Halekum Salaam"
(May the peace of Allah be with you. Muslim greeting. )
"If you believe it in your heart, it will happen. "
"Do good - Receive good."
(Quotes from a Muslim acquaintance in Brunei, Mr. Mahmud, who, as a complete stranger, loaned Brunei money to us at the embassy, gave us a ride, bought us a juice, and we never saw him again.)
The Sultanate of Brunei stirs images of intrigue, exotic markets, Sultan's palaces and harems. Tucked in the NW corner of Borneo it is one of the world's smallest and richest nations, thanks to the offshore oil. It owns a halal cattle station in Wallaroo, northern Australia, that is larger than the whole 5765 sq km country. The melodic call to prayer from the mosques at dawn reminds you that it is a totally Islamic country and the streets roll up at sunset with the 5th and final call to prayer of the day. The wealth has allowed the country to improve the people's standard of living and leap into the modern technological age. The Sultan's younger brother was recently sued by the Sultan for squandering $16 billion of the country's wealth. Hands slapped and assets frozen he is no longer allowed access to the Sultan's credit cards! The order for the gold plated toilet brushes created for the $1.1 billion palatial Empire Hotel was cancelled. Everyone wonders what will happen when the oil runs out in the predicted 25 years. (We stayed at the Apek Utama Hotel - great!)
Until the other boot falls Brunei is a unique combination of modern and traditional. Speeding along the canals in river taxis you can see the outline of office buildings, mosques, and palaces offset by the matchstick stilt houses of Kampung Ayer and colorful markets where determined venders haggle over a cornucopia of colorful fruits and vegetables.
Built in 1958, costing $5 million, the magnificent Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque is awe inspiring inside and out. Mosques are the lifeblood of everyone here. While walking around town we were attracted to a group of children playing around a large mosque. I was a teacher, or guru, and soon the veil of mystery was lifted a bit as we were invited in for a look. The teenagers were in training as to mosque rules and prayer time protocol and the little children were just hanging around. We were having lots of fun and showing them their photos when we began a thought - provoking conversation with one of the fathers. He started by saying, "We are not terrorists. We don't know any terrorists and we do not approve of any acts of violence. We are peaceful people living simple lives." After we cleared up that not all Americans support Bush or the war in Iraq, we discussed different aspects of the Islamic faith. Traveling breaks down walls and builds bridges. Wouldn't it be great if everyone could experience first hand the genuine warmth and hospitality of the Muslim people? Too bad that 5% of the population, Christian and Muslim alike, have to mess up a good thing. Focus on the 95%.
From Brunei we flew to Bali and after a couple restful days along the beach in Sanur we felt at home again in our old room #3, Jati 3 Bungalows, in Ubud. Surrounded by the tranquil garden and smiling, happy Balinese we just settled into living and relaxing. I was off to the market the next morning to bargain for fresh fruits and vegetables. We easily still eat 75% raw food and feel great. Bargaining with the little old ladies for the freshest produce is a fun part of our life. We were greeted by hugs and smiles for dinner at Dewa's Warung, a local place with lots of vegetarian dishes and local prices (40 cents for a salad, tempeh curry & rice 50 cents- sound good?) It was heart warming to be missed. As we further simplified our belongings from 2 houses, to 2 large suitcases, to 2 small 21" rolling backpacks plus a carry on, we had a plentiful bag of goodies for the family at Dewas. Hard to believe that we were in Bali 18 months ago, on the same trip! (See October 2003).
And so it goes...........................................................Next Java, Singapore, and Sumatra. Keep Smiling, Keep in Touch and May the Peace of Allah Be With You!! Take care.
Love, xoxoox Nancy & Joseph
The Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque in Bandar, the capital of Brunei.
The ceremonial barge outside the main mosque.
Boys will be boys. Notice the sock draped over his fez (hat).
We were regulars for our daily coconut.
Teenagers practicing call to prayer etiquette at
It was very hot and the scarf, long skirt
and sleeves were a challenge.
Back in the tranquility of Bali. The only
Hindu island in
A long ear man sitting next to me at the Kelebit